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

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The TWO CANCELLED PASSAGES in Jane Austen’s Letter 142 (and the connection of the first one to the TWO CANCELLED CHAPTERS of Jane Austen’s Persuasion!)

I had no idea when I sat down this morning to write a few comments about Letter 142, that I’d wind up writing what my Subject Line now describes. But at this late stage of my research, every other new lead and revisiting seems to lead to three others I previously found. Why? Because in the universe of Jane Austen’s life and works, everything IS connected, and at the core of the onion, it’s easy to see that global Austenian connectivity. Because it’s all of one piece.

At first, I was merely going to post about how JA, inveterate satirist, in Letter 142...

…went through the motions of condoling with nephew James Edward Austen Leigh (JEAL) as to (his mother) Mary Lloyd Austen’s indisposition. How so? Because after perfunctory condoling, JA abruptly moved from Mary’s illness to the weather, and thence to joking about her own magic power to change the weather—but no wish that Mary’s health would also improve.

JA was unconcerned (given that JEAL was at home in Steventon at that moment) that Mary herself would read Letter 142 at some point. When she returns to the subject of illness, it’s not about Mary’s illness, JA instead jokes about JEAL being not just sick, but really sick, so sick he can’t hold a pen to write. Sick jokes indeed!

That’s when I realized that all this was thinly veiled mockery of the bona fides of the illness of Mary Lloyd Austen, hinting that it was not even real. And, as Ellen has already suggested, there’s a reason why JA would horse around like Holden Caulfield---JA recognizes that the real reason JEAL has not visited Chawton is because his mother Mary won’t let him, but doesn’t want to say that, so instead she keeps feigning phony illnesses to keep him home instead of letting him see the rest of his family.

Sound familiar? Like, say, Mrs. Churchill, with her imaginary illnesses, preventing Frank from visiting his father in Highbury? Of COURSE!!! That’s the subtext of this part of Letter 142, written only months after publication of Emma, and so still overpoweringly fresh in JA’s imagination.  And so, now add Mrs. Churchill to the list of unpleasant Austen characters (like Mrs. Elton, Mrs. Norris, Fanny Dashwood, the sister in law in The Watsons, etc.) who owe at least part of their existence to Mary Lloyd Austen—JA’s favorite sister in law—NOT!

Now, that was the gist of what I had originally planned to say in this post, but I also had meant to check out Ellen’s reference to “the P.S. about Charles’s trial” in Letter 142, which rang a bell. But that was what led me to unexpected revelation---when, in the online text of Letter 142 which I had originally turned to for convenience in cutting and pasting passages from the text….

…I could NOT find ANY reference to Charles’s trial for having lost a ship---in fact there was no reference whatsoever to ANY trial at all in that online version of Letter 142!  How was this possible?

That was my Aha! Moment---when, like Odysseus’s dog which does NOT bark when its old master returns to Ithaca in disguise, I realized that the ABSENCE of this passage in James Edward Austen Leigh’s 1870 Memoir (which was the online text at that link) was extremely significant evidence of JEAL’s editorial foul play.

You may well recall that one of my hobby horses over the past 5 years has been to catalog one editorial malfeasance after another by JEAL in the Memoir. Well, this time, I soon realized, I had stumbled upon the Mother Lode---because this turns out to be the worst example of editorial fraud perpetrated by JEAL, with the ironic overlay that he himself was the recipient of Letter 142 in 1816--- the very letter, it turns out, he censored the most from among those which he included in his Memoir 54 years later!

The Passages JEAL Deleted from Letter 142:   Without further ado, let me present to you now the TWO passages in Letter 142 which JEAL covertly deleted from his transcription of Letter 142:

Deleted Passage #1: This first deleted passage comes right after JA’s joking about Mary Austen’s and JEAL’s mythical illnesses:

“I SUPPOSE IT IS KNOWN AT STEVENTON that Uncle Frank & Aunt Cassandra were to go to Town on some business of Uncle Henry's - & that Aunt Martha had some business OF HER OWN which determined her to go at the same time; - but that Aunt Frank determined to go likewise & spend a few days with her family, MAY NOT BE KNOWN - nor that two other places in the Coach were taken by Capt. & Mrs Clement. - Little Cassy went also, & does not return at present. They are all going to Broadstairs again. - The Aunt Cass: & the Aunt Martha did not mean to stay beyond two whole days, but the Uncle Frank & his Wife PROPOSED BEING PRESSED to remain till Saturday.”

I’ve put in ALL CAPS the verbiage which strongly reminds me of the hinting, winking narrative voice of Emma—the tone of the above passage deleted by JEAL is written in that same mock-absurdist, suggestive tone, which implies a private joke between JA and her reader—but what is the private joke about? Ah, that’s the question!

But isn’t it interesting that JEAL covertly deleted this particular passage? Could that hinting tone be connected to JEAL’s censorship of an Austen family secret from more than a half century before the Memoir was published?

Well, there’s one other fact regarding this deleted passage which I recalled immediately when I saw it—I knew it well, because it is part of a significant discovery I made a year ago, which I’m not ready to make public, but which has to do with JA’s composition of the end of Persuasion.

So I realized today that I ALREADY KNEW, a year ago, a really good reason for why JEAL might have deleted this seemingly trivial description of Austen family travel plans. My learning of JEAL’s deletion thus provided me with unexpected corroboration of my earlier discovery. Like the  boomerang effect of Lady Catherine’s harassment of Lizzy and Darcy, which brings them together, JEAL’s censorship of the above quoted passage in Letter 142 actually taught me that my private interpretation of that passage a year ago, based on utterly different textual evidence, was correct. I.e., JEAL’s deletion told me HE also considered that passage too explosive & significant to publish it even a half century after JA’s death.  

Before I conclude this post, I’ll give you one more hint about my earlier discovery, at least to give you a sense of its significance. But first….
JEAL’s Second Deletion from Letter 142: The second passage that JEAL deleted from Letter 142 when he transcribed it for the Memoir is the following:

“We suppose the Trial is to take place this week, but we only feel sure that it cannot have taken place yet because we have heard nothing of it. A letter from Gm today tells us that Henry as well as William K -- goes to France with his Uncle.- Yrs ever-J. A. “

As to this passage, Le Faye’s fn reveals that this is a reference to Henry Austen’s catastrophic bankruptcy. And so we can hardly be surprised to learn that JEAL deleted this reference to Henry’s bankruptcy, since he did exactly the same thing elsewhere in the Memoir as I first detailed publicly over 4 years ago in a series of 5 posts, beginning with this one…
..and ending with this one….
…which all have to do with JEAL’s attempt to conceal and minimize the devastating effect of being disinherited by Uncle Leigh Perrot (yes, the husband of Aunt Leigh Perrot who was ultimately JEAL’s benefactor!) on the Austen women, from Mrs. Austen to Jane Austen, whose illness got much worse after that bitter news was received at Chawton.

It’s clear to me now that JEAL decided that allowing his readers to know that JA was writing to HIM about Henry’s bankruptcy trial was a very bad idea, it might get them thinking a little too much about the dire finances of the Austen women in 1816, for multiple reasons—so he just cut that offending part out completely, like a surgical removal of a wart.

Le Faye Looks The Other Way, As Usual:   Now that I’ve covered JEAL’s censorship of Letter 142, it’s time to tell you about how Deirdre Le Faye compounded his editorial fraud. Actually, it’s a double play by Le Faye, editor of course of the 3rd & 4th editions of JA’s Letters, and, as I have blogged many times, most notably here….
….the self-appointed Guardian of the Myth of Jane Austen.

While JEAL specialized in covert deletions from relevant texts, Le Faye has never had JEAL’s chutzpah, so her modus operandi is to mislead by silence, i.e., by what she fails to point out, rather than by anything she actively deletes. Here are her two culpable silences:

ONE: Le Faye is silent about JEAL’s deletions from Letter 142: The two omitted passages in Letter 142 were first published by Chapman in 1932, which is when, presumably, Chapman got his hands on the original of Letter 142, and saw that JEAL had omitted them. As I don’t have a copy of Chapman’s 1932 edition, I don’t know if he commented on JEAL’s editorial license—but let’s focus on Le Faye more than 60 years later. Why did SHE fail to flag JEAL’s deletions in a footnote to Letter 142?

