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

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

THE ANSWER to my quiz for those with “Keener Penetration in discovering Merit”: the REAL “single man” of “good fortune” behind Mr. Darcy



In my quiz, I was hinting at a real person who fits ALL of the following criteria:

ONE: He was named explicitly in one of Jane Austen’s writings-like Mr. Darcy, his first name was an English name, his last name a French name. What was his name?
TWO: He owned a real life estate with spectacular vistas, that inspired Jane Austen in more than one way to create and name her most famous fictitious estate, Pemberley. What was his estate called?
THREE: He lived in close proximity to a real life sightseeing destination, with a name which Jane Austen used as the basis for a similar fictitious sightseeing location associated with the final coming together of Lizzy and Darcy. What was its name?
FOUR: He shared a hobby/skill with Darcy (D’Arcy?) and Bingley. What was that hobby/skill?
FIVE: His relationship vis a vis another man could be said to resemble that of Bingley vis a vis Darcy. Who was that other man?
SIX: He, like Darcy, is known in part for his Manners. What Manners was he known for?

The easy way to identify that real person was to recognize and Google the telltale verbiage I hid in plain sight in my Subject Line (“Keener Penetration in discovering Merit”). That leads to a notoriously sexual passage in the sixteen year old Jane Austen’s account of the reign of James 1st in her History of England:

“His Majesty was of that amiable disposition which inclines to Freindship, and in such points was possessed of a KEENER PENETRATION IN DISCOVERING MERIT than many other people. I once heard an excellent Sharade on a Carpet, of which the subject I am now on reminds me, and as I think it may afford my Readers some amusement to find it out, I shall here take the liberty of presenting it to them.
Sharade:
My first is what my second was to King James the 1st, and you tread on my whole.
The principal favourites of his Majesty were Car, who was afterwards created Earl of Somerset and whose name perhaps may have some share in the above mentioned Sharade, and George Villiers afterwards Duke of Buckingham. On his Majesty's death he was succeeded by his son Charles.”

For those who aren’t familiar with it, I recently summarized the historical accuracy and notoriety of that Sharade here….
…but today my focus is not on the King’s first “principal favourite”, Robert Car (Carr), but the second:

“GEORGE VILLIERS AFTERWARDS DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM”

I discovered this past weekend that Jane Austen was still very much focused on George Villiers 20 years after she wrote the above Sharade, when she wrote the work that defines her to the world—Pride & Prejudice! Let me walk you through the answers to my six quiz questions and show you what I mean:

CLUE #1: He was named explicitly in one of Jane Austen’s writings-like Mr. Darcy, his first name was an English name, his last name a French name. What was his name?  
ANSWER #1: GEORGE, like Fitzwilliam, is an English name; VILLIERS, like Darcy, is a French name.

CLUE #2: He owned a real life estate with spectacular vistas, that inspired Jane Austen in more than one way to create and name her most famous fictitious estate, Pemberley. What was his estate called?
CLUE #3: He lived in close proximity to a real life sightseeing destination, with a name which Jane Austen used as the basis for a similar fictitious sightseeing location associated with the final coming together of Lizzy and Darcy. What was its name?

ANSWERS #2 & #3: GEORGE VILLIERS was known for having owned two estates in Leicestershire. The first was OAKHAM Castle, which I claim was winked at by Jane Austen in the name of the site Mrs. Bennet suggests as a walking destination, after Bingley has proposed to Jane, and Darcy is getting ready to do the same with Eliza:

“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?"
"I advise Mr. Darcy, and Lizzy, and Kitty," said Mrs. Bennet, "to walk to OAKHAM MOUNT this morning. It is a nice long walk, and Mr. Darcy has never seen the view."
"It may do very well for the others," replied Mr. Bingley; "but I am sure it will be too much for Kitty. Won't it, Kitty?" Kitty owned that she had rather stay at home. Darcy professed a great curiosity to see THE VIEW FROM THE MOUNT, and Elizabeth silently consented…. “

The conventional scholarly wisdom is that “Oakham Mount”, with a view that Darcy is curious to see, was an imaginary place, not corresponding to any real location in England. I disagree. It’s no coincidence that within a few miles of OAKHAM Castle, there are not one but two tourist destinations with names that point to the coming together of Darcy and Eliza P&P:

First there is still a “mount” with a “view” known as Alstoe Mount at Burley, near Oakham Castle: http://abarothsworld.com/photogallery/Mount%20Alstoe/Mount%20Alstoe%20Motte1.JPG
And second there still is a very opulent estate named “Burley-on-the-Hill” also near Oakham Castle, which was acquired by George Villiers after he became very rich via his relationship with James I.
So (1) at PemBERLEY (the last two syllables of which is a perfect homonym of BURLEY), Darcy first melts Eliza’s heart with his reversal of behavior toward her, and (2) at OAKHAM MOUNT (a hybrid of OAKHAM Castle and Alstoe MOUNT) that he proposes to her! 
And that’s how I first realized that George Villiers was still on Jane Austen’s mind as she wrote P&P—and the answers to my last 3 clues point to even more “smoke” that verifies this hidden allusion in P&P.

CLUE #4: He shared a hobby/skill with Darcy (D’Arcy?) and Bingley. What was that hobby/skill?
ANSWER #4: George Villiers was a lifelong horseman in every sense of the word—a renowned rider, a breeder, acquirer, and racer of horses--a key player in the horse racing scene during James I’s reign. And guess who one of Villiers’s bosom buddies was in that horse racing scene? None other than Lord D’ARCY of the same super rich aristocratic Yorkshire family that Janine Barchas tagged in her excellent recent book Matters of Fact in Jane Austen. And, as the 1995 P&P2 illustrated (faithfully to the novel), Darcy and Bingley get around very handily on horseback.

CLUE #5: His relationship vis a vis another man could be said to resemble that of Bingley vis a vis Darcy. Who was that other man?
ANSWER #5: Here’s where some will think I go too far in my claims, but I see a very strong parallel, in terms of power relations and influence, between King James I and his longtime favourite George Villiers, on the one hand, and Darcy and his (apparently) longtime favourite Charles Bingley!
And what makes this allusion very dicey, of course, is that the obvious implication in the 16 year old Jane Austen’s History of England (verified by the historical record) is that James I and George V. were openly gay lovers. Does this mean that Darcy and Bingley were similarly gay lovers, but unknown to Elizabeth Bennet? In my opinion for the past 5 years, this is indeed a plausible reading of P&P, one that was effectively dramatized by Ann Herendeen in her slash fiction adaptation entitled  Pride/Prejudice.

CLUE #6: He, like Darcy, is known in part for his Manners. What Manners was he known for?
ANSWER #6:  This is the punning icing on the cake of the veiled allusion to George Villiers in P&P. Much is made in P&P of the manners of the three men who court Eliza in P&P. Mr. Collins’s diligently studied manners are famously phony. Darcy’s manners are awful at the beginning, but then are astonishingly transformed into perfect manners at the end. And Wickham’s manners, conversely, seem perfect when Eliza first knows him, but then seem in the end to  have all been a “sharade” (if you will), concealing his rakish intentions.

Well, I don’t believe it is a coincidence that George Villiers, when he finally bowed to the truth universally acknowledged about a man of good fortune, and went in search of a wife, wound up marrying a very rich young woman named…..Katherine MANNERS!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

P.S.: The Pemberley-Burley allusion actually has one more wrinkle. I’ve recently suggested ….    http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2015/01/ill-humour-at-pemberley-with-darcys.html  ….that the Penshurst estate which Ben Jonson famously celebrated in a poem of that name was winked at by JA in naming Pemberley. Now I see that Pemberley is actually a hybrid name drawn from both Penshurst and Burley----both of which just happened to be estates which James I memorably visited!

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