In a comment at Dickensblog in rebuttal to my earlier post re myself and Diane Reynolds claiming Dickens picked up on JA’s half-sentences, dashes-filled speeches by Miss Bates and the strawberry dashes scene, both in Emma, someone named Andrew wrote:
“The style of speech of the brilliant character Alfred Jingle seems to have been based on the patter of actor/comedian Charles Matthews whose monologues Dickens knew extremely well.”
I was intrigued, and quickly found the following discussion in Dickens and Popular Entertainment by Paul Schlicke at p. 44:
“…professional entertainment, in the figure of Mr. Jingle, steps out of its magically enclosed world into the lives of the characters…..From his first entrance, Jingle’s existence is histrionic posturing…He upstages Dr. Slammer and Mr. Tupman in courtship…..His loquacious staccato is a perpetually diverting stage patter, derived, as Earle Davis has shown, from the one-man “AT HOME” performances of Charles Mathews the elder, which Dickens went to see ‘whenever he played’ for three or four years; Jingle himself gives the clue to his origins when he tells Dr. Slammer that he is not to be found ‘AT HOME’. “
And I also looked up Charles Mathews the elder on Wikipedia and was further intrigued to read:
“His gift for mimicry enabled him to disguise his personality without a change of costume. His versatility and originality were displayed in his one man show, or "monodramatic entertainment," entitled At Home or Matthews At Home, which he initiated in the Lyceum Theatre in 1808. Leigh Hunt wrote that his table entertainments "for the richness and variety of his humour, were as good as half a dozen plays distilled." The show combined mimicry, storytelling, recitations, improvisation, quick-change artistry, and comic song.”
If you follow this blog, you know I am stubborn, and when I have a strong hunch about a connection between writers, I don’t give it up without a struggle. So when I read about Mathews, I wondered whether JA, during her London stays with brother Henry as a published author, might have seen Mathews perform?
It took two minutes to verify that she was indeed very familiar with Mathews, as we see in not one but two of JA’s letters:
Letter 71, 4/25/11, JA in London writing to CEA at Godmersham: “We did go to the play after all on Saturday. We went to the Lyceum, and saw the "Hypocrite," an old play taken from Molière's "Tartuffe," and were well entertained. Dowton and Mathews were the good actors; Mrs. Edwin was the heroine, and her performance is just what it used to be.”
Letter 99, 3/9/14, JA in London to CEA at Chawton: “Fanny and Mr. J. P. are delighted with Miss S., and her merit in singing is, I dare say, very great; that she gave me no pleasure is no reflection upon her, nor, I hope, upon myself, being what Nature made me on that article. All that I am sensible of in Miss S. is a pleasing person and no skill in acting. We had Mathews, Liston, and Emery; of course, some amusement.”
So we see from the above data re Dickens, Austen and Mathews, is that JA was a big fan of Mathews (who was one year younger than JA) before Dickens was even born (in 1812), but Mathews’s career extended so long that Dickens got to see him perform before Mathews retired.
Based on JA’s familiarity with Mathews, I infer that Matthews’s one-man show was a primary inspiration to JA for the character of Miss Bates, and perhaps also for the chameleonic character of Henry Crawford, too.
And just as Dickens scholars have noticed that Dickens was winking toward Mathews when Jingle says he is not to be found “AT HOME”, I went looking specifically in the text of Emma for any passages linking Miss Bates with the phrase “at home”, and look what I found---three such passages!:
Ch.31: [Emma to Harriet] "We cannot suppose that [Jane] has any great enjoyment at the Vicarage, my dear Emma—but it is better than being always AT HOME. Her aunt is a good creature, but, as a constant companion, must be very tiresome. We must consider what Miss Fairfax quits, before we condemn her taste for what she goes to."
Ch. 44: "The ladies [Mrs. Bates, Miss Bates & Jane] were all AT HOME." [Emma] had never rejoiced at the sound before, nor ever before entered the passage, nor walked up the stairs, with any wish of giving pleasure, but in conferring obligation, or of deriving it, except in subsequent ridicule.
There was a bustle on her approach; a good deal of moving and talking. She heard Miss Bates's voice, something was to be done in a hurry; the maid looked frightened and awkward; hoped she would be pleased to wait a moment, and then ushered her in too soon. The aunt and niece seemed both escaping into the adjoining room. Jane she had a distinct glimpse of, looking extremely ill; and, before the door had shut them out, she heard Miss Bates saying, "Well, my dear, I shall say you are laid down upon the bed, and I am sure you are ill enough."
Ch. 52: “[Emma] went—she had driven once unsuccessfully to the door, but had not been into the house since the morning after Box Hill, when poor Jane had been in such distress as had filled her with compassion, though all the worst of her sufferings had been unsuspected.—The fear of being still unwelcome, determined her, though assured of their being AT HOME, to wait in the passage, and send up her name.—She heard Patty announcing it; but no such bustle succeeded as poor Miss Bates had before made so happily intelligible.—No; she heard nothing but the instant reply of, "Beg her to walk up;"—and a moment afterwards she was met on the stairs by Jane herself, coming eagerly forward, as if no other reception of her were felt sufficient.—Emma had never seen her look so well, so lovely, so engaging. There was consciousness, animation, and warmth; there was every thing which her countenance or manner could ever have wanted.— She came forward with an offered hand; and said, in a low, but very feeling tone, "This is most kind, indeed!—Miss Woodhouse, it is impossible for me to express—I hope you will believe—Excuse me for being so entirely without words."
So I conclude that JA did wink at the inspiration for the character of Miss Bates that JA drew from Charles Mathews’s “At Home” one-man show.
And then, coming full circle back to my initial claim about Dickens drawing upon Miss Bates for his Mr. Jingle, I now broaden my claim to assert that Dickens drew upon both Charles Mathews’s show and Austen’s Miss Bates, in creating his character Jingle.
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