(& scroll down to read my literary sleuthing posts)
Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The (Not So) Long Suspected (Bad) Air Jordan

In Janeites & Austen L today, Linda Thomas reminded me of Jocelyn Harris's 2011 article about Elizabeth Bennet in Pride & Prejudice as a representation of the real life Dorothy Jordan, the great Shakespearean comic actress of the second half of the 18th century, and in particular pointed out that Jordan's petticoats were (in)famous for the following: 

Linda: "Apparently the famous actress, in her 15 years starring in "The Country Girl", bursts into the scene asking "Where is the best field to walk in?" and for Miss Hoyden to "Remove my petticoat!" "

In following up re the possibility of Dorothy Jordan having had her famous petticoats publicly associated with “dirt”, i.e., manure, accumulated during rustic romps, I quickly found exactly what I suspected I might, as well as another interesting tidbit that connects Jordan to Northanger Abbey even more tightly. I found both of these in the entry for Dorothy Jordan authored by Ben P. Robertson in the Encyclopedia of Romantic Literature, Volume 2, at ppg. 694-6.

First this factoid:

“Jordan and the Duke of Clarence separated in 1811 when the duke decided to pursue a wealthy socialite named Catherine Tylney-Long, who reportedly was worth at least L40,000 per year. The duke’s debts had continued to mount, and as the children grew older, they brought greater financial demands. Tylney-Long seemed an ideal candidate for marriage since her fortune could help defray the duke’s debts. However, he could not pursue the marriage and keep Jordan as his de facto wife, so he broke off the relationship. Ultimately, Tylney-Long chose another suitor, but the duke’s separation from Jordan was permanent.”

Catherine Tylney-Long’s great wealth has been discussed a couple of times in both of these groups (and Ron Dunning’s genealogy of JA reveals her to have been a not that distant cousin of JA), and about 9 months ago I wrote the following in Janeites in response to a post about her by Nancy Mayer:

“Nancy, once again you bring up an intriguing factoid and don't seem to see how intriguing it is---"Catherine Tylney" is of course almost exactly the same as Catherine Morland's married name!
Jocelyn Harris, Colleen Sheehan and Park Honan have all previously noted interesting connections between JA's fiction (both NA and Emma) and Catherine Tylney-Long, and now we may add another.
Since NA was revised by JA after 1811, she would have been well aware of the Duke's interest in that lady in 1811 (there was a famous caricature, e.g.) And it is therefore also, I suggest, no coincidence, that General Tilney, whose courtship of Catherine for _himself_ has been so discreet that Catherine never realizes what he is about, is at least twice as old as Catherine, and he only abruptly terminates his courtship of Catherine when he believes she is not an heiress after all.”

So now I realize that the duke’s financial motivations also are unmistakably mirrored by General Tilney’s crass courtship goals. And I would like to add to the above a cute little textual wink in NA by JA to the real-life heiress, after Catherine is disappointed at Henry Tilney’s cool behavior toward her during a visit to the Tilney digs in Bath: 

“Isabella, on hearing the particulars of the visit, gave a different explanation: “It was all pride, pride, insufferable haughtiness and pride! She had LONG suspected the [Tilney] family to be very high, and this made it certain.”

“Long” suspected indeed—as in TILNEY/TYLNEY LONG!

But now back to that Encyclopedia entry for the inside poop on Jordan’s public persona—apparently, far exceeding even my expectations, there WAS indeed a whole circus of caricature published circa 1811, which did smear Dorothy Jordan with large, repeated helpings of scatological slander:

“Highfill et al. reprint a contemporary cartoon depicting a chamber pot (a “Jordan”) with a half clothed Dorothy Jordan on the side. The duke wades, waistdeep, through the pot itself, proclaiming, “ I shall be lost in Thee JORDAN” (1973-93:258). Written on the side of the pot is the note, ‘1000L a year for the use of this JORD(AN)’. Elizabeth Campbell Denlinger reprints a similarly insulting James Gillray print in which the portly duke pulls a buggy hauling three children toward Bushy (Denlinger 2005: 83). The buggy is emblazoned with a crown and, underneath, a chamber pot. Meanwhile, Mrs. Jordan walks alongside learning the lines of the character Little Pickle, a role for which she was well known and that earned her the nickname ‘Little Pickle’. Claire Tomalin reprints a handful of similar engravings in her biography of Jordan. In one particularly vulgar example, the Duke of Clarence has his torso and head wedged inside a large crack in a chamber pot that has legs AND A PETTICOAT….”

So….given that all of this ugly scatological slander of Jordan was everywhere in the trash culture of England at precisely the moment that JA was publishing P&P and giving the character of Lizzy Bennet to the world, this does, I believe, really provide startling additional evidence for Diana’s brilliant insight into Lizzy Bennet’s petticoats being coated in manure accumulated during her walk from Longbourn to Netherfield!

In conclusion, although it may be tangential, the following snippet from a letter reprinted in the 1951 book, Mrs. Jordan and her family: being the unpublished correspondence of Mrs. Jordan and the Duke of  Clarence, later William IV, at P. 89  (I couldn’t tell if the following was written by Mrs Jordan to the Duke, or vice versa) has an odd resonance with the issue of chamber pots called “Jordans” and dirt on Dorothy Jordan’s petticoats:

“It is an old saying that every body must get a peep of DIRT before they dye. At that rate the Irish must be very short-lived.” 

The ugliness of the slur on the Irish makes me suspect the Duke of being the author, and if it was the Duke writing to Mrs. Jordan, it can’t have felt very good to her to read that!

And I conclude by wondering whether Catherine Morland, another frequent countryside walker during her youth, had the same problem as Lizzy Bennet:

“Her love of dirt gave way to an inclination for finery, and she grew clean as she grew smart….”

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter


I did some followup checking around about Catherine Tylney-Long's vast fortune, and Dorothy Jordan being slandered in caricatures as a chamber pot, and found that Janine Barchas picked up on both in her 2013 book Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location & Celebrity.  However, because neither Jocelyn Harris nor Janine Barchas (Janine actually has publicly acknowledged Jocelyn as a mentor in her groundbreaking research) was aware of the "dirty" interpretation of Elizabeth Bennet's petticoats, neither of them realized that Dorothy Jordan's scatalogical moniker was actually a key part of the allusion to Dorothy Jordan  in Pride & Prejudice.  

But...even so, Janine gives firstrate detail on the caricatures involved, which I now quote:

"By 1811, Catherine was attracting such high profile suitors that she became the subject of at least three satirical illustrations by George Cruikshank. For example, Princely Piety, or the Worshippers at Wanstead (1811), a plate for The Scourge, shows the petite heiress on a fantastic throne receiving her many mercenary admirers, including even the Duke of Clarence, later William IV, who attempts to impress her in his new admiral's uniform. Behind him stand the famous actress Dorothy Jordan, the duke's recently jilted paramour and mother of his children, who pours a chamber pot, or jordan, over him in protest, raining their children down in a filthy stream over his head. Mrs. Jordan, in fact, appears as a victim in the background of all three of Cruikshank's images about the celebrity of Miss Tilney-Long..." 


 I did a little more digging, and I think the following blog post from last year adds the perfect finishing touch to my earlier (and below-copied) posts about Dorothy Jordan and her unlucky surname (the word "Jordan" was used as slang for chamber pots long before she was born-- so it was pure linguistic, satirical opportunism on the part of the caricaturists, much as if an English public figure named "Loo" or "crapper" were to be subjected to similar scurrilous wordplay in 2014).

Anyway, the following blog post expands on what I posted last Fall about the foul condition of English streets, and has the added spice of referring to chamber pots being emptied on a passerby's head, which is the exact unpleasant fate suffered by the future King William IV in Cruikshank's caricature "Princely Piety" described by Janine Barchas (see above).

So Jane Austen was tapping into a very rich vein of cultural scatology which an alert contemporary reader would, I believe, have picked up on,  when she had the Bingley sisters laughing at Lizzy's dirty petticoats.
Historical Anecdotes by the English Historical Fiction Authors
…The Great Stink of London, 1858 by Debra Brown
"I greatly enjoy Liza Picard's book /Victorian London/. If you want to read numerous great anecdotes, her book is a wonderful source. Her first chapter discusses the smells of London past. Day and night in Victorian times, she says, London stunk. The Thames "main ingredient" was human waste. Human excrement was sold as fertilizer to nurseries and farms surrounding London by the night-soil men who emptied the cesspits. A CHAMBER POT MIGHT BE EMPTIED ON YOUR HEAD as you walked through the narrow streets, adding to the stench of dead dogs, horse and cattle manure and rotting vegetables.
By 1841 there were 1,945,000 people and 200,000 cesspits full and overflowing. Years of waste fermented in miles of sewers in Holborn and Finsbury with no access to the Thames. Even in aristocratic Belgravia, Grosvenor Square, Hanover Square and Berkeley Square noxious matter
stopped up house drains and reeked. Buckingham Palace smelled from drains that ran below.
Cows were kept in cowsheds all over London in appalling conditions with no space for cleaning. Cattle, sheep and pigs sold in Smithfield Market walked through London streets leaving behind 40,000 tons of dung a year, and thousands of horses each excreted 45 lb. of faeces and 3.5 lb. of
urine a day.
A 14 foot deep pit at St. Bride's Church was reopened every Wednesday to take in carcasses of dead paupers until it could hold no more. The whole neighborhood stunk.
Coal gas stunk, and gas mains leaked. In Bermondsey skins and hides were tanned using a process including dog turds. Refuse from hospitals, fishmonger's and fishmarket washings and offal, slaughterhouse offal, glue-makers, candle-makers, bone dealers, dye works, dead rats, dogs and
cats and even, the January 1862 journal The Builder said, dead babes stank.
Finally there was a breakthrough, right? when water closets became a normal part of a house. By 1857 there were 200,000 of them all duly sidetracking the cesspits and emptying straight into the Thames via the sewers. The result was the Great Stink of 1858."

So thanks again to Linda Thomas for prompting me to connect these dots!



No comments: