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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Freemasonry Subtext in Jane Austen's writing: Part Two

Anielka's discovery of the Masonic "Boaz" as coded into P&P is, as I guessed it would be, further dramatically validated by the following two passages in Persuasion and Mansfield Park, respectively:

Chapter 5 of Persuasion: ["bows" and "lodge"]

"The last office of the four carriage-horses was to draw Sir Walter, Miss Elliot, and Mrs. Clay to Bath. The party drove off in very good spirits; Sir Walter prepared with condescending BOWS for all the afflicted tenantry and cottagers who might have had a hint to shew themselves: and Anne walked up at the same time, in a sort of desolate tranquillity, to the LODGE, where she was to spend the first week.

Chapter 8 of Mansfield Park: ["bow. S", "lodge-gates", "freehold mansion" sounds a LOT like "freemason", and "ancient"!]

When they came within the influence of Sotherton associations, it was better for Miss Bertram, who might be said to have two strings to her BOW. She had Rushworth feelings, and Crawford feelings, and in the vicinity of Sotherton the former had considerable effect. Mr. Rushworth’s consequence was hers. She could not tell Miss Crawford that “those woods belonged to Sotherton,” she could not carelessly observe that “she believed that it was now all Mr. Rushworth’s property on each side of the road,” without elation of heart; and it was a pleasure to increase with their approach to the capital FREEhold MAnSiON, and ANCIENT manorial residence of the
family, with all its rights of court–leet and court–baron. “Now we shall have no more rough road, Miss Crawford; our difficulties are over. The rest of the way is such as it ought to be. Mr. Rushworth has made it since he succeeded to the estate. Here begins the village. Those cottages are really a disgrace. The church spire is reckoned remarkably handsome. I am glad the church is not so close to the great house as often happens in old places. The annoyance of the bells must be terrible. There is the parsonage: a tidy–looking house, and I understand the clergyman and his
wife are very decent people. Those are almshouses, built by some of the family. To the right is the steward’s house; he is a very respectable man. Now we are coming to the LODGE–gates; but we have nearly a mile through the park still. It is not ugly, you see, at this end; there is some fine timber, but the situation of the house is dreadful. We go down hill to it for half a mile, and it is a pity, for it would not be an ill–looking place if it had a better approach.”

And last but not least, there is a tantalizing passage in Letter 101 to CEA dated June 14, 1814, which might just be supportive of my suggestion that the Prince Regent is a significant element in JA's subliminal Masonic matrix. It follows a reference to all the hoopla surrounding the grand ceremonial visit of Tsar Alexander I of Russia to Great Britain then in progress:

"I long to know what this Bow of the Prince's will produce."

Could JA's comments indicate that she was aware of the following contemporary history in Russia vis a vis Freemasonry? I think so!:

"With the accession of Paul I to the throne in 1796 he abolished the sentences against Masons which had been passed on them under his mother's reign. While Masonry remained prohibited, officially, it existed and even began to increase again. He was killed in a palace revolution in 1801.

Alexander I, surnamed the Blessed, son and successor of Paul I, ruled Russia from 1801 to 1825. Under him, Freemasonry again rose high in the east only to be struck down again as its members deplored its lamentable condition following years of weak leadership and as it became a political concern to the Emperor.

The tradition exists that Alexander became a Mason in 1803 and there is evidence that he was a member of a lodge in Warsaw. While all secret societies were still banned in Russia, new lodges began to appear. In 1810 Masonic lodges were officially allowed and recognized and many bore his name. New lodges not only appeared in Moscow and St. Petersburg but also in Siberia and the Crimea. Many military lodges were formed during the Napoleonic wars."

So, to those who think this is all the produce of overactive imagination, I beg to differ, I think Anielka has brought forward a wonderfully probative powerfully suggestive clue, via "Boaz", in addition to those previously brought forward by myself and others, that Freemasonry really was on JA's radar screen as she wrote her novels!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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