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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Monday, February 7, 2011

P.S. re Eliza Bennet Heroide : Hope as the food of Darcy's love

I have now had a chance to followup on my last post:

Rather than post another 2,000 word explanation of the dozen textual reasons why I am now completely convinced that Ovid's Heroides Letter 16 (Paris's long letter to Helen) and Letter 17 (Helen's almost as long response) are, collectively a kind of template for describing the ups and downs of Darcy's and Lizzy's tempestuous coming together, suffice to say that I see exactly what Amalia Dillin saw, and then some! I would really be extremely surprised if any Janeite who knows P&P well would not be forcibly struck by the resonance upon also reading same, regardless of how it might go against the grain to imagine JA in any way drawing a parallel between Darcy and Paris.

I also point out that the original of P&P being an epistolary version fits like a glove with the epistolary to and fro of Ovid's letters 16 and 17, but, more important than that, I have one additional gem to adduce in support of my claim of extensive parallelism between P&P and Paris's and Helen's letters to each other. To wit:

It is known to many Janeites familiar with Shakespeare thatwhen Lizzy says, “I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love!" and Darcy replies "I have been used to consider poetry as the _food_ of love," Darcy is, at least in part, alluding to Duke Orsino's extremely famous first speech in Twelfth Night when he says "If music be the food of love, play on; Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, The appetite may sicken, and so die."

However, I have previously seen a few more allusions tucked away underneath the obvious Shakespeare allusion, and one of Book 9 of ((who else's?) Ovid's Metamorphoses, takes on extraordinary new interest in light of the aforedescribed allusion in P&P to Ovid's Heroides:

Hope is the thing that breeds desire, hope feeds the amorous thought.
This hope thy sex denieth thee. Not watching doth restrain
Thee from embracing of the thing wherof thou art so fain.

Or, to paraphase, "_hope_ is the food of love"!

And I will also point out the obvious--but nonetheless very relevant---fact that Metamorphoses is POETRY!

So based on the above, I think it likely that Mr. Darcy was demonstrating his superior erudition by not only overtly alluding to Shakespeare, but also _covertly_ alluding to one of Shakespeare's important sources for Duke Orsino's famous line, i.e., the poetry of Ovid.

And, as icing on the cake, I claim that JA made sure that the reader familiar with Book 9 of Metamorphoses would connect the dots between Darcy's "food of love" comment and the following two climactic moments in Lizzy and Darcy's coming together: first when Lizzy is yearning for Darcy when he silently visits Longbourn with Bingley.......

"They were confined for the evening at different tables, and she had _nothing to hope_, but that his eyes were so often turned towards her side of the room, as to make him play as unsuccessfully as herself."

....and second, and more important, Darcy's explaining to Lizzy---not once but _four_ times!--- how _hope_ really was the food of love for him, when he realized--thanks to his aunt's interference--that he still had a shot at Lizzy:

"It taught me _to hope_," said he, "as I had scarcely ever allowed myself _to hope_ before.....My aunt's intelligence had given me _hope_, and I was determined at once to know every thing."...."My real purpose was to see you, and to judge, if I could, whether I might ever _hope_ to make you love me."

This is the wonder of Jane Austen's writing, that there are so many of these hidden gems of allusion, waiting patiently to be discovered and then savored!

Cheers, ARNIE

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