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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Catherine’s (Swift) Travels

The word “travel” (or variants thereof) appears thirteen times in the text of Northanger Abbey, with more than double the frequency in any other Austen novel. Seven of the thirteen usages in NA are clustered in Chapter 29 – hardly surprising, since it describes Catherine’s return to Fullerton, her family home. But I see this dense cluster of “travel” words in Chapter 29 as a sly hint --- and quintessential Jane Austen Code --- that JA deliberately repeatedly echoed the title of Gulliver’s Travels, so as to direct her readers’ attention to the most significant parallel between the two novels, which is the way they both end.

I.e., in the final Part of Swift’s novel, Lemuel Gulliver, the human Yahoo, is abruptly expelled from his idyll with his noble equine Houyhnhnm master; and after some final travels, he ends up back in his English family home. The decision to expel Gulliver is made by the Houyhnhnm council, which compels Gulliver’s beloved master to serve their demand on Gulliver. In NA, Catherine is similarly abruptly expelled, at host General Tilney’s demand, from the paradise she enjoyed at the Abbey with Henry and Eleanor--- the latter of whom is, like Gulliver’s master, forced to deliver Catherine’s “eviction notice”. It is no accident that the protagonist in both Austen’s and Swift’s famous satires is subjected to the same ordeal, in the same sequence of events, resulting in the same sort of distress to messenger and exile. With that brief summary, I will now illustrate Austen’s clever parody of Swift, by simply presenting you the parallel passages. Judge for yourself if this is mere coincidence.

First, here’s Lemuel Gulliver leaving the Houyhnhnms:     “I freely confess, that all the little knowledge I have of any value, was acquired by the lectures I received from my master, and from hearing the discourses of him and his friends; to which I should be prouder to listen, than to dictate to the greatest and wisest assembly in Europe.  I admired the strength, comeliness, and speed of the inhabitants; and such a constellation of virtues, in such amiable persons, produced in me the highest veneration.  At first, indeed, I did not feel that natural awe, which the Yahoos and all other animals bear toward them; but it grew upon me by decrees, much sooner than I imagined, and was mingled with a respectful love and gratitude, that they would condescend to distinguish me from the rest of my species. When I thought of my family, my friends, my countrymen, or the human race in general, I considered them, as they really were, Yahoos in shape and disposition, perhaps a little more civilized, and qualified with the gift of speech; but making no other use of reason, than to improve and multiply those vices whereof their brethren in this country had only the share that nature allotted them. When I happened to behold the reflection of my own form in a lake or fountain, I turned away my face in horror and detestation of myself, and could better endure the sight of a common Yahoo than of my own person.  By conversing with the Houyhnhnms, and looking upon them with delight, I fell to imitate their gait and gesture, which is now grown into a habit; and my friends often tell me, in a blunt way, “that I trot like a horse;” which, however, I take for a great compliment.  Neither shall I disown, that in speaking I am apt to fall into the voice and manner of the Houyhnhnms, and hear myself ridiculed on that account, without the least mortification.
In the midst of all this happiness, and when I looked upon myself to be fully settled for life, my master sent for me one morning a little earlier than his usual hour.  I observed by his countenance that he was in some perplexity, and at a loss how to begin what he had to speak.  After a short silence, he told me, “he did not know how I would take what he was going to say: that in the last general assembly, when the affair of the Yahoos was entered upon, the representatives had taken offence at his keeping a Yahoo (meaning myself) in his family, more like a Houyhnhnm than a brute animal; that he was known frequently to converse with me, as if he could receive some advantage or pleasure in my company; that such a practice was not agreeable to reason or nature, or a thing ever heard of before among them; the assembly did therefore exhort him either to employ me like the rest of my species, or command me to swim back to the place whence I came: that the first of these expedients was utterly rejected by all the Houyhnhnms who had ever seen me at his house or their own; for they alleged, that because I had some rudiments of reason, added to the natural pravity of those animals, it was to be feared I might be able to seduce them into the woody and mountainous parts of the country, and bring them in troops by night to destroy the Houyhnhnms’ cattle, as being naturally of the ravenous kind, and averse from labour.” My master added, “that he was daily pressed by the Houyhnhnms of the neighbourhood to have the assembly’s exhortation executed, which he could not put off much longer.  He doubted it would be impossible for me to swim to another country; and therefore wished I would contrive some sort of vehicle, resembling those I had described to him, that might carry me on the sea; in which work I should have the assistance of his own servants, as well as those of his neighbours.”  He concluded, “that for his own part, he could have been content to keep me in his service as long as I lived; because he found I had cured myself of some bad habits and dispositions, by endeavouring, as far as my inferior nature was capable, to imitate the Houyhnhnms.”
I should here observe to the reader, that a decree of the general assembly in this country is expressed by the word hnhloayn, which signifies an exhortation, as near as I can render it; for they have no conception how a rational creature can be compelled, but only advised, or exhorted; because no person can disobey reason, without giving up his claim to be a rational creature. I was struck with the utmost grief and despair at my master’s discourse; and being unable to support the agonies I was under, I fell into a swoon at his feet.  When I came to myself, he told me “that he concluded I had been dead;” for these people are subject to no such imbecilities of nature.  I answered in a faint voice, “that death would have been too great a happiness; that although I could not blame the assembly’s exhortation, or the urgency of his friends; yet, in my weak and corrupt judgment, I thought it might consist with reason to have been less rigorous; that I could not swim a league, and probably the nearest land to theirs might be distant above a hundred: that many materials, necessary for making a small vessel to carry me off, were wholly wanting in this country; which, however, I would attempt, in obedience and gratitude to his honour, although I concluded the thing to be impossible, and therefore looked on myself as already devoted to destruction; that the certain prospect of an unnatural death was the least of my evils; for, supposing I should escape with life by some strange adventure, how could I think with temper of passing my days among Yahoos, and relapsing into my old corruptions, for want of examples to lead and keep me within the paths of virtue? that I knew too well upon what solid reasons all the determinations of the wise Houyhnhnms were founded, not to be shaken by arguments of mine, a miserable Yahoo; and therefore, after presenting him with my humble thanks for the offer of his servants’ assistance in making a vessel, and desiring a reasonable time for so difficult a work, I told him I would endeavour to preserve a wretched being; and if ever I returned to England, was not without hopes of being useful to my own species, by celebrating the praises of the renowned Houyhnhnms, and proposing their virtues to the imitation of mankind.” My master, in a few words, made me a very gracious reply; allowed me the space of two months to finish my boat; and ordered the sorrel nag, my fellow-servant (for so, at this distance, I may presume to call him), to follow my instruction; because I told my master, “that his help would be sufficient, and I knew he had a tenderness for me.”
…When all was ready, and the day came for my departure, I took leave of my master and lady and the whole family, my eyes flowing with tears, and my heart quite sunk with grief.  But his honour, out of curiosity, and, perhaps, (if I may speak without vanity,) partly out of kindness, was determined to see me in my canoe, and got several of his neighbouring friends to accompany him.  I was forced to wait above an hour for the tide; and then observing the wind very fortunately bearing toward the island to which I intended to steer my course, I took a second leave of my master: but as I was going to prostrate myself to kiss his hoof, he did me the honour to raise it gently to my mouth.  I am not ignorant how much I have been censured for mentioning this last particular.  Detractors are pleased to think it improbable, that so illustrious a person should descend to give so great a mark of distinction to a creature so inferior as I.  Neither have I forgotten how apt some travellers are to boast of extraordinary favours they have received.  But, if these censurers were better acquainted with the noble and courteous disposition of the Houyhnhnms, they would soon change their opinion. I paid my respects to the rest of the Houyhnhnms in  his honour’s company; then getting into my canoe, I pushed off from shore.  END QUOTE FROM G.T.

