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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Music to my ears REPRISED

"The Tilneys called for her at the appointed time; and no new difficulty arising, no sudden recollection, no unexpected summons, no impertinent intrusion to disconcert their measures, my heroine was most unnaturally able to fulfil her engagement, though it was made with the hero himself."

Apropos my spotting of JA punning on the words "disconcert" and "discompose" as reflective of a musical or performance metaphor, I was surprised today to see that in my earlier word searching I had missed the same pun in the above sentence, which, in its charmingly breathless hyperbole can only be the over-the-top ironic tone of the narrator of Northanger Abbey. Indeed there was no impertinent intrusion to "disconcert" their "measures", and to "fulfil her engagement" "with the hero himself"--as Catherine and Henry take the next step on their tortuous path toward ultimately making beautiful "music" together in the "dance" of marriage.

That would be enough (to paraphrase the Passover song Dayenu) to satisfy the taste of the ordinary reader (such as Mr. Morland, who was, as JA's narrator tells us, "contented with a pun"). However, as I was writing finishing writing this message, I saw the additional touch which must please even the most demanding connoisseur of paranomosia--i.e., the phrase "most unnaturally", which carries several potential punning meanings, including the musical sense of a note (as depicted by a composer in the "measures" of his written score) which, if it is not "natural", must then be either "flat" nor "sharp".

And, speaking of notes, "How are the civilities and compliments of every day to be related as they ought to be, unless noted down every evening in a journal?"



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