In our ongoing groupread of Jane Austen's letters, one week at a time, in Janeites and Austen-L, we are up to Letter 64, and Diane Reynolds mentioned, in passing, the following passage in Letter 64:
"We are just going to set off for Northumberland to be shut up in Widdrington Tower, where there must be two or three sets of victims already immured under a very fine villain,"...."
Le Faye's footnote gives a citation for a 1930's Notes & Queries entry that gave a synopsis of the long forgotten Gothic novel, Margiana, that Jane Austen had been reading, but what caught my eye in the above passage was the word "under".
Of course one can read this phrase as referring to a Gothic villain who buries his female victims _under_ the floor of his castle, in some deep dark cellar. However, Jane Austen, in all of her novels, but most of all Northanger Abbey, relentlessly played with Gothic-tinged puns on "confinement" and "shut up", etc., as metaphors for the horrors of serial pregnancy and childbirth, and with abbeys as metaphorical representations of the female body.
Therefore, I assert that it is not a coincidence that Jane Austen uses the preposition "under" as a continuation of that punning on the method by which the male villain initially implements the "confinement" of his female victims, the consequences of which actually occur, according to the biological timetables that regulate the female human body, about 9 months later.
Dark sexual innuendo to describe a dark situation for the ordinary English gentlewoman of Jane Austen's era.
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