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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Friday, February 26, 2016

Millenium Hall lesbian subtext in Austen, especially Mansfield Park: A very FLAT business, I am sure!

In Janeites and Austen L today, Ellen Moody wrote: “One final work, Sarah Scott's Millenium Hall shows single lives for women which include happiness. A number of spinster characters. Most fully developed Miss Louisa Mancel. Kittredge is her most cheerful in this section: she likes the story of Mancel enormously. Mancel's beauty was definite problem since she had no money, and she moves from destitution to well-off several times; mostly she solves her problem of self-support by servitude (Kittredge's word) in a great house. No Downton Abbey here. She takes society's view of herself and is willing to come down and live with low status without apparent repining. Her great virtue of self-control: she controls how she shows herself, escapes persistent sexual harassments: she's a lady's maid. …Self control and a true friendship with Miss Melvyn and some luck carries her over her deep unhappiness in her situation (hidden from all this unhappiness). The friend marries and becomes Mrs Morgan, Miss Mancel moves nearby (gets another job) but Mr Mancel cannot bear this competition; he insists his wife give up the friend altogether. To me strangely Kittredge suddenly sides with him! …So now her refusal to talk about lesbianism comes in. Scott was lesbian, this is a lesbian relationship in covered up; by not admitting this or talking of it, the whole story is skewed. Only if we admit this is an intense lesbian relationship can we really say the husband is understandable – and in a way Mrs Morgan married him on false terms. Admit the lesbianism too and we could say Mrs Morgan has been so repressed she doesn't understand what she is – Emma Donoghue and Lisa Moore's books deny that the women could know. At any rate we'd be in reality world; Kittredge has strangely here not been willing to say what is happening. Her inference is Scott is saying there are worse things than remaining unmarried because Mrs Morgan is now bullied and isolated and she mentions how Hayley in his cruel book on old maids warns women if you don't marry your friends will and have to cut you off and out when they have children. Probably Kittredge wants to keep our minds on heterosexuals as the generality, but lesbians were there and complicate the picture of who stayed unmarried. Fast forward to today: in cases of husband abuse it's common for the man to have behaved with harsh jealousy and isolated her from family and friends. At any rate the husband dies and they open Millenium Hall. And then of course acts of generosity towards spinsters abounds. But this is allegory. Galesia's story is closer to the reality; and Miss Mancel and Mrs Morgan before Mr Morgan dies.” END QUOTE FROM ELLEN MOODY

I agree completely with Ellen when she writes “So now [Kittredge’s] refusal to talk about lesbianism comes in. Scott was lesbian, this is a lesbian relationship in covered up; by not admitting this or talking of it, the whole story is skewed. Only if we admit this is an intense lesbian relationship can we really say the husband is understandable – and in a way Mrs Morgan married him on false terms. Admit the lesbianism too and we could say Mrs Morgan has been so repressed she doesn't understand what she is – Emma Donoghue and Lisa Moore's books deny that the women could know. At any rate we'd be in reality world; Kittredge has strangely here not been willing to say what is happening. Her inference is Scott is saying there are worse things than remaining unmarried because Mrs Morgan is now bullied and isolated and she mentions how Hayley in his cruel book on old maids warns women if you don't marry your friends will and have to cut you off and out when they have children. Probably Kittredge wants to keep our minds on heterosexuals as the generality, but lesbians were there and complicate the picture of who stayed unmarried….”

But I take Ellen’s above comments a giant (but justified) step farther. I wrote back in 2008 about how strongly I agree with Jocelyn Harris in her claim in A Revolution Beyond Expression (2006) that Persuasion contains a significant veiled allusion to Millenium Hall. At that time, I also argued that there is an even more significant allusion to Millenium Hall in Mansfield Park as well:
“They are contained in the inset story entitled "The History of Mrs. Trentham", and involve a young girl, Harriot Trentham who at age 8 upon the remarriage of her previously widowed father winds up in the care of her rich maternal grandmother, who was already the caretaker of Harriot's four slightly elder cousins, a boy and three girls. Sound vaguely familiar? Then how about this: ‘As their grandmother was rich, there had been a strong contention among them for her favour, and they could not without great disgust see another rival brought to the house. Harriot was extremely handsome and engaging. The natural sweetness of her temper rendered her complying and observant...Had Miss Alworth and Miss Denham [two of Harriot's cousins] been much younger, Harriot would not have passed unenvied. Every day increased their dislike to her...and they let no opportunity escape of making her feel the effects of their little malice. Their hatred to her produced an union among themselves; for the first time they found something in which they all agreed...."
I think you get enough of a taste there to realize that JA reproduced a not too distant replica of that home in Mansfield Park. But there's more, remember, there is one boy cousin in the mix:
"Master Alworth [the boy cousin], by being thus kept at home, had frequent opportunities of observing the malice of his sister and Miss Denham against Harriot....His fondness for Harriot soon made him beloved by her, and as she found little pleasure in the society of her other cousins, she sought his company...Master Alworth was far enough advanced in learning to assist his favourite, and from him she received instruction with double pleasure...Thus beloved by her grandmother and Mr. Alworth, and hated and traduced by her female cousins, Harriot lived till she was 16....when Mrs. Alworth judged it proper that her grandson should go abroad...He had no objection to the scheme but what arose from his unwillingness to leave Harriot...To be deprived of his society was losing the chief pleasure of her life, and her best guardian against her enemies. Mrs Alworth...hope to see an happy union arise from it....but the two friends themselves had not extended their views so far. Bred up like brother and sister, a tenderer degree of relation had not entered their thoughts...."
I think any commentary by me on that passage would be utterly superfluous, it has so obviously been tracked by JA in Fanny and Edmund....but there's still more----Harriot discourages a suitor, Mr. Parnel, because Harriot is patiently waiting for her cousin to realize he loves her. So that suitor then marries her cousin. But then, by various circumstances, Harriot's cousin realizes that she was not Mr. Parnel's first choice, and you can just imagine what ensues. Chaos.
…What I am really struck by, once again as I skimmed parts of Millenium Hall, is how intelligent and subtle it is. Clearly Sarah Scott was one brilliant woman, and it is extraordinarily easy to imagine how JA, whenever in her life it was when she first heard about Sarah Scott, and read this book, would have been enthralled from the first page onward. This was a book written by a woman who, by a combination of good fortune and her own considerable gifts, had lived a good life in a relationship that had many of the earmarks of a long term committed lesbian relationship (just go to Wikipedia to read about Sarah Scott's life), and was able to both write 'the best fiction" (to paraphrase Cousin Elliot), and to implement her utopian ideas in a very pragmatic way just outside Bath (where perhaps JA visited sometime before Scott died in 1795).”

And I would add today, with the better perspective I’ve gain in the last 8 years, that it’s utterly clear to me from all of the above that the lesbian subtext in JA’s novels (particularly, Charlotte Lucas in love with Elizabeth in P&P and Mary Crawford in love with Mary in MP) drew significantly on a number of prior literary sources, but none more than Scott’s Millenium Hall. I hadn’t thought about Charlotte Lucas before I read this part of Ellen’s post:

“Only if we admit this is an intense lesbian relationship can we really say the husband is understandable – and in a way Mrs Morgan married him on false terms. Admit the lesbianism too and we could say Mrs Morgan has been so repressed she doesn't understand what she is”

That is exactly what I’ve been saying about P&P, and so I can paraphrase Ellen as follows – i.e., that Charlotte marries Collins on false terms (unless he too is gay, in which event, they are a mutual marriage of pure convenience), and Elizabeth Bennet is so repressed that she doesn’t understand what she is.

And…I conclude this post with a quote from George Haggerty’s excellent 1992 article which is the first I can find to claim a lesbian subtext in Millenium Hall:

…The popular and well distributed text Satan’s Harvest Home, or the Present State of Whorecraft, Adultery, Fornication, Procuring, Pimping, Sodomy, and the Game at Flatts…(1749), for example, offers in its almost pornographic fervor a different picture of 18th century attitudes toward female sexuality… a description of male effeminacy…proceeds to a diatribe against sexual transgression….After cataloguing a variety of sexually transgressive females, for instance, he turns his attention to Sappho:
“…What does [Sappho] do then? Not content with our Sex, begins Amours with her own, and teaches the Female World a new sort of Sin, call’d the Flats, that was follow’d not only in Lucian’s Time, but is practis’d frequently in Turkey, as well as in Twickenham at this day.”
…the “Flats” is taught rather than ‘caught’. Partridge tells us that flats is the slang term for false playing cards or counterfeit money. Also current, slightly later according to Partridge, is the use of the term flat-cock to describe a woman, ‘for one of two possible anatomical reasons”, and flat-f---k for ‘simulated copulation by a pair of women: lesbian.”
It is interesting that flats include a sense both of cheating and deception as well as female homosexuality.  …a flat-f----k is no f----k at all, from a male perspective….”

Out of curiosity, I checked Mansfield Park for the word “flat”, and found the following very interesting passage in Chapter 6:

“Mr. Bertram set off for————, and Miss Crawford was prepared to find a great chasm in their society, and to miss him decidedly in the meetings which were now becoming almost daily between the families; and on their all dining together at the Park soon after his going, she retook her chosen place near the bottom of the table, fully expecting to feel a most melancholy difference in the change of masters. It would be a very flat business, she was sure.

So, in this passage which refers to the departure of the heir to the Bertram fortune, and the effect this will have on Mary, who had clearly tipped her cap at him while he was there, it sure ain’t a coincidence, in light of Haggerty’s excellent catch of the slang lesbian meaning of “flat”, that we read Mary thinking about where to turn her amorous attentions, and there is a pointed reference to it being “a very FLAT business”. And that’s exactly when I see Mary’s courtship of Fanny begins!

A very flat business, I am sure, as well!

So, thanks to Ellen for prompting me to revisit Millenium Hall today, and to make my own understanding of its lesbian subtextual role in MP more complete.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

LL Cool J & how his stage name and song title celebrate his personal heritage

I’ve really been enjoying watching Finding Your Roots, the PBS show hosted by Professor Henry Louis Gates. It’s a very clever twist on our national obsession with celebrities---instead of the schadenfreude of hearing the latest A-list gossip, or gawking at the red carpet fashionistas, Professor Gates genially and artfully invites us in to eavesdrop on his tete-a tetes with the likes of John McCain, Norman Lear, Gloria Steinem, and Maya Rudolph, in which we get to share their wonder, delight, and, at times, tears, as they learn about their own roots. And, in the process, I suspect Gates also achieves a subtle didactic purpose---i.e., of assuring that, along the way, we all also learn something about our complicated collective heritage as Americans. So, I recommend the show, as a lowkey addition to your TV viewing choices.

Which brings me to the particular episode that surprisingly caught my attention in my capacity as wordplay sleuth, as I hint in my Subject Line. A few weeks ago, in an episode upon which the good professor seemed to bestow particular loving care, he had only two guests instead of the usual complement of three – Sean Combs (aka P Diddy) and rapper LL Cool J—two icons of African American music and culture.

I don’t want to overload this post with spoilers for the episode, in case you get a chance to watch it in the near future, so I’ll focus only on the one thread which caught my eye and ear. But keep in mind that there is so much else going on in this extraordinary episode for the heart and mind than I will be discussing in the remainder of this post.

So, let me get down to specifics. I was enjoying watching Gates lead each of these younger men on a remarkable journey back in time—and, atypically for the episodes I’ve seen, Gates also chose just the right moment along the way to speak personally about himself---as they learned about their ancestors-both those who survived enslavement, but also those who, surprisingly, were born free (or, at least, as free as people of color could be in racist 19th century America).

Early on, Gates had asked about the origin of his unusual and lyrical stage name, and LL Cool J (born James Todd Smith) replied that he had invented it at age 14, “totally out of his imagination”, as a kind of wishful thinking abbreviation of “Ladies Love Cool James”. Then Gates proceeded to unravel for his guest the mystery of the parentage of LL’s mother, a mystery which LL’s mother had heard vague whispers about ---and that’s precisely when my inner wordplay sleuth was unexpectedly shaken awake, when the name of LL’s biological maternal grandmother was eventually revealed to be……………… Ethel Mae Jolly.

Now, before I tell you what it was I saw in that name as it materialized on the genealogy chart that made me shake my head in wonder, can you guess what it was?

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Those who follow along here know that I do a lot of crossword puzzles, and I’ve also played a lot of Scrabble over the years, plus, I’ve been intensively studying all the different forms of wordplay that Jane Austen and Shakespeare deployed in their writings, including acrostics, anagrams, and the like. So, all of that wordplay activity over a very long time is almost certainly why I almost instantaneously spotted the following eerie transformation (imagine each letter is a Scrabble tile that can be moved) between one name and another, requiring only a few short steps:


Although not a perfect anagram, LL COOL J is pretty darned close, particularly in sound, to ETHEL MAE JOLLY, don’t you think? It’s just jumbled up a bit.

And this semantic parallelism was even more amazing, because it came right after Gates informed LL that his bio maternal grandfather, great-uncle (John Henry Lewis, world light heavyweight champion from 1935-9), and great-great-grandfather, whose existence LL Cool J had also been completely unaware of till sitting there in the TV studio, had all been professional boxers.

And what was remarkable about that, was that LL Cool J promptly responded that both he and his mother had always been zealous boxing fans---so much so, in fact, that one of his well known songs, from 1990, was entitled “Mamma said knock you out”, and the video for same shows LL Cool J in a boxing ring!:

Now what could be a good explanation for these two remarkable coincidences, assuming, as I do, that we should take LL Cool J at his word that (1) he made up his stage name without any conscious knowledge whatsoever that he was echoing the surname of his actual biological maternal grandmother, and (2) he and his mother had not been aware of the existence, let alone the name or profession, of his biological maternal grandfather, when they both came to love boxing.

He had no idea, because he and his mother had always been told, and believed, that her biological parents were actually another couple, Eugene Grissom, a jazz musician who gave him his first guitar at age 8, and his wife, Ellen Hightower, who had not only raised his mother, but also helped his mother raise LL Cool J himself from an early age.

LL Cool J’s explanation for this eerie coincidence re boxing, affirmed by Gates, was that there was something in the family genes that somehow expressed itself over generations. This reminded me of the well known identical twin studies, which showed that such twins, even when separated at birth, often make astonishingly similar choices in life as adults.

Now, genes could indeed explain the boxing connection, but what about that ETHEL MAE JOLLY == > LL COOL J anagrammatical connection? Just a wild coincidence?

I am suspicious of big coincidences, and so it was while asking myself this question, that a second explanation occurred to me, one that would account for the coincidences on both sides of his maternal family tree. From the dates of birth provided during the show, it was easy to deduce that LL Cool J’s grandfather had been 30, and his grandmother 19, when his mother was born. According to Gates, his mother’s birth certificate, dated a year and a half after her birth, suggested that a legal adoption had been arranged, and in those days, children were often not told that they had been adopted.

And it was also obvious from LL Cool J’s repeated statements, that his adoptive grandparents, who were no longer living, had both always been incredibly loving and kind to both him and his mother.

Given all of that, I believe there is another naturalistic explanation which fits all the evidence, which is not inconsistent with the genetic explanation, and which fits very closely with LL Cool J's repeated assertions about the kindness and love showered on his mother and him by his adoptive grandparents.

Think about the most likely scenario that led to his mother being adopted at age 1 1/2 in 1946 - it is likely that her adoptive parents knew the circumstances of LL’s mother's birth, and possibly even were personally connected to one of the bio parents: a handsome high profile 30 year old man [was he married at the time?] and a 19 year old girl.  Keeping the baby must not have been a viable option, and so the next best alternative was a placement with loving childless adoptive parents.

But here’s the real payoff of this theory--- perhaps the reason why both LL Cool J and his mother were such avid boxing fans, and why LL Cool J came up with that particular stage name, was one and the same---his adoptive grandparents wanted to give their adoptive daughter (and then her son) a sense of her/their biological heritage - and so they somehow, early on, planted the name “Jolly” (the surname of the bio mother) in the child's mind as something positive, and they encouraged a love of boxing in both (the bio father's famous profession).

I’m also reminded of the poignant climax of Rain Man, when the protagonist Tom Cruise realizes that “Rain Man” was his babyish way of saying his older brother’s name, Raymond, played of course by Dustin Hoffman.

Of course, I can’t assert with certainty that my theory is correct, but it seems pretty plausible to me. And what’s more, I think it would be lovely if true, a beautiful gift to LL Cool J and his mother from Eugene Grissom and Ellen Hightower, even if they didn’t realize it had been delivered until long after it was “sent”.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Why Jane Austen’s shadow stories weren’t detected for nearly 2 centuries

In Janeites, Nancy Mayer responded to my last post about Jane Austen's extensive veiled allusions to Restoration comedy as follows: "Jane Austen was a genius. She could have written stories getting her theme across without running afoul of any laws. She wasn't advocating sedition or replacing the royal family."
First, I really do thank you, Nancy, for your continuing serious and polite pushback on my ideas, and your prompting me to explain myself further. I’ll give it one more go on this point.
You say she wasn’tadvocating sedition or replacing the royal family, but in my interpretation of her shadow stories ….  ….., it is clear that she aspired to a radical subversion of male, aristocratic, and financial privilege. And, as anyone can see in the “Prince of Whales” secret answer to the “courtship” charade in Emma, JA had the Prince Regent, the self-styled “first gentleman of Europe”, right in the center of her polemical crosshairs. She made him the unwitting butt of her fierce satire and critique of the status quo in all three of those categories of privilege. Her satire encompasses within it all the (justified) attacks on the PR by Hunt, Lamb, Cruikshank, and others. And then, as icing on the allusive cake, she had the kahones to dedicate Emma to him! You don’t get more subversive, and therefore more dangerous, than that!  How could she possibly have let that subliminal subtext be too visible and too obvious? Too risky.
So her strategy was to weave this sort of extreme satire and subversion into the subtext of her superficially “status quo-friendly” love stories. And you are correct, as literary history actually unfolded, there was, in fact, no recognition of JA’s shadow stories, as coherent entities, for nearly two centuries, until I made the first such claim in early 2005, after 2 ½ years of my own grasping toward that epiphany. But….I strenuously assert that such long history of nonrecognition was not an inevitable, foregone conclusion that Jane Austen could have foreseen when she wrote her novels. Instead, I suggest that three factors converged to keep Austen’s shadow stories, as coherent entities, invisible to readers for 190 years:
CAUTION: Her extreme caution, meaning (as I’ve previously explained) that JA felt she had to hide her shadow stories well enough to make them deniable if detected—“do not be suspecting me of a CODE”;
GENIUS: Her extreme genius, meaning (as I’ve also previously explained) she was so brilliant, and must have been so totally consumed over a very long period of time with the process of creating double stories,  that she (ironically) lost perspective and was not a good judge of just how much disguise was the optimal amount. I.e., she thought they’d be more readily decodable than they are.  On this point, I can speak from direct personal experience, because my own ability to decode her shadow stories has gradually but steadily improved over the past 12 years—and at first, I really was surprised when people didn’t see what I see. But after ten years of public debate about this topic with hundreds and hundreds of other readers, I now understand just how difficult (or undesirable) taking such a large leap is for many other Janeites.
But, as I’ve suggested, we can see a progression in JA’s novels, as I believe she sought to hit that sweet spot right in the middle between too obvious and too obscure. That’s why she wrote Emma, with its mysteriousness right there on the surface for all to see, so different from her three previous published novels. And had she lived another ten years, she not only would have gained national prominence and a bully pulpit to be open about her views, she’d have written more novels in which, I am confident, the shadow stories would have been brought closer and closer to the surface. Sooner or later, lightning would have struck.
HISTORY: But the Austen family decisively shaped the narrative (to borrow the buzzword we hear every day in election campaign punditry)  about the kind of author JA was, from the moment JA died. I.e., if you’re a Janeite reading Austen, and you’re told, with 100% assurance, by pretty much all the mainstream Austen experts, that she was an author who would never hint at dark shadows, then, unless you are a stubborn self-confident contrarian like myself, you will not acknowledge those shadows, even when they pop up right in front of your eyes.  I’ve seen it myself hundreds of times, in books, articles, blog and discussion posts—where readers do spot “bread crumbs”—those anomalies in the text which don’t fit with the mainstream interpretation of a given character—but in the end those readers have almost all turned away from the door they opened themselves, and rationalized away the anomalies. Such is the power of the Myth of Jane Austen.
I was just doing a 2014 NY Times puzzle from the archive, and came across this wonderful quote by the  Impressionist composer Claude Debussy: “Music is the space between the notes”. I think Virginia Woolf may have had Debussy’s music, or maybe even that statement by Debussy, in mind, when she wrote:
“Jane Austen is thus a mistress of much deeper emotion than appears upon the surface. She stimulates us to supply what is not there. What she offers is, apparently, a trifle, yet is composed of something that expands in the reader’s mind and endows with the most enduring form of life scenes which are outwardly trivial.”

Sounds like the inflation that occurred right after the Big Bang! But what never dawned on Woolf was that the expansion of that “something” could occur in another fictional universe than the one she thought was the only one there in the novel.

So, those are three main factors which converged to keep JA’s deepest secret a secret till I started excavating more than a decade ago.
And I’d like to add one more piece to the part about why Jane Austen had to keep her shadow stories deniable. As I have written about often in the past, but did not emphasize in my recent posts, at the base of all the levels of stories  JA was telling, was a very personal story having to do with female sexuality in three very different ways:
INCEST & SEXUAL ABUSE: A true story of Austen family incest and sexual abuse. That's the story of Marina in Shakespeare's Pericles that Jane Austen told in Emma --Mr. Woodhouse's attempt to recall Garrick's Riddle is the wormhole that leads into that awful dark reality, the memory of which I believe Jane Austen endured her entire life. It's also the story she started to tell more openly in Fanny's dread at the sound of Sir Thomas's slow footsteps coming upstairs to her attic room; and
BISEXUAL OR LESBIAN: A true story of Jane Austen’s own complicated sexual preference, which I believe was either bisexual or lesbian; and
DEATH IN CHILDBIRTH: The true story of the dreadful but ignored epidemic of death in childbirth, very similar to the way the AIDS epidemic unfolded in modern times.
These were sexual stories JA knew she could  never tell openly in early 19th century England---and yet, they had to be told, somehow, she felt an inner compulsion to put her life (which was far from a unique experience) on record, even if it would only be understood by a precious few readers.
So, Nancy, the ball’s in your court again. ;)


Louise Culmer responded to my latest post as follows: ”I personally would be very sorry to believe that Jane Austen wrote 'double stories', because the thing I like most about her books is how real her characters are, and if there were really double stories they wouldn't be, they would just be a joke; not interesting characters at all, but just some elaborate charade. Jane Austen's world has always seemed very real to me, not a cardboard edifice.”

Louise, it is fascinating for me to read all the assumptions you make, which are the opposite of my own experience, and also inconsistent with what I actually wrote. Let’s see if I can articulate specifically what I mean by that:

First, you say that double stories would destroy the reality of Jane Austen’s characters, but I’ve often pointed out that Jane Austen’s double story structure provides an experience to the reader which is MORE real, not further from it:   

“The key point in this ingenuity, which elevates such ambiguous writing from mere sterile literary puzzle–construction and transmutes it into the highest level of literature, is that Jane Austen, by such ambiguity-creation, thereby creates an uncanny verisimilitude of real-life, such that the reader is forced to judge and analyze what is happening in the story, without having an omniscient, objective narrator to hold their hand and explain everything. I.e., as in real life, the reader must struggle to create meaning, and must learn to tolerate not being sure if his or her inferences and conclusions are accurate—and in that struggle, especially upon rereadings, when more is seen in the text than upon first impression, and when the reader’s subconscious has had a long while to work, unseen, on making sense of what was at first confusing or bewildering, the reader is educated, becomes smarter and wiser. Without the pain of that struggle, there is no gain in insight.”

In other words, if you read the novels as if the narration is telling you everything you need to know, then that’s NOTHING like real life, right? Do you have such a narrator on your shoulder telling you who is a good person, and who is a bad one?  I sure don’t!

And why you imagine that a double story structure means that the characters must be cardboard cutouts and absurd is also beyond me. What it actually means is that there are in the two separate fictional universes of P&P, e.g., two different Mr. Darcys, two different Charlotte Lucases, two different Mary Bennets, etc. Each of these doppelgangers is a fully realized, complex, and coherent character in his or her own world.

What makes JA’s achievement remarkable, even staggering, is that these two very different versions of the same character say the exact same words when in Elizabeth’s presence, and also appear exactly the same to Elizabeth when she observes them. What is different is that in the overt story, Elizabeth is correct in her judgment of those other characters, and so the narration, which reflects Elizabeth’s point of view, is also correct; whereas in the shadow story Elizabeth is completely clueless about them, and therefore the narration, while not a lie, is subtly but profoundly misleading.

Let me take Charlotte Lucas as a particularly good example. If she is the Charlotte you know, then she is a woman opting for security over romance and true companionship-- a very complex, poignant character. But if she is the Charlotte of the shadow story---i.e., a lesbian in love with Elizabeth, who works behind the scenes to get back to living close by Elizabeth---then she is an even more complex, poignant, and interesting character.

It’s a twofer, Louise--- we get twice as much Jane Austen in each novel. And while there is trickery involved on Jane Austen’s part, it’s a didactic trickery, in the same vein as Socrates' trickery of his students, not out of sadistic elitism, but so as to shake them out of their complacent assumptions about life, and enable them to become wiser.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter