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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Charlotte's Opinion of Matrimony Was Not Exactly Her Own

My last public formulation of my complicated thoughts about Charlotte Lucas as a closeted lesbian can be found here:

I had reason yesterday to revisit the passage in which Charlotte first reveals her engagement to Mr. Collins to Elizabeth, and this time around, I saw something in it that had me shaking my head partly in admiration for JA's ability to hide stuff in plain sight, and partly in chagrin that I had overlooked that stuff the first 30 times I read that passage!

I will first make my point implicitly by means of ALL CAPS of certain key excerpts within the passage, and then state the significance I see in those excerpts if you scroll down the page, for those who wish to have a go at figuring out what I claim is there--I think the capitalizations make my interpretation clear:

Miss Lucas called soon after breakfast, and in A PRIVATE CONFERENCE WITH ELIZABETH related the event of the day before.

The possibility of Mr. Collins's fancying himself in love with her friend had once occurred to Elizabeth within the last day or two; but that Charlotte could encourage him seemed almost as far from possibility as she could encourage him herself, and her astonishment was consequently SO GREAT AS TO OVERCOME AT FIRST THE BOUNDS OF DECORUM, and SHE COULD NOT HELP CRYING OUT:

"Engaged to Mr. Collins! My dear Charlotte—impossible!"

The steady COUNTenance which Miss Lucas had commanded in telling her story, GAVE WAY TO A MOMENTARY CONFUSION here on RECEIVING SO DIRECT A rePROACH; though, as it was NO MORE THAN SHE EXPECTED, she soon REGAINED HER COMPOSURE, and calmly replied:

"Why should you be surprised, my dear Eliza? Do you think it incredible that Mr. Collins should be able to procure any woman's good opinion, because he was not so happy as to succeed with you?"

But ELIZABETH HAD NOW RECOLLECTED HERSELF, and MAKING A STRONG EFFORT FOR IT, was able to assure WITH TOLERABLE FIRMNESS that the prospect of their relationship was highly grateful to her, and that she wished her all imaginable happiness.

"I see WHAT YOU ARE FEELING," replied Charlotte. "You must be surprised, very much surprised—so lately as Mr. Collins was wishing to marry you. But when you have had time to think it over, I hope YOU WILL BE SATISFIED WITH WHAT I HAVE DONE. I am not romantic, you know; I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins's character, connection, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state."

For my interpretation, scroll down....





My interpretation is that the ALL CAPS portions of the above quoted passage could be transposed, without any alteration, to Cleland's Fanny Hill, a novel which I have previously claimed was not only well known to JA, but which she actually alluded to in great depth--so to speak---in _Emma_:

Those ALL CAPS portions could be transposed without any alteration provided, of course, that the non-capitalized portions were suitably altered!

And JA's point in all this, I assert, was not to suggest that Lizzy and Charlotte were having actual physical sex during their "private conference", but rather to suggest a subliminal aura of the physical attraction that I believe _did_ exist between Charlotte and Lizzy, one which perhaps Charlotte wished to consummate but which Lizzy was not ever going to---it is as if the narrator, picking up the scent of that attraction, has herself become aroused and therefore chooses words with heavy Freudian overtones to describe the conversation.

And I also just realized, as I was writing this post, that part of the reason why I am confident that Lizzy would never have positively responded to a direct sexual APproach from Charlotte is contained in the narrative paragraph which immediately follows the above, and I have again used ALL CAPS to show the relevant clue:

"Elizabeth quietly answered "Undoubtedly;" and after an awkward pause, they returned to the rest of the family. Charlotte did not stay much longer, and Elizabeth was then left to reflect on what she had heard. It was a long time before she became at all reconciled to the idea of so unsuitable a match. The strangeness of Mr. Collins's making two offers of marriage within three days was nothing in comparison of his being now accepted. SHE HAD ALWAYS FELT THAT CHARLOTTE'S OPINION OF MATRIMONY WAS NOT EXACTLY HER OWN, but she had not supposed it to be possible that, when called into action, she would have sacrificed every better feeling to worldly advantage."

"not exactly her own" is JA's dry-as-toast understated ironic way of saying, indirectly, that Lizzy has always known that Charlotte was not heterosexual!

And this fits perfectly with my claims that Charlotte Lucas the schemer (as first articulated by Kim Damstra 13 years ago, and then unwittingly repeated without crediting by John Sutherland) knew that in the end of the day, she'd be in close proximity to Elizabeth on a permanent basis, when Darcy gives Mr. Collins a living in close proximity to Pemberley!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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