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

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Little Henry's Succession and Littler George's Cockade

In _Emma, Chapter 6, Emma shows Harriet and Mr. Elton her collection of family sketches:

"There is my sister; and really quite her own little elegant figure! and the face not unlike. I should have made a good likeness of her, if she would have sat longer, but she was in such a hurry to have me draw her four children that she would not be quiet. Then, here come all my attempts at three of those four children; -- there they are, Henry and John and Bella, from one end of the sheet to the other, and any one of them might do for any one of the rest. She was so eager to have them drawn that I could not refuse; but there is no making children of three or four years old stand still you know; nor can it be very easy to take any likeness of them, beyond the air and complexion, unless they are coarser featured than any mama's children ever were. Here is my sketch of THE FOURTH, who was a baby. I took him, as he was sleeping on the sofa, and it is as strong a likeness of his cockade as you would wish to see. He had nestled down his head most conveniently. That's very like. I am rather proud of little George."

I've quoted the above passage because, in the aftermath of watching, last night, a fantastic filmed version of a performance of Henry IV Part One from The Globe in London, and also in light of my realization the other day that the character of Miss Bates was in part drawn from Shakespeare's Falstaff, I became curious to see if there might be any _other_ covert wordplay allusions to Henry IV in _Emma_. So I searched the phrase "the fourth" in _Emma_, and I was brought to the above passage.

Now I acknowledge it is a stretch to suggest that little Henry Knightley was a representation of any of England's kings named Henry, let alone Henry IV in particular. Emma _does obsess_ on several occasions later in the novel about little Henry not being cheated out of inheriting Donwell Abbey by Mr. Knightley being married (an event which, by the way, Emma, by marrying Mr. Knightley, actually and ironically makes possible and even likely). And in Henry IV Part One, Henry IV fears that Mortimer will succeed him as King, instead of Prince Hal. And I do have a strong sense of Mr. Woodhouse (whose Christian name, he informs us indirectly, is also Henry) as a representation of Henry the _Eighth_. But those connections, without more, do not rise to a satisfying level of probability that JA intended the above quoted passage to allude specifically to Henry IV. it turns out, the serendipity of my search is that as I read the passage through, I realized that JA had snuck a clever and, to my mind, very probable allusion to _another_ British royal into that passage---the real life Prince Regent!

But how? Here's how. JA knew, in 1816, that it was only a matter of time (actually 4 years, as it turned out) before the failing King George the Third would be succeeded as king by his eldest son, who would upon his coronation be known to the world as George the Fourth. And Austen makes it very clear in the above quoted passage that little George is the _fourth_ Knightley child to be sketched by Aunt Emma (would they have ever called her Auntie Em?). So that makes little George Knightley, in a literal sense, George the Fourth!

And there are two more strands of evidence that support my claim of the intentionality of that bit of wordplay.

First, in Chapter 9 of _Emma_---where we once again have onstage the same trio of characters-- Emma, Mr. Elton and Harriet----we know, thanks to Colleen Sheehan, that JA hid a massive allusion to the future George the Fourth right under our noses, by making "the Prince of Whales" a secret answer to the charade:

So it would be very consistent with that later allusion to the Prince of Whales, for JA to slyly insert a covert reference to him, in his capacity as the future George the Fourth, into _Emma_. Chapter 9 then becomes a kind of "bookend" to Chapter 6 in this regard, the completion of the allusion that Chapter 6 starts.

But here's what cinches it for me. The above passage in Chapter 6 is a discussion of _portraits_. And I already knew that JA was very familiar with one "portrait" of the Prince Regent in particular, the one I brought to Colleen's attention in 2006 after she first told me her "Prince of Whales" answer to the charade, based on her discovery of Charles Lamb's "Triumph of the Whale"---an image which I use as the masthead of my blog:

There is no question in my mind that such Cruikshank caricature of the Prince of Whales was alluded to by the Chapter 9 charade. But now I believe that JA is telling us, in the above passage from Chapter 6, to look for _another_ portrait of the Prince Regent. Why? Because Emma tells us that little George was sketched wearing a "cockade" and while "sleeping on the sofa". And E.A. Smith, in his biography of George IV, tells us how during the 1784 election campaign, the Prince supported his friend Charles James Fox's electoral campaign, which support included "The Prince [wearing] the Whig COCKADE// of the fox's brush with the blue and buff Whig colours." And I quickly found via Google Images a couple of portraits of George IV in which he appears to me to be wearing a cockade on his lapel, so apparently it was the kind of adornment he enjoyed wearing, or, at least, posing in:,r:5,s:0&tx=74&ty=76,r:6,s:0

But those portraits do not depict him as reclining on a sofa, and JA would not, I feel, have given us those extra details without a reason. So I have a funny feeling that sometime prior to JA's writing _Emma_, there was at least one _other_ caricature of the Prince Regent, one in which he was depicted wearing a cockade _and_ reclining on a sofa, which in some way is not flattering to him. Although I could not find such an image via a quick search on the Net, I believe, and predict, that it will turn up sooner or later!

So there you have a brief "sketch" of the cockaded, sopha-ed Prince of Whales.

Cheers, ARNIE

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