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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Saturday, January 22, 2011

P.S. to The Culmination of my posts about Lady Gordon and Jane Austen's comments on the Pagets

Now I have had the time to step back and assess all this stuff that I raced through yesterday, and to correct one more error that I made, getting confused in reading the aristocratic stylings, between generations, i.e., my corrected claim is that Charlotte Gordon Lennox, the Duchess of Richmond, was the daughter of the Duchess of Gordon who famously claimed that her other daughter Louisa was illegitimate in order to prove that she was not insane, so that Lord Cornwallis would marry her.

So, consistent with the above, I claim that the "Lady Gordon" whom JA quoted as giving an Opinion of Mansfield Park may well have been that same Charlotte Gordon Lennox, the Duchess of Richmond, and not her mother, the Duchess of Gordon, as I originally claimed. Since both the mother-Duchess and the daughter-Duchess were both family to Lady Robert Kerr, my claim of connection of the two Opinions of MP survives, just with a different Lady on one end of it.

But, if you're following all this, how could Lady Charlotte Gordon Lennox be "Lady Gordon", if she married the Duke of Richmond in 1789, and that Opinion was rendered in 1815-6? Wouldn't she have ceased to be Lady Gordon in 1789, and ever thereafter?

At first, that did seem a nullifier of my claim in that regard, but then I looked at the following website and found some surprising factoids which resurrected my claim from the dead:

Note the following two oddities:

First, the Duchess of Gordon's daughter, Louisa, who was, per her mother, supposedly illegitimate, is shown as the eldest child, and is also the only one of her children for whom no birth or death date is given! Now that seems very irregular, and does seem consistent with the notion of the Duchess having perhaps married into the (mad) Gordon family while pregnant by another man, or even after the birth of her first daughter, Louisa!

Second, and even stranger (perhaps someone can explain this one)....Lady Charlotte Gordon Lennox, the woman whom I claim could be Jane Austen's "Lady Gordon", married her husband General Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond, in 1789, but....she did not take on the title of Duchess of Richmond until 1806, i.e., 17 years later, and after the birth of thirteen of their fourteen children!!!

Now, what is that about? Isn't that totally bizarre, for Lady Gordon not to have taken on the styling of Duchess for seventeen years and thirteen children after marrying her husband the Duke? Shouldn't it have happened in 1789, or never?

It sure sounds to me like this weirdness is not coincidental, but is connected to the supposed illegitimacy of her elder sister, Louisa, with Louisa's mysterious absence of birth date in the Peerage. Maybe the Duke of Richmond never got over his unease about marrying the legitimate sister of an illegitimate sister?

If Louisa was the eldest child of the Duchess of Gordon, isn't it very peculiar that she only married in 1797, long after three of her four younger sisters were already married?

Whatever the reason, this lengthy delay of 17 years would explain why Jane Austen might have known Lady Charlotte as "Lady Gordon" and not as "Lady Lennox" or "the Duchess of Richmond".

And as I reflect on what I have just written, the first thing that pops into my head is the five Bennet girls, and the central concern of that novel, which is the effect of Lydia's elopement on the marital prospects of her four elder sisters!

Cheers, ARNIE

P.S.: One other important factoid connected to the Duchess of Gordon anecdote about family madness and illegitimacy:

Part of the reputation of the Gordon family as being afflicted with hereditary madness was surely due to the strong and fresh historical memory of the 1780 Gordon Riots, a major upheaval in which Lord George Gordon, a member of a junior branch of that same Gordon family, played a central role, resulting in the Riot being known by his name.

And what connects this to Jane Austen is Henry Tilney's well known allusion to the Gordon Riots in NA---yet another reason why JA would have had the Duchess of Gordon and her illegitimacy anecdote on her radar screen.

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