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

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Lucifers of Jane Austen and Sir Richard Burton in Doyle's A Study in Scarlet

This morning, I awoke to the welcome sight of an email from a member of the Hounds group, Leslie Katz, offering a further lead in my unpacking of Doyle’s Austenian/Luciferian subtext in Study:    
“In the footnotes to my paper, "The Studious Mr Holmes: Sherlock Holmes and the British Museum", available from the link in my signature panel below, you'll find further discussion about the influence of RLS on ACD's A Study In Scarlet. Just search the paper on "Stevenson".”

When I read Leslie’s footnote, it turned out, as you will read, below, that the most interesting tidbit of all, apropos Doyle’s Lucy Ferrier: Lucifer namegame in Study, was Leslie’s citing Tanya Agathocleous for detecting Doyle’s reliance on Sir Richard Burton's The City of the Saints.  I.e., when I searched for “Lucifer” in Burton's book, I found that Burton (apparently paraphrasing without citation from an 1852 book about the Mormons by the soldier/explorer John William Gunnison) laid out the following:
"I now offer to the reader a few remarks upon the fourteen articles of the Mormon doxology, leaving him to settle whether it be a kakodoxy or a kakistodoxy….III. “We Believe that Through the Atonement of Christ All Mankind May Be Saved By Obedience to the Laws and Ordinances of the Gospel":After Adam had fallen from his primal purity, a council was held in heaven to debate how man should be saved or redeemed from the state of evil. The elder brother LUCIFER, son of the morning, the bright star in glory, and the leader of heavenly hosts, declared, when appealed to, that he would save man in his sins. But he who is emphatically called "the Son"--Christ--answered, I will save him from his sins. LUCIFER, the "archangel ruined," rebelled, was cast out from the planetary abode of the Father, and became, under the name of SATAN, the great ruler and "head devil" of evil spirits, and of the baser sort of imps and succubi. I can not say whether in their mysteries the Mormons represent Sathanas as the handsome man of El Islam, or the horned, tailed, and cloven-footed monster which monkish Europe fashioned probably after pagan Pan.”  END QUOTE FROM BURTON

It's clear to me that Doyle did read Burton (as Agathocleous also acutely observed, Doyle’s entitling Part 2 of Study “The Country of the Saints” had to be a sly sendup of Burton’s title, City of the Saints). And it’s no stretch to further infer that Doyle would’ve gathered from the above-quoted passage in Burton’s book that Lucifer was a figure who, like the adversary in the Book of Job, played a key role at the base of Mormon theology.

But the question then arose yet again in my mind: why did Doyle choose to encode "Lucifer" into the name of Lucy Ferrier, the virtuous, tragic heroine of Study, rather than into the name of, say, her abuser? I.e., why wasn’t Enoch Drebber named Lucius Ferrier? That question is another side of the question I posed in my initial post in this thread---why did Doyle give to his virtuous heroine the coded Lucy-Fer name which, in Sense & Sensibility, Jane Austen hid in the married name of the scheming, manipulative  Lucy Steele (later Lucy Ferrars), even as Doyle simultaneously chose the idealistic Marianne Dashwood as the courtship model for the worthy Lucy Ferrier? I.e., why did Doyle, in effect, give a mixed message, and cast Lucifer against type in Study?

I think the key may be found in Burton’s cribbed summary of Lucifer’s role in Mormon theology. I.e., Lucifer, like Jesus, said he wished to save man from sin. But clearly, Mormon theology implied that this was not a heavenly dispute over methodology, but that Lucifer’s goal of “saving” man was actually an evil intent to lead man into sin. So, was Doyle, by reversing the expected tagging of a character to the name Lucifer, suggesting that “sin” was in the eye of the beholder?

That’s when I recalled that I had noticed the word “sin” somewhere in Study, and so I decided to search in Study for “sin”, and for related words. I think you’ll agree that the search results are of great relevance to the question of Doyle’s “study” of the morality of killing in Study:

“[Watson] My mind had been too much excited by all that had occurred, and the strangest fancies and surmises crowded into it. Every time that I closed my eyes I saw before me the distorted baboon-like countenance of the murdered man. SO SINISTER WAS THE IMPRESSION which that face had produced upon me that I found it difficult to feel anything but gratitude for him who had removed its owner from the world. If ever human features bespoke vice of the most malignant type, they were certainly those of Enoch J. Drebber, of Cleveland. Still I recognized that justice must be done, and that the depravity of the victim was no condonment in the eyes of the law.… The German name of the victim, the absence of all other motive, and THE SINISTER INSCRIPTION on the wall, all pointed to its perpetration by political refugees and revolutionists.

… Choked by the rising cloud of dust and by the steam from the struggling creatures, [Lucy] might have abandoned her efforts in despair, but for a kindly voice at her elbow which assured her of assistance. At the same moment a SINEWY BROWN HAND [J. Hope’s] caught the frightened horse by the curb, and forcing a way through the drove, soon brought her to the outskirts.

To this day, in the lonely ranches of the West, THE NAME of the Danite Band, or THE AVENGING ANGELS, is a SINISTER and an ill-omened one.

"It is of that daughter that I would speak to you," said the leader of the Mormons. "She has grown to be the flower of Utah, and has found favour in the eyes of many who are high in the land."
John Ferrier groaned internally.
"There are stories of her which I would fain disbelieve—stories that she is sealed to some Gentile. This must be the gossip of idle tongues. What is the thirteenth rule in the code of the sainted Joseph Smith? 'Let every maiden of the true faith marry one of the elect; for IF SHE WED A GENTILE, SHE COMMITS A GRIEVOUS SIN.' This being so, it is impossible that you, who profess the holy creed, should suffer your daughter to violate it."

"What if we are stopped," asked Ferrier.
Hope slapped the revolver butt which protruded from the front of his tunic. "If they are too many for us we shall take two or three of them with us," he said WITH A SINISTER SMILE.

[J. Hope] "The moment for which I had waited so long had at last come. I had my enemies within my power. Together they could protect each other, but singly they were at my mercy. I did not act, however, with undue precipitation. My plans were already formed. There is no satisfaction in vengeance unless the offender has time to realize who it is that strikes him, and why retribution has come upon him. I had my plans arranged by which I should have the opportunity of MAKING THE MAN WHO HAD WRONGED ME UNDERSTAND THAT HIS OLD SIN had found him out….”

Isn’t that a very interesting series of passages? Via this seemingly random, subliminal wordplay on “sin” and related words, Doyle wove a subtle karmic scarlet thread of murder through the entirety of Study. Most of all, Brigham Young’s condemnation of a Mormon maiden’s marrying a Gentile as “a grievous sin”, which led directly to the cruel death of Lucy via the heinous acts of Drebber in reliance thereon, are cited, twenty years later, by the avenging angel, Jefferson Hope, who revenges Drebber’s “old sin”. Doyle’s wordplay on Lucy-Fer and sin was a veiled commentary on who gets to be the ultimate judge of what is “sin”, and of who is “sinister”-- and when it comes to ending another person’s life, what is justified (punishment), and what is criminal (murder). 

And finally, coming full circle back to Austen, and my two previous posts in this thread:

"Doyle’s winks at Austen’s Sense&Sensibility in A Study in Scarlet"

I also now believe that Doyle recognized the covertly positive role that I first ascribed in 2005 to Lucy Ferrars in Sense & Sensibility. I.e., I have long recognized that Lucy deliberately provokes Mrs. Ferrars into disinheriting her son Edward Ferrars, which leads both to Lucy winding up married to foolish heir Robert Ferrars (whom she can manipulate easily) and also to Elinor winding up married to Edward. I.e., I see Lucy as using diabolically cleverness to act as a backdoor matchmaking Cupid on Elinor’s behalf! And that fits with the perverse idea of a “Lucifer” who sometimes does good deeds, which is what I see Doyle teasing us with in Study.

And that’s anything but elementary, my dear Watsons!  ;)

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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