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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Study in Sensibility: Jefferson Hope (aka Willoughby) “preserves”, then leaves, Lucy Ferrier (aka Marianne)

Near the end of my previous post about the veiled allusion to Sense & Sensibility I recently discovered in Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, I posted thusly:

“And finally, speaking of Sherlock Holmes, I leave in the realm of enjoyable speculation the question of whether the following passage is another Doylesian wink at this diabolical word-game:
 "Precisely so," answered Holmes. "Now would you mind going down and fetching that poor little DEVIL of a TERRIER which has been bad so long, and which the landlady wanted you to put out of its pain yesterday."
 Did Doyle mean for us to misread that as ‘poor LITTLE DEVIL of a FERRIER’?”

When I reread my post after sleeping on it, I realized that there was a second broad wink at S&S in Holmes’ description of the doomed terrier, beyond the Lucy Ferrars/ Lucifer allusion I had already spotted.  My subconscious had in the interim detected that Holmes’s comment also “points” to the following memorable inanity spoken by Sir John Middleton:

"And is that all you can say for him?" cried Marianne, indignantly. "But what are his manners on more intimate acquaintance? What his pursuits, his talents, and genius?"
Sir John was rather puzzled. "Upon my soul," said he, "I do not know much about him as to all that. But he is a pleasant, good humoured fellow, and has got the nicest LITTLE BLACK BITCH of a POINTER I ever saw. Was she out with him today?"
But Marianne could no more satisfy him as to the colour of Mr. Willoughby's pointer, than he could describe to her the shades of his mind. “

“poor little devil of a terrier” and “little black bitch of a pointer”-- just a coincidental echo? It turns out to be yet another significant clue left for the sharp elf Janeite reader by the clever Conan Doyle --the tip of a further allusive Austenian iceberg. I.e., there’s a fully dramatized episode in Scarlet depicting a “meet-cute rescue then whirlwind courtship of risk-taking romantic heroine & her doting parent by dashing hunter hero” –sound familiar? In place of Willoughby, Marianne and Mrs. Dashwood, Doyle gives us Lucy Ferrier (and father John) swept away from a dangerous stampede into the saddle and heart of Jefferson Hope.

And Doyle does it up bigtime—he echoes that episode in S&S in a dozen ways---in situation, in theme, and in keywords. To give you the full flavor of the extent of the 27 year old Doyle’s veiled allusion to Austen, I will quote the relevant passage in Scarlet, showing the echoed keywords in ALL CAPS and situations in italics. It will be obvious to you by the end that this was no coincidence! At the end, I’ll also post the echoed passages in Chapters 10-11 in S&S, for ease of reference.

