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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Obviously a sadistic and necrophiliac lunatic....and a psychopathic flesh-eating robot

The following is the followup about my earlier comment about Lord Portsmouth, aka the Earl of Portsmouth (family surname Wallop), after Nancy Mayer replied as follows:

[Nancy] "Arnie, please send me the reference to Lord Portsmouth being whipped on being breeched. I haven't come across that."

Well, I was just going by the testimony in the huge case involving Lord Portsmouth and his ill-fated marriage to Hanson's daughter.

And (as Alanis sang) you oughta know, Nancy, because the Hanson-Hanson daughter-Lord Portsmouth triad is one which _you_ correctly perceived as being similar to the Mrs. Clay-Sir Walter-Mr. Shepherd triad. In 2005, you were the first one to turn me on to that lurid real life parallel to Persuasion, which suggests to me that if Sir Walter had married Mrs.
Clay, it would not have turned out for him as second marriage did for Mr. Weston. ;)

For example, here is testimony from the trial that occurred not long after JA's death:

/Sir Richard Birnie./—Some years ago I lived near Fairlawn; I had a cottage there, and have it still. I was a mere salutation-acquaintance of Lord Portsmouth's. In August, 1819, Lord Portsmouth came to me on a Sunday afternoon, much agitated, and rather abruptly asked for a
warrant, he said, " against my wife." I asked him why he wanted a warrant; and he said, that Lady Portsmouth had flogged him with a whip, while her two sisters held his hands. There were weals and /marks /on his cheek and neck ; they were evidently recent...."

One day I will convince you that this is not an accidental resemblance, but that JA was well aware of the "shadow story" details of Lord Portsmouth's marriage--as to which these S&M shenanigans were apparently going on from 1815 onward---and JA chose to reflect them in the shadows of Persuasion, along with other Byroniana (as you know, of course, Hanson was Byron's lawyer, too).

Then Nancy responded further, as follows, prompting my further response:

[Nancy] "Arnie, I asked for the reference to Lord Portsmouth because I didn't have any reference in that information to a boy being whipped on being breeched. Boys were whipped, caned, switched, and birched. Lady Portsmouth did mistreat her husband. Doctors later decided that his state of development was somewhat around that of a 10 year old boy. However, this reference has nothing to do with boys being whipped when

Nancy, I was drawing a (half) joking parallel between the real or invented tale of little Edward receiving serious insult to his posterior, and the real life S&M routine Chez Wallop, I was _not_ suggesting that such real life antics also included abuse of young boys.

But, as you so accurately described, that may as well have been the case, since Lord Portsmouth, who was 46 when he married Hanson's daughter, was nonetheless in essence the moral and psychological equivalent of a 10 year old boy--and a very disturbed one at that.

The Bio Index entry for Lord Portsmouth in the 1995/2003 edition of the letters contains Ms. Le Faye's uncharacteristically Gothic description of that monstrously disturbed matrix:

"...The Earl's lawyer and trustee Mr. John Hanson then cynically married off his daughter Mary-Anne to his ward [Lord P], who by now was obviously a sadistic and necrophiliac lunatic....[she] maltreated the wretched Earl-perhaps unwittingly with poetic justice--just as he had mistreated his servants and animals in previous years..."


Seriously....what a Vortex of Dissipation that was--who was worst, the cynical Hanson, the crazy Earl, or the sadistic daughter/wife of the two of them?

I only quibble with Le Faye's use of the word "perhaps". I'd wager that Mary-Anne Hanson Wallop, via her father, had been very well aware, for years, of the Earl's penchant for naughtiness. When the Earl's wife (the "Lady Elliot" of this sordid real life melodrama) died, and the Earl became vulnerable to predation, Hanson did not waste a second, I am sure, to bring his daughter over to the Earl's digs for an intimate tete-a-tete or two. So surely the poetic justice administered by Mary-Anne Hanson Wallop must have been entirely intentional, indeed entirely savored. Think about it, if she was the kind of pervert who got her jollies doing very bad things to her mentally disabled husband, surely it was a piquant spicy enhancement of that experience if there were an added element of being the administerer of poetic justice as well!

So I'd say Sir Walter owed Fate (or perhaps a secret Santa or two) a great big thank you for keeping him out of Mrs. Clay's evil clutches--and I hope he got himself a new lawyer, too!


Cheers, ARNIE

P.S How often does one get a valid opportunity to use a subject line like the above in connection with a discussion of Jane Austen? I was reminded as I read Le Faye's purple prose of that great line from _Notting Hill_ when Hugh Grant, clinging by a thread to his inadvertent
impersonation of a writer for the magazine Horse and Hound, asks the movie actor he is interviewing why he did not identify with the character he was playing, to which the lead replied by tactfully explained that he did not "because he is playing a psychopathic
flesh-eating robot".

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