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Saturday, October 31, 2015

The astonishing Gothic/Shakespearean/politically satirical answers to my latest literary quiz

The other day, I presented another literary quiz…     http://bit.ly/1MuAL3R      ...as follows:

“The passage which I have quoted is from the short Jane Austen epistolary story, “Love and Freindship” (her misspelling!), which Jane wrote before she was 15 years old, in 1790. It is taken from a letter written by Laura, one of the young heroines of the story, who has a rather pronounced tendency toward hyperbole and “sensibility”—i.e., she is a drama queen in the extreme!
As to the quoted passage from Love and Freindship (sometimes referred to by me below as L&F):
What very famous work of literature did Jane Austen covertly allude to?  &
What very famous real life historical figure did Jane Austen covertly allude to?

At the end of this post, I’ve requoted that full passage from Laura’s letter in L&F for ready reference. And now, here are MY ANSWERS: 
The famous work of literature is Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare, and the famous real life historical figure is The Prince of W(h)ales, the future King George IV!  Below, I will give you the highlights from the evidence I’ve gathered in support of my claims as to these two covert allusions:

It was the following excerpts within that passage in L&F, and especially the verbiage in ALL CAPS , which first tipped me off that Jane Austen, at the tender age of 14, was already zeroed in on serious literature and contemporary events to an astonishing degree, as I will explain below:

[Laura in L&F] “…’What a beautifull sky! (said I) How charmingly is the azure varied by those DELICATE STREAKS OF WHITE!’…an accident truly apropos; it was the LUCKY OVERTURNING OF A GENTLEMAN’S PHAETON, on the road which ran murmuring behind us.  It was a most fortunate accident as it diverted the attention of Sophia from the melancholy reflections which she had been before indulging.  We instantly quitted our seats and ran to the rescue of those who but a few moments before had been in so elevated a situation as a fashionably high PHAETON, but who were now laid low and sprawling in the Dust.  "What an ample subject for reflection on the uncertain Enjoyments of this World, would not that PHAETON and the LIFE OF CARDINAL WOLSEY afford a thinking Mind!" said I to Sophia as we were hastening to the field of Action…."Oh!  tell me Edward (said I) tell me I beseech you before you die, what has befallen you since that unhappy Day in which Augustus was arrested and we were separated--" "I will" (said he) and instantly fetching a deep sigh, expired. Sophia immediately sank again into a swoon.  My greif was more audible.  My Voice faltered, My Eyes assumed a vacant stare, my face became as pale as Death, and my senses were considerably impaired. "Talk not to me of PHAETONS (said I, raving in a frantic, incoherent manner) --Give me a violin.  I'll play to him and sooth him in his melancholy Hours--Beware ye gentle Nymphs of CUPID'S THUNDERBOLTS, avoid the PIERCING SHAFTS OF JUPITER—Look at that grove of Firs--I see A LEG OF MUTTON--They told me Edward was not Dead; but they deceived me--they took him for a cucumber--" Thus I continued wildly exclaiming on my Edward's Death--. For two Hours did I rave thus MADLY…”

I suggest to you that the precocious genius Jane Austen is playing some very sophisticated literary games with her readers, when she has Laura refer to herself as “raving in a frantic, incoherent manner” . As is the case with all her numerous put-ons large and small (e.g., in her 1809 April Fool’s  M.A.D. “Ashton Dennis” letter to the publisher Crosby; even more so in her 1816 April Fool’s letters to James Stanier Clarke; and most of all in the “nonsensical” long speeches of Miss Bates in Emma), Laura’s seeming schizoid word salad of bizarre, clanging mythological imagery, when properly decoded, is actually seen to be a clever mélange of literary and satirical political allusions with very coherent and significant meaning, ultimately directed at the Prince of W(h)ales the future George IV of England!

JANE AUSTEN’s 2 GOTHIC ALLUSIONS TO ROMEO & JULIET:  12 days ago, I made the case…   http://tinyurl.com/ot9bzvf   ……for JA having covertly alluded to Romeo & Juliet in various ways in her sophisticated, mature Gothic parody Northanger Abbey, which includes revisions she made as late as 1816 shortly before her death. Today, I extend that discovery backwards in time, and show that Jane Austen already had Romeo & Juliet on her Gothic parodic radar screen at age 14, when she wrote Love and Freindship, more than a quarter century earlier!

It is still surprising to me that most literary scholars fail to recognize that Shakespeare’s early tragedy Romeo & Juliet was a major source of inspiration for Gothic novelists (and also for the greatest Gothic parodist Jane Austen).  I went searching and so far found only one scholar who recognized Shakespeare’s Gothicality -- Natalie A. Hewitt, whose 2013 dissertation entitled “ ‘Something old and dark has got its way’: Shakespeare's Influence in the Gothic Literary Tradition”, began with this excellent summary:

“This dissertation examines Shakespeare’s role as the most significant precursor to the Gothic author in Britain, suggesting that Shakespeare used the same literary conventions that Gothic writers embraced as they struggled to create a new subgenre of the novel. By borrowing from Shakespeare’s canon, these novelists aimed to persuade readers and critics that rather than undermining the novel’s emergent, still unassured status as an acceptable literary genre, the nontraditional aspects of their works paid homage to Shakespeare’s imaginative vision. Gothic novelists thereby legitimized their attempts at literary expression. Despite these efforts, Gothic writers did not instantly achieve the type of acceptance or admiration that they sought. The Gothic novel has consistently been viewed as a monstrous, immature literary form—either a poor experiment in the history of the novel or a guilty pleasure for those who might choose to read or to write works that fit within this mode. Writers of Gothic fictions often claim that their works emulate Shakespeare’s dramatic pathos, but they do not acknowledge that the playwright also had to navigate similar opposition to his own creative expression.
While early Gothic novelists had to contend with skeptical readers and reviewers, Shakespeare had to negotiate the religious, political, and ideological limitations that members of the court, the church, and the patronage system imposed upon his craft. Interestingly, Shakespeare often succeeded in circumventing these limitations by employing the literary techniques and topoi that we recognize today as trademarks of Gothic fiction—spectacle, sublime, sepulcher, and the supernatural. Each of these concepts expresses subversive intentions toward authoritative power. For Shakespeare and the Gothic novelists, the dramatic potential of these elements corresponds directly to their ability to target the sociocultural fears and anxieties of their audience; the results are works that frighten as well as amuse. As my dissertation will show, these authors use similar imagery to surreptitiously challenge the authority figures and institutions that sought to prescribe what makes a work of fiction socially acceptable or worthy of critical acclaim.”
END QUOTE FROM HEWITT DISSERTATION

While Hewitt gave an excellent unpacking of the veiled allusion to Romeo & Juliet she sees in Horace Walpole’s 1762 Castle of Otranto (widely considered the first Gothic novel), Hewitt apparently had no idea about Jane Austen’s engagement (at both the beginning and the end of her writing career) with the Gothicality of Romeo & Juliet. My twin discoveries fit perfectly with Hewitt’s analysis, and also make me wonder whether the youthful JA found inspiration in Walpole’s famous Otranto’s thinly veiled Shakespearean subtext.

As for JA’s allusion to Romeo & Juliet in L&F, the following are the speeches in R&J which Jane Austen specifically tagged in her characteristic way (just note the striking parallels between the ALL CAPS verbiage in the above excerpt from L&F, and the ALL CAPS language in the following speeches in R&J):

Romeo in Act 2 Scene 2 [but only in the First Quarto, not the First Folio, version of R&J]:
Would I were sleep and peace so sweet to rest.
The grey-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night,     
Check’ring the eastern clouds with STREAKS OF LIGHT,   [“delicate streaks of white” in L&F]
and darkness fleckled like a drunkard reels
From forth day’s pathway, made by TITAN’S WHEELS   [Phaet(h)on, who “crashed” his “carriage”!].  
Hence will I to my ghostly Friar’s close cell,
His help to crave and my dear hap to tell.

Friar Laurence in Act 2 Scene 3:
The grey-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night,
Chequering the eastern clouds with STREAKS OF LIGHT,
And flecked darkness like a drunkard reels
From forth day's path and TITAN’S FIERY WHEELS:
Now, ere the sun advance his burning eye,

The day to cheer and night's dank dew to dry,

Juliet in Act 3 Scene 2:
Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds,
Towards Phoebus' lodging: such a wagoner
As PHAETHON would whip you to the west,
And bring in cloudy night immediately.
Spread thy close curtain, love-performing night,
That runaway's eyes may wink and Romeo
Leap to these arms, untalk'd of and unseen.











If you missed it, in the myth of Phaeton' wild ride, it is Jupiters thunderbolt that destroys Phaeton and his carriage . So, again, Laura's ravings (“Beware ye gentle Nymphs of Cupid's Thunderbolts, avoid the piercing shafts of Jupiter”) mean much more than they seem to. And, as an additional wrinkle, Laura’s off the wall reference to  “a leg of mutton” fits with yet another strand of Austenian sensitivity to current caricature raised at the latest AGM which I blogged about here: http://tinyurl.com/owfoa5r

And, what’s more, the same covert allusions to Romeo & Juliet and the fall of the mythological Phaeton appear in two novels which Austen scholar emeritus (and my friend) Juliet McMaster, two decades ago, identified as sources for Love and Freindship:  Laura and Augustus by Eliza Nugent Bromley (1784) and  The History of Emily Montague by Frances Brooke (1769). This only adds to the complexity of JA’s allusion, because the young JA demonstrated in this way her own realization of the Romeo & Juliet and Phaeton subtext in those two novels, and layered these allusions one on top of the other!

[And by the way, let me now add one more item to my list of allusions to Romeo & Juliet in Northanger Abbey in my earlier post: when Catherine Morland impatiently watches the clock and the weather waiting for the Tilneys to call and take her out on a stroll in Bath, she is unwittingly echoing the impatient Juliet watching the progress of the sun the sky while waiting for night to fall, when Romeo will visit her.]

And now, briefly, on to the Prince of W(h)ales, the real life personage covertly satirized in Love & Friendship:

THE PRINCE OF W(H)ALES & HIS PHAETON FALL: 2 1/2 weeks ago, I wrote…..
http://tinyurl.com/nwc4snf   ….about the complex allusion Jane Austen hid in Northanger Abbey to Gillray’s widely circulated satirical caricature of the Prince of W(h)ales’s embarrassing fall in early July 1788 from his fancy phaeton (carriage) with his “wife” Mrs. Fitzherbert.  Now, exactly as with Romeo & Juliet, we see from the incident of the phaeton accident in Love & Friendship, that Jane Austen was satirizing the Prince in her early work (written by her less than 2 years after the Prince’s actual accident!) just as much as she did so in NA much later in her career!

In fact, I take this one step further—I think that Jane Austen was equating the Prince to Romeo, the quintessential tragic, passionate suitor.  There was, after all, famous precedent for this Shakespearean take on the Prince. When only 17 years old, in 1779, he very publically courted the Drury Lane leading lady Mary Robinson, while she was playing the female lead in Perdita and Florizel, David Garrick’s adaptation of the last two acts of Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. King George III commanded a royal performance, and George made audible flattering comments to her while she was performing, and then followed up with passionate Romeo-esque letters, using the pseudonym Florizel, while the older and wiser Mary Robinson tactfully deflected his amorous suit, which shortly burned out.

WOLSEY’S “FALL”:  And finally, did you notice how JA slipped yet another subtle Shakespearean allusion into L&F for good measure, when Laura abruptly turns philosophical after witnessing the phaeton accident which carries off her lover?:    "What an ample subject for reflection on the uncertain Enjoyments of this World, would not THAT PHAETON and THE LIFE OF CARDINAL WOLSEY afford a thinking Mind!" said I to Sophia”

I suggest that Jane Austen wrote those words for Laura for the benefit of the “thinking mind” of her erudite readers, who might recognize that her burlesque of a hero’s fatal phaeton fall was a witty reference not only to the real life Prince of W(h)ales, as I discussed in the preceding section, but also to Cardinal Wolsey who gives the following famous tragic speech in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII about his own “fall” from political grace….


…which I and some other Austen scholars believe was one of the speeches with which Henry mesmerized Fanny in the following scene from Mansfield Park:

“Crawford took the volume. "Let me have the pleasure of finishing that speech to your ladyship," said he. "I shall find it immediately." And by carefully giving way to the inclination of the leaves, he did find it, or within a page or two, quite near enough to satisfy Lady Bertram, who assured him, as soon as he mentioned the name of CARDINAL WOLSEY, that he had got the very speech. Not a look or an offer of help had Fanny given; not a syllable for or against. All her attention was for her work. She seemed determined to be interested by nothing else. But taste was too strong in her. She could not abstract her mind five minutes: she was forced to listen; his reading was capital, and her pleasure in good reading extreme. To good reading, however, she had been long used: her uncle read well, her cousins all, Edmund very well, but in Mr. Crawford's reading there was a variety of excellence beyond what she had ever met with. The King, the Queen, Buckingham, WOLSEY, Cromwell, all were given in turn; for with the happiest knack, the happiest power of jumping and guessing, he could always alight at will on the best scene, or the best speeches of each…”

So, I leave you to contemplate the staggering level of accomplishment and erudition evidenced by the 14 year old Jane Austen, as she economically and subtly wove together allusions to Shakespeare’s Romeo, to Shakespeare’s Wolsey, and to Gillray’s sharp satire of the not-so-tragic fall of the Phaeton-like Prince George. After all, the Prince was doomed by fate to wait more than two decades to assume power from his father the seriously disabled King George III---and in the interim the Prince repeatedly seemed to be headed for a politically fatal fall resulting from his own hubris, irresponsibility, womanizing, and general narcissism.

Things didn’t end well for the mythological Phaeton, or for Shakespeare’s Romeo --- but the real life George aka Romeo aka Florizel eventually became King George IV—an illustration, as Jane Austen might have put it, of how poetic justice is not always meted out to the “whales” who are the “monarchs of the sea”.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Yet another Jane Austen Quiz



 Unlike most of my prior quizzes, which have presented a dozen different story elements as clues, and asked which work(s) of fiction fits all of them, my quiz today has just one giant clue. The passage which I have quoted below is from the short Jane Austen epistolary story, “Love and Freindship” (her misspelling!), which Jane wrote before she was 15 years old, in 1790. It is taken from a letter written by Laura, one of the young heroines of the story, who has a rather pronounced tendency toward hyperbole  and “sensibility”—i.e., she is a drama queen in the extreme!

My quiz question has two parts:

In the following quoted passage from “Love and Freindship”:

what very famous work of literature did Jane Austen covertly allude to?  AND

what very famous real life historical figure did Jane Austen covertly allude to?

Hint: If you skim through my posts from the past 2 weeks, you will find both of the answers, but in different contexts.

Good luck, my fellow literary sleuths!:

“…As soon as we had packed up our wardrobe and valuables, we left Macdonald Hall, and after having walked about a mile and a half we sat down by the side of a clear limpid stream to refresh our exhausted limbs.  The place was suited to meditation.  A grove of full-grown Elms sheltered us from the East--.  A Bed of full- grown Nettles from the West--.  Before us ran the murmuring brook and behind us ran the turn-pike road.  We were in a mood for contemplation and in a Disposition to enjoy so beautifull a spot.  A mutual silence which had for some time reigned between us, was at length broke by my exclaiming--"What a lovely scene!  Alas why are not Edward and Augustus here to enjoy its Beauties with us?"
"Ah!  my beloved Laura (cried Sophia) for pity's sake forbear recalling to my remembrance the unhappy situation of my imprisoned Husband.  Alas, what would I not give to learn the fate of my Augustus!  to know if he is still in Newgate, or if he is yet hung. But never shall I be able so far to conquer my tender sensibility as to enquire after him.  Oh!  do not I beseech you ever let me again hear you repeat his beloved name--. It affects me too deeply --.  I cannot bear to hear him mentioned it wounds my feelings." "Excuse me my Sophia for having thus unwillingly offended you--" replied I--and then changing the conversation, desired her to admire the noble Grandeur of the Elms which sheltered us from the Eastern Zephyr.  "Alas!  my Laura (returned she) avoid so melancholy a subject, I intreat you.  Do not again wound my Sensibility by observations on those elms.  They remind me of Augustus.  He was like them, tall, magestic--he possessed that noble grandeur which you admire in them."
I was silent, fearfull lest I might any more unwillingly distress her by fixing on any other subject of conversation which might again remind her of Augustus. "Why do you not speak my Laura?  (said she after a short pause) "I cannot support this silence you must not leave me to my own reflections; they ever recur to Augustus." "What a beautifull sky!  (said I) How charmingly is the azure varied by those delicate streaks of white!" "Oh!  my Laura (replied she hastily withdrawing her Eyes from a momentary glance at the sky) do not thus distress me by calling my Attention to an object which so cruelly reminds me of my Augustus's blue sattin waistcoat striped in white!  In pity to your unhappy freind avoid a subject so distressing." What could I do? The feelings of Sophia were at that time so exquisite, and the tenderness she felt for Augustus so poignant that I had not power to start any other topic, justly fearing that it might in some unforseen manner again awaken all her sensibility by directing her thoughts to her Husband.  Yet to be silent would be cruel; she had intreated me to talk. From this Dilemma I was most fortunately releived by an accident truly apropos; it was the lucky overturning of a Gentleman's Phaeton, on the road which ran murmuring behind us.  It was a most fortunate accident as it diverted the attention of Sophia from the melancholy reflections which she had been before indulging.  We instantly quitted our seats and ran to the rescue of those who but a few moments before had been in so elevated a situation as a fashionably high Phaeton, but who were now laid low and sprawling in the Dust.  "What an ample subject for reflection on the uncertain Enjoyments of this World, would not that Phaeton and the Life of Cardinal Wolsey afford a thinking Mind!" said I to Sophia as we were hastening to the field of Action.  She had not time to answer me, for every thought was now engaged by the horrid spectacle before us.  Two Gentlemen most elegantly attired but weltering in their blood was what first struck our Eyes--we approached--they were Edward and Augustus--. Yes dearest Marianne they were our Husbands.  Sophia shreiked and fainted on the ground--I screamed and instantly ran mad. We remained thus mutually deprived of our senses, some minutes, and on regaining them were deprived of them again.  For an Hour and a Quarter did we continue in this unfortunate situation--Sophia fainting every moment and I running mad as often.  At length a groan from the hapless Edward (who alone retained any share of life) restored us to ourselves.
Had we indeed before imagined that either of them lived, we should have been more sparing of our Greif--but as we had supposed when we first beheld them that they were no more, we knew that nothing could remain to be done but what we were about. No sooner did we therefore hear my Edward's groan than postponing our lamentations for the present, we hastily ran to the Dear Youth and kneeling on each side of him implored him not to die--. "Laura (said He fixing his now languid Eyes on me) I fear I have been overturned." I was overjoyed to find him yet sensible.
"Oh!  tell me Edward (said I) tell me I beseech you before you die, what has befallen you since that unhappy Day in which Augustus was arrested and we were separated--" "I will" (said he) and instantly fetching a deep sigh, expired. Sophia immediately sank again into a swoon.  MY greif was more audible.  My Voice faltered, My Eyes assumed a vacant stare, my face became as pale as Death, and my senses were considerably impaired. "Talk not to me of Phaetons (said I, raving in a frantic, incoherent manner)--Give me a violin.  I'll play to him and sooth him in his melancholy Hours--Beware ye gentle Nymphs of Cupid's Thunderbolts, avoid the piercing shafts of Jupiter—Look at that grove of Firs--I see a Leg of Mutton--They told me Edward was not Dead; but they deceived me--they took him for a cucumber--" Thus I continued wildly exclaiming on my Edward's Death--. For two Hours did I rave thus madly…”

END QUOTE FROM “Love and Freindship”

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

The Secret Linguistic Life of Girls….and of Jane Austen (or Jidiganidige Auidigstidigen), too!


This morning, I read the following intriguing Tweet by Brian Lehrer, host of a popular WNYC public radio talk show:

@BrianLehrer: Did you know gibberish/secret languages are mostly a young-girl thing? @jessweiss1 writes about it: https://t.co/SHUu5P7ufp

The link led to an insightful article entitled “The Secret Linguistic Life of Girls” by writer Jessica Weiss---an article which never mentions “Jane Austen”, but which nonetheless resonates strongly with the “Jane Austen Code” I’ve been so painstakingly decoding since 2002. After the following relevant excerpts from Weiss’s article, I’ll briefly explain the Austenian resonance they carry for me:

“…For the next few minutes, we inserted this simple phonetic string—/ɪdɪg/—into syllables, transforming our sentences into long-winded, funny sounding staccatos. “Jess” became “Jidigess”; “secret language” became “sidigecridiget lidiganguidigage.” At points we exploded in laughter over what we were doing. I hadn’t spoken gibberish in over a decade, but I surprised myself with my fluency….As an adult, speaking idig with Daniela felt sacred, like a window into the most peculiar and spontaneous part of my youth—a part I hadn’t accessed in so long. As we spoke, I wondered if we were members of something bigger than we realized: a tribe of gibberish speakers, scattered throughout the world. This tribe has existed in many times and places. As Princeton University comparative literature professor Daniel Heller-Roazen notes in Dark Tongues: The Art of Rogues and Riddlers, “Historians have wished, at different times, to attribute such forms of cryptic speech to as diverse a cast of socially marginal characters as beggars, butchers, fisherman, prostitutes, and prisoners.”  So why do ordinary girls speak in secret languages?…Though there appears to be no definitive research on gender and gibberish, it became clear to me that girls are drawn to gibberish and the dozens of other secret languages and language games, also called argots and ludlings, because using them builds social bonds. Though girls aren’t threatened in the same way as others who use secret languages, like prostitutes or criminals, using gibberish creates a sense of exclusivity and power for girls at a time when they are otherwise inherently powerless. Though boys like secret codes too, it seems as if more girls use gibberish and remember it fondly…”For girls and women, their connections with each other are the center of their lives,” [Linguistic prof Deborah] Tannen told me. “And talk is the glue that holds those relationships together. The fact that you can share a private language, create that connection, feel you’re part of that group and that you’re an in-member of the group is going to carry so much weight that it’s going to be really, really attractive to girls,” she said….In some places, women use secret languages to keep themselves safe. In the 1980s, Teshomme Demisse and Lionel Bender described an argot used by “freelance prostitutes” in Addis Ababa in order to keep secrets such as “concealing conversations and planning tricks at the customers’ expense” and holding themselves apart from the “ordinary run of bar prostitutes.” Daniel Heller-Roazen describes javanais, apparently used by 19th century prostitutes “for protection from male clients.” Were they making use of secret languages from an earlier time in their lives?...”  END QUOTE

Mainstream Austen scholars have long been aware of the Austen family’s love of word games, such as charades, poems in which every line ends on the same rhyme, etc.---and Jane Austen’s especially active participation in that family tradition, with its decidedly female slant, is also well recognized. In addition, letter writing was the lifeblood of female communication at a distance in JA’s world---she lived her entire life with her sister Cassandra, and ¾ of her surviving 154 letters were written to Cassandra while they were apart; but she also had numerous, mostly female correspondents, including several of her nieces. And one finds scattered through her letters that same love of wordplay. One letter in particular, to her young niece Cassy, sending new years wishes, stands out as an example of the linguistic bond that Jane created and maintained with females close to her, using a form of “gibberish”, i.e., backwards writing:

YM RAED YSSAC,
I hsiw uoy a yppah wen raey. Ruoy xis snisuoc emac ereh yadretsey, dna dah hcae a eceip of ekac. Siht si elttil Yssac's yadhtrib, dna ehs si eerht sraey dlo. Knarf sah nugeb gninrael Nital. Ew deef eht Nibor yreve gninrom. Yllas netfo seriuqne retfa uoy. Yllas Mahneb sah tog a wen neerg nwog. Teirrah Thgink semoc yreve yad ot daer ot Tnua Ardnassac. Doog eyb, ym raed Yssac.
Tnua Ardnassac sdnes reh tseb evol, dna os ew od lla.
Ruoy etanoitceffa Tnua, ENAJ NETSUA.
Notwahc: Naj. 8.

But these examples from JA’s private writings only scratch the surface of the myriad ways in which Jane Austen, as a mature novelist, developed an elaborate linguistic system in her fiction, for the purpose of conveying secret meaning intelligible only to readers who understood what I call the Jane Austen Code. It’s not girlish gibberish like Weiss described in her article, but in some ways it serves a strikingly similar purpose, in particular communicating private sensitive information secretly and safely.

You need only browse anywhere in my blog to find a thousand examples large and small that illustrate how Jane Austen, in each of her six novels, managed to tell two different, coherent stories using the same words—more specifically, that behind the overt meaning that is accessible via a trusting, passive reading of her novels, she hid a shadow story that could only be accessed by readers who were well versed in reading against the grain, and could “print out” the alternative meanings hidden on every page. And as a giant wink as to all of this anamorphism, Jane Austen placed at the center of Emma the charade with more than one answer, which is also the acrostic that Mrs. Elton mentions.

And what is most similar in JA’s fiction to the female-centric intimate friendship served by coded gibberish, is that, just as Weiss and the girls (and other marginalized speakers) she describes in her article were telling secret stories to each other in a safe “secure” code, so too was JA the novelist telling female stories to other females, stories which had always been relegated to the shadows in the intensely sexist society she grew up in, and which could not be told overtly without genuine risk of detection and retribution.

It has long been clear to me that the primary reason why Jane Austen created an anamorphic, ambiguous structure for her novels, was in order to tell her radically feminist shadow stories to the readers who would be most attuned to reading the “lines beneath the words” (as Lydia Bennet puts it), and who were most in need of Austen’s fierce, brilliant wisdom –other women!

Weiss pointed us to the untold story of  girls sharing secrets one-to-one, but Jane Austen had much bigger fish to fry---she was tapping into the ancient linguistic channels that female human beings have always used to secretly communicate with each other - JA just found a way to do it from her quill point to the eyes of millions of her "sisters", unlimited by distance in time and space.

So, three cheers for Jane Austen! Or should I rather have put it, three cheers for “Jidiganidige
Auidigstidigen!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter