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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sir William Lucas the Courteous Courtier Who Shows Courtesy

As I continue a brief reread of parts of P&P, looking at various things, I noticed today for the first time a pun on the word "court" vis a vis SIr William Lucas, which I just confirmed was previously noted some years ago by Irvin Ehrenpreis:

"Within a short walk of Longbourn lived a family with whom the Bennets were particularly intimate. Sir William Lucas had been formerly in trade in Meryton, where he had made a tolerable fortune, and risen to the honour of knighthood by an address to the king during his mayoralty. The distinction had perhaps been felt too strongly. It had given him a disgust to his business, and to his residence in a small market town; and, in quitting them both, he had removed with his family to a house about a mile from Meryton, denominated from that period Lucas Lodge, where he could think with pleasure of his own importance, and, unshackled by business, occupy himself solely in being civil to all the world. For, though elated by his rank, it did not render him supercilious; on the contrary, he was all attention to everybody. By nature inoffensive, friendly, and obliging, his presentation at St. James's had made him COURTEOUS."

This is classic JA punning, and the pun on this particular word reminds me strongly of the wordplay JA deployed in her April Fool's Letter to the "Whale" of courtiers in her world---James Stanier Clarke:

In one of her letters to Clarke, JA pretends to commiserate with Clarke for the difficulties inherent in the life of a _courtier_, and it is for sure that she was thinking of Sir William Lucas when she wrote those letters to Clarke. And... I would not be surprised to learn that the reverse was true as well, i.e., that JA already knew a great deal _about_ Clarke when she wrote P&P, even though she was not to meet him till 3 years later.

Ehrenpreis took note of the above pun on "courteous", but I don't know if he also saw that JA must have enjoyed this pun so much while writing P&P that she revisited it two more times in the novel, attributing to Sir William "superior" _and_ "forbearing" courtesy!:

"Darcy made no answer, and seemed desirous of changing the subject. At that moment, Sir William Lucas appeared close to them, meaning to pass through the set to the other side of the room; but on perceiving Mr. Darcy, he stopped with a bow of superior COURTESY to compliment him on his dancing and his partner. "

" "Good Lord! Sir William, how can you tell such a story? Do not you know that Mr. Collins wants to marry Lizzy?" Nothing less than the complaisance of a COURTIER could have borne without anger such treatment; but Sir William's good breeding carried him through it all; and though he begged leave to be positive as to the truth of his information, he listened to all their impertinence with the most forbearing COURTESY. "

And of course she also makes sure to have Sir William refer to "the court", as a little bit of paranomosiac overkill:

"I am the less surprised at what has happened," replied Sir William, "from that knowledge of what the manners of the great really are, which my situation in life has allowed me to acquire. About the COURT, such instances of elegant breeding are not uncommon."

Cheers, ARNIE

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