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

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Mr. Darcy, Eliza, & Lady Catherine as Satan, Eve & Raphael: the answers to my “tempting” quiz

I was thinking of two great works of literature, what are their titles and who wrote them? As some have already guessed, and as my Subject Line reveals, the two works are Paradise Lost and Pride & Prejudice. My below answers will make a prima facie showing that this was an intentional, subversive, and multi-faceted allusion by Jane Austen. Although her allusion to Milton’s epic poem in her next published novel, Mansfield Park, has long been recognized, due to the nearly explicit imagery in the Sotherton wilderness episode, her allusion in P&P, while more veiled, is perhaps more elegant and meaningful. See if you agree.

CLUE #1: We hear about the AFFABILITY and CONDESCENSION of a godlike character who gives extremely influential advice to a married couple in the story:
ANSWER: I give the honor of beginning this answer to the original discoverer of this parallel:
“P&P, Mr. Collins, and the Art of Misreading” BY CAROLE MOSES
“Two words used repeatedly by Mr. Collins to describe Lady Catherine de Bourgh are ‘condescending’ and ‘affable.’  During Elizabeth’s visit after his marriage, he promises that she will witness Lady Catherine’s ‘affability and condescension’, a promise he sees fulfilled during the dinner party at Rosings.  Indeed, only the ‘knowledge of her affability’ allows him to credit the munificence of her invitation…Even when Austen is not quoting Mr. Collins directly, her ironic narrative voice echoes his thoughts.  Lady Catherine, we are told, arose with ‘great condescension’ to receive them at Rosings; the invitation itself is an ‘instance of Lady Catherine’s condescension as [Mr. Collins] knew not how to admire enough.’  These two words—“affability” and “condescension”—echo Milton’s description of Raphael’s visit to Adam in Paradise Lost. After listening to Raphael describe God’s creation of the universe, Adam thanks him for his “friendly condescention” as Book VIII opens.  At the end of this book, Adam bids Raphael farewell, alluding to his affability and condescension:
 Gentle to me and affable hath been
Thy condescension, and shall be honour’d ever
With grateful Memorie: thou to mankind
Be good and friendly still, and oft return” (648-51)
…The echoes of Milton in Pride and Prejudice are so slight that they might simply be the result of unconscious borrowing. But they certainly develop the characterization of Mr. Collins, which argues for authorial intent. As Grundy points out, Austen often underscores the foolishness of some of her characters through their inept literary allusions. Only Mr. Collins could find a parallel between Lady Catherine and the archangel. Raphael gives Adam good advice about his spiritual state; Lady Catherine examines the Collinses’ household, finding “fault with the arrangement of the furniture, or detect[ing] the housemaid in negligence”.  Indeed, her officiousness extends to “The care of [their] cows and [their] poultry”. Mr. Collins’s inappropriate Miltonic echoes reveal him to be both a fool and a perverse student of Milton.” END QUOTE FROM CAROLE MOSES ARTICLE

Carole was hesitant to declare this a definite intentional allusion on JA’s part, but consider: I only found her article, the other day, after I had first sleuthed out the other clues I answer below! So her discovery is the icing on an allusive layer cake! The wording of my clue reveals that the parallelism doesn’t only consist of the same pair of keywords---it’s also that this particular pair of keywords is used to describe “the affability and condescension of a godlike character who gives extremely influential advice to a married couple in the story” in both Paradise Lost AND Pride & Prejudice!
I see a deeper parody of a much more subversive nature hidden in Mr. Colllins’s “angelification” of Lady C than Carole suggested---it’s not just Mr. Collins’s opinion, it is that Jane Austen herself is suggesting that Lady Catherine is a Regency Era version of the angel Raphael---and that’s pretty darned sacrilegious! I.e., JA was of the camp that viewed Milton as being of the devil’s party, and not that of the angel Raphael.
And, what’s more, as Carole also noted, the advice pertains to the garden which was granted to that married couple by the godlike being (or, in the case of Raphael, his own boss, God)! Which actually leads us to CLUE #2.

