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

Sunday, July 26, 2015

"To yield readily—easily—to THE PERSUASION OF A FRIEND (i.e,. Quakerism!) is no merit with” Mr. Darcy (the Anglican Church)!

Diane, thanks for your reply, which I just saw as I was getting ready to post this followup of my own. Let me clarify one important point re the theological allegory I see operating in P&P with Wickham representing Quakers and Darcy Anglicans---I am not suggesting that Wickham himself should be viewed as a Quaker, merely that his small scale situation as an individual character in P&P mirrors that of the Quakers on a larger scale in key ways—and the same with Darcy, who surely is an Anglican—Darcy, in his arrogant crushing of “dissidents” from his “edicts’ behaves with the casual cruel arrogance exhibited by the Anglican church toward its much smaller and less powerful theological rivals, in their competitive courtship of English souls (Elizabeth).

Now on to my original followup to my two recent posts about the Wickham-Darcy Quaker-Anglican subtext of P&P. It occurred to me this morning to do a word search of “Society of Friends” and “Brotherly Love”, two key phrases of course associated with Quakerism since prior to JA’s era, and it turned out to be a gold mine of allusions hidden in plain sight.

As you go through the following textual excerpts from P&P, where I’ve put in ALL CAPS those keywords to help you spot them, please focus in particular on what I believe is Ground Zero of this Quaker allusion in P&P, the excerpts from the scene when Wickham first tells Eliza the story of how Darcy screwed him over. And that in turn relates back to the conversation at Netherfield about Bingley’s handwriting that morphs into a discussion of persuasion. That conversation provided My Subject Line as the best example of the novel’s Quaker subtext, because it puns in a masterfully clever way on the double meaning of “persuasion”. I.e., besides its ordinary meaning of “convincing someone to change an opinion”, it also was often used in JA’s era, and is still sometimes used today, to refer to one’s religious denomination. That meaning was used most famously in the 1945 novel The Friendly Persuasion, later made into a famous movie saga starring Gary Cooper about—what else?-a Quaker family!

And that entire conversation between Eliza and Wickham can be viewed as a very specific allegory about the dilemma of an English Christian trying to pick between mainstream Anglicanism and dissident Quakerism. And finally, as you read the several references to Wickham’s discussion of Darcy’s fraternal pride (aka “Brotherly Love”), consider the curious fact, perhaps a coincidence, that the 1709 Anglican tract A Confutation of Quakerism, written by Thomas BENNET, just happens to take on the topic of “brotherly love” head-on!

So, without further ado, here are the textual excerpts which clinch the deal on the Quaker subtext of P&P.

"What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy! There is nothing like dancing after all. I consider it as one of the first refinements of polished SOCIETY."
"Certainly, sir; and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished SOCIETIES of the world. Every savage can dance."
Sir William only smiled. "Your FRIEND performs delightfully," he continued after a pause, on seeing Bingley join the group…

"I am sure," she added, "if it was not for such good FRIENDS I do not know what would become of her, for she is very ill indeed, and suffers a vast deal, though with the greatest patience in the world, which is always the way with her, for she has, without exception, the sweetest temper I have ever met with….”

“…you must remember, Miss Bennet, that the FRIEND who is supposed to desire his return to the house, and the delay of his plan, has merely desired it, asked it without offering one argument in favour of its propriety."
"To yield readily—easily—to THE PERSUASION OF A FRIEND is no merit with you."
"To yield WITHOUT CONVICTION is no compliment to the understanding of either."
"You appear to me, Mr. Darcy, to allow nothing for the influence of FRIENDSHIP and affection. A regard for the requester would often make one readily yield to a request, without waiting for arguments to reason one into it. I am not particularly speaking of such a case as you have supposed about Mr. Bingley. We may as well wait, perhaps, till the circumstance occurs before we discuss the discretion of his behaviour thereupon. But in general and ordinary cases BETWEEN FRIEND AND FRIEND, where one of them is desired by the other to change a resolution of no very great moment, should you think ill of that person for complying with the desire, without waiting to be argued into it?"

Mr. Denny addressed them directly, and entreated permission to introduce HIS FRIEND, Mr. Wickham, who had returned with him the day before from town, and he was happy to say had accepted a commission in THEIR CORPS.

"Oh! no—it is not for me to be driven away by Mr. Darcy. If he wishes to avoid seeing me, he must go. We are not on FRIENDLY terms, and it always gives me pain to meet him, but I have no reason for avoiding him but what I might proclaim before all the world, a sense of very great ill-usage, and most painful regrets at his being what he is. His father, Miss Bennet, the late Mr. Darcy, was one of the best men that ever breathed, and THE TRUEST FRIEND I ever had; and I can never be in company with this Mr. Darcy without being grieved to the soul by a thousand tender recollections….”

Mr. Wickham began to speak on more general topics, Meryton, the neighbourhood, the SOCIETY, appearing highly pleased with all that he had yet seen, and speaking of the latter with gentle but very intelligible gallantry.
"It was the prospect of constant SOCIETY, and good SOCIETY," he added, "which was my chief inducement to enter the ——shire. I knew it to be a most respectable, agreeable corps, and my FRIEND Denny TEMPTED me further by his account of their present quarters, and the very great attentions and excellent acquaintances Meryton had procured them. SOCIETY, I own, is necessary to me. I have been a disappointed man, and my spirits will not bear solitude. I must have employment and SOCIETY. A military life is not what I was intended for, but circumstances have now made it eligible. THE CHURCH ought to have been my profession—I was brought up for THE CHURCH, and I should at this time have been in possession of a most valuable living, had it pleased the gentleman we were speaking of just now."

"How strange!" cried Elizabeth. "How abominable! I wonder that the very pride of this Mr. Darcy has not made him just to you! If from no better motive, that he should not have been too proud to be dishonest—for dishonesty I must call it."
"It is wonderful," replied Wickham, "for almost all his actions may be traced to PRIDE; and PRIDE had often been HIS BEST FRIEND. It has connected him nearer with virtue than with any other feeling. But we are none of us consistent, and in his behaviour to me there were stronger impulses even than PRIDE."
"Can such abominable PRIDE as his have ever done him good?"
"Yes. It has often led him to be liberal and generous, to give his money freely, to display hospitality, to assist his tenants, and relieve the poor. 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. HE HAS ALSO BROTHERLY PRIDE, which, with  SOME BROTHERLY AFFECTION, makes him a very kind and careful guardian of his sister, and you will hear him generally cried up as the most attentive and BEST OF BROTHERS."

"I am astonished at his intimacy with Mr. Bingley! How can Mr. Bingley, who seems good humour itself, and is, I really believe, truly amiable, be in friendship with such a man? How can they suit each other? Do you know Mr. Bingley?"

Jane pictured to herself a happy evening in the SOCIETY OF her two FRIENDS, and the attentions of their brother; and Elizabeth thought with pleasure of dancing a great deal with Mr. Wickham, and of seeing a confirmation of everything in Mr. Darcy's look and behaviour.

"Mr. Wickham is blessed with such happy manners as may ensure his MAKING FRIENDS—whether he may be equally capable of retaining them, is less certain."
"He 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."

"I do not pretend to regret anything I shall leave in Hertfordshire, except your SOCIETY, my dearest FRIEND…”

…it was not to be supposed that their absence from Netherfield would prevent Mr. Bingley's being there; and as to the loss of their SOCIETY, she was persuaded that Jane must cease to regard it, in the enjoyment of his.
"It is unlucky," said she, after a short pause, "that you should not be able to see your FRIENDS before they leave the country. But may we not hope that the period of future happiness to which Miss Bingley looks forward may arrive earlier than she is aware, and that the delightful intercourse you have known as FRIENDS will be renewed with yet greater satisfaction as sisters? Mr. Bingley will not be detained in London by them."

Sir William's ALLUSION TO HIS FRIEND seemed to strike him forcibly, and his eyes were directed with a very serious expression towards Bingley and Jane, who were dancing together.

“My father was not only fond of this young man's SOCIETY, whose manners were always engaging; he had also the highest opinion of him, and hoping THE CHURCH would be his profession, intended to provide for him in it. As for myself, it is many, many years since I first began to think of him in a very different manner. The vicious propensities—the want of principle, which he was careful to guard from the knowledge of his best FRIEND, could not escape the observation of a young man of nearly the same age with himself, and who had opportunities of seeing him in unguarded moments, which Mr. Darcy could not have…”

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