ABOVE: The 1813 Cruikshank caricature of The Prince of Whales: The Fisherman at Anchor.................. Read Colleen Sheehan's articles (including the footnotes) for the amazing Jane Austen connection:
http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/on-line/vol27no1/sheehan.htm


FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER: @JaneAustenCode

MY MOST RECENT PRESENTATIONS WERE...

...Halloween, 2010, when I addressed the JASNA AGM in Portland re: "Remember the country and age in which we live": The Covert Death-in-childbirth Anti-parody in Northanger Abbey"

http://www.jasna.org/agms/portland/breakout.html

AND MY OTHER RECENT PRESENTATIONS HAVE BEEN:

...to various JASNA chapters re: “The Shadow Story of Emma: Jane Austen, the Secret Feminist”:

In NYC....

http://www.jasnany.org/pdf/may1.pdf

...and also in Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Gainesville, Atlanta, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Sacramento.

WANT ME TO GIVE A PRESENTATION TO YOUR JASNA REGIONAL GROUP, TOO?

I want to present to other JASNA chapters. Email arnieperlstein@myacc.net if you're interested!


Friday, March 23, 2012

August Wayne Booth's "answers in the literary form" which once again points to Jane Austen's Emma

In the last episode of Once Upon a Time (OUAT), August Wayne Booth found young Henry upset over Mary Margaret being suspected of the murder of Kathryn. During their brief conversation, the writers of OUAT provide us with several additional clues that they are using August as a kind of ventriloquist's dummy, speaking directly to the audience via his words ostensibly spoken only to Henry:

Henry: “She didn’t do it, why can’t people see that?”
August: “because, most people just see what’s right in front of them. I don’t think you can find the answers you want in the bottom of that mug.”
Henry: “Then Where?”
August: “That book in your bag. You know I’m a writer so I’m partial to finding my answers in the literary form.”
Henry: “it’s just a book”
August: “is it?”
Henry: “Yeah”
August: “I think we both know that it’s not the case.”
Henry: what do you know about it
August: I know it’s A book of stories.
Henry: aren’t all books?
August: Story’s that really happen.
Henry: “You think my book is real?”
August: “As real as I am”
Henry: “How do you know?”
August: “Let’s just say that, I’m a believer. And I want to help others see the light, that my friend is why I’m here.
Henry: “but I already believe”
August: “I’m not here for you buddy, I’m here for Emma”
Henry: “So you want to get her to believe, why don’t you just tell her?”
August: “There are some people like you and me , we can go on faith,. But others like Emma they need proof. “
Henry: “last time I tried to look for proof I got trapped in a sinkhole”
August: “there are less dangerous places to look”

[August points to Henry’s book] END QUOTE

As you can see, the writers of OUAT are winking so broadly and repeatedly at Jane Austen’s novels (including Pride & Prejudice, but most of all, Emma) that their eyes are in danger of popping out of their heads! ;)

As I suggested, above, just think of August as standing for the show’s writers, and Emma Swan as standing for the clueless viewers, and listen when August (the writers) keeps saying that the answers to all the mysteries in the SHOW are hidden in plain sight, visible to the viewers who know how to decipher the literary code–and the primary source of that literary code is Jane Austen’s greatest and most mysterious novel/fairy tale, Emma. Most of the 800 posts at this blog are about my discoveries of all the clues hidden in plain sight in Jane Austen's novels and letters, and I believe the writersw of OUAT have been pointing to Jane Austen as a continuing veiled homage to Jane Austen's genius.

Again, I direct you in particular to my several blog posts about the Austenian literary code hidden in OUAT, beginning with this one, which has had 2,383 hits during the past month, and keeps getting lots of hits even now:

http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2012/02/august-wayne-booth-in-once-upon-time.html

Cheers,
Arnie
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Troilus & Cressida, PLUS....the Bed Trick in All's Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure, and......ALSO in Mansfield Park and Emma!

As I am on an Austenian-Shakespearean roll, I thought I would add a very juicy new tidbit in the same vein that just came to my attention an hour ago, as usual by serendipity while looking for something else.

In followup to my recent postings about the complex, but veiled allusion to Shakespeare's Troilus & Cressida that I first identified in July 2009 in Mansfield Park----and, again, as far as I can tell, I am the _first_ Austen scholar to do so-----I was curious to find some opinions about Troilus & Cressida that JA might have read, to supplement the earlier negative critical judgments on T&C that I found the other day [by the great Restoration playwright Dryden, who rewrote T&C under the title Truth Come too Late, and in his Prologue called Shakespeare's original _insipid_ (!!!); and also by the great 18th century literary critic Steevens, who referred to T&C's _buffoonery_ (!!!)]. Again, I am certain that JA read both Steevens _and_ Dryden's verdicts on T&C, as she characteristically "tagged" them both in the theatrical discussions in Mansfield Park via these words "insipid" and "buffoonery".

So I went to Google Books and searched for "Cressida" in books published between 1700 and 1817, and after wading through countless hits for collections of Shakespeare's plays, I stumbled upon Samuel Johnson's comments about Troilus & Cressida in his essay "General Observations on the Plays of Shakespeare":

"This play is more correctly written than most of Shakespeare's //compositions, but it is not one of those in which either the extent of his views or elevation of his fancy is fully displayed. As the story abounded with materials, he has exerted little invention; but he has diversified his characters with great variety, and preserved them with great exactness. His vicious characters sometimes disgust, but cannot corrupt, for both Cressida and Pandarus //are detested and contemned. The comick characters seem to have been the favourites of the writer; they are of the superficial kind, and exhibit more of manners than nature; but they are copiously filled, and powerfully impressed...."

Surprisingly positive comments by Johnson about Troilus & Cressida, and all the more reason why JA would have been interested in this troubling, offbeat play languishing in the shadows of the titanic reputations of so many of Shakespeare's other plays.

But here's where the serendipity came in. As I was browsing through Johnson's essay, I happened to read his verdict on another of Shakespeare's problem plays which has previously been identified as a source for Mansfield Park--"All's Well That Ends Well"---and my eyes just about popped out as I put together some pieces of JA's literary puzzles in an exciting new way. Read on...

After first praising the comic depiction of Parolles the braggart, Johnson vented his critical spleen at the character of Bertram:

"I cannot reconcile my heart to Bertram; a man noble without generosity, and young without truth; who marries Helen as a coward, and leaves her as a profligate: when she is dead by his unkindness, sneaks home to a second marriage, is accused by a woman whom he has wronged, defends himself by falsehood, and is dismissed to happiness. The story of Bertram and Diana//had been told before of Mariana and Angelo [in Measure for Measure], and, to confess the truth, scarcely merited to be heard a second time."

Two points immediately came to my mind:

First, _clearly_ Jane Austen had Johnson's above comments about the inconstant and unheroic, yet lucky and privileged Bertram, firmly in mind when she wrote Knightley's "general observations" about the "Bertram" of _Emma_, Frank Churchill:

"He is a most fortunate man!" returned Mr. Knightley, with energy. "So early in life—at three-and-twenty—a period when, if a man chuses a wife, he generally chuses ill. At three-and-twenty to have drawn such a prize! What years of felicity that man, in all human calculation, has before him!—Assured of the love of such a woman—the disinterested love, for Jane Fairfax's character vouches for her disinterestedness; every thing in his favour,—equality of situation—I mean, as far as regards society, and all the habits and manners that are important; equality in every point but one—and that one, since the purity of her heart is not to be doubted, such as must increase his felicity, for it will be his to bestow the only advantages she wants.—A man would always wish to give a woman a better home than the one he takes her from; and he who can do it, where there is no doubt of /her/ regard, must, I think, be the happiest of mortals.—Frank Churchill is, indeed, the favourite of fortune. Every thing turns out for his good.—He meets with a young woman at a watering-place, gains her affection, cannot even weary her by negligent treatment—and had he and all his family sought round the world for a perfect wife for him, they could not have found her superior.—His aunt is in the way.—His aunt dies.—He has only to speak.—His friends are eager to promote his happiness.—He had used every body ill—and they are all delighted to forgive him.—He is a fortunate man indeed!"

Knightley's summation of Frank's miraculous and undeserved luck is an expansion of exactly the same sort of ironic encapsulation by Johnson about Bertram, and this also fits, of course, with the commonplace notion in Austen criticism that the bluntly and sourly brilliant Knightley is himself a representation of the bluntly and sourly brilliant Johnson--a resemblance which I have previously argued is _not_ so flattering of Knightley as many Janeites might think it to be.

But back to my main point, which is that I have repeatedly claimed that the shadow Jane Fairfax, already pregnant with a _married_ man's child, seeks to play a variant of Shakespeare's bed tricks (in both Measure for Measure and All's Well, as Johnson points out) on Frank Churchill, by tricking Frank into thinking that he has seduced (and impregnated) _her_ at Weymouth!

And now I point out that JA must have laughed uproariously as she did the exact opposite of Johnson's recommendation, by hiding a bed trick in _Emma_!

2. And (best of all and directly connected to #1, above) I also claim that it is no accident that Edmund's last name in Mansfield Park is _Bertram_, as all of Johnson's comments (and my own gloss) about bed tricks, apply equally well to Mansfield Park as they do to _Emma_! I think those of you still reading along this far can fill in the blanks on what I mean by that!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

The Mansfield Park Theatricals: Troilus & Cressida as "the most insipid play in the English language"

Last Friday, I made the claim that Troilus & Cressida was the unnamed play which was dissed as "the most insipid play in the English language" by the participants in the Mansfield Park amateur theatricals:

http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2012/03/mansfield-park-theatricals-most-insipid.html

This morning, someone responded skeptically to my said claim, and I responded as follows:

...Take a second look at the entire passage in context, and you will see that the passage I quoted comes _immediately_ after the reference to the best plays:

"...All the best plays were run over in vain. Neither Hamlet, nor Macbeth, nor Othello, nor Douglas, nor The Gamester, presented anything that could satisfy even the tragedians; and The Rivals, The School for Scandal, Wheel of Fortune, Heir at Law, and A LONG ET CETERA, were successively dismissed with yet warmer objections. No piece could be proposed that did not supply somebody with a difficulty, and on one side or the other it was a continual repetition of, "Oh no, that will never do! Let us have no ranting tragedies. Too many characters. Not a tolerable woman's part in the play. ANYTHING BUT THAT, my dear Tom. It would be impossible to fill it up. One could not expect anybody to take such a part. Nothing but buffoonery from beginning to end. That might do, perhaps, but for the low parts. If I must give my opinion, I have always thought it THE MOST INSIPID PLAY IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. I do not wish to make objections; I shall be happy to be of any use, but I think we could not chuse worse."

So we see that right after considering "the best plays", the group, in desperation, widened its search to include lesser plays which Jane Austen coyly described with "a long et cetera" (which is the "twin" of Emma's coy reference to the long footnote on mismatched love in the Hartfield edition of Shakespeare). And as to those lesser plays included within that long et cetera, note that the group perceives "buffoonery", "low parts", "most insipid play", and "could not chuse worse"----those are not exactly words that one would expect to be used to describe Shakespeare's most famous and beloved plays, but they fit the negative early 19th century view of Troilus & Cressida (a play that was not even performed publicly for centuries, and only has come within positive critical notice in the 20th century) to a tee.

And if you take the time to read through all of my posts about Troilus & Cressida allusions in Mansfield Park, which I linked to in my above linked post, I think the weight of _all_ that evidence I present is strongly supportive of JA's having had Troilus & Cressida front and center in her imagination as she conceived and wrote Mansfield Park. It is very clear to me (and I am not alone) that JA did not merely know Shakespeare in bits and scraps--no, she knew him pretty thoroughly---and that
thoroughness would include knowing the least popular of his plays, in part because I am also certain that JA perceived Shakespeare's entire body of work as a unity (the way Harold Goddard so famously did in the mid-20th century), and so not to know Troilus & Cressida, or any of the less famous Shakespeare plays, would mean not knowing Shakespeare as a unity.

So, e.g., I believe that JA recognized the common theme of jealousy in Troilus & Cressida _and_ Othello, hence her alluding to _both_ of them in regard to jealousy in MP.

The most telling aspect of all of JA's allusions to Troilus & Cressida in MP, from my perspective, is the Pandarus-ness of Sir Thomas. When we hear Edmund Bertram cluelessly rationalize Sir Thomas's disgusting ogling of Fanny's body....

""Your uncle thinks you very pretty, dear Fanny—and that is the long and the short of the matter. Anybody but myself would have made something more of it, and anybody but you would resent that you had not been thought very pretty before; but the truth is, that your uncle never did admire you till now—and now he does. Your complexion is so improved!—and you have gained so much countenance!—and your figure—nay, Fanny, do not turn away about it—it is but an uncle. If you cannot bear an uncle's
admiration, what is to become of you? You must really begin to harden yourself to the idea of being worth looking at. You must try not to mind growing up into a pretty woman."

...I cannot help but think of Pandarus's sleazy, sexualized sliminess, in brazenly rationalizing all manner of sexual commerce.

And equally significant, I think, is the way that JA took Cressida with her split personality, and created Fanny Price out of one half of Cressida, and Mary Crawford out of the other half!

Shortly, I will post my followup to this post, in which I extend my Shakespearean-Austenian connections in a surprising and exciting new direction!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

P.S.: In response to a further comment in Janeites about the Troilus & Cressida allusion in Mansfield Park, I further wrote in relevant part as follows:

...it was I who asserted that Troilus & Cressida is a key allusive subtext of Mansfield Park. I first made that claim nearly three years ago.....

http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2009/07/troilus-and-cressida-and-jane-austen.html

....after I saw Troilus & Cressida performed at the Globe in London in July 2009 (right after I gave my talk about the shadow Jane Fairfax at the Chawton House Conference), and I realized that Cressida's invitation to Troilus "the morning after" in Act IV.....

CRESSIDA: Did not I tell you? Would he were knock'd i' the head!
[Knocking within]
Who's that at door? good uncle, go and see.
My lord, come you again into my chamber:
You smile and mock me, as if I meant naughtily.

TROILUS Ha, ha!

CRESSIDA Come, you are deceived, I think of no such thing

...was very likely a key source for the following memorable bit of dialog in Mansfield Park:

[MARY CRAWFORD] "....Certainly, my home at my uncle's brought me acquainted with a circle of admirals. Of Rears and Vices I saw enough. Now do not be suspecting me of a pun, I entreat."

Edmund again felt grave, and only replied, "It is a noble profession."
END QUOTE

We can be pretty sure that Mary C. very much meant to be suspected of an infamous pun, but I am on the fence about whether Cressida's naughty pun is intentional or unconscious.

P.P.S.: By the way, the witty phrase "a long et cetera" was one which I believe JA borrowed from Elizabeth Hamilton--to whom JA referred in a late 1813 letter written while JA was writing Mansfield Park. Hamilton used this phrase as follows in her Letters on Education published in 1812, in a passage JA would have been extremely interested in, in which Hamilton advocates for women (especially married women) cultivating their intellect by reading high-quality fiction, instead of mindlessly
indulging in romanticized pulp fiction:

"It is for the sake of the associations it excites, and not for the esteem it produces, that the melting softness of fictitious sensibility has had so many admirers among the sensible part of mankind. The real virtues of modesty, gentleness, and humility, produce sentiments of esteem and complacency; but though in a mind of delicacy these sentiments may touch the heart with emotions still more tender, they cannot be expected to make much impression, unless where their virtues
are so thoroughly understood as to be properly appreciated. Not so with ALL THE LONNG ET CETERA OF FEMALE WEAKNESSES. A dear creature crying for she does not know why, or palpitating with terror at she does not know what, excites, by her tears and her terrors, associations of tenderness that produce emotions, which, though very foreign to those of esteem, are nearly allied to passion. By those who consider such emotions as superior to every species of intellectual enjoyment, we may be assured
the cultivation of intellect in our sex will never be countenanced or encouraged. To the younger part of our sex, they will deem such cultivation to be injurious; and to the married woman, they contend that it is useless. But is it really so? Does it never happen, that a woman, from being incapable of taking a comprehensive view of her own and her husband's interests, unwittingly contributes to the ruin of both? Does no inconvenience ever arise from the pursuit of pleasures, which reason would disapprove? Do eager disputes concerning trifles never throw a little mud into the perennial stream of matrimonial felicity? Let these questions be answered by experience, and whatever may be pronounced with regard to youth and beauty, the cultivation of the reasoning powers will, to the married woman, be allowed not altogether unnecessary...."

Monday, March 12, 2012

Broad Hints of Pride & Prejudice Hidden in Once Upon A Time

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!

While watching the latest episode of Once Upon A Time (OUAT) last night (Episode #15, "Red-Handed"--see spoiler alert, above), and paying close attention to character names, I stood up and took close notice when, in the Fairy Tale world, Red Riding Hood's grandmother was referred to (I forget by whom) as "the widow LUCAS".

Why did this name catch my attention? After all, Lucas is a very common surname in English-speaking countries, so this would hardly seem a noteworthy choice of character name.

However, based on the high density of Austen-related names (clustered heavily in Austen's novel Emma) which I have previously detected in OUAT's characters.....

http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2012/02/august-wayne-booth-in-once-upon-time.html

http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2012/02/more-clues-that-once-upon-time-is-sly.html

http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2012/02/george-augustus-frederick-prince-of.html

...I am on high alert for character names in OUAT that resonate back to Jane Austen's novels. And so, I immediately thought of Charlotte Lucas, who of course is the best friend of the heroine Elizabeth Bennet in Pride & Prejudice, and is also the woman who (to the shock of Elizabeth AND most readers of Pride & Prejudice) decides to marry the odious Mr. Collins rather than face the difficult life of a dependent spinster.

And I had one additional reason to be alert to a character name from Pride & Prejudice in particular, because, as part of my research last week, I came across the following line spoken by Rumpelstiltskin to Hordor in Episode #8 of OUAT:

Rumpelstiltskin: We have some wool to sell at the fair at Longbourn.

Now, to anyone not familiar with Pride & Prejudice, this name "Longbourn" would hold no special meaning, and would just seem to be a good name for an English town in the Middle Ages. However, the name "Longbourn" should immediately light up like a Christmas tree in the mind of every Janeite, because that is the name of the Bennet family estate, the very one which, as Mrs. Bennet misses no opportunity to mention, Mr. Collins will inherit one day when Mr. Bennet dies, due to the infamous entail in Mr. Collins's favor which encumbers Longbourn! For example:

[Mrs. Bennet] "A great deal of good management, depend upon it. Yes, yes. they will take care not to outrun their income. They will never be distressed for money. Well, much good may it do them! And so, I suppose, they often talk of having Longbourn when your father is dead. They look upon it as quite their own, I dare say, whenever that happens."

[Elizabeth] "It was a subject which they could not mention before me."

[Mrs. Bennet] "No; it would have been strange if they had; but I make no doubt they often talk of it between themselves. Well, if they can be easy with an estate that is not lawfully their own, so much the better. I should be ashamed of having one that was only entailed on me." END QUOTE


And I need not point out that, unlike Lucas, Longbourn is not a common name at all. So isn't it rather suspicious that we have these two names, Lucas and Longbourn, which are so intimately connected in Pride & Prejudice, appearing, seemingly at random, in OUAT?

I found it extremely suspicious! So, after Episode #15 was over, I started thinking, what ELSE about it reminded me of Pride & Prejudice? And I thought of two things straightaway.

First, in the Storybrooke real world, we have Ruby telling off her grandmother and quitting her waitressing job at the restaurant, her first baby steps toward finding her own way as a young adult. And that reminded me of Elizabeth Bennet telling off Lady Catherine de Bourgh at the end of Pride & Prejudice--also a young passionate woman declaring her independence of attempts to control her life:

"I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me."

Sounds a LOT like Ruby in OUAT, doesn't it?

And then second, I thought of some wonderful thematic wordplay in Episode #15, exactly the sort of wordplay that Jane Austen herself used everywhere in her writing. The title of Episode #15 is, not coincidentally, I claim, "Red-Handed", and in particular, we learn from the widow Lucas (aka Red's grandmother) that the way to immunize Red from turning into a murderous wolf is to have her wear a red cloak. So it is fair to say that the idea of a red cloak (or coat) is central in the action of Episode #15.

And what does that have to do with Pride & Prejudice? Only this:


[Mrs. Bennet] "My dear Mr. Bennet, you must not expect such girls to have the sense of their father and mother. When they get to our age, I dare say they will not think about officers any more than we do. I remember the time when I liked a RED COAT myself very well—and, indeed, so I do still at my heart; and if a smart young colonel, with five or six thousand a year, should want one of my girls I shall not say nay to him; and I thought Colonel Forster looked very becoming the other night at Sir William's in his regimentals."

AND

Till Elizabeth entered the drawing-room at Netherfield, and looked in vain for Mr. Wickham among the cluster of RED COATS there assembled, a doubt of his being present had never occurred to her.


So the symbol of a red coat is significant in BOTH Pride & Prejudice AND OUAT!

And finally, correct me if I am wrong, but I am pretty sure I heard Red Riding Hood referred to as "Eliza" somewhere in Episode #15---did I imagine that, or did it happen? If it did, then that only adds to the veiled depiction of Elizabeth Bennet in the character of Red/Ruby in Episode #15!

Either way, I believe the above is sufficient evidence to make any viewer of OUAT very suspicious that the writers of the show are once again strongly hinting at Jane Austen's fictional worlds, for reasons as yet unknown to the rest of us!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter


AFTERTHOUGHT ADDED ON MARCH 14:

I don't know why it only occurred to me now, several days after posting all of the above, that there is another way in which the conjunction of the names "Longbourn", "Lucas" and "Eliza" has a startling alternative connotation in Pride & Prejudice, a way which, when you think about it, might just be a theme lurking in the shadows of Once Upon A Time:

http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2011/12/ladies-of-llang-pemberley-oh-dear-one.html

In the above linked post, I suggest that Jane Austen intended us to perceive Charlotte Lucas as a closeted lesbian who marries a man for cover and security, but who covertly maneuvers matters so as to wind up living close by her true (if unrequired) love, Elizabeth Bennet. Is it possible that the relationship of Ruby and Emma, even if it is entirely platonic, might just turn out to be more than just friends? We shall see!

By the way Ruby wears plaid (which I understand is what many lesbians wear as a statement?), and Granny says Ruby looks like a drag queen.


And, now that I think about this some more, another famous 20th century literary critic (besides Wayne Booth) was Edmund Wilson who very famously suggested 60 years ago that Emma Woodhouse had unconscious lesbian feelings toward her young friend Harriet Smith!

Curiouser and curiouser.....

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The "Living Water" in Once Upon A Time

Time for another plunge into the murky metaphorical depths of Once Upon A Time (OUAT), this time following up on one of the Austenesque echoes I previously detected, i.e., the reference by the mysterious stranger August Wayne Booth to the "watering hole" he brings her to in Episode 13 of OUAT....

http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2012/02/more-clues-that-once-upon-time-is-sly.html

This past week, I've been catching up on all the episodes of OUAT which I did not see (as I only began watching at Episode 13!), and allowing my imagination to wander freely among the themes and symbols which abound in OUAT. That's when I was led once again to Episode 13, "What Happened to Frederick", specifically the magical water which just happens to crop up in both the fairy tale world and the real world.

To briefly summarize how that works out in Episode 13, I quote from fellow OUAT obsessive Catriona Wightman at....

http://www.digitalspy.com/tv/s181/once-upon-a-time/recaps/a366792/once-upon-a-time-what-happened-to-frederick-recap.html

...for these summaries:

Fairy Tale World:

"[Abigail's] one true love, Frederick, ended up being turned into gold after saving Midas from an attack. The only potential cure is to collect some water from a magical lake, which will bring whatever you have lost back to you. Naturally, this legendary lake is protected by an evil beast who has vanquished all that have attempted to take water. But Prince Charming's so miserable that he's willing to risk death to reunite Abigail and Frederick. When he gets to the lake, he discovers that the beast is actually a siren, who turns into Snow White. This is an interesting scene, actually - Charming knows that it's not Snow, but can't quite resist kissing her. Still, he's our hero, so even though no-one else has survived he manages it (because he knows true love, naturally)."

AND

Real World:

"Somehow, [August Wayne Booth] got his hands on Henry's book and puts it back together again, before taking Emma to a well and feeding her water said to have the ability to bring whatever you have lost back to you (sound familiar?)."


What occurred to me as I contemplated these two scenes, is that the connection between them is not limited merely to being about water with magical properties--what is also present in both of these scenes is that they both carry an erotic charge. In the fairy world, that sexual charge is made pretty darned explicit when Charming is nearly overpowered by lust for the ultra-tempting super-sexy siren. In the real world, that charge is there too, but it's subliminal, as a kind of subtle sexual tension which seems to arise between Emma and the handsome smiling stranger, August Wayne Booth, as she rides out with him on his motorcycle to the wishing well, and he teases her with all sorts of hints about hidden meanings in Henry's book.

And that brings me finally to my main point---call me crazy, but this meme of magical water, combined with a private, intimate rustic sexualized encounter between a man and a woman, instantly brought to my mind a very famous passage from the most famous book ever written---I am talking about Chapter 4 of the Gospel of John in the Christian Bible, the mysterious tale of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman:

"...Then came [Jesus] to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus by the well; and it was about the sixth hour. There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said unto her, "Give Me to drink." (For His disciples had gone away unto the city to buy meat.)

Then said the woman of Samaria unto Him, "How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest a drink of me, who am a woman of Samaria?" For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her, "If thou knewest the gift of God and who it is that saith to thee, `Give Me to drink,' thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water." The woman said unto Him, "Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. From whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank thereof himself, and his children and his cattle?"

Jesus answered and said unto her, "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again, but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." The woman said unto Him, "Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw."

Jesus said unto her, "Go, call thy husband, and come hither." The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus said unto her, "Thou hast well said, `I have no husband'; for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband. In that thou saidst truly."

The woman said unto Him, "Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and ye say that Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." Jesus said unto her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither on this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.

Ye worship ye know not what; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth."

The woman said unto Him, "I know that Messiah cometh, who is called Christ. When He has come, He will tell us all things." Jesus said unto her, "I that speak unto thee am He." And upon this came His disciples and marveled that He talked with the woman; yet no man said, "What seekest Thou?" or, "Why talkest Thou with her?" The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city and said to the men, "Come, see a man who told me all things that ever I did. Is not this the Christ?" Then they went out of the city and came unto Him....."

END QUOTE (KJB, Modernized)


Now, if you've read the above closely, the reason this passage from John 4 came to my mind should be clear. I think it's quite likely that whoever was responsible for putting the magical water motif in the scenes in Episode 13 had in the back of his/her mind the above passage from John Chapter 4. There's just too much metaphorical "smoke" for this to be coincidental.

And...what makes this Biblical resonance even more striking is that I realized a month ago that there are unmistakable sexual overtones of this passage in John Chapter 4. When I first detected these overtones myself, I did some quick research, and was relieved to find that they have been noticed before by a number of Biblical scholars, and have been argued most convincingly and thoroughly by the brilliant Prof. Alan Watson, in his book Jesus And the Jews: the Pharisaic Tradition in John.

So...what does this all mean, in terms of the viewer's understanding of the nature of the book that Henry had, and which AWB returns to him? What does it suggest about August Wayne Booth himself?

I leave it to all those who have persevered through this post, and who find the implications intriguing, to infer from it whatever comes to your imagination. And let's see what happens in the new Episode that will be airing this evening, which perhaps will shed more light on this "living water" in OUAT!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Mansfield Park Theatricals: The Most Insipid Play in the Engish Language is….?

Earlier this week, I posed the following question: what _specific_ Shakespeare play was under consideration by the Mansfield Park thespians when the following derogatory comments were made during the attempt to settle on one play for the troupe to perform?:

"No piece could be proposed that did not supply somebody with a difficulty, and on one side or the other it was a continual repetition of, "Oh no, that will never do! Let us have no ranting tragedies. Too many characters. Not a tolerable woman's part in the play. ANYTHING BUT THAT, my dear Tom. It would be impossible to fill it up. One could not expect anybody to take such a part. Nothing but buffoonery from beginning to end. That might do, perhaps, but for the low parts. If I must give my opinion, I have always thought it THE MOST INSIPID PLAY IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. I do not wish to make objections; I shall be happy to be of any use, but I think we could not chuse worse."

Many have been the Austen scholars, including myself, who have claimed to detect in Mansfield Park allusions to various of Shakespeare's plays--- not only the well recognized allusion to King Lear, but also the less universally recognized allusions to Hamlet, All’s Well That Ends Well, Henry VIII, etc.

However, I realized only a few days ago that one _particular_ Shakespeare play is being covertly alluded to, in several significant and winking ways, in the above quoted passage from Mansfield Park, and also in the following passage that also is taken from the Lovers Vows episode:

"No doubt one is familiar with Shakespeare in a degree," said Edmund, "from one's earliest years. His celebrated passages are quoted by everybody; they are in half the books we open, and we all talk Shakespeare, use his similes, and describe with his descriptions; but this is totally distinct from giving his sense as you gave it. To know him in BITS AND SCRAPS is common enough; to know him pretty thoroughly is, perhaps, not uncommon; but to read him well aloud is no everyday talent."

If you are wondering why I have capitalized “anything but that” and “bits and scraps” in those two passages, it is precisely because they are the textual clues that first led me to the answer to my little quiz--the identity of the Shakespeare play which I am certain is the one Jane Austen very specifically had in mind as the butt of all the negative comments in the above passage—negative comments with which she herself did _not_, agree!—and that play is……Troilus & Cressida!

I will write a longer post in the near future which will unpack this allusion and begin to demonstrate that Troilus & Cressida, perhaps the most problematic of Shakespeare’s famous “problem plays”, really was a crucial allusive subtext for Mansfield Park, with multifaceted parallelisms which include Greek mythology, homosexuality, jealousy, unexpected visitors from a distance, a long sea voyage, high walls & gates, sour and disturbing cynicism, pandering, lover’s inconstant vows, and (last but not least) women treated as chattel to be bought and sold (pandered) by a greedy uncle. Truly, Mansfield Park is Jane Austen’s re-creation of Troilus & Cressida in early 19th century England!

But for now and for starters, I will be content to provide to you those two quotations, _both_ (not coincidentally) from Act 5, Scene 2 of Troilus & Cressida, which are, taken together, unmistakably pointed to by “anything but that” and “bits and scraps” in the two MP passages I quoted, above.

First we have Cressida wavering in her constancy to Troilus now that she has come under the spell of the very determined suitor Diomedes:

CRESSIDA In faith, I cannot: what would you have me do?

THERSITES: A juggling trick,--to be secretly open.

DIOMEDES: What did you swear you would bestow on me?

CRESSIDA: I prithee, do not hold me to mine oath; Bid me do ANY THING BUT THAT, sweet Greek.


And then, later in that same scene, after Cressida has apparently yielded to Diomedes’s persistent wooing and pressure, we have Troilus’s despairing soliloquy as he watches, concealed, from a distance, with Ulysses and Ajax as a cynical chorus making him feel even worse about what he is seeing himself:

TROILUS:

This she? no, this is Diomed's Cressida: If beauty have a soul, this is not she; If souls guide VOWS, if VOWS be sanctimonies, If sanctimony be the gods' delight,
If there be rule in unity itself, This is not she. O madness of discourse, That cause sets up with and against itself! Bi-fold authority! where reason can revolt Without perdition, and loss assume all reason Without revolt: this is, and is not, Cressid.

Within my soul there doth conduce a fight Of this strange nature that a thing inseparate Divides more wider than the sky and earth, And yet the spacious breadth of this division Admits no orifex for a point as subtle As Ariachne's broken woof to enter.

Instance, O instance! strong as Pluto's gates; Cressid is mine, tied with the bonds of heaven: Instance, O instance! strong as heaven itself; The bonds of heaven are slipp'd, dissolved, and loosed; And with another knot, five-finger-tied, The fractions of her faith, ORTS of her love, The fragments, SCRAPS, the BITS and GREASY relics Of her o'er-eaten faith, are bound to Diomed.


I will now finish by pointing you to a sampling of posts at my blog where I have previously written about _other_ aspects of the complex allusion to Troilus & Cressida in Mansfield Park:

http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2009/07/troilus-and-cressida-and-jane-austen.html

http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2011/02/sir-thomass-desperate-and-despotic_18.html

http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2011/04/warding-watching-in-troilus-cressida.html

So, what I have brought forward today is actually only part of the complex allusion by JA to Troilus & Cressida in Mansfield Park—each of the parts of that complex allusion reinforce the validity of the others.

Cheers, ARNIE

@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

P.S.: Apropos the claim that Jane Austen did not do well with Shakespeare’s lesser plays, JA’s allusion to Troilus & Cressida is an enormous rebuttal to same. It illustrates that Jane Austen was such am omnivorous and sophisticated literary critic in her own right that she demonstrated amazing depths of insight into even Shakespeare’s least famous and least praised plays—and we know she read Troilus & Cressida, because she could never have seen it performed (other than, perhaps in the Steventon barn), as it was never performed on any public stage between 1734 and 1898, not even in Dryden’s seriously abridged version which was famous in its day, but had itself lapsed into obscurity long prior to JA’s birth.

P.P.S: And kudos again to Diane Reynolds who threw out Othello as a candidate for the “honor” of being called “insipid” by the Mansfield thespians, based on Dr. Grant’s describing the Parsonage apricots as “insipid”. While it was not Troilus & Cressida, I quickly realized that the principal theme of _Othello_, which is _jealousy_, is _also_ a major theme in Troilus & Cressida, and was the essence of Troilus’s anguished soliloquy, as his “beloved” Cressida appears to cuckold him with Diomedes almost as soon as she reaches the Greek camp. So, it tells us that Jane Austen did mean for her Shakespeare-savvy readers to think of _both_ Othello _and_ Troilus & Cressida, in relation to the jealousy with which MP is saturated, in particular the jealousy Fanny feels about Edmund and also the jealousy that Julia feels about Maria.

MAD and Seeing Red: Jane AusTEN's Feminist Spirit Lives on in AusTIN Texas!

By a wonderful bit of synchronicity that Carl Jung would have loved, I was watching Rachel Maddow on the treadmill last night, when she reported on one of the most inspiring responses to the recent ratcheting up of the Repube/Tea Party war on women's reproductive rights. The response was initiated by Grammy-nominee musician Marcia Ball, as further reported here:

http://blog.chron.com/texaspolitics/2012/03/grammy-nominee-marcia-ball-hosts-rally-labels-perry-a-raging-hypocrite/?gta=commentlistpos#commentlistpos

Marcia Ball took on the handsome zero-IQ governor of Texas, Rick Perry, and shot him right between the eyes, metaphorically speaking, branding him for the vile hypocritical misogyny barely concealed behind the handsome smiling face.

What came up for me immediately as I saw the women wearing red to symbolize their anger and fury at American Taliban mullah wannabes like Perry, was a very similar expression of anger by an author you just might have heard about--I think her name was Jane Austen----who in 1809 wrote the following letter (famous in the world of Janeites) to another male hypocrite, a "gentleman" named Crosby, the publisher who had acquired from the young Jane Austen the manuscript of _Susan_ (which later was revised and published after Jane Austen's death as Northanger Abbey) and then, for reasons never given, refused to publish it for nearly a decade, which needless to say really pissed Jane Austen off!:

Gentlemen, In the spring of the year 1803 a MS. Novel in 2 vol. entitled Susan was sold to you by a Gentleman of the name of Seymour, & the purchase money \10. recd at the same time. Six years have since passed, & this work of which I am myself the Authoress, has never to the best of my knowledge, appeared in print, tho' an early publication was stipulated for at the time of sale. I can only account for such an extraordinary circumstance by supposing the Ms. by some carelessness to have been lost; & if that was the case, am willing to supply you with another copy if you are disposed to avail yourselves of it, & will engage for no farther delay when it comes into your hands. It will not be in my power from particular circumstances to command this copy before the Month of August, but then, if you accept my proposal, you may depend on receiving it. Be so good as to send me a Line in answer as soon as possible, as my stay in this place will not exceed a few days. Should no notice be taken of this address, I shall feel myself at liberty to secure the publication of my work, by applying elsewhere. I am Gentlemen & c. & c.
April 5 1809 M. A. D. Direct to Mrs. Ashton Dennis

Of course, M.A.D. spells MAD, as in angry and/or crazy (or my interpretation: angry to the point of feeling crazy), and Mrs. Ashton Dennis was a pseudonym for Jane Austen herself! Jane Austen was furious because the one among her novels which wore its feminism MOST prominently on its sleeve, Northanger Abbey, was not seeing the light of day, publishing-wise, surely because the publisher, upon more closely reading the text, realized that beneath its apparent parody of female obsession with the Gothic, was actually a devastating ANTI-parody of male sexism, in particular the subjugation of married English gentlewomen, who were turned into breeding cows upon marriage, suffering through endless serial pregnancies, which often ended in dreadful death in childbirth. And so Crosby was in effect censoring this "scandalous" attack on the patriarchal status quo in England.

So I think you see why I thought of the above letter when i heard and read about Marcia Ball's thrilling battle cry to women (and men who care about women) everywhere, because in two centuries, nothing really has changed, men are STILL trying to control women's bodies, and women's sexuality, and take everyone ALL the way back a few more centuries before Jane Austen's era, to the really good ol' days when the men did not pussyfoot around, but simply labeled troublesome women as witches and burned them at the stake!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"bits and scraps" of one particular Shakespeare play in Mansfield Park!

Anielka Briggs wrote the following in Austen L and Janeites this morning:

"As Henry Crawford says "Shakespeare one gets acquainted with without knowing how. It is a part of an Englishman's constitution. His thoughts and beauties are so spread abroad that one touches them everywhere; one is intimate with him by instinct."....Englishmen would never say Austen's knowledge of Shakespeare was anything special because, this time in Edmund's words "No doubt (Austen was) familiar with Shakespeare in a degree.....from.... earliest years. His celebrated
passages are quoted by everybody; they are in half the books we open, and we all talk Shakespeare, use his similes, and describe with his descriptions" ....Any English person, like Henry Crawford, would modestly claim their knowledge of Shakespeare was slight when in fact they were dyed-in-the-wool, Stratfordian experts by comparison to those who had not had an English education. We know the plots of the plays...because we've been forced to read them, line by line even though I think of myself as knowing Shakespeare "in bits and scraps". END QUOTE

I responded as follows:

Anielka, apropos your above comments about Jane Austen's knowledge of Shakespeare in connection with the passages in MP from which you quoted, I have a question for you (and anyone else who might be interested) that I think it very worthwhile to answer.

To wit: what _specific_ Shakespeare play was under consideration by the Mansfield Park thespians when the following comments were made during the attempt to settle on one play for the troupe to perform?:

"No piece could be proposed that did not supply somebody with a difficulty, and on one side or the other it was a continual repetition of, "Oh no, that will never do! Let us have no ranting tragedies. Too many characters. Not a tolerable woman's part in the play. Anything but THAT, my dear Tom. It would be impossible to fill it up. One could not expect anybody to take such a part. Nothing but buffoonery from beginning to end. That might do, perhaps, but for the low parts. If I must give my opinion, I have always thought it the most insipid play in the English language. I do not wish to make objections; I shall be happy to be of any use, but I think we could not chuse worse."

Many have been the Austen scholars, including myself, who have claimed to detect in Mansfield Park allusions to various of Shakespeare's plays. However, I realized only this morning that one _particular_ Shakespeare play is being covertly alluded to, in several significant and winking ways, in the above quoted passage from Mansfield Park, and also to some extent in the passages you quoted from MP, and which I requoted while quoting from you, above:

Can you guess which Shakespeare play it is which was specifically claimed to be the worst possible choice for performance, for the specific reasons stated? I suggest to you that JA has winked repeatedly at it, both in these specific passages, and also in the novel as a whole. I.e., this is not a trivial allusion, it goes to the thematic heart of Mansfield Park, and why JA chose that particular Shakespeare play to deepen the meaning of her novel by bringing this play's themes into the mix as well.

I give no additional hints, because the hints are already there in the above quoted passages from MP.

I will give my answer to this question tomorrow (Wednesday) evening EST if no one comes forward before then with the answer.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"Dear Norland" & "Poor Little Harry: JA's Exile from Steventon: Part Sixty Seven

In the aftermath of the 2011 JASNA AGM a few months ago, inspired by a talk given by my friend Joan Strasbaugh (publisher of the very punnily named Jones Books)......


http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2011/10/impressions-from-2011-jasna-agm.html

....I wrote a post......


http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2011/10/whole-world-is-in-conspiracy-to-enrich.html\

...which laid out the multigenerational Austen family history underlying the multifaceted allusion by Jane Austen in Sense & Sensibility to the real life dispossession of JA (and her parents and sister, too, of course) from Steventon Rectory by JA's brother James and his wife Mary in 1801.

That was part and parcel with my previous repeated echoing and extending of several earlier Austen scholars who had pointed out the obvious allusion to James and Mary Austen's 1801 "home invasion" in Chapter 2 of S&S, the famous "King Lear" allusion in which John & Fanny Dashwood sliced and diced the senior Mr. Dashwood's dying bequest to his wife and three daughters (John's half sisters), Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret.

However, it was only yesterday that I connected the dots between that veiled but nonetheless well-recognized allusion to James & Mary Austen in Chapter 2 of S&S (with the backdrop of the Austen family history detailed in my above linked post), on the one hand, and the veiled allusion to JANE Austen's own(and famous) reaction to being dispossessed from Steventon in Chapter 5 of S&S, on the other:

In a very few weeks from the day which brought Sir John Middleton's first letter to Norland, every thing was so far settled in their future abode as to enable Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters to begin their journey.

"Many were the tears shed by them in their last adieus to a place so much beloved. "Dear, dear Norland!" said Marianne, as she wandered alone before the house, on the last evening of their being there; "when shall I cease to regret you!—when learn to feel a home elsewhere!—Oh! happy house, could you know what I suffer in now viewing you from this spot, from whence perhaps I may view you no more!—And you, ye well- known trees!—but you will continue the same.—No leaf will decay because we are removed, nor any branch become motionless although we can observe you no longer!—No; you will continue the same; unconscious of the pleasure or the regret you occasion, and insensible of any change in those who walk under your shade!—But who will remain to enjoy you?" "

When I say well-recognized, I really mean it, as the printed identification of this latter autobiographical allusion dates back to the unpublished Austen family history written by Anna Austen's daughter Fanny Caroline Lefroy in the mid-19th century, and also to the 1913 Austen bio by the Austen-Leighs.

Kathryn Sutherland writes at length and insightfully about this history of allusion-identification at ppg. 89-94 of her 2005 book JA's Textual Lives, but Sutherland never connected the dots between it and the Chapter 2 "King Lear" allusion.


When taken together, these two integrally related parts of the same allusion to real life, constitute an irrefutable and overwhelming argument that Jane Austen made this veiled allusion to brother James and his wife the emotional centerpiece of her FIRST published novel. As I have said before, the "MAD" Jane Austen of April 1809, the one who had been effectively silenced for 34 years, by being denied publication of her fiction, finally gets the opportunity to vent (no, scream) her rage publicly, albeit in a veiled fashion, and look at what we get: a damning portrait of James & Mary Austen, hypocritical, selfish villains, and their victims, the righteous passionate Marianne Daskwood (aka Jane Austen) and the conflict-avoidant, almost masochistic Elinor (aka Cassandra Austen).

Which is all the more reason (as Sutherland also picks up on) why James Edward Austen Leigh (JEAL), in his 1870 Memoir, goes out of his way to assert that Jane Austen never wrote about real life people (nonsense that I still see repeated as "fact" on a regular basis all over the Austen internet universe)---he better than anyone knew that his own mother and father had been painted in such dark colors in S&S (and also in the characters of Mr. & Mrs. Elton, and he in Mr. Collins).

And, in closing, I just realized that even JEAL himself gets skewered in S&S, in the character of the spoiled "poor Harry" Dashwood:

"It was very well known that no affection was ever supposed to exist between the children of any man by different marriages; and why was he to ruin himself, and their poor little Harry, by giving away all his money to his half sisters?.....He did not know what he was talking of, I dare say; ten to one but he was light-headed at the time. Had he been in his right senses, he could not have thought of such a thing as begging you to give away half your fortune from your own child...Consider ...that when the money is once parted with, it never can return. Your sisters will marry, and it will be gone for ever. If, indeed, it could be restored to our poor little boy...." etc etc.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Freemasonry Subtext in Jane Austen's writing: Part Two

Anielka's discovery of the Masonic "Boaz" as coded into P&P is, as I guessed it would be, further dramatically validated by the following two passages in Persuasion and Mansfield Park, respectively:


Chapter 5 of Persuasion: ["bows" and "lodge"]

"The last office of the four carriage-horses was to draw Sir Walter, Miss Elliot, and Mrs. Clay to Bath. The party drove off in very good spirits; Sir Walter prepared with condescending BOWS for all the afflicted tenantry and cottagers who might have had a hint to shew themselves: and Anne walked up at the same time, in a sort of desolate tranquillity, to the LODGE, where she was to spend the first week.

Chapter 8 of Mansfield Park: ["bow. S", "lodge-gates", "freehold mansion" sounds a LOT like "freemason", and "ancient"!]

When they came within the influence of Sotherton associations, it was better for Miss Bertram, who might be said to have two strings to her BOW. She had Rushworth feelings, and Crawford feelings, and in the vicinity of Sotherton the former had considerable effect. Mr. Rushworth’s consequence was hers. She could not tell Miss Crawford that “those woods belonged to Sotherton,” she could not carelessly observe that “she believed that it was now all Mr. Rushworth’s property on each side of the road,” without elation of heart; and it was a pleasure to increase with their approach to the capital FREEhold MAnSiON, and ANCIENT manorial residence of the
family, with all its rights of court–leet and court–baron. “Now we shall have no more rough road, Miss Crawford; our difficulties are over. The rest of the way is such as it ought to be. Mr. Rushworth has made it since he succeeded to the estate. Here begins the village. Those cottages are really a disgrace. The church spire is reckoned remarkably handsome. I am glad the church is not so close to the great house as often happens in old places. The annoyance of the bells must be terrible. There is the parsonage: a tidy–looking house, and I understand the clergyman and his
wife are very decent people. Those are almshouses, built by some of the family. To the right is the steward’s house; he is a very respectable man. Now we are coming to the LODGE–gates; but we have nearly a mile through the park still. It is not ugly, you see, at this end; there is some fine timber, but the situation of the house is dreadful. We go down hill to it for half a mile, and it is a pity, for it would not be an ill–looking place if it had a better approach.”

And last but not least, there is a tantalizing passage in Letter 101 to CEA dated June 14, 1814, which might just be supportive of my suggestion that the Prince Regent is a significant element in JA's subliminal Masonic matrix. It follows a reference to all the hoopla surrounding the grand ceremonial visit of Tsar Alexander I of Russia to Great Britain then in progress:

"I long to know what this Bow of the Prince's will produce."

Could JA's comments indicate that she was aware of the following contemporary history in Russia vis a vis Freemasonry? I think so!:

http://www.mainemason.org/mlr/russianrhoda.htm

"With the accession of Paul I to the throne in 1796 he abolished the sentences against Masons which had been passed on them under his mother's reign. While Masonry remained prohibited, officially, it existed and even began to increase again. He was killed in a palace revolution in 1801.

Alexander I, surnamed the Blessed, son and successor of Paul I, ruled Russia from 1801 to 1825. Under him, Freemasonry again rose high in the east only to be struck down again as its members deplored its lamentable condition following years of weak leadership and as it became a political concern to the Emperor.

The tradition exists that Alexander became a Mason in 1803 and there is evidence that he was a member of a lodge in Warsaw. While all secret societies were still banned in Russia, new lodges began to appear. In 1810 Masonic lodges were officially allowed and recognized and many bore his name. New lodges not only appeared in Moscow and St. Petersburg but also in Siberia and the Crimea. Many military lodges were formed during the Napoleonic wars."

So, to those who think this is all the produce of overactive imagination, I beg to differ, I think Anielka has brought forward a wonderfully probative powerfully suggestive clue, via "Boaz", in addition to those previously brought forward by myself and others, that Freemasonry really was on JA's radar screen as she wrote her novels!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Freemasonry Subtext in Jane Austen's writing: Part One

Earlier today, Anielka Briggs brought forward the following extremely interesting comments in Austen-L:

"The thing is, you can read any sort of esoteric language you like into Austen:

"The code-word, the most widely used by Masons is Boaz. It is never spoken directly, but concealed in a sentence - 'like an arrow from a bow, as it were' is one " From "Secret Signs and Handshakes"

"Mr. Collins was walking the whole morning within view of the lodges opening into
Hunsford Lane, in order to have the earliest assurance of it; and after making his
BOW AS as the carriage turned into the Park, hurried home with the great
intelligence"

"I'm sure there's a vast many smart BEAUX in Exeter; but you know, how could I
tell ... But perhaps you young ladies may not care about the BEAUX"

Whether it is there or not is another question." END QUOTE

I responded enthusiastically as follows:

Yes, that is the question, as it always is with Jane Austen's writing.

My answer, based on my nearly 10 years of experience as an Austenian literary sleuth, is that when JA intended such esoteric allusions, she _always_ provided additional textual winks to confirm to the suspicious reader that, yes, this pun or allusion is real, this is not Memorex.

In this instance of "bow as" ===> "Boaz" that you've brought forward from P&P, while we already know that there are whiffs of Freemasonry scattered through JA's writings, we don't even have to stray that far for support for your interpretation, because, much more important, and as I am certain you noticed but very wickedly chose not to point out, the "wink" in that sentence you quoted from Chapter is the word "lodges", which of course refers to the basic unit of Freemason organizational structure, which was (and still is) the "lodge"!

So, in this instance, the proper response, a la Mr. Knightley, is "Well done!".... ...but also to add to this wonderful little discovery of yours, Anielka, the following passage in Chapter 37 of P&P:

"The two gentlemen left Rosings the next morning, and Mr. Collins having been in waiting near the LODGES, to make them his parting obeisance, was able to bring home the pleasing intelligence, of their appearing in very good health, and in as tolerable spirits as could be expected, after the melancholy scene so lately gone through at Rosings."

Notice the amazingly dense cluster of parallels between the Chapter 30 passage you quoted, Anielka, and this Chapter 37 quote: it's not just the reference to "lodges", it's also the parallels between "the great intelligence" and "the pleasing intelligence"; between Mr. Collins showing obeisance to Lady C by his bow to her, and "his parting obeisance" to Darcy in the latter passage, and Mr. Collins lying in wait, so to speak, in both passages.

The gestalt of all of this, I think, when coupled to the veiled Masonic allusion, is to subliminally suggest both Lady Catherine AND Darcy as high ranking Masons, to whom Collins, a mere plebeian Mason initiate, prostrates himself. I get the feeling that Darcy in this sense represents none other than the Prince Regent himself, who was the biggest Mason of them all during Jane Austen's adulthood, and perhaps Lady Catherine is the Queen, who had a complicated relation with her eldest son during King George III's long horrible illness, especially after the Regency officially began.

