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

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

How always UNknown….till now…the proof that Jane Austen really meant to write “How always known no principle…”

As I wrote 10 months ago, one of the most interesting sessions at the 2014 JASNA AGM in Montreal was Peter Sabor’s presentation, “Textual Controversies: Editing Mansfield Park”. Today I will address one of those  controversies, and present what I believe to be persuasive proof  to definitively resolve the apparent crux, which has drawn the close attention of every modern editor of MP.

Here is what Prof. Sabor wrote in this regard in his Persuasions Vol. 36 article: 

…The most famous textual crux in Mansfield Park, and perhaps in all of Austen’s novels, concerns another sentence that remains unchanged between the 1814 and 1816 editions. It occurs in a passage in the final volume in which Fanny is assessing Henry Crawford’s character unfavorably:
“How evidently was there a gross want of feeling and humanity where his own pleasure was concerned—And, alas! how always known no principle to supply as a duty what the heart was deficient in”.
Chapman declared that the text was “certainly corrupt,” and suggested a revision proposed by Henry Jackson: “And, alas! now all was known, no principle . . .”. E. M. Forster was enthralled by this emendation, declaring that with it “the sentence not only makes sense but illumines its surroundings”. Nevertheless, as Mary Lascelles notes, it is “at variance with the tenor of the whole passage,” and
Chapman himself, she writes, “became dissatisfied with it.” She also proposes an emendation of her own: “And, alas! now as always no known principle . . .”.
Several other emendations have been proposed, all, in my view, unsatisfactory. The best solution, I believe, is to leave the sentence unchanged, as it might well have been what Austen wrote. This is the path followed by Sutherland, Johnson, Sturrock, and Wiltshire. Sutherland, who devotes an extensive note to the passage, rightly terms the emendation proposed by Lascelles “unnecessarily fussy,” and remarks that in retaining the readings of the 1814 and 1816 editions, “we are accepting a form of words that carried at the least Austen’s tacit approval, and a form of words that does make sense”. Johnson likewise believes that the “sentence, while difficult, is not unintelligible”. For Wiltshire, the sentence is “a rendering of feeling rather than a grammatically correct statement”, and as such it captures Fanny’s troubled state of mind at the time. Kinsley, however, goes further than Chapman in not only suggesting an emendation but actually inserting it into his text. Thus Fanny, in the World’s Classics edition, regrets that Crawford had “always no known principle”. Readers beware: this is not a phrase that Austen wrote or saw into print.” END QUOTE

Not knowing that editorial history until last year’s AGM, what has always struck me about Fanny’s exclamation “And, alas! How always known no principle…” ever since I first stumbled over  it a few years ago, and parsed it out for myself, was how this was the quintessential example of Fanny’s poetic thought-language. I.e., the narration of her thoughts was not infrequently phrased in elevated and poetic, rather than prose, diction. I was also reminded of how Darcy, in his first proposal, takes his game up a couple of rhetorical levels when he utters the poetic “In vain have I struggled” instead of the prosaic “I have struggled in vain”.  Fanny---and perhaps also Darcy, who after all also defends poetry as the food of love----is a Romantic, steeped in Wordsworth (as we also know from her Tintern Abbey transparencies).

Anyway, it occurred to me to go to Google Books and see whether I might just find some published allusive source—preferably a Wordsworth poem Fanny might have read---in which “How always…” began a line of poetry. I did the search, and I scored an unexpected direct hit—not on a Wordsworth poem, but, even more interestingly, on a prose allusive source that was first recognized nearly 30 years ago as a source for Mansfield Park---I’m talking about Fanny Burney’s Camilla.

Specifically, in Judy Simon’s 1987 book Fanny Burney, she wrote the following about MP and Camilla:
“Numerous parallels can be drawn between the two books, with their emphasis on the family situation, their analyses of moral education and their theme of spiritual inheritance. The sober Edgar Mandelbert closely anticipates Edmund Bertram, ...”

And that immediately reminded me that I was the first, about five years ago, to point out the marvelous name game that Jane Austen played in MP, so as to subliminally underscore the parallel between Edgar and Edmund (in addition to the obvious King Lear wink). I.e., as between the 15 letters of “Edgar Mandelbert” and 13 letters of “Edmund Bertram”,  it turns out, not coincidentally, that eleven of the thirteen letters in the latter also appear in the former----but much more tellingly, the same syllables are used in both—just shuffled a bit, like a deck of cards. I.e., “Ed-Mand” from Burney’s hero becomes “Edmund” in Austen’s, and similarly “Bert-rag” from Burney becomes “Bertram” in Austen!

So, with what Simon said, and I added, how much more interesting that makes the parallelism I have now discovered between Fanny Price’s poetic soliloquy about Henry Crawford….

“How evidently was there a gross want of feeling and humanity where his own pleasure was concerned—And, alas! how always known no principle to supply as a duty what the heart was deficient in”

and  Camilla’s impassioned retort, in Chapter 10 of Camilla, to her selfish, immature brother Lionel’s whining, after his mother has “sentenced” him to resume his studies after a careless “joke” on his part has caused harm in their family:

'And enough too,' cried [Lionel], reddening: 'I am a very wretch!—I believe that—though I am sure I can't tell how; for I never intend any harm, never think, never dream of hurting any mortal! But as to study—I must own to you, I hate it most deucedly. Anything else—if my mother had but exacted any thing else—with what joy I would have shewn my obedience!—If she had ordered me to be horse-ponded, I do protest to you, I would not have demurred.'
'How always you run into the ridiculous!' cried Camilla.

I must emphasize that it’s not just the repetition of “How always” that seals the deal for me on Fanny’s poetic rumination being an intentional allusion by Jane Austen to this Burney novel she knew so well, and indeed mentioned twice, very favorably and famously, in Northanger Abbey. It’s also that in each case the poetic rumination reflects the virtuous heroine expressing her deep disappointment and upset at the selfish, reckless behavior of an idle, pleasure-seeking young man close to her and the rest of her family, who wreaks havoc in the heroine’s family.

That’s WAY WAY too many significant points of correspondence between the two passages to be coincidental or unconscious.

I suggest further that this ought to alert both Austen and Burney scholars to take a closer look for other, even more substantive parallels between the characters of Henry Crawford and Lionel Tyrold, as I’d bet a great deal that there’s much more to their mutual resemblance than just being the target of a “How always”!

Plus….circling back to the beginning of this post, there is the added bonus that this now establishes beyond all reasonable doubt that Jane Austen’s original “awkward” phraseology, which Chapman and some other presumptuous editors felt so justified in altering, is indeed exactly what Jane Austen intended to write!

If Peter Sabor is correct in his assertion that this has been the most famous textual crux in all of Jane Austen novels, then I think it’s noteworthy that I have finally laid it to rest, two centuries after it first arose.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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