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

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Hancock/Patriot Charade & Shakespearean Brothel subtexts in Emma: Part One

In Austen-L, Diane Reynolds responded to my previous post about the above-captioned stuff, and it prompted me to write two posts clarifying and expanding my initial post, of which this is the first:

Diane: “Arnie, I am not sure I understand the move from Hannah and Patty to Hancock rather than Hanpat…”

Diane, thanks for engaging with me on this, I will briefly recap what  I wrote in my 2010 post about that private Austen family charade which has been attributed to Henry, but which I believe was written by Jane.

Here is the charade (which by the way was an adaptation of a version that did appear in a riddle book):

“I with a Housemaid once was curst,
Whose name when shortened makes my first;
She an ill natured Jade was reckoned,
And in the house oft raised my second,
My whole stands high in lists of fame,
Exalting e’en great Chatham’s name.”

The official answer given by the modern Austen scholar David Selwyn (I don’t recall where he found the answer) is PATRIOT, reached as follows:

“Pat” is the shortened version of the name Patricia, and is (obviously) one Christian name from among a hundred or more that a housemaid of that era could have had. The important point to note is that there’s nothing that makes “Pat” an exclusive answer for the first syllable of the answer. It could logically be any one of that 100+ female names in common usage in that era. What narrows down the possibilities, obviously, is the answer you get for the second syllable.

“Riot” is one good and logical answer for what an “ill natured Jade” would “raise” “in the house” where she worked.

And, obviously, “patriot” is a great answer for something which “stands high in lists of fame” in relation to “great Chatham” who was, of course the Earl of Chatham, William Pitt, prime minister of England. I.e., Pitt would have been considered a great and famous patriot by many Englishfolk.

That takes care of the official answer. Now for the subversive hidden answer

What made me look for a second answer other than “patriot” in (as I recall) 2009 was knowing that the courtship charade in Emma had as plausible answers not only the official answer, “courtship”, but also  “the Prince of Whales” (Colleen Sheehan), “Leviathan” (Anielka), “Crown of Thorns” (myself) and perhaps others.

What made me pick this particular charade out among the numerous ones in Selwyn’s book containing a couple of dozen of Austen family charades, as I recall, was its salacious tone. The word “curst” to describe the housemaid, as well as her being called “an ill natured Jade”, conjured up obvious Shakespearean connotations of a woman of ill repute. Plus, even more in that vein, there was the obvious Freudian phallic imagery of some object being “oft raised” by a woman, an object which would then “stand high”.

I mean, really—could it be more obvious that this is a double wink at the male sexual organ when aroused (raised, standing)?

And it was then that I took a second look at the housemaid named Pat and recalled that Patty was indeed the name of Miss Bates’s housemaid—could this be just a coincidence, especially given that I already was aware of Patty’s very phallic comment to Miss Bates about a chimney wanting sweeping? Of course not!

It was then a very short step for me to extrapolate, and recall that there was indeed a second housemaid who is named in Emma, and her name is “Hannah”—“Han’ for short. Jane Austen published Emma in 1816, presumably many years after this Austen family charade was written—if she did not write it herself, she certainly would have read it. So, it made perfect sense that in the same novel in which she included a two charades and a fragment of a riddle, she would also name her two housemaids after the two answers for that earlier charade!

And then, I was already practically home on the second syllable of that hidden answer, when I asked myself what would be the proper one-syllable choice for an Anglo-Saxon name for a standing penis, which would go with “Han” as the first syllable?

Of course the obvious answer is “Hancock”—and it didn’t take but 2 more seconds for me to realize that Hancock was the married name of JA’s own aunt, Phila Austen, who had worked as a teenaged girl in Covent Garden, etc etc etc.

Now you know why I consider that answer “Hancock” an obvious choice as one that Jane Austen must have had specifically in mind when she wrote Emma.

Diane also wrote: “…and I am doubtful Miss Bates is the mistress of a brothel downstairs from her apartment, especially as I would imagine she would have more money than she does if she was…”

But my explanation is that she is being coerced, she needs to keep herself, her mother, and Jane from starvation---for all that Emma believes her father and Mr. Knightley have always been charitable toward Miss Bates, you also are the one who suggested that Swift’s Modest Proposal was lurking right behind that porker motif in Emma—which of course had to do with widespread starvation in Ireland!

Jane Austen is being savagely ironic here. In the overt story, Miss Bates lives a miraculous life in which her material poverty somehow does not affect her good spirits—this is the mythology that rich people tell themselves when looking at the poor, to assuage any unpleasant guilt feelings that might pop up before they seal themselves away in their wealthy enclaves. But in the shadow story, we see the desperate Sophie’s Choices that the poor confronted no a daily basis.

You really should read Shakespeare’s Pericles—it’s so obvious that Jane Austen did, and that she turned Thaisa into Miss Bates and her daughter Marina into Jane Fairfax. Marina is sold by pirates into sexual slavery at a brothel, and it is only by her amazing singing and rhetoric that she manages to preserve her virginity until she marries a man, Lysimachus, who was originally a customer for her services at the brothel, but whom she has converted to the good.

Diane also wrote: “ but I am inspired by this to examine Patty's role in the novel more closely. We are given a fair amount of information about the Bates's living situation in the novel and Patty has a fairly large role for an Austen servant. And that pork keeps showing up ...”

See the above.  ;)

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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