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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Syphilitic, Incestuous Shakespearean Subtext of Garrick's Riddle in Ch. 9 of Emma

Linda wrote: “I'm not convinced that Austen copied from "A New Collection..." for the riddles in Emma, though she might have copied them from SOME similar book. There must be hundreds more period books and newspaper sources of the Kitty riddle that Google has not digitized... e.g., a search for books of the period with titles including "enigmas, charades, or conundrums" (which are what E&H ask Mr Elton for) reveals many candidates whose contents are as yet unknown.  Clearly, though, the Kitty riddle was in wide circulation in various forms, and Mr. Woodhouse's mention of "Garrick" does not necessarily mean she had his longer version in front of her.  In fact it's highly unlikely that Austen used the Garrick "Poetical Works" version or other 20-line versions, since those versions all contain the "still/in/much" variants that she doesn't use).  Nor is it accurate that the name "Garrick" absolutely has to be a pointer to the longer version or a signal that a dirty joke is in the offing.  One example where a shorter version of the poem was attributed to Garrick is in the 1803 Poor Robin's Almanack; it is addressed "For the Ladies". Whether she knew of the longer version of the riddle, whether she knew an alternate solution, and whether she intended readers to know it, are all debatable – those are questions of interpretation…."

Hi Linda (I assume that is your name), so nice to have you and your meticulous scholarship in this thread of discussion, you prompt me to reveal even more of my own scholarship to further back up my claims.  

First, in June 2007, I spoke about that very same 1810 Collection you mentioned (which was actually a reprint, with few changes, of an earlier edition of that same Collection dated 1790 or so, as I recall) in my Austen public speaking debut, to the Romantic Realignments Seminar at Oxford (thanks to Prof. Fiona Stafford, and also two of her (then) grad students, Olivia Murphy and Georgina Green, both of whom, I am proud, to say, have now published books as literary & history scholar-authors in their own rights!).

In that debut  talk, for several reasons, including those you mentioned (about its containing both a version of Garrick’s Riddle and also a version of the shorter first charade in Chapter 9 of Emma), I pointed to that 1790/1810 Collection as ONE source that JA indisputably used in Emma and also elsewhere in her writings.

But I don’t want to diverge onto collateral topics, so I will cut to the chase as to your response re the Kitty Riddle. I disagree with one of your statements, above, in which you said:

"Whether she knew of the longer version of the riddle, whether she knew an alternate solution, and whether she intended readers to know it, are all debatable – those are questions of interpretation”

I believe this particular question is no longer debatable, and here’s why. JA, via Mr. Woodhouse’s struggles to reCOLLECT (that word is used twice re Mr. Woodhouse’s struggles, and that is of course Jane Austen’s punning wink at the published COLLECTion), has given the first three clues I outlined yesterday (that the Riddle was written by Garrick, that it has several stanzas, and that it is clever all the way through). You additionally (and correctly) note that Mr. Woodhouse recalls a particular version of the Riddle with certain words different from those contained in the 1785 publication identifying it as Garrick’s composition.

I think there can be only one interpretation of this specific fact patter which makes perfect sense, i.e., that JA very carefully wrote Mr. Woodhouse’s comments about the Riddle, such that, in aggregate, he would be seen to be recalling a conflated version of the Riddle that never existed in published print reality, because he is recalling at least three different versions!

Where do we see such a conflated imaginary text all the time? Of course, in editions of some of Shakespeare’s most textually-cruxed plays (most famously and complicatedly, Hamlet, with its Q1, Q2 and  FF versions). Modern editors spend lots of time in their introductions and footnotes, explaining why they chose a variant of a given word spoken, from one version of a given play, but a variant from another version elsewhere in the text of the same play.

That’s what I see Jane Austen deliberately, skillfully and subtly doing with Mr. Woodhouse conflating three versions of the Kitty Riddle.

To repeat: Unless you can show me otherwise, I believe there is NO published version of the Kitty Riddle which fits ALL FOUR of those undeniably correct criteria---and that was JA’s point! She was mixing all these versions together intentionally, to show that she was aware of all of them! If she weren’t aware of all of them, she would not have known that some versions were attributed to Garrick, some were  longer than two stanzas, some were clever in the latter parts, and some had different verbiage at key points in the text of the Riddle.

And…it is also totally in character for Mr. Woodhouse to blend them all together in his hazy memory.

And so the key point I derive from this is that there is therefore no way that Jane Austen did not have before her at least one version which contained the telltale stanza that screams of something foul to all readers not asleep at the switch and not totally oblivious to rather obvious and disturbing sexual innuendo:  

To Kitty, Fanny now succeeds,
She kindles slow, but lasting fires;
With care my appetite she feeds;
Each day some willing victim bleeds,
To satisfy my strange desires.

But I am not quite done……

The Hartfield Edition:

In a post in the very near future, I will also pull something else out of virtual mothballs in my files, which I was revisiting just 2 weeks for the first time since 2007, that shows that there’s actually a further Shakespearean connection to Garrick’s Riddle as well! And, what’s more, I will show that this other Shakespeare subtext coincides perfectly with the syphilitic sex-with-virgins subtext of Garrick’s Riddle!

And, for those rare persons who actually read all my posts all the way through, this new Shakespearean connection I will shortly bring forward is IN ADDITION TO the father-daughter incest Riddle that begins Shakespeare’s late play Pericles as I posted here 2 weeks ago…..

….a Riddle which I alleged, and of course still allege, was part of the sexually charged subtext JA had in mind when she had Mr. Woodhouse recall Garrick’s Riddle.

 For David Garrick to have written a Riddle which has a Shakespearean subtext hiding in plain sight makes perfect sense, as you will see. First, it is obviously fitting, given that it was David Garrick who was the most famous Shakespearean actor of his day, and was also the man who in effect revived the popularity of Shakespeare in 1769 at his famous Jubilee in Stratford, a revival  that has only grown worldwide ever since, as we all know.

Put another way, I am claiming that Jane Austen fully recognized that Garricks Riddle is not only a riddle on the level of having one or more answers in the conventional sense of a riddle in a typical riddle book (i.e., chimney-sweep as the G-rated answer, or syphilitic-man-having-sex-with-virgin, as the XXX-rated answer, and where the former is, as JH Stevenson brilliantly explained, a slang term that fits the latter!).

I am also claiming that Jane Austen understood that Garrick, being the brilliant Shakespeare scholar that he also was, as well as of course a brilliant Shakespearean stage performer, had constructed his Riddle so that it would have a meta-answer as well, i.e., so that its first-level answers would point to both the riddle of Pericles, and ALSO to the other Shakespeare text I will post about later.

And now you begin to understand why I am so confident in my assertions that JA has Mr. Woodhouse remember Garrick’s Riddle in Chapter 9, the same locus of the two charades (one of which is also Mrs. Elton’s acrostic), and also of Emma’s recall of that famous line from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Chapter 9 of Emma is, as I have long maintained, the true Rosetta Stone of Jane Austen’s fiction, and how fitting  that Shakespeare  should be all over the place in Chapter 9 in so many ways, since I assert that Jane Austen, while a completely original genius in her own right, was nonetheless inspired to emulate Shakespeare in this most significant of ways, and Chapter 9  is the ultimate tip of her hat to him.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

1 comment:

Unknown said...

According to Melanie Erin Osborn

"David Garrick, the famous eighteenth-century actor, was one of the Lock Hospital’s most faithful supporters. Garrick and his wife were particularly sympathetic to those who had venereal disease and made many appeals to supporters on behalf of the Lock Hospital. After his death, his wife remained a loyal supporter of the Lock Hospital and became a benefactor of the Lock Asylum for Women. Linda E. Merians, “The London Lock Hospital and the Lock Asylum for Women,” The Secret Malady, 135."