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

Monday, May 11, 2015

Shakespeare’s Pericles Lost & Found…in Milton’s Paradise & Lamb/Austen’s Prince of Whales!

Several days ago, I posted about what I called ”The Danteesque/Miltonian/Austenian/AcrosticTriumph of Charles Lamb’s Prince of Whales”  In that post, I expanded upon Colleen Sheehan’s 2006 discovery of Jane Austen’s allusion (in her “courtship” charade in Chapter 9 of Emma) to Charles Lamb’s 1812 anonymous skewering of the Prince of Wales as “the Prince of Whales”. I concluded thusly:

“So when Jane Austen chose to mold her courtship charade around this Dante, Milton & Lamb imagery of Satan in hell, and to wink at the multiple acrostics in Lamb's poem with her two anagram acrostics on "Lamb", it tells us all she really meant it when she confided to close friend (and more) Martha Lloyd in 1812 that she really hated the Prince Regent. And it also tells us that she enjoyed the sacrilegious content of Lamb’s poem, and saw in it a kindred spirit to her own teenage Sharade on James I. And finally, it confirms to me what I have long believed, which is that Mr. Knightley is the Prince of Whales of Emma, and that Jane Austen is hinting to us that he swallows Emma whole at the end of the novel, to Emma's grave detriment.”

Subsequently, I did some followup delving into the allusive depths beneath Austen’s superficially trivial charade, and even I was amazed at where the trail led me. Turns out that Lamb’s satirical poem, and Austen’s allusion thereto, both sit at the convergence of several other significant threads of literary allusion, going both forward and backward in literary history from the Regency Era.

It would take a long post to explicate this multiple convergence in full textual detail, so today I’ll instead present an outline, with highlights, to give you the big picture in a few pages. But if anyone honors my work with a request for more details on particular claims, I’ll be glad to comply in a followup post.

Without further ado, then, here is my outline:

LAMB’S “PRINCE OF WHALES” IN AUSTEN’S EMMA: I just summarized this allusion, above, and spelled it out in detail in the above linked prior post.

SHAKESPEARE’S PERICLES IN AUSTEN’S EMMA: I’ve been claiming for a number of years that there is a complex allusion to Shakespeare’s late romance, Pericles Prince of Tyre  in Emma via the following subthreads, the Shakespearean common denominator of which has never been recognized before:

ONE: Garrick’s Riddle, which Mr. Woodhouse struggles to recollect, and which begins with “Kitty a fair but frozen maid” is a Jane Austen wink at Antiochus’s father-daughter incest riddle, which Pericles solves, thereby putting himself in mortal danger. Mr. Woodhouse’s horror of anyone, but especially Emma, getting married, is a dark black humor parody of Antiochus vis a vis his daughter.
TWO: In 1999, Jill Heydt-Stevenson demonstrated the lurid sexual subtext of Garrick’s Riddle, which hints at sex with virgins to cure syphilis, which is closely akin to Antiochus’s relationship with his daughter (and by the way, David Garrick, at his death in 1779, bequeathed to the British Library both a 2nd and a  6th quarto of Pericles).

THREE:  I first argued last year that Mr. Perry was actually Mr. Woodhouse’s imaginary friend, and that his surname is Jane Austen’s wink at both Shakespeare’s Pericles and also at the Peri Banou (“peri” being Farsi for “fairy”) in one of the famous Scheherazade tales.

            FOUR: I argued very recently that Jane Fairfax in Emma is closely modeled in several key aspects on Pericles’s daughter Marina, and, as a corollary, that the Bates residence is modeled on the Mytilene brothel where Marina resists being forced to sell her (human) flesh. This particularly fits with my longstanding claim that Jane Fairfax is the shadow heroine of Emma, given that Marina is the undisputed heroine of Pericles.

            So, you see there are four independently discovered threads that all connect Emma to Pericles, thereby making each of them more likely to reflect Jane Austen’s intention. But I must conclude this section with reference to a massive “Trojan Horse Moment” of Margaret Doody in this regard. I.e., she could have seen this allusion 20 years ago, had her scholarly philosophy dreamt of Jane Austen as a subversively brilliant Shakespeare scholar. Here’s the relevant excerpt from Doody’s The True Story of the Novel (1996)  about “Ap;ollonius of Tyre…Fathers and Daughters, and Unriddling Mother’s Plot”  [Doody was referring to the original Latin novel Apollonius, the likely ultimate source for Gower’s 14th century adaptation that Shakespeare relied on]:
“The worst things done in Apollonius are done within the family or in the name of its values. … Apollonius, I would suggest, is about rendering visible or knowable the psychosocial abuses that lie beneath the cultural surface. To render such open secrets knowable is to engage in the heavy psychic labor of unriddling. This labor oversets Apollonius.…Should we take Tharsia’s riddles as an example of --and thus a collusion with—incest itself? On the contrary, Tharsia’s riddles reenact some of the elements of incest, but as an antidote. As the novel has shown us, what is depressing is the normality of the breaking of the assumed taboo. In order to break out of the dull and painful normality created by the patterns of possessiveness, we need to look at everything as if we had no ready-made understanding or definition of it—and that is what riddles do. Riddles figuratively enact the possibility of radical redefinition. Rhetorically they are paradoxes, in every sense, including the sense of surprise…When Tharsia uses riddles, she engages in a serious erotic activity of self preservation, for her father and herself. She represents the desire of the mind to move outside the prison of custom…IN JANE AUSTEN’S EMMA, SILLY OLD MR. WOODHOUSE (a comically depressive father) laments ‘that young people would be in such a hurry to marry—and to marry strangers too”. But fiction is heartily in favor of union with the stranger…ANTIOCHUS CARRIED MR. WOODHOUSE’S POSSESSIVE GREED TOO FAR. In his perverse cutting out of the stranger who might take his daughter from him. (Mr. Woodhouse, too, is enveloped in riddles, but he is too foolish to pose any.). …”

Wow! Did Doody simply blank on the fact that Mr. Woodhouse DOES (as I wrote earlier) specifically recall Garrick’s Riddle? Doody just could not conceive of a Jane Austen who’d intentionally foreground this disturbing incestuous subtext from Pericles! And yet, Doody’s analysis of the role riddles play vis a vis “psychosocial abuses [such as incest] that lie beneath the cultural surface” is chillingly applicable to my longstanding interpretation of Mr. Woodhouse as a former serial incestuous sexual abuser!


Susan Allen Ford, editing Sheehan’s “Prince of Whales” article, pointed out that Lamb’s poem alluded to Paradise Lost, and my above-linked prior post mentioned that Lamb’s poem alluded to Dante’s Inferno (which of course was itself an obvious source for Milton’s epic), but now I also have determined that Lamb’s poem also alluded to Shakespeare’s Pericles, with the epicenter of that allusion being as follows:

The beginning of Lamb’s poem, with the unusual word “finny”, and including a stanza about a human whale swallowing people a la the Biblical Jonah (who was also an obvious source for Shakespeare’s Pericles vis a vis shipwrecks, washing up in Tarsus, etc)…
Io! Paean! Io! Sing
To the FINNY people’s King.
Not a mightier WHALE than this
In the vast Atlantic is;

…as well as the acrostic “FIN” which I identified in my previous post, are both Lamb’s winks at Act 2, Scene 1, of Pericles, when Pericles is rescued by fishermen after washing up onshore in Tarsus:

THIRD FISHERMAN   Nay, master, said not I as much when I saw the PORPUS how he bounced and tumbled? they say they're half fish, half flesh: a plague on them, they ne'er come but I look to be washed. Master, I marvel how the FISHES live in THE SEA.

You can, as easily as I did, detect the half dozen parallels between the Miltonian aspects of both the Shakespeare and the Lamb passages, most of all in that Pericles has washed up on shore in Tarsus, after in effect being cast out of “heaven” (i.e., Antioch, with “heaven” used several times in that scene to refer to both Antioch and Antiochus’s daughter) for what Antiochus perceives as a kind of presumptuous insurrection, just as Lamb has specifically alluded to the part of when Satan has washed up in Hell after being cast out of Heaven for his insurrection.

And Charles and Mary Lamb’s 1807 Tales of Shakespeare includes Pericles, and has the following very obliquely avoidant way of addressing Antiochus’s incest in their opening paragraph:

“Pericles, prince of Tyre, became a voluntary exile from his dominions, to avert the dreadful calamities which Antiochus, the wicked emperor of Greece, threatened to bring upon his subjects and city of Tyre, in revenge for a discovery which the PRINCE had made of A SHOCKING DEED which the emperor had DONE IN SECRET; as commonly it proves DANGEROUS TO PRY INTO THE HIDDEN CRIMES OF GREAT ONES.”

The second half of that long sentence could serve perfectly as a description of the fate of the Hunt brothers in 1812, who not only published Lamb’s poem, but also wrote an openly satirical editorial about the Prince Regent, which earned them both two years in prison. I.e.,, for them, it did indeed “prove dangerous to pry into the hidden crimes of great ones”!!!

And beyond Lamb, my recent research shows that both Byron and Shelley were also very much actively involved in the loose association of disaffected authors who took on the Prince Regent with various levels of overtness, in tandem with the Hunts, Lamb, and Jane Austen. And finally…even Edgar Alan Poe gets into the act, in his 1845 poem “Hop-Frog”, which also points to Lamb’s poem!

And as a final link in that later literary lineage—for now, at least---there is also:

A few years ago, I posted about Melville’s having alluded to Lamb’s poem (which Melville actually reproduced a portion of in Moby Dick) and also to Emma. Whether Melville saw the connection between Lamb’s poem and the charade in Emma –at present, I can’t say, but I am still looking….

All of this puts Jane Austen’s covert satire of the Prince Regent in a much larger social and literary context---it was not merely her private beef with his abuses of power, she was part of a great covert tradition involving the greatest writers.

And finally, the other big news I have is that the common root of all of these works (including the obvious allusion in Shakespeare’s Pericles), are John Gower’s 14th century works Confessio Amantis &  The Mirror of Mankind, the former of which includes more than one tale about incest.

In particular, Milton scholars have missed the significance of Pericles in Paradise Lost, and have failed to connect the dots from that allusion to the well recognized striking parallel between Paradise Lost and Gower’s Mirror, re Satan, Sin, and Death being in an incestuous family relationship. They are all of a piece, and demonstrate that Milton knew his literary history well.

No Lamb scholar has ever realized that “Triumph of the Whale” alludes not only to Paradise Lost, but also to Pericles. And Charles Lamb’s correspondence reveals a strong familiarity with Gower’s works as well.

And at the top of the pile, no Austen scholar has ever peered down beneath the surface of Emma and identified all these sources, all of them connected by the common thread of incestuous sex.

And somewhere in among all of this we also have Jane Austen’s epistolary reference to “sisters in Lucina” (Lucina being not only a Greek goddess of childbirth, but also the name of Pericles’s wife in Gower’s Confessio Amantis) and also the strange character Mr. Gower in JA’s juvenilia Evelyn, who shows up at the home of a young heiress, and is promptly (and absurdly) given both her hand in marriage, and also her parents’ family estate---just like Pericles when he marries Thaisa.

And there I will leave off from my Ahabian obsessive quest for all of the Prince of Whales subtext in Jane Austen’s Emma.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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