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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Friday, July 1, 2016

Henry Woodhouse as Henry VIII….and Henry Crawford as Buckingham?

I’ve just gotten the 2015 Cambridge Companion to Emma from the library, and from my quick browse, I find it disappointing, it’s surprisingly thin on fresh insight into JA’s most complex creation. During the next few days, I’ll post about the handful of points that did catch my eye as I went through it, beginning today with a scholarly tidbit that supports two of my earlier claims….

ONE: That Jane Austen gave Mr. Woodhouse the first name “Henry”, because he is, at least in part, her ultra-sly representation of King Henry VIII.

TWO: That JA also alluded to Shakespeare’s Henry VIII in Pride & Prejudice.

…and leads to a third, new insight I’ve hinted at in the second half of my Subject Line, and which I will get to at the end of this post.

First, to briefly set the stage. In 1999, Jill Heydt-Stevenson published her explosive, persuasive speculations about Mr. Woodhouse’s dissolute past. She deduced this primarily from his struggle to recollect the entirety of Garrick’s Riddle, the latter stanza of which contains thinly veiled allusions to the barbaric yet all too common 18th century European custom of men suffering from syphilis, who contrive to have “curative” sex with young (and very unfortunate) virgins/victims.

I’ve taken JHS’s pioneering work further, suggesting that Mr. Woodhouse is actually the bio father (through sex with several local women, including Miss Bates) of several members of the novel’s younger generation (i.e., not only Emma and Isabella, but also one or more of Harriet, Frank, and Jane as well). This pattern of course fits well with the real-life paternity history of Henry VIII, who sired children on half of his six wives, and whose greatest inheritance, the crown of England, passed to one of his daughters, just as will be the case with Highbury when Mr. Woodhouse’s diet changes to heavenly thin gruel.

I also found in Mr. Woodhouse’s obsession with Garrick’s Riddle further evidence of his being a stand-in for Henry VIII --- given the Riddle’s concern with venereal disease-- in the historical facts about Henry VIII set forth in the following 2011 online essay, which suggest that Henry VIII, like Henry  Woodhouse, was no longer “all there” in the latter stages of his life:
“Why did Henry VIII have so many wives and mistresses yet so few children? What caused the Tudor monarch’s descent into mental instability and physical agony in the second half of his life? A rare blood group and a genetic disorder associated with it may provide clues, a new study suggests…The life of England’s King Henry VIII is a royal paradox. A lusty womanizer who married six times and canoodled with countless ladies-in-waiting in an era before reliable birth control, he only fathered four children who survived infancy. Handsome, vigorous and relatively benevolent in the early years of his reign, he ballooned into an ailing 300-pound tyrant whose capriciousness and paranoia sent many heads rolling—including those of two of his wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. A new study chalks these mystifying contradictions up to two related biological factors. Writing in The Historical Journal, bioarchaeologist Catrina Banks Whitley and anthropologist Kyra Kramer argue that Henry’s blood group may have doomed the Tudor monarch to a lifetime of desperately seeking—in the arms of one woman after another—a male heir, a pursuit that famously led him to break with the Roman Catholic Church in the 1530s. A disorder that affects members of his suspected blood group, meanwhile, may explain his midlife physical and psychological deterioration. The researchers suggest that Henry’s blood carried the rare Kell antigen—a protein that triggers immune responses—while that of his sexual partners did not, making them poor reproductive matches. In a first pregnancy, a Kell-positive man and a Kell-negative woman can have a healthy Kell-positive baby together. In subsequent pregnancies, however, the antibodies the mother produced during the first pregnancy can cross the placenta and attack a Kell-positive fetus, causing a late-term miscarriage, stillbirth or rapid neonatal death.
While an exact number is hard to determine, it is believed that Henry’s sexual encounters with his various wives and mistresses resulted in at least 11 and possibly more than 13 pregnancies. Records indicate that only four of these yielded healthy babies: the future Mary I, born to Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, after six children were stillborn or died shortly after birth; Henry FitzRoy, the king’s only child with his teenage mistress Bessie Blount; the future Elizabeth I, the first child born to Anne Boleyn, who went on to suffer several miscarriages before her date with the chopping block; and the future Edward VI, Henry’s son by his third wife, Jane Seymour, who died before the couple could try for a second. The survival of the three firstborn children—Henry FitzRoy, Elizabeth and Edward—is consistent with the Kell-positive reproductive pattern. As for Catherine of Aragon, the researchers note, “it is possible that some cases of Kell sensitization affect even the first pregnancy.” And Mary may have survived because she inherited the recessive Kell gene from Henry, making her impervious to her mother’s antibodies.
…The historian David Starkey has written of “two Henrys, the one old, the other young.” The young Henry was handsome, spry and generous, a devoted ruler who loved sports, music and Catherine of Aragon; the old Henry binged on rich foods, undermined his country’s stability to marry his mistress and launched a brutal campaign to eliminate foes both real and imagined. Beginning in middle age, the king also suffered leg pain that made walking nearly impossible….”  END QUOTE

As I reread that article today, it now seems quite likely to me that the well-proven “Prince of Whales” subtext of Emma, which skewers the Prince Regent (and future King Georg IV) during JA’s lifetime, also did double duty for JA, by also skewering Henry VIII----that much earlier, and even more notorious, English royal glutton and rake.

