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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A book was produced

In exactly the same spirit as the question Shoshi posed two days ago as to the identity of the unnamed girl who whispers in Lizzy's ear during the serving of tea and coffee at Longbourn in Chapter 54--whom I claim to be none other than Mary Bennet, for the reasons I spelled out in detail in my last message on that subject---- I have found the exact bookend to that scene, when ANOTHER unnamed person performs another key action during tea-time at Longbourne, way back in Chapter 14, in reaction to the presence of yet another suitor for the hand of a Bennet girl, which suitor is also the guest of honor (this sort of clustered symmetry is never accidental in JA's novels). As far as I can tell, just as with the Mysterious Whisperer, the Mysterious Book Producer has never been identified previously by any Janeite--nor, as with the former, has the question ever even been asked, prior to Shoshi's posing the question the other day, and my posing this question now.

Of course I am referring to Mr. Collins's first visit to Longbourn. You will all readily recall that after dinner, a memorable moment occurs when Mr. Bennet, practically licking his chops in eager anticipation of a priceless opportunity to laugh at something truly ridiculous, "invites" Mr. Collins "to read aloud to the ladies."

That is precisely when we then read the following:

Mr. Collins readily assented, and a book was produced; but on beholding it (for everything announced it to be from a circulating library) he started back, and begging pardon, protested that he never read novels. Kitty stared at him, and Lydia exclaimed. Other books were produced, and after some deliberation he chose Fordyce's Sermons. Lydia gaped as he opened the volume, and before he had, with very monotonous solemnity, read three pages, she interrupted him with --"Do you know, mama, that my uncle Philips talks of turning away Richard; and if he does, Colonel Forster will hire him. My aunt told me so herself on Saturday. I shall walk to Meryton to-morrow to hear more about it, and to ask when Mr. Denny comes back from town."

Lydia was bid by her two eldest sisters to hold her tongue; but Mr. Collins, much offended, laid aside his book, and said --"I have often observed how little young ladies are interested by books of a serious stamp, though written solely for their benefit. It amazes me, I confess; for, certainly, there can be nothing so advantageous to them as instruction. But I will no longer importune my young cousin." END OF EXCERPT

Now, I claim that I have figured out the identity of the person who "produced", i.e, handed, the novel to Mr. Collins, and I also claim I can even tell you who the author of that novel was, and I can back up these claims with strong arguments! I have detected a variety of clues in the text of P&P which provided me with this answer, but I also drew upon allusions in the text of P&P to prior novels which I was previously aware of.

If you think about it, I bet some of you will come up with the answer I am fishing for--I will give till Friday at 1 pm EST for people to post any answers, including justifications for your answers, and then I promise I will post my answer, along with my argument in support thereof. Scout's honor. ;)


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