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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Saturday, May 5, 2012

How could everyone have missed it? --- Sir Edward Denham IS James Stanier Clarke!

When I concluded my argument in my previous post......

....with the following observation....

"I am not the first to see the obvious repeated lampooning of Clarke in the above paragraph. However, this lampooning takes on startling new significance when we think about it in light of Sanditon's initial scenes being set in Clarke's home village--what it suggests to me is that perhaps the "novel" for which JA has created this delightfully zany "plan" is none other than Sanditon, the very first novel she began after writing this "Plan of a novel"! Among other things, it makes me realize that there must have been another Mr. Collins-like clergyman in the back of JA's mind as she contemplated Volume 2 of Sanditon, a character who would have had all the deliciously foolish traits of James Stanier Clarke himself. "

....I had not stopped to think about what JA had already written in the fragment of Sanditon that survives. But once I did, I immediately realized that JA had indeed already provided us with a character who was, although disguised in the "mask" of a dissolute worthless rake, the shockingly close likeness of James Stanier Clarke himself, i.e., Sir Edward Denham!

Look at what Sir Edward has to say (colored of course by the narrator's sardonic commentary on his opinions) on James Stanier Clarke's favorite subject--the criteria for a great novel:

“The Novels which I approve are such as display Human Nature with Grandeur -- such as shew her in the Sublimities of intense Feeling -- such as exhibit the progress of strong Passion from the first Germ of incipient Susceptibility to the utmost Energies of Reason half-dethroned, -- where we see the strong spark of Woman's Captivations elicit such Fire in the Soul of Man as leads him (though at the risk of some Aberration from the strict line of Primitive Obligations) -- to hazard all, dare all, atcheive all, to obtain her. -- Such are the Works which I peruse with delight, & I hope I may say, with Amelioration. They hold forth the most splendid Portraitures of high Conceptions, Unbounded Views, illimitable Ardour, indomitible Decision -- and even when the Event is mainly anti-prosperous to the high-toned Machinations of the prime Character, the potent, pervading Hero of the Story, it leaves us full of Generous Emotions for him; -- our Hearts are paralized. -- T'were Pseudo-Philosophy to assert that we do not feel more enwrapped by the brilliancy of his Career, than by the tranquil & morbid Virtues of any opposing Character. Our approbation of the Latter is but Eleemosynary. -- These are the Novels which enlarge the primitive Capabilities of the Heart, & which it cannot impugn the Sense, or be any Dereliction of the character, of the most anti-puerile Man to be conversant with."

"If I understand you aright", said Charlotte, "our taste in Novels is not at all the same."

And here they were obliged to part -- Miss Denham being too much tired of them all to stay any longer. -- The truth was that Sir Edward, whom circumstances had confined very much to one spot, had read more sentimental Novels than agreed with him. His fancy had been early caught by all the impassioned, & most exceptionable parts of Richardson’s; & such Authors as have since appeared to tread in Richardson’s steps, so far as Man's determined pursuit of Woman in defiance of every opposition of feeling & convenience is concerned, had since occupied the greater part of his literary hours, & formed his Character. -- With a perversity of Judgement, which must be attributed to his not having by Nature a very strong head, the Graces, the Spirit, the Sagacity, & the Perseverance, of the Villain of the Story outweighed all his absurdities & all his Atrocities with Sir Edward. With him, such Conduct was Genius, Fire & Feeling. -- It interested & inflamed him; & he was always more anxious for its Success & mourned over its Discomfitures with more Tenderness than could ever have been contemplated by the Authors.

Though he owed many of his ideas to this sort of reading, it were unjust to say that he read nothing else, or that his Language were not formed on a more general Knowledge of modern Literature. -- He read all the Essays, Letters, Tours, & Criticisms of the day -- & with the same ill-luck which made him derive only false Principles from Lessons of Morality, & incentives to Vice from the History of its Overthrow, he gathered only hard words & involved sentences from the style of our most approved Writers." END QUOTE

Can there be any doubt that this was a free translation, if you will, of the pompous, overblown, narcissistic idiotic, and ultimately un-Christian literary advice which Clarke gives to JA in his letters?

And...upon further reflection, and consideration of Sir Edward Denham's impassioned defense of Robert Burns's somewhat unsavory love life, is it not highly probable that this was JA's coded way of lampooning the hypocrisy of Clarke's service as court librarian and chaplain to the Prince Regent, a man whose life of dissolution and debauchery made Robert Burns seem like an innocent schoolboy by comparison?

So, I now argue that any remaining doubt that anyone had after reading my preceding post about Clarke's being covertly depicted in Sanditon via the village name "Willingden" should, I believe, be laid to rest by the above.

And we can only wonder what it would have been like had JA finished Sanditon and had added another Clarke "doppelganger" who actually was a clergyman, and had then put Sir Edward Denham in the same room with that clergyman----it would have been like crossing the streams in Ghostbusters---very bad indeed!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

P.S.: By the way, I am NOT the first person to notice the parallelism between Sir Edward's polemic about grand novels and Clarke's friendly advice about the same subject--Laura Mooneyham White writes about these two passages as both being similar in their "world-making", and Juliette Wells in 2010 pointed out that the historical novelist Amanda Elyot (pseudonym for Leslie Carroll) used passages from both Sir Edward and Clarke as epigraphs for the first chapter of _By A Lady_ (a 2006 time travel pastiche about Jane Austen)---but neither White nor Carroll nor Wells apparently had the slightest clue that these passages were similar because JA intended them to be!

James Stanier Clarke & the Stepford Wives Mrs. Morland & Mrs. Heywood

Earlier this morning, Anielka Briggs wrote the following in Austen-L:

"The fictional Austen mother who holds the record for the most children is Mrs. Heywood in "Sanditon". She has fourteen children.  "They had a very pretty property; enough, had their family been of reasonable limits, to have allowed them a very gentlemanlike share of luxuries and change; enough for them to have indulged in a new carriage and better roads, an occasional month at Tunbridge Wells, and symptoms of the gout and a winter at Bath, But the maintenance, education and fitting out of fourteen children demanded a very quiet, settled, careful course of life, and obliged them to be stationary and healthy at Willingden."
 Austen even jokes that a family of fourteen is not of "reasonable limits" . Not only does Mrs. Heywood have fourteen children but she and her family are so remarkably healthy that they never need a doctor as Austen pointedly remarks on in the text. In fact Charlotte Heywood, she of the thirteen siblings, takes a rather dim view of the childless, Parker sisters imagined ill-health. This is again contrasted against Lady Denham who, also childless and aged 70 is as fit as a fiddle and a range of teenage girls (apparently childless but who knows!!) who are compelled to take sea baths and take patent medicines other than asses' milk."  END QUOTE
I replied as follows:

Yes, Mrs. Heywood is a twin sister, so to speak, of Mrs. Morland, in that both bear a Biblical number of children without the slightest ill effect to themselves. Given JA's known (from her letters) predilection to decry every instance of serial pregnancy she knows of, and in particular to express dismay at the chronic health issues of pregnant English wives of her acquaintance, a wary reader might just suspect JA of a satire, i.e., of meaning precisely the opposite of what at first appears to be a celebration of serial pregnancy.

I.e., I suggest that the Heywood "litter" is like the Morland "litter" in that both of them are JA's satirical Regency Era version of the Stepford Wives----depicting the fantastical but totally imaginary perception of the typical English gentleman as he looked at his wife's life. Whereas, to the more sober eye, this appears instead as an absurdly idealized version of real life, in that a wife who lived as a breeding cow for two decades rarely came out the other end in robust health.

If you think I'm exaggerating, just attend Dr. Cheryl Kinney's talk about health care for women in JA's time (Cheryl is not only an extraordinarily gifted and brilliant public speaker, she is also a practicing OBGYN with a passion for medical history) and you will realize just how rare that sort of pristine maternal health would have been, given all the medical dangers that wives faced in that era. Serial motherhood in JA's time was often a house of horrors, medically speaking.

And so, given this striking parallel between Mrs. Morland and Mrs. Heywood, it's obviously no accident (as in the "accident" that Mr. Parker suffers to his ankle) that both of these rustic mothers of a multitude also share with each other the curious parallel that they both cheerful send an elder daughter from among their respective broods as a companion with a childless couple on an adventure to a watering hole (Bath and Sanditon) where their wide-eyed but clear-headed daughter witnesses all manner of exotic, mysterious human behavior in the wild far from home. How sad to realize that Sanditon, had it been completed, would very likely have been as funny, and as serious, as Northanger Abbey (which by the way was, as we all know, still unpublished at the time JA was writing Sanditon).

And just as I claim we ought to stand Mrs. Morland and Mrs. Heywood on their heads in order to see them as JA really saw them, I assert that exactly the same thing is true of the Parker sisters and their "imagined ill health"--after all, to the extent that the smartest Parker sister is a veiled self portrait of JA herself--and I assert that she is---was it really "imagined ill-health" that caused JA to fall deathly ill in the late Winter of 1817, never having the strength thereafter to carry forward on the writing of Sanditon? I think it was very real ill-health indeed!

And by the way, Anielka, given your own repeatedly expressed strong interest in the personal life of Jane Austen's favorite real-life Mr. Collins, i.e., James Stanier Clarke, I am pretty sure it will interest you to note the following description in a memoir about JSC's younger brother Edward:

"Mr. Clarke left three sons and one daughter, the youngest of the family. Of these, Edward Daniel, the subject of these memoirs, was the second. He was born, as we before stated, at the vicarage-house of WILLINGDON, in SUSSEX, in the short interval which elapsed between his fathers return from Minorca, and the removal of his family to the rectory at Buxted. His elder brother, Dr. James Stanier, who is well known to the literary world by his various publications, was born at Minorca: he has had the honour to be domestic chaplain to his present Majesty, both before and since his accession to the throne, and is now a canon of Windsor, and rector of Tillington in Sussex. The younger, George, was born at WILLINGDON: he was a captain in the navy, and after many years of distinguished service, was unhappily drowned in the Thames, on a party of pleasure, in 1804. His sister Anne, married to Captain Parkinson of the navy, and now living at Ramsgate, was born after the settlement of the family at Buxted."

According to Google Maps, Willingdon is about two miles inland NW of Eastbourne, and while I know I am not the first to point out that the real life Willingdon where the Clarke brothers grew up was in some way a source for JA's fictional Willingden where the Heywoods lived, I am pretty sure I am the first to point out that the vicar of the real life Willingden during JA's childhood was the father of James Stanier Clarke.

Just a coincidence? Surely not, when we look at the chronology.

First, in late March, 1816 James Stanier Clarke suggests to her that JA write a novel extolling the wonders of the "august house of Cobourg".

Second, JA completes the writing of Persuasion a few months later, and not long afterwards, she begins a new novel, Sanditon, in which the action begins in James Stanier Clarke's childhood village.

Third, JA writes her famous "Plan of a Novel" in which we read the following initial paragraph:

SCENE to be in the Country, Heroine the Daughter of a Clergyman, one who after having lived much in the World had retired from it and settled in a Curacy, with a very small fortune of his own. -- He, the most excellent Man that can be imagined, perfect in Character, Temper, and Manners -- without the smallest drawback or peculiarity to prevent his being the most delightful companion to his Daughter from one year's end to the other. -- Heroine a faultless Character herself, -- perfectly good, with much tenderness and sentiment, and not the least Wit -- very highly accomplished, understanding modern Languages and (generally speaking) everything that the most accomplished young Women learn but particularly excelling in Music -- her favourite pursuit -- and playing equally well on the PianoForte and Harp -- and singing in the first stile. Her Person quite beautiful - dark eyes and plump cheeks. -- Book to open with the description of Father and Daughter -- who are to converse in long speeches, elegant Language -- and a tone of high serious sentiment. -- The Father to be induced, at his Daughter's earnest request, to relate to her the past events of his Life. This Narrative will reach through the greatest part of the first volume -- as besides all the circumstances of his attachment to her Mother and their Marriage, it will comprehend his going to sea as Chaplain to a distinguished naval character about the Court, his going afterwards to Court himself, which introduced him to a great variety of Characters and involved him in many interesting situations, concluding with his opinions on the Benefits to result from Tithes being done away, and his having buried his own Mother (Heroine's lamented Grandmother) in consequence of the High Priest of the Parish in which she died refusing to pay her Remains the respect due to them. The Father to be of a very literary turn, an Enthusiast in Literature, nobody’s Enemy but his own-- at the same time most zealous in discharge of his Pastoral Duties, the model of an exemplary Parish Priest. -- The heroine's friendship to be sought after by a young woman in the same Neighbourhood, of Talents and Shrewdness, with light eyes and a fair skin, but having a considerable degree of Wit, Heroine shall shrink from the acquaintance.

I am not the first to see the obvious repeated lampooning of Clarke in the above paragraph. However, this lampooning takes on startling new significance when we think about it in light of Sanditon's initial scenes being set in Clarke's home village--what it suggests to me is that perhaps the "novel" for which JA has created this delightfully zany "plan" is none other than Sanditon, the very first novel she began after writing this "Plan of a novel"! Among other things, it makes me realize that there must have been another Mr. Collins-like clergyman in the back of JA's mind as she contemplated Volume 2 of Sanditon, a character who would have had all the deliciously foolish traits of James Stanier Clarke himself.

And finally, is it also a coincidence that there is a confusion between two Willingden's in Sanditon? Does this confusion have anything to do with James Stanier Clarke having been rector of TILLINGTON also in Sussex, which is located only a few miles away from Willingdon? And, as I briefly browsed in the Google Map for Sussex, I noticed also a village named "Lillington" not far from those other two. Given JA's love of wordplay, I cannot help but think that she noticed all these confusingly similar village names in close proximity during a visit to Sussex sometime in her life, or perhaps on a map of Sussex that she studied before beginning to write Sanditon, and she chose to immortalize this confusion in her inimitably droll way, in the lengthy discussion of Mr. Parker's finding himself laid up in the wrong Willingden.

Cheers, ARNIE @JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Date of First Composition of Elinor & Marianne

As a followup to my recent post about Jane Austen
tracking the six-month time frame of the transition
of her own real life exile from Steventon to Bath 
from November, 1800 to May, 1801, in the six month
time frame of the transition of Marianne Dashwood's
 fictional exile from Norland to Barton Cottage.... ...
I have had an interesting off-shoot discussion with 
one of the commenters at my blog (who goes by the
 moniker "Lit-Lass") about the timing of the composition
 of Sense & Sensibility, which I thought was worth its
own blog post.  
Lit-Lass wrote: "According to my notes from Tomalin's
 bio and Joan K. Ray's timeline [JA] wrote [Elinor &
 Marianne] in 1795 and Cassandra remembered it read
 to the family by '76. Of course she did a great deal of 
revising later. ] 
I then replied as follows: "...our discussion here has led
 me to an intriguing new hypothesis, i.e., that perhaps
 Cassandra was being less than honest when she reported
 those dates of earliest writing of E&M---we have
 independent third party verification of early drafts
 of P&P and Northanger Abbey (Susan, but we only
 have Cassandra's word for the early version of E&M. 
And why would Cassandra want the world to think 
that S&S was first written in the 1790's? Because then
 nobody would think that the "Massacre of Steventon"
 in 1800-1801 was being depicted!"  
Am I correct in my recollection that Cassandra's 
recollection, long after JA's death, is the only basis
 for the pre-1800 composition of S&S in epistolary
 form under title "Elinor & Marianne"?  
When you think about it, if JA really did write Elinor
 & Marianne in 1796, why didn't Revd. Austen submit
 it, along with P&P, for publication in 1798? Why was 
Elinor & Marianne kept on the shelf, never mentioned
 in any of JA's many surviving letters from 1796-1800?
 Why are there so many echoes of P&P and NA in JA's
 1796-1799 letters, but no echoes of S&S that I can recall
 in those same early surviving letters? There's something
 fishy about it all, and realizing how closely the events of 
1800-1801 are tracked in the first Volume of S&S makes
 me wonder if CEA was being a politician when she
"recollected" Elinor & Marianne's early composition, 
as a way of deflecting attention by James Austen's children
 to the disturbing innuendo of the first volume of S&S vis
 a vis James &Mary Austen.  
Cheers, ARNIE 
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The "Wood House" that carries Emma and Pinocchio to Storybrooke

It's been nearly 2 1/2 months since some amazing Internet serendipity first prompted me to take an interest in the ABC show Once Upon A Time (OUAT), because of the mysterious character name "August Wayne Booth" appearing, in slightly different form, in a blog post of mine about Jane Austen's greatest novel, _Emma_:

Since February 20, I have faithfully watched every one of the episodes of OUAT, and have seen, especially during the past few weeks, a ratcheting up of the role of August Wayne Booth, as we have finally learned that he is (apparently) Pinocchio from the Fairy World, trying to convince Emma Swan to believe that the Fairy World exists.

But I will confess that I've been surprised that the many hints I discerned in the episodes from the first half of the season, that, to my eyes, pointed to Jane Austen's novels, most of all _Emma_....

....have not been carried further forward in the last half dozen episodes, especially the
two most recent episodes which have been August-intensive, with ONE intriguing exception:

It occurred to me as I watched the last episode, in which we learn that Gepetto is the craftsman who constructed, from the magic tree,  the "spaceship" that carried baby Emma, along with Pinocchio, to the forest outside  Storybrooke 28 years ago, that we could describe the container which carries Emma and Pinocchio as a "wood house".  Is this an intentional wink at Emma Woodhouse on the part of the writers of OUAT? I believe it is!

But I expect more to come, because the central parallel to Austen remains as strong as ever, i.e., everything that happens in Austen's _Emma_ is filtered through the eyes of the clueless heroine, Emma Woodhouse, and therefore what SHE believes she sees is what most readers of the novel believe is real, even though, when the novel is read against the grain, as I am the first to do, we find an alternative reality of which Emma does not have any conscious awareness. But...that alternative reality is just at the edge of Emma Woodhouse's consciousness, she keeps seeing pieces of it but she is so set in her worldview that she is blinded even to what is in front of her nose. 

And isn't Emma Swan so much like Emma Woodhouse in this one crucial way? What does August Wayne Booth have to do to convince her to believe? That is the central question of OUAT at this moment. And I remain firm in my expectation that somehow, some way, in the final episode of this first season coming up, there will be SOMETHING that points more definitively to Jane Austen's Emma Woodhouse, and connects her to Emma Swan.

We shall see next Sunday!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter