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

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The riddle & charade behind Miss Bates's maid Patty’s downstairs search for a salting pan large enough for WHAT????

In my last post, I laid out what I know sounded to many of you as outlandish, scandalous speculations that the downstairs of the house where the Bates women reside might just be a brothel! I compounded my scandalousness by suggesting that Miss Bates had been coerced by severe economic pressure into serving as the madam of that brothel---in desperation so as to pay the rent for her overcrowded walkup apartment, and put a little food on the table for herself, her mother, her (pregnant) niece Jane, and their maid Patty.

The ink was barely dry on my post, metaphorically speaking, when Diane’s following message passed mine in the ether, and Diane’s timing could not have been more fortuitous for me, because, as I will demonstrate below, it provides dramatic unexpected additional substantiation for my claims, by prompting me to make a new connection!

Diane wrote: “The Bates seem to have a kitchen downstairs. I don't know why I assumed they shared it:
"I was only gone down to speak to Patty again about the pork—Jane was standing in the passage—were not you, Jane?—for my mother was so afraid that we had not any salting-pan large enough. So I said I would go down and see, and Jane said, 'Shall I go down instead? for I think you have a little cold, and Patty has been washing the kitchen.'—'Oh! my dear,' said I—well, and just then came the note…."

As recent posts have shown, it is the conventional wisdom and assumption of Janeites, both amateur and scholarly alike, that the Bateses live upstairs, while the downstairs belongs exclusively to a shopkeeper, and never the twain meet. But, as Diane’s sharp eye has detected, we have in the above-quoted passage PROOF that, at a minimum, Patty also washes the downstairs kitchen and prepares food for them all there.

I will now quote another passage that, it now occurs to me, shows that Patty’s duties include other kitchen work downstairs as well, re the chimney and re the baking of apple dumplings:

At one time Patty came to say she thought the kitchen chimney wanted sweeping. Oh, said I, Patty do not come with your bad news to me. Here is the rivet of your mistress's spectacles out. Then the baked apples came home, Mrs. Wallis sent them by her boy…But about the middle of the day she gets hungry, and there is nothing she likes so well as these baked apples, and they are extremely wholesome…We have apple-dumplings, however, very often. Patty makes an excellent apple-dumpling..."

So, what’s the deal, then, with the downstairs? There must be a very cozy relationship between the Bateses and the occupants of the rest of the downstairs besides the kitchen, since the kitchen is not likely to be completely sealed away from the rest of the downstairs, right?

But who are those other occupants, and why, why, why, do we never hear a single word about them? After all, Miss Bates talks about every single thing that happens to her in her life, indeed, about every person she meets for even two seconds, it seems. And yet, in her torrent of words that Emma ignores, we never do hear a single word I can recall about the rest of the downstairs besides the kitchen, or about any of its occupants.

But there’s more than just that, much more, which makes it now seem to me even more likely that the downstairs of the house where the Bateses live is being used as a brothel. The additional evidence also only occurred to me as I read Diane’s post with its quotation of Mrs. Bates’s little tale of Patty, the pork, and the salting pan. And the explanation hinges, improbably, on Patty, as I will now explain---and it (fittingly) involves both a riddle and a charade!

Some of you will recall that Jill Heydt-Stevenson, in 1999 (picking up on Alice Chandler’s 1975 pioneering article about sex in JA’s novels) specifically took up the mantle of looking at the sexual overtones of Garrick’s Riddle (which Mr. Woodhouse so desperately tries to fully recollect from his youth). JH-S dove in where Chandler only coyly dipped her toe, and asserted that the Riddle was actually meant by JA to be interpreted as integrated into the narrative of Emma as a whole.

JH-S realized what Chandler did not, which is that the horrible sex-with-virgins hidden answer of the Riddle is connected to the flame kindled by frozen maid Kitty. I.e., Garrick’s Riddle documented, in code, a notorious barbaric pseudo-medical practice which, according to the folklore that still circulated even 40 years after Emma was published, was that sex with a virgin female would cure a man’s venereal disease! JH-S also picked up on treatment with mercury while exposing the patient to great heat as being implied by a different sort of ”chimney sweeping”, given that “chimney sweep” was the official, supposedly benign, answer to Garrick’s Riddle.

But Diane’s post has now prompted me, for the first time, to connect the dots between that horrifically sexual answer to Garricks Riddle, and another similar answer to another puzzle---an Austen family charade---and the common denominator for both is, as I said, Patty!  

The first part of my explanation of the Patty connection is easy---as I just explained above, Patty is the “expert” whom Miss Bates quotes for Patty’s opinion about needed chimney sweeping, which means that JA has covertly and specifically associated Patty with the graphic sexual subtext of Garrick’s Riddle.

Now, check out my post from 2010….
… in which I first publicly revealed a discovery I had made several years earlier, involving a second answer to the following charade, authorship of which has been attributed (incorrectly, in my opinion) to Henry Austen:

“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.”

As I explained in my 2010 post: “The official answer given by David Selwyn for this charade is "PAT" + "RIOT" = "PATRIOT". However, as with the other charades in Emma, there is a second, secret answer to this charade as well, which is why I believe the actual author of the above charade was not Henry Austen, but his precocious young teenaged sister Jane!
Think about the names of the two housemaids in Emma. Miss Bates's housemaid is Patty, or PAT for short. The Randalls housemaid, daughter of James at Hartfield, is Hannah, or HAN for short. That gives you HAN as the first syllable of the secret answer. And if you give the matter some thought, you will be able to figure out how I derived the second syllable of the secret answer, which I was the first to discover is HANCOCK.”

And so we see that Jane Austen has chosen these two names for the two female servants named in Emma,   Patty and Hannah, precisely so as to refer, in code, to the two answers to the above quoted charade, and to hint at the secret answer of Garrick’s Riddle, respectively. And JA does this precisely so as to hint broadly at the same horrid practice revealed by the answers CHIMNEY SWEEP and HANCOCK, i.e. ,men having sex with virgins forced into prostitution, in order to try to cure those evil men’s venereal diseases!

And there’s one final link in this chain of coded references, which ties it all closely together and perhaps explains why that charade remained a private Austen family relic, and was not included in Emma itself. It was perhaps too explosively close to a very very VERY dirty Austen family secret.
All Janeites familiar with Austen family biography know that the maiden name of JA’s paternal aunt was Philadelphia HANCOCK. And so I also posted in 2010 ….
…that it is no coincidence that the young teenaged Philadelphia Hancock was employed in London by a “milliner” (slang for a brothel) named (I could not make this up)…Mrs. COLE! As I suggested in that 2010 post, incredible as it sounds, it appears to me to be no coincidence that Phila Hancock was employed by a real life Mrs. Cole in Covent Garden at practically the same time, 1751, as John Cleland was writing about his fictional Mrs. Cole the brothel madam for Fanny Hill  in London not far from where the teenaged Phila worked!

The mind reels at all of the above, but it took me till today to fully grasp that the center of the wheel of allusions, puzzles, and wordplay about abuse of women forced into sex work are both Miss Bates and Jane Fairfax. Jane Austen wrote Jane Fairfax’ s character so as (as I briefly posted last year) to uncannily resemble Shakespeare’s young heroine Marina in Pericles---a virtuous young woman who loses a mother while very young, and who is exiled and sold into prostitution (through no fault of her own other than being both a gifted singer and beautiful) because she is perceived as a threat in the jealous eyes of the older woman, Dionyza, who was charged byMarina’s father with raising Marina alongside Dionyza’s  much less attractive daughter, whom Marina cannot help but outshine.

Sound familiar?

And so finally, to come full circle, now you can also understand that when Miss Bates—she who is the Cassandra of the novel in that nothing she says is heeded, even though she reveals painful truths--- quotes Patty for the need to find a salting pan large enough to hold the large pork delivered to them by Mr. Woodhouse, this is meant by JA to be understood in all its over the top, obvious Freudian sexual connotations,  just like Patty’s earlier comments about a kitchen chimney needing sweeping.