Now why JA would want to link Darcy to the Prince Regent, as to whom we all know she was less than admiring, well, that is a topic for another time.

But back to "lodges"....how about this one in Chapter 43?:

"Elizabeth, as they drove along, watched for the first appearance of Pemberley Woods with some perturbation; and when at length they turned in at the LODGE, her spirits were in a high flutter. "

And how about this one in Chapter 50?:

""Haye Park might do," said [Mrs. Bennet], "if the Gouldings could quit it—or the great house at Stoke, if the drawing-room were larger; but Ashworth is too far off! I could not bear to have her ten miles from me; and as for Pulvis Lodge, the attics are dreadful."

I would guess that one or more of these names (Haye, Goulding, Stoke, Ashworth, and Pulvis) was in some significant way associated with Freemasonry in England at the time JA wrote P&P, but have no time at present to follow up on this intriguing possibility.

And of course and finally, there are not only also all the references to Lucas LODGE in P&P, there are also (as I quickly checked) passing, seemingly trivial, references to lodges in Persuasion, Mansfield Park, and Northanger Abbey as well, which would all bear closer scrutiny to see whether (as I would guess they do) they are themselves part of a multi-novel pattern of allusion to Freemasonry in JA's fiction.

Once again, well done, Anielka!

[Part Two, written by me 20 minutes later in Austen-L, immediately follows this post, with further significant validation of the Freemasonry allusions by Jane Austen]

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

The Answers to My Movie Quiz with a Twist

In my previous post....

http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2012/03/movie-quizwith-hidden-twist.html

....I gave seven clues which all point to a famous modern movie, and I claimed that there was a hidden twist in my quiz, which gave it special interest to those who like to read beneath the surface of stories, and are attuned to shadow stories and covert allusions.

Now I will reveal all the answers!

First, my sharp-eyed friend Caroline was 100% correct in identifying the 1985 film Witness, starring Harrison Ford, and directed by the Australian director Peter Weir, as matching each of the seven clues.

However, I advised her that her answer was incomplete, and the reason it is incomplete is that.....there is ANOTHER film, ALSO starring Harrison Ford, which ALSO matches all seven of those clues, and that other film is (of course) the 1993 blockbuster The Fugitive, directed by the American director Andrew Davis (NOT to be confused with Andrew DAVIES, who of course has directed, among many other films, FOUR Jane Austen film adaptations--and hence my p.s. in my quiz about the totally coincidental Jane Austen connection in this quiz).

Here, then, are the answers to the seven clues which describe these TWO Harrison Ford star turns very distinctively, I will then conclude with my speculations as to the reason for this remarkable (and heretofore unnoticed, to the best of my knowledge after diligent search on the Internet) parallelism between these two films:

1. "The film begins with a brutal murder, a murder which is drug-related and which occurs in a large American city."

In Witness, the murder is over a supply of illegal street drugs connected to corrupt police racketeering; in The Fugitive, the murder is over the FDA approval of a hugely profitable new drug being unveiled by a large pharma company.

2. "The murder was performed by a thug or thugs hired by the main villain, a corrupt powerful man."

In Witness, the thugs were hired by the high ranking police official whom Harrison Ford's character does not at first suspect; In The Fugitive, the thug (a former cop named Sykes, the infamous one-armed man) was hired by the doctor running interference for the new drug being unveiled.

3. "The hero of the movie is the one who tries to discover the truth about the murder, and to keep alive the person or persons who know the identity of the murderer and the villain."

In Witness, that of course is Ford's character, John Book, who is not only keeping himself alive, but also the young Amish boy who, by freak accident, has witnessed the murder in a bus station. In The Fugitive, of course, Ford's character, Richard Kimble, is staying one step ahead of the FBI as he simultaneously gets to the bottom of the mystery of the murder of his wife by Sykes.

4. "The hero is subject to a desperate manhunt to prevent him from revealing the truth, but, in part thanks to the help of good samaritans (who help him recover from injuries suffered by him as a result of this case) and in part from his own resourcefulness, he survives and eludes capture and punishment".

Self-explanatory, I think, based on the answers to the first three clues.

5. "The hero is played by a big movie star."

Harrison Ford.

6. "The climactic scene is one in which the villain is faced down in public by the hero and other people."

This is the extraordinary parallelism that I first spontaneously realized as I was watching the climax of The Fugitive while watching the end of it on cable TV while exercising on the treadmill the other day. Even if the first four clues had not been in parallel as well, this one, together with Harrison Ford's being the hero in both movies, alone would be sufficient to be noteworthy. And I think it goes to the heart of the explanation for all this parallelism in the first place, which I will get to momentarily.

7. "The director of the movie is either American or Australian."

Please forgive my trickiness with this clue, because, as indicated above, Peter Weir is Australian, and Andrew Davis is American! ;)


So, how to account for all of the above extraordinary parallels between Witness (1985) and The Fugitive (1993)?

I don't have the DVD for either of these films at the moment, so I don't know whether the commentaries on the two films might shed some specific light on this point, but as I cannot imagine that Harrison Ford and Andrew Davis were both unaware of these parallels as The Fugitive was being made, the only alternative is that these parallels are completely intentional!

But why? A big clue to the answer lies in the comparative grosses taken in by the two films--Witness grossed under $100 Million, despite winning two Oscars, and being nominated for four more; whereas The Fugitive, only 8 years later, grossed well over twice as much as Witness, and also, for good measure, got a few Oscar nominations to boot!

So....I believe that when the idea to adapt the cult TV series The Fugitive to a movie, and the incredibly bankable Harrison Ford signed on, which made all the other pieces fall into place, I am certain that the creative team for The Fugitive got the bright idea of taking full advantage of the gravitas that Witness had garnered for Ford in 1985, by in effect morphing the TV series onto the essential dramatic elements of Witness, and the "baby" born of that synthesis was the movie The Fugitive.

And the best part of it all was that it was ALL hidden in plain sight, so that anyone watching The Fugitive who had seen Witness would experience a subconscious reinforcement of the characterizations in The Fugitive, courtesy of Witness, which was the more serious and artistic of the two by a fair measure.

There is more to say about this, but I will leave that for followup, first I would welcome comments on any part of the above!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Movie Quiz....With a Hidden Twist

OK, I have a quiz for you movie buffs out there, which may seem pretty straightforward at first, but which has a hidden twist that makes it worthy of inclusion in this blog which is so much about hidden meanings and allusions in literature.

But.....you DON'T need to know anything about Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Joyce, PD James, Mark Twain, Charlotte Bronte, or any other famous author in order to answer this quiz--all you need is to be a movie buff who is NOT a film snob!

OK, so here are seven clues which describe this movie very distinctively---and some might even suggest, uniquely:

1. The film begins with a brutal murder, a murder which is drug-related and which occurs in a large American city.

2. The murder was performed by a thug or thugs hired by the main villain, a corrupt powerful man.

3. The hero of the movie is the one who tries to discover the truth about the murder, and to keep alive the person or persons who know the identity of the murderer and the villain.

4. The hero is subject to a desperate manhunt to prevent him from revealing the truth, but, in part thanks to the help of good samaritans (who help him recover from injuries suffered by him as a result of this case) and in part from his own resourcefulness, he survives and eludes capture and punishment.

5. The hero is played by a big movie star.

6. The climactic scene is one in which the villain is faced down in public by the hero and other people.

7. The director of the movie is either American or Australian.

So... I am looking for the name of the movie, the name of the big star, the name of the director, and (most important) an explanation of the hidden twist, which, again, transcends those other answers, and explains the inclusion of this quiz in this blog devoted to mysteries hidden in plain sight.

Please post your answers here as comments, and I will reveal the answers tomorrow (Sunday) at 9 am EST.

Good luck!

Cheers, ARNIE

Friday, March 2, 2012

Everything's RELATIVE in Mansfield Park (just ask Lord Byron and one of the "higher" Roman emperors---Caligula!)

The subconscious works in mysterious but wonderful ways, as Jane Austen knew two centuries ago, and as I learned for the _thousandth_ time an hour ago. I was expressing my views online about the recent spate of (shall we say) impolite humor that has been projected into American political discourse of late, centering on a topic that Jane Austen was perpetually and passionately interested in--contraception---indeed, it was the closest thing to a hobby horse that can be ascribed to JA, as I have opined countless times before in these groups during the past 3 years, precisely because it was an era in which the majority of English gentlewomen were ordered by every authority in their world to be fruitful and multiple....exponentially, and the only other option was, as JA famously suggested, separate beds!

Anyway, I pointed out to some like-minded friends that I actually considered Rush Limbaugh to be higher on the moral scale than the seemingly much more moderate opinionator, Mitt Romney, because, whatever else might be said about Rush Limbaugh, he can hardly be described as a hypocrite, as he brazenly and openly cavorts far beyond the boundaries of political correctness, especially when he speaks about feminism. He thumbs his nose at the very notion of civility, compromise, and gentlemanliness, and, most important, his position does not sway with the latest political breezes. He is what he is--vile as that may be to many such as myself---but what he is has not changed much over the past two decades. Whereas it is a truth universally acknowledged by Americans from all across the political spectrum, that Mitt Romney has a problem with consistency, to put it mildly, particularly, of late, in regard to his positions on moral issues pertaining to women's bodies, as his opponents put him on the spot about this repeatedly.

That is all prelude to my ultimate point, which is that after I expressed my opinion about Limbaugh vis a vis Romney as follows.... "...Actually, Limbaugh has one saving grace Romney lacks--he is not a hypocrite, at least he does not pretend to be a decent person!" ....my friend replied that he had a hard time associating Rush Limbaugh with the word "grace". And then I could not resist immediately retorting with "Everything is relative, as Einstein (and Lord Byron) once said "

As I reflected on my little pun, and thought about Lord Byron and the well known allegations of incest with his half sister, my mind naturally turned to Mansfield Park, which is the Austen novels most often associated with incest, what with Mary and Henry, Fanny and William, Sir Thomas and his sisters-in-law, and above all, the concerns explicitly expressed about Fanny and her male cousins by Mrs. Norris and Sir Thomas at the beginning of the novel. And most disturbing of all, there are also, for those who are not faint of heart, concerns expressed by myself and others regarding Sir Thomas's troubling relationship with all the females in the "harem" at Mansfield Park, including in particular with his daughters and......Fanny herself.

And so, apropos my little bit of wordplay on "relative", I became _very_ curious to see how JA used the word "relative" in MP, to see whether she had punned on "relative" in order to subliminally raise the issue of incest. Read on, gentle reader, and see how my subconscious has once more led me, by its usual serpentine path, to another blooming branch of Jane Austen's endlessly and sapiently fruitful Tree of Knowledge.

But briefly, before turning to the five usages of the word "relative" I found in MP, I will first point out what perhaps has already occurred to some of you who are particularly attuned to JA's vocabulary--i.e., even though today in 2012 we use the word "relative" to colloquially describe a family member, and only use the word "relation" in a more formal or legalistic context, that was _not_ the case in JA's time--there are a goodly number of usages of the word "relation" in MP, which are _all_ used the way we use "relative" today.

But, conversely, the four usages of "relative" in MP are, at first blush, used by JA _not_ to refer to family members, but instead with the innocuous meaning "pertaining". However, as you will see, it is clear that JA was fully aware of the family meaning of the word "relative" as well, but she chose to make that secondary meaning _subliminal_ , and to saturate the word "relative" with heavily incestuous overtones.


ONE: First this famous passage in Chapter 1, which is, as I have already pointed out, explicitly on the subject of incest, as Fanny comes to live at Mansfield Park where she will grow up in close proximity to Tom and Edmund:

[Mrs. Norris] "But breed her up with them from this time, and suppose her even to have the beauty of an angel, and she will never be more to either than a sister."
"There is a great deal of truth in what you say," replied Sir Thomas, "and far be it from me to throw any fanciful impediment in the way of a plan which would be so consistent with the RELATIVE situations of each...."

Is the normally super-serious Sir Thomas unleashing his own inner punster, by hinting that Fanny's relationship to Tom and Edmund is closer than that of first cousins on the maternal side? I say "Yes!"


TWO: And now here is the second passage, in Chapter 19, right after Sir Thomas returns from Antigua and brings the amateur theatrical production of _Lover's Vows_ to a screeching halt:

"And then [Sir Thomas] would have changed the subject, and sipped his coffee in peace over domestic matters of a calmer hue; but Mr. Yates, without discernment to catch Sir Thomas's meaning, or diffidence, or delicacy, or discretion enough to allow him to lead the discourse while he mingled among the others with the least obtrusiveness himself, would keep him on the topic of the theatre, would torment him with questions and remarks RELATIVE to it, and finally would make him hear the whole history of his disappointment at Ecclesford. Sir Thomas listened most politely, but found much to offend his ideas of decorum, and confirm his ill-opinion of Mr. Yates's habits of thinking, from the beginning to the end of the story; and when it was over, could give him no other assurance of sympathy than what a slight bow conveyed."

What could this passage have to do with incest? Well, only everything! Is not one of the objections that was raised to Kotzebue's play (in the original even more so than in Inchbald's English translation) not only about the Baron's having knocked up Agatha a generation earlier, but also that the scenes between Frederick and his mother, as played by Henry and Maria, were _way_ too suggestive of incestuous (specifically, Oedipal) themes for a morally proper person's comfort?


THREE: And how about this passage in Chapter 37, right after the Crawfords leave Mansfield Park, and just before Fanny is exiled to Portsmouth by Sir Thomas:

"[Edmund's] good and [Mary's] bad feelings yielded to love, and such love must unite them. He was to go to town as soon as some business RELATIVE to Thornton Lacey were completed—perhaps within a fortnight; he talked of going, he loved to talk of it; and when once with her again, Fanny could not doubt the rest."

Here there is something pointedly mysterious about "some business relative to Thornton Lacey"--what exactly is it that Edmund will be doing there? It has that aroma of something untoward (reminding me of the even more ambiguous comment by Tom Bertram about the "strange business in America". Is it perhaps something that Edmund might not wish to be explicit about with Fanny, perhaps even something to do with Henry Crawford himself, something reminiscent of the "price" William paid to Henry for his promotion?

More and more, I get the feeling that Henry Crawford in MP is like the Luciferian Maximilian in Cabaret, or like Valmont in Dangerous Liaisons, or like Milton's Satan himself-- a man of polymorphous sexual appetites who must seduce _everyone_, male and female, who crosses his path!


FOUR: in Chapter 41, Henry has just suddenly shown up at the Price residence in Portsmouth, and the following passage becomes very disturbing when we realize that this is when Henry first meets the very young and _very_ impressionable _Susan_ Price:

"For Fanny, somewhat more was related than the accidental agreeableness of the parties he had been in. For her approbation, the particular reason of his going into Norfolk at all, at this unusual time of year, was given. It had been real business, RELATIVE to the renewal of a lease in which the welfare of a large and—he believed—industrious family was at stake. "

Besides the chilling idea of Henry being set loose upon Susan (a point which gets developed shortly thereafter in the Portsmouth episode), somehow I also get the idea that the large and industrious family we are hearing about here is a coded reference to none other than the Bertram family itself!


FIVE: And last but not least, here in Chapter 48, the final chapter of the novel-the bookend, if you will, to the discussion in Chapter 1 about Fanny and her male cousins--- we have Sir Thomas's ultimate and decidedly and Collinsianly unforgiving thoughts about Maria:

"As a daughter, he hoped a penitent one, [Maria] should be protected by him, and secured in every comfort, and supported by every encouragement to do right, which their RELATIVE situations admitted; but farther than /that/ he could not go. Maria had destroyed her own character, and he would not, by a vain attempt to restore what never could be restored, by affording his sanction to vice, or in seeking to lessen its disgrace, be anywise accessory to introducing such misery in another man's family as he had known himself."

If, as I believe it to be the case, the reason, in the first place, that Maria has married Rushworth so precipitously, and has also thrown herself repeatedly at Henry, is that Sir Thomas's ominously heavy tread has brought him to _Maria's_ sleeping quarters not long before he leaves for Antigua, then this passage takes on a chilling subtextual patina of the deepest hypocrisy, as Sir Thomas looks everywhere except into his own heart to find the root causes of the moral sickness of Mansfield Park. Which makes him, in my book, a thousand times worse that Henry Crawford, who, like Rush Limbaugh, is patently and unrepentantly a sinner, whereas Sir Thomas, like too many of those who would wage war on women's reproductive rights, is guilty of the even worse sin of hypocrisy.

So, in MP, everything really _was_ "relative"!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

P.S.: I forgot to add the reason why I mentioned Caligula in my Subject Line, but the mere sight of his name was hint enough for many of you, I am sure. I.e., Caligula is infamous as the Roman Emperor (and by the way, he was "higher", i.e., earlier in time, than Severus, and so he would have been one of the emperors whose names were memorized by Maria and Julia) who had incestuous "relations" (every pun intended!) with not one, not two, but _three_ of his sisters (two of whom, by the way, were named "Julia"!). So, I think that the references back to the ancient Romans in MP , in particular, the emperors, is in part yet another way of JA's pointing to the incest theme in MP!

P.P.S.: And I am sure that Lord Byron and his half sister (and for that matter, Williams Wadsworth and _his_ sister) were all part of the mix in JA's imagination as well!