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

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

JEAL concealed that Sense & Sensibility AND The Watsons were BOTH written after Papa Austen died!

This morning, I awoke still mulling over the details of the successful 150-year old conspiracy conducted by descendants of James Austen in order to conceal the dangerously noticeable, harshly satirical allusion by Jane Austen in S&S. The conspiracy was designed to conceal the resemblance of the selfish hypocrite John Dashwood to Austen’s brothers James, Edward, and Henry, who damned their mother and sisters with faint generosity after Reverend Austen died; essentially, leaving the Austen women to dangle in the financial wind with inadequate funds and living quarters for 4 long years.

In particular, as I posted yesterday, JEAL and his descendant Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh conjured up a phantom early version of S&S, “Elinor and Marianne”, which they claimed was written by JA in 1797—which was four years before the Austens moved to Bath, and 8 years before Reverend Austen died. Therefore, so the fake implication went, the three selfish Austen brothers couldn’t possibly be the basis for the character of John Dashwood, unless the entire story of the novel was later drastically altered by JA prior to publication in 1811. And it is the rare Austen scholar who has even considered this question at all. Mission accomplished, JEAL….or was it?

I ended my last preceding post in this thread with the following intriguing speculation about a possible off-stage counterthrust by another branch of the Austen family against the above-described conspiracy:

“What I hadn't noted before is that the quote by Richard Austen-Leigh appears in the very first few pages of the 1906 Memoir that he wrote about his late brother, Augustus Austen-Leigh. Provost of King's College, Cambridge. He begins to recount Austen family history, and I find it very very curious that he takes that opportunity to introduce what would seem to be a complete digression from his main topic (his late brother's life) to launch into that emphatic denial of wrongdoing a century earlier in the Austen family -- it makes me wonder, was there someone out there in 1906 questioning Austen family harmony whom he was specifically rebutting? If so, who?
Perhaps it was John Henry Hubback, a descendant of FRANK Austen, and the author of Jane Austen's Sailor Brothers, published in that same year, 1906? After all, someone from Frank's family must have provided to Richard Austen-Leigh the text of those letters to Frank written by Henry and James in 1805 -- so those letters which were eventually published as part of the Austen Papers in 1942 (after such a very long delay!) must already have been provided to Richard Austen-Leigh prior to 1906, and they were so clearly damning to the myth of Austen family harmony as to require some immediate plugging of leaks in the dike.
The pieces of the puzzle fit together more and more tightly.”  END QUOTE FROM MY PRIOR POST

It was while musing this morning about conflict between different strands of the Austen family as to Jane Austen’s legacy, that my memory was tickled by the name “Hubback” in my post, and I recalled that my fellow JASNAite friend, Alice Villasenor (a prof at Medaille U.), had written a section of her dissertation [“Women Readers and the Victorian Jane Austen”  (2009)] about Catherine Hubback, Frank Austen’s daughter (and John Henry Hubback’s mother), and the conflict between her and descendants of James Austen. I searched back in my files, and found that in chapter 1, entitled “Four Generations of The Watsons: Catherine Hubback’s Laboring Women’s Narrative”, Alice had written this:

“Earlier scholarship has rehearsed some of the ways in which the first five chapters of The Younger Sister [a continuation of The Watsons] differ from Austen’s fragment. It is likely that at least some of these changes are the result of the possibility that Hubback worked from memory, thereby making changes due to misremembering inevitable. Some of these changes are minor, such as changing the name of Austen’s Mrs Blake to Mrs Willis. Other changes are more significant, for example, Tom Musgrave becomes Tom Musgrove —which could possibly be an intentional allusion to the Musgroves in Persuasion.
Many of the alterations that Hubback makes to Austen’s fragment set the groundwork for the abuse Emma [Watson] suffers at the hands of her brother and sister-in-law. Whereas Austen’s fragment clearly identifies Emma as the sole expectant benefactor of her uncle’s wealth, Hubback turns Robert Watson into the “the expectant nephew.” This helps explain the extremely negative reactions that Robert and his wife Jane have towards Emma when she becomes dependent upon them after her father dies. In Hubback’s version of the story, the couple has been doubly disappointed: first by the loss of the income they expected from the uncle and second by being saddled with the burden of Emma and Elizabeth after the death of their father. Hubback also revises other aspects of Austen’s fragment in order to portray Robert to be even more mercenary and self-interested than he appears in Austen’s version. This is especially clear in Robert’s address to Emma about her uncle’s fortune:
“[…] But I think the old gentleman might have given you something — a thousand pounds or so would have done very well for you, and the rest would have been most particularly acceptable to me just now.
There was an investment offered itself, a month or two ago, in which I could have, beyond a doubt, doubled five thousand pounds in a very short time, and it was particularly cutting to be obliged to let it pass me, because that old man had behaved so shabbily. Upon my life, it makes me quite angry when I think of it — and just to throw you back upon my father’s hands, without a sixpence — a burden — a useless burden upon the family — what could he be thinking of!”
Emma was too much overcome by the many bitter feelings this speech raised, to be able to reply; and her brother, seeing her tears, said: “Well, I did not mean to make you cry, Emma; there’s no good in that — though I do not wonder that you should be mortified and disappointed too. Girls are nothing without money — no one can manage them – but you shall come and try your luck at Croydon. Perhaps, with your face, and the idea that you have still expectations, you might get off our hands altogether.”
In Austen’s version, Robert expresses concern about Emma being thrown back on their father without a “sixpence,” but the reader may or may not interpret these words as concern that he will be responsible for Emma upon their father’s death. However, Hubback does not allow for a generous interpretation of Robert’s words when she explicitly outlines Robert’s concern for himself in the third paragraph with the use of the word “our”: “you might get off our hands altogether”, emphasis mine). In Austen’s version, Emma defends her uncle’s “faultless” conduct, even while admitting that her aunt “has erred”. In Hubback’s rewrite, Robert’s words go unchecked, except by Emma’s tears. Emma’s “bitter feelings” and tears indicate that Emma interprets Robert’s words about being thrown back onto the family as a negative reflection on her uncle’s conduct rather than a negative reflection on her family’s attitude towards her. In Hubback's version, the conduct of Emma’s uncle is unpardonable, whereas in Austen’s version, it is merely questionable. [These revisions to Austen’s text may have been motivated by Francis Austen’s own loss of an expected fortune to his nephew J.E. Austen-Leigh. Mrs Leigh Perrot, a wealthy widow, left an estate to James Austen-Leigh instead of to Francis Austen as she had once intended (Le Faye Family Record). This decision changed the fortune of both the Francis Austen and James Austen branches of the Austen clan in the 19th century.]”

So, with that background, I’m now ready to fulfill the promise of my Subject Line, and tell you about the connection I see between JEAL’s imaginary earlier version of S&S dating back to 1797, and his equally imaginary dating of The Watsons to prior to Reverend Austen’s death. It’s the same disingenuous biographical shell game that he and his descendants played regarding the date of composition of S&S.

As Alice’s synopsis of key portions of the plot of The Watsons illustrates, we see that same situation of a daughter being left financially and residentially precarious by the unexpected death of a caretaking parental figure, and, more important, the selfish, hypocritical response of a son wishing to wash his hands clean of any responsibility for his sister.

First we have Fanny Lefroy, James’s granddaughter, recalling that “somewhere in 1804, she began The Watsons, but her father died early in 1805, and it was never finished.” Then we have JEAL, in the first edition of the Memoir, claiming “The unfinished story, now published under the title of The Watsons, must have been written during the author’s residence in Bath [which ended in 1805].” And then, in the second edition of The Memoir, JEAL weighs in with an additional wrinkle, that JA realized “the evil of having placed her heroine too low, in a position of poverty and obscurity, which, though not necessarily connected with vulgarity, has a sad tendency to degenerate into it”.

So, neither of those two “recollections” allowed for the possibility of a composition after the turning point in early 1805 when Reverend Austen died. However, I did find in the late Brian Southam’s Jane Austen’s Literary Manuscripts a citation of a 1927 article by E. C. Brown, “The Date of the Watsons”, Spectator, 11 June 1927, ppg. 1016-7, “which put the date as late as 1807-8.” Intrigued yet again, I found a copy of Brown’s article, and here is her explanation of the clue that alerted Brown to 1807 as the year of composition:
“It is to Jane Austen's devotion to detail that we owe the solution, I think, of the problem why the charming beginning known as The Watsons has no end. Not long ago some true-hearted student of Jane Austen discovered that the dates in Pride and Prejudice are correct throughout for the years of its revision, 1811-1812. Jane Austen did not then write down that the "Assembly at D." took place on "Tuesday, October 13th," and mean nothing thereby. In all probability Tuesday, October 13th, was the date on which she began The Watsons. But in what year? For unless we know the year the novel was begun, all speculation as to the reasons why it was abandoned must be guesswork. Mr. Austen Leigh, on finding the water-marks of 1806 and 1804 in the paper on which the manuscript is written, selected 1805 as the year in which she wrote. Now the water-mark, while excellent evidence that the writing was not begun before the year 1804, is flimsy evidence for any year in particular after 1804. For instance, the paper on which these words are written bears the water-mark 1926. Moreover, in 1805 October 13th fell on a Sunday. Not until 1807 could "Tuesday, October 13th," be correctly written…”  END QUOTE FROM BROWN ARTICLE

But that’s not all. It turns out that I am far from the first to notice the resonance between Mr. and Mr. Robert Watson and Mr. & Mrs. John Dashwood. Working back in time, first here is Joseph Wiesenfarth, in “The Watsons as Pretext”, in Persuasions (1986):     
“Jane Austen had already done a clone for Mrs. Robert Watson in Mrs. John Dashwood just as she'd done something of the low-minded, money-grubbing, insensitive brother that Robert is to Emma Watson in John Dashwood (Mudrick; Gooneratne), who treats his sisters abominably…If Mr. and Mrs. Robert Watson found some degree of realization in Mr. and Mrs. John Dashwood, there was no need for Jane Austen to write a finished version of The Watsons to do their type again. Jane Austen had to know that she could never do such a couple better than she had done them in the second chapter of Sense and Sensibility. If we want to object that John Dashwood is stupider than Robert Watson, we may be correct. But then we must remember that the other side of the argument is that Robert Watson did marry his awful wife, and that is certainly the case of someone taking a "disagreable" partner for the sake of the money involved. In Jane Austen's world that does not bespeak any intelligence at all. Also, both Watson and Dashwood, live by calculation. With them the bottom line determines their decisions to act or not to act….What I am suggesting, then, is that a good deal of what we have in the fragment of The Watsons was simply pre-empted by the brilliant presentation of the John Dashwoods in Sense and Sensibility…

And following Wiesenfarth’s footnote, here’s what Marvin Mudrick wrote the year I was born (1952):
“[Robert Watson] succeeds chiefly in reminding us that JA has done a figure similar in function, if different in circumstance, much better. Robert is too close to John Dashwood, and without the latter’s complication of feeling …deploring Aunt Turner’s belated rejection of Emma, he can be more brutal with his sister than John would ever dream of being with Elinor or Marianne: [sixpence speech]. Otherwise, however, he duplicates John’s motives, his moral atmosphere, his sense of duty, with none of their preparation and development. He too takes seriously his social responsibility as financial adviser and matrimonial assistant to his sisters. …Robert, like John is never one to confuse the issue with irrelevant Christian charity…and also he will do what he can, in John’s brotherly fashion, within reason:
“…Pity you can none of you get married!—You must come to Croydon as well as the rest, & see what you can do there. I believe if Margaret had had a thousand or fifteen hundred pounds, there was a young man who would have thought of her.”
…His wife is still more plainly an unembodied function. Appropriately, she recollects Mrs. John Dashwood..[but] her position and her smugness concerning it (unlike Mrs. Dashwood’s..) are apparently so secure as to have no need of a supporting malice….If we remember her at all, it is in her closest approach to Mrs. Dashwood, as the patroness who has found her gratifying spiritual complement in a protegee, Emma’s sister Margaret, very like Lucy Steele…”

And so, now I can close the circle started by those early perceptive Austen scholars, and give a compelling new explanation for why Robert Watson and his horrid wife so strikingly resemble John Dashwood and his horrid wife—and as a bonus, I’ll also explain why I now think Jane Austen really abandoned the writing of The Watsons – it’s because both The Watsons and S&S sprang from the same creative source—Jane Austen’s rage and desire for literary revenge against her three unbrotherly brothers James, Edward and Henry for the way they had rationalized their smug dereliction of moral duty to the Austen women.

So she had a first go at it in The Watsons in 1807, but there was one problem—the satire was not funny! Plus, I now speculate, it was only after living a while with Frank and his young family in Southampton that Frank finally, sometime in later 1807, showed Jane those horribly smug letters that Henry and James wrote to him in January 1805 ---- with their own incredibly hypocritical words, they hung themselves,  and provided JA with the inspiration for John and Fanny Dashwood to spring into their horrid existence in JA’s imagination. And the eerily unwitting resonance to Regan and Goneril in King Lear quickly followed ---and so S&S superseded The Watsons. But… I also think JA never could throw away The Watsons fragment, because it must have held such powerful personal emotional significance for her, her original cri de coeur.

Cheers, ARNIE

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