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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Answer to My Wildest Jane Austen Quiz Yet: Katherine Austen's Book M

Last week, I posted My Wildest Jane Austen Quiz Yet in Austen L and here in my blog:

It’s now Monday 10 am EST, and so, since no one guessed the answer, I will, as promised, give the answer:

"What is the manuscript that connects to the above-quoted passage from “Henry&Eliza”, and also to all of the nine above-quoted passages from Emma?" 

ANSWER:   BOOK M, by Katherine Austen, as described briefly here:

"First hint: the name of the author of that manuscript is itself another connection to Jane Austen, and is actually the connection that I first took note of, which so intrigued me that it led me to discover all of the above textual connections. As far as I have been able to discern from diligent searching, I am the first to discover and take note of these connections, even though they have been hiding in the plain sight of a fair number of literary scholars for a number of years."

EXPLANATION: Of course, the name "Katherine Austen" caught my eye initially, but it was only when I learned all about the subject matter of Book M that I noticed the numerous correspondences between it and two of Jane Austen's writings:  the juvenilia "Henry and Eliza" and Emma.

"Second hint: As Jesus (as reported by the Evangelist Luke) concludes, what was lost is now found...after a few centuries."

EXPLANATION: The above was a teasing reference to the actress Evangeline Lilly, who of course was one of the lead characters in the TV series Lost. Her character's name was "Kate Austen"!

"I promise you this---the Quiz Answer raises important questions not only about Jane Austen’s authorial agenda and methodology, but also about the balkanization of literary scholarship, which allows significant connections to remain undetected, because one “hand” doesn’t know what the other hand already holds."

EXPLANATION: What I meant by the above was that a number of excellent scholars of women's writing from the late 17th century (a century before Jane Austen's era) have known all about Katherine Austen and her Book M manuscript for a number of years, but none of them seems to ever have noticed the numerous parallels between Book M and Jane Austen’s writings.

From my preliminary digging, I could find no evidence that Katherine Austen was part of Jane Austen’s family tree, nor was Book M published prior to very recently. So it is difficult to understand how Jane Austen could have had access to the content of Book M. And yet, as I will at some future point elucidate, there are so many specific and densely clustered parallels between Book M, on the one hand, and “Henry & Eliza” and Emma, on the other, that it appears to me to beyond the realm of coincidence.

Somehow, some way, Jane Austen knew all about Book M, recognized its strong feminist message, and resonated to it so strongly, that she chose to covertly allude to it as a teenager, and then again as a mature 40 year old.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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