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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"Galigai de Concini for ever and ever" & "The men shan't come and part us, I am determined. We want none of them; do we?"

In Janeites, Rita Lamb responded to my suggestion that Galigai de Concini may have been persecuted in part because of a public perception of a lesbian relationship between Galigai and Maria de Medicis:  "Arnie, I did as I was bid but found only modern speculation on a forum :(  Is there a reference to a contemporary source that links Galigai and rumours of lesbianism?  I get the impression that, after her execution, any possible smear was thrown at her; but I don't know that this included 'sexual deviancy' as well as witchcraft."

I replied as follows:

Well, the quote I provided the other day from an 1844 commentator DID explicitly draw a parallel between Galigai and Sarah Churchill, and went further and called that linkage "well remarked", meaning that a number of other commentators of that era must also have noted the striking parallelism of situation, so I'll repeat those 1844 remarks now:

Notice of Windsor in Olden Times
by John Stoughton, at p. 222:
“No reader of English history can fail to associate with the reign of Anne the name of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, whose history is also linked to the locality of Windsor by several interesting incidents. There, in her palmy days, she gave examples of the marvellous influence which she had acquired over her royal mistress, an influence which it has been well remarked, was the same as the sorcery which Leonora Galligai avowed to her judges over Mary de Medicis— "the power of a strong upon a weak mind." She was appointed by the queen ranger of Windsor Park, an appointment which she greatly valued, and had a residence there appropriated for her use, to which she was much attached. The lodge of the park, she remarks, was a very agreeable residence; and "Anne had remembered, in the days of their friendship, that the duchess, in riding by it, had often wished for such a place." The castle was the scene of many a visit from "Queen Sarah," as she was popularly called, till her influence was undermined by the intrigues of the famous Mrs. Masham, that singular personage in English history.”

While I freely acknowledge that John Stoughton did NOT allude to lesbianism in either historical situation, I believe JA made that association as well, and, given all the lesbian subtext I and other Austen scholars have found in her novels, I think JA and Anne shared an admiration for the defiant Don Juan-like middle finger that Leonore de Concini gave to her persecutors, even when she knew she was doomed. I think JA and Anne must have spoken often of that powerful female role model, courageous in the face of imminent horrible death. I reflect further on it, there is the same feeling in JA writing "Galigai de Concini for ever and ever" in Letter 159, that I first noticed 4 years ago in the words spoken to Elizabeth Bennet by the mysterious female whisperer when Elizabeth is so busy watching Darcy's every move at Longbourn the first time he shows up there late in the novel:

""The men shan't come and part us, I am determined. We want none of them; do we?"

That rarely noticed passage may, upon examination, seem only like a rallying cry to female friendship, but I hear in it, as well, a rejection of men that is also physical and not just social.

And, by the way, 4 years ago, I concluded that the mysterious whisperer was Mary Bennet, and now I am even more sure of it, because I just noticed just how strikingly parallel the whisperer's words are to the following sentence spoken only a few pages earlier in P&P, by Mrs. Bennet:

"The subject which had been so warmly canvassed between their parents, about a twelvemonth ago, was now brought forward again.
"As soon as ever Mr. Bingley comes, my dear," said Mrs. Bennet, "you will wait on him of course."
"No, no. You forced me into visiting him last year, and promised, if I went to see him, he should marry one of my daughters. But it ended in nothing, and I will not be sent on a fool's errand again."
His wife represented to him how absolutely necessary such an attention would be from all the neighbouring gentlemen, on his returning to Netherfield.
"'Tis an etiquette I despise," said he. "If he wants our society, let him seek it. He knows where we live. I will not spend my hours in running after my neighbours every time they go away and come back again."
"Well, all I know is, that it will be abominably rude if you do not wait on him. But, however, that SHAN'T prevent my asking him to dine here, I AM DETERMINED. We must have Mrs. Long and the Gouldings soon. That will make thirteen with ourselves, so there will be just room at table for him."

Please note the striking parallelism--both are spoken by a female, both use the archaic word "shan't", both say "I am determined"...and both are about the entry of a man into a female enclave--but whereas Mrs. Bennet is determined to ask Bingley to dine at Longbourn, I say Mary Bennet, who has heard her mother and does NOT agree but does not wish to risk speaking her disagreement openly, chooses instead the clever deception of  mimicking her mother's vulgar speech pattern to disguise her own identity, and to turn her mother's words 180 degrees upside down, to make them the voice of female solidarity and the rejection of male intrusion into a female enclave, seeking to reverse her mother's invitation for invasion.

And that was the world that JA and Anne Sharpe shared, I believe, one of female solidarity PLUS something that could only be "whispered" in code between them.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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