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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Thursday, March 31, 2011

P.S re Jane Austen's mysterious adverttisement for Northanger Abbey

In response to my above captioned post, Nancy Mayer, in Janeites, challenged my claims regarding Henry Austen: "I don't think Henry is being anything except a devastated brother..I acquit Henry of deliberately foisting a false picture of his sister onto the public. If he had been as perceptive as Arnie about what she was rteally saying, he never would have published the last two novels and would have dine his best to see that the others were destroyed and never published again."

I responded thusly:

I am glad to clarify my thoughts about Henry--I believe she had a very different relationship with each brother, and I believe her relationship with Henry was the most complex and paradoxical.

On the one hand, I think he was the most mercurial, sly, and artistic of all her brothers, and therefore the most likely to have been aware of her shadow stories. And he was the London brother, the one who opened up that decadent Byronic world of
literati and glitterati to Jane. And it's no accident that Eliza, with her own large and complex personality, chose _him_ and not James, as her second husband.

But the analogy to Mansfield Park shows that JA knew her brothers well. Mary Crawford (a representation, in part, of Eliza Hancock de Feuillide Austen) is much more in her own milieu with mercurial brother Henry (representing Henry Austen) than with clergyman Edmund Bertram (representing James Austen).

Anyway, that is why JA and Henry were on a similar wavelength in some important ways, but.....I also think that JA's inner Fanny Price could not approve of brother Henry's alarming amorality, his lack of a strong moral compass.

And so I see Henry as making up a Big Lie about his recently dead sister, in a shrewd opportunistic way, judging (perhaps correctly) that it was the only way to get NA and Persuasion published quickly.

I think it was James and Edward who would have been just as happy if sister Jane's embarrassing writing, which skewered them and their wives so bitingly, had simply faded away.


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