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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The long-chinned man, the laughing female, the cross-dressed servant, & the bewitched lover

There’s one episode in one of JA’s novels, and one episode in another famous novel written sometime before JA wrote her novels, as to which ALL FIVE of the following specific points are true. This strong parallelism suggests that the episode in JA’s novel was meant by JA to remind her well-read readers of the parallel episode in that earlier novel, for some reason(s).

Based on the following hints, can you name the Austen novel and then name the other author & his/her earlier novel?

There’s a male character with “a long chin”

There’s a transgressive female character who is ready to die of laughter

There’s a young male servant dressed up as a woman, whose disguise is good enough to fool a man

There’s a group of travelers on the road

There’s a “bewitched” man in love with a young woman whose looks are variously described in the novel as either beautiful or coarse in a country way

I’ll provide the answers by tomorrow afternoon, unless someone gives the answers sooner, and in any event I will also explain why I believe Jane Austen made this covert allusion.

Cheers, ARNIE

@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Three or four families in a country village (Longbourn) so very favourably arranged by Jane

As another followup to my omnibus post about the pervasive picturesque subtext of P&P, I wish to revisit and expand the section of that earlier post which I now quote:

“CLUE #9: 1814: Letter 107 to Anna Austen Lefroy:
“You describe a SWEET PLACE, but your descriptions are often more minute than will be liked. You give too many particulars of right hand and left. Mrs. Forester is not careful enough of Susan's HEALTH. Susan ought not to be WALKING out so soon after HEAVY RAINS, taking LONG WALKS IN THE DIRT. An anxious mother would not SUFFER it. I like your Susan very much; she is a SWEET creature, her PLAYFULNESS of FANCY is very DELIGHTFUL. I like her as she is now exceedingly, but I am not quite so well satisfied with her behavior to George R. At first she seems all over ATTACHMENT and feeling, and afterwards to have none at all; she is so extremely CONFUSED at the BALL, and so well satisfied APPARENTLY with Mr. Morgan. She seems to have CHANGED her character. You are now COLLECTING your people DELIGHTFULLY, getting them exactly into such a SPOT as is the DELIGHT of my life. THREE OR FOUR families IN A COUNTRY village is the very thing to work on, and I hope you will do a GREAT deal more, and make FULL use of them while they are SO VERY FAVOURABLY ARRANGED. “
ANSWER #9: This is the passage which actually first sent me down the research path that eventually led straight to all of the rest of the above Gilpinian picturesque subtext of P&P. As you can see from the words I have now put in ALL CAPS, Jane Austen’s very very famous critique of her niece’s nascent novel is completely saturated in the very specific verbiage of the picturesque. While no Austen scholar before me has ever specifically identified this passage as one giant sendup of the picturesque, Beatrice Battaglia came close in 2006, by including that quotation in an excellent discussion of JA’s authorial deployment of picturesque elements in her fiction in “The Politics of Narrative Picturesque: Gilpin 's Rules of Composition in Ann Radcliffe 's and JA's Fiction”.
It’s no coincidence, I say, that Letter 107 was written about one year after publication of P&P, because it shows that she has not for one second forgotten her amazing Gilpinesque achievement in the writing of P&P itself, most of all in that most famous line about “three or four families in a country village”.
Why? Because, once you take the proper point of view, and look at Letter 107 through the lens of P&P, you realize instantly (as I did last week) that “three or four families in a country village” is a subtle satire of Gilpin’s three or four cows arranged in a landscape, which JA parodied by having Elizabeth Bennet apply that image to the three “cows”, Darcy and the Bingley sisters, in the Netherfield shrubbery!”
END QUOTE FROM MY OMNIBUS POST

I now suggest to you another passage in P&P which I believe Jane Austen held strongly in mind as she wrote to niece Anna, and that is the following dialog in the Netherfield salon in Chapter 9. I suggest you read it as a veiled commentary on the “picturesque” aspects of a country village, not in terms of the physical scenery of the village, but whether a person of taste and intelligence would enjoy the society there; and then compare that reading to the very closely related question addressed by JA’s famous advice to Anna, above, which was whether an author of taste and intelligence would choose a country village as a sufficiently picturesque (in that same human sense) setting for a novel. In other words, a place too boring to live in would also be a place too boring to set a story in:

"I did not know before," continued Bingley immediately, "that you were a studier of character. It must be an amusing study."
"Yes, but intricate characters are the most amusing. They have at least that advantage."
"The COUNTRY," said Darcy, "can in general supply but a few subjects for such a study. In a COUNTRY neighbourhood you move in a very confined and unvarying society."
"But people themselves alter so much, that there is something new to be observed in them for ever."
"Yes, indeed," cried Mrs. Bennet, offended by his manner of mentioning a COUNTRY neighbourhood. "I assure you there is quite as much of that going on in the COUNTRY as in town."
Everybody was surprised, and Darcy, after looking at her for a moment, turned silently away. Mrs. Bennet, who FANCIED she had gained a complete victory over him, continued her triumph.
"I cannot see that London has any great advantage over the COUNTRY, for my part, except the shops and public places. The COUNTRY is a vast deal pleasanter, is it not, Mr. Bingley?"
"When I am in the COUNTRY," he replied, "I never wish to leave it; and when I am in town it is pretty much the same. They have each their advantages, and I can be equally happy in either."
"Aye—that is because you have the right disposition. But that gentleman," looking at Darcy, "seemed to think the COUNTRY was nothing at all."
"Indeed, Mamma, you are mistaken," said Elizabeth, blushing for her mother. "You quite mistook Mr. Darcy. He only meant that there was not such a variety of people to be met with in the COUNTRY as in the town, which you must acknowledge to be true."
"Certainly, my dear, nobody said there were; but as to not meeting with many people in this neighbourhood, I believe there are few neighbourhoods larger. I know we dine with four-and-twenty families."

I believe JA smiled to herself when she had Mrs. Bennet exaggerate the size of her social circle, which, as far as we can tell from the novel, really was limited to three or four families (the Bennets, the Lucases, the inhabitants of Netherfield Hall, and the Philipses), and a long way from four-and-twenty!

But in any event, it’s a fascinating exercise to compare Jane’s advice to Anna with how closely her advice tracks the events in P&P, such as Elizabeth’s long walk in the dirt to Netherfield after the rain, and her delightful playfulness of fancy. It’s clear that Anna had read P&P the year before, and had been inspired by that reading to attempt her own version of such a novel—an attempt which, whether due to her rapidfire pregnancies, or some other reason, came to nought in the end.  

