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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Friday, July 24, 2009

Another Clue about Lucy Steele's Married Name

Before I disclose the answer to my little riddling question about the significance of Lucy Steele's married name, here is one last clue, from chapter 49 of S&S:

"Dear Sir , -- Being very sure I have long lost your affections, I have thought myself at liberty to bestow my own on another, and have no doubt of being as happy with him as I once used to think I might be with you; but I scorn to accept a hand while the heart was another's. Sincerely wish you happy in your choice, and it shall not be my fault if we are not always good friends, as our near relationship now makes proper. I can safely say I owe you no ill-will, and am sure you will be too generous to do us any ill offices. Your brother has gained my affections entirely, and as we could not live without one another, we are just returned from the altar, and are now on our way to Dawlish for a few weeks, which place your dear brother has great curiosity to see, but thought I would first trouble you with these few lines, and shall always remain, -- Your sincere well-wisher, friend, and sister,


"I have burnt all your letters, and will return your picture the first opportunity. Please to destroy my scrawls; but the ring, with my hair, you are very welcome to keep."

Elinor read and returned it without any comment.

Do any of you have an comment on my question???? ;)

Cheers, ARNIE


Chris Dornan said...

Hi Arnie,

You are going to have to do a bit more preparatory work I think. Maybe after some practice with a few such riddles we will be able to solve them unassisted. That 'Lucy Ferrars' makes an appearance right at the end when Elinor and Edward are marvelling at Edward's escape is easy. Only knowing the outline of your thesis, I really have little idea of what I should be looking for.

It is nice to see a blog even thinking about the content of JA's works (not to mention the philosophical content).

Chris Dornan said...

I forgot to say that your approach to Austen reminds me (in a very superficial way) of Strauss's handling of Plato.

Arnie Perlstein said...


Thanks for stopping by and giving it a stab!

Since no one else has stepped forward, I think it's time for me to reveal the answer, which is.....

Lucy Ferrars = Lucy-Fer- rars = Lucifer!

When you think about Lucy's character, the shoe fits, doesn't it?

And there's much more to the riddle than just a cute trick, I have by looking beneath the surface found a complex web of allusion there, which I will be writing about.

So now, tell me about Strauss and Plato, I am very curious to hear what you meant, and to know if my answer adds to the resonance you detected.

Cheers, ARNIE

Chris Dornan said...

Yes, Lucifer fits. I will write about Lucy's part in S&S on my blog--any I think 'Lucifer' fits quite well. I will be interested to hear what you think.

Don't read too much into the Leo Strauss comparison--the comparison is fairly superficial. Strauss argues that Plato was writing on two levels, one for the mass audience, and another for the elites, the hidden level being reinforced with various devices not unlike this kind of riddle.

I am no fan of Strauss's and I think much of what he was saying was pure nonsense--the resulting philosophy is unstable and doesn't withstand analysis.

If you were to uncover a riddle that indicated that Lucy was some kind of saint or angel, and then proceeded to argue that Austen was putting out all the moral stuff for mass consumption, but her real intent, for those smart enough to spot it, was a nihilistic philosophy exhorting us to trample on others to achieve our ends, then I would say that this was not deeply superficially Straussian but deeply Straussian.

I hope I am making sense. (If you want to check out Leo Strauss, I strongly recommend starting with his sharpest critic-Shadia Drury--I am sure I could find some articles if you need them.)

Arnie Perlstein said...

Chris, I will check out your blog post as soon as I post this comment here.

I don't know if I would say JA wrote her shadow stories (of which the Lucifer word riddle is just the tip of the iceberg) for elites, I think that she was making the point that the world is a confusing, ambiguous reality, and it is possible to always see it through a glass brightly, and see romance everywhere, or one can always see it through a glass darkly, and see people behaving badly everywhere.

Or one can use one's power of discrimination and perception to try to assess each case on its own merits.

Chris Dornan said...

For sure Arnie--as I said, the similarities are very superficial. I was just struck by some common themes. The clarification is useful and I agree with your rejection of the extremes and the sense of a constant struggle to better understand oneself and the world. Many have made the same point (Park Honan, very cogently I think, and in her own so did Butler) and I don't think it can be said too often or clearly.

Arnie Perlstein said...


How nice to have this extended dialogue with you, it would be even better if others joined in, perhaps they will in time....

Do you mean Marilyn Butler? And I have of course read Honan, but cannot recall his commenting on the duality in JA's fiction--can you help me find his comments in his bio that you were thinking of?

Chris Dornan said...

Yes it is indeed a refreshing discussion.

I did indeed mean Marilyn Butler's War of Ideas. I don't have a copy of Honan with me, but I meant that I think he caught very well her philosophy and showed how it was continuous with her own life and the life of the Austen family--that constant striving to understand and maintain one's balance. The section on Henry's bankruptcy was I thought particularly good, though that was more about action than epistemology. His commentaries on the novels I thought were quite sound and these sketches seemed as reliable as anything anyone has written. Few get S&S right but I thought his assessment was quite decent (though to be fair the devil is usually in the detail).

Anonymous said...

Not Lucy-Ferr- ars?

Lucifer arse.

Search "luther detects the devil at work"

Arnie Perlstein said...

Yes, Anonymous, Lucifer is the answer, and you make an intriguing case for the "arse" part as well, but I don't want to have anonymous posts at this blog, so please identify yourself within 48 hours or I will have to delete your post.

But I'd rather you stay in the conversation.