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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Letter 62's Lady of Letter 44's Aunt Leigh Perrot!

Letter 62 curious passage:

"I have but one thing more to tell you. Mrs. Hill called on my Mother yesterday while we were gone to Chiswell-& in the course of the visit asked her whether she knew anything of a Clergyman's family of the name of Alford who had resided in our part of Hampshire.-Mrs. Hill had been applied to, as likely to give some information of them on account of their probable vicinity to Dr. Hill's Living-by a Lady, or for a Lady, who had known Mrs. & the two Miss Alfords in Bath, whither they had
removed it seems from Hampshire-& who now wishes to convey to the Miss Alfords some work, or trimming, which she has been doing for them-but the Mother & Daughters have left Bath, & the Lady cannot learn where they are gone to.-While my Mother gave us the account, the probability of its being ourselves, occurred to us, and it had previously struck herself ((Two lines cut out)) likely-& even indispensably to be us, is
that she mentioned Mr. Hammond as now having the Living or Curacy, which the Father had had.-I cannot think who our kind Lady can be-but I dare say we shall not like the work...."

To briefly recap, my central claim (as detailed by me over a series of posts during the past few days) is that this passage about the Lady in Bath is an elaborate, coded fable about the callous and hypocritical indifference of Aunt Leigh Perrot to the plight of the Austen women in the aftermath of the Exile from Steventon, and the concomitant and grotesque favoritism shown to James Austen. I claim that the snipping out was of verbiage that CEA thought too negative about Aunt Leigh Perrot to allow it to survive. By snipping out those two lines, CEA preserved only the subtler coded clues, and left the reference to Aunt Leigh Perrot sufficiently opaque that it would not be readily discernible, without reading all of JA's letters and noticing this oft repeated motif.

JEAL, of course, in his 1870 Memoir, continued this dubious "family tradition" of sucking up to a prospective donor by submerging negative comments by JA about Aunt Leigh Perrot at the time of Uncle Leigh Perrot's death.....

[that is the first of several posts by me on this subject]

.....not surprising given that JEAL was the ultimate beneficiary of his great-aunt's favoritism, because his father, James Austen, predeceased Aunt LP.

And there's still more. Here is _another_ example of a passage (this one in Letter 44) in which JA mocks her Aunt Leigh Perrot's "generous" gift-giving:

Here is the crux of that earlier post by me a year ago, which I wrote without _any_ awareness at the time about the above passage in Letter 62:

Letter 44: “…on my head I wore my crape & flowers, but I do not think it looked particularly well.-My Aunt is in a great hurry to pay me for my Cap, but cannot find in her heart to give me good money. "If I have any intention of going to the Grand Sydney-Garden Breakfast, if there is any party I wish to join, Perrot will take out a ticket for me." Such an offer I shall of course decline; & all the service she will render me therefore, is to put it out of my power to go at all, whatever may occur
to make it desirable.- “

Here is the usual Austenian sarcasm reserved for another of her favorite familial hypocrites, Aunt Leigh Perrot—JA’s mocking quotation of her Aunt’s talking the talk when it comes to generosity, but not walking the walk in any way that really matters—Aunt Leigh Perrot was rather like Aunt Norris, wasn’t she? What I hear here is that it sticks in JA’s craw to accept _any_ of her (secretly) detested Aunt’s “generous” offers of
trivial gifts, even to the point of losing out on an event that JA might well wish to attend. The Aunt must have made a big show of fake generosity about trivial things, even while leaving the Austen women to twist slowly in the wind for nearly 4 years after the death of Revd. Austen. Oh, how JA must have hated that heartless debased piece of work who happened, alas, to be her Aunt!" END QUOTE FROM MY 2011 POST

The above analysis of that passage in Letter 44 fits perfectly with the above-quoted fable of the Lady of Bath in Letter 62. They are both strikingly similar in describing an action of purported generosity by a Lady to the Austen women, fake generosity which is declined by Jane Austen, because it is inadequate and because it is not sincere generosity.

Cheers, ARNIE

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