In the remainder of this post, I will quote passages in P&P into which JA has subtly and metaphorically worked the language of pictorial art and the picturesque deeply into the warp and weave of her fiction:

Chapter 8: "She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being an excellent walker. I shall never forget her APPEARANCE this morning. She really looked almost wild."
"She did, indeed, Louisa. I could hardly keep my countenance. Very nonsensical to come at all! Why must she be scampering about the country, because her sister had a cold? Her hair, so untidy, so blowsy!"
"Yes, and her petticoat; I hope you saw her petticoat, six inches deep in mud, I am absolutely certain; and the gown which had been let down to hide it not doing its office."
"Your PICTURE may be very exact, Louisa," said Bingley; "but this was all lost upon me. I thought Miss Elizabeth Bennet LOOKED remarkably well when she came into the room this morning. Her dirty petticoat quite escaped my notice."
"You OBSERVED it, Mr. Darcy, I am sure," said Miss Bingley; "and I am inclined to think that you would not wish to see your sister make such an EXHIBITION."
"Certainly not."
"To walk three miles, or four miles, or five miles, or whatever it is, above her ankles in dirt, and alone, quite alone! What could she mean by it? It seems to me to SHOW an abominable sort of conceited independence, a most country-town indifference to decorum."

Chapter 18: “…I have always seen a great similarity in the turn of our minds. We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the eclat of a proverb."
"This is no very STRIKING RESEMBLANCE of your own character, I am sure," said he. "How near it may be to mine, I cannot pretend to say. You think it a FAITHFUL PORTRAIT undoubtedly."
"I must not decide on my own PERFORMANCE."
He made no answer, and they were again silent… 
...”May I ask to what these questions tend?"
"Merely to the ILLUSTRATION of your character," said she, endeavouring to shake off her gravity. "I am trying to make it out."
"And what is your success?"
She shook her head. "I do not get on at all. I hear such different accounts of you as puzzle me exceedingly."
"I can readily believe," answered he gravely, "that reports may vary greatly with respect to me; and I could wish, Miss Bennet, that you were not to SKETCH my character at the present moment, as there is reason to fear that the PERFORMANCE would reflect no credit on either."
"But if I do not take your LIKENESS now, I may never have another opportunity."
"I would by no means SUSPEND any pleasure of yours," he coldly replied… 

As I have pointed out in the past, I love the pun on “suspend”, which can also refer to the sketch of Darcy’s character which would hang (i.e., suspend) on the wall of Elizabeth’s mind!

Chapter 26: The house, furniture, neighbourhood, and roads, were all to [Charlotte’s] TASTE, and Lady Catherine's behaviour was most friendly and obliging. It was Mr. Collins's PICTURE of Hunsford and Rosings rationally SOFTENED; and Elizabeth perceived that she must wait for her own visit there to know the rest.

Chapter 27: Absence had increased her desire of seeing Charlotte again, and weakened her disgust of Mr. Collins. There was NOVELTY in the scheme, and as, with such a mother and such uncompanionable sisters, home could not be faultless, A LITTLE CHANGE was not unwelcome for its own sake. The journey would moreover give her a PEEP at Jane; and, in short, as the time drew near, she would have been very sorry for any delay. Everything, however, went on smoothly, and was finally settled according to Charlotte's FIRST SKETCH. She was to accompany Sir William and his second daughter. The IMPROVEMENT of spending a night in London was ADDED in time, and the PLAN became perfect as PLAN could be.

So, more and more, it becomes clear that Gilpin’s picturesque was at the very center of JA’s authorial vision and metaphor as she wrote (and then lopt and cropt, terms oddly resonant to the functions in a computer image program!) P&P.  Jane had indeed discovered the secret of translation of Gilpin’s visual theory into words on the page, just as I claim she adapted Holbein’s anamorphic technique in The Ambassadors to her double-story novels.

Cheer, ARNIE

@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Darcy takes Eliza (aka Dr Syntax) for a ride, & she obligingly/willingly forgets what a jerk he is!

Today, I’ll elaborate on the hidden connection between 2 (Dr. Syntax & Elizabeth’s “unlucky recollections”) of the 8 points I made in my omnibus post yesterday.... http://tinyurl.com/h9mewg5
...about the pervasive Gilpinesque subtext of P&P. It’s a connection which significantly supports my longstanding interpretation of Mr. Darcy, in the shadow story, as in effect taking Elizabeth Bennet for a proverbial ride. He does this by covertly staging an ersatz picturesque tour for her, which includes “views” of him as a repentant, worthy lover & responsible master of the visually spectacular Pemberley; and along the way, he pulls for, and obtains, Elizabeth’s unwitting cooperation, as she (ironically) works very hard to erase all memory of the narcissistic, unfeeling, manipulative jerk he was, and in actuality never ceases to be.  

I begin with the Dr. Syntax subtext of P&P, whom I briefly discussed yesterday as follows:

“1814: Letter 97 from Jane to Cassandra Austen from London:  “I have seen nobody in London yet with such a long chin as Dr. Syntax, nor Anybody quite so large as Gogmagoglicus.”
Here’s what A. Walton Litz had to say about that sentence in the 1979 debut issue of Persuasions:
“By the time she “lop’t and crop’t” P&P around 1811-12, the picturesque of William Gilpin was going out of fashion, replaced by the more sublime intimations of high Romanticism. It had also received a heavy blow in William Combe’s Tour of Dr. Syntax in Search of the Picturesque (1809-12), which JA may have read while reworking P&P. Combe’s satire and the wonderful Rowlandson illustrations exposed all [of Gilpin’s] absurdities that had so delighted the young Jane Austen.”
I believe that Litz grossly underestimated the significance of Combe’s Dr. Syntax satire in the subtext of P&P – for example, I see Dr. Syntax as one of the sources for Mr. Collins and his absurd flattery of Lady Catherine’s taste at Rosings, and also a source for the strange references to a “big chin” that I discussed in my post last week about the 15 detailed parallels between Lydia Bennet’s account of the edgy cross-dressing hijinks at the roadside inn in Chapter 39 of  P&P, and Jane Austen’ own account of her and her mother’ trip moving to Bath in early May 1801. “ END QUOTE FROM MY LAST POST

What I didn’t make clear yesterday was that the gist of Combes’s satire was that Gilpin’s rules of the picturesque were an inadvertent guidebook for a modern-day Quixote, whose imagination runs wild seeing what is not actually there –sorta like Emma Woodhouse the imaginist all Janeites know, right? Combes’s collaborator Rowlandson provided the emblematic image of the first Dr. Syntax Tour in 1812 with his long-chinned Dr. Syntax riding up to a crossroads directional sign….
….and promptly turning the sign itself into a picturesque object, as wryly described in the following verses:

