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

Saturday, May 5, 2012

How could everyone have missed it? --- Sir Edward Denham IS James Stanier Clarke!

When I concluded my argument in my previous post......

http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2012/05/james-stanier-clarke-stepford-wives-mrs.html


....with the following observation....

"I am not the first to see the obvious repeated lampooning of Clarke in the above paragraph. However, this lampooning takes on startling new significance when we think about it in light of Sanditon's initial scenes being set in Clarke's home village--what it suggests to me is that perhaps the "novel" for which JA has created this delightfully zany "plan" is none other than Sanditon, the very first novel she began after writing this "Plan of a novel"! Among other things, it makes me realize that there must have been another Mr. Collins-like clergyman in the back of JA's mind as she contemplated Volume 2 of Sanditon, a character who would have had all the deliciously foolish traits of James Stanier Clarke himself. "


....I had not stopped to think about what JA had already written in the fragment of Sanditon that survives. But once I did, I immediately realized that JA had indeed already provided us with a character who was, although disguised in the "mask" of a dissolute worthless rake, the shockingly close likeness of James Stanier Clarke himself, i.e., Sir Edward Denham!


Look at what Sir Edward has to say (colored of course by the narrator's sardonic commentary on his opinions) on James Stanier Clarke's favorite subject--the criteria for a great novel:


“The Novels which I approve are such as display Human Nature with Grandeur -- such as shew her in the Sublimities of intense Feeling -- such as exhibit the progress of strong Passion from the first Germ of incipient Susceptibility to the utmost Energies of Reason half-dethroned, -- where we see the strong spark of Woman's Captivations elicit such Fire in the Soul of Man as leads him (though at the risk of some Aberration from the strict line of Primitive Obligations) -- to hazard all, dare all, atcheive all, to obtain her. -- Such are the Works which I peruse with delight, & I hope I may say, with Amelioration. They hold forth the most splendid Portraitures of high Conceptions, Unbounded Views, illimitable Ardour, indomitible Decision -- and even when the Event is mainly anti-prosperous to the high-toned Machinations of the prime Character, the potent, pervading Hero of the Story, it leaves us full of Generous Emotions for him; -- our Hearts are paralized. -- T'were Pseudo-Philosophy to assert that we do not feel more enwrapped by the brilliancy of his Career, than by the tranquil & morbid Virtues of any opposing Character. Our approbation of the Latter is but Eleemosynary. -- These are the Novels which enlarge the primitive Capabilities of the Heart, & which it cannot impugn the Sense, or be any Dereliction of the character, of the most anti-puerile Man to be conversant with."

"If I understand you aright", said Charlotte, "our taste in Novels is not at all the same."

And here they were obliged to part -- Miss Denham being too much tired of them all to stay any longer. -- The truth was that Sir Edward, whom circumstances had confined very much to one spot, had read more sentimental Novels than agreed with him. His fancy had been early caught by all the impassioned, & most exceptionable parts of Richardson’s; & such Authors as have since appeared to tread in Richardson’s steps, so far as Man's determined pursuit of Woman in defiance of every opposition of feeling & convenience is concerned, had since occupied the greater part of his literary hours, & formed his Character. -- With a perversity of Judgement, which must be attributed to his not having by Nature a very strong head, the Graces, the Spirit, the Sagacity, & the Perseverance, of the Villain of the Story outweighed all his absurdities & all his Atrocities with Sir Edward. With him, such Conduct was Genius, Fire & Feeling. -- It interested & inflamed him; & he was always more anxious for its Success & mourned over its Discomfitures with more Tenderness than could ever have been contemplated by the Authors.

Though he owed many of his ideas to this sort of reading, it were unjust to say that he read nothing else, or that his Language were not formed on a more general Knowledge of modern Literature. -- He read all the Essays, Letters, Tours, & Criticisms of the day -- & with the same ill-luck which made him derive only false Principles from Lessons of Morality, & incentives to Vice from the History of its Overthrow, he gathered only hard words & involved sentences from the style of our most approved Writers." END QUOTE

Can there be any doubt that this was a free translation, if you will, of the pompous, overblown, narcissistic idiotic, and ultimately un-Christian literary advice which Clarke gives to JA in his letters?

And...upon further reflection, and consideration of Sir Edward Denham's impassioned defense of Robert Burns's somewhat unsavory love life, is it not highly probable that this was JA's coded way of lampooning the hypocrisy of Clarke's service as court librarian and chaplain to the Prince Regent, a man whose life of dissolution and debauchery made Robert Burns seem like an innocent schoolboy by comparison?

So, I now argue that any remaining doubt that anyone had after reading my preceding post about Clarke's being covertly depicted in Sanditon via the village name "Willingden" should, I believe, be laid to rest by the above.

And we can only wonder what it would have been like had JA finished Sanditon and had added another Clarke "doppelganger" who actually was a clergyman, and had then put Sir Edward Denham in the same room with that clergyman----it would have been like crossing the streams in Ghostbusters---very bad indeed!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter


P.S.: By the way, I am NOT the first person to notice the parallelism between Sir Edward's polemic about grand novels and Clarke's friendly advice about the same subject--Laura Mooneyham White writes about these two passages as both being similar in their "world-making", and Juliette Wells in 2010 pointed out that the historical novelist Amanda Elyot (pseudonym for Leslie Carroll) used passages from both Sir Edward and Clarke as epigraphs for the first chapter of _By A Lady_ (a 2006 time travel pastiche about Jane Austen)---but neither White nor Carroll nor Wells apparently had the slightest clue that these passages were similar because JA intended them to be!

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