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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Northanger Abbey Quizzing: A Whale of an Allusion Hidden in Plain Sight for 196 Years

So, I have a short quiz for you all, and will give the answer below, no making anybody wait.

What is the common thread among ALL of the following:

ONE: A joke in a Jane Austen letter JA wrote shortly after finishing Susan (the literary ancestor of Northanger Abbey), attributing authorship of a novel JA knew very well to the wrong author.

TWO: John Thorpe's complaint about " an old man playing at seesaw" in Fanny Burney's Camilla.

THREE: John Thorpe's expressing a strong opinion about Henry Fielding's Tom Jones.

FOUR: John Thorpe's taking Catherine out for a very fast ride in his carriage, and boasting about his speed.

FIVE: John Thorpe's  manic logorrhea (intense verbosity).

SIX: The footnote to Northanger Abbey.

SEVEN: Henry Austen's Biographical Notice published as the intro to the First Edition of NA and Persuasion.

EIGHT: The Prince of Whales answer to the second charade in Emma.

The answer is two words. And if you cannot solve this quiz, after all the hints I've given you, then I shall dare to suppose you a great blockhead.

Scroll down for the answer--I will write up a detailed explanation in the next few days, but I was eager to get this out there tonight.

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The answer is..........SAMUEL JOHNSON!

If those of you so inclined want to have some fun before I post my explanation, see if you yourself can reverse engineer my sleuthing and figure out how each of the above eight clues applies to Samuel Johnson.

I must once again thank Diane Reynolds for bringing forward that quotation the other day from her late English professor about Samuel Johnson as Prince of Whales, because it was in following up on that lead that I was led to revisit all of my previous Samuel Johnson sleuthing, and it was in looking at John Thorpe's cryptic reference to  "an old man playing at seesaw" that I for the first time looked past the "correct" answer that this was simply about Eugenia and Hugh Tyrold in Burney's Camilla, and saw that this was just the tip of an iceberg, the "whale" known as Samuel Johnson.

And who'd have thought that the Austen character who resembles Samuel Johnson in more and varied ways than any other, is John Thorpe!

It turns out to truly be a whale of an allusion.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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