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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Monday, October 3, 2011

Jane Fairfax's (and Jane Austen's) Independence Day

Purely by happenstance this morning, while revisiting some of my prior posts about _Emma_ for an entirely different reason, I was led to see some interconnections I had not previously noticed, which I wish to elaborate for you, as they represent, in a way, a crystallization of themes I have been working on for the entire duration of my writing project, and which, more and more, have been coming together for me in this final stage of my research:

To wit, three months ago (less a day), on July 4, 2011, I posted the following here and at my blog:

In a nutshell, I claimed then that the "courtship" charade in _Emma_ , in addition to all the other covert meanings hidden in it by JA which had previously been brought forward by various Janeites including myself, was also a parody of the American Declaration of Independence itself!

Now I see the connection of that argument to other key points in the Jane Austen Matrix I have been constructing all these years, and the added value from those connections gives me great pleasure and satisfaction. Read on to see why.

Not quite one year ago, I posted a second, secret solution to the "patriot" charade attributed to Henry Austen:

My second secret solution was the name "Hancock" (I speak about this at each of my Jane Fairfax presentations, I urge you to read the way I arrived at my solution, it is, to say the least, surprising), and the connection I saw today for the first time was that, of course, John Hancock was the _American_ patriot who famously signed the Declaration of Independence with a huge signature, putting himself, in effect, at the front of the line for the firing squad if the British had squelched the American Revolution.

So is it a coincidence that there would be a secret answer ("Declaration of Independence") to the "courtship" charade in Emma that would be so directly connected to a secret answer ("Hancock") to the "patriot" charade in the Austen family charade album?

Of course not! And what is most compelling to me is how well _all_ four of these answers, as well as the "Prince of Whales" answer that Colleen Sheehan first discovered in 2006, and the "Leviathan" answer discovered by Anielka in 2009, seamlessly fit with _each other_.

First, as to the "courtship' charade, we can fairly say that the American Revolution was, according to the American Declaration of Independence, the result of egregiously bad "courtship":

1. In terms of the bungling operations of the English royal "court", which at times must have resembled Hartfield, a kind of riderless horse, with King George III acting in many ways like Mr. Woodhouse; but also

2. In terms of the unwillingness of George III to "court" the colonies with reasonable and fair governance, resulting in those colonies reacting the way that Emma did to Mr. Elton on Christmas Eve in the carriage ride back to Hartfield from Randalls.

We can also say that King George III had himself at one time early in life been the Prince of _Wales_ but he also had as his eldest son a dissipated, narcissistic "gentleman" who was known as the Prince of _Whales_.

And Hobbes's "Leviathan" was about the nature of royal governance in England, in regard to an English king who lost his crown, in both senses of the word, i.e., Charles the First.

PLUS, as to the private charade, as I just wrote above, we can also fairly say that John Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence, with the result that after the successful American Revolution, the "United" States (which is symbolized by "woman lovely woman") thenceforth did indeed overthrow British despotism and thenceforth did (and still does) "reign alone"!

All of that, as we Jews say at the Seder (a holiday about the most famous uprising of all an oppressed people against royal tyranny) would have been enough, but there's another layer that is even more spectacular than that. I.e., this consolidated interpretation of secret and overt answers relative to the theme of revolution and independence seamlessly works in concert with the level of the radical feminism that I ascribe to Jane Austen, and which receives special emphasis in _Emma_ as a novel.

I.e., I read Jane Fairfax as symbolizing the American colonies, and I see her as achieving, at the end of the novel, true independence---I believe that, having survived her harrowing ordeal of concealed pregnancy, attempts to find a husband, and finding a good placement for her baby, Jane F. never actually does marry the unworthy Frank Churchill (just as the young United States did not "marry" itself to "Frankish" France, but stood on its own completely independent feet), but instead takes the Churchill family jewels (symbolized as economic wealth) and establishes herself as an independent woman in London, free from domination by, or indebtedness to, any man--whether that man be named Campbell, Knightley or Churchill.

And how poignant and tragic is the historical fact that Jane Austen, the alter ego of Jane Fairfax, believed in early 1816 that _Emma_ was her own declaration of artistic independence, which would mark the dawn of a completely new epoch in her own life, in which she would live in economic prosperity using money she herself earned as an author, without the need for any of the Chawton Cottage ladies to "depend" upon help from unreliable brothers. And she also would have anticipated spending the next few decades writing more and more groundbreaking novels, which eventually would bring her the power to assume the public mantle once worn by Mary Wollstonecraft, and lead English womankind into a new era of pragmatic independence.

The tragedy is that less than 18 months later, JA lay in her fresh grave in Winchester Cathedral, and her dreams of female independence were as quickly covered over with cement (or whatever they used in those days) by her brother Henry in his Biographical Notice, and brother James with his hokey Venta poem, and it has taken nearly 200 years to exhume the "body" of her literary productions and to show the world that her ideas and dreams have never actually died, even if her mortal body did.

Cheers, ARNIE

P.S.: I got so carried away with all of the above that I almost forgot the _OTHER_ connection to the Declaration of Independence that I saw earlier today. Want to guess what date the secret of Jane and Frank's engagement was announced to Emma by Mrs. Weston? Which also happens to be the date on which, in the shadow story, Jane Fairfax was finally freed from the torment of her concealed pregnancy, having just given birth to her baby to deliver her into the safe hands of the wonderful Mrs. Weston, the beginning of the rest of Jane Fairfax's life (and don't believe for a second the fable that JA told her family that Jane F would die within three years)?

I would think you have by now guessed what date that all takes place, in Chapter 46 of _Emma_, but if not, I will save you the trouble of taking a peek at Ellen Moody's calendar for Emma, where she provides the following description for the date I am hinting at:

""By counting June 26 and the Monday as full days", "about ten days after Mrs Churchill's decease, Frank's ride from Windsor to Jane to make-up and then to Randalls to announce engagement ("he had not time to enter into much explanation. Jane looked "wan, sick", Frank thinks he persuaded it all away. He was here only a quarter of an hour") also occurs day after he and Mr Churchill received letters and he has time to tell his adopted stepfather; on same day, but "he cannot stay five minutes" and she "must come this morning" Mr Weston brings Emma to Mrs Weston; as they walk Frank "half way to Windsor by this time"; Emma tells Mrs Weston that "for at least three months" (from May, time of second visit) she has "cared nothing for him"; now that afternoon Emma and Harriet first understand one another. Time mentioned twice: Emma withdraws eyes from Harriet and meditates "for a few minutes. A few minutes ...", and she sees "Mr Knightley must marry no one but herself" ... her own conduct ... her own heart ... before her in the same few minutes. Harriet's story of Mr Knightley's growth of love for her are described as "Circumstances that might swell to half an hour's relation ...": Harriet measures strength of Mr Knightley's attachment by how much time he spends with her: "they had been walking some time before Emma came ... his having sat talking with her nearly half an hour ... when he first came in, he said he could not stay five minutes ... " The rest of the day; the following night, were hardly enough for her thoughts. 46:384, 387, 389; 47:396, 399"

For those of you who don't like to follow links, and who don't take broad hints, that date is.......................... July 4th!

Which makes me wonder, what happened in JA's personal life on July 4, 1814?

Well, that is the time period not long before Anna Austen's marriage to Benjamin Lefroy, when Anna, then 21 (the same age as Emma and Jane F, and also as Fanny Knight in real life) was writing her novel-that-she-never-completed under Aunt Jane's loving tutelage. It does not take a rocket scientist to read those famous letters JA wrote to Anna during that time period--letters which Anna obviously saved as precious remembrances of JA---and to realize that this was a period of exhilaration for JA, as she wrote her own masterpiece simultaneously with her beloved niece beginning her own literary career, walking in her aunt's footsteps.

And in JA's Letter 102, dated 6/23/1814, we read of JA's intent to spend up to a fortnight in London during July, as she writes:

"I certainly do not wish that Henry should think again of getting me to Town. I would rather return straight from Bookham; but if he really does propose it, I cannot say No, to what will be so kindly intended."

What comes through loud and clear to me from this passage is that the eternal rigamarole of having to depend on brothers to transport JA here and there has gotten intolerably old at this stage of her life. JA is dreaming of the day, hopefully not far off, when she will finally be independent in the precious liberty to travel when, where and how she might choose. Another dream ultimately shattered by harsh reality.

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