Which brings me back to The Cambridge Companion to Emma. My above prior speculations about Mr. Woodhouse as a darkly comic version of Henry VIII are the reason why I read, with great interest, the following Henry VIII-related speculations in Janine Barchas’s chapter about Emma entitled “Setting and community”, about Nonsuch Park, a real life geographical model for the fictional Highbury, with a royal origin:

“…as Chapman stated, no single spot lies simultaneously 16 miles from London, 9 from Richmond, and 7 from Box Hill. In addition, even if Austen’s measurements demarcate the perimeter of Highbury’s community, no suitable village exists within this generous area of land that the world of Emma, with its fictional ‘parishes of Donwell and Highbury’, would have to occupy. The reason may be that Henry VIII erased just such a village from the map to build a royal palace. Around 1538, after buying the land that included the old village of Cuddington and wiping the slate clean, Henry VIII began construction on a lavish dwelling that would be unrivalled in all the world. Hence its name: NONSUCH Palace. With an army of architects and craftsmen, Henry VIII created two large parklands around the palace, called The Great Park and The Little Park, which, taken together with the palace grounds, amounted to well over 900 acres. The royal holdings of NONSUCH, at about one mile wide and at least 2 ½ miles in length, included much of the land that today lies between Ewell and Cheam along the Kingston/Leatherhead Road to Surrey. Provocatively, then, the original location of Nonsuch lies in the Surrey circle outlined by prior suggestions for Highbury’s supposed model.
By JA’s time, NONSUCH Park was a sliver of its former self, with only engravings and books to speak for its history. After the interruption of the Commonwealth, NONSUCH’s reign as royal showpiece ended when Charles II gave it to his mistress Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland and Baroness NONSUCH, who demolished the palace by 1683, and sold it off in pieces to pay for her gambling debts. In Emma, a novel by an avid reader of history that features frequent wordplay (including a charade about ‘the wealth and pomp of kings’ displayed in royal palaces), it is fitting that the location large enough to suit the distances recorded in the novel is not only part of England’s royal past but is already a play on words. The horizons of Emma stretch over a large area, with Hartfield ‘a mere sort of notch in the Donwell Abbey estate, to which all the rest of Highbury belonged’….If the world of Emma maps on to the historical lore of NONSUCH, Austen may hint at a strong connection between real and imaginary history, that is, between the larger story of England and her novel. Did Austen walk the actual grounds of the former NONSUCH and use the remaining buildings and farms as an architectural blueprint for her story. Like James Joyce, she may have intended to send her readers scurrying to triangulate distances to make them conclude that, of course, there is NONE SUCH idyll as Highbury, even as they searched inside the former parklands of NONSUCH for her fictional world.” END QUOTE FROM BARCHAS

Following up on Barchas’s intriguing geographical/historical detective work, I believe the following 2 passages in the Donwell Abbey episode of Emma were intended by JA to be very suggestive of the remains of NONSUCH that still existed during JA’s lifetime (It appears to me that Barchas did notice these two passages, but did not wish to explicitly tag the following passages, for some reason or another):

Barchas: “By JA’s time, Nonsuch Park was a sliver of its former self, with only engravings and books to speak for its history”:

Emma, Chapter 42:
“It was hot; and after walking some time over the gardens in a scattered, dispersed way, scarcely any three together, they insensibly followed one another to the delicious shade of a broad short avenue of limes, which stretching beyond the garden at an equal distance from the river, seemed the finish of the pleasure grounds.—It led to nothing; nothing but a view at the end over A LOW STONE WALL WITH HIGH PILLARS, which seemed intended, in their erection, to give the appearance of an approach to THE HOUSE, WHICH NEVER HAD BEEN THERE. Disputable, however, as might be the taste of such a termination, it was in itself a charming walk, and the view which closed it extremely pretty.”

It seems clear that Emma (whose thoughts we are clearly reading in that passage), in her typical leaping to wrong assumptions, believes there had never been a house there, and that the pillars and wall were a sort of Gilpinesque faux addition to the landscape. But doesn’t it seem far more likely that Emma is once again clueless, and that these are ruins, evidence that there once really was a substantial manor there---evidence which fits perfectly with the history of Nonsuch Park outlined by Barchas.

“Mr. Knightley had done all in his power for Mr. Woodhouse's entertainment. BOOKS OF ENGRAVINGS, drawers of medals, cameos, corals, shells, and every other family collection within his cabinets, had been prepared for his old friend, to while away the morning; and the kindness had perfectly answered. Mr. Woodhouse had been exceedingly well amused. Mrs. Weston had been shewing them all to him, and now he would shew them all to Emma;—fortunate in having no other resemblance to a child, than in a total want of taste for what he saw, for he was slow, constant, and methodical.”

And here again, if Mr. Woodhouse stands in for Henry VIII, it is very droll irony indeed to have Mr. Woodhouse be the one who obsesses over the Donwell collection, which appears to be a wink to the collectibles left at Nonsuch Hall after the rest of the estate had been destroyed or sold off.

So, based solely on all of the above, I’d say it was highly likely that Jane Austen did indeed intend to allude to Henry VIII’s Nonsuch Park, renamed as Donwell Abbey (another very old property with a punning name).

However, beyond all of that, there is very strong evidence of the Nonsuch Park allusion in Emma, which Jane Austen hid in plain sight in the text of another of JA’s novels that takes that high likelihood to the level of virtual certainty, as I will now explain.

In the first part of Chapter 34 of Mansfield Park, we find the very famous passage in which Henry Crawford reads aloud speeches by numerous characters from Shakespeare’s late history, Henry VIII, and then we have the often-quoted exchange between Henry and Edmund regarding Henry VIII:

“It will be a favourite, I believe, from this hour,” replied Crawford; “but I do not think I have had a volume of Shakespeare in my hand before since I was fifteen. I once saw Henry the Eighth acted, or I have heard of it from somebody who did, I am not certain which. But Shakespeare one gets acquainted with without knowing how. It is a part of an Englishman’s constitution. His thoughts and beauties are so spread abroad that one touches them everywhere; one is intimate with him by instinct. No man of any brain can open at a good part of one of his plays without falling into the flow of his meaning immediately.”
“No doubt one is familiar with Shakespeare in a degree,” said Edmund, “from one’s earliest years. His celebrated passages are quoted by everybody; they are in half the books we open, and we all talk Shakespeare, use his similes, and describe with his descriptions; but this is totally distinct from giving his sense as you gave it. To know him in bits and scraps is common enough; to know him pretty thoroughly is, perhaps, not uncommon; but to read him well aloud is no everyday talent.”

And now we come to the cream, as Emma would say. Later in that same chapter, we read the following exchange between Henry and Fanny, right after Henry fantasizes about the pleasure of delivering a well-orated sermon, and Fanny shakes her head:

“[Henry] “You shook your head at my acknowledging that I should not like to engage in the duties of a clergyman always for a constancy. Yes, that was the word. Constancy: I am not afraid of the word. I would spell it, read it, write it with anybody. I see nothing alarming in the word. Did you think I ought?”
“Perhaps, sir,” said Fanny, wearied at last into speaking— “perhaps, sir, I thought it was a pity you did not always know yourself as well as you seemed to do at that moment.”
Crawford, delighted to get her to speak at any rate, was determined to keep it up; and poor Fanny, who had hoped to silence him by such an extremity of reproof, found herself sadly mistaken, and that it was only a change from one object of curiosity and one set of words to another. He had always something to entreat the explanation of. The opportunity was too fair. None such had occurred since his seeing her in her uncle’s room, none such might occur again before his leaving Mansfield. Lady Bertram’s being just on the other side of the table was a trifle, for she might always be considered as only half–awake, and Edmund’s advertisements were still of the first utility…..”

So, did you catch in that quoted passage Jane Austen’s broad, double wink at the erstwhile estate of Henry VIII in that passage, a wink which only becomes visible once we know what Barchas has detected in Emma?  

Here it is: “NONE SUCH had occurred since his seeing her in her uncle’s room, NONE SUCH might occur again before his leaving Mansfield.”

Is it just a coincidence that the phrase “none such” appears twice in that one sentence in MP, even though it never appears anywhere else in JA’s writings; and that repetition of “none such” just happens to be used in the very same chapter which contains all of the above explicit and detailed references to Henry VIII?  But wait, there’s even more!

It occurred to me to search “none such” in the text of Shakespeare’s  Henry VIII, wondering whether Shakespeare might also have slipped a sly reference to Henry VIII’s estate into the play. And look what I found. To give you a brief setup, in the play’s first scene, the Duke of Buckingham has been arrested and sent to the Tower, as a result of Wolsey having slandered him to the King as a traitor.

Then, in Act 1 Scene 2, Queen Katharine speaks to her husband the King to defend Buckingham, whereupon Henry, in reply, expresses sadness for having felt it necessary to punish Buckingham, given that Buckingham is such an extraordinarily gifted natural orator—and in that speech, Henry uses words very similar to the description of Fanny’s dazzled reaction to Henry Crawford’s oratorical skills in that same Chapter 34 ---- skills Henry has just used in delivering the speeches of various characters...including Buckingham!

And here’s the capper ---- look at the ALL CAPS words in the third line of Henry’s speech – they are “none” and “such”!:

In the remainder of that scene, Wolsey goes on to sticks the proverbial fork in Buckingham, by bringing forward to the King a witness who (falsely) attests to Buckingham’s murderous treasonous words.

All of which makes me wonder about the problematic ending of Mansfield Park, when we hear, indirectly, about Henry Crawford’s betrayal of Fanny (by running off with Maria) --- can we be certain that we’ve heard the whole truth and nothing but the truth, about the Buckingham-like Henry Crawford?

[ADDED THE FOLLOWING 7/2/2016 at 5:24 pm PST]

I have two points to add to my post yesterday “Austen’s Mr Woodhouse as Henry VIII; & Henry Crawford as Buckingham?”

First, I found a 2014 Persuasions Online article by Kathryn Davis which provided a second quotation from Henry VIII which pointed to Henry Crawford as Buckingham:

“Again, when Crawford asks her to ‘advise’ him, she, demurring, famously asserts, ‘We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be’. Through this allusion to conscience as an aid to rational self-government, Fanny both honors and challenges Henry by suggesting that he has the capacity to govern not only his estate in Norfolk but also his own soul. [One might detect an allusion to the opening scene of Henry VIII here. When Buckingham’s anger rises up within him, Norfolk advises, “[T]here is no English soul / More stronger to direct you than yourself, / If with the sap of reason you would quench, / Or but allay, the fire of passion” (1.1.146-48)]”

I can’t tell whether Davis also realized what I did when I read her above analysis—i.e., that Jane Austen named Henry Crawford’s estate “Norfolk” in part in order to point to the character named “Norfolk” who gives Buckingham the above advice to be patient and not run to the King to inform him about Wolsey’s treasons, only to see Buckingham arrested and taken to the Tower before his advice is even entirely out of his mouth!

But I also realized something much larger about the allusion to Henry VIII , even beyond the excellent analyses by Marcia Folsom, Elaine Bander, to which I have previously added my own points. I.e., now I see Jane Austen giving the reader a giant decoder ring, when we read the following very famous passage in MP:

“Crawford took the volume. "Let me have the pleasure of finishing that speech to your ladyship," said he. "I shall find it immediately." And by carefully giving way to the inclination of the leaves, he did find it, or within a page or two, quite near enough to satisfy Lady Bertram, who assured him, as soon as he mentioned the name of Cardinal Wolsey, that he had got the very speech. Not a look or an offer of help had Fanny given; not a syllable for or against. All her attention was for her work. She seemed determined to be interested by nothing else. But taste was too strong in her. She could not abstract her mind five minutes: she was forced to listen; his reading was capital, and her pleasure in good reading extreme. To good reading, however, she had been long used: her uncle read well, her cousins all, Edmund very well, but in Mr. Crawford's reading there was a variety of excellence beyond what she had ever met with. The King, the Queen, Buckingham, Wolsey, Cromwell, all were given in turn; for with the happiest knack, the happiest power of jumping and guessing, he could always alight at will on the best scene, or the best speeches of each; and whether it were dignity, or pride, or tenderness, or remorse, or whatever were to be expressed, he could do it with equal beauty. It was truly dramatic. His acting had first taught Fanny what pleasure a play might give, and his reading brought all his acting before her again; nay, perhaps with greater enjoyment, for it came unexpectedly, and with no such drawback as she had been used to suffer in seeing him on the stage with Miss Bertram.”

What I realized today is that Henry Crawford, the charming chameleon, does merely have the knack to find and deliver the best speeches in Henry VIII, as if he were in a play onstage, he goes a quantum leap further than that: during the course of the action in MP, Henry actually applies that gift to his real life (real, of course, in the world of the action of the novel), i.e., at one time he speaks and behaves as if he were the King (when he decides to seduce Fanny, just as Henry VIII decides to seduce Anna Bullen); at another time, he is like Buckingham (when he is advised by Fanny to follow his inner moral voice); yet and at still other times, he is a scheming master manipulator like Wolsey, who in the end fails to get his ultimate prize. He is a true shape shifter.

So, my question then is --- can anyone think of any passage in MP when Henry Crawford is like Queen Katharine? Or like Wolsey’s loyal counselor Cromwell?

Cheers, ARNIE

@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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