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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

June 7 Presentation at Oxford

So you think you know all the right answers to all the right questions about Jane Austen’s Emma?

By Arnie Perlstein, independent scholar from South Florida (

Presentation on THURSDAY, June 7, 2007, at 5 pm, at the English Faculty which is in the St. Cross Building on Manor Road (a massive 60s building-hard to miss). Follw this map:

The English Faculty is Number 20 on it.

For more details on the Romantic Realignments

Nothing could now be clearer than the absurdity of her recent fancies. To suppose that a manuscript of many generations back could have remained undiscovered in a room such as that, so modern, so habitable! — Or that she should be the first to possess the skill of unlocking a cabinet, the key of which was open to all! . . . . .Why the locks should have been so difficult to open, however, was still something remarkable, for she could now manage them with perfect ease. In this there was surely something mysterious…”—Catherine Morland, in Northanger Abbey, Vol. 2, Ch. 7

Emma has famously been called the detective story without a murder. Why was Rex Stout rereading Emma as he died? Why does Miss Marple remind us of Miss Bates? Why did James Joyce, the King of Literary Subtext, call his children Sense and Sensibility?

The aura of mystery in Emma has never been adequately explained. Have the “locks” of Emma been so difficult to “open”, because everyone has assumed, like Emma herself, that questions always have only one right answer? because the connections between all those answers have been opaque? because only during the past two decades has light been provided by the seemingly unrelated discoveries of numerous Austen scholars, and by resources on the Internet, that can illuminate the “tumblers”? I am happy to answer---yes, yes, and YES!

In my presentation, first I’ll summarize, and put in context, several basic discoveries regarding the puzzles of Emma, particularly those in Chapter 9. Then I’ll apply those answers to the primary purpose I believe Jane Austen intended for them, i.e., to demystify all aspects of the novel’s central riddle: the vexed relationship of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill. By the end of the novel, Emma believes no mystery remains—but I beg to differ. ;)

If you wish, take a peek beforehand at the questions listed below, and see if any alternative answers occur to you. Don’t be alarmed if they don’t, and also don’t mind the number of questions, the answers are all “joined at the hip”. If you do puzzle over these questions, you’ll be walking in the estimable footsteps of Mr. Knightley, who himself was perplexed by the mystery of Jane and Frank. Recalling Cowper, he sought to avoid imaginary observations, but I claim that Knightley transcended Cowper, and followed the deeper advice of Madam Fauques de Vaucluse, not to “so far despise the flights of imagination, as wholly to seclude them from the exercise of reason; since these two faculties are so nearly allied, that fancy without judgment is capricious and irregular, and judgment without fancy is confined to very narrow bounds.”

Like a Regency Era combination of Nero Wolfe and Will Shortz, Knightley united fancy and judgment, solved the puzzles confronting him, and then (like Superman) covertly acted to set things right. Please be my guest to come and find out what Knightley only told Emma after their (satin-deprived) wedding! ;)


1. What is the answer to the first charade that Mr. Elton recites to Emma and Harriet in Chapter 9? Who wrote it?

2. What is the answer to the second charade given to Emma by Mr. Elton in Chapter 9?

Who wrote it?

3. What is the answer to the Riddle partially recalled by Mr. Woodhouse in Chapter 9?

Who wrote it?

4. What is the acrostic that the “abominable puppy” makes on Miss Hawkins’s name?

Who wrote it?

5. Are there any anagrams in Emma? Who wrote them?

6. Did anyone from the Regency Era ever detect any secret subtext in Emma?

7. What does the Rosetta Stone and the Trojan Horse have to do with Jane Austen?

8. Did Jane Austen allude to the Royal Family in Emma?

9. Did Jane Austen allude to Shakespeare in Emma?

10. Is there any connection between the Shakespeare and the Royal Family allusions?


1. Why does Frank delay coming to Highbury?

2. What does Frank do in London when he goes and comes the same day?

3. Who buys the piano for Jane?

4. Why can Emma not forgive Jane?

5. Where does Frank go generally when he leaves Highbury?

6. What is Frank busy doing at Miss Bates’s home before Emma & Co. arrive?

7. Why do apples bloom in June in Highbury?

8. What is the nature of Jane Fairfax’s illness?

9. What role does Frank play during Harriet’s encounter with the Gypsies?

10. Why does Mrs. Elton take such a strong and particular interest in Jane?

11. What is the cause of Mrs. Churchill’s sudden death?

12. What was the nature of Jane and Frank’s secret relationship?

13. Who writes the letter to Mrs. Weston that explains everything about Frank and Jane?

14. Why does Jane write to Frank about Mr. Perry’s carriage?

15. What happens to the Churchill family jewels?

16. Who attends Frank and Jane’s wedding?

17. Why does Frank speak of his dream again at the end?

Keep in mind that the above is only a partial catalog of the mysteries raised by the text of Emma.. There are many others involving all the other principal characters, the answers to which I’ve also discovered by the same approach.

III) TRICK QUESTION: What fictional story contains all the following significant elements?

Many secrets, puzzles, and codes; a text which, when viewed through special lens, reads differently; secondary clues not visible until you have first solved primary clues; the number 55; spectacles; a character involved with a kite; a character famous for words regarding satisfactory completion; silence; ghostwritten letters; a character focused too long on a precious treasure; meanings “written between the lines” and “under the surface”, not visible to the casual reader; an anagram the solution of which leads to concealed treasure; many things are doubled; climactic action during July; the name or title of an English Royal Family member; a broken shoelace; the word “Knight”; anonymous letters from a teenager to the newspaper published by the letter writer’s elder brothers; common sense; AND the number three or a trinity.

Remember, sometimes questions have more than one right answer! ;)

Arnie Perlstein,
Weston, Florida

© Arnold L. Perlstein 2007


Tracy W said...

Sounds very interesting. Sorry I won't be there to argue with you.

Arnie Perlstein said...

Is that you, Tracy, my friendly adversary? ;)

If it is, I am sorry you won't be there, too, because if I could convince you, the ultimate subtext skeptic, then I'd really feel I could convince anyone!

Lady Éowyn said...

Amusingly, one answer to Question 3 would be the film National Treasure, though I can scarcely see how that relates, or if it was indeed an intended answer.

As for the other two sets of questions: you have my interest, but also my skepticism. It looks like a bad case of eisegesis in some lights. ;) But I look forward to reading your complete Oxford case on Emma.

Arnie Perlstein said...

Vaire, that was my intent, but your guess is as good as mine as to how that came to pass--but it's pretty obvious to me that it's way beyond a coincidence. The only thing I know is that Jane Austen did not have a hand in that, at least...unless her genius included the ability to travel in time as well!

As for eisegesis, if you knew all I know, you would realize that is not the case.

Please email me.---ARNIE

Anonymous said...

How did you do? Did the people ask good questions? Will you/they publish your talk?

Arnie Perlstein said...

It went very well, and I was particularly pleased that those who were most knowledgeable were also those who were most positive.

I am not sure yet where and when to publish my stuff. I may just wait and include it all in my book, as to which I now have enough good material to do up a book proposal within the next 2-3 months. I will decide during the next month which way to go.

Icha said...

My dear friend, you got me here. of course, I wont be able to answer the questions, for am a Janeite newbie. But, I will take a sneak peek and laugh together with you and Jane Austen. She was indeed so smart and witty, that lady! Now I understand why Emma is often regarded as JA's most intelligent novel.

Anonymous said...

This looks interesting:Emma is my fave book of Austens. Can you let me know some more of your interesting ideas,Arnie? R U going to post any more of your ideas here?

Anonymous said...

Gee.....isnt there any life out there? Hey Arnie, lets get some talk going on.....this blog needs some life injected in it,man!!!!!

Anonymous said...

So......whats all this about Emma then? Anyone out there? What are the answers to all these questions? I wndr wht it all means? Your readers want to know Arnie!Come on people-lets start talking about all this gr8 stuff!

Arnie Perlstein said...


Sorry, I was away on vacation for a week, and then came back and found my cable internet service down till an hour ago.

The short answer is that I will be working hard during the next 6 weeks on my book proposal about my findings in Emma, and so will not be priming the pump much here in this website till I have done that.

In the interim, if you want to exchange emails, please email me at, and I will be glad to share some more of my ideas with you there.

Thanks for your interest!!


Anonymous said...

Hey thats gr8!!!! Your writing a book! WOW! Cant wait 2 hear more bout it!!!!

Anonymous said...

So......whats the book about? Is it Austen related? Wow how Gr8 is this?

Arnie Perlstein said...

Kelly, take a look at the "About Me" section of this blog--and if you want more details, please do email me, and I will give you some more.

Anonymous said...

OMG!!! I totallly get this! Ive always fort tht frank nd jane did more thn jst get engaged in weymouth. He knocked her up nd she hides @ highbury. kno1 would find out she waz preggers coz of her dresses u get me?
Mr nightly tries 2 sort frank out but actuley they dnt get marriead nd he bys her off givin her all the churchill bling!
Now mi teachers dnt belive me but i kno im rite! ennit...
now tell me tht aint true arnie boi!

Arnie Perlstein said...


I'd be happy to discuss this--email me.


Arnie Perlstein said...


I have learned that going into enough detail to make it interesting to discuss with a sharp reader such as yourself is both too complicated to do online, and also is not something I want to spread in public view in any way other than in my book itself.

I correspond by email with a bunch of people, and it works out fine for both me and them, but if that is not to your liking, so be it. I will be disappointed if that is your decision, only because you clearly are a "player" and it would probably be fun to toss Austen ideas around with you, even if you insist on calling me boi. ;)

Anonymous said...

Do u not lyke me callin u boi arnie boi?
thts wikid that u fink im a playa but have u eva seen me do pe coz i is baaaaad!
C my eng teacher says tht i is crap at eng but i fink tht frank is like the devil and he ends up all alone lyke wiloghbey.Jayne fairfax is just a biiiiig hoe and tht mariane dashwood was knocked up lyke! nd tht mariane lost tht babi nd i dnt meen in da park ;)
wb big style!

Arnie Perlstein said...

Well I guess my blog has "arrived" because I've had my first experience deleting posts by a troll.

I don't know when the next message may come down the pike here, but from here on in, I ask that anyone who posts, please use your full name.

Many thanks, ARNIE