First, from A Study in Scarlet:
“It was not the father, however, who first discovered that the child had developed into the woman. It seldom is in such cases. That mysterious change is too subtle and too gradual to be measured by dates. Least of all does the maiden herself know it until the tone of a voice or the touch of a hand sets her heart thrilling within her, and she learns, with a mixture of pride and of fear, that a new and a larger nature has awoken within her. There are few who cannot recall that day and remember the one little incident which heralded the dawn of a new life. In the case of LUCY FERrier the occasion was serious enough in itself, apart from its future influence on her destiny and that of many besides.
It was a warm June morning, and the Latter Day Saints were as busy as the bees whose hive they have chosen for their emblem. In the fields and in the streets rose the same hum of human industry. Down the dusty high roads defiled long streams of heavily-laden mules, all heading to the west, for the gold fever had broken out in California, and the Overland Route lay through the City of the Elect. There, too, were droves of sheep and bullocks coming in from the outlying pasture lands, and trains of tired immigrants, men and horses equally weary of their interminable journey. Through all this motley assemblage, threading her way with the skill of an accomplished rider, there galloped LUCY FERrier, her fair face FLUSHED WITH THE EXERCISE and her long chestnut hair floating out behind her. She had a commission from her father in the City, and was dashing in as she had done many a time before, with all the FEARLESSNESS of youth, thinking only of her task and how it was to be performed. The travel-stained adventurers gazed after her in astonishment, and even the unemotional Indians, journeying in with their pelties, relaxed their accustomed stoicism as they marvelled at the BEAUTY of the PALE-FACED maiden.
She had reached the outskirts of the city when she found the road blocked by a great drove of cattle, driven by a half-dozen wild-looking herdsmen from the plains. In her IMPATIENCE she endeavoured to pass this obstacle by pushing her horse into what appeared to be a gap. Scarcely had she got fairly into it, however, before the beasts closed in behind her, and she found herself completely imbedded in the moving stream of fierce-eyed, long-horned bullocks. Accustomed as she was to deal with cattle, she was not alarmed at her situation, but took advantage of every opportunity to urge her horse on in the hopes of pushing her way through the cavalcade. Unfortunately the horns of one of the creatures, EITHER BY  ACCIDENT OR DESIGN, came in violent contact with the flank of the mustang, and excited it to madness. In an instant it reared up upon its hind legs with a snort of rage, and pranced and tossed in a way that would have unseated any but a most skilful rider. The situation was full of peril. Every plunge of the excited horse brought it against the horns again, and goaded it to fresh madness. It was all that the girl could do to keep herself in the saddle, yet A SLIP would mean a terrible death under the hoofs of the unwieldy and terrified animals. Unaccustomed to sudden emergencies, her head began to swim, and her grip upon the bridle to relax. Choked by the rising cloud of dust and by the steam from the struggling creatures, she might have abandoned her efforts in despair, but for a kindly voice at her elbow which assured HER of ASSISTANCE. At the same moment a sinewy brown hand caught the frightened horse by the curb, and forcing a way through the drove, soon brought her to the outskirts.
"You're not hurt, I hope, miss," said her PRESERVER, respectfully.
She looked up at his dark, fierce face, and laughed saucily. "I'm awful frightened," she said, naively; "whoever would have thought that Poncho would have been so scared by a lot of cows?"
"Thank God you kept your seat," the other said earnestly. He was a tall, savage-looking young fellow, mounted on a powerful roan horse, and clad in the rough dress of a HUNTER, with a long RIFLE slung over his shoulders. "I guess you are the daughter of John Ferrier," he remarked, "I SAW YOU RIDE DOWN FROM HIS HOUSE. When you see him, ask him if he remembers the Jefferson Hopes of St. Louis. If he's the same Ferrier, my father and he were pretty thick."
"Hadn't you better come and ask yourself?" she asked, DEMURELY.
The young fellow seemed pleased at the suggestion, and his DARK EYES SPARKLED with pleasure. "I'll do so," he said, "we've been in the mountains for two months, and are not over and above in visiting condition. He must take us as he finds us."
"He has a good deal to thank you for, and so have I," she answered, "he's awful fond of me. If those cows had jumped on me he'd have never got over it."
"Neither would I," said her companion.
"You! Well, I don't see that it would make much matter to you, anyhow. You ain't even a friend of ours."
The young HUNTER's dark face grew so gloomy over this remark that Lucy Ferrier laughed aloud.
"There, I didn't mean that," she said; "of course, you are a friend now. You must come and see us. Now I must push along, or father won't trust me with his business any more. Good-bye!"
"Good-bye," he answered, raising his broad sombrero, and bending over her little hand. She wheeled her mustang round, gave it a cut with her riding-whip, and darted away down the broad road in a rolling cloud of dust.
Young Jefferson Hope rode on with his companions, gloomy and taciturn.…When she had vanished from his sight, he realized that a crisis had come in his life, and that neither silver speculations nor any other questions could ever be of such importance to him as this new and all-absorbing one. The love which had sprung up in his heart was not the sudden, changeable fancy of a boy, but rather the wild, fierce passion of a man of strong will and imperious temper. He had been accustomed to succeed in all that he undertook. He swore in his heart that he would not fail in this if human effort and human perseverance could render him successful.
He called on John Ferrier that night, and many times again, until his face was a familiar one at the farm-house. John, cooped up in the valley, and absorbed in his work, had had little chance of learning the news of the outside world during the last twelve years. All this Jefferson Hope was able to tell him, and in a style which INTERESTED Lucy as well as her father. He had been a pioneer in California, and could narrate many a strange tale of fortunes made and fortunes lost in those wild, halcyon days. He had been a scout too, and a trapper, a silver explorer, and a ranchman. Wherever stirring adventures were to be had, Jefferson Hope had been there in search of them. He soon became a favourite with the old farmer, who spoke eloquently of his virtues. On such occasions, Lucy was silent, but her BLUSHING cheek and her BRIGHT, HAPPY EYES, showed only too clearly that her young heart was no longer her own. Her honest father may not have observed these symptoms, but they were assuredly not thrown away upon the man who had won her affections.
It was a summer evening when he came galloping down the road and pulled up at the gate. She was at the doorway, and came down to meet him. He threw the bridle over the fence and strode up the pathway.
"I am off, Lucy," he said, taking her two hands in his, and gazing tenderly down into her face; "I won't ask you to come with me now, but will you be ready to come when I am here again?"
"And when will that be?" she asked, BLUSHING and laughing.
"A couple of months at the outside. I will come and claim you then, my darling. There's no one who can stand between us."
"And how about father?" she asked.
"He has given his consent, provided we get these mines working all right. I have no fear on that head."
"Oh, well; of course, if you and father have arranged it all, there's no more to be said," she whispered, with her cheek against his broad breast.
"Thank God!" he said, hoarsely, stooping and kissing her. "It is settled, then. The longer I stay, the harder it will be to go. They are waiting for me at the cañon. Good-bye, my own darling—good-bye. In two months you shall see me."
He tore himself from her as he spoke, and, flinging himself upon his horse, galloped furiously away, never even looking round, as though afraid that his resolution might fail him if he took one glance at what he was leaving. She stood at the gate, gazing after him until he vanished from her sight. Then she walked back into the house, the happiest girl in all Utah. “  END QUOTE FROM A Study in Scarlet

