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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Henry Crawford’s Doubly Prince of Whales-like Riot of Gratifications

Diane’s Reynolds' response to my last post: “Henry Crawford's riot of gratifications certainly comes across as much worse in the context of the Prince Regent. Does the Clarke bio say how Clarke responded to the incident with the donkey?”

From what I have in my (ever growing) files on Clarke (I returned Viveash’s book to the library years ago), I have no idea what sources Chris Viveash relied on (newspapers, letters, memoirs?) as the basis for his averring the following about the Petworth donkey fracas and its immediate aftermath:

“In the darkness of his bedchamber, they pushed him roughly into his bed, causing James to scream out as he touched the hairy flank of a live donkey, which had been trussed, dressed in female attire and THRUST between the sheets. A near RIOT ensued as the whole of the company crowded into the room to witness James’s distress. It took hours for the excitement to die down, and James felt hot  and humiliated by this unprovoked prank. 
In the morning, he tried to put a brave face on it, at breakfast, but guests giggle and sneered with the remembrance of it all. The Prince Regent and the Duke of Clarence patronizingly told him he was a dashed good sport, but James was most uneasy.” END QUOTE

Somehow I suspect that the second quoted paragraph was more Viveash’s imaginative re-creation than hard factual reporting. But be that as it may, as I  just reread that passage  now, in the aftermath of my insight about Henry Crawford at Mansfield Park as the Prince Regent at Petworth, I see something new and even more intriguing—yet another veiled allusion by Jane Austen to Shakespeare!

But first, let me add one more nugget pertaining to Clarke as Malvolio. If it weren’t for the fact that Viveash’s approach to Clarke is indistinguishable from that of a 19th century Victorian gentleman scholar who writes in hushed, respectful tones about a mediocre man of letters as if his achievements in life were worthy of remembrance other than as the butt of JA’s satire, I would almost wonder about Viveash using the word “thrust”. Why? Consider the famous lines from the fake letter to Malvolio:

'If this fall into thy hand, revolve. In my stars I am above thee; but be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness THRUST upon 'em. Thy Fates open their hands; let thy blood and spirit embrace them; and, to inure thyself to what thou art like to be, cast thy humble slough and appear fresh.

Is it possible that Viveash drew his account from a gleeful newspaper story reporting the incident in Shakespearean terms, which might’ve also been read independently by Jane Austen herself? After all, in the most grotesque sense possible, a donkey, which after all is not a small beast, being pushed at Clarke, would certainly fit the literal, concrete description of “greatness thrust upon” Clarke—and that would be just the sort of demented metaphorical twisting of serious culture that would have appealed to jaded, degenerate perverts like the Prince and his “posse”!  “Hey, fellows, let’s thrust some greatness on good old Clarke tonight. After all, he had the temerity to suggest to Egremont just the other day that perhaps things get a little too loud at 3 am at Petworth? Let’s show him what a REAL riot is like!” Or something like that.

And that brings me to that other veiled Shakespearean allusion in the passage about Henry Crawford’s “riot”.  Not only did Viveash use that word to describe the reaction of the Prince Regent and his cronies right after Clarke’s donkey-encounter, now I am also certain that the word “riot” was chosen by JA to describe Henry Crawford’s enthusiasm for amateur theatricals because of the following, which I just found in The Critical Companion to Jane Austen: A Literary Reference to Her Life and Work by William Baker (2008) at p. 178, as Baker discusses Henry Crawford’s enthusiasm for amateur theatricals at Mansfield Park:

“The use of ‘riot’ here suggests wildness and that Henry is an experienced man of the world. As Shakespeare’s Prince Hal says in the third scene of the fourth act of Henry IV Part 2, “his headstrong RIOT hath no curb…When means and lavish manners meet together” (lines 62-64).”

Now, isn’t that REALLY interesting, that Shakespeare chose to use the word “riot” to describe the wild behavior of the Prince of Wales 4 centuries earlier than the Petworth Frolicks initiated by the Prince Regent aka the Prince of W(h)ales?

And guess what, it wasn’t just that passage that Baker quoted.  Turns out that Shakespeare uses  the word “riot” to describe Prince Hal’s wild phase no less than FOUR times!:

Henry IV, Part I, Act 1 Scene 1:
HENRY IV (Of course the father of Prince Hal)
Yea, there thou makest me sad and makest me sin
In envy that my Lord Northumberland
Should be the father to so blest a son,
A son who is the theme of honour's tongue;
Amongst a grove, the very straightest plant;
Who is sweet Fortune's minion and her pride:
Whilst I, by looking on the praise of him,
See RIOT and dishonour stain the brow
Of my young Harry. O that it could be proved
That some night-tripping fairy had exchanged
In cradle-clothes our children where they lay,
And call'd mine Percy, his Plantagenet!

Henry IV, Part 2, Act 4 Scene 4
HENRY IV (the same speech flagged by Baker)
Most subject is the fattest soil to weeds;
And he, the noble image of my youth,
Is overspread with them; therefore my grief
Stretches itself beyond the hour of death.
The blood weeps from my heart when I do shape,
In forms imaginary, th'unguided days
And rotten times that you shall look upon
When I am sleeping with my ancestors.
For when his headstrong RIOT hath no curb,
When rage and hot blood are his counsellors
When means and lavish manners meet together,
O, with what wings shall his affections fly
Towards fronting peril and oppos'd decay!

Henry IV, Part 2, Act  4 Scene 5
HENRY IV  (to Prince Hal)
Now, neighbour confines, purge you of your scum.
Have you a ruffian that will swear, drink, dance,
Revel the night, rob, murder, and commit
The oldest sins the newest kind of ways?
Be happy, he will trouble you no more.
England shall double gild his treble guilt;
England shall give him office, honour, might;
For the fifth Harry from curb'd license plucks
The muzzle of restraint, and the wild dog
Shall flesh his tooth on every innocent.
O my poor kingdom, sick with civil blows!
When that my care could not withhold thy RIOTS,
What wilt thou do when RIOT is thy care?
O, thou wilt be a wilderness again.
Peopled with wolves, thy old inhabitants!

Henry IV  Act 5, Scene 5:
Henry V (the former Prince Hal, after ascending to the throne, dismissing Falstaff from his life)
Presume not that I am the thing I was,
For God doth know, so shall the world perceive,
That I have turn'd away my former self;
So will I those that kept me company.
When thou dost hear I am as I have been,
Approach me, and thou shalt be as thou wast,
The tutor and the feeder of my RIOTS.
Till then I banish thee, on pain of death,
As I have done the rest of my misleaders,

Henry V  Act 1, Scene 1:
Archbishop of Canterbury (re Henry V)
Which is a wonder how his grace should glean it,
Since his addiction was to courses vain,
His companies unletter'd, rude and shallow,
His hours fill'd up with RIOTS, banquets, sports, 95
And never noted in him any study,
Any retirement, any sequestration
From open haunts and popularity.

And now I also connect the dots to the Gads Hill prank that Prince Hal & Co. play on poor Falstaff, by setting him with a fake  robbery so that he will exaggerate later about the small army of criminals  who set upon him. Again, a Prince humiliating  an underling publicly.

Diane also wrote: “And what Auden poem are you referring to--Musee de Beaux Arts”

No, the passage I quoted in my last post:

You could not shock her more than she shocks me,
Beside her Joyce seems innocent as grass.
It makes me most uncomfortable to see
An English spinster of the middle class
Describe the amorous effects of ‘brass,’
Reveal so frankly and with such sobriety
The economic basis of society.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

The Riot of the Prince Regent's Gratifications: The Low Plot of High Born Boys

In response to my last post re James Stanier Clarke as a real life Malvolio…

…which itself was a followup to my post last week about Clarke as various fools from Shakespeare’s plays, and how Jane Austen alluded to them in Emma….

… Diane Reynolds, in Janeites & Austen-L, was generous enough to take the time to read both of those posts all the way through, and here are some of her insightful comments, and my further replies to same.

Diane: "I  was very glad you included the scene from Clarke's biography,  where as a joke he is forced to drink too much and then led to bed where  a live donkey has been placed, all trussed up. Again overtones of A Midsummer's Night Dream (not to mention cruel to the donkey). This casting of Clarke as Bottom does point to him as seen as getting above himself. It also shows graphically, behind the polite words we usually get about the Prince Regent's court as bawdy, how very out of control and cruel it was. As you point out, this episode with Clarke and his disoriented, frightened reaction, was widely publicized, apparently in a way that ridiculed him rather than attacked the PR. No wonder JA despises the PR and balked at dedicating her novel to such a complete callous asshole. What a jerk the man was."

Yes, as I suggested in my earlier post about Knightley's spiked spruce beer receipt, the Shakespeare-savvy Prince (recall that when he was young, he styled himself Florizel to Mary Robinson's Perdita from The Winter's Tale) not only obtained a "command performance" from Clarke at Petworth not only as Bottom, but also as Christopher Sly from the Induction frame story in The Taming of the Shrew.  Had this occurred in  2014, the Prince would surely have taped it all on his IPhone, and put  it up on YouTube before the night was over.

Callous asshole does seem the right description--it was something out of  The Sopranos. No wonder JA wrote to Martha Lloyd that she HATED the Prince Regent. He didn't just treat his wife abominably, he spread the suffering around, and I would not be surprised to learn of other examples of where unfortunate underlings of his were made to suffer public humiliation when for whatever reason the impulse seized the Prince.

Which suddenly makes me connect the dots between Clarke's involuntary Petworth Frolicks (the title of the Cruikshank caricature) and the following speech by Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park:

"...Henry Crawford, to whom, in all the riot of his gratifications it was yet an untasted pleasure, was quite alive at the idea. "I really believe," said he, "I could be fool enough at this moment to undertake any character that ever was written, from Shylock or Richard III down to the singing hero of a farce in his scarlet coat and cocked hat. I feel as if I could be anything or everything; as if I could rant and storm, or sigh or cut capers, in any tragedy or comedy in the English language.
Let us be doing something. Be it only half a play, an act, a scene; what should prevent us? Not these countenances, I am sure," looking towards the Miss Bertrams; "and for a theatre, what signifies a theatre? We shall be only amusing ourselves. Any room in this house might suffice."  "

JA published Mansfield Park in 1814--the incident at Petworth occurred in October 1813. Don't you see, Henry Crawford in this moment is the Prince Regent himself, always in search of " an untasted pleasure" "in all the riot of his gratifications"! But it wasn't just any room at  Petworth that sufficed that fateful night, it was the bedroom Clarke  slept in at Petworth!

And yet somehow it is still mainstream Austen scholarship that JA was flattered in a modest way that the Prince wanted her to dedicate Emma to him?  What other evidence would it take to prove it, if this doesn't?

Diane:  "However, given that JA was a compassionate person who disliked the Miss Bates of the world ridiculed by those above them, would this episode with the donkey have made JA more sympathetic towards Clarke, rather than less? I think that there is a strong sense that she doesn't quite know how to deal with him--deal with him she must, but I wonder if she's simply keeping him at a distance. Is she not sending him the same disingenuous boiler plate she sends to the Countess of Morley? At first I was taking it seriously, but now I wonder if her over-the-top worries about Emma's reception are a deliberate overplaying of her hand. "

I agree with you that Clarke was not a true villain in JA's eyes, but he was most definitely a clown and a fool in her estimation, and therefore worthy of sharp satire. It's clear to me that she felt a strong contempt for him, precisely because he WAS such a hypocrite, such a toady, so willing to go beyond all bounds of self respect, in order to please the Big Boss.  Hypocrisy in a toady was a moral "felony" in JA's eyes,  albeit a felony in the third degree---whereas the Prince's wrongful actions, given his enormous power, were all felonies of the first degree.

I forgot to reemphasize one point that epitomizes Clarke's impossibly deep lack of integrity and self respect. Did you notice that he actually mentions Petworth in Letter 132(A) to JA?:

"On Monday I go to Lord Egremonts at Petworth - where your Praises have long been sounded as they ought to be."

Think about how abject Clarke's self loathing must have been, for him to go out of his way to boast to JA about his access to the very same place where, only 2 years earlier, he had suffered what had to have been the worst humiliation of his life, in front of the entire English nation yet! Did he think that JA lived in a cave and had not read or heard about that incident?

Whatever sympathy she felt for Clarke was, I think, overpowered by her contempt for his obsequious willingness to do his master's bidding, his staggering blindness to how he appeared to others.

As for her overplaying her hand, I don't agree. I'd say that Twelfth Night shows what it means to really overplay one's satirical hand. Look at what Maria & Co do to Malvolio in Twelfth Night--They don't just yuck it up by observing him make a fool of himself in courting his boss the Countess Olivia.  They waste no time and proceed to ratchet up from leaving the fake letter for him to find, about five levels, to where they falsely imprison him in the dark, and try their best to make him believe he is insane. To the point where Olivia, at the end of the play, when she becomes aware of what the pranksters have all done to Malvolio, expresses real dismay.

And of course Malvolio curses them roundly. But Clarke never said to the Prince anything resembling "I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you." And I think JA thought that somehow, he ought not to have continued to fawn on the Prince as he did, both before and after that dreadful experience.

But, in contrast to what happens to Malvolio in Twelfth Night, JA clearly stopped at the first stage---her joke on Clarke was a private joke, of which he was, as far as we can know, never even aware---he can hardly suffer today from the world's realizing in the 21st century the full extent of JA's joke at his expense-just as Mr. Collins never knows that Mr. Bennet has been getting his jollies letting him make a fool of himself.

That's what takes what JA did out of the realm of true cruelty, for me. She knew she had stumbled upon a real life man who made Mr. Collins look like an amateur, because whereas Collins only got next to Lady Catherine, Clarke had succeeded in getting himself close to the most powerful person in England. So he became the King of the Toadies, if you will.

She simply could not resist the challenge of constructing the matrix of satire that I have now fleshed out. For those who had eyes to read the Jane Austen Code, this was her message, saying, being powerless does not mean you have to surrender all self-respect.

Diane: "As for Clarke, the letter he sends to Austen, which I take as sincere, also does have the fawning quality of a professional courtier. He may be one these people who can only understand people as above him or below him, never as equal humans. That would irritate Austen ... I have to think more about this. My tendency would be to think her feelings about him are not black and white, and that while she might well doublespeak to him, perhaps mirroring back a bit of his fawning in her own over-the-top self-effacement, I don't think that she would mimic the PR's cruelty."

As I suggested above, her joke was a private joke, I don't see any sign that she felt the need to let any of the targets of her often savage satire know that they had been "shot".  It reminds me of the line from Steve Winwood's great Traffic song, The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys:

But today you just read that the man was shot dead
By a gun that didn't make any noise
But it wasn't the bullet that laid him to rest was
The low spark of high-heeled boys

Jane Austen's satirical guns did not make any noise (except to the "dogs", i.e., the sharp elves, who could hear the "frequency" her satirical messages were transmitted on).

Diane: "Twelfth Night, a night of carnival, as well as Midsummer's Night, another night of carnival, both provide a good context for understanding Emma, which with JA's sleight of hand, is both completely realistic and yet can be read completely upside down as a fantasy in which women do reign supreme, especially if Miss Bates is pulling all the strings. Your contextualizing of the lines from the courtship riddle about woman reigning supreme as a commentary on the Twelfth/Midsummer's Night theme of the novel works quite well. "

Thank ye!

Diane: "Now, as for Mr. Elton. I do--and have in the past-- wondered that John Knightley slips into the carriage with Mr. Woodhouse, leaving Mr. Elton and Emma alone together. I am sure he does this on purpose--but to what purpose? It is possible he has encouraged Mr. E to get drunk on spruce beer, and he certainly has quickly figured out that Mr. E is interested in Emma, not Harriet. But might he contrive this carriage encounter out of mercy--to get the proposal over with and hence put Mr. E out of his misery, as Emma has made it clear she is not in the least interested in Mr. E? That would make sense to me. "

The primary purpose, in my opinion, was Step One in George Knightley's very systematic campaign which he first articulated, in part, to Mrs. Weston:

"She always declares she will never marry, which, of course, means just nothing at all. But I have no idea that she has yet ever seen a man she cared for. It would not be a bad thing for her to be very much in love with a proper object. I should like to see Emma in love, and in some doubt of a return; it would do her good. But there is nobody hereabouts to attach her; and she goes so seldom from home."

The part Mr. K did NOT make explicit to Mrs. Weston, however, was that his own covert (and very deceitful) goal was to make Emma marry HIM! In order to do that, she had to be broken down, step by step, so that her (healthy, self-protective) independent streak would gradually be dismantled, brick by brick. And in the end she would been melted down helpless in a puddle on the ground, only too grateful, in her fear and panic at getting abandoned by everyone she knew at Highbury alone with her father,  to have herself scooped up and rescued by the a white Knight(ley)---ALL puns intended!

And so Knightley seized on the fortuitous opportunity presented by Emma's obsession with matchmaking Harriet with Elton, when Knightley knew perfectly well that Elton had his eye on Emma all along.

The Christmas dinner carriage ride was Step One--to scare the living c-p out of Emma, and take her down a few pegs in the process. And it worked.

The Final Step, as i bet you've now already anticipated, was Harriet's calmly telling Emma that SHE (Harriet) was going to marry Knightley.  That's when Emma melted into that puddle.

And that's when Knightley acquired his " cash cow" .

Remember the Auden poem......

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Emma, Twelfth Night & Jane Austen's Letters 125(D), 132(D) & 138(D): James Stanier Clarke as Malvolio

We have almost reached the final spiral of JA's brief correspondence with James Stanier Clarke between November 1815 and March 1816, which will consist of Letters 138(A) and Letters 138(D) to be addressed by us next week. However, as JA's attitude toward Clarke in these letters has again been mentioned by several in Austen L and Janeites this week as being sympathetic and sincere, I will again take this quick opportunity to summarize my unqualified claims....
...that Jane Austen, in her 1815-1816 correspondence with James Stanier Clarke, in every possible way she could devise with her great satirical ingenuity, was insincerely mocking the Prince’s toady. In some ways, as I crystallize my thought s about this today, this might even be the pinnacle of her satirical genius. Let’s see if I win any converts today.

To wit: in her three flattering, faux-confessional letters to Clarke, JA has, to a tee, in several key particulars, emulated Shakespeare's arch-satirist Maria, in Twelfth Night, as Maria is cheered on by her madcap allies Sir Toby, & Aguecheek, in the Box Tree scene.

Recall first that Maria entraps Malvolio…
… with a single pseudo-flattering letter, but JA ups the ante threefold. As if fulfilling Frank Churchill’s request for not one, not two, but  “THREE things very dull indeed, and [Emma] engages to laugh heartily at them all.",  JA sends Clarke not one, not two, but THREE pseudo-flattering letters -- 125(D), 132(D) & 138(D)!  This epistolary triptych, culminating  on April Fool’s Day, 1816, collectively spark in Clarke, the Prince's pretentious literary "steward", a massive narcissistic ecstasy of absurd ambition and deep delusions of grandeur. Is this not, with uncannily precise parallelism, exactly what Malvolio experiences?

The only possible response, along with hearty laughter, must be acknowledgment of the genius who orchestrated all of this—Miss Bates----or her alter ego, Jane Austen! And I have no doubt, in particular, that part of the explanation of JA’s giddy pleasure which oozes out from every pore of her correspondence about her brief  relationship with the apothecary Haden which occurs during that same exact time period as her correspondence with Clarke, is that she clued Haden into this ongoing joke on Clarke. Perhaps, in celebration of JA’s success in gulling Clarke, she and Haden might even have enjoyed staging an impromptu reading of the Box Tree scene from Twelfth Night, maybe even enlisting Fanny Knight’s participation (but of course without clueing her clueless niece in on the scandalous joke).

But that’s only the beginning. The Box Hill resonance of JA’s correspondence with Clarke is omnipresent. E.g.,as a special wink toward this outrageously daring prank, note that JA chooses for the title of the novel which she dedicates to the Prince Regent as per Clarke's instructions during this very same, brief  correspondence—of  course, that title  is the name "Emma", which, as Mr. Weston takes pain to point out (where else but at BOX Hill?), is a homophone of the initials "M.A.":

"Ah! you will never guess. You, (to Emma), I am certain, will never guess.—I will tell you.—M. and A.—Em-ma.—Do you understand?" 

And why, you ask, is this title, as glossed by Mr. Weston, a special wink at Malvolio? Anyone familiar with the BOX Tree scene in Twelfth Night could answer that question in a heartbeat. Look at what Malvolio says at one point in his attempts to decode the forged letter that Maria, like a wicked fairy, drops for Malvolio to find:

M, O, A, I, doth sway my life.

And as Malvolio tries to solve this riddle, he says to himself:

Just as M.A. not only is a homophone for “Emma”, these  two letters  are of course also 3 of the 4 letters contained in the name “Emma”,  and therefore are easily “crushed” into it!

But that’s only the half of JA’s quadrophonic satire of James Stanier Clarke and his boss.
As my above linked recent blog post also spelled out in rich detail, behind this layer of real life epistolary satire are (1) the fictional satires of Clarke in the character of Mr. Elton the pretentious gull of Highbury, and also (2) the real life enacted satire of Clarke by his aristocratic tormentors at Petworth in 1814, both of which inhabit the subtext of Emma, the very novel which the Prince (via Clarke) has demanded dedication of to himself.

So when you step back far enough, and look at the big picture, as I've summarized it, above, you have  the wide  perspective required in order to see that JA has, like J.S. Bach writing six part harmony, seamlessly woven together a rich tapestry of satire, moving  seamlessly between real life and fiction, all in the service of her majestic comic  vision of the follies and flaws of clownish men like James Stanier Clarke and the Prince Regent.

Which, as I reflect on it now, is indeed the final Twelfth Night twist in all of this. I.e. this twist subsumes all of JA’s satirical superstructure in Emma and the accompanying correspondence about the publication of Emma.

What JA is saying, in so many words, and in deadly seriousness beneath all the surface laughter, is that everything is topsy turvy in Regency Era England. I.e., it is the clowns, the fools, the monsters—men like Clarke and the Prince Regent, who are in charge 364 days of the year, and who get to practice “courtship”  (in all its meanings) in the most misogynistic, inept, narcissistic ways imaginable, with impunity, and nobody having the power to stop them.

It’s only during the single day of the topsy-turvy festival Twelfth Night, of which Emma, the novel, is really a fictional embodiment, that the gifted and good people of the world, the “lovely women” like Miss Bates and Jane Austen, the ones who really deserved good fortune, would reign:

  But ah! united, what reverse we have!
      Man's boasted power and freedom, all are flown;
    Lord of the earth and sea, he bends a slave,
      And woman, lovely woman, reigns alone.

Tragically, after Emma was published in early 1816: (1) JA was dead in her crypt at Winchester Cathedral a scant 18 months later, and (2) the Prince of Whales rose to the throne of England 2 ½ years  after that tragic event.

And, in 2014, when one looks around at the likes of the selfish, cruel, narcissistic, reactionary, misogynistic men abusing the privileges of power around the world---the Tea Party in the US, Putin in Russia, the Ayatollah in Iran, Kim Jong-Un in North Korea, the Army in Egypt, Assad in Syria, Al Qaeda, the leaders of China, etc. etc., JA would have no doubt been torn between ironic laughter and bitter tears to note that the modern day Malvolios, Clarkes, Prince Regents, and other male fools and clowns are still running things 364 days of the year.

She’d have laughed, and she’d have cried, but I don’t think she’d have been surprised. She learned early in life that the good, powerless people have to be content with small, often secret victories, as they use guile to provoke the strong to turn the controls in less destructive ways, allowing some happiness to trickle down, notwithstanding the Fanny Dashwoods of the elite.

In Time After Time, Jack the Ripper disillusions the idealist H.G. Wells about the “Utopia” Wells imagined would prevail by the latter part of the 20th century, as he flips TV channels depicting unspeakable violence:

“...I belong here completely and utterly. I'm home. It's you who do not belong here. You, with your absurd notions of a perfect and harmonious society. Drivel. The world has caught up and surpassed me. Ninety years ago, I was a freak. Today, I'm an amateur. You go back. The future isn't what you thought. It's what I am.”

JA was no H.G. Wells, as W.H. Auden well understood, and so she’d have predicted that the One Percenters would always be contemptuous of the Forty Seven Percenters:

You could not shock her more than she shocks me,
Beside her Joyce seems innocent as grass.
It makes me most uncomfortable to see
An English spinster of the middle class
Describe the amorous effects of ‘brass,’
Reveal so frankly and with such sobriety
The economic basis of society.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter