I was pleased in some brief followup to my last post about Sir Walter Scott's reference to a very link-boy-like Cupid in the part of his 1816 review that covered JA's Emma, to find the following passage in Jill Heydt Stevenson's 1999 article, "Slipping into the Ha-Ha":
"In his review of Emma Walter Scott finds fault with Austen for her
coupling of “that once powerful divinity, Cupid” with “calculating
prudence.” He suggests that it is the responsibility of novelists to
“lend their aid” in writing about “romantic feelings,” for the
“indulgence” of such feelings, in transforming the lover into a kind of
chivalric knight and thelady into an ideal paragon of femininity,
“softens, graces, and amends the human [male] mind.” Austen’s use of
this riddle, and its attendant allusions to prostitution and syphilis,
does indeed invoke Cupid with “calculating prudence,” but not in the
sense that Scott meant: Austen exposes the patriarchal/ heterosexual
world of conventional courtship as a dangerous, violent, and, indeed,
life-threatening arena for both men and women. Thus, she ridicules a
system that is based on exploitation of women (who contract venereal
disease unknowingly), children (who are raped for a “cure”), and
ultimately of the diseased (since these “cures,” mostly administered by
quacks and doctors alike, were extremely dangerous and, for obvious
reasons, rarely successful). These links between a “proper” novel and a
riddle associated with the Hell-Fire Club break down the gap between the
Kittys and Fannys of The New Foundling Hospital for Wit and the women of
Emma, all of whom—at least at one level of signification— are themselves
chimneys. That is, their function is to remain fixed in place, designed
to heat, to pleasure, and to heal others. No wonder Mr. Woodhouse
worries about Emma marrying; no wonder Emma, our own Cupid, prefers
matchmaking to marriage. Austen’s manipulation of Garrick’s riddle and
her plaiting of it into both the main narrative and the subplots of the
novel reveal her cognizance of the insistent way that the patriarchal
system fixes the female body."
It is not clear from the above whether JHS grasped that Scott's
reference to Cupid was not Scott's own independent conceit, but was a
veiled allusion to the Cupid reference in the part of Garrick's riddle
which Mr. Woodhouse CAN'T recall but desperately wishes to, because it
is the "cleverest part".
I find the following excerpt from that same section of JHS's article
"Emma is a matchmaker and, like the Cupid in the riddle, one whose
pairings have devastating results: both she and the riddle’s narrator,
having “kindled . . . flame[s] [they] still deplore,” seek to “quench”
them: the one receives an unwanted proposal, the other venereal disease.
Harriet, spurned by Elton, tries to recover her emotional health by
burning the mementos she gathered during their abortive courtship. The
solution to the riddle is that the “Cupid”—the youth he addresses—is a
chimney sweep, and, like the “kiss” at the end of the riddle, “chimney
sweeping” was eighteenth-century slang for sexual intercourse. Thus when
Harriet throws the mementos (metonymies for Elton himself) into the
fireplace, she engages in mock sexual relations with him that she also
hopes will cure herself. In the riddle, CUPID IS A PIMP who conjoins
Kitty and the narrator; in the novel, Emma turns Harriet into both a
shopper and an irresistible purchase."
JHS not being aware of the subtext provided by Reynolds's Cupid as Link
Boy, did not realize that the real life sexual subtext behind his very
disturbing painting was that link-boys were associated with prostitution
in two different but complementary ways--i.e., as escorts who led Johns
to female prostitutes, but also as prostitutes themselves.
Scott was a very sharp elf indeed to put all the pieces together and to
show this by hiding his very Austenian insight in plain sight, just as
JA hid her best insights the same way. And JHS clearly was on the scent
of something very significant when she chose to highlight Garrick's
Riddle in her article--now I finally, via Reynolds's painting, inspired
by the lewd poem of the 1st Duke of Dorset and then commissioned many
decades later by his second successor to that title, i.e., the 3rd Duke,
am able to tie ALL the loose ends together, and show I am in very
distinguished company with both Scott and JHS.
- Deirdre Le Faye & Me: "I am a scholar, she is a scholar: so far we are equal"
- Darcy's "We neither of us perform to strangers": a Radical New Interpretation
- The Hunger Games’s Veiled Allusion to Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus
- August Wayne Booth in Once Upon A Time: Jane Austen Really IS Everywhere in 2012!
- 20 shades of hero/villain Mr. Darcy
- Rick Santorum would have been the worst person in the world to Jane Austen too!
- The Great Gadsby: an overnight lesbian feminist ‘comedy’ sensation 10+ years in the making (& 3 millenia overdue)
- Austenland: The Movie was Fun, but the Novel was Better [SPOILER ALERT as to both]
- Can Jane Austen forgive Marianne?
- The secret codeword Shakespeare devilishly hid in plain sight in Romeo & Juliet that Shakespeare Uncovered DIDN’T uncover—but John Milton (and then I) did!