In our ongoing group read of Jane Austen's letters in Janeites and Austen L, Diana Birchall wrote the following about a passage in Letter 95 written in late 1813:
"Now comes Jane Austen's "Sweet Mr. Ogle," about whom she
smilingly writes "I dare say he sees all the Panoramas for nothing, has
free admittance everywhere; he is so delightful! - Now, you need not see
anybody else." It's surprising that by the time of the Fourth Edition of
the Letters which I have in hand, published 2011, Deirdre [Le Faye] did not know
who Mr. Ogle was; for a good deal of material about him had appeared
before that, for instance in the Jane Austen Society Report for 2010.
Mr. Edward Ogle was the Worthing builder who was the probable prototype
of Mr. Parker of Sanditon; Jane Austen would have known him from the six
weeks she spent in Worthing in 1805. I remember reading about him when I
wrote my Jane Austen at the Seaside paper, and here is a very nice and
informative blog report about a visit of the Jane Austen Society
(Midlands) members to Worthing in 2011, with lots of background:
http://myparticularfriend.com/?p=2978" END QUOTE
Diana, thanks for the link to that web-article, I previously had no idea
that a real Mr. Ogle existed, I assumed from Le Faye's footnote/bio
entry that Mr. Ogle was another imaginary person, like Mr. Floor.....
....whom JA whimsically named for his primary characteristic---in the
case of Mr. Floor, so as to be "low" in her estimation; in the case of
Mr. Ogle, so that he would be, ogling people and Panoramas!Hence
"all the Panoramas" and "free admittance everywhere"---that would be the
ultimate fantasy of a Peeping Tom, wouldn't it? To see everything
And JA still has a few more jokes in the can before she will let this
wordplay go. First, she tells CEA that she "need not see anybody
else." I.e., not only will Mr. Ogle be the Universal Observer, he will
simultaneously also be the Universally Observed!
And then second, note what JA writes immediately after her comments
about Mr. Ogle: "I am glad to hear of our being likely to have a peep
at Charles & Fanny at Christmas, but do not force poor Cass to stay if
she hates it.”
That "peep" is JA's parting shot on the wordplay on "Ogle".
But enough on JA's wordplay, there is another angle here to be examined
more closely. That article Diana linked to makes it clear that there
really was a Mr. Ogle of whom JA undoubtedly was aware, as the real
life Edward Ogle's professional resume does sound uncannily like Mr.
Now, did CEA actually cross path with this man in London? I strongly
doubt it. I think it much more likely that, as with JA's faux-personal
references to George Crabbe (in letters written only a short time before
Letter 95), JA loved to spin out mini-fantasies of encounters with
famous folk for herself and her sister. And this was another one of
them, prompted, perhaps, by CEA having written to JA that she read or
heard that Mr. Edward Ogle was in London at the same time as CEA. That
would have been more than enough to set JA's satirical mind spinning
another web of clever absurdity.
Diana, does the full length JAS article pick up on the connection to
"Panoramas" in Sanditon? Of course these would be the vistas which one sees with eyes, as when Tom Parker tells Charlotte about how the
views from modern Sanditon, up on a hill, are the opposite of where
Parker's ancestors first built their homes---in his own words, "in a
hole". And then, 2 pages later, we hear again from Tom Parker how from
"the very sight of the sea" from the hill of modern Sanditon ", "he
could almost feel his ankle getting stronger already."
Tom Parker is a true ogler by this definition, who sees all the
panoramas of Sanditon for nothing, and (so his constant talking would
suggest, at least to him) is also a delightful guide to these wonders.
So, even though Mr. Edward Ogle was real, that doesn't mean that we must
take literally JA's laudatory words about him in a letter to her sister.
I remain confident that, given her endless obsession with wordplay,
especially punning, she could not resist riffing off the name
"Ogle"---but second, and more important, we need to recognize that in
Sanditon, Tom Parker is a sort of clownish figure--a caricature of The
Constant Salesman--a tireless motormouth--sorta like Mr. Weston, but
much more abundant....and annoying...in his stream of vocalization.
So, it is hard for me to read "Sweet Mr. Ogle" and "he is so
delightful!" any way other than ironically! Unless someone wants to
suggest that Tom Parker is only playing the fool, like Miss Bates, and
actually has a deeper agenda--but that sort of "peeping" is for another
time and place...
And maybe the above is precisely why Le Faye perhaps decided to let
sleeping dogs lie, to not provide a link to the JAS article or the
above linked web-article---even though surely she was aware of them
before the 4th edition was finalized---so as not to provoke anyone to
"peep" too closely into what Jane Austen might have meant by her
reference to Mr. Ogle --much better to let him be an "extra", unnoticed
and unimportant to our understanding of Jane Austen's life and writings,
than to have us realize that once again, JA was making fun of a
fool--and here, actually a fool who apparently is held in high esteem in
the history of Sussex---in JA's deft, indirect way.
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Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Jane Austen's Letter 95: Mr. Floor's Good Friend, Mr. Ogle, the Constant Salesman
Posted by Arnie Perlstein at 3:42 PM
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