So, what might Doyle have meant by this extensive echoing of Austen’s Willoughby and Marianne in Jefferson Hope and Lucy, when viewed alongside his echoing the name of Lucy (Steele) Ferrars as well?

For starters, it’s very interesting to me that Jefferson’s and Lucy’s fathers were once very close, and that Jefferson was aware of that, and was observing Lucy unknown to her---which is why he is there to rescue her from the stampede. That suggests to me that Doyle recognized, in 1886, what I first realized in 2002, which is that Willoughby was already watching (stalking) Marianne, which is why he was there to scoop her up right after she fell in the rain. And, I’ve also long believed that the Dashwoods, Willoughbys, Jennings, and Steeles are all related via a complicated backstory in S&S, so it seems to me that Doyle was hinting at that as well. In short, my hypothesis is that Doyle makes explicit in Scarlet what he recognized was implicit in S&S.

And second, it’s fascinating to think about Scarlet as a very skeptical meditation on Marianne’s marriage to Brandon. Marianne almost dies of heartbreak over Willoughby, and death from heartbreak is exactly what happens to Lucy Ferrier when Jefferson is prevented from marrying her (by edict of Brigham Young himself), and she is forced to marry a Mormon man she doesn’t love. Was Doyle suspicious—as not a few Janeites are—of Marianne’s abrupt turnabout and acceptance of Brandon as husband, and of the harsh financial realities driving that outcome?  

What do you think? Put on your Sherlock Holmes deerskin cap, and see what else you can detect.  ;)

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Relevant passages in S&S, Chapters 9-10:
“They set off. Marianne had at first the advantage, but a false step brought her suddenly to the ground; and Margaret, unable to stop herself to ASSIST HER, was involuntarily hurried along, and reached the bottom in safety.  A gentleman carrying a GUN, with two pointers playing round him, was passing up the hill and within a few yards of Marianne, when her ACCIDENT happened. He put down his gun and ran to HER ASSISTANCE. She had raised herself from the ground, but her foot had been twisted in her fall, and she was scarcely able to stand. The gentleman offered his services; and perceiving that her MODESTY declined what her situation rendered necessary, took her up in his arms without farther delay, and carried her down the hill. Then passing through the garden, the gate of which had been left open by Margaret, he bore her directly into the house, whither Margaret was just arrived, and quitted not his hold till he had seated her in a chair in the parlour.
Elinor and her mother rose up in amazement at their entrance, and while the eyes of both were fixed on him with an evident wonder and a secret admiration which equally sprung from his appearance, he apologized for his intrusion by relating its cause, in a manner so frank and so graceful that his person, which was uncommonly handsome, received additional charms from his voice and expression. Had he been even old, ugly, and vulgar, the gratitude and kindness of Mrs. Dashwood would have been secured by any act of attention to her child; but the influence of youth, beauty, and elegance, gave an INTEREST to the action which came home to her feelings. She thanked him again and again; and, with a sweetness of address which always attended her, invited him to be seated. But this he declined, as he was dirty and wet. Mrs. Dashwood then begged to know to whom she was obliged. His name, he replied, was Willoughby, and his present home was at Allenham, from whence he hoped she would allow him the honour of calling tomorrow to enquire after Miss Dashwood. The honour was readily granted, and he then departed, to make himself still more INTERESTING, in the midst of a heavy rain.
His manly beauty and more than common gracefulness were instantly the theme of general admiration, and the laugh which his gallantry raised against Marianne received particular spirit from his exterior attractions.— Marianne herself had seen less of his person than the rest, for the confusion which CRIMSONED over her face, on his lifting her up, had robbed her of the power of regarding him after their entering the house. But she had seen enough of him to join in all the admiration of the others, and with an energy which always adorned her praise. His person and air were equal to what her fancy had ever drawn for the hero of a favourite story; and in his carrying her into the house with so little previous formality, there was a rapidity of thought which particularly recommended the action to her. Every circumstance belonging to him was INTERESTING. His name was good, his residence was in their favourite village, and she soon found out that of all manly dresses a shooting-jacket was the most becoming. Her imagination was busy, her reflections were pleasant, and the pain of a sprained ankle was disregarded.
Sir John called on them as soon as the next interval of fair weather that morning allowed him to get out of doors; and Marianne's ACCIDENT being related to him, he was eagerly asked whether he knew any gentleman of the name of Willoughby at Allenham.
"Willoughby!" cried Sir John; "what, is HE in the country? That is good news however; I will ride over tomorrow, and ask him to dinner on Thursday."
"You know him then," said Mrs. Dashwood.
"Know him! to be sure I do. Why, he is down here every year."
"And what sort of a young man is he?"
"As good a kind of fellow as ever lived, I assure you. A very decent shot, and there is not a bolder rider in England."
"And is that all you can say for him?" cried Marianne, indignantly. "But what are his manners on more intimate acquaintance? What his pursuits, his talents, and genius?"
Sir John was rather puzzled.
"Upon my soul," said he, "I do not know much about him as to all THAT. But he is a pleasant, good humoured fellow, and has got the nicest LITTLE BLACK BITCH of a POINTER I ever saw. Was she out with him today?"
But Marianne could no more satisfy him as to the colour of Mr. Willoughby's pointer, than he could describe to her the shades of his mind. “
"But who is he?" said Elinor. "Where does he come from? Has he a house at Allenham?"
On this point Sir John could give more certain intelligence; and he told them that Mr. Willoughby had no property of his own in the country; that he resided there only while he was visiting the old lady at Allenham Court, to whom he was related, and whose possessions he was to inherit; adding, "Yes, yes, he is very well worth catching I can tell you, Miss Dashwood; he has a pretty little estate of his own in Somersetshire besides; and if I were you, I would not give him up to my younger sister, in spite of all this tumbling down hills. Miss Marianne must not expect to have all the men to herself. Brandon will be jealous, if she does not take care."
"I do not believe," said Mrs. Dashwood, with a good humoured smile, "that Mr. Willoughby will be incommoded by the attempts of either of MY daughters towards what you call CATCHING him. It is not an employment to which they have been brought up. Men are very safe with us, let them be ever so rich. I am glad to find, however, from what you say, that he is a respectable young man, and one whose acquaintance will not be ineligible."
"He is as good a sort of fellow, I believe, as ever lived," repeated Sir John. "I remember last Christmas at a little hop at the park, he danced from eight o'clock till four, without once sitting down."
"Did he indeed?" cried Marianne with SPARKLING EYES, "and with elegance, with spirit?"
"Yes; and he was up again at eight to ride to covert."
"That is what I like; that is what a young man ought to be. Whatever be his pursuits, his eagerness in them should know no moderation, and leave him no sense of fatigue."
"Aye, aye, I see how it will be," said Sir John, "I see how it will be. You will be setting your cap at him now, and never think of poor Brandon."
"That is an expression, Sir John," said Marianne, warmly, "which I particularly dislike. I abhor every common-place phrase by which wit is intended; and 'setting one's cap at a man,' or 'making a conquest,' are the most odious of all. Their tendency is gross and illiberal; and if their construction could ever be deemed clever, time has long ago destroyed all its ingenuity."
Sir John did not much understand this reproof; but he laughed as heartily as if he did, and then replied,
"Ay, you will make conquests enough, I dare say, one way or other. Poor Brandon! he is quite smitten already, and he is very well worth setting your cap at, I can tell you, in spite of all this tumbling about and spraining of ankles."

Ch. 10: Marianne's PRESERVER, as Margaret, with more elegance than precision, styled Willoughby, called at the cottage early the next morning to make his personal enquiries. He was received by Mrs. Dashwood with more than politeness; with a kindness which Sir John's account of him and her own gratitude prompted; and every thing that passed during the visit tended to assure him of the sense, elegance, mutual affection, and domestic comfort of the family to whom ACCIDENT had now introduced him. Of their personal charms he had not required a second interview to be convinced.
….Willoughby, on his side, gave every proof of his pleasure in their acquaintance, which an evident wish of improving it could offer. He came to them every day. To enquire after Marianne was at first his excuse; but the encouragement of his reception, to which every day gave greater kindness, made such an excuse unnecessary before it had ceased to be possible, by Marianne's perfect recovery. She was confined for some days to the house; but never had any confinement been less irksome. Willoughby was a young man of good abilities, quick imagination, lively spirits, and open, affectionate manners. He was exactly formed to engage Marianne's heart, for with all this, he joined not only a captivating person, but a natural ardour of mind which was now roused and increased by the example of her own, and which recommended him to her affection beyond every thing else.
His society became gradually her most exquisite enjoyment. They read, they talked, they sang together; his musical talents were considerable; and he read with all the sensibility and spirit which Edward had unfortunately wanted.
In Mrs. Dashwood's estimation he was as faultless as in Marianne's; and Elinor saw nothing to censure in him but a propensity, in which he strongly resembled and peculiarly delighted her sister, of saying too much what he thought on every occasion, without attention to persons or circumstances. In hastily forming and giving his opinion of other people, in sacrificing general politeness to the enjoyment of undivided attention where his heart was engaged, and in slighting too easily the forms of worldly propriety, he displayed a want of caution which Elinor could not approve, in spite of all that he and Marianne could say in its support.
Marianne began now to perceive that the desperation which had seized her at sixteen and a half, of ever seeing a man who could satisfy her ideas of perfection, had been rash and unjustifiable. Willoughby was all that her fancy had delineated in that unhappy hour and in every brighter period, as capable of attaching her; and his behaviour declared his wishes to be in that respect as earnest, as his abilities were strong.
Her mother too, in whose mind not one speculative thought of their marriage had been raised, by his prospect of riches, was led before the end of a week to hope and expect it; and secretly to congratulate herself on having gained two such sons-in-law as Edward and Willoughby.
Colonel Brandon's partiality for Marianne, which had so early been discovered by his friends, now first became perceptible to Elinor, when it ceased to be noticed by them.”
[MUCH LATER, in Chapter 44]
A heavy scene however awaited me, before I could leave Devonshire;—I was engaged to dine with you on that very day; some apology was therefore necessary for my breaking this engagement. But whether I should write this apology, or deliver it in person, was a point of long debate. To see Marianne, I felt, would be dreadful, and I even doubted whether I could see her again, and keep to my resolution. In that point, however, I undervalued my own magnanimity, as the event declared; for I went, I saw her, and saw her miserable, and left her miserable—and left her hoping never to see her again."
"Why did you call, Mr. Willoughby?" said Elinor, reproachfully; "a note would have answered every purpose.— Why was it necessary to call?"
"It was necessary to my own pride. I could not bear to leave the country in a manner that might lead you, or the rest of the neighbourhood, to suspect any part of what had really passed between Mrs. Smith and myself—and I resolved therefore on calling at the cottage, in my way to Honiton. The sight of your dear sister, however, was really dreadful; and, to heighten the matter, I found her alone. You were all gone I do not know where. I had left her only the evening before, so fully, so firmly resolved within my self on doing right! A few hours were to have engaged her to me for ever; and I remember how happy, how gay were my spirits, as I walked from the cottage to Allenham, satisfied with myself, delighted with every body! But in this, our last interview of friendship, I approached her with a sense of guilt that almost took from me the power of dissembling. Her sorrow, her disappointment, her deep regret, when I told her that I was obliged to leave Devonshire so immediately—I never shall forget it—united too with such reliance, such confidence in me!—Oh, God!—what a hard-hearted rascal I was!"
They were both silent for a few moments. Elinor first spoke.
"Did you tell her that you should soon return?"
"I do not know what I told her," he replied, impatiently; "less than was due to the past, beyond a doubt, and in all likelihood much more than was justified by the future. I cannot think of it.—It won't do.—Then came your dear mother to torture me farther, with all her kindness and confidence. Thank Heaven! it DID torture me. I was miserable. Miss Dashwood, you cannot have an idea of the comfort it gives me to look back on my own misery…”

Saturday, November 21, 2015

“That poor little devil of a terrier”: the Holmesian allusion to Sense & Sensibility in A Study in Scarlet

Since 2008, I’ve been of the opinion that Arthur Conan Doyle was a closet Janeite, and a few years ago I had occasion to write the following brief comments in that regard in the Janeites and Austen-L groups:

The Life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, by John Dickson Carr, 1975 at p.115:   “At Norwood on April 6, 1893—sitting by the study fire with a cold in his head, idly reading Pride and Prejudice while legions of painters bumped the outside of the house — he put aside the book and wrote a letter to the Ma'am. ‘All is very well down here,’ he said. ‘I am in the middle of the last Holmes story’ “
And this further detail from my friend Elsie Holzwarth in the 2008 Chicago JASNA Newsletter:
“In Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters…we read Conan Doyle’s letter of April 6, 1893 to his mother: “I am in the middle of the last [Sherlock] Holmes story, after which the gentleman vanishes, never to reappear. I am weary of his name. . . as I have a cold I have sat by the fire all day and read Miss Austen’s ‘Pride & Prejudice.’ I like her easy prim subdued style. I had read nothing of her before.” Easy, prim, subdued? Well, perhaps, if compared with The Hound of the Baskervilles.”
And finally, in 2010 I read a very interesting article by a Holmes devotee that suggested that Doyle had alluded to P&P in his last Holmes story.” END QUOTE FROM MY 2011 POST

Today I am back to resurrect from one of my earlier files a tidbit I had forgotten about till today, which is strong evidence that Arthur Conan Doyle was fibbing to his mother in that April 6 1893 letter—i.e., I will make the brief case that in his first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, published in 1887, i.e., six years earlier, he had already hidden, in plain sight of his readers, a giant wink at his own discovery of the audacious word game hidden by Jane Austen, in plain sight of her readers, in her first published novel, which also just happens to contain 2 nouns beginning with the letter “s” in its title: Sense & Sensibility!!!

