I knew in the back of my mind that I had left out something significant when I sent my last post about the Pride & Prejudice subtext of Letter 81, but I just couldn't tease it out of my mind, until _now_--it just came to me, so here it is, I think you'll agree it was worth the effort to bring it to awareness:
I recalled having recently posted the following Wikipedia passage as
part of my response to Anielka's discovery of the veiled allusion to
Cranmer's Articles in Mr. Rushworth's speeches in Mansfield Park:
"This was done following the queen’s _excommunication_ by the Pope in
1570. That act destroyed any hope of reconciliation with Rome and it was
no longer necessary to fear that Article XXIX would offend Catholic
If you've read my last post, you know exactly why that passage is so
exciting in relation to Letter 81, because in that last post, I argued
that Lady Catherine de Burgh threatens to in effect _excommunicate_
Elizabeth Bennet---in order, among other things, to avoid pollution of
the shades of Pemberley.
So, now I suggest to you that the attempted (but, it should be noted,
totally unsuccessful) excommunication of _Elizabeth_ Bennet by "Pope
Lady Catherine the One and Only" is, in part, a veiled allusion to the
_historical_ excommunication of Queen _Elizabeth_ I of England by the
Pope in 1570. And....this adds yet further meat to the veiled allusion
to "Bell, book, and candle" in Letter 81!
What does it mean? A great deal, although it will take a while to think
it all the way through. But for now I can say first that we know that
Queen Elizabeth I was the centerpiece of the youthful Jane Austen's
History of England--and, per Annette Upfal's brilliant sleuthing out of
the Austen girls's veiled family history, a representation of the
witch-like Mrs. Austen---so, in a funny way, we've come back to Diana's
post about "Bell Book and Candle"---when we put together (1) JA and CEA
collectively, in both word and image, portraying their mother as a kind
of regal witch, with (2) JA portraying the attempted excommunication of
a "bewitching" Elizabeth who becomes "Queen" of Pemberley, with (3) JA
in Letter 81 joking about all of this in code, and also connecting the
dots to their friend Elizabeth Bigg, it's clear that this was a Big Deal
in the mind of Jane Austen on a variety of levels, in both the overt and
the shadow story of P&P, and with regard to the religious and historical
subtext of the novel as well. And...it fits perfectly with _other_
material I've previously excavated but _never_ made public to date.
At this point, I am hesitant to say I am done with Letter 81, because I
would not at all be surprised if more aspects of this veiled allusion
pop up during my routine followup procedures with discoveries like this.
Somehow this one seems ripe for further excavation.
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