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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What Le Faye and JEAL didn't want Janeites to know about Satire of Austen Family History, Part 37

In response to my immediately preceding post, Nancy Mayer  wrote: "It doesn't matter what anyone says because you insist that JEAL was engaged in some sort of conspiracy to hide something from the public. You just do not want to admit that he was under no obligation to write the book you think he should have written."

First, Nancy, I don't just insist, I have been patiently & extensively documenting (at last count) at least two dozen different editorial frauds that JEAL committed from one end of the Memoir to the other. I never shoot from the hip based on a "feeling".

Even I had no idea 4 years ago when I first began to collect them, that there were so many. It still amazes me, the breadth and depth of JEAL's sheer chutzpah. And I believe I'm still not quite done, there's still more, as this latest point about JEAL putting the kibosh on Henry's letter illustrates. 

When I finally pull them all together in one unified closing argument in a single long chapter, showing how they are all part of a consistent pattern, the effect will be devastating. Whereas, other than your repeated vague, telegraphic defenses of the Memoir, which beg every imaginable question, you have never laid a substantive glove on any of my indictments of JEAL's editorial frauds. Even now, I invite you to quote from my posts and demonstrate where I am making unreasonable or inaccurate claims. I don't believe you can.

Second (and again), if JEAL's Memoir had already gone to that final resting place where obsolete, prejudicial, self-aggrandizing, self-indulgent, fraudulent memoirs by family members of long dead great geniuses go to be forgotten, I would not waste breath on it. But you keep ignoring the astonishing ongoing vitality of JEAL's Memoir in the minds of many many Janeites, academics, journalists, and lay readers alike. This is a serpent coiled around the Tree of False Knowledge that needs to be put to sleep, so that truth can emerge out from under JEAL's Memoir's huge shadow. Your lack of interest in finding something closer to the truth about JA is surprising to me.

Third, you beg the question of the moral obligation of a memoirist (to present and future generations of readers of JA's writing) to tell the truth about his illustrious aunt to the best of his ability. JEAL had reason to know, because he was the first true biographer of JA in print, that his Memoir had the potential to shape public opinion about JA's life and writing for a very long time to come. So, I think there was a very strong moral fiduciary duty on JEAL above all not to allow his own narrow, self-serving interest to color his presentation of facts.

He was no imbecile, he was a very well educated public intellectual, still in possession of all his faculties, he knew right from wrong, especially when wrong was being done for self-interested reasons. He was no unconscious editorial sinner, he knew exactly what he was doing. The pattern of selective distortion of truth only in certain targeted areas reveals that he was not  simply a poor editor who botched everything---he only got things very wrong when, tellingly, it was in his personal interest to do so.

And what remedy do I seek? Only to demolish the bona fides of JEAL's Memoir in regard to all its frauds, and make room for the truth.

Nancy also wrote: "It is a loving tribute by a nephew who recognized his aunt's greatness even if he didn't present it in the best possible manner. It is thanks to JEAL that we have any of the biographies of Austen."

And that last statement is utterly offbase--had it been RAAL and not JEAL who was in that position in 1870 to write the first Memoir of Jane Austen; who had the luxury and the privilege and the responsibility of that unique access to that priceless primary data, we'd have seen a VERY different Memoir, and we'd have had even more and better biographies of JA in followup, and a lot sooner.

In that sense, JEAL is like Le Faye, too---Le Faye often gets credit for having first brought forward so much information about JA's life and letters--but had another biographer, such as, e.g., David Nokes, who did not have as a prime directive the suppressive of "dangerous" information, then the updated Family Record and edition of JA's Letters would also have been a radically different piece of work. And things coming to light in 2014 because of probers like myself would have surfaced a half century ago.

And I'm sorry, I don't think it's "loving" to suppress important aspects of a deceased loved one's true character, and to present an image of her to the world that he knew to be false, as if the true Jane Austen was not worthy of being displayed to universal view. What he did with CEA's 1810 sketch of JA is the quintessence of JEAL's editorial frauds--and a week doesn't go by even in 2014 without that phony cow-like Jane Austen staring vacantly into space, instead of the true Jane Austen with her plain hard features and piercing, shrewd, almost frowning stare.

I cannot forgive him for this Big Lie, until it has been consigned to the dustbin of literary history.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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