Thus as he ponder’d what to do,  A GUIDE POST ROSE WITHIN HIS VIEW
And, when the pleasing shape he spied,  He prick’d his steed and thither hied;
But some unheeding, senseless Wight,  Who to fair learning ow’d a spite,
Had ev’ry letter’d mark defac’d,  Which once its several pointers grac’d.
The mangled post thus long had stood, An uninforming piece of wood;
Like other guides, as some folks say, Who neither lead, nor tell the way.
The Sun, as hot as he was bright, Had got to his meridian height:
’Twas sultry noon—for not a breath  Of cooling zephyr fann’d the heath ;
When Syntax cried—“ ’Tis all in vain  To find my way across the plain;
So here my fortune I will try, And wait till some one passes by:
Upon that bank awhile I’ll sit,  And let poor Grizzle graze a bit;
But, as my time shall not be lost,  I’LL MAKE A DRAWING OF THE POST;
And, tho’ a flimsy taste may flout it,  THERE’S SOMETHING PICTURESQUE ABOUT IT:
’Tis rude and rough, without a gloss, And is well cover’d o’er with moss;
And I’ve a right—(who dares deny it ?)  To place yon group of asses by it.
Aye! this will do: and now I’m thinking,  That self-same pond where Grizzle’s drinking
If hither brought ’twould better seem, And faith I’ll turn it to a stream:
I’ll make this flat a shaggy ridge, And o’er the water throw a bridge:
I’ll do as other sketchers do—  Put any thing into the view;
And any object recollect, To add a grace, and give effect.
Thus, though from truth I haply err.  The scene preserves its character.
What man of taste my right will doubt,  To put things in, or leave them out?
’Tis more than right, it is a duty. If we consider landscape beauty:
He ne’er will as an artist shine, Who copies Nature line by line:
Whoe’er from Nature takes a view,  Must copy and improve it too.
To heighten every work of art, Fancy should take an active part:
Thus I (which few I think can boast) HAVE MADE A LANDSCAPE OF A POST.

So, Dr. Syntax, like Cervantes’s Don Quixote (whom Combes actually mentions), rationalizes a major twisting of the mundane reality of a signpost into a landscape, i.e., absurdly confusing the symbol with the thing it symbolizes. I suggest to you that Jane Austen very deliberately wove an alternative view of Elizabeth Bennet as a Quixotic Dr. Syntax into P&P, such that what Elizabeth experiences as an epiphany in stages as to Darcy’s being the best of men, is actually the diametric opposite, a “tour” through a fake landscape that leads to marriage to a bad man who will not treat her well. And Jane Austen brilliantly plots P&P such that Elizabeth’s internal “tour” of epiphany corresponds precisely to her external, physical tour with the Gardiners, who literally act as the “signpost” who point her to Pemberley and Darcy.

With me so far? Now, I’ll bring in the other point from my post yesterday, about Elizabeth’s “unlucky recollections”, which I now re-quote:

“P&P Chapter 42: “The walk here being here less sheltered than on the other side, allowed them to see him before they met. Elizabeth, however astonished, was at least more prepared for an interview than before, and resolved to appear and to speak with calmness, if he really intended to meet them. For a few moments, indeed, she felt that he would probably strike into some other path. The idea lasted while a turning in the walk concealed him from their view; the turning past, he was immediately before them. With a glance, she saw that he had lost none of his recent civility; and, to imitate his politeness, she began, as they met, to admire the beauty of the place; but she had not got beyond the words "delightful," and "charming," when SOME UNLUCKY RECOLLECTIONS OBTRUDED, and she fancied that praise of Pemberley from her might be MISCHIEVOUSLY CONSTRUED….” 
Before today, no Austen scholar has ever satisfactorily explained which “unlucky recollections obtruded” in Elizabeth’s mind, which led her to fear her praise of Pemberley “might be mischievously construed”. I now claim that once the reader recognizes the pervasive significance of Gilpin’s picturesque in P&P, you then realize that Elizabeth’s “unlucky recollections” are triggered by the words “delight” and “charming”, which are the very words used by Elizabeth in her witty Gilpin-based putdown in Chapter 10 which I quoted in Answer #5 above, when Elizabeth covertly mocks Darcy and the Bingley sisters as if they were three cows being aesthetically arranged in the Netherfield shrubbery!
I.e., Elizabeth, who is in the quoted passage in Chapter 42 in the shrubbery of Pemberley, once again accidentally encounters Darcy, exactly as she did back in Chapter 10 in the shrubbery at Netherfield ---  but this time her feelings are utterly different --- she is now firmly under the spell of Pemberley and the miraculously “reformed” Darcy, and so, of course, she does not wish to remind Darcy of how she skewered him back then.
And this desire of Elizabeth to obliterate her own memory of still fairly recent conflict with Darcy is then revisited twice more before the novel’s end:
first in Chapter 58, when she says to Darcy, “You must learn some of my philosophy. Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.",
and then again when she speaks to Jane in Chapter 59: “Perhaps I did not always love him so well as I do now. But in such cases as these, a good memory is unpardonable. This is the last time I shall ever remember it myself."
But most extraordinary of all on this point, is how my above reading takes on shocking alternative significance, when the reader sees it in the context of the shadow story, and realizes, as I did several year ago, that Darcy has staged that latter “accidental” meeting in the Pemberley shrubbery, precisely so as to force Elizabeth to remember that earlier scene in the Netherfield shrubbery!! He deliberately coordinates his appearance from around the corner so as to reignite that earlier memory, and induce her to feel acutely embarrassed and ashamed—in effect, he is like Duke Vincentio in Meaure for Measure, stage-managing a reenactment of an earlier “scene”, but this time making sure that the “role” played by Elizabeth is to his own satisfaction! Or, to use picturesque terminology, Darcy thereby has repainted the picture of what happened between him and Elizabeth, in order to induce her to erase the part about her calling him out for repeatedly being a first class jerk to her---and she docilely complies, like one of Gilpin’s cows!”   END QUOTE FROM MY LAST POST

It was only after rereading my last post, that I noticed the oddness of Elizabeth’s mantra at the end of the novel, as she twice (playfully yet insistently) touts the benefits of forgetting the past. And I see them as evidence that those “unlucky recollections” which Elizabeth wished to suppress in Chapter 43 had taken firm root in Elizabeth’s mind by novel’s end; and that became even clearer when I found yet another such statement by her in Chapter 58:  "Oh! do not repeat what I then said. These recollections will not do at all. I assure you that I have long been most heartily ashamed of it."

In a conventional interpretation, readers who notice that pattern see Elizabeth as having made a fresh start, after painfully achieving a higher level of self awareness. They see her as having wisely learned to see the error of her former ways of overhasty critical judgment on others, particularly on Darcy. An example of that sort of analysis can be found in Doody’s " ‘A Good Memory Is Unpardonable’: Self, Love, and the Irrational Irritation of Memory” in Eighteenth Century Fiction, 14/1 Oct. 2001 67-94, which includes comments like the following:
“She can indulge in some "forgetting" of her own personal resentment at Darcy's insult to her vanity by taking up this story that makes her a champion determined to right wrongs. She remembers what is in fact not her own memory at all. Both Elizabeth and Darcy are in danger when they approach each other or life on the basis of memory.”

As you surely have gathered, I see things topsy-turvy to Doody. I believe Jane Austen, the mistress of ambiguity, deliberately placed so much subtle emphasis on Elizabeth’s newfound horror of memory, in order to raise a subversive question in the suspicious reader’s mind --- what if Elizabeth is working so hard to erase her own memory of her former negative feelings toward Darcy, precisely because she has not really gone through a rigorous and healthy process of psychological growth, but instead has simply replaced one set of gullible, externally-induced beliefs with another? My idea of personal growth, and I am confident Jane Austen agreed, was that a person must work hard to remember their past errors, so that they won’t repeat them.

Mr. Bennet knows this all-too-human foible of forgetting as a recipe for repetition of error, as we hear in Chapter 48:

“…on her briefly expressing her sorrow for what he must have endured, he replied, "Say nothing of that. Who should suffer but myself? It has been my own doing, and I ought to feel it."
"You must not be too severe upon yourself," replied Elizabeth.
"You may well warn me against such an evil. Human nature is so prone to fall into it! No, Lizzy, let me once in my life feel how much I have been to blame. I am not afraid of being overpowered by the impression. It will pass away soon enough."

But Elizabeth is not listening to what her father is really saying, about how ephemeral awareness of one’s own fault is often is, and so she repeats her error of not being able to tolerate ambiguity.

I.e., Elizabeth fails to understand that if Wickham turns out to be a cad, this does not mean that Darcy is not one as well— and a far more dangerous one, because Wickham, with no money or status, achieves his deceptions using only his verbal facility and personal charm; whereas Darcy, a rich, powerful well educated man of the world, is able to pull off a far more effective and enduring deception of Elizabeth, by deploying his vast resources to (as I said at the start of this post) take Elizabeth (aka Dr. Syntax) for a proverbial ride through a picturesque landscape of the mind, a tour in which he induces her to turn a “post” (himself as he really is, a bad man) into a “landscape” (as he wishes her to see him, a good man).

And the Machiavellian brilliance of his deception is that he implements a Satanic strategy, whereby he takes advantage of Elizabeth’s love of the picturesque to give her the proverbial rope to hang herself with—and at the center of that strategy is the forgetting that Elizabeth so heartily embraces.

So, if you carefully read Chapters 36 & 37, you’ll find Elizabeth obsessively rereading Darcy’s letter, learning it by heart---and as she does so, at several points, she explicitly registers the need to rewrite her memories of Wickham.

If that were all there was on this point, that would be enough, I assert, to make my case. However, Jane Austen never missed the chance for a confirmatory wink to her knowing readers—and so I  tell you now that there’s one additional layer, which is the most spectacular part of Jane Austen’s deep game playing with Elizabeth and her passion to erase unpleasant memories. I invite you now to read the following passages in P&P and view them through the lens of my above analysis, and see if you understand how it is the icing on the cake:

Chapter 27:
"We have not determined how far it shall carry us," said Mrs. Gardiner, "but, perhaps, to the Lakes."
No scheme could have been more agreeable to Elizabeth, and her acceptance of the invitation was most ready and grateful. "Oh, my dear, dear aunt," she rapturously cried, "what delight! what felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour. Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are young men to rocks and mountains? Oh! what hours of transport we shall spend! And when we do return, it shall not be like other travellers, without being able to give one accurate idea of anything. We will know where we have gone—we will recollect what we have seen. Lakes, mountains, and rivers shall not be jumbled together in our imaginations; nor when we attempt to describe any particular scene, will we begin quarreling about its relative situation. Let our first effusions be less insupportable than those of the generality of travellers."

A string of Austen scholars (Litz, Tave, Ellington, Oppenheim, Buck) have all more or less taken Elizabeth literally, passively accepting that her excited vow, as an acolyte of Gilpin, to remember everything scenic about her upcoming Lakes tour, is all this passage is about.

Whereas I see in this passage spectacular Austenian irony --- we have Elizabeth Bennet rhapsodizing about how she is going to remember every single thing about her trip, and not jumble the details together, all so that, as she sums it up, “We will know where we have gone-we will recollect what we have seen.” And yet, as a direct result of that very same trip, suddenly Elizabeth espouses views about memory of her interpersonal landscape that are diametrically opposed to her views about memory of the physical landscape! I.e., to paraphrase Elizabeth’s own words, she tells Darcy and Jane that we ought NOT to know where we have gone, and we ought NOT to recollect what we have seen, when it comes to the behavior of ourselves and those we are closest to, when that recollection is “unlucky”, i.e., doesn’t fit with what we want to believe!

And, there’s one last delicious ironic coda in store for the reader of P&P who can see this line of subtext --- check out now the following passage in Chapter 51, as Elizabeth observes Lydia, Wickham and Mrs. Bennet:

“The bride and her mother could neither of them talk fast enough; and Wickham, who happened to sit near Elizabeth, began inquiring after his acquaintance in that neighbourhood, with a good humoured ease which she felt very unable to equal in her replies. They seemed each of them to have the happiest MEMORIES in the world. Nothing of the past was RECOLLECTED with pain; and Lydia led voluntarily to subjects which her sisters would not have alluded to for the world.

Do you see why this is SO ironic? Elizabeth is clearly standing in harsh judgment of the three of them for being so happy, without regard to all their angst, misbehavior, foolishness, and the like, because things have nonetheless apparently ended well for the three of them. And yet, seven chapters later,  in Chapters 58-59, Elizabeth is going to do exactly the same sort of memory erasure as her foolish relatives, and applaud herself for it to boot!

Yes, indeed, Elizabeth, in this shadow story, alternative reading ---which, I hope you will agree, was entirely intentional on Jane Austen’ part--- is a true Quixotean Dr. Syntax, hearing only what she wants to hear, and disregarding the rest (thank you, Paul Simon).

Cheers, ARNIE

@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Monday, June 27, 2016

The sly, picturesque “sketch” of Pride & Prejudice hidden in Henry’s Biographical Notice of sister Jane

A week ago, I posed what I called a “delightful” Jane Austen quiz to usher in the summer solstice. Today I return to give brief answers to all 9 of the quiz clues. In a series of followup posts in the coming weeks, I’ll unpack different aspects of each of those 9 summary answers at much greater length:


CLUE #1: There is a 2-sentence passage in Henry Austen’s (pretty short) 1818 Biographical Notice of JA… http://www.austen.com/persuade/preface.htm  …which is the common thread that unites ALL EIGHT of the following seemingly unconnected passages written by Jane Austen over a period of 21 years. Can you locate the passage in the Biographical Notice, and then explain the concealed connection to each of the eight passages?

ANSWER #1:   That 2-sentence passage is: “At a very early age she was enamoured of Gilpin on the Picturesque; and she seldom changed her opinions either on books or men”.  It turns out that in P&P in particular, there is a broad, deep, and multifaceted allusion to Gilpin’s writings about the picturesque, which permeates many chapters of the novel, and therefore is far too large a topic to do more than introduce in this post, via my answers to the next 8 clues, presented via a chronology of JA’s writings.


CLUE #2: There is passage in JA’s writings which has long been universally acknowledged to be part of that same concealed connection:
1793: “Henry VIII: in The History of England: “…a slight sketch of the principal Events which marked his reign. Among these may be ranked Cardinal Wolsey's telling the father Abbott of Leicester Abbey that "he was come to lay his bones among them"…Nothing can be said in his vindication, but that his abolishing Religious Houses & leaving them to the ruinous depredations of time has been of infinite use to the landscape of England in general, which probably was a principal motive for his doing it…”

ANSWER #2: At age 16, therefore more than two decades before Jane Austen published P&P, she precociously wrote the above well-recognized, sophisticated parody of the following dry wit of Gilpin about Henry VIII:
“What share of picturesque genius Cromwell might have, I know not. Certain however it is, that no man, since Henry the eighth, has contributed more to adorn this country with picturesque ruins. The difference between these two masters lay chiefly in the style of ruins, in which they composed. Henry adorned his landscapes with the ruins of abbeys; Cromwell, with those of castles. I have seen many pieces by this master, executed in a very grand style; but seldom a finer monument of his masterly hand than this.”
Plus, as Peter Sabor points out in “JA’s The History of England and 1066 And All That” (2015): “In her sketch of the dying Cardinal Wolsey, Austen quotes his words to the Abbot of Leicester Abbey ‘that “he was come to lay his bones among them” ‘. The line is taken from Goldsmith’s history, which in turn is indebted to a report of Wolsey’s words in Henry VIII: “O father abbot, An old man, broken with the storms of state, Is come to LAY HIS weary BONES AMONG ye.”
Most of all, all of the above in this Answer #2 fits perfectly with my post a month ago…. http://tinyurl.com/zkzutoo  …about Shakespeare’s Henry VIII as a very significant allusive source for P&P, with Darcy (shockingly) as Henry!


CLUE #3: 1811: S&S Chapter 18: "I am convinced," said Edward, "that you really feel all the delight in a fine PROSPECT which you profess to feel. But, in return, your sister must allow me to feel no more than I profess…I do not like crooked, twisted, BLASTED trees. I admire them much more if they are tall, straight, and flourishing. I do not like RUINED, tattered cottages….”

ANSWER #3:  It is also well recognized that Edward Ferrars’s above comments are a satire of Gilpin’s picturesque rules, but they’ve never before been connected to all the other Clues in this post.


CLUE #4: 1813  P&P  Chapter 11: “…My feelings are not puffed about with every attempt to move them. My temper would perhaps be called resentful. My good opinion once lost, is lost forever."

ANSWER #4: It seems to me that Henry Austen, in his apparently complimentary comment about the steadfastness of JA’s devotion to Gilpin (“she seldom changed her opinions either on books or men”), was himself doing a very sly parody of that famous last sentence spoken by Darcy, as to which Elizabeth Bennet rightly responds that she cannot laugh at such a dreadful steadfastness of resentfulness!


CLUE #5: 1813 P&P Chapter 29:  Elizabeth found herself quite equal to THE SCENE, and could OBSERVE the THREE LADIES before her COMPOSDELY…"…It is wonderful how many families I have been the means of supplying in that way. I am always glad to get a young person well placed out. Four nieces of Mrs. Jenkinson are MOST DELIGHTFULLY SITUATED through my means…”

ANSWER #5:  In both Elizabeth’s thoughts about the group in the Rosings parlour, and also in Lady Catherine’s quoted comments about her local philanthropy, we see JA playing with the terminology of the picturesque, but applied to human beings as objects in a domestic scene.

This is a deliberate and (when recognized) hilarious revisiting of Elizabeth’s very very famous witty parody of Gilpin in Chapter 10, when she says the following to the threesome of Darcy and the two Bingley sisters in the Netherfield shrubbery:
"No, no; stay where you are. You are CHARMINGLY grouped, and appear to uncommon advantage. The picturesque would be spoilt by admitting a fourth. Good-bye."

And there are still more echoes of that scene to be revealed, below.


CLUE #6: 1813 P&P  Chapter 35:  "Two offenses of a very different nature, and by no means of equal magnitude, you last night laid to my charge. The first mentioned was, that, regardless of the sentiments of either, I had detached Mr. Bingley from your sister, and the other, that I had, in defiance of various claims, in defiance of honour and humanity, RUINED the immediate prosperity and BLASTED the PROSPECTS of Mr. Wickham…”

ANSWER #6:  Jane Austen must have been ROFL to an extreme degree when she composed the last part of that second sentence, which contains not one, not two, but THREE successive puns (ruined, blasted, & prospects) on picturesque terminology! And, what’s more, these exact same three picturesque terms had already been used literally by Edward Ferrars two years earlier in S&S as I quoted above in Clue #3! And yet, no Austen scholar I can find ever noticed this and realized it was a quintessential example of JA’s hiding witty, meaningful wordplay in plain sight!


CLUE #7:  1813 P&P Chapter 42: “The walk here being here less sheltered than on the other side, allowed them to see him before they met. Elizabeth, however astonished, was at least more prepared for an interview than before, and resolved to appear and to speak with calmness, if he really intended to meet them. For a few moments, indeed, she felt that he would probably strike into some other path. The idea lasted while a turning in the walk concealed him from their view; the turning past, he was immediately before them. With a glance, she saw that he had lost none of his recent civility; and, to imitate his politeness, she began, as they met, to admire the beauty of the place; but she had not got beyond the words "delightful," and "charming," when SOME UNLUCKY RECOLLECTIONS OBTRUDED, and she fancied that praise of Pemberley from her might be MISCHIEVOUSLY CONSTRUED….” 

ANSWER #7: (This one really knocked my socks off when I first decoded it!) Before today, no Austen scholar has ever satisfactorily explained which “unlucky recollections obtruded” in Elizabeth’s mind, which led her to fear her praise of Pemberley “might be mischievously construed”. I now claim that once the reader recognizes the pervasive significance of Gilpin’s picturesque in P&P, you then realize that Elizabeth’s “unlucky recollections” are triggered by the words “delight” and “charming”, which are the very words used by Elizabeth in her witty Gilpin-based putdown in Chapter 10 which I quoted in Answer #5 above, when Elizabeth covertly mocks Darcy and the Bingley sisters as if they were three cows being aesthetically arranged in the Netherfield shrubbery!
I.e., Elizabeth, who is in the quoted passage in Chapter 42 in the shrubbery of Pemberley, once again accidentally encounters Darcy, exactly as she did back in Chapter 10 in the shrubbery at Netherfield ---  but this time her feelings are utterly different --- she is now firmly under the spell of Pemberley and the miraculously “reformed” Darcy, and so, of course, she does not wish to remind Darcy of how she skewered him back then.
And this desire of Elizabeth to obliterate her own memory of still fairly recent conflict with Darcy is then revisited twice more before the novel’s end: first in Chapter 58, when she says to Darcy, “You must learn some of my philosophy. Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.", and then again when she speaks to Jane in Chapter 59: “Perhaps I did not always love him so well as I do now. But in such cases as these, a good memory is unpardonable. This is the last time I shall ever remember it myself."
But most extraordinary of all on this point, is how my above reading takes on shocking alternative significance, when the reader sees it in the context of the shadow story, and realizes, as I did several year ago, that Darcy has staged that latter “accidental” meeting in the Pemberley shrubbery, precisely so as to force Elizabeth to remember that earlier scene in the Netherfield shrubbery!! He deliberately coordinates his appearance from around the corner so as to reignite that earlier memory, and induce her to feel acutely embarrassed and ashamed—in effect, he is like Duke Vincentio in Meaure for Measure, stage-managing a reenactment of an earlier “scene”, but this time making sure that the “role” played by Elizabeth is to his own satisfaction! Or, to use picturesque terminology, Darcy thereby has repainted the picture of what happened between him and Elizabeth, in order to induce her to erase the part about her calling him out for repeatedly being a first class jerk to her---and she docilely complies, like one of Gilpin’s cows!
And the picturesque winking gets even better. It’s no wonder that Darcy, the shadowy stage manager, introduces another cast member, a housekeeper named “Reynolds” for assistance in inducing Elizabeth to reverse her formerly negative opinion of Darcy. After all, students of Gilpin’s picturesque could have immediately told you that this is yet another sly injoke on JA’s part, since it was Joshua Reynolds to whose august authority Gilpin explicitly appealed: Gilpin actually included the correspondence he exchanged with Reynolds in the publication of Gilpin’s influential Three Essays!


CLUE #8: 1814: Letter 97 to Cassandra Austen from London:  “I have seen nobody in London yet with such a long chin as Dr. Syntax, nor Anybody quite so large as Gogmagoglicus.”

ANSWER #8: Here’s what A. Walton Litz had to say about that sentence in the 1979 debut issue of Persuasions:

“By the time she “lop’t and crop’t” Pride and Prejudice around 1811-12, the picturesque of William Gilpin was going out of fashion, replaced by the more sublime intimations of high Romanticism. It had also received a heavy blow in William Combe’s Tour of Dr. Syntax in Search of the Picturesque (1809-12), which JA may have read while reworking Pride and Prejudice. Combe’s satire and the wonderful Rowlandson illustrations exposed all the absurdities [of Gilpin’s writings] that had so delighted the young Jane Austen.”

I believe that Litz grossly underestimated the significance of Combe’s Dr. Syntax satire in the subtext of P&P – for example, I see Dr. Syntax as one of the sources for Mr. Collins and his absurd flattery of Lady Catherine’s taste at Rosings, and also a source for the strange references to a “big chin” that I discussed in my post last week about the 15 detailed parallels between Lydia Bennet’s account of the edgy cross-dressing hijinks at the roadside inn in Chapter 39 of  P&P, and Jane Austen’ own account of her and her mother’ trip moving to Bath in early May 1801.

Beyond that big picture, there’s simply no room in this post to unpack all the nuances of the Dr. Syntax subtext of P&P for now, but I wanted to get the big picture out there for purposes of this post.


CLUE #9: 1814: Letter 107 to Anna Austen Lefroy:
“You describe a SWEET PLACE, but your descriptions are often more minute than will be liked. You give too many particulars of right hand and left. Mrs. Forester is not careful enough of Susan's HEALTH. Susan ought not to be WALKING out so soon after HEAVY RAINS, taking LONG WALKS IN THE DIRT. An anxious mother would not SUFFER it. I like your Susan very much; she is a SWEET creature, her PLAYFULNESS of FANCY is very DELIGHTFUL. I like her as she is now exceedingly, but I am not quite so well satisfied with her behavior to George R. At first she seems all over ATTACHMENT and feeling, and afterwards to have none at all; she is so extremely CONFUSED at the BALL, and so well satisfied APPARENTLY with Mr. Morgan. She seems to have CHANGED her character. You are now COLLECTING your people DELIGHTFULLY, getting them exactly into such a SPOT as is the DELIGHT of my life. THREE OR FOUR families IN A COUNTRY village is the very thing to work on, and I hope you will do a GREAT deal more, and make FULL use of them while they are SO VERY FAVOURABLY ARRANGED. “

ANSWER #9: This is the passage which actually first sent me down the research path that eventually led straight to all of the rest of the above Gilpinian picturesque subtext of P&P. As you can see from the words I have now put in ALL CAPS, Jane Austen’s very very famous critique of her niece’s nascent novel is completely saturated in the very specific verbiage of the picturesque. While no Austen scholar before me has ever specifically identified this passage as one giant sendup of the picturesque, Beatrice Battaglia came close in 2006, by including that quotation in an excellent discussion of JA’s authorial deployment of picturesque elements in her fiction in “The Politics of Narrative Picturesque: Gilpin 's Rules of Composition in Ann Radcliffe 's and JA's Fiction”.
It’s no coincidence, I say, that Letter 107 was written about one year after publication of P&P, because it shows that she has not for one second forgotten her amazing Gilpinesque achievement in the writing of P&P itself, most of all in that most famous line about “three or four families in a country village”.
Why? Because, once you take the proper point of view, and look at Letter 107 through the lens of P&P, you realize instantly (as I did last week) that “three or four families in a country village” is a subtle satire of Gilpin’s three or four cows arranged in a landscape, which JA parodied by having Elizabeth Bennet apply that image to the three “cows”, Darcy and the Bingley sisters, in the Netherfield shrubbery!

And so, in conclusion, and as I said upfront, the above is only the barest sketch of the rich Gilpin subtext of P&P which I now clearly see that Henry Austen so slyly alluded to in his Biographical Notice of his late sister Jane in 1818. While a handful of insightful Austen like those I’ve quoted above, have been aware for a very long time that Gilpin was somehow important to JA, none of them had any idea just how crucially and pervasively his rules of the picturesque inform her deepest and darkest meanings, especially in her shadow stories.

Cheers, ARNIE

@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Brexit & the Beatles: get back to what you never knew

Yesterday, by a random coincidence, I happened upon a prime, high-profile example of the mysterious process by which an author ends up hiding the personal and/or the political in the subtext of published words which then become famous. Those who follow this blog know I’ve found a few hundred such examples in Austen’s prose and Shakespeare’s verse, but today, as my Subject Line hints, I bring an example of Beatles lyrics which cast startling, ironic light on the Brexit occurring nearly a half century after those lyrics were written. As you’ll see, the “Get back to where you once belonged” chorus we’ve all sung along with Sir Paul has turned out to be eerily prescient of the Brexit now hogging the world’s headlines, and giving the jitters to all Americans (like myself) in the “Never NEVER Trump” camp.

To begin, listen to this YouTube audio https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcjBF1uj6Do   of an early version of “Get Back” with lyrics very different than the ones we all know, which of course are:

Jo-Jo was a man who thought he was a loner  But he knew it wouldn't last
Jo-Jo left his home in Tucson, Arizona  For some California grass
Get back, get back Get back to where you once belonged
Get back, get back Get back to where you once belonged Get back Jo-jo Go home

Sweet Loretta Martin thought she was a woman But she was another man
All the girls around her say she's got it coming But she gets it while she can  [Chorus]
Get back, Loretta Your mama's waiting for you
Wearing her high-heel shoes And her low-neck sweater Get back home, Loretta

So, how did the Beatles get from there to here? To find out, now read the following informative 2013 Salon.com article, describing, with satisfying detail, how those edgy earlier lyrics morphed into the innocuous ones we’ve all known the past 45 years:
Although I urge you to read the whole (not very long) article, here are the most relevant highlights:

“No Pakistanis”: The racial satire the Beatles don’t want you to hear   by Alex Sayf Cummings
The song that became Get Back began as an anti-immigrant satire so easily misunderstood it remains in the vaults    Imagine that a popular American rock band – say, the Black Keys – wrote a song about immigrants. There are too many of them, the lyrics suggest, and they take jobs away from native-born workers. The chorus recommends that they go back to their countries of origin, where they really belong. Though the song was meant to satirize xenophobia, “No Mexicans” could be easily interpreted as an anthem of racism. This was the situation that the Beatles faced in 1969, when they first concocted the song that would become “Get Back.” Better known as a playful take on counterculture, starring the gender-bending Sweet Loretta Martin and the grass-smoking Jo-Jo, the song originally dealt with South Asian immigration to the United Kingdom.
…The year, of course, was 1968 – a time of race riots, political assassinations, and social ferment. Into this heady atmosphere walked a British M.P. named Enoch Powell…Enoch borrowed the words of Virgil to describe the threat of continued immigration to the United Kingdom. “As I look ahead,” he said, “I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood.’” For maximum poignancy, he told the story of a gloomy constituent who wished he could afford to leave the country, because the influx of immigrants meant that “in 15 or 20 years’ time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.” A friend recalled that Powell expected the speech to “go up ‘fizz’ like a rocket,” and a local TV crew rushed down to tape what they expected to be a much-discussed news item after seeing an advance copy of speech.
The so-called “Rivers of Blood” speech caused the media firestorm that Powell had wanted. Accusations of racism led to his cabinet ouster by Prime Minister Edward Heath, but some citizens maintained that “Enoch was right” – a slogan that became a commonplace of racial resentment in the following decades. The Beatles, however, did not share this view, and Powell became the target of several songs the band recorded for…Let It Be in 1970. In a recording known as “Back to the Commonwealth” or “The Commonwealth Song,” the band blasts the politician by name. “Dirty Enoch Powell said to the immigrants, immigrants you better get back to your commonwealth homes,” McCartney warbles over a skittering beat. Soon enough, however, we learn that “Heath said to Enoch Powell you better get out, or heads are gonna roll.” …Lennon chimes in occasionally, in the voice of a prim old English woman, “The Commonwealth is much too common for me.
… Who McCartney was actually referring to is difficult to determine from the recording, but the Beatle later insisted that any pejorative racial tone was not intentional. “There were a lot of stories in the newspapers then about Pakistanis crowding out flats – you know, living 16 to a room or whatever,” McCartney said in 1986, one of the rare times he talked about the songs. “If there was any group that was not racist, it was the Beatles. I mean, all our favorite people were always black.”…“Get Back”… shed its racial implications on the way to wide release. Instead of a Puerto Rican and a Pakistani, the official version deals with Jo-Jo, who “left his home in Tucson, Arizona, for some California grass,” and a cross-dresser named Sweet Loretta Martin. McCartney advises Jo-Jo to get back to his roots, while warning that Martin will “get it” some day if she keeps up her transgressive ways. The Beatles evidently felt more comfortable addressing counterculture and sexual liberation in the song, rather than risk releasing a recording whose satirical intent could be misconstrued as an anthem of racial backlash.”

From that article, and other Net content, I take McCartney at his word– after all, only a few years earlier Lennon inadvertently ignited a firestorm with these candid ruminations from the cultural mountaintop he and his fellow Beatles sat atop in 1966:  “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that. I’m right and I’ll be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first, rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.”  Plus, McCartney, as the world knows, was devastated by the end of the Beatles, and also was aware of how the White Album had served as inadvertent inspiration to Charles Manson’s demonic cult.

McCartney must’ve recognized what my research on Austen has shown me countless times - how easily a clever satire can be missed entirely, and can instead be taken literally. So the last thing he was going to do in a recording, which he hoped would keep the group going by returning to its rock’n roll roots, was to risk triggering yet another nightmarish public uproar.

But that’s not quite the end of this story of surprising Lennon-McCartney subtext in “Get Back”. The stimulus that first prompted me to even look at the above Powell-Trump echo via the Beatles, was not, as you might’ve guessed, my experiencing a sudden epiphany of the aptness of the phrase “Get back to where you once belonged” to Brexit – you can go on Twitter right now and find several examples of Tweeps making that connection having no awareness of the history of the song.

Of all things, it was my happening to hear yesterday that one of John Lennon’s little known nicknames was “Jo-Jo”. It took me about 5 seconds to ask myself the following question --- did McCartney have Lennon specifically in mind when he wrote that chorus? Was this his way of telling John to “get back to where you once belonged”? I.e., was Tucson his metaphor for the Beatles before John left under the allure of California grass and Loretta in the low neck sweater (i.e., Yoko)?  

I knew it was a long shot, but imagine my pleasure when I quickly came upon what I hope you’ll agree is a smoking gun in the Wikipedia entry for “Get Back”:

In 1980, Lennon stated "there's some underlying thing about Yoko in there", saying that McCartney looked at Yoko Ono in the studio every time he sang "Get back to where you once belonged." “

Q.E.D.

So, who’d have thunk that “Get back to where you once belong” was a line that meant so much? In any event, while my generation’s fondest cultural fantasy, of a reuniting of the Beatles, can never be (except in the afterlife, if there is one and if the deity is especially merciful to Baby Boomers), at the very least we can all still hold out hope, and work hard, for some miraculous averting of implementation of Brexit, and for Trump to go down to ignominious defeat here in the States in November. For then we might once again imagine “all the people sharing all the world”, and hope that we all “get back to where we once belonged”—in a true Garden of Eden of world peace.

But as long as Trump still exists as a threat to our civilization, one final parting shot at him -- is there any way, in addition to his copy of Hitler writings by his bedside, did he happen to be an admirer of Enoch Powell as well, with his "River of Blood", and was that on his mind when he uttered his foul innuendoes to Megyn Kelly about "blood coming out"? It's so disgusting a possibility that it's probably true! For more in that vein, read this:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/23/opinion/campaign-stops/donald-trump-and-the-rivers-of-blood.html?_r=0



Cheers, ARNIE

@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A long, agreeable, meaty Austenesque carriage ride in early May

Pending my giving the answer to my pending quiz question posed yesterday, here’s another smaller-scale Austen quiz for which I’ll give you the answer, below, in this same post. As you’ll find out tomorrow when you see the answer to yesterday’s quiz, I stumbled upon today’s finding, while following up on yesterday’s.

Without further ado:

I’m thinking of a passage in Jane Austen’s writing, which includes all 15 of the following specific points:

1, 2, 3 & 4: It describes a long “agreeable” trip in a chaise taken by a few women from one part of England to another.

5: The trip includes a stop midway to eat at a roadside inn.

6: The trip takes place early in May.

7: The arrival of the chaise at a stop is observed from a window by a waiting observer.

8: We hear about meat and a cucumber during the food stop.

9: We hear about bonnets.

10: We hear about someone with “a long chin”.

11: We hear about someone who looks odd.

12: We hear about a servant.

13 & 14: We hear about someone named Chamlerlayne dressed in a gown.

15: The person doing all the talking is a young single women who speaks in a brash, jocular voice.

So, what passage am I thinking of?   Scroll down a bit for my answer….


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I think it safe to guess that most of you reading this quiz who recognized the answer, thought of the following scene in Chapter 39 of Pride &Prejudice (and I’ve put in ALL CAPS the 15 quiz points):

 “It was the SECOND WEEK IN MAY, in which the THREE young LADIES set out together from Gracechurch Street for the town of ——, in Hertfordshire; and, as they drew near the appointed INN where Mr. Bennet's carriage was to meet them, they quickly perceived, in token of the coachman's punctuality, both Kitty and Lydia LOOKING OUT of a dining-room up stairs. These two girls had been above an hour in the place, happily employed in visiting an opposite milliner, watching the sentinel on guard, and dressing a salad and CUCUMBER.
After welcoming their sisters, they triumphantly displayed a table set out with such cold MEAT as an inn larder usually affords, exclaiming, "Is not this nice? Is not this an AGREEABLE surprise?...
…Lydia laughed, and said -- "Ay, that is just like your formality and discretion. You thought the WAITER must not hear, as if he cared! I dare say he often hears worse things said than I am going to say. But he is an UGLY fellow! I am glad he is gone. I never saw such A LONG CHIN in my life. Well, but now for my news...How nicely we are all crammed in," cried Lydia. "I am glad I bought my BONNET, if it is only for the fun of having another bandbox!...and then, what do you think we did? We dressed up CHAMBERLAYNE in WOMAN’S CLOTHES on purpose to PASS FOR A LADY, only think what fun! Not a soul knew of it, but Colonel and Mrs. Forster, and Kitty and me, except my aunt, for we were forced to borrow ONE OF HER GOWNS; and you cannot imagine how well he looked!”

So what, I hear you saying, where’s the magic in those 14 scattered points?

Well, now let me now show you another passage, also written by Jane Austen, which ALSO contains all 14 of those same specific points! It is in Jane Austen’s own real life Letter 35 dated May 3-5, 1801, written by her just after her arrival to live in Bath, written, I believe, from her aunt & uncle’s residence  at the Paragon:

My Dear Cassandra, I have the pleasure of writing from my own room up two pair of stairs, with everything very comfortable about me. Our journey here was perfectly free from accident or event; we changed horses at the end of every stage, and paid at almost every turn-pike. We had charming weather, hardly any dust, and were exceedingly AGREEABLE, as we did not speak above once in three miles. Between Luggershall and Everley WE MADE OUR GRAND MEAL, and then with admiring astonishment perceived in what a magnificent manner our support had been provided for. We could not with the utmost exertion consume above the twentieth part of the BEEF. The CUCUMBER will, I believe, be a very acceptable present, as my uncle talks of having inquired the price of one lately, when he was told a shilling.
We had a very neat CHAISE from Devizes; it looked almost as well as a gentleman's, at least as a very shabby gentleman's; in spite of this advantage, however, we were above three hours coming from thence to Paragon, and it was half after seven by your clocks before we entered the house. FRANK, WHOSE BLACK HEAD was in WAITING IN THE HALL WINDOW, received us very kindly; and his master and mistress did not show less cordiality…One thing only among all our concerns has not arrived in safety: when I got into the CHAISE at Devizes I discovered that your drawing ruler was broke in two; it is just at the top where the cross-piece is fastened on. I beg pardon.
…The CHAMBERLAYNES are still here. I begin to think better of Mrs. C----, and upon recollection believe she has rather A LONG CHIN than otherwise, as she remembers us in Gloucestershire when we were very charming young women.
My mother has ordered a new BONNET, and so have I; both white strip, TRIMMED with white ribbon. I find my straw BONNET looking very much like other people's, and quite as smart. BONNETS of cambric muslin on the plan of Lady Bridges' are a good deal worn, and some of them are very pretty; but I shall defer one of that sort till your arrival. …We have had Mrs. Lillingstone and the CHAMBERLAYNES to call on us. My mother was very much struck with the ODD LOOKS of the two latter; I have only seen her. Mrs. Busby drinks tea and plays at cribbage here to-morrow; and on Friday, I believe, we go to the CHAMBERLAYNES….”

So, what in the world does this mean?

Why would JA, in her 1813 novel, so obviously (to CEA, at least) go out of her way to make such a 15-pronged, extremely specific echoing of her letter, written to CEA 12 years earlier on the momentous occasion of the Austen family’s move to Bath?  

More specifically, why take the real life Mrs. Chamberlayne (who, from the several mentions we read of her in JA’s letters from May 1801, was someone JA really liked, and was genuinely sad when Mrs. Chamberlayne abruptly left Bath) and re-present her as a young, involuntarily cross-dressed militiaman, who is lewdly joked about by Lydia?

And most shocking of all, why in the world would JA choose to translate her own real-life words, written to her sister, into the fictional words spoken by the vulgar, outrageous Lydia Bennet to three of her sisters?

Isn’t this taking an Austen family in-joke a little far?

I leave you with my best guess at this moment:

First, I see this as strong further confirmation of the sense I got dozens of times during our long group read of JA’s 154 surviving letters --- i.e., that so many of these letters were always hoped/ intended by JA to be kept, to survive, and one day to be published, as a kind of codebook for readers to use to decipher the meaning of the shadows in her novels.

But that’s only half of it--in reverse, I believe she intended that the survival of these coded letters would also turn her novels into a codebook for those who personally knew her, for deciphering the meaning of the shadows of her letters, the better for her secret self, the secret story of her own life, to be safely revealed, to those with eyes to see.

And so my answer re why she so puzzlingly chose Lydia as her mouthpiece in this instance is the same reason, at other points in P&P, why she chose Mary as her mouthpiece. They are both reflections not of her actual character, but of sides of her own character, as she knew she was (inaccurately) perceived by her family and friends.

I.e., to some (like e.g., Mitford who famously referred to her as a sharp poker), JA had too big a mouth for her own good, and was an embarrassment to the Austen family, just as is Lydia in the Bennet family --- in contrast to the diffident, retiring Cassandra, who was like Jane in the Bennet family.

But, to others in her family circle, JA was perceived the way Elizabeth sees sister Mary, which is as a pompous, attention-hungry, piano-playing nerd and killjoy.  

So….what do you see? What I hope I will not hear is that this was a coincidence, of which JA was unaware when she wrote P&P, or that it had no meaning beyond a harmless little family joke.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter