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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Parting is such sweet sorrow for Fanny (by her other names Eve & Juliet) vis a vis Henry (Satan & Romeo)

In the aftermath of my posts this past week about the connected SATAN acrostics in Brooke’s Romeus & Juliet, Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, and Milton’s Paradise Lost, I’ve revisited my speculations about Jane Austen’s reaction to same, beyond the obvious candidate, i.e., her LUCY  FERRARS è LUCIFER wordplay in S&S that I first spotted a decade ago. Even though I’ve found that Romeo & Juliet and Paradise Lost were both important sources for several of Jane Austen’s novels, I believe, as I’ll explain below, that her most comprehensive response to those two sources, and in particular their SATAN acrostics, was in Mansfield Park.

When I reprised my recent Montreal JASNA AGM presentation (about the Shakespeare plays hidden in Mansfield Park) for my new home JASNA chapter here in Portland, I added the following discussion:

“Did you also notice that Rushworth chooses an archaic way of numbering his speeches—he twice says “two-and-forty”- now why would Jane Austen put that strange archaism in Rushworth’s mouth?—might this be a hint that not only is he reading Lovers Vows carefully on the sly, he’s also dabbling in Elizabethan –era literature as well? More specifically, could the “bridegroom” Rushworth be channeling the “two-and-forty” hours duration of the sleeping potion Friar Laurence gives Juliet to simulate her death?:

Or... might Rushworth be mystically immersed in the King James Bible, recalling the “forty and two” months duration of the power given by the dragon to the beast in Revelation 13:4-6?:

And they worshipped the DRAGON which gave power unto the BEAST: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the BEAST? who is able to make war with him?
And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue FORTY AND TWO months.
And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.”

I then revealed the SATAN acrostic in Friar Laurence’s speech, which you can clearly see, above, with its obvious connection to Revelation, and went on:

“…now you also know the name of the fifth Shakespeare play buried alive in Mansfield Park---Romeo & Juliet!  And is there any Shakespearean character more like Mrs. Norris than Juliet’s Nurse---Norris = Nurse? Both are outspoken, bossy, and (above all) unofficial mothers to a female child, and more actively involved in that “daughter”s daily life than the biological mother. And just as Mrs. Norris is in effect banished along with Maria, so too is the Nurse in RomeUS & Juliet…”  

Starting from there, I will now make the case that the enigmatic relationship of Henry Crawford to Fanny Price is modeled on BOTH the shadowy relationship of Satan and Eve in Paradise Lost, AND also on (what I claim was) Milton’s primary post-Biblical Satanic source, Romeo and Juliet.


I starts from the one actual quotation from Paradise Lost  in MP, when Henry cynically jokes in Chapter 4 about “heaven’s LAST best gift”:

“…If you can persuade Henry to marry, you must have the address of a Frenchwoman…He is the most horrible flirt that can be imagined. If your Miss Bertrams do not like to have their hearts broke, let them avoid Henry."
"My dear brother, I will not believe this of you."
"No, I am sure you are too good. You will be kinder than Mary. You will allow for the doubts of youth and inexperience. I am of a cautious temper, and unwilling to risk my happiness in a hurry. Nobody can think more highly of the matrimonial state than myself. I consider the blessing of a wife as most justly described in those discreet lines of the poet—'Heaven's last best gift.'"
"There, Mrs. Grant, you see how he dwells on one word, and only look at his smile. I assure you he is very detestable; the Admiral's lessons have quite spoiled him."

I.e., the LAST thing Henry wants at that point is to get married! While many Austen scholars have noted the Miltonian source of “those discreet lines of the poet”, none of them, as far as I can tell, has ever gone deeper, and noticed that Henry is wittily appropriating and ironically redirecting a line from Paradise Lost’s passage about Adam gazing at Eve and waking her up from her uneasy dream of eating the forbidden fruit, a dream that has resulted from Satan’s whispering in her sleeping ear:

                                 so much the more
  [Adam’s] wonder was to find unwak'nd Eve
  With Tresses discompos'd, and glowing Cheek,
  As through unquiet rest: he on his side
  Leaning half-rais'd, with looks of cordial Love
  Hung over her enamour'd, and beheld
  Beautie, which whether waking or asleep,
  Shot forth peculiar Graces; then with voice
  Milde, as when Zephyrus on Flora breathes,
  Her hand soft touching, whisperd thus. Awake
  My fairest, my espous'd, my latest found,
  HEAV’NS LAST BEST GIFT, my ever new delight,
  Awake, the morning shines, and the fresh field
  Calls us, we lose the prime, to mark how spring
  Our tended Plants, how blows the Citron Grove,
  What drops the Myrrhe, & what the balmie Reed,
  How Nature paints her colours, how the Bee
  Sits on the Bloom extracting liquid SWEET.
Such whispering wak'd her, but with startl'd ey e
  On Adam, whom imbracing, thus she spake…
[Eve then describes her disturbing dream to Adam]

So I say it is no accident that Henry recalls the very moment when Adam has come upon Eve disturbed by the dream that Satan has planted in her brain, and then, only a short time later, makes his infamous boast that he will “make a hole in Fanny’s heart”. In my JASNA talk, I presented numerous textual examples from Mansfield Park illustrating how Henry Crawford, Satan-like, step by subtle step, slithered into Fanny Price’s heart with his charismatic performances of Shakespeare, luring the reluctant Fanny into a world of poetry and theatre which utterly enthralled her fine taste. He may not have come in the guise of Adam in her dreams, or as a talking snake, but Henry just as surely beguiles Fanny’s heart and mind, because he has irresistibly attractive gifts and depths that the bourgeois, wooden, hypocritical Edmund cannot even imagine, let alone compete with. And, it is an open question for me as to whether Henry, by awakening Fanny from her decade-long trance at Mansfield Park, has done Fanny harm in the end.

But anyway, when we recall Henry quoting from a passage about Eve’s Satan-drenched dream, we see how fitting it is that Henry, several chapters later, rhapsodizes to Fanny about Lovers Vows:

"It is as a dream, a pleasant dream!" he exclaimed, breaking forth again, after a few minutes' musing. "I shall always look back on our theatricals with exquisite pleasure. There was such an interest, such an animation, such a spirit diffused. Everybody felt it. We were all alive. There was employment, hope, solicitude, bustle, for every hour of the day. Always some little objection, some little doubt, some little anxiety to be got over. I never was happier."
With silent indignation Fanny repeated to herself, "Never happier!—never happier than when doing what you must know was not justifiable!—never happier than when behaving so dishonourably and unfeelingly! Oh! what a corrupted mind!"
Henry is disingenuous—he’s not really referring to a dream of his own, he’s referring to FANNY’s dream! SHE is the one who came alive during the theatricals, and it is she who was never happier. Recall that Fanny was about to perform in Lovers Vows when her uncle returned. In effect, then, Henry here is like Satan--his words seem to be about Fanny’s vain cousins, but the “whisper” that enters Fanny’s mind as if via a dream is his innuendo—he is reminding her of his soulful connection with her that no one else shared, and that she could not even admit to herself. Julia and Maria were only pawns in Henry’s deeper game. The only thrill for a serious, jaded player like himself was to turn a Fanny Price to the dark side—that was a task worthy of a Miltonian Satan with serious chops.
And let me get speculative about how similar Henry is to Milton’s Satan in situation as well as character. The angel of light shows up in Eden in order to ruin God’s paradise---and isn’t that exactly what Henry does when he shows up at Mansfield Park? In the backstory I imagine for Mansfield Park, Henry is the proverbial chicken coming home to roost—the description of him as “black” (and of Mary as “brown”) hints that he’s a Creole who is a close blood relative of the Bertrams. Somehow, unknown to Fanny, Henry seeks his rightful inheritance at Mansfield Park, and that’s why he shows up right after Sir Thomas leaves for Antigua. While the cat’s away, Henry has a free hand to do his Satanic thing, which is to spoil things for “God” in God’s home, while God is preoccupied elsewhere.
But it’s not just Satan I see lurking inside Henry Crawford, it’s also Shakespeare’s Romeo—all he’s missing during the middle chapters of Mansfield Park is a good balcony!
Does it seem incongruous to you to imagine Henry as Romeo, and Fanny as Juliet? Most Janeites, I suspect, would more likely see Maria Bertram as Juliet--the star-crossed transgressor of marital mores. But did you know about the brilliant 2005 scholarly article by Watson and Dickey, which points to a half dozen ancient literary sources for the character of Romeo, including Hades, Tarquin andTereu, which all raise the very disturbing specter of Romeo not as Juliet’s lover but as her predatory rapist? That’s a Romeo who sounds a lot more like Henry Crawford!
And it is clear from the arc of Mansfield Park that the prize the degenerate Henry prizes above all is not Maria, who was just way too easy to seduce, but the seemingly impregnable Fanny. And, it bears repeating, Henry does succeed with Fanny, ast Jane Austen’s narrator makes clear:
“Could he have been satisfied with the conquest of one amiable woman's affections, could he have found sufficient exultation in overcoming the reluctance, in working himself into the esteem and tenderness of Fanny Price, there would have been every probability of success and felicity for him. His affection had already done something. Her influence over him had already given him some influence over her. Would he have deserved more, there can be no doubt that more would have been obtained, especially when that marriage had taken place, which would have given him the assistance of her conscience in subduing her first inclination, and brought them very often together. Would he have persevered, and uprightly, Fanny must have been his reward, and a reward very voluntarily bestowed, within a reasonable period from Edmund's marrying Mary….”
And so, for the remainder of this post, I will show you how Jane Austen,  via her persistent play on the word “sweet” as describing Fanny, thereby tagged the famous balcony scene in Romeo & Juliet, and its most memorable lines, “A rose by any other name would smell as SWEET” and “Parting is such SWEET sorrow”. First here are the multitude of usages of the word “sweet” in the Capulet Garden of Eden in Act 2 of Romeo & Juliet:

Now old desire doth in his death-bed lie,
And young affection gapes to be his heir;
That fair for which love groan'd for and would die,
With tender Juliet match'd, is now not fair.
Now Romeo is beloved and loves again,
Alike betwitched by the charm of looks,
But to his foe supposed he must complain,
And she steal love's SWEET bait from fearful hooks:
Being held a foe, he may not have access
To breathe such VOWS as LOVERS use to swear;
And she as much in love, her means much less
To meet her new-beloved any where:
But passion lends them power, time means, to meet
Tempering extremities with extreme SWEET.
What's in a NAME? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as SWEET;
Alack, there lies more peril in thine eye
Than twenty of their swords: look thou but SWEET,
And I am proof against their enmity.
Ere one can say 'It lightens.' SWEET, good night!
This bud of love, by summer's ripening breath,
May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.
Good night, good night! as SWEET repose and rest
Come to thy heart as that within my breast!
…I hear some noise within; dear love, adieu!
Anon, good nurse! SWEET Montague, be true.
Stay but a little, I will come again.
O blessed, blessed night! I am afeard.
Being in night, all this is but a dream,
Too flattering-SWEET to be substantial.
…It is my soul that calls upon my name:
How silver-SWEET sound lovers' tongues by night,
Like softest music to attending ears!

…..I would I were thy bird.
SWEET, so would I:
Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.
Good night, good night! parting is such SWEET sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.
Sleep dwell upon thine eyes, peace in thy breast!
Would I were SLEEP and peace, so SWEET to rest!
Hence will I to my ghostly father's cell,
His help to crave, and my dear hap to tell.

And now, keep firmly in mind all that “sweet’ talk between Romeo and Juliet, as you read through a number of passages I’ve selected from MP, below, which all refer to Fanny’s “sweetness”---some also referring to “naming”, “sorrow” and “parting”, and the rest being the passages which best describe Henry’s making a hole in Fanny’s heart the way Romeo does with Juliet.
I hope you’ll agree that Jane Austen wanted her alert readers to see the shadows of Romeo and Satan, and of Juliet and Eve, in her black Henry and her dearest Fanny.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter


Ch. 2: Miss Lee wondered at her ignorance, and the maid-servants sneered at her clothes; and when to these SORROWS was added the idea of [BEING PARTED FROM] the brothers and sisters among whom she had always been important as playfellow, instructress, and nurse, the despondence that sunk her little heart was severe…. and the little girl who was spoken of in the drawing-room when she left it at night as seeming so desirably sensible of her peculiar good fortune, ended every day's SORROWS by sobbing herself to sleep.

Ch. 3: Fanny left the room with a very SORROWFUL heart; she could not feel the difference to be so small, she could not think of living with her aunt with anything like satisfaction. As soon as she met with Edmund she told him her distress.…"As to your foolishness and awkwardness, my dear Fanny, believe me, you never have a shadow of either, but in using the words so improperly. There is no reason in the world why you should not be important where you are known. You have good sense, and a SWEET temper, and I am sure you have a grateful heart, that could never receive kindness without wishing to return it. I do not know any better qualifications for a friend and companion."

Ch. 24: “…I have always thought [Fanny] pretty—not strikingly pretty—but 'pretty enough,' as people say; a sort of beauty that grows on one. Her eyes should be darker, but she has a SWEET smile…”

Ch. 30: "Lucky, lucky girl!" cried Mary, as soon as she could speak; "what a match for her! My dearest Henry, this must be my first feeling; but my second, which you shall have as sincerely, is, that I approve your choice from my soul, and foresee your happiness as heartily as I wish and desire it. You will have a SWEET little wife; all gratitude and devotion. Exactly what you deserve. What an amazing match for her!” ….As soon as her eagerness could rest in silence, he was as happy to tell as she could be to listen; and a conversation followed almost as deeply interesting to her as to himself, though he had in fact nothing to relate but his own sensations, nothing to dwell on but Fanny's charms. Fanny's beauty of face and figure, Fanny's graces of manner and goodness of heart, were the exhaustless theme. The gentleness, modesty, and SWEETNESS of her character were warmly expatiated on; that SWEETNESS which makes so essential a part of every woman's worth in the judgment of man, that though he sometimes loves where it is not, he can never believe it absent.…."Had you seen her this morning, Mary," he continued, "attending with such ineffable SWEETNESS and patience to all the demands of her aunt's stupidity…Had you seen her so, Mary, you would not have implied the possibility of her power over my heart ever ceasing."

Ch. 31: “…Go on, my dear Fanny, and without fear; there can be no difficulties worth NAMING. I chuse to suppose that the assurance of my consent will be something; so you may smile upon him with your SWEETEST smiles this afternoon, and send him back to me even happier than he goes.—Yours affectionately, M. C."

Ch. 33: Here was a change, and here were claims which could not but operate! She might have disdained [Henry]in all the dignity of angry virtue, in the grounds of Sotherton, or the theatre at Mansfield Park; but he approached her now with rights that demanded different treatment. She must be courteous, and she must be compassionate. She must have a sensation of being honoured, and whether thinking of herself or her brother, she must have a strong feeling of gratitude. The effect of the whole was a manner so pitying and agitated, and words intermingled with her refusal so expressive of obligation and concern, that to a temper of vanity and hope like Crawford's, the truth, or at least the strength of her indifference, might well be questionable; and he was not so irrational as Fanny considered him, in the professions of persevering, assiduous, and not desponding attachment which closed the interview.  It was WITH RELUCTANCE THAT HE SUFFERED HER TO GO; but there was no look of despair in PARTING to belie his words, or give her hopes of his being less unreasonable than he professed himself.

Ch. 34: "Well," said Crawford, after a course of rapid questions and reluctant answers; "I am happier than I was, because I now understand more clearly your opinion of me. You think me unsteady: easily swayed by the whim of the moment, easily tempted, easily put aside. With such an opinion, no wonder that. But we shall see. It is not by protestations that I shall endeavour to convince you I am wronged; it is not by telling you that my affections are steady. My conduct shall speak for me; absence, distance, time shall speak for me. They shall prove that, as far as you can be deserved by anybody, I do deserve you. You are infinitely my superior in merit; all that I know. You have qualities which I had not before supposed to exist in such a degree in any human creature. You have some touches of the angel in you beyond what—not merely beyond what one sees, because one never sees anything like it—but beyond what one fancies might be. But still I am not frightened. It is not by equality of merit that you can be won. That is out of the question. It is he who sees and worships your merit the strongest, who loves you most devotedly, that has the best right to a return. There I build my confidence. By that right I do and will deserve you; and when once convinced that my attachment is what I declare it, I know you too well not to entertain the warmest hopes. Yes, dearest, SWEETEST Fanny. Nay" (seeing her draw back displeased), "forgive me. Perhaps I have as yet no right; but by what other name can I call you? Do you suppose you are ever present to my imagination under any other? No, it is 'Fanny' that I think of all day, and dream of all night. You have given THE NAME such reality of SWEETNESS, that nothing else can now be descriptive of you."

Ch. 36: In the evening there was another PARTING. Henry Crawford came and sat some time with them; and her spirits not being previously in the strongest state, her heart was softened for a while towards him, because he really seemed to feel. Quite unlike his usual self, he scarcely said anything. He was evidently OPPRESSED, and Fanny must GRIEVE for him, though hoping she might never see him again till he were the husband of some other woman.
When it came to THE MOMENT OF PARTING, he would take her hand, he would not be denied it; he said nothing, however, or nothing that she heard, and when he had left the room, she was better pleased that such a token of friendship had passed.
On the morrow the Crawfords were gone.

Ch. 37: Poor Fanny! though going as she did willingly and eagerly, the last evening at Mansfield Park must still be wretchedness. Her heart was COMPLETELY SAD AT PARTING. She had TEARS for every room in the house, much more for every beloved inhabitant. She clung to her aunt, because she would miss her; she kissed the hand of her uncle with STRUGGLING SOBS, because she had displeased him…

Ch. 40: “…There may be some old woman at Thornton Lacey to be converted. I am unwilling to fancy myself neglected for a young one. Adieu! my dear SWEET Fanny, this is a long letter from London: write me a pretty one in reply to gladden Henry's eyes, when he comes back, and send me an account of all the dashing young captains whom you disdain for his sake."

Ch. 42: Fanny was OUT OF SPIRITS all the rest of the day. Though tolerably secure of not seeing Mr. Crawford again, she could not help being low. It was PARTING with somebody of the nature of a friend; and though, in one light, glad to have him gone, it seemed as if she was now deserted by everybody; it was a sort of renewed separation from Mansfield; and she could not think of his returning to town, and being frequently with Mary and Edmund, without feelings so near akin to envy as made her hate herself for having them.

Ch. 43: “"I have to inform you, my dearest Fanny, that Henry has been down to Portsmouth to see you; that he had a delightful walk with you to the dockyard last Saturday, and one still more to be dwelt on the next day, on the ramparts; when the balmy air, the sparkling sea, and your SWEET looks and conversation were altogether in the most delicious harmony, and afforded sensations which are to raise ecstasy even in retrospect….”

Ch. 47: “…all this together most grievously convinced me that I had never understood her before, and that, as far as related to mind, it had been the creature of my own imagination, not Miss Crawford, that I had been too apt to dwell on for many months past. That, perhaps, it was best for me; I had less to regret in sacrificing a friendship, feelings, hopes which must, at any rate, have been torn from me now. And yet, that I must and would confess that, could I have restored her to what she had appeared to me before, I would infinitely prefer any increase of THE PAIN OF PARTING, for the sake of carrying with me the right of tenderness and esteem.

Ch. 48: All that followed was the result of [Maria’s] imprudence; and he went off with her at last, because he could not help it, regretting Fanny even at the moment, but regretting her infinitely more when all the bustle of the intrigue was over, and a very few months had taught him, by the force of contrast, to place a yet higher value on the SWEETNESS of her temper, the purity of her mind, and the excellence of her principles.…Selfishly dear as she had long been to Lady Bertram, she could not be parted with willingly by her. No happiness of son or niece could make her wish the marriage. But it was possible to part with her, because Susan remained to supply her place. Susan became the stationary niece, delighted to be so; and equally well adapted for it by a readiness of mind, and an inclination for usefulness, as Fanny had been by SWEETNESS of temper, and strong feelings of gratitude.

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