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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, now living in "Portlandia"!

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Very Famous Literary Source for the (Almost) 14-Year old Jane Austen's Scatalogical Satire of Benjamin William Portal in Issue #45 of The Loiterer

This is likely my last post about Jane Austen's allusions to Benjamin William Portal for a while, but I am ending this little excursus with a bang I hope you'll enjoy.

I spent several hours today following up every loose end and every lead that presented itself to my imagination, and it was a productive day. In addition to the allusion to Portal in P&P and in Letter 1 which I wrote about earlier today, about an hour ago I found a remarkable validation of one of the other linchpins of my claim that Jane Austen satirized the Revd. Benjamin William Portal throughout her entire writing life--in her letters, in her uncredited contributions to The Loiterer, and in at least 3 of her novels.

What I found today had to do with Loiterer #45.....

....which, as I have previously described (but, if you care about what I am saying, I think you will want to read it for yourself, it's really not that long), was, on the surface a wild, fantastical, allegorical fantasy about a patented air moving machine; but just _under_ the surface, according to my interpretation, was an extended bravura covert satire on the "hot air" produced by "orators" from places like "Westminster Hall" and the House of Commons.

In essence, I identified Loiterer #45 as one long "fart joke" (as far as I can tell, no previous scholar has ever written anything about Loiterer #45, let alone interpreted it as being scatalogical), which suggests, in a variety of ways, that the speeches that came out of the mouths of clergymen and politicians were especially similar to the foul air that emanated from other human "portals" (yes pun intended).

I also previously claimed that JA had, via the joke on "the letter F" in S&S, meant to direct her knowing readers to the essays attributed to Revd. Portal by James Austen, which were signed by the initial "F." And in that regard, I pointed out that the letter F is explicitly personified in Loiterer #45, as if it were a coded "handle" (today we'd call it a "user ID") for a real person, and "F" is singled out in Loiterer #45 for particular emphasis as to the foulness and "torrent" of hot air propelled into the atmosphere by him alone.

So that sets the stage:

Earlier, I claimed, based on the above-summarized textual clues, that Loiterer #45 was a scatalogical satire of Benjamin William Portal.

Now, here is the new and remarkable validation of that interpretation which I found today----- I actually located the very very famous literary source which inspired the author of Loiterer #45 (who, again, I believe was the almost 14-year old Jane Austen, in full Juvenilia "running wild" form), a source which, in hindsight (another pun intended), was not only the primary inspiration for the scatalogy of Loiterer #45, but was also, as a bonus, a source for another memorable bit of sexual innuendo in one of Jane Austen's novels!

And that source is none other than the introductory Section 1 in Jonathan Swift's famous _A Tale of A Tub_!:

To read the relevant portion, just scroll down to "SECTION I. - THE INTRODUCTION." and start reading from there, until the end of Section 1 (which is about the same length, by my rough reckoning, as Loiterer #45--surely also not a coincidence!), and see if you don't see the incredibly obvious parallels between the two.

While the scatology of Swift's Section 1 is not explicit, it is so strongly implied that I quickly found several scholarly arguments online which made it very clear that Swift was being extremely scatalogical in Section 1. Which confirms to me that my own interpretation of Loiterer #45 was on the money.

And, as a final bonus, if you do read Swift's Section 1, your eye will probably be caught by the following paragraph, which is, I claim, a direct inspiration for the bawdy alternative meaning of "seminary" which Anielka Briggs pointed out the other day in Austen L, in the narrative description, in Emma, of Mrs. Goddard's school:

"The last engine of orators is the Stage-itinerant, erected with much sagacity...It is the great seminary of the two former, and its orators are sometimes preferred to the one and sometimes to the other, in proportion to their deservings, there being a strict and perpetual intercourse between all three."

That single short paragraph is packed with more sexual euphemisms (engines, erected, seminary, intercourse) than many full pages in the ultimate treasure house of sexual euphemism, Fanny Hill! And that is perfect harmony with my own interpretation of all the sexual innuendoes in Emma.

Cheers, ARNIE

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