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Friday, February 17, 2017

Jane Austen stoops to allude to Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer: Part One

Recently, in the following excerpt from a 2008 dissertation, I came across a surprising lead regarding an allusive source for Pride & Prejudice of which I had previously been unaware:

The Pleasures of Comic Mischief in Jane Austen’s Novels by Belisa Monteiro:
“…Readers have noted the remarkably theatrical opening of Pride and Prejudice— the comic dialogue largely devoid of narrative commentary, clearly reminiscent of stage comedy. But none have pointed out the striking resemblance between Austen's scene of marital discord—a husband and wife fundamentally at odds, the husband delighting in thwarting his wife's desires—and the opening of Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer, featuring Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle, another squabbling, middle-aged couple. The Hardcastles, owners of a country estate, argue over the merits of the fashionable custom of going to London for a little seasonal diversion. A pretender to fashion, the hopelessly rustic Mrs. Hardcastle wants nothing more than a sojourn in London's beau monde, while her husband retorts with satirical witticisms on the "fopperies" of the town. While the topic of dispute differs, the comic mode of marital argument
resembles that of the Bennets: the wife exasperatingly pleading for what she wants, and the husband pleasing himself in thwarting her entreaties. The effects produced on the reader and spectator are similar too: we find ourselves laughing with the satirical husband more than sympathizing with the frustrated wife, thus complicit in the element of cruelty underlying the husbands' enjoyment of their wives' torment. Indeed, the anti-wife humor, as ancient as Greek Old Comedy, enlivens and emboldens these satirical sketches of marriage. Moreover, Austen's humor is ultimately bolder: while Goldsmith, more attuned to the sentimental temper of Georgian culture, softens the satire by adding a touch of tenderness to Mr. Hardcastle's feelings for his annoying wife ("I have been pretty fond of an old wife"), Austen denies this mollifying stroke of affection in her depiction of the uneasy dynamics of the Bennet marriage.”
END QUOTE FROM MONTEIRO

It took only a few minutes to retrieve the first scene of She Stoops and verify that Monteiro was spot on:

SCENE—A Chamber in an old-fashioned House.  Enter MRS. HARDCASTLE and MR. HARDCASTLE.
MRS. HARDCASTLE. I vow, Mr. Hardcastle, you're very particular. Is there a creature in the whole country but ourselves, that does not take a trip to town now and then, to rub off the rust a little? There's the two Miss Hoggs, and our neighbour Mrs. Grigsby, go to take a month's polishing every winter.
[REVERSAL OF MRS. BENNET’S STANDING UP TO DARCY FOR COUNTRY LIFE]

HARDCASTLE. Ay, and bring back vanity and affectation to last them the whole year. I wonder why London cannot keep its own fools at home! In my time, the follies of the town crept slowly among us, but now they travel faster than a stage-coach. Its fopperies come down not only as inside passengers, but in the very basket. 
[MR. BENNET’S DROLL IRONIC WIT]

MRS. HARDCASTLE. Ay, your times were fine times indeed; you have been telling us of them for many a long year. Here we live in an old rumbling mansion, that looks for all the world like an inn, but that we never see company. Our best visitors are old Mrs. Oddfish, the curate's wife, and little Cripplegate, the lame dancing-master; and all our entertainment your old stories of Prince Eugene and the Duke of Marlborough. I hate such old-fashioned trumpery.
[MR. BENNET WHOSE OLD FRIENDS ARE HIS WIFE’S NERVES]

[THEN SKIP AHEAD TO MISS HARCASTLE’S ENTRANCE]
HARDCASTLE. Well, remember, I insist on the terms of our agreement; and, by the bye, I believe I shall have occasion to try your obedience this very evening.
MISS HARDCASTLE. I protest, sir, I don't comprehend your meaning.
HARDCASTLE. Then to be plain with you, Kate, I expect the young gentleman I have chosen to be your husband from town this very day. I have his father's letter, in which he informs me his son is set out, and that he intends to follow himself shortly after.
[MR. BENNET JOKING ABOUT BINGLEY AS FUTURE HUSBAND OF ANY BENNET GIRL]

MISS HARDCASTLE. Indeed! I wish I had known something of this before. Bless me, how shall I behave? It's a thousand to one I shan't like him; our meeting will be so formal, and so like a thing of business, that I shall find no room for friendship or esteem.
HARDCASTLE. Depend upon it, child, I'll never control your choice; but Mr. Marlow, whom I have pitched upon, is the son of my old friend, Sir Charles Marlow, of whom you have heard me talk so often. The young gentleman has been bred a scholar, and is designed for an employment in the service of his country. I am told he's a man of an excellent understanding.
[“DEPEND UPON IT” IS MR. BENNET’S PET PHRASE]

MISS HARDCASTLE. Is he?
HARDCASTLE. Very generous.
MISS HARDCASTLE. I believe I shall like him.
HARDCASTLE. Young and brave.
MISS HARDCASTLE. I'm sure I shall like him.
HARDCASTLE. And very handsome.
MISS HARDCASTLE. My dear papa, say no more, (kissing his hand), he's mine; I'll have him.
HARDCASTLE. And, to crown all, Kate, he's one of the most bashful and reserved young fellows in all the world.
[MR. DARCY’S RESERVE]

MISS HARDCASTLE. Eh! you have frozen me to death again. That word reserved has undone all the rest of his accomplishments. A reserved lover, it is said, always makes a suspicious husband.
HARDCASTLE. On the contrary, modesty seldom resides in a breast that is not enriched with nobler virtues. It was the very feature in his character that first struck me.
MISS HARDCASTLE. He must have more striking features to catch me, I promise you. However, if he be so young, so handsome, and so everything as you mention, I believe he'll do still. I think I'll have him.
[DARCY’S LIST OF NECESSARY ASSETS OF AN ACCOMPLISHED WOMAN]

HARDCASTLE. Ay, Kate, but there is still an obstacle. It's more than an even wager he may not have you.
MISS HARDCASTLE. My dear papa, why will you mortify one so?—Well, if he refuses, instead of breaking my heart at his indifference, I'll only break my glass for its flattery, set my cap to some newer fashion, and look out for some less difficult admirer.
[ELIZABETH BENNET’S TRADEMARK WIT & RESILIENCE IN THE FACE OF SNOBBERY]

[THEN ONE MORE BRIEF FAST FORWARD TO...]
MISS HARDCASTLE. No; nothing of all this. I have been threatened—I can scarce get it out—I have been threatened with a lover.
MISS NEVILLE. And his name—
MISS HARDCASTLE. Is Marlow.
MISS NEVILLE. Indeed!
MISS HARDCASTLE. The son of Sir Charles Marlow.
MISS NEVILLE. As I live, the most intimate friend of Mr. Hastings, my admirer. They are never asunder. I believe you must have seen him when we lived in town.
MISS HARDCASTLE. Never.
MISS NEVILLE. He's a very singular character, I assure you. Among women of reputation and virtue he is the modestest man alive; but his acquaintance give him a very different character among creatures of another stamp: you understand me.
[AND IN THOSE LAST EXCHANGES WE HAVE JANE & ELIZABETH DISCUSSING BINGLEY & DARCY; THEN FOR GOOD MEASURE, THERE’S THE MODEL FOR COLONEL FITZWILLIAM’S PRECIS OF DARCY’S SITUATIONAL CHARACTER!]

So it’s clear from the above that She Stoops to Conquer was not only a source (as has previously been noted by Austen scholars) for Emma and Sense & Sensibility, but even more so for P&P---- not just in the above quoted opening scene, but thereafter at various points in the remainder of Goldsmith’s famous play, which I’ll catalog tomorrow in a followup post.

But I will close today with the startling realization I came to as I browsed in the final Act of She Stoops: i.e.,  it stared me in the face that the first reader to notice the allusion in P&P to She Stoops was none other than Sir Walter Scott, when, in 1816, he wrote the following drolly sarcastic encapsulation of tthe romantic climax of P&P:   “They chance to meet exactly as her prudence had begun to subdue her prejudice; and after some essential services rendered to her family, the lover becomes encouraged to renew his addresses, and the novel ends happily..... "

Now, read the following romantic climax of She Stoops, when Marlow (“Darcy”) and Miss Hardcastle (“Elizabeth”) finally connect romantically, and at the end you’ll see the exact passage that Scott was winking at: 

MISS NEVILLE. No, Mr. Hastings, no. Prudence once more comes to my relief, and I will obey its dictates. In the moment of passion fortune may be despised, but it ever produces a lasting repentance. I'm resolved to apply to Mr. Hardcastle's compassion and justice for redress.
HASTINGS. But though he had the will, he has not the power to relieve you.
MISS NEVILLE. But he has influence, and upon that I am resolved to rely.
HASTINGS. I have no hopes. But since you persist, I must reluctantly obey you. [Exeunt.]
SCENE changes.
Enter SIR CHARLES and MISS HARDCASTLE.
SIR CHARLES. What a situation am I in! If what you say appears, I shall then find a guilty son. If what he says be true, I shall then lose one that, of all others, I most wished for a daughter.[THERE IS THE SOURCE FOR MR. BENNET’S SOLOMON-LIKE RESPONSE RE: ELIZABETH LOSING ONE OF HER PARENTS NO MATTER WHETHER SHE ACCEPTS MR. COLLINS’S PPOPOSAL OR NOT]

MISS HARDCASTLE. I am PROUD of your approbation, and to show I merit it, if you place yourselves as I directed, you shall hear his explicit declaration. But he comes.
SIR CHARLES. I'll to your father, and keep him to the appointment. [Exit SIR CHARLES.]
Enter MARLOW.
MARLOW. Though prepared for setting out, I come once more to take leave; nor did I, till this moment, know the pain I feel in the separation.
MISS HARDCASTLE. (In her own natural manner.) I believe sufferings cannot be very great, sir, which you can so easily remove. A day or two longer, perhaps, might lessen your uneasiness, by showing the little value of what you now think proper to regret.

[AND NOW, HERE IS THE PASSAGE THAT SCOTT WINKED AT]
MARLOW. (Aside.) This girl every moment improves upon me. (To her.) It must not be, madam. I have already trifled too long with my heart. My very PRIDE begins to submit to my passion. The disparity of education and fortune, the anger of a parent, and the contempt of my equals, begin to lose their weight; and nothing can restore me to myself but this painful effort of resolution.

And as my very eloquence begins to submit to my fear of going on too long, I will end Part One now, and be back with Part Two tomorrow.

[Added 02/19/17: Subsequent to writing the above post, after a bit more creative Googling, I came upon a 2016 review of a performance of She Stoops by a very sharp elf of a theater critic, Nancy Churnin, who at one point wrote the following about She Stoops: 
"It’s a tale of pride and prejudice that may have influenced characters that Jane Austen would make famous in her novel about proud Fitzwilliam Darcy and spirited Elizabeth Bennet 40 years after this play’s debut."]

Cheers, ARNIE

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