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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"What is before me, I see" "All that is, I see"

Nancy Mayer wrote the following in Janeites as one of several responses to Diane Reynolds's asking why Jane Austen did not at any point make any reference to Maypoles in her novels:

[Nancy] "I was actually thinking more of the omission of such country matters in the letters than in the novels."

I then responded to Nancy, taking things in a slightly different direction:

That was a fortuitous choice of words on your part, because it reminds me of the following conversation between Hamlet and Ophelia in Act 3, Scene 2:

Hamlet: Lady, shall I lie in your lap/./
[Lying down at Ophelia's Feet]
Ophelia://No, my lord.
Hamlet: //I mean, my head upon your lap?
Ophelia://Ay, my lord.
Hamlet://Do you think I mean country matters?
Ophelia://I think nothing, my lord.
Hamlet: That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs.
Ophelia: What is, my lord?
Hamlet: Nothing.
Ophelia: You are merry, my lord
Hamlet: Who, I?
Ophelia: Ay, my lord.

And I am not (merely) being merry in this quotation, because it gives me the opportunity to point out that I have known for nearly four years now that the "courtship" (in both senses of that word) involving Hamlet and Ophelia is one of the most important allusive subtexts of _Emma_, and also that the above quoted scene has more than a little to do with the following comments by the sharp elf Mary Crawford....

"I have no eye or ingenuity for such matters, but as they are before me; and had I a place of my own in the country, I should be most thankful to any Mr Repton who would undertake it..."

...which sound startlingly like the following comments by the (also) sharp elf Miss Bates...

"What is before me, I see."

...and even more startlingly like the following exchange between the (also) sharp elf Queen Gertrude and (we already knew) super-sharp elf Hamlet in Act 3, Scene 3:

Hamlet: Do you see nothing there?

Gertrude: Nothing at all, yet all that is I see.

....and, finally, and perhaps most startlingly, this smiling and very dirty comment by Edward Ferrars...

"Because," replied he, smiling, "among the rest of the objects before me, I see a very dirty lane."

...which is part and parcel of the following post at my blog to which I have referred on several occasions:

So perhaps those who contemplate all of the above, as well as my recent posts about Jane Austen's eulogy-poem to Madam Lefroy, might disagree with you, Nancy, as to the omission of country matters from either the letters _or_ the novels.

Cheers, ARNIE

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