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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Sunday, June 26, 2011

P.S. re Letter 30: Black Peter DeBary & The Massacre of Steventon: “What does he think of Glencoe or Lake Katherine?”

Several hours after I sent my message earlier today under the above Subject Line, it occurred to me that it was very strange that I had only found one contemporary reference to "Lake Katherine" (the 1820 geographical book I quoted from), and that this lake appeared to be worthy of mention in only one book from that entire era. Somehow I felt JA would not have mentioned it if it had not been more than that, a place of greater fame for some reason.

And then it dawned on me that the reason I only found one source was that that the _Scots_ didn't call it "Lake Katherine"!

It did not take me much Googling after that to establish that the Scottish name for Lake Katherine was, and still is, Loch Katrine!

And.. using _that_ name, I quickly found several contemporary sources, and it became immediately clear that Loch Katrine was during JA's lifetime a major tourist destination, located very close to Loch Lomond, and therefore must have been a mandatory stop for English tourists because of the unique picturesque beauty of the lake and its surroundings, that all these sources referred to.

And you'd better believe that the author who created Fanny Price would have found a way to read descriptions like the following from a 1791 book by George Keate, _Sketches from nature_:

"What exquisite pleasures some men miss for want of a higher and purer appreciation of the forms, colours, and harmonies of nature! We all feel, more or less, the emotion awakened by the beautiful, and can recall spots which have made indelible impressions on our minds. For example, how beautiful is the morning light, as it comes with its golden tint through the lattice, and by its gentle potency awakes you from slumber! How sweet to gaze through the mouldering window of an old abbey on a sunny landscape, and with a friend whom we love! How charming to watch the moonbeams shimmering on the sea or falling on a pellucid lake, as Windermere, _LOCH KATRINE_, or Killarney, when memory recalls the past, and hope glances into the future! How pure are the impressions which real beauty makes on the mind!"

If Keate's purple prose begins to sound like JA's greatest (or should I say her worst) uber-Romanticism blowhard, Sir Edward Denham, that is not an accident!

In the 16 years that intervened between JA's writing Letter 30 and JA's writing the fragment of Sanditon, Loch Katrine's greatest claim to fame arose like a fireworks rocket zooming into the night sky. In 1810, 9 years _after_ JA wrote Letter 30, a fellow named Scott (I think his name was "Sir Walter"?) decided to write a poem based on Loch Katrine, and he called it something like......The Lady of the Lake, and apparently it caught on! ;)

So that is why, in 1817, JA chose to have Sir Edward Denham, her greatest (or perhaps we should say her worst) uber-Romanticist, quote the following lines from "Lady of the Lake":

""Some feelings are to mortals given,
With less of earth in them than Heaven."

Sir Edward refers to Lady of the Lake as "that unequalled, unrivalled address to parental affection."

Has anyone reading along here actually read The Lady of the Lake? I have a feeling that Cathy Janofsky has, since she goes by the code name "NimueSprite"!

One way or another, I have a hunch that Sir Edward's description of Lady of the Lake is topsy turvy from what actually occurs, and that in some way the Lady of the Lake can fairly be construed as some sort of dreadful _lapse_ in parental affection---sort of like what happened to JA in January 1801 when she was uprooted from Steventon!

I also note from Wikipedia that one of the three subplots of Lady of the Lake is "a war between the lowland Scots (led by James V) and the highland clans (led by Roderick Dhu of Clan Alpine)." And that sounds suspiciously like what happened at Glencoe in 1689!

So, the point is that JA knew exactly what she was doing when she referred to Lake Katherine, which (according to Google Maps) is really not that far away from Glencoe, both of them being situated to the northwest of Edinburgh, and Glencoe being about 35 miles (as the crow flies) further away.

Cheers, ARNIE

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