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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Friday, November 19, 2010

But back to Mrs. Allen and her own shadowy fictional doppelganger...


This has been great fun today, sitting on a "see-saw" (as in "You see, I see, we saw") with you in the Northanger Abbey-Shakespeare playground....

I was just rereading our posts today about the Allens, and it occurred to me that it is not only Mr. Allen who has roots deep in English literature, Mrs. Allen does too, and it's not just in Shakespeare where we find her doppelgangers!

We've been talking about Mr. Allen as an Austenian Falstaff, but there is one FEMALE character from the dawn of English literature who is often compared to Falstaff in terms of a lusty sexualized bravado, and who is also known in particular for an eye for a comely shape in the opposite sex, who might have been just the person to engage in the sort of sexual repartee that Elissa and I both detect in Mrs. Allen, and who would share one OTHER characteristic with Mrs. Allen, that of being known to the literary world as a married woman.

Of course I am referring to none other than Chaucer's Wife of Bath!

Jocelyn Harris was the first to detect echoes of the Wife of Bath in an Austen novel, when, in her 1986 Jane Austen's Art of Memory, she suggested that Louisa Musgrove's loss of consciousness from a head injury at Lyme is an allusion to the Wife of Bath's FEIGNED loss of consciousness when conked on the head by Jankyn. Harris also detailed other aspects of the allusion to the Wife of Bath in Persuasion, but Harris, because she never made the leap to the shadow stories, never, in my view, made the most of her wonderfully insightful and pioneering
intuitions about JA's allusive artistry.

As far as I am aware, no one has ever suggested an allusion to the Wife of Bath in Northanger Abbey until myself.

And, last but not least, this ties in with the shadowy suggestion of Mr. Allen as a boozehound, since it is undeniable that in the Prologue to the Wife’s of Bath's Tale, she accuses her rich husband of coming ‘hoom as drunken as a Mous.’

Cheers, ARNIE

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