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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pride & Prejudice's Astonishing Connection to the REAL LIFE Marriage of Two Austen Ancestors

 Congratulations to Ron Dunning for the official unveiling yesterday of his magnum opus…..

….an Austen genealogy that spreads its threads far and wide over the mists of time, with Jane Austen at the center of the web he has so painstakingly constructed! And special thanks as well to Deb Barnum for her excellent and thorough interview of Ron in this regard:

I wrote the word “official” because it happens that six weeks ago to the day, in the midst of my own research, I came across Ron’s Rootsweb website (in what I now gather must have been in its final stages of completion) entirely by accident. The happy result of the crossing of the paths of our respective obsessions,  as you will read below, was pure synergistic magic! I had not planned to reveal, prior to publication of my book, what I found that day, but…. in the light of the auspicious official debut of Ron’s website, it now seems like a most fitting time to bring this one jewel forward---so read on for something astonishing.

On June 10, I was whiling away 5 hours by myself in an airport with my mini-laptop and the luxury of free wi-fi, but I had no pending “hot lead” to sleuth out at that moment, nor did I have any of my countless Word files with me which are so integral to my ability to effectively process “grist” through my sleuthing “mill”.  

So, as I usually do in such instances, I decided to make the best of those hours by revisiting a prior discovery, to see if anything new had popped up on the Internet with regard to same since the Spring of 2011 when I first made that particular discovery. The Internet is ever growing larger and larger, and so revisiting a topic even after as a short a span as one year has often yielded fresh grist for my mill. I am an obsessive retrace of my steps, because my obsessive retracing has so often been rewarded. And boy did that prove to be so that day in the airport!

Without being specific, that 2011 discovery pertains to the shadow story of Pride & Prejudice,  and it will be one particularly convincing part of my overall argument, but I have never previously written publicly about it, nor do I intend to prior to my book. It’s something really special.

So, I Googled various combinations of searches of certain names and words relating to that discovery, and by this means within only a few minutes, I struck unexpected gold, and stumbled upon a remarkable historical factoid that relates, as will be immediately obvious, to Pride & Prejudice:

I.e., there had been, in Ireland, in the early 14th century, a “Lord DARCY” who married a “Joan DE BURGH”! That “Lord Darcy” turned out to be one “John Darcy”.

Coincidence, some might say? After all,  “de Burgh” was not “de Bourgh”, “John” was not “Fitzwilliam”, nor was “Joan” “Catherine”. Well, sitting in that airport, I knew it was no coincidence, because I knew that I had been led to that factoid by my 2011 discovery, which, you will have to take my word for now, had absolutely no business leading me to an actual historical marriage between families with surnames virtually identical to the names of the families “Darcy” and “de Bourgh”, whose intermarriage is at the center of the drama in Pride & Prejudice---but it did anyway!

And here’s the best part that brings us to Ron’s genealogy trove, a further discovery, which, on completely independent grounds, reduces the possibility of coincidence in the usage of these surnames by Jane Austen in Pride & Prejudice to zero.  

The very next day, when I was back home seated at my desktop, with all my files at my fingertips, I quickly went into intensive followup on this exciting tidbit, to mine all the rich ore I just knew in my gut (from so many prior experiences) it would contain, but even I was not then prepared for what I found when I Googled “Darcy” and  “De Burgh”.

Here it is:

It took me a few seconds to process the significance of what I had found, when I saw Ron’s name on the webpage, and realized it was his Austen genealogical database, and then I realized that this meant that my 2011 discovery which led me to the 14th century marriage of a Darcy to a de Burgh was also connected to Jane Austen’s own ancestry!!!

I.e., if Ron’s scholarship is accurate, and I have absolutely no reason to believe otherwise, then it means that Jane Austen, in depicting a marriage between a “Darcy” and a “de Bourgh” in Pride & Prejudice, in significant part was doing so because she was thereby pointing a literary, genealogical laser beam nearly 5 centuries back in time to the marriage of two of her own ancestors of virtually the same surnames!

The explanation of the full significance of the manifold connections between this discovery and my 2011 discovery—which prove that JA’s using names of ancestors in her novels had nothing to do with any sort of Sir Walter Elliot-like obsession with ancestry---will be in my book. But, for now, I conclude with a repetition of my thanks to Ron for being so thorough in his work as to go back five centuries in Jane Austen’s ancestry, and thereby to provide this genealogical connection which validates what I found in 2011!  

Yes, it’s also very very cool that Ron’s research reveals Owen Glendower and several other illustrious figures of English history scattered among Jane Austen’s ancestors, but to me, it does not begin to match the coolness (and importance, as I will show in my book, for understanding the shadow story of Pride & Prejudice) of Jane Austen actually being descended from a marriage of a de Burgh to a Darcy!  ;)

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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