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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Remarkable Veiled Meaning of the Latin epigraph to Loiterer #45

Two weeks ago, I posted the last of a series of messages giving my interpretation of Loiterer #45 as having been ghostwritten by the 13 year old Jane Austen:

To recap, the essence of my claim is that Loiterer #45 was a covert satire by JA of the Revd. Benjamin William Portal, Oxford and Hampshire friend of James Austen, and in particular was closely modeled on an early chapter in Swift's Tale of a Tub, both of them being, among other things, a very elaborate veiled joke about what we politely call "flatulation". Loiterer #45 goes into extraordinary detail describing the movement of vast quantities of air and of a fantastical machine somehow connected to same. Enough said, you have to read Loiterer #45 to see what JA makes of that conceit there, it is like a previously undiscovered especially fanciful additional Juvenilia of hers (which of course, I claim, it _is_!)

After sending my last message on that topic, it occurred to me that I ought to take a look at the epigraph for Loiterer #45, because my experience interpreting other Loiterer issues which I believe JA ghostwrote, was the the Latin epigraphs are not only not random, they actually go to the heart of the satire in the issue itself. But the Loiterer itself did not deign to translate any of its Latin epigraphs, and I already had in mind just the person to contact to ask for a good translation.

I called on my friend, Mary DeForest, classicist/Janeite par excellence, to translate the epigraph from the Aeneid, which of course was authored by Vergilius (or Virgil, as he is known today) without telling Mary where I had found it, or why I was asking for it, so as not to in any way influence her answer:

"Nimborum in Patriam, Loca fæta furentibus Austris
Æoliam venit. Hic vasto rex Æolus antro
Luctantes Ventos tempestatesque sonoras
Imperio premit, ac Vinclis et Carcere frenat.
Illi indignantes magno cam murmure Montis
Circum Claustra fremunt."

Turns out Mary was on vacation, and so she only responded to me today, two weeks later, and for a moment I was in a panic, not remembering at first why I asked for the translation. But then I did read her translation and that made me recall why, and it also made me ecstatic. Here it is, and then, if you can't guess why it made me so happy from my underlinings in the translation itself, I will explain why, immediately following same:

"She came into the fatherland of the storm clouds, Aeolia, places teeming with raging _South Winds_. Here King Aeolus in a _vast cave_ controls the _struggling winds_ and the _loud storms_ with his sovereignty, and bridles them with chains and prison. They _offended_ with a _great murmur_ rage around the confines of _the mountain._]

Further translation into Swiftian scatalogese, for those not fluent in same:

"raging South Winds" refers to the kind of air that escapes from the "southern" portion of the human body; the "vast cave" is the part of the human body whence issue those "South or struggling winds"; the "loud storms" and the "great murmur" are the sounds blared out to the world announcing the arrival of those "south winds", "the mountain" is the part of the body that resembles two twin mountains side by side, and all of the above are generally considered to be quite "offensive"!

Now, whether Virgil intended this scatalogical meaning, that is a very interesting question, but I currently have no idea as to the answer, although I must admit I suspect him of a naughty pun. But what I am absolutely certain of is that Jane Austen the ghostwriter of Loiterer #45 understood these scatalogical meanings very clearly, and that is precisely why she chose that particular epigraph!

And as to my claim that JA was the ghostwriter of Loiterer #45, and that James Austen did not write this, I introduce, as further evidence, the striking parallelism between the "South winds" of the Virgilian epigraph and the veiled scatology of the argument between Mr. Woodhouse and John Knightley about the unhealthy "air" and "mud" at "South End", which shows that JA remained as enamored, and as erudite and adept in her deployment, of such sophisticated ribald humor at 40 as she was at 13!

Cheers, ARNIE

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