So there you have it, a half dozen pieces of what appear to superficial inspection to be random trivial background noise having nothing to do with the story of Emma, but which, as I demonstrated above (I know it’s complicated, so please reread it, it will make more sense the second time around), goes to the heart of the shadow story of the novel. And… it ALL fits together like the word jumble that so engrossed the participants at Box Hill---in this case, the secret word is “Patty”!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

P.S.: For those who want more, I have another tangent to offer you re the above. In light of my previous post about the casement windows at the Bates residence, I went back into the text of Fanny Hill to see if any  involving windows, look at what I found:

The first is the recounting by the prostitute Harriet of her life story  in Fanny Hill, as she describes a scene where she, like Jane Fairfax, is living in an entirely female household :

"The family had not been down at that seat for years, so that it was neglected, and committed entirely to MY AUNT, and TWO OLD DOMESTICS to take care of it. Thus I had the full range of a spacious lonely house and gardens, situate at about half a mile distance form any other habitation, except, perhaps, a straggling cottage or so.
"Here, in tranquillity and innocence, I grew up without any memorable accident, till one fatal day I had, as I had often done before, left my aunt fast asleep, and secure for some hours, after dinner; and resorting to a kind of ancient summer-house, at some distance from the house, I carried my work with me, and sat over a rivulet, which its door and WINDOW fac'd upon. Here I fell into a gentle breathing slumber, which stole upon my senses, as they fainted under the excessive heat of the season at that hour; a cane couch, with my work-basket for a pillow, were all the conveniencies of my short repose; for I was soon awaked and alarmed by a flounce, and the noise of splashing in the water. I got up to see what was the matter; and what indeed should it be but the son of a neighbouring gentleman, as I afterwards found (for I had never seen him before), who had strayed that way with his gun, and heated by his sport, and the sultriness of the day, had been tempted by the freshness of the clear stream; so that presently stripping, he jump'd into it on the other side, which bordered on a wood, some trees whereof, inclined down to the water, form'd a pleasing shady recess, commodious to undress and leave his clothes under.
"My first emotions at the sight of this youth, naked in the water, were, with all imaginable respect to truth, those of surprise and fear; and, in course, I should immediately have run out, had not my modesty, fatally for itself, interposed the objection of the door and WINDOW being so situated that it was scarce possible to get out, and make my way along the bank to the house, without his seeing me: which I could not bear the thought of, so much ashamed and confounded was I at having seen him. Condemn'd then to stay till his departure should release me, I was greatly embarrassed how to dispose of myself: I kept some time betwixt terror and modesty, even from looking through the WINDOW, which BEING AN OLD-FASHION’D CASEMENT, without any light behind me, could hardly betray any one's being there to him from within; then the door was so secure, that without violence, or my own consent, there was no opening it from without….”

And then much later in the novel, the (in)famous passage in which Fanny plays Peeping Tomasina, if you will, secretly spying on two young men engaging in sex with each other:

“I had, on a visit intended to Harriet, who had taken lodgings at Hampton-court, hired a chariot to go out thither, MRS. COLE having promis'd to accompany me; but some indispensable business intervening to detain her, I was obliged to set out alone; and scarce had I got a third of my way, before the axle-tree broke down, and I was well off to get out, safe and unhurt, into a publick-house of a tolerable handsome appearance, on the road. Here the people told me that the stage would come by in a couple of hours at farthest; upon which, determining to wait for it, sooner than lose the jaunt I had got so far forward on, I was carried into a very clean decent room, up one pair of stairs, which I took possession of for the time I had to stay, in right of calling for sufficient to do the house justice.
Here, whilst I was amusing myself with looking out of the WINDOW, a single horse-chaise stopt at the door, out of which lightly leap'd two gentlemen, for so they seem'd, who came in only as it were to bait and refresh a little, for they gave their horse to be held in readiness against they came out. And presently I heard the door of the next room, where they were let in, and call'd about them briskly; and as soon as they were serv'd, I could just hear that they shut and fastened the door on the inside.
A spirit of curiosity, far from sudden, since I do not know when I was without it, prompted me, without any particular suspicion, or other drift or view, to see what they were, and examine their persons and behaviour. The partition of our rooms was one of those moveable ones that, when taken down, serv'd occasionally to lay them into one, for the conveniency of a large company; and now, my nicest search could not shew me the shadow of a peep-hole, a circumstance which probably had not escap'd the review of the parties on the other side, whom much it stood upon not to be deceived in it; but at length I observed a paper patch of the same colour as the wainscot, which I took to conceal some flaw: but then it was so high, that I was obliged to stand upon a chair to reach it, which I did as softly as possibly, and, with a point of a bodkin, soon pierc'd it. And now, applying my eye close, I commanded the room perfectly, and could see my two young sparks romping and pulling one another about, entirely, to my imagination, in frolic and innocent play.”

And here is the end of that same scene—think about what happens to prevent Fanny from “raising the house” upon the two young gay men, in relation to Miss Bates’s repeated warnings to Mrs. Weston, Emma, and Harriet to watch their step as they enter the Bates residence:

“The criminal scene they acted, I had the patience to see to an end, purely that I might gather more facts and certainly against them in my design to do their deserts instance justice; and accordingly, when they had readjusted themselves, and were preparing to go out, burning as I was with rage and indignation, I jumped down from the chair, in order to raise the house upon them, but with such an unlucky impetuosity, that some nail or ruggedness in the floor caught my foot, and flung me on my face with such violence that I fell senseless on the ground, and must have lain there some time e'er any one came to my relief: so that they, alarmed, I suppose, by the noise of my fall, had more than the necessary time to make a safe retreat. This they effected, as I learnt, with a precipitation nobody could account for, till, when come to myself, and compos'd enough to speak, I acquainted those of the house with the whole transaction I had been evidence to.
When I came home again, and told MRS. COLE this adventure, she very sensibly observ'd to me that there was no doubt of due vengeance one time of other overtaking these miscreants, however they might escape for the present; and that, had I been the temporal instrument of it, I should have been at least put to a great deal more trouble and confusion that I imagined; that, as to the thing itself, the less said of it was the better; but that though she might be suspected of partiality, from its being the common cause of woman-kind, out of whose mouths this practice tended to take something more than bread, yet she protested against any mixture of passion, with a declaration extorted from her by pure regard to truth; which was that whatever effect this infamous passion had in other ages and other countries, it seem'd a peculiar blessing on our air and climate, that there was a plague-spot visibly imprinted on all that are tainted with it, in this nation at least; for that among numbers of that stamp whom she had known, or at least were universally under the scandalous suspicion of it, she would not name an exception hardly of one of them, whose character was not, in all other respects, the most worthless and despicable that could be, stript of all the manly virtues of their own sex, and fill'd up with only the worst vices and follies of ours: that, in fine, they were scarce less execrable than ridiculous in their monstrous inconsistence, of loathing and condemning women, and all at the same time apeing all their manners, air, lips, skuttle, and, in general, all their little modes of affectation, which become them at least better than they do these unsex'd malemisses.
But here, washing my hands of them, I re-plunge into the stream of my history, into which I may very properly ingraft a terrible sally of Louisa's, since I had some share in it myself, and have besides engag'd myself to relate it, in point of countenance to poor Emily. It will add, too, one more example to thousands, in confirmation of the maxim that when women get once out of compass, there are no lengths of licentiousness that they are not capable of running.
One morning then, that both Mrs. Cole and Emily were gone out for the day, and only Louisa and I (not to mention the house-maid) were left in charge of the house, whilst we were loitering away the time in looking through the shop windows, the son of a poor woman, who earned very hard bread indeed by mending stockings, in a stall in the neighbourhood, offer'd us some nosegays, ring'd round a small basket; by selling of which the poor boy eked out his mother's maintenance of them both: nor was he fit for any other way of livelihood, since he was not only a perfect changeling, or idiot, but stammer'd so that there was no understanding even those sounds his halfdozen, at most, animal ideas prompted him to utter.


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