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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Friday, October 17, 2014

P.S. re Harriet Smith as a Papagena turned Heiress when she attained the age of 18 years…and 2 minutes!

After sending my earlier message, I did a little followup Googling, and found the following very interesting factoid in Colleen Sheehan's Persuasions Online article about the "Prince of Whales" solution to the "courtship" charade in Emma:

"As for Harriet Smith, “the natural daughter of somebody,” the mystery of her parentage is resolved in the last chapter of the novel.  Born 23 June 1796 (Midsummer’s Eve), her nondescript surname leads one to suspect that it may not be her real name.  On the other hand, it is interesting to note that Smythe was the maiden name of Maria Fitzherbert.  Harriet’s parentage is revealed on August 12th, the birthday of the Prince Regent."

\Undoubtedly, that was intentional on JA's part--Colleen did not have, however, any idea that Harriet's birthday was actually a significant event, because of her inheritance.  

But reading that prompted me to go back to Ellen's calendar, and sure enough, here is the entry for August 12:

"Harriet tells tale to Emma, all "unintelligible" to Emma; Harriet's parentage discovered, 55:462. We should remember Harriet's last words: "now I seem to feel that I may deserve him; and that if he does choose me, it will not be any thing so very wonderful", 47:407."

Here is fuller textual context from Harriet’s speech to Emma in Chapter 47:

"I never should have presumed to think of [Knightley as a suitor] at first," said she, "but for you. You told me to observe him carefully, and let his behaviour be the rule of mine—and so I have. But now I seem to feel that I may deserve him; and that if he does chuse me, it will not be any thing so very wonderful."

Notice the “now”---although Emma is utterly clueless about Harriet having just inherited a lot of money, clearly Harriet is well aware of this fact, and that is why, given that Harriet is also well aware that Knightley is cash poor, that “it will not be any thing so very wonderful” if Knightley might want to marry Harriet for her money!

And….just to be clear about the full import of my last post----this hidden fact of Harriet’s reaching the crucial age of inheritance (isn’t that exactly what happens in a couple of Burney’s novels as well?) explains perfectly why Harriet would play the role of ditzy fool for 46 chapters, kissing Emma’s butt ten times an hour----but then would suddenly reveal her true self, as a variant of Lucy Steele, but in very deep undercover mode. Once Harriet had her inheritance, there was no reason for the disguise any longer, and so, ironically, in the chapter that begins “Poor Harriet!”, it’s actually poor EMMA who is getting a major splash of ice cold water thrown over her own narcissistic fantasies of superiority. It’s Harriet who no longer needs to bother with Emma, not the reverse.

Amazing stuff, isn’t it?

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter


I just reread my posts, and realized that in my rush, I had overlooked that Ellen DID indeed recognize that June 23 was both the date of the Donwell Abbey outing AND Harriet's birthday. Sorry about that, Ellen!

However, while Ellen correctly understood that this was an intentional interlocked hidden calendar code created by Jane Austen, she did not realize it had implications and significance that would reverberate like a loud church bell through the entire structure of the shadow story of Emma.

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