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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Nancy and Lucy Steele take their cues without excuses

In Janeites, Michael Chwe wrote the following in response to my post yesterday: 

 "Hi Arnie and all---yes, I don't subscribe to Austen L---I tried to get on the list a few times, but it never seemed to work.  I had not read your argument, and thanks for the links to your blog---I will check them out!"

You're welcome, Michael and I will be glad to hear your thoughts.

Michael wrote: "I learned about the Damstra article and also an article by James Heldman (linked below) from Arnie.  The Heldman article is very much in the same vein (i.e. arguing, in my mind persuasively, that the mission of Admiral and Mrs. Croft from the start was to bring Anne and Capt. Wentworth together).  I cited both of these articles in the afterword to the paperback edition of my book, which is coming out in the spring."

Excellent!!! Jim Heldman, way back in 1993....
....and Kim Damstra, in 2000, were two of the pioneers of finding threads from the shadows of Jane Austen's novels, even though neither of them realized what I was the first to realize, gradually over the period from 2002-4, which is that all of Jane Austen's novels have coherent shadow stories, each composed of a dozen or more of such interwoven threads. 

That Kim and Jim will both get long-overdue recognition from someone other than me, and in a widely read paperback, is great news! I will let them both know.

Michael also wrote: "For people who are skeptical about the claim that Lucy Steele and Robert Ferrars were in cahoots from the beginning, the fact that three people (Arnie, Anielka, and myself) seem to have come upon it more or less independently perhaps makes the claim more plausible (or at the very least, less idiosyncratic).

Yes, indeed.

Michael also wrote: “One issue which I think should be explored is the timing--- why did Lucy (via Anne Steele) announce the secret engagement when she did (when they were staying with the Ferrars family)?"

What better time and circumstance, if the goal, and surely it was Lucy’s goal, to trigger a crazily explosive, precipitately rash response from Mrs. Ferrars? An "accidental" disclosure blurted out by a verbally incontinent person, would, it seems to me, most likely to be accepted on the spot as authentic, without suspicion of foul play. And it was already well established that Fanny and her mother were hotheaded autocrats, like King Lear. So Lucy acting as an Iago was on pretty safe ground, and she, also like Iago, was fearless in implementing her schemes when the time was right.  

And I point out to you also that the same exact provocation was executed by Charlotte Lucas vis a vis Lady Catherine!

Look at Mrs. Jennings's report and you’ll see the “bread crumb” that JA left in the text of S&S that answers that very question:

“…Well, and so this was kept a great secret, for fear of Mrs. Ferrars, and neither she nor your brother or sister suspected a word of the matter;—till this very morning, poor Nancy, who, you know, is a well-meaning creature, but no conjurer, popt it all out. 'Lord!' thinks she to herself, 'they are all so fond of Lucy, to be sure they will make no difficulty about it;' and so, away she went to your sister, who was sitting all alone at her carpet-work, little suspecting what was to come—for she had just been saying to your brother, only five minutes before, that she thought to make a match between Edward and some Lord's daughter or other, I forget who. So you may think what a blow it was to all her vanity and pride. She fell into violent hysterics immediately, with such screams as reached your brother's ears, as he was sitting in his own dressing-room down stairs, thinking about writing a letter to his steward in the country. So up he flew directly, and a terrible scene took place…”

So, Fanny’s matchmaking for Edward (something Fanny could be counted on to speak about on a regular basis) was Nancy’s  “cue”. And then, the screaming was in turn Lucy’s cue to enter:

“…for Lucy was come to them by that time, little dreaming what was going on. Poor soul! I pity HER. And I must say, I think she was used very hardly; for your sister scolded like any fury, and soon drove her into a fainting fit. Nancy, she fell upon her knees, and cried bitterly; and your brother, he walked about the room, and said he did not know what to do. Mrs. Dashwood declared they should not stay a minute longer in the house, and your brother was forced to go down upon HIS knees too, to persuade her to let them stay till they had packed up their clothes. THEN she fell into hysterics again, and he was so frightened that he would send for Mr. Donavan, and Mr. Donavan found the house in all this uproar. The carriage was at the door ready to take my poor cousins away, and they were just stepping in as he came off; poor Lucy in such a condition, he says, she could hardly walk; and Nancy, she was almost as bad. I declare, I have no patience with your sister; and I hope, with all my heart, it will be a match in spite of her. Lord! what a taking poor Mr. Edward will be in when he hears of it! To have his love used so scornfully! for they say he is monstrous fond of her, as well he may. I should not wonder, if he was to be in the greatest passion!—and Mr. Donavan thinks just the same. He and I had a great deal of talk about it; and the best of all is, that he is gone back again to Harley Street, that he may be within call when Mrs. Ferrars is told of it, for she was sent for as soon as ever my cousins left the house, for your sister was sure SHE would be in hysterics too; and so she may, for what I care….”

No  such plan could have 100% assurance of working, but when your opponents hold all the high cards in a card game, sometimes a desperate bluff is just the tactic  to take the entire pot out right from under their noses! And isn’t that exactly how Lucy winds up? 

She is a great deal like Patrick Jane, the Mentalist---she knows how to manipulate people, thinking very fast on her feet, and also planning ahead several steps at the same time, and she is fearless.

Which is all why I believe that Jane Austen was of Lucy’s party in writing S&S, because, like Milton vis a vis his creature Satan, JA admired courage and cunning more than she admired passive acceptance of ill treatment.

Cheers, ARNIE

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ANEL says: Speaking of blurting stuff out..
Why did Mr Darcy think it was Mrs Gardiner that told Lizzy about him being at Lydia's wedding? Surely, he should have first suspected Lydia of blurting?
And, I also found it strange that Lydia had the self restraint to not say anything further on the matter..
Sorry, I keep hammering on P&P - the only JA novel I've read thus far.