CLUE #2: There are many references to GARDENS.
ANSWER: Obviously, the Garden of Eden is where pivotal action takes place in Paradise Lost. And in  P&P, we hear a great deal about the Collinses’ garden at Hunsford—twice prior to Eliza’s visit, and then nine references in Chapter 28 alone, including in particular Eliza’s sarcastic comment when Maria Lucas gets into a small frenzy over the passing by of the de Bourgh phaeton:

"Oh, my dear Eliza! pray make haste and come into the dining-room, for there is such a sight to be seen! I will not tell you what it is. Make haste, and come down this moment."
Elizabeth asked questions in vain; Maria would tell her nothing more, and down they ran into the dining-room, which fronted the lane, in quest of this wonder; It was two ladies stopping in a low phaeton at the GARDEN gate.
"And is this all?" cried Elizabeth. "I expected at least that the PIGS were got into the GARDEN, and here is nothing but Lady Catherine and her daughter."
"La! my dear," said Maria, quite shocked at the mistake, "it is not Lady Catherine. The old lady is Mrs. Jenkinson, who lives with them; the other is Miss de Bourgh. Only look at her. She is quite a LITTLE CREATURE. Who would have thought that she could be so THIN AND SMALL?"

While I cannot find any pigs in the text of  Paradise Lost, I assert that the latter part of the description of Lady Catherine’s wide-ranging supervisory domestic instructions over “creatures”…
“She inquired into Charlotte's domestic concerns familiarly and minutely, gave her a great deal of advice as to the management of them all; told her how everything ought to be regulated in so small a family as hers, and instructed her as to the care of her COWS and her poultry.”
….has everything to do with the acrostic on the word “cows” in Paradise Lost, which Anielka Briggs discovered and revealed in August 2009, and which I repeat here:

T       This second source of Men, while yet but few,
A      And while the dread of judgement past remains
F      Fresh in their minds, fearing the Deity,
       With some regard to what is just and right
       Shall lead their lives, and multiply apace;
        Labouring the soil, and reaping plenteous crop,
C     Corn, wine, and oil; and, from the herd or flock,
O     Oft sacrificing bullock, lamb, or kid,
W    With large wine-offerings poured, and sacred feast,
S      Shall spend their days in joy unblamed; and dwell
        Long time in peace, by families and tribes,
       Under paternal rule….

As you can see, I go beyond Anielka, in claiming that Milton actually was winking at “fat cows”—which, I also believe, was Milton very ironically and sacrilegiously hinting that people who were so obedient and observant of sacrifices to God were pretty much the same as fat cows bred for sacrifice! I  believe Jane Austen noticed that Milton acrostic, too, and suggested the very same thing re Mr. Collins and all his “sacrifices” to his own god, Lady Catherine, as further evidenced by the following passage in the Chapter 30 only a few pages later in P&P:

“Very few days passed in which Mr. Collins did not walk to Rosings, and not many in which his wife did not think it necessary to go likewise; and till Elizabeth recollected that there might be other family livings to be disposed of, she could not understand the SACRIFICE of so many hours.”

Can you just imagine Mr. Collins in the finery of the High Priest sacrificing a cow to Lady Catherine?

But that’s not all about gardens in P&P. Although they are not called gardens, there are also the famous passages in P&P about the lush and tasteful landscaping at Pemberley, where, as I’ve noted previously, we also have the pun, where the Pemberley gard-E-ner interacts with the Gard-I-ners!

CLUE #3 There is reference to the danger of POLLUTION of a beloved, magnificent place which is the home of a kind of deity.
ANSWER: All Janeites know about Lady Catherine’s outraged rhetoric, “Heaven and Earth!—of what are you thinking? Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus POLLUTED?"
Aside from the fact that the action in Paradise Lost takes place in heaven, on earth, and in hell, recall also P&P’s narrator’s droll afterword  re how Lady C “CONDESCENDED to wait on them at Pemberley, in spite of that POLLUTION which its WOODS had received, not merely from the presence of such a mistress, but the visits of her uncle and aunt from the city. With the GARDINERS, they were always on the most intimate terms.”
And, in parallel with the above, it is no coincidence that there are several passages in Paradise Lost which refer to POLLUTION of Heaven and Eden from human sin.
First, the devil Belial refers to God sitting on his throne in a heaven unpolluted by the Satanic revolt below:
 …yet our great Enemie
All incorruptible would on his Throne
Sit UNPOLLUTED, and th' Ethereal mould
Incapable of stain would soon expel
Her mischief, and purge off the baser fire

Then Eve passes blame for her disobedience to Satan, and God curses him to be a serpent forever.
…The Serpent me beguil'd and I did eate.
Which when the Lord God heard, without delay
To Judgement he proceeded on th' accus'd
Serpent though brute, unable to transferre
The Guilt on him who made him instrument
Of mischief, and POLLUTED from the end
Of his Creation…

Then God clues The Son re events in Eden….
 And know not that I call'd and drew them thither
  My Hell-hounds, to lick up the draff and filth
  Which mans POLLUTING Sin with taint hath shed
  On what was pure…,.

And finally, the Angel Michael refers twice to pollution:
  …till God at last
  Wearied with their iniquities, withdraw
  His presence from among them, and avert
  His holy Eyes; resolving from thenceforth
  To leave them to thir own POLLUTED wayes;
  And one peculiar Nation to select
  From all the rest, of whom to be invok'd,
  A Nation from one faithful man to spring:
…. But first among the Priests dissension springs,
  Men who attend the Altar, and should most
  Endeavour Peace: thir strife POLLUTION brings
  Upon the Temple it self:

CLUE #4: The idea of LOSS is a frequent and principal theme in the story.
ANSWER: The title of Milton’s great epic poem reveals its overarching theme—the loss of paradise ---which not only refers to Adam, Eve and the rest of the human race to come, but also to the very interesting loss of “paradise” (i.e., heaven) in the mind of Satan. But check out the text of P&P, you will be amazed at how frequently and significantly the words “lost” and “lose” refer to the loss of a valuable relationship or privilege. Here are the most salient usages, but there are even more I had no room for:

Ch. 3: "But I can assure you," [Mrs. Bennet] added, "that Lizzy does not LOSE much by not suiting his fancy; for he is a most disagreeable, horrid man, not at all worth pleasing. So high and so CONCEITED that there was no enduring him!
Ch. 6: If a woman conceals her affection with the same skill from the object of it, she may LOSE the opportunity of fixing him…
Ch. 11: "Mr. Darcy is not to be laughed at!" cried Elizabeth. "That is an uncommon advantage, and uncommon I hope it will continue, for it would be A GREAT LOSS to me to have many such acquaintances. I dearly love a laugh."
“…My feelings are not puffed about with every attempt to move them. My temper would perhaps be called resentful. My good opinion once LOST, is LOST FOREVER."
Ch. 13: "The disagreement subsisting between yourself and my late honoured father always gave me much uneasiness, and since I have had the misfortune to LOSE him, I have frequently wished to heal the breach…”
Ch. 16: [Wickham re Darcy] “Certain it is, that the living became vacant two years ago, exactly as I was of an age to hold it, and that it was given to another man; and no less certain is it, that I cannot accuse myself of having really done anything to deserve to LOSE it. ... Family pride, and filial pride—for he is very proud of what his father was—have done this. Not to appear to disgrace his family, to degenerate from the popular qualities, or LOSE the influence of the Pemberley House, is a powerful motive.
Ch. 18: "[Wickham] has been so unlucky as to LOSE your friendship," replied Elizabeth with emphasis, "and in a manner which he is likely to suffer from all his life."
Ch. 19-20: [Collins] “…I could not satisfy myself without resolving to choose a wife from among his daughters, that the LOSS to them might be as little as possible, when the melancholy event takes place
Perhaps not the less so from feeling a doubt of my positive happiness had my fair cousin honoured me with her hand; for I have often observed that resignation is never so perfect as when the blessing denied begins to LOSE somewhat of its value in our estimation…”
Ch. 28: Elizabeth was prepared to see [Collins] in his glory; and she could not help in fancying that in displaying the good proportion of the room, its aspect and its furniture, he addressed himself particularly to her, as if wishing to make her feel what she had LOST in refusing him
Ch. 37: Anxiety on Jane's behalf was another prevailing concern; and Mr. Darcy's explanation, by restoring Bingley to all her former good opinion, heightened the sense of what Jane had LOST.
Ch. 41: Such were the kind of lamentations resounding perpetually through Longbourn House. Elizabeth tried to be diverted by them; but all sense of pleasure was LOST in shame. She felt anew the justice of Mr. Darcy's objections; and never had she been so much disposed to pardon his interference in the views of his friend.
Ch. 42: When Elizabeth had rejoiced over Wickham's departure she found little other cause for satisfaction in the LOSS of the regiment.
Ch. 43: “…But no,"—recollecting herself—"that could never be; my uncle and aunt would have been LOST to me; I should not have been allowed to invite them."
Ch. 45: "Pray, Miss Eliza, are not the ——shire Militia removed from Meryton? They must be A GREAT LOSS to your family."
Ch. 46: “…Many circumstances might make it more eligible for them to be married privately in town than to pursue their first plan; and even if he could form such a design against a young woman of Lydia's connections, which is not likely, can I suppose her so LOST to everything? Impossible!
“… My younger sister has left all her friends—has eloped; has thrown herself into the power of—of Mr. Wickham. They are gone off together from Brighton. You know him too well to doubt the rest. She has no money, no connections, nothing that can TEMPT him to—she is LOST FOR EVER."
Ch. 47: "But can you think that Lydia is so LOST to everything but love of him as to consent to live with him on any terms other than marriage?"
“… It is not quite a week since they left Brighton. In a few days more we may gain some news of them; and till we know that they are not married, and have no design of marrying, do not let us give the matter over as LOST.”
… The faces of both, however, were tolerably calm; and no change was visible in either, except that the LOSS of her favourite sister, or the anger which she had herself incurred in this business, had given more of fretfulness than usual to the accents of Kitty…
[Mary] "Unhappy as the event must be for Lydia, we may draw from it this useful lesson: that LOSS of virtue in a female is irretrievable; that one false step involves her in ENDLESS RUIN; that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful; and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex."
Ch. 56: "You can be at NO LOSS, Miss Bennet, to understand the reason of MY JOURNEY HITHER. Your own heart, your own conscience, must tell you why I come….Are you LOST to every feeling of propriety and delicacy? Have you not heard me say that from his earliest hours he was destined for his cousin?"
Ch. 59: As soon as they entered, Bingley looked at her so expressively, and shook hands with such warmth, as left no doubt of his good information; and he soon afterwards said aloud, "Mrs. Bennet, have you no more lanes hereabouts in which Lizzy may LOSE her way again to-day?"

CLUE #5: There are significant whispers in the ear of the heroine which attempt to warn her against danger of temptation by an evil seducer to sin, who is described as an angel of light and wicked.
ANSWER: We all know about Satan whispering in Eve’s ear, and true Miltonians also know about the angelic voice which alerts the newly created Eve that her reflection in the water is herself—a whisper which Eve recounts to Adam while Satan eavesdrops, which I believe is what gives Satan the idea to do likewise to deliver the first part of his temptation. A whole article could be written just about the theme of temptation in P&P, far beyond the scope of this post—suffice for today that I see Mary Bennet as the good Satan of Longbourn, whispering (unfruitfully—so to speak) in sister Eliza’s ear, warning her about giving in to Darcy’s calculated, manipulative, indeed Satanic temptation to believe that he has reformed and repented, when actually he simply could not accept being told “No!” by a woman!

CLUE #6: A villain’s name, hidden in plain sight in code in the text, is identical in these two works.
ANSWER: I’ve previously posted about the SATAN acrostic in Book 8 of Paradise Lost, first discovered by Paul Klemp in 1977. Below I reveal Jane Austen’s hiding of SATAN’s name in plain sight in P&P (very similarly to the way she hid LUCIFER in LUCY FERRARS’  signature in Sense & Sensibility).
The hidden SATAN appears somewhere in the following speech by Mr. Bennet while reading from Mr. Collins’s letter to him, a speech which is the epicenter of the complex allusion to Paradise Lost in P&P. I’ve put in ALL CAPS all the words which resonate strongly with parallel usages in Paradise Lost, but can you spot the hidden SATAN?:

“…Your daughter Elizabeth, it is presumed, will  not long bear the name of Bennet after her elder sister has RESIGNED it, and the CHOSEN PARTNER OF HER FATE may be reasonably looked up to as one of the most ILLUSTRIOUS personages in this land.'
"Can you possibly guess, Lizzy, who is meant by this? -- 'This young gentleman is BLESSED, in a peculiar way, with everything the heart of mortal can most desire -- splendid property, noble kindred, and extensive patronage. Yet, in spite of all these TEMPTATIONS, let me warn my cousin Elizabeth, and yourself, of what EVILS you may incur by a PRECIPITATE closure with this gentleman's proposals, which, of course, you will be inclined to take immediate advantage of.'
"Have you any idea, Lizzy, who this gentleman is? But now it comes out --
"'My motive for cautioning you is as follows: we have reason to imagine that his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, does not look on the match with a friendly eye."
"Mr. DARCY, you see, is the man! Now, Lizzy, I think I have SURPRISED you. Could he, or the LUCASES, have PITCHED on any man within the CIRCLE of our acquaintance, whose name would have GIVEN THE LIE more effectually to what they related? Mr. Darcy, who never looks at any woman but to see a blemish, and who probably never looked at you in his life! It is admirable!"

Amidst this passage drenched in Miltonian rhetoric, here is the hidden Satan:

“Mr. Darcy, who never look…S AT AN…y woman but to see a blemish…”

CLUE #7: The heroine is spellbound by the beauty of a place she finds herself which unites her in love with her man.
ANSWER: Again, this could be a long article in itself, but suffice for now that Eve is spellbound by the beauty of Eden, and Eliza is spellbound by the beauty of Pemberley, Eve takes a bite from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, Eliza eats the fruits served at Pemberley, both literally and metaphorically.

CLUE #8: There is controversy as to whether the author was of the party of the apparent villain of the story.
ANSWER: Everyone knows about the centuries-old debate as to whether (in Blake’s famous words) Milton was of the devil’s party or not---I say the same is true of Jane Austen vis a vis P&P!

CLUE #9: Both of these stories are key sources for Shaw’s Pygmalion, and Shaw recognized many, if not all, of the above connections.
ANSWER: I’ve previously posted separately about (1) the previous discovery that Henry Higgins has Satan on the brain throughout Pygmalion, and Liza Doolittle is Shaw’s corrective of the Bible and Milton, by having Liza NOT marry Higgins, and (2) the more subtle allusion in Pygmalion to P&P, wherein I see Darcy as shaping Elizabeth Bennet’s character in a very similar way to the way HH does with Eliza.   

And I will conclude with more wordplay of JA’s, which I only saw while writing this---she chose the name NETHERfield Hall, because the word “NETHER” appears numerous times early in Paradise Lost to refer to Hell, and is used by Adam at the end of the poem as well, but that time to refer to the postlapsarian Earth, as follows:

In yonder NETHER WORLD where shall I seek
  [God’s] bright appearances, or footstep trace?
  For though I fled him angrie, yet recall'd
  To life prolongd and promisd Race, I now
  Gladly behold though but his utmost skirts
  Of glory, and farr off his steps adore.

In a future post, I’ll add even more goodies to the above, but for now, I think I’ve given you plenty to ponder about Jane Austen’s amazing allusion to Paradise Lost in P&P! Dare you believe that in addition to the good Darcy of the overt story of Pride & Prejudice, there is also a Satanic Darcy in the shadow story?

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter


Diane Reynolds said...

As you can imagine, I can of course see an evil Darcy in addition to overt good one, but for more prosiac reasons that your allusions to Milton: I understand a reading of a Darcy who doesn't change at all, but only lets Elizabeth into his "circle." She thinks he's changed, but she's merely been tempted.

Arnie Perlstein said...


Thanks for your reply! I think we agree more than you realize--- I have seen the "evil Darcy" for about 6-7 years now, this Paradise Lost allusion is just further confirmation to me.