TWO: JA wrote Letter 142 the DAY AFTER she started working on the last chapters of Persuasion that got replaced by her, beginning 9 days after she wrote Letter 142. Why did Le Faye fail to flag that chronological connection?  

Omitting just one of these two significant FACTS about Letter 142 would have been an editorial sin! But two? Unconscionable! What could be of greater interest to Janeites reading JA’s letters, than that JEAL had so grossly breached his ethical duty to his readers as to two passages in Letter 142; and that  JA had written Letter 142 at the very moment when she had just started to write the ending of her final completed  novel, and then shortly thereafter revised that ending to provide her readers with one of the most romantic endings of any novel ever written? Most Janeites only read JA’s Letters because of how they feel about her novels! Persuasion is the 900-pound gorilla hiding behind Letter 142!

Whereas Le Faye is only too forthcoming, as to about 1,000 other trivial details of the Letters, with a wealth of information.

So from the fact that Le Faye, in 1995, and then again in 2012, when she had another bite at the editorial apple, chose to deny to Janeites reading Letter 142 any hint as to these  two key facts, I can only infer that she wanted these facts NOT to be noticed.

And the only defense against such editorial concealment is to become so well informed, and so skeptical of Le Faye’s presentation, that you start from scratch, questioning every implication Le Faye leaves you with, especially her silences, and find the answers yourself!

The Connection of the 1st Deleted Passage in Letter 142 to the Cancelled Chapters of Persuasion:

I will conclude with the promised hint about why I am so certain JEAL deleted that first passage from Letter 142 about the Austen family gathering at Chawton the previous week, and perhaps also why Le  Faye failed to alert her readers to the Persuasion subtext of Letter 142---it’s because JEAL (and Le Faye?) knew that JA used that event as a direct inspiration for her revised version of the ending of Persuasion, written very soon after Letter 142!---specifically, for the fateful gathering at the White Hart Inn in Bath!—and one day not too far from now, I will be ready to reveal why that revised ending  is not only at the apex of romantic  climaxes, but  is also a kind of riddle which, when solved, points directly into the deepest of Persuasion’s shadows!

And finally, how ironic that two passages in Letter 142 were “cancelled” by JEAL, intending to conceal, but actually mirroring, JA’s own “cancellation” of the two chapters of Persuasion that JA wrote beginning the day before she wrote Letter 142.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Symbols & Syphilis: Shakespeare’s Twin Sonnets 153 & 154 as Major Sources for Garrick’s Riddle & for Mr. Woodhouse’s Demented, Conflated Recollections of Same in Jane Austen’s Emma

This is the followup I promised earlier today…

…in which I said I had another Shakespearean allusive source for Garrick’s Riddle and (of infinitely greater interest to Janeites) for Mr. Woodhouse’s demented, conflated recollections of same, to add to the father-daughter incest riddle of Pericles Prince of Tyre, which I had previously identified as such a source.

So an hour ago, I had a chance to go back in my files and retrieve my findings about that other source, and was surprised to be remindd that I had actually discovered the connections I describe below more than 8 ½ years ago! That was therefore only six months after I started my scholarly research on Jane Austen, and first read Jill Heydt-Stevenson’s mind-blowing article about the syphilis subtext of Garrick’s Riddle as a shocking source for Mr. Woodhouse’s attempted recollections.

So, it seems I’ve been sitting on this whopper since then, but as it’s been nearly 5 years since I stopped being very secretive about my coolest discoveries, and also since I’ve been, over the past month, building up to this reveal anyway in all the posts I’ve written about Garrick’s Riddle and its significance in Emma, I decided earlier today was the day to take this one out of mothballs at long last.

I actually intended, when I started writing this post, to cite liberally from scholarly sources I found in 2005, which make a very strong case for Shakespeare’s Sonnets 153 and 154 having been chock full of thinly veiled symbolism pointing to taking the cure for syphilis in Bath, including the infamous mercury treatments, back in Elizabethan times.

However, as soon as I had taken step one and copied the texts of Sonnets 153 and 154 into this post, and then put in ALL CAPS all the words and symbols which are found both in (1) these two sonnets (notably, the final two in Shakespeare’s original, mathematically arranged, published sequence), and (2) Garrick’s Riddle, it became so clear to me that all that scholarly historical analysis would be window dressing—all you really need to do is read these two final Sonnets and Garrick’s Riddle over and over again, and note the myriad parallels, and then really, nothing else need be said to convince anyone with an open mind.

What staggers me is to think that Garrick’s Riddle was widely disseminated among the English literati beginning in the latter half of the 18th century, and was still being republished throughout the Victorian Era, and yet, among all of these (mostly) men who presumably had all absorbed their Shakespeare by osmosis (as per Henry Crawford), not a single one (as far as I could find after diligent online search) ever noticed these incredibly strong parallels!

So, before turning the page over to the Bard and then the first of the great Bardolators, I simply urge you not to forget to go back to Emma after you familiarize yourself with these three pieces of poetry, and to ask yourself if I am crazy to claim that Jane Austen recognized the full meaning of all of this symbolism about syphilis, and chose to hide it in the plainest sight possible in Chapter 9 of Emma, the Rosetta Stone of her shadowy subtext.


CUPID laid by his brand, and fell asleep:
A MAID of Dian's this advantage found,
And his LOVE-KINDLING FIRE did quickly steep
In a COLD valley-fountain of that ground;
Which borrow'd from this holy FIRE OF LOVE
A dateless lively HEAT, still to ENDURE,
And grew a seething bath, which yet men prove
Against STRANGE maladies a sovereign CURE.
But at my mistress' eye Love's brand new-FIRED,
THE BOY for trial needs would touch my breast;
I, sick withal, the help of bath DESIRED,
And thither hied, a sad distemper'd guest,
But found no CURE: the bath for my help lies
Where CUPID got new FIRE--my mistress' eyes.


THE LITTLE LOVE-GOD lying once asleep
Laid by his side his heart-INFLAMING brand,
Whilst many nymphs that vow'd chaste life to keep
Came tripping by; but in her MAIDEN hand
The FAIREST votary took up that FIRE
Which many legions of true hearts had warm'd;
And so the general of hot DESIRE
Was sleeping by a VIRGIN hand disarm'd.
This brand she QUENCHED in a COOL well by,
Which from Love's FIRE took HEAT perpetual,
Growing a bath and healthful remedy
For men DISEASED; but I, my mistress' thrall,
Came there for CURE, and this by that I prove,
Love's FIRE heats water, water cools not love.


"Kitty, a FAIR, but FROZEN MAID,
Kindled a FLAME I still deplore.
The hood-winked BOY I called in aid,
Much of his near approach afraid,
So fatal to my suit before.

At length propitious to my prayer,
At once he sought the midway air,
And soon he clear'd with dexterous care
The bitter relics of my FLAME.

To Kitty, Fanny now succeeds,
She KINDLES slow, but lasting FIRES;
With care my appetite she feeds;
Each day some willing victim bleeds,
To satisfy my STRANGE DESIRES.
Say by what title or what name,
Must I this youth address?
CUPID and he are not the same—
Tho' both can raise or QUENCH A FLAME —
I'll kiss you if you guess."

I conclude, fittingly, I think, with the following passage from Chapter 9 of Emma, which I hope you’ll read in a wholly new light as a result of reading this post:

"Whatever you say is always right," cried Harriet, "and therefore I suppose, and believe, and hope it must be so; but otherwise I could not have imagined it. It is so much beyond any thing I deserve. Mr. Elton, who might marry any body! There cannot be two opinions about him. He is so very superior. ONLY THINK OF THOSE SWEET VERSES -- 'To Miss -- -- -- -.' Dear me, how clever! Could it really be meant for me?"
"I cannot make a question, or listen to a question about that. It is a certainty. Receive it on my judgment. It is A SORT OF PROLOGUE TO THE PLAY, a motto to the chapter; and will be soon followed by matter-of-fact prose."
"It is a sort of thing which nobody could have expected. I am sure, a month ago, I had no more idea myself! The STRANGEST things do take place!"
"When Miss Smiths and Mr. Eltons get acquainted -- they do indeed -- and really it is STRANGE; it is out of the common course that what is so evidently, SO PALPABLY DESIRABLE -- what courts the pre-arrangement of other people, should SO IMMEDIATELY SHAPE ITSELF INTO THE PROPER FORM. You and Mr. Elton are by situation called together; you belong to one another by every circumstance of your respective homes. Your marrying will be equal to the match at Randalls. There does seem to be a something in the air of Hartfield which gives love exactly the right direction, and sends it into the very channel where it ought to flow.
The course of true love never did run smooth --

I mean, really, could Jane Austen possibly wink more broadly at Sonnets 153 & 154, and at Garrick’s Riddle, than that? Note in particular the exquisite touch of the repetition of the word “strange” in the same sentence as the word “desirable”, which subliminally suggests the “strange desires” which the protagonist of Garrick’s Riddle seeks to satisfy via the bleeding of his “willing” victims.

And that’s when the humor Jane Austen has created herein turns a very dark shade of black indeed, and no one is laughing any more, wondering who the “willing victim(s)” might be….in Emma.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter  

The Syphilitic, Incestuous Shakespearean Subtext of Garrick's Riddle in Ch. 9 of Emma

Linda wrote: “I'm not convinced that Austen copied from "A New Collection..." for the riddles in Emma, though she might have copied them from SOME similar book. There must be hundreds more period books and newspaper sources of the Kitty riddle that Google has not digitized... e.g., a search for books of the period with titles including "enigmas, charades, or conundrums" (which are what E&H ask Mr Elton for) reveals many candidates whose contents are as yet unknown.  Clearly, though, the Kitty riddle was in wide circulation in various forms, and Mr. Woodhouse's mention of "Garrick" does not necessarily mean she had his longer version in front of her.  In fact it's highly unlikely that Austen used the Garrick "Poetical Works" version or other 20-line versions, since those versions all contain the "still/in/much" variants that she doesn't use).  Nor is it accurate that the name "Garrick" absolutely has to be a pointer to the longer version or a signal that a dirty joke is in the offing.  One example where a shorter version of the poem was attributed to Garrick is in the 1803 Poor Robin's Almanack; it is addressed "For the Ladies". Whether she knew of the longer version of the riddle, whether she knew an alternate solution, and whether she intended readers to know it, are all debatable – those are questions of interpretation…."

Hi Linda (I assume that is your name), so nice to have you and your meticulous scholarship in this thread of discussion, you prompt me to reveal even more of my own scholarship to further back up my claims.  

First, in June 2007, I spoke about that very same 1810 Collection you mentioned (which was actually a reprint, with few changes, of an earlier edition of that same Collection dated 1790 or so, as I recall) in my Austen public speaking debut, to the Romantic Realignments Seminar at Oxford (thanks to Prof. Fiona Stafford, and also two of her (then) grad students, Olivia Murphy and Georgina Green, both of whom, I am proud, to say, have now published books as literary & history scholar-authors in their own rights!).

In that debut  talk, for several reasons, including those you mentioned (about its containing both a version of Garrick’s Riddle and also a version of the shorter first charade in Chapter 9 of Emma), I pointed to that 1790/1810 Collection as ONE source that JA indisputably used in Emma and also elsewhere in her writings.

But I don’t want to diverge onto collateral topics, so I will cut to the chase as to your response re the Kitty Riddle. I disagree with one of your statements, above, in which you said:

"Whether she knew of the longer version of the riddle, whether she knew an alternate solution, and whether she intended readers to know it, are all debatable – those are questions of interpretation”

I believe this particular question is no longer debatable, and here’s why. JA, via Mr. Woodhouse’s struggles to reCOLLECT (that word is used twice re Mr. Woodhouse’s struggles, and that is of course Jane Austen’s punning wink at the published COLLECTion), has given the first three clues I outlined yesterday (that the Riddle was written by Garrick, that it has several stanzas, and that it is clever all the way through). You additionally (and correctly) note that Mr. Woodhouse recalls a particular version of the Riddle with certain words different from those contained in the 1785 publication identifying it as Garrick’s composition.

I think there can be only one interpretation of this specific fact patter which makes perfect sense, i.e., that JA very carefully wrote Mr. Woodhouse’s comments about the Riddle, such that, in aggregate, he would be seen to be recalling a conflated version of the Riddle that never existed in published print reality, because he is recalling at least three different versions!

Where do we see such a conflated imaginary text all the time? Of course, in editions of some of Shakespeare’s most textually-cruxed plays (most famously and complicatedly, Hamlet, with its Q1, Q2 and  FF versions). Modern editors spend lots of time in their introductions and footnotes, explaining why they chose a variant of a given word spoken, from one version of a given play, but a variant from another version elsewhere in the text of the same play.

That’s what I see Jane Austen deliberately, skillfully and subtly doing with Mr. Woodhouse conflating three versions of the Kitty Riddle.

To repeat: Unless you can show me otherwise, I believe there is NO published version of the Kitty Riddle which fits ALL FOUR of those undeniably correct criteria---and that was JA’s point! She was mixing all these versions together intentionally, to show that she was aware of all of them! If she weren’t aware of all of them, she would not have known that some versions were attributed to Garrick, some were  longer than two stanzas, some were clever in the latter parts, and some had different verbiage at key points in the text of the Riddle.

And…it is also totally in character for Mr. Woodhouse to blend them all together in his hazy memory.

And so the key point I derive from this is that there is therefore no way that Jane Austen did not have before her at least one version which contained the telltale stanza that screams of something foul to all readers not asleep at the switch and not totally oblivious to rather obvious and disturbing sexual innuendo:  

To Kitty, Fanny now succeeds,
She kindles slow, but lasting fires;
With care my appetite she feeds;
Each day some willing victim bleeds,
To satisfy my strange desires.

But I am not quite done……

The Hartfield Edition:

In a post in the very near future, I will also pull something else out of virtual mothballs in my files, which I was revisiting just 2 weeks for the first time since 2007, that shows that there’s actually a further Shakespearean connection to Garrick’s Riddle as well! And, what’s more, I will show that this other Shakespeare subtext coincides perfectly with the syphilitic sex-with-virgins subtext of Garrick’s Riddle!

And, for those rare persons who actually read all my posts all the way through, this new Shakespearean connection I will shortly bring forward is IN ADDITION TO the father-daughter incest Riddle that begins Shakespeare’s late play Pericles as I posted here 2 weeks ago…..

….a Riddle which I alleged, and of course still allege, was part of the sexually charged subtext JA had in mind when she had Mr. Woodhouse recall Garrick’s Riddle.

 For David Garrick to have written a Riddle which has a Shakespearean subtext hiding in plain sight makes perfect sense, as you will see. First, it is obviously fitting, given that it was David Garrick who was the most famous Shakespearean actor of his day, and was also the man who in effect revived the popularity of Shakespeare in 1769 at his famous Jubilee in Stratford, a revival  that has only grown worldwide ever since, as we all know.

Put another way, I am claiming that Jane Austen fully recognized that Garricks Riddle is not only a riddle on the level of having one or more answers in the conventional sense of a riddle in a typical riddle book (i.e., chimney-sweep as the G-rated answer, or syphilitic-man-having-sex-with-virgin, as the XXX-rated answer, and where the former is, as JH Stevenson brilliantly explained, a slang term that fits the latter!).

I am also claiming that Jane Austen understood that Garrick, being the brilliant Shakespeare scholar that he also was, as well as of course a brilliant Shakespearean stage performer, had constructed his Riddle so that it would have a meta-answer as well, i.e., so that its first-level answers would point to both the riddle of Pericles, and ALSO to the other Shakespeare text I will post about later.

And now you begin to understand why I am so confident in my assertions that JA has Mr. Woodhouse remember Garrick’s Riddle in Chapter 9, the same locus of the two charades (one of which is also Mrs. Elton’s acrostic), and also of Emma’s recall of that famous line from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Chapter 9 of Emma is, as I have long maintained, the true Rosetta Stone of Jane Austen’s fiction, and how fitting  that Shakespeare  should be all over the place in Chapter 9 in so many ways, since I assert that Jane Austen, while a completely original genius in her own right, was nonetheless inspired to emulate Shakespeare in this most significant of ways, and Chapter 9  is the ultimate tip of her hat to him.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter