(& scroll down to read my literary sleuthing posts)
Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

P.S. re The Mysterious Footnote in Northanger Abbey

As soon as I hit the Send button on my last message, I did a Google Desktop search of "Rosings Scarlets" to see what it was I had previously read or written on the subject of the former being a fictional representation of the latter, and among the files that came up was the text of a message that Ron Dunning (who is a descendant of Frank Austen) had written nearly four years ago in Austen L, which I now reproduce, for the VERY interesting light it sheds on my suggestion that Henry Austen was maneuvering to inherits Scarlets from Aunt Leigh Perrot when (I claim) he inserted that mysterious footnote in Northanger Abbey in order to deflect attention AWAY from his Aunt:

"Back to my 4X-gt-grandfather, Sir Francis William Austen, and a story that I hadn't taken in until I chanced on it last night in Maggie Lane's "Jane Austen's Family Through Five Generations". As so frequently happened back then (back almost any time before modern medicine), Frank's wife Mary Gibson died on the 14th of July 1823, just 7 days after the birth of their son Cholmeley (her 11th, in 16 years). Frank didn't remarry until 1828 - and chose as his second wife Martha Lloyd, the sister of his brother James's wife Mary, and from a family long-acquainted with the Austens.

At this point I'm going to take several long steps back to give some context. Jane and Frank's mother Cassandra Leigh was descended, in her grand-maternal line, from the Perrots of Northleigh in Oxfordshire. One of them, Thomas Perrot (the brother of Cassandra's grandmother Jane Perrot), produced no male heirs, and left his estate to his great nephew James Leigh - Cassandra's brother. I hope that's clear. Anyway, all that James had to do was assume the name and arms of Perrot, so he styled himself Leigh-Perrot. James married Jane Cholmeley, whose surname was taken as the given name for Frank's above-named last-born son. There may have been a motive for this, as you will see... Jane Leigh-Perrot, who many of you will recognise as the lady who was sent to trial for allegedly stealing some lace, outlived her husband, so his property, Scarlets, was hers to dispose of in her will, and according to Maggie Lane (on page 208 in my copy) Frank was the designated beneficiary. Jane, descried by M L as a thorough-going snob, took great exception to Frank's choice of wife and rewrote her will, settling Scarlets on Frank's nephew (James) Edward (who, ironically, was the son of Martha's sister Mary!!!)...We'll leave the convolutions aside - including the fact that, as I have read Thomas Perrot's will, I had understood Scarlets always to have been promised to Edward's [i.e., James Edward Austen's] side of the family. Whatever, Jane L-P was an inveterate schemer and may have been dangling Scarlets in Frank's face..." END OF EXCERPT FROM RON'S 2007 POST

So, thanking Ron for that very interesting insight, I take from what he wrote the fresh additional insight that, in the aftermath of the death of James Leigh-Perrot which occurred in 1816, there may well have been a kind of eerily gender-reversed King Lear-like "inheritance scrum" among THREE different fraternal lines of Jane Austen's nuclear family--brother James's son, James Edward; brother Frank Austen; and (per my suspicions about the NA footnote) brother Henry Austen.

But the worst irony is that, also flipping gender, it was the wife and the 2 daughters of the Austen family who suffered the Lear-like reduction by halves of their financial well-being and living conditions that JA parodied in Chapter 2 of S&S with Fanny Dashwood screwing over the 3 Dashwood women.

Mr. Weston is so right--every family does have its secrets, you know....but fortunately one rather talented member of the Austen family was a whistleblower, who knew how to preserve the truth in the shadows, despite the best efforts of one rather heavy handed footnoter/biographer.....

Cheers, ARNIE

No comments: