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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

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