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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Jane Austen's Allusions to Love's Labour's Lost in _Emma_: Part Two

[Elissa wrote the following in Janeites responding to my previous message under the above Subject Line]: "...the play [Love's Labour's Lost] was often not included in nicely bound sets of Shakespeare's individual works...."

I responded as follows:

Google Books showed me _several_ different editions of Shakespeare printed _during_ JA's lifetime which _included_ Love's Labour's Lost. However, my personal favorite, hands down, has got to be the following one:

1788 Edition of Shakespeare's Plays, Volume the Sixth, containing Love's Labour's Lost & A Midsummer Night's Dream: The Dramatick Writings of Will. Shakspere, With the Notes of all the various Commentators; Printed Complete from the Best Editions of Sam. Johnson and Geo. Steevens. London: Printed for, and under the Direction of, John Bell, British Library, Strand, Bookseller to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales

Here is the link: it possible to imagine that volumes published by the British Library, Strand, as Bookseller to HRH the Prince of Wales, could be in the category of _not_ nicely bound sets? is it possible that the Prince of Wales---- he who spent (in today's money) untold millions on every imaginable extravagant and wasteful expenditure, a man who considered himself a world leader in aesthetics and culture, a man who, for Pete's sake, presumed, during his amorous youth, to call himself "Florizel"!----might have on display, in Carlton House, numerous _cheesily_ bound sets of Shakespeare?

And, by the way, would Samuel Johnson and George Steevens similarly be in the category of unrecognized commentators on Shakespeare?

In regard to those shleppers, Johnson and Steevens, here is what is printed at the front of this Volume, in oversized letters, right before the text of LLL:

Remarks on the Plot, The Fable, and Construction of Love's Labour's Lost:

"I have not been hitherto so lucky as to discover any novel on which this comedy seems to have been founded, and yet the story of it has most of the features of an ancient romance." Steevens.

"In this play, which all the editors have concurred to censure, and some have rejected as unworthy of our poet, it must be confessed that there are many passages mean, childish, and vulgar; and some which ought not to have been exhibited, as we are told they were, to a maiden queen. But there are scattered through the whole many sparks of genius; nor is there any play that has more evident marks of the hand of Shakspeare." Johnson.

So..... "...."many sparks of genius.....more evident marks of the hand of Shakspere..." What this means is that _even_ Samuel Johnson, he who (as I posted several months ago) absolutely _hated_ Shakespeare's pervasive punning with a furious passion, and did not lack the nerve to tell the world how much he disliked that aspect of Shakespeare's writing---nonetheless even the dour, (at least superficially) conservative Johnson was firmly _opposed_ to those editors who had shown the temerity to exclude LLL "as unworthy of our poet".

And would the Jane Austen _you_ know, upon reading that introduction, have slammed the book shut and raced to get one of those censored editions instead? My Jane Austen would have fought to her last breath to _keep_ , above all others, the edition that included LLL, precisely because my JA not only would not have been offended by any alleged vulgarities, she would have enjoyed them immensely!

And the proof of the "pudding", so to speak, is _Emma_ itself.

And apropos _Emma_ and LLL, I cannot resist to bring forward another spoonful of that allusive pudding.

In all of Jane Austen's fiction and letters, there is only _one_ place where there is a reference to a “saucy look”, and it is in Chapter 53 of Emma, when Mr. Knightley says to Emma: "How often, when you were a girl, have you said to me, with one of your _saucy_ looks -- 'Mr. Knightley, I am going to do so and so; papa says I may...."

In all of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets, there is only _one_ place where there is a reference to a "saucy look", and it is in Act 1, Scene 1 of Love's Labour's Lost, when Berowne says "Study is like the heaven's glorious sun, That will not be deep-search'd with saucy looks"

Now, in case those lines sound familiar, that may be because those are the very lines which _immediately follow_ the lines I quoted in my previous message, as pointing toward the second charade in Chapter 9 of _Emma_ which I now _re_quote:

As, painfully to pore upon a book,
To seek the light of truth, while truth the while
Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look.
Light seeking light doth light of light beguile:
So, ere you find where light in darkness lies,
Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes.
Study me how to please the eye indeed
By fixing it upon a _fairer eye_,
Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed
And give him light that it was blinded by.

And here's the best part of this---what is Berowne really talking about in this speech? He is arguing, with his usual great skill and casuistry, that book-study will not enlighten a person. Which of course is absurd, as both he, and the author who created him, are both book-learned to an absurdly high degree!

But back to Emma---is it just a coincidence that in Chapter 5 of _Emma_, the only other place (besides the above quoted passage in Chapter 53) where Knightley reminisces about Emma as a girl, we read Knightley saying the following about Emma's book-study habits?:

""Emma has been meaning to read more ever since she was twelve years old. I have seen a great many lists of her drawing-up at various times of books that she meant to read regularly through—and very good lists they were—very well chosen, and very neatly arranged—sometimes alphabetically, and sometimes by some other rule. The list she drew up when only fourteen—I remember thinking it did her judgment so much credit, that I preserved it some time; and I dare say she may have made out a very good list now. But I have done with expecting any course of steady reading from Emma. She will never submit to any thing requiring industry and patience, and a subjection of the fancy to the understanding. Where Miss Taylor failed to stimulate, I may safely affirm that Harriet Smith will do nothing.—You never could persuade her to read half so much as you wished.—You know you could not."

Is it a coincidence that "saucy looks" appears in two passages which are so strongly connected to playful challenges to the benefits of book-study? I leave it to you all to decide for yourselves.

Cheers, ARNIE

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