[Edward Ferrars] “It is a beautiful country,” he replied; “but these bottoms must be dirty in winter.”
[Marianne Dashwood] “How can you think of dirt, with such objects before you?”
[Edward] “Because,” replied he, smiling, “among the rest of the objects before me, I see a very dirty lane.”
“How strange!” said Marianne to herself as she walked on.
The above passage was just cited in another Austen blog in connection with a discussion of Gilpin and the picturesque, and Austen's handling of same in her novels.
I take note of that now here, because I also cited this very same passage in my address to the NYC chapter of JASNA in May of this year, for a very different reason. In discussing the techniques that Jane Austen deployed in hiding Jane Fairfax's concealed pregnancy in plain sight in the shadow story of the novel, I was giving a particularly vivid illustration of Jane Austen's subtle use of landscape imagery for purposes of veiled sexual innuendo.
The above passage in S&S is one of the most risque in all of her novels, hiding in plain sight. And, by the way, I am not the first person to take note of its veiled sexual content.
Read it aloud and I bet you will hear exactly what I am talking about. And then ask yourself why Edward would say such a thing to Marianne, why he would smile when challenged by her, and why Marianne would then only reply with "How strange!"
Jane Austen was not vulgar or salacious, she was a serious writer, and this was an integral part of her writing style and agenda. It points toward the royal road deep into the shadow story of S&S.
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