In Austen-L, Anielka Briggs responded to my previous post, and I respond, below, to excerpts from what she wrote:
Anielka wrote: "As to cipher in Shakespeare, yes, been there, done that.
In fact Shakespeare and Milton is where I looked first."
Anielka, if you did look at Shakespeare first, and noted all the Shakespearean
usages I found and described in my last post, and which you've now
further elaborated (in an interesting way) in your latest post, then I
am very surprised that you omitted such an interesting and relevant
point from your first message. Why am I surprised? Because I believe it
obviously bolsters the likelihood that Jane Austen did it if we know
that her primary literary source, Shakespeare, did exactly the same
thing, and, in fact, did it in a variety of ways. And you could have
made that point in a single sentence.
But in any event, the much more important point is that we both agree
that Shakespeare did do this sigh for/cipher punning before JA did it,
and it's meaningful.
As I wrote in my last post, I believe the Twelfth Night example (in
which the letter to Malvolio containing the cryptic cipher on his name
just happens to contain one of the five "sigh for" puns in all of
Shakespeare's oeuvre) is the most telling and convincing example of all,
as evidence both as to Shakespeare's having done it intentionally, and
also as to JA (whose Box Hill scene owes much to Twelfth Night's Box
Tree scene, as Fiona Stafford pointed out two decades ago).
Anielka wrote: "Now Samuel Morland. Let's parse him with the critical
criteria (? tortology) necessary to ascertain the difference between
Code and Coincidence....if anyone can demonstrate further reasons why
Westminster might be code for NORTHanger I'm happy to change my mind"
(the word you were reaching for was "tautology") Anielka, it seems you
did not actually read my post which I linked to.....
....in which I spelled out the most significant reasons (together with
two extraordinary photos), when coupled with his surname, as to why I
claim Samuel Morland was a significant source for General Tilney. You
might want to take a look at it now.
In a nutshell, those two memorials [erected by Samuel Morland in
Westminster Abbey to his two child brides who both died in childbirth,
"memorials" which literally loom "awfully" over the modest brass floor
memorial to Aphra Behn (whom Morland knew) below], together with
Morland's well-known (to historically-knowledgeable people living in
JA's era) work on ciphers and spying on other people's mail, are,
collectively, the main reasons why I claim that Samuel Morland stands
right behind General Tilney as an allusive source.
Just remember this passage from NA as you look at those photos of Samuel
Morland's memorials, and ask yourself how many hints there are in this
passage which wink in the direction of Westminster Abbey:
"She was to be their chosen visitor, she was to be for weeks under the
same roof with the person whose society she mostly prized—and, in
addition to all the rest, this roof was to be the roof of an abbey! Her
passion for ancient edifices was next in degree to her passion for Henry
Tilney—and castles and abbeys made usually the charm of those reveries
which his image did not fill. To see and explore either the ramparts and
keep of the one, or the cloisters of the other, had been for many weeks
a darling wish, though to be more than the visitor of an hour had seemed
too nearly impossible for desire. And yet, this was to happen. With all
the chances against her of house, hall, place, park, court, and cottage,
Northanger turned up an abbey, and she was to be its inhabitant. Its
long, damp passages, its narrow cells and ruined chapel, were to be
within her daily reach, and she could not entirely subdue the hope of
some traditional legends, some awful memorials of an injured and
You get so complicated and convoluted in your explanations and rules,
when I find that the simple explanations are the best ones. They are the
ones that ring truest, because Jane Austen gravitated to them, she
always strove for the beautiful and the elegant, and they also conform
to Occam's Razor. She would not have expected readers to dig up all
sorts of tiny details from Tudor history in order to grasp the
essentials of what she was pointing to. She would have expected them to
first grasp some simple clue (you oughta know, being the one who
extrapolated from Anna Weston to Anna Austen), and then to think about
what it could be a cipher for. And if the correct answer were chosen,
there'd be lots of textual evidence in her novel (like the above quoted
passage about "awful memorials" lying right there in plain sight, which
only took on its special meaning when the cipher was decoded.
THAT'S the Jane Austen Code.
Which is why I think the most significant aspect of her word play on
cipher/sigh for in Northanger Abbey, which encompasses within it the
Samuel Morland subtext, is the allusion to Wollstonecraft's sentence
about the horrible marital laws of England turning a married woman into
"a mere cipher"--that's the core of the onion, in my opinion, because it
ties together the entire feminist subtext of Northanger Abbey, which is
primarily about serial pregnancy and death in childbirth, Jane Austen's
most consistent, persistent hobby horse. Samuel Morland is EVERYWHERE in
that core message, as is the wordplay on "cipher".
In any event, thanks again for posting about "sigh for" yesterday, which
spurred me to revisit all of my prior knowledge about that feminist
message in NA, and find all the additional wrinkles I have derived the
past 24 hours, starting from your very significant catch of cipher/sigh
As to what is to be understood from discoveries like that, I'd just say
that you've derived what is of interest to you, I've derived what is of
interest to me, and i say, Vive la difference, there's now more
knowledge of various kinds out there for Janeites to consider than there
was before, and people can pick and choose what they find convincing!
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter
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