The word game in S&S to which I refer, as anyone following my posts over the past decade will recall, is that Lucy Steele, the diabolically clever and resourceful courtship nemesis of Elinor Dashwood  in S&S, takes on the name “Lucy Ferrars” when she, to the shock of Elinor and everyone else, up and marries Robert Ferrrars, leaving Edward Ferrars free to marry Elinor. And LUCY FERRARS (Lucy signs her letter to Elinor in ALL CAPS) just happens to easily transform à LUCYFERRARS à LUCIFER, as I most recently summarized here: 

Well, guess what? The heroine of Conan Doyle’s A Study is Scarlet is named LUCY FERRIER! And now I’ll briefly walk you through the key points of Doyle’s covert allusion to S&S.

First, just as in Sense & Sensibility, Lucy Ferrier is not a name given at birth, it is a name acquired after a man gives it (John Ferrier, by adopting his Lucy; Robert Ferrars, by marrying his), and Doyle cleverly underscores that parallel in this passage:

"My name is John Ferrier," the wanderer explained; "me and that little un are all that's left o' twenty-one people. The rest is all dead o' thirst and hunger away down in the south."
"Is she your child?" asked some one.
"I guess she is now," the other cried, defiantly; "she's mine 'cause I saved her. No man will take her away from me. She's LUCY FERRIER from this day on.”

Second, Doyle has his Lucy-Fer enter into a loveless greed-driven marriage to a man she does not love. But Doyle reverses the direction of the greed -- he making his Lucy a victim of a greedy suitor who marries her because her suitor wants her father’s property, whereas Austen’s Lucy is a greedy fortune hunter who marries Robert Ferrars in order to take practical control, via her resourceful manipulativeness, of the Ferrars family fortune.

Third, Doyle subtly invokes Milton’s Satan, just as Austen does with her Lucy---but, again, in reverse, because, in the following passage, Doyle’s “Satan” comes to the rescue of the imperiled sleeping “Eve” he loves, in the following scene:

“So unnerved was [John Ferrier] at the sight that he leaned up against the wall with his hand to his throat to stifle his inclination to call out. His first thought was that the prostrate figure was that of some wounded or dying man, but as he watched it he saw it writhe along the ground and into the hall with the rapidity and noiselessness of A SERPENT. Once within the house the man sprang to his feet, closed the door, and revealed to the astonished farmer the fierce face and resolute expression of Jefferson Hope.
"Good God!" gasped John Ferrier. "How you scared me! Whatever made you come in like that."
"Give me food," the other said, hoarsely. "I have had no time for bite or sup for eight-and-forty hours." He flung himself upon the cold meat and bread which were still lying upon the table from his host's supper, and devoured it voraciously. "Does Lucy bear up well?" he asked, when he had satisfied his hunger.
"Yes. She does not know the danger," her father answered.
"That is well. The house is watched on every side. That is why I crawled my way up to it. They may be darned sharp, but they're not quite sharp enough to catch a Washoe hunter."
John Ferrier felt a different man now that he realized that he had a devoted ally…”

Fourth, Doyle winked at Austen’s Lucy via a pun on Austen’s Lucy’s maiden name “Steele”:

“While Ferrier was absent, preparing his daughter for the approaching journey, Jefferson Hope packed all the eatables that he could find into a small parcel, and filled a stoneware jar with water, for he knew by experience that the mountain wells were few and far between. He had hardly completed his arrangements before the farmer returned with his daughter all dressed and ready for a start. The greeting between the lovers was warm, but brief, for minutes were precious, and there was much to be done.
"We must make our start at once," said Jefferson Hope, speaking in a low but resolute voice, like one who realizes the greatness of the peril, but has STEELED his heart to meet it.”

He “steeled” his heart indeed! And I almost have to wonder whether these apparent reversals of the much reviled Lucy Steele Ferrars into the positive character of Lucy Ferrier are a marker of Doyle’s having also realized that Austen’s Lucy is, when viewed from outside the box, more heroine than villain, as I’ve suggested previously.

It is significant that A Study in Scarlet was the first Sherlock Holmes story, and therefore Doyle’s first opportunity to present to the world his discovery of Jane Austen’s hidden “Lucifer”, which he had perhaps made years earlier. And so, for Doyle to hide this allusion to S&S in plain sight in Holmes’s debut, demonstrating Doyle’s having decoded Jane Austen’s hidden-in-plain-sight word game with a diabolically Holmesian cleverness, is an ironic touch that the master of 221B Baker Street would’ve savored!

And finally, speaking of Sherlock Holmes, I leave in the realm of enjoyable speculation the question of whether the following passage is another Doylesian wink at this diabolical word-game:

"Precisely so," answered Holmes. "Now would you mind going down and fetching that poor little DEVIL of  a TERRIER which has been bad so long, and which the landlady wanted you to put out of its pain yesterday."

Did Doyle mean for us to misread that as “poor little DEVIL of a FERRIER”???  

And if you think you hear, in Holmes’s using a dying old dog to solve a mystery, a forerunner to Doyle’s later Holmes story “The curious incident of the dog in the night-time”, and also an echo of Homer’s Odyssey, you’re right on both counts, as Tomoyuki Tanaka explains in  “Box and Cox, the Homeric Sherlock Holmes, and Joyce’s Ulysses”:

“The parallels [between The Odyssey and A Study in Scarlet] explain Study’s three plot peculiarities:
The first concerns the circumstances leading to Jefferson Hope’s capture when his cab is summoned to 221B Baker Street. Hope sent a young man disguised as an old woman to that address on the previous day, but Hope shows no suspicion upon being called to the same address. The role of the unnamed young friend was perhaps an afterthought, to recreate Telemachus who helps Odysseus.
The second peculiarity is the “duel by two identical pills” --- Hope’s offering Drebber and Stangerson a choice between two pills one of which is poison. This mirrors Box and Cox’s duel by tossing of identically-rigged dice and coins. Hope’s two pills are also reminiscent of the antidote that Hermes gives Odysseus to counteract Circe’s bewitching poison, and correspond to the last chance given to the suitors by an archery competition using Odysseus’s bow.
The third peculiarity is Holmes’s “euthanasia” of the old, dying dog to test the poison pill. This is a recreation of a scene from the Odyssey. Odysseus appearing as a beggar is recognized by his old dog Argos, who gives him welcome and immediately dies of old age.” END QUOTE FROM TANAKA

So many layers of hidden meaning, nestled together, an extraordinary literary matrioshka, courtesy of Homer, Jane Austen, and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode onTwitter

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Tara Bergin’s “Appointment with Jane Austen”: “Painful sensation of restraint or alarm!”

I came across a very interesting poem this morning. I thought it would be fun to give my reactions, and then read what others see in it.

“Appointment with Jane Austen” by Tara Bergin  (2013)

Blushing in a manner out of keeping with my age
(my graying hair, my falling face)
I entered Greyfriar’s Inn.
I was blushing, and out of keeping with my age.
In I went, making my foolish entrance,
folding down my umbrella self-consciously — 
aware of the locals at the bar with their gin
and their small talk — 
and walked right up to the barmaid,
somewhat brazenly, I thought. One glass of beer,
I said to her, and she, smiling kindly,
pulled it. I stood and waited.
I waited for them all to stop their fond,
drunken reminiscences,
for them to stop putting forth their opinions,
and to turn to me and say — in an accusatory way — 
What are you doing here? On a Wednesday night?
With an accent we can’t quite identify?

I waited ready:

Why am I here? I would say.
I am here as an imposter, an outsider,
a reluctant admirer of your lovely daughter Jane — 
I am here for my Lecture in the Picturesque,
to learn of sidescreens and perspectives,
to learn of window tax and syntax — and “ha-has” — 
for harmless gambling in the parlor,
wearing mittens and handworked collars and a pretty amber cross — 
I am here to steal a pistol and a spoon found underground,
to rob the peacock feathers streaming from the silly boy’s crown — 
I am here, I would say, for sensation — 
For sensation? they would say, and I would say:
Yes! Painful sensation of restraint or alarm!
Oh ye patrons of Greyfriar’s Inn, I would exclaim,
I am here to meet your high-waisted Jane,
to embrace her as my comrade; as my brother-in-arms!

I stood and waited. But the good patrons of Greyfriar’s Inn,
they never said a thing; just continued talking amongst themselves,
quietly reminiscing. I paid the barmaid and turned my head.
I looked out at the wet; I looked out at the southwest rain,
and the redbrick houses. I watched the famous silhouette,
gently swinging back and forth above the gate.
I raised the glass to her impassive, sideways face.
Nothing ventured. Nothing gained.

Google confirmed that “Greyfriar’s Inn” is a real inn doing business in the village of Chawton, but Google Images revealed no gate, or silhouette of Jane Austen hanging over it which is visible from the bar inside? Does anyone know if it also exists in real life, or was it a creation of Bergin’s imagination?

The second stanza seems to be the heart of the poem, most of all her quotation (tagged by its being in italics), which is from the last line of Mansfield Park:

“On that event [Dr. Grant’s death] they [Fanny and Edmund] removed to Mansfield; and the Parsonage there, which, under each of its two former owners, Fanny had never been able to approach but with some painful sensation of restraint or alarm, soon grew as dear to her heart, and as thoroughly perfect in her eyes, as everything else within the view and patronage of Mansfield Park had long been.”

According to the webpage where I found the poem, Bergin is from Dublin, Ireland, but lives in the North of England, and that fits with her emphasis on her otherness---at first subtly, with her reference to her own accent which the local English pub patrons “can’t quite identify”; and then calling herself “an imposter, an outsider”  who (again, like Fanny Price, blushes, and feels foolish making an entrance into Chawton, the central shrine of Janeism. And that subtext fits perfectly with the quotation from MP, which is about how Fanny Price, the ultimate blushing Austenian outsider, finally came to feel truly at home at the Mansfield Parsonage.

So Bergin by this subtext seems to allude to the “painful sensation of restraint or alarm” (with exclamation point) which I imagine many Irish people still feel in England, especially if they live there. And yet, at the same time, Bergin has come to Chawton, as she tells us,  because she has identified herself as a “reluctant admirer” of Jane Austen as a “comrade” and “brother-in arms”--- that last being an interesting choice of word, given my belief that Jane Austen, and several of her female characters, were not strictly heterosexual. Is Bergin’s reluctance due to her Irishness, or some other reason?

In that second stanza are also a rapid-fire series of Austen allusions, with a heavy skew, again, to Mansfield Park----in which the Picturesque, ha-has, gambling in the parlor, a pretty amber cross, and the window-tax are all significant themes or symbols. And there are also the sidescreens and perspectives from the Beechen Cliff scene in Northanger Abbey.

But what to make of the following?:

“wearing mittens and handworked collars…”  

“I am here to steal a pistol and a spoon found underground”

“to rob the peacock feathers streaming from the silly boy’s crown”

As to the last of those three cryptic lines, Mrs. Gardiner writes to Eliza about Mr. Gardiner being glad to give an explanation of Darcy’s behind the scenes generosity which would “rob” Mr. G of the  “borrowed feathers” of credit for resolving the Wickham-Lydia fracas, but the rest is mysterious to me. Any thoughts?

The end of the poem suggests that Bergin found no answers in Chawton—like Fanny Price, like the real life Jane Austen when in company with the rich, powerful, and titled in the Godmersham set, she was invisible—a strange woman with graying hair—a Miss Bates.

But does this lack of answers extend to Jane Austen’s novels as well? I.e., is Bergin in the end referring to Jane Austen’s silhouetted face, or to her writing, as “sideways” and “impassive?—or maybe, both?

Nancy, thanks very much for providing that image....  ... of a button with peacock feathers in a crown, it turns out to be a clue, I think, to Bergin’s meaning, beyond the very oblique allusion to Mr. Gardiner and his borrowed feathers. I Googled, and found a number of independent sources which essentially all state that Krishna, a widely revered and popular Hindu deity, is sometimes pictured in Hindu symbology with a crown of peacock feathers, either as a little boy or a young man playing a flute.

Let me take a tentative stab at this---one thing I think Bergin is doing here, is subtly blending two symbols of Krishna together, and connecting them to Jane Austen. Is she suggesting, perhaps, that she “is here” (physically in Chawton, metaphysically in Jane Austen’s fictional worlds) to “meet” and “embrace” Jane Austen, a goddess of the fine art of fiction, revered throughout the world for her depictions of the mysteries of love and the heart?

I also love the way Bergin circles in, starting with the realm of ideas, theories, and everyday life, then getting poetical and metaphorical, and finally arriving at the center---sensation, and in particular painful sensation, which she has (correctly) in my view discerned in that final paragraph of Mansfield Park, which lulls the passive reader into a dream of happy ever after, but inserts a reminder with the words “painful” and “alarm”:

I am here for my Lecture in the Picturesque,
to learn of sidescreens and perspectives,
to learn of window tax and syntax — and “ha-has” — 
for harmless gambling in the parlor,
wearing mittens and handworked collars and a pretty amber cross — 
I am here to steal a pistol and a spoon found underground,
to rob the peacock feathers streaming from the silly boy’s crown — 
I am here, I would say, for sensation — 
For sensation? they would say, and I would say:
Yes! Painful sensation of restraint or alarm!
Oh ye patrons of Greyfriar’s Inn, I would exclaim,
I am here to meet your high-waisted Jane,
to embrace her as my comrade; as my brother-in-arms!

I believe Jane Austen would have loved Bergin’s poem, and would have embraced her back as her comrade!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter