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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Saturday, January 7, 2012

P.S. re Letter 60: "Poor Catherine".....or "Poor Miss Taylor"?

My favorite Devil's Advocate Christy Somer made some very interesting comments on my last post:

Christy: "Arnie, My comments on DLF were attached to my post on the ‘Un-attributed Poem’ - not to her note on Catherine Bigg’s coming marriage in L 60."

Yes, Christy, I understood that, it was I who was linking the two interpretations -- I have of course found many examples of Le Faye's editorial skullduggery before, but it's a rare and serendipitous treat for me to find two such salient examples within only a few days. I keep wondering, when will I _stop_ finding them? Will I ever? She has had a half century to try to hide a lot of things,and it's a lot easier to hide stuff than it is to discover that hidden stuff, I have found. ;)

Christy: " Obviously, you are convinced of DLF being devious and hiding the truth...I am not. I see her as just being stubbornly convinced of her own ‘rightness’ regarding these matters on how she perceives the totality of JA’s world."

When stubbornness rises to the level of blinding a person to obvious inconsistencies of this magnitude, and making them deaf to refutations by others (as we saw in the Byrne BBC video, when Byrne nailed Le Faye on some point Le Faye had just made), then it may as well be intentional, because there's no way to tell the difference at that point. What matters is that she is _never_ to be trusted on any sensitive interpretive issue, or on her bringing forward all relevant evidence, regarding Jane Austen.

"She knows she owns (and she most likely believes she’s earned it) a certain amount of power -and she will use it."

It amazes me how you write that with such equanimity, as if this was okay, as if it was morally justified in some way. I am reminded of the climactic scene from the great Paul Newman vehicle, The Verdict, when the nurse (played so powerfully by Lindsay Crouse) who has been cruelly drummed out of nursing by cynical, self-protective, arrogant doctors and the lawyers representing them, finally gets to tell the truth in a court of law, after years of pent-up fury at the horrible wrong done to her:

"After, after the operation, when that poor girl, she went in a coma. Dr. Towler called me in. He told me he had five difficult deliveries in a row and he was tired, and he never looked at the admittance form. (beat) And he told me to change the form. He told me to change the one to a nine. (beat) Or else, or else, he said... (beat; starts to cry) He said he'd fire me. He said I'd never work again... Who were these men...? Who were these men...? I wanted to be a nurse..."

So I say to you, Christy, who is this woman, Deirdre Le Faye, who decided it was the right thing that she should abuse her power in Austen studies by spending a half century doing her level best to prevent the truth about Jane Austen from coming out? For me, she has zero moral authority on that score.

And what an awful irony that the truth about Jane Austen that Le Faye--a woman--has been most intent on suppressing is that Jane Austen was a woman who was outraged at women being silenced about wrongdoing by men against women! Jane Austen was in exactly the same circumstance as that nurse in The Verdict, but she never got a chance to tell her truth freely and openly, she died before she had achieved a position of sufficient prominence to dare to be overt. Anticipating my reply, below, to your second point, JA made the "sensible" choice to veil her radical feminism
beneath a mask of apparent acquiescence in the status quo.

That's why it's so important to me to do my best to reveal openly what she was forced to say covertly.

Christy: "And as to these two moments JA gives to Catherine Bigg: “...and to-morrow we must think of poor Catherine...I am glad you mentioned where Catherine goes to-day; it is a good plan, but sensible people may generally be trusted to form such...” For me, these words tend to form a mixed reaction -JA seems to be sorry to lose her friend (they are the same age) to a marriage with a much older man. Yet, she will also allow that for Miss Bigg, perhaps, this might just be a sensible choice -at least, this is how I read it."

Good catch to connect those two dots, Christy, which I, in my rush to write about the first one, did not look to see if there was a second one--even under your interpretation of the second Letter 60 reference to Catherine Bigg (and it must be her in both, I agree), which I gather is that JA is approving of Catherine leaving _"today"_ to go get married to Revd. Hill _"tomorrow", JA's calling the marriage "sensible" does not in any way undercut her pity for Catherine to have been pressured into marrying this much older man in the first place. I.e., JA was enough of a radical to be appalled at the narrow choices presented to women, but was also enough of a pragmatist to support whatever choice a woman made under such a unfair
and unjust social reality, and not to expect every woman to choose the apparent martyrdom that Fanny Price chose, which was to accept banishment to "hell" for her refusal to bow to such pressure.

And I think it's clear from P&P that JA does not blame Charlotte Lucas for _her_ pact with the devil either. What JA dreamt of was a world in which women did not face such Catch 22's everywhere they turned. But she herself, as I noted above, made the "sensible" choice as an author, by not risking being sent to authorial (and personal) hell.

Cheers, ARNIE

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