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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Thursday, March 24, 2011

For want of a (horseshoe) nail......

As a followup to my two seemingly unrelated posts yesterday, regarding Warren Hastings and Edward Austen Knight's lucky horseshoe nail, I respond, below, to a reply from Derrick Leigh in the Janeites group which connected them in an unexpected and interesting way:

[Derrick] "Daylesford was connected to the Hastings family from around 1166, and was sold to Jacob Knight of Westbury, Gloucestershire in 1715. It was bought back from the Knights, and reconstruction there was complete by 1798. It's quite an impressive estate. I don't know of any connection with the Chawton Knights, but it all sounds very Knightley. "

It does sound like the kind of massive rehab that Knightley appears to have been supervising for some time at Donwell Abbey (remember the road to nowhere that Emma admires from a distance).

[Derrick] "Didn't knights have a use for horseshoes?"

Especially in situations like this:

"It was now the middle of June, and the weather fine; and Mrs. Elton was growing impatient to name the day, and settle with Mr. Weston as to pigeon-pies and cold _lamb_, when a _lame carriage-horse_ threw every thing into sad uncertainty. It might be weeks, it might be only a few days, before the horse were useable, but no preparations could be ventured on, and it was all melancholy stagnation."

And maybe it was the lucky application of a new horseshoe nail that led to the following:

"In the meanwhile the lame horse recovered so fast, that the party to Box Hill was again under happy consideration..."

Before that suspiciously lucky turn of events, perhaps we might even have heard Knightley mutter, "A horse, a horse, my party for a horse!"

Which might have caused Mr. Woodhouse to recall a few lines from the Richardian proverb:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail./


And segueing smoothly from Warren Hastings and the Donwell Abbey alfresco party back to the questions raised by Jane Odiwe which were brought to our collective attention yesterday regarding alleged sightings of horseshoe nails in two Austen family portraits.....

I thank Jane Odiwe for sending me two enlarged images of those two portraits, so I was able to take a much closer look at those two images (of the "bunch of grapes" family portrait and Edward Austen Knight's Chawton House portrait) and I now revise my earlier comments as follows:

In the "bunch of grapes" picture, I now can see a horizontal line about the length of the little girl's pinky, sticking out from her left hand, just above her thumb. The line is very straight and has a small bulge at the end--What it is is still unclear--but if it is not a slit in the canvas, then it must be something intentionally placed there by the portraitist, and a horseshoe nail (if they were about about an inch in length) would be as good a guess as any, except....that it would have to be a _magic_ nail, because the little girl is not holding it, so it must be floating in the air next to her hand in defiance of gravity. But perhaps that is exactly what the artist intended?

As for the Edward Austen Knight portrait, in the blowup, there is _unquestionably_ a small object which, to my eye, does indeed look exactly like a nail with a head, as has been claimed.

So......I am "there" regarding the nail in Edward's portrait, but am agnostic about the nail in the 1781 family portrait. ;)

Cheers, ARNIE

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