And now, with Gulliver’s sad leavetaking from his master fresh in your mind, read Catherine Morland’s sad parting from Eleanor (and note all the “TRAVELS”, as well as the wink at SWIFT’s surname!):

Ch. 28: “…Catherine thought she heard [Eleanor’s] step in the gallery, and listened for its continuance; but all was silent…She trembled a little at the idea of anyone's approaching so cautiously; but resolving not to be again overcome by trivial appearances of alarm, or misled by a raised imagination, she stepped quietly forward, and opened the door. Eleanor, and only Eleanor, stood there. Catherine's spirits, however, were tranquillized but for an instant, for Eleanor's cheeks were pale, and her manner greatly agitated. Though evidently intending to come in, it seemed an effort to enter the room, and a still greater to speak when there. Catherine, supposing some uneasiness on Captain Tilney's account, could only express her concern by silent attention, obliged her to be seated, rubbed her temples with lavender-water, and hung over her with affectionate solicitude. "My dear Catherine, you must not—you must not indeed—" were Eleanor's first connected words. "I am quite well. This kindness distracts me—I cannot bear it—I come to you on such an errand!"  "Errand! To me!"  "How shall I tell you! Oh! How shall I tell you!" A new idea now darted into Catherine's mind, and turning as pale as her friend, she exclaimed, "'Tis a messenger from Woodston!"  "You are mistaken, indeed," returned Eleanor, looking at her most compassionately; "it is no one from Woodston. It is my father himself." Her voice faltered, and her eyes were turned to the ground as she mentioned his name. His unlooked-for return was enough in itself to make Catherine's heart sink, and for a few moments she hardly supposed there were anything worse to be told. She said nothing; and Eleanor, endeavouring to collect herself and speak with firmness, but with eyes still cast down, soon went on. "You are too good, I am sure, to think the worse of me for the part I am obliged to perform. I am indeed a most unwilling messenger. After what has so lately passed, so lately been settled between us—how joyfully, how thankfully on my side!—as to your continuing here as I hoped for many, many weeks longer, how can I tell you that your kindness is not to be accepted—and that the happiness your company has hitherto given us is to be repaid by—But I must not trust myself with words. My dear Catherine, we are to part. My father has recollected an engagement that takes our whole family away on Monday. We are going to Lord Longtown's, near Hereford, for a fortnight. Explanation and apology are equally impossible. I cannot attempt either."  "My dear Eleanor," cried Catherine, suppressing her feelings as well as she could, "do not be so distressed. A second engagement must give way to a first. I am very, very sorry we are to part—so soon, and so suddenly too; but I am not offended, indeed I am not. I can finish my visit here, you know, at any time; or I hope you will come to me. Can you, when you return from this lord's, come to Fullerton?"  "It will not be in my power, Catherine."  "Come when you can, then."
…"Ah, Catherine! Were it settled so, it would be somewhat less intolerable, though in such common attentions you would have received but half what you ought. But—how can I tell you?—tomorrow morning is fixed for your leaving us, and not even the hour is left to your choice; the very carriage is ordered, and will be here at seven o'clock, and no servant will be offered you."  Catherine sat down, breathless and speechless. "I could hardly believe my senses, when I heard it; and no displeasure, no resentment that you can feel at this moment, however justly great, can be more than I myself—but I must not talk of what I felt. Oh! That I could suggest anything in extenuation! Good God! What will your father and mother say! After courting you from the protection of real friends to this—almost double distance from your home, to have you driven out of the house, without the considerations even of decent civility! Dear, dear Catherine, in being the bearer of such a message, I seem guilty myself of all its insult; yet, I trust you will acquit me, for you must have been long enough in this house to see that I am but a nominal mistress of it, that my real power is nothing."
"Have I offended the general?" said Catherine in a faltering voice.  "Alas! For my feelings as a daughter, all that I know, all that I answer for, is that you can have given him no just cause of offence. He certainly is greatly, very greatly discomposed; I have seldom seen him more so. His temper is not happy, and something has now occurred to ruffle it in an uncommon degree; some disappointment, some vexation, which just at this moment seems important, but which I can hardly suppose you to have any concern in, for how is it possible?"  It was with pain that Catherine could speak at all; and it was only for Eleanor's sake that she attempted it. "I am sure," said she, "I am very sorry if I have offended him. It was the last thing I would willingly have done. But do not be unhappy, Eleanor. An engagement, you know, must be kept. I am only sorry it was not recollected sooner, that I might have written home. But it is of very little consequence."  "I hope, I earnestly hope, that to your real safety it will be of none; but to everything else it is of the greatest consequence: to comfort, appearance, propriety, to your family, to the world. Were your friends, the Allens, still in Bath, you might go to them with comparative ease; a few hours would take you there; but a journey of seventy miles, to be taken post by you, at your age, alone, unattended!"  "Oh, the journey is nothing. Do not think about that. And if we are to part, a few hours sooner or later, you know, makes no difference. I can be ready by seven. Let me be called in time." Eleanor saw that she wished to be alone; and believing it better for each that they should avoid any further conversation, now left her with, "I shall see you in the morning."
Catherine's swelling heart needed relief. In Eleanor's presence friendship and pride had equally restrained her tears, but no sooner was she gone than they burst forth in torrents. Turned from the house, and in such a way! Without any reason that could justify, any apology that could atone for the abruptness, the rudeness, nay, the insolence of it. Henry at a distance—not able even to bid him farewell. Every hope, every expectation from him suspended, at least, and who could say how long? Who could say when they might meet again? And all this by such a man as General Tilney, so polite, so well bred, and heretofore so particularly fond of her! It was as incomprehensible as it was mortifying and grievous. From what it could arise, and where it would end, were considerations of equal perplexity and alarm. The manner in which it was done so grossly uncivil, hurrying her away without any reference to her own convenience, or allowing her even the appearance of choice as to the time or mode of her travelling; of two days, the earliest fixed on, and of that almost the earliest hour, as if resolved to have her gone before he was stirring in the morning, that he might not be obliged even to see her. What could all this mean but an intentional affront? By some means or other she must have had the misfortune to offend him. Eleanor had wished to spare her from so painful a notion, but Catherine could not believe it possible that any injury or any misfortune could provoke such ill will against a person not connected, or, at least, not supposed to be connected with it. Heavily passed the night. Sleep, or repose that deserved the name of sleep, was out of the question. That room, in which her disturbed imagination had tormented her on her first arrival, was again the scene of agitated spirits and unquiet slumbers. Yet how different now the source of her inquietude from what it had been then—how mournfully superior in reality and substance! Her anxiety had foundation in fact, her fears in probability; and with a mind so occupied in the contemplation of actual and natural evil, the solitude of her situation, the darkness of her chamber, the antiquity of the building, were felt and considered without the smallest emotion; and though the wind was high, and often produced strange and sudden noises throughout the house, she heard it all as she lay awake, hour after hour, without curiosity or terror.  Soon after six Eleanor entered her room, eager to show attention or give assistance where it was possible; but very little remained to be done. Catherine had not loitered; she was almost dressed, and her packing almost finished. The possibility of some conciliatory message from the general occurred to her as his daughter appeared. What so natural, as that anger should pass away and repentance succeed it? And she only wanted to know how far, after what had passed, an apology might properly be received by her. But the knowledge would have been useless here; it was not called for; neither clemency nor dignity was put to the trial—Eleanor brought no message. Very little passed between them on meeting; each found her greatest safety in silence, and few and trivial were the sentences exchanged while they remained upstairs, Catherine in busy agitation completing her dress, and Eleanor with more goodwill than experience intent upon filling the trunk. When everything was done they left the room, Catherine lingering only half a minute behind her friend to throw a parting glance on every well-known, cherished object, and went down to the breakfast-parlour, where breakfast was prepared. She tried to eat, as well to save herself from the pain of being urged as to make her friend comfortable; but she had no appetite, and could not swallow many mouthfuls. The contrast between this and her last breakfast in that room gave her fresh misery, and strengthened her distaste for everything before her. It was not four and twenty hours ago since they had met there to the same repast, but in circumstances how different! With what cheerful ease, what happy, though false, security, had she then looked around her, enjoying everything present, and fearing little in future, beyond Henry's going to Woodston for a day! Happy, happy breakfast! For Henry had been there; Henry had sat by her and helped her. These reflections were long indulged undisturbed by any address from her companion, who sat as deep in thought as herself; and the appearance of the carriage was the first thing to startle and recall them to the present moment. Catherine's colour rose at the sight of it; and the indignity with which she was treated, striking at that instant on her mind with peculiar force, made her for a short time sensible only of resentment. Eleanor seemed now impelled into resolution and speech.
"You must write to me, Catherine," she cried; "you must let me hear from you as soon as possible. Till I know you to be safe at home, I shall not have an hour's comfort. For one letter, at all risks, all hazards, I must entreat. Let me have the satisfaction of knowing that you are safe at Fullerton, and have found your family well, and then, till I can ask for your correspondence as I ought to do, I will not expect more. Direct to me at Lord Longtown's, and, I must ask it, under cover to Alice." "No, Eleanor, if you are not allowed to receive a letter from me, I am sure I had better not write. There can be no doubt of my getting home safe." Eleanor only replied, "I cannot wonder at your feelings. I will not importune you. I will trust to your own kindness of heart when I am at a distance from you." But this, with the look of sorrow accompanying it, was enough to melt Catherine's pride in a moment, and she instantly said, "Oh, Eleanor, I will write to you indeed." …Catherine had never thought on the subject till that moment, but, upon examining her purse, was convinced that but for this kindness of her friend, she might have been turned from the house without even the means of getting home; and the distress in which she must have been thereby involved filling the minds of both, scarcely another word was said by either during the time of their remaining together. Short, however, was that time. The carriage was soon announced to be ready; and Catherine, instantly rising, a long and affectionate embrace supplied the place of language in bidding each other adieu; and, as they entered the hall, unable to leave the house without some mention of one whose name had not yet been spoken by either, she paused a moment, and with quivering lips just made it intelligible that she left "her kind remembrance for her absent friend." But with this approach to his name ended all possibility of restraining her feelings; and, hiding her face as well as she could with her handkerchief, she darted across the hall, jumped into the chaise, and in a moment was driven from the door.

Ch. 29: Catherine was too wretched to be fearful. The journey in itself had no terrors for her; and she began it without either dreading its length or feeling its solitariness. Leaning back in one corner of the carriage, in a violent burst of tears, she was conveyed some miles beyond the walls of the abbey before she raised her head; and the highest point of ground within the park was almost closed from her view before she was capable of turning her eyes towards it. Unfortunately, the road she now TRAVELLED was the same which only ten days ago she had so happily passed along in going to and from Woodston; and, for fourteen miles, every bitter feeling was rendered more severe by the review of objects on which she had first looked under impressions so different. Every mile, as it brought her nearer Woodston, added to her sufferings, and when within the distance of five, she passed the turning which led to it, and thought of Henry, so near, yet so unconscious, her grief and agitation were excessive. The day which she had spent at that place had been one of the happiest of her life. It was there, it was on that day, that the general had made use of such expressions with regard to Henry and herself, had so spoken and so looked as to give her the most positive conviction of his actually wishing their marriage. Yes, only ten days ago had he elated her by his pointed regard—had he even confused her by his too significant reference! And now—what had she done, or what had she omitted to do, to merit such a change? The only offence against him of which she could accuse herself had been such as was scarcely possible to reach his knowledge. Henry and her own heart only were privy to the shocking suspicions which she had so idly entertained; and equally safe did she believe her secret with each. Designedly, at least, Henry could not have betrayed her. If, indeed, by any strange mischance his father should have gained intelligence of what she had dared to think and look for, of her causeless fancies and injurious examinations, she could not wonder at any degree of his indignation. If aware of her having viewed him as a murderer, she could not wonder at his even turning her from his house. But a justification so full of torture to herself, she trusted, would not be in his power. Anxious as were all her conjectures on this point, it was not, however, the one on which she dwelt most. There was a thought yet nearer, a more prevailing, more impetuous concern. How Henry would think, and feel, and look, when he returned on the morrow to Northanger and heard of her being gone, was a question of force and interest to rise over every other, to be never ceasing, alternately irritating and soothing; it sometimes suggested the dread of his calm acquiescence, and at others was answered by the sweetest confidence in his regret and resentment. To the general, of course, he would not dare to speak; but to Eleanor—what might he not say to Eleanor about her?
…With these feelings, she rather dreaded than sought for the first view of that well-known spire which would announce her within twenty miles of home. Salisbury she had known to be her point on leaving Northanger; but after the first stage she had been indebted to the post-masters for the names of the places which were then to conduct her to it; so great had been her ignorance of her route. She met with nothing, however, to distress or frighten her. Her youth, civil manners, and liberal pay procured her all the attention that a TRAVELLER like herself could require; and stopping only to change horses, she TRAVELLED on for about eleven hours without accident or alarm, and between six and seven o'clock in the evening found herself entering Fullerton. A heroine returning, at the close of her career, to her native village, in all the triumph of recovered reputation, and all the dignity of a countess, with a long train of noble relations in their several phaetons, and three waiting-maids in a TRAVELLING chaise and four, behind her, is an event on which the pen of the contriver may well delight to dwell; it gives credit to every conclusion, and the author must share in the glory she so liberally bestows. But my affair is widely different; I bring back my heroine to her home in solitude and disgrace; and no sweet elation of spirits can lead me into minuteness. A heroine in a hack post-chaise is such a blow upon sentiment, as no attempt at grandeur or pathos can withstand.  SWIFTLY therefore shall her post-boy drive through the village,  amid the gaze of Sunday groups, and speedy shall be her descent from it. But, whatever might be the distress of Catherine's mind, as she thus advanced towards the parsonage, and whatever the humiliation of her biographer in relating it, she was preparing enjoyment of no everyday nature for those to whom she went; first, in the appearance of her carriage—and secondly, in herself. The chaise of a TRAVELLER being a rare sight in Fullerton, the whole family were immediately at the window…She was received by the Allens with all the kindness which her unlooked-for appearance, acting on a steady affection, would naturally call forth; and great was their surprise, and warm their displeasure, on hearing how she had been treated—though Mrs. Morland's account of it was no inflated representation, no studied appeal to their passions. "Catherine took us quite by surprise yesterday evening," said she. "She TRAVELLED all the way post by herself, and knew nothing of coming till Saturday night; for General Tilney, from some odd fancy or other, all of a sudden grew tired of having her there, and almost turned her out of the house. Very unfriendly, certainly; and he must be a very odd man; but we are so glad to have her amongst us again! And it is a great comfort to find that she is not a poor helpless creature, but can shift very well for herself."

So now you see that Catherine’s travels were slyly modeled on Gulliver’s Travels!

Cheers, ARNIE  
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Eugene Onegin as Pushkin’s version of Mr. Darcy

I have been of the opinion for the past few years that there is a complex, highly significant  allusion to Jane Austen’s immensely popular and influential novel Pride & Prejudice in Alexander Pushkin’s immensely popular and influential poem  Eugene Onegin. In the near future I will be posting some of the textual details which led me to this conclusion. In the interim, as an introduction to the depth of the allusion to P&P in Eugene Onegin, and also as a particularly good example of the capacity of some very astute readers of literature to deny what they have already seen, start with Tom Beck’s 2011 introduction to Eugene Onegin:

“[compares Onegin to Don Giovanni, then] The motto of Eugene Onegin, apparently written in French by Pushkin himself in a letter, would seem to sum up not only the hero of Pushkin’s novel, but also Don Giovanni himself…..The motto reads: ‘Filled with vanity, he had even more of that kind of pride which allows a person from a – perhaps illusory—sense of superiority, to admit to both his good and bad deeds with the same indifference.’  Yet we need not stray as far as Mozart’s Italianate world to understand Pushkin’s story in terms more familiar to an English speaking readership. The main characters of Pushkin’s novel are in many ways of a type already familiar to the English reader from an entirely different source, and one entirely unknown to Pushkin himself. Although the protagonists of JA’s P&P, written some ten years before Eugene Onegin was even started, are [English, not Russian], …there are marked similarities between the two works. Tatiana, perhaps the best loved character in all Russian literature, is in many ways a mixture of the two oldest Bennet girls. When we first meet her she is not dissimilar to the gentle, demure, and naïve Jane Bennet, trusting and quickly impressed, and also just as quickly snubbed by the man she loves. Tatiana, however, undergoes a profound change in the course of the story, and in the last chapter turns into something approaching Elizabeth Bennet as we know her at the start of JA’s novel, self assured and with a will and a mind of her own. The scene in which Tatiana reject Onegin (Chapter 8) is in many ways comparable to Lizzie’s rejection of Darcy when he makes his first proposal during a visit to Lady Catherine de Burgh.
Onegin himself has many of the characteristics of Darcy, at least of the Darcy we meet when JA’s novel begins. He too looks down on the simple country girls, their family, pastimes and surroundings. Indeed, in both novels it is a ballroom incident which plays a vital role in the story. Both Darcy and Onegin are so thoroughly bored by the company they find themselves in, that their future actions are dictated by what they experience. And as Darcy seeks to destroy his friend Bingley’s love for Jane Bennet, so Onegin also comes between his young friend Lenski and Lenski’s adored Olga, Tatiana’s younger sister. Darcy, like Onegin, is at first apparently a cold and supercilious figure, whose personality develops as the story progresses. But whereas JA provides us with a happy end, Pushkin leaves his hero’s fate open. Onegin comes to realize his earlier mistake, but his entreaties that the now married and aristocratic Tatiana give him another chance are rejected, although she loves him still. Even the gallery of secondary characters in P&P is matched by Pushkin. The haughty Bingley sisters, the appalling and hysterical Mrs. Bennet (evidently a close relative of Mrs. Larin), her three foolish youngest daughters (Olga would feel at home with them, Lydia in particular), the sycophantic Mr. Collins and his snobbish patroness Lady Catherine all find their parallels in Pushkin’s novel…” 

That Beck could see all those parallels, clustered together so closely around Mr. Darcy, and yet blithely state that P&P was entirely unknown to Pushkin himself, is amazing to me. Everything else Beck wrote in the above quoted discussion proves that even though Pushkin’s correspondence and biography do not mention P&P or JA, Pushkin must have read, or at least read or heard a great deal about, P&P, before he finalized Eugene Onegin. When literary scholars try to dismiss parallels as intentional, with the stock, lazy argument that there are only a handful of stories that get constantly recycled independently by writers, they ignore the detailed, specific clustering of textual allusions which could not possibly have occurred by a random process, or by different authors dipping their pens in the same pool of “ink”!

Cheers, ARNIE

@JaneAustenCode on Twitter 

Mr. Allen in Northanger Abbey: Swift’s Lilliputs & the real life Bath magnate Ralph Allen

Two weeks ago, Arthur Lindley wrote the following query in Austen-L:

"I'm hoping someone on the list can help me with an eighteenth-century matter. Is there a generally recognized explanation of where Swift got the word Lilliput? I discovered recently that Ralph Allen, the friend and patron of Fielding, Pope and the Scriblerians, lived in Lilliput Alley -- now North Parade Passage -- in Bath in the 1720s, and I'm wondering if Swift borrowed the name. It is, by the way, a tiny little street, especially in relation to Allen's more famous property, Prior Park. And, no, I can't think of an Austen connection aside from the fact that she would have known Lilliput Alley too."

Arthur, sorry for the long delay in responding to your above question, I finally had a chance today to retrieve my old files about Ralph Allen—and I can tell you that there is indeed an Austen connection! Your comment has enabled me to add yet another layer of allusion in Northanger Abbey, as I will now explain.

I've been aware of Ralph Allen as a real life source for the fictional Mr. Allen in Northanger Abbey since 2008 when I read the following article: “Mapping Northanger Abbey: Or, Why Austen’s Bath of 1803 Resembles Joyce’s Dublin of 1904” by Janine Barchas  in The Review of English Studies  Dec. 2008
Barchas subsequently published a well received book about many such real life sources for characters and situations in JA’s novels, which perhaps you've heard about, Matters of Fact in Jane Austen, which I heartily recommend. And here specifically is what JASNA member Brother Paul Byrd blogged a few years ago about Barchas's chapters on Ralph Allen:

"...My own two favorite chapters were those that examined Northanger Abbey. In the first, Barchas examines Austen’s use of the surname “Allen” for the guardians of the heroine. For “Ralph Allen, postal entrepreneur, philanthropist, former mayor, stone mogul, and builder of Prior Park, with its renowned landscape garden, had arguably been Bath’s most famous historical personage”. While this may seem like a mere bit of trivia, it becomes key to the novel’s irony if one buys into Barchas’ argument that much of General Tilney’s excitement over Catherine and her prospective wealth comes from the association of Mr. and Mrs. Allen of Fullerton with the celebrated Allens of Bath. Indeed, Barchas shows that the scene in which Catherine rides out with John Thorpe revolves around the real Mr. Allen, for the change in destination from Landsdown Hill to Claverton Down would have, in real-life, led “them straight to the gates of [Ralph Allen’s] Prior Park”, and believing so “It is in direct sight of the Prior Park gates that Thorpe first speaks about ‘Old Allen’ and his money” (67-68)."   END QUOTE FROM BYRD

Building on Barchas’s discovery, my own addition to that mix back in 2009 was my assertion that Ralph Allen was one of the real life "Bluebeards" (i.e., the many ordinary English husbands who “poisoned” their wives by impregnating them, resulting in their wife’s death in childbirth) whom JA embodied in the character of General Tilney in Northanger Abbey.

Which is all prelude to Arthur's very interesting question --- I had no idea till I read his post that the name Lilliput was already in use in real life when Swift published Gulliver’s Travels in 1726. It is surely no random coincidence of dates that we read the following in Wikipedia about Ralph Allen’s home ownership in Bath, at that precise moment in time that Swift was writing his most famous novel and using the name “Lilliput” so saliently in it:

“Ralph Allen’s Town House is a grade 1 listed townhouse in Bath…[he] commenced building it in or shortly after 1727, although it is unlikely he ever lived there. At the time Allen was living in LILLIPUT ALLEY, in a house of some 15 rooms, then known as "Lease 7 on the Kingston rental (Countess of Kingston on Hull)", which is now 1 & 2 North Parade Passage.” Opinion is divided as to whether John Wood the Elder designed the "Town House", however the ostentatious decoration is not a style he uses elsewhere in Bath. Richard Boyle has also been suggested as the architect. The enhanced decoration with rustication, Corinthian pillars and decorated pediment may have been incorporated purely to demonstrate the fine carving qualities of Bath Stone. John Wood the Elder, in his "Essay towards the future of Bath", says: “while Mr. Allen was making the Addition to the North Part of his House in Lilliput Alley he new fronted and raised the old Building a full Story higher; it consists of a Basement Story sustaining a double Story under the Crowning; and this is surmounted by an Attick, which created a sixth Rate House, and a Sample for the greatest Magnificence that was ever proposed by me for our City Houses.” Because of the modern use of "magnificent" it is often thought that in this passage Wood is referring to the Town House. (An observer in the 21st century would probably consider it magnificent). But elsewhere in his Essay, Wood explains that his use of magnificence refers to size. He refers to decoration as "ornament" or "dress". A closer examination of Wood's words and the number of floors in the Town House reveal that he was not referring to this building. A 6th rate house is the largest in Wood's list. The Town House does not comply with his description. Wood was talking about the House in Lilliput Alley where Allen was than living. In 1745, Allen moved to Prior Park. His brother Phillip took over the Kingston Lease and continued to run the Postal business.” END QUOTE FROM WIKIPEDIA

So, surely, as Arthur suggests, it is no coincidence that Swift, the great ironist, chose the name “Lilliput” to describe a race of very tiny people, who are dwarfed by Gulliver, when Ralph Allen’s “magnificent” Bath residence was situated, in grotesque contrast, on the very tiny “Lilliput Alley”!

But that’s not all---it turns out that there is a further Jane Austen connection in all of this! I first asserted in 2006 that John Thorpe (the character in Northanger Abbey who, as Barchas pointed out, speaks about Mr. Allen’s great wealth, and seems to direct Catherine to Ralph Allen’s house in Bath) was in part based on yet another real life person. Specifically, I wrote the following back in 2006 in Janeites:

“From JA’s 06/19/1799 letter to Cassandra:    "[Brother Edward Austen Knight] made an important purchase Yesterday; no less so than a pair of Coach Horses; his friend MR. EVELYN found them out and recommended them, and IF THE JUDGEMENT OF A YAHOO CAN EVER BE DEPENDED ON, I suppose it may now, for I believe Mr. Evelyn has all his life THOUGHT MORE OF HORSES THAN OF ANYTHING ELSE."   It has been pointed out by Jocelyn Harris [in Jane Austen’s Art of Memory] that Mr. Thorpe from Northanger Abbey pretty much fits the definition of a Yahoo to a tee, and that this passage from her letter, perhaps written right around the time she was writing Northanger Abbey, indicates that the real life Mr. Evelyn was a model for Mr. Thorpe's character….That is so characteristic of her mode of allusion--she didn't wave any flag to say, here is an allusion to Gulliver's Travels, but she set it up by making Thorpe be like a Yahoo, and then having him talk about horses! Also, Austen used the word "swift", or a variant of "swift" only 6 times altogether in her novels....and 5 of them occur in Northanger Abbey! Not a coincidence!”

So, we know from the above passage in JA’s June 1799 letter (written when JA was still living in Steventon—the move to Bath was still nearly two years away)---not coincidentally a mere one year after she completed Susan, the first (never published and no longer existing) version of Northanger Abbey ---- that she and her sister were both familiar enough with Gulliver’s Travels at that time, so that JA’s reference to the horse-obsessed Mr. Evelyn as a Yahoo would be understood by CEA without explanation.

Which, uniting the above two streams of allusion, tells me that Jane Austen intended John Thorpe to be understood by her literary readers as a kind of inadvertent oracle in Northanger Abbey, who not only represents, in a general way, the primitive humanoid Yahoos in Gulliver’s Travels, but goes further, and  zeroes in even more precisely on Jonathan Swift’s veiled allusion to the real life Ralph Allen in Gulliver’s Travels.

I’m no Swift scholar, so I’ll look forward to hearing what they might make of this intriguing allusive mix vis a vis Gulliver’s Travels. But, vis a vis Northanger Abbey, I am certain that this all warrants a much closer look at the character of Mr. Allen. I don’t believe that JA’s sole purpose in connecting Mr. Allen to the real life Ralph Allen was to explain why John Thorpe believes Mr. Allen is so very rich. I think we’re meant to dig deeper, and in particular to wonder about undisclosed familial relationships among the Allens, the Morlands, the Thorpes, and the Tilneys—relationships which Catherine is unaware of, but which may well be driving crucial aspects of the plot of the novel.

For example, I just found the following very interesting biographical data about Ralph Allen:
“Ralph Allen and Prior Park”
“…At the age of 19, on 13th February 1712, Ralph Allen became the Deputy Postmaster of Bath. In 1715 Ralph Allen learned of a Jacobite plot and wrote to Major GENERAL George Wade about it. Wade was sent to Bath, which was strongly Jacobite, in command of two regiments of dragoons. He found eleven chests of firearms, swords, cartridges, three pieces of cannon, one mortar, and moulds to cast cannon, which had been buried underground….It has also led certain sources (inc. R. E. M. Peach) to state that [Ralph Allen] married the GENERAL’s daughter Miss Jane Erle. There is no evidence of this and, indeed, Wade who died unmarried left four illegitimate children, George, John, Jane and Emilia and his will refers to his daughter as Mrs. Erle. One reason this idea may have arisen is that in the short book Ralph Allen and Prior Park, by Robert Francis Kilvert (1857) he has an Appendix that purports to be from Richard Jones’ (Ralph Allen’s Clerk of Works) diary and states “Married Wade’s bastard daughter”.

I have long been of the opinion that General Tilney does not show such strong attentions to Catherine on son Henry’s behalf, but on his own behalf! So, now, in light of the above biographical data about the real life Ralph Allen and the general’s illegitimate daughter he appears to have married, I think that JA meant to suggest that General Tilney suspects that Catherine is Mr. Allen’s illegitimate daughter (believing that Mr. Allen takes Catherine to Bath for that reason), and that is why he (and John Thorpe for that matter) are both so interested in Catherine.  

Cheers, ARNIE

@JaneAustenCode onTwitter

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Jane Austen’s History of England….and all that

Three weeks, ago, I wrote about Jane Austen’s broad winks, in Northanger Abbey, at Sophia Lee’s 1783 Gothic classic novel  The Recess & Sir Walter Scott’s Preface to Waverley:

That led me to think about how the well-known riffs on history vs. fiction in Northanger Abbey had their origins in the 16 year old JA’s juvenilia The History of England...

Some quick searching online confirmed that I am not the first Austen scholar to detect that JA’s extraordinary sympathy (indeed, identification) with the tragic Mary Queen of Scots surely also had its roots in Sophia Lee’s Recess:  [Elisabeth Lenckos review] JASNA News 18/3,Win. ‘02
“Alliston suggests that The Recess is proof of the novelist’s prerogative, the artistic license of the free-roaming literary imagination, to do what the historian could not, that is, write history from a new and different perspective and revise some of its traditions and assumptions. Thus, Sophia Lee shifted the center of her readers’ attention and sympathy from Elizabeth to Mary, from the public to the private sphere, and rewrote some important chapters in Elizabeth’s life to accord with her view of the British queen as the villain of the story. Lee’s imaginative rewriting of history, so it may be argued, paved the way for future authors of historical novels, a development from which the young Austen perhaps benefited when she wrote her own highly irreverent History of England (1791). This is a work in which, coincidentally, Elizabeth receives, to put it mildly, a less than sympathetic portrayal….”

April Alliston edition of The Recess (2000)
xxi: “JA’s NA also alludes to The Recess, although its primary reference is to Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (a more recent best-seller when Austen’s parody was published). More importantly, The Recess led the way for both Radcliffe and Austen in its innovative play with conventions of probability, implicitly but uncomfortably questioning both gender norms and the status of historical truth. When the heroine of NA prefers Gothic romance to ‘real solemn history’, her preference makes sense because of Lee’s earlier blurring of the boundaries between them. Austen’s juvenile work, The History of England (written in 1791), further underscores her skepticism of the more aggressive claims to objective truth made by ‘real solemn’ historians such as Hume—and it may also be poking fun at The Recess by humorously exaggerating Lee’s sympathy with Mary at the expense of Elizabeth. [I owe the observation about the possible connection between Austen’s History and The Recess to Isobel Grundy]”

Novel Histories: British Women Writing History, 1760-1830 by Lisa Kasmer (2012) Intro
While parodying the m.o. of histories at the time, Austen’s History of England plays with genre expectations at a dizzying pace….Austen parallels Lord Essex to a character from Charlotte Smith’s Emmeline (1788), making little distinction between the historical personage and the fictional character …Austen also makes her QE and Queen Mary echo the characterizations of these rulers in Sophia Lee’s The Recess…a historical romance in Gothic vein. In Austen’s most colorful moment, she accuses Elizabeth of being a ‘Murderess’ who ‘confined’ and ‘allowed an untimely, unmerited, and scandalous Death’ of Queen Mary, who bore her fate ‘with a most unshaken fortitude…with a magnanimity that could alone proceed from conscious Innocence.” Austen thereby uses the Gothic trope of the evil woman unfairly punishing a beautiful and saintly victim. In creating a continuum between the genres of history and historical fiction, Austen not only exposes the fictionality of history, but also confirms that history…”

As I was Googling to find the above quotes, I came across a reference to the 1922 parodic history 1066 And All That , and it made me wonder whether it owed a debt to Austen’s History of England. I quickly found an excellent article by Peter Sabor called “JA’s The History of England and 1066 And All That” on that very topic. Here are some relevant excerpts from Sabor’s article:
“…Several critics have been struck by the resemblances between the two works. Deirdre Le Faye for example finds The History of England ‘uncannily prophetic’ of 1066 and All That, while Daniel Woolf believes that it is ‘anticipatory’ of Sellar and Yeatman’s ‘much later parody’. I suggest, in contrast, that there is nothing surprising about the parallels between the histories: their resemblance is not uncanny if Sellar & Yeatman, as I believe, were among the early readers of Austen’s astonishingly precocious work. They had, after all, eight years in which to study the techniques of their youthful predecessor, and in 1066 and All That, as its subtitle, ‘A Memorable History of England’, indicates, they put The History of England to good use.
The most obvious source for 1066 And All That, as several readers have noted, is the illustrated history by the Scottish children’s writer Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall, Our Island Story: A History of England for Boys and Girls (1905). Replete with anecdotes, many of the apocryphal, it contained a wealth of stirring stories that Sellar & Yeatman could recast in comic and often surrealist form. In doing so, they were mirroring Austen’s abusive treatment of Goldsmith; while Marshall provided Sellar & Yeatman with copious material to parody, Austen furnished many of the satirical techniques that they deployed.…In 1922, the year in which The History of England was first published…Sellar and Yeatman…graduated from…Oxford. …In the late 1920s, they began to collaborate on the book that would make them famous: 1066 and All That. Excerpts began appearing in Punch in September 1930… By 1935 it had reached a twentieth edition…Like Austen, Sellar & Yeatman furnish their work with a mock dedication…Both The History of England and 1066 and All That are furnished with illustrations designed to heighten the humour of their respective works.
….In her sketch of the dying Cardinal Wolsey, Austen quotes his words to the Abbot of Leicester Abbey ‘that “he was come to lay his bones among them.” The line is taken from Goldsmith’s history, which in turn is indebted to a report of Wolsey’s words in Henry VIII… Sellar & Yeatman quote the same lines but with an ingenious twist, combining them with Mark Antony’s famous words in SS’s Julius Caesar: “Father Abbot, I come to lay my bones among you, Not to praise them.” …
…Austen’s wild prejudices are echoed by those of Sellar & Yeatman. Consider, for example, their respective treatments of Sir Francis Drake. In Austen’s zany account, this ‘ornament of his Country and his profession’ is depicted as the precursor of his namesake, Austen’s brother Francis [quote from The History of England ]
…For Sellar & Yeatman, Drake’s storied career affords fine opportunities for comedy, as they scramble and recompose some of the myths surrounding him….…Neither Marshall nor Austen is so much as mentioned in 1066 And All That…it is a spoof…This silence has a precedent in Austen herself. The only historian mentioned anywhere in her work is John Whitaker, author of Mary Queen of Scots Vindicated (1787). Oliver Goldsmith, author of the four volumes that she recreated as The History of England, is never named. And Austen, in turn, would not be mentioned in the book that recreated her mock history in the 20th century: 1066 and All That.”

I would only add to the above that I obtained a copy of 1066 And All That from the library, expecting to find some subtle allusions in it to Austen’s youthful history beyond the Wolsey wink. Alas, I was very disappointed, not only in the lack of any other specific allusions, but also in the marked inferiority of with compared to Austen’s production. Sellar & Yeatman rarely exceeded the quality of the entries in The Loiterer, which of course was the work of JA’s elder brothers James and Henry.

Think I might be displaying unjustified favoritism toward Austen? Well, then, here’s an example which I think is exemplary of the contrast between what JA managed at age 16, and Sellar & Yeatman came up with 131 years later in 1066 And All That:

First here’s what S&Y wrote about Henry VIII and “The Monasteries”:

“One of the strongest things that Henry VIII did was about the Monasteries. It was pointed out to him that no one in the monasteries was married, as the Monks all thought it was still the Middle Ages. So Henry, who, of course, considered marrying a Good Thing, told Cromwell to pass a very strong Act saying that the Middle Ages were all over, and the Monasteries were all to be dissolved. This was called the Disillusion of the Monasteries.”

Lame, lame, lame, is all I can say. A whole paragraph invested in generating one weak pun not even worthy of a groan.

And now, here is what JA came up with on that same topic:

“The Crimes & Cruelties of this Prince, were too numerous to be mentioned, (as this history I trust has fully shewn;) & nothing can be said in his vindication, but that his abolishing Religious Houses & leaving them to the ruinous depredations of time has been of infinite use to the landscape of England in general, which probably was a principal motive for his doing it, since otherwise why should a Man who was of no Religion himself be at so much trouble to abolish one which had for ages been established in the Kingdom.”

I think it’s clear that Austen’s wit and command of language is vastly superior to that of her 20th century imitators. And then, behind the superficial pleasure of witty verbiage, there is for the scholar the deeper please in the Austen of the well recognized satire of Gilpin’s pompous comments on picturesque monastery ruins.

Now, I am sure that Sellar and Yeatman had a knowledge of English which dwarfs my own, and therefore surely there are at least some in-jokes scattered throughout 1066 And All That which I missed in my quick scan of same. But with high confidence, I can say that the humor of their little book largely evaded me on pretty much every page. Whereas there is scarcely a sentence in all of JA’s much shorter History of England that I would not miss. And ultimately the young Jane Austen is much braver in taking on and satirically goring a variety of historical sacred cows than her modern imitators. Where in their work, e.g., is anything comparable to her famous sexualized Sharade about James the First? I didn’t see it if it was there.

So I conclude with the recommendation to those who know 1066 And All That to give Austen’s work a try, and see if you don’t agree with my opinion about the stark contrast in quality between them.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Much more on the Marriage of Figaro subtext in Pride & Prejudice

\This is a followup to my post yesterday about the risqué, veiled allusion to The Marriage of Figaro in Pride & Prejudice:  At the center of that allusion, you’ll recall, was the convincingly cross-dressed militiaman CHAMBERLAYNE, who looked so well in women’s clothes----as colorfully described by the inimitable Lydia Bennet---who is, I suggested, Jane Austen’s ultra-sly allusion to the convincingly cross-dressed, beautiful cross-dressing soldier (and remarkably similarly named) CHERUBINO in Mozart/DaPonte’s Figaro.  Today, I have three additional blocks of supportive evidence to fit into the matrix of Jane Austen’s Mozartean allusion in P&P. So strap on your seat belts, this will be quite a ride!

PART ONE: Some of you may have questioned whether Jane Austen, prior to completion of her writing of P&P in late 1812, would’ve had the opportunity to become familiar with Mozart’s first great Italian comic opera, which was first performed in Vienna in May, 1786, when JA was 10 years old, but as to which the libretto does not appear to have been published in England during JA’s lifetime. Well, with a little digging, I found the following, highly relevant discussion in W.A. Mozart (1987) by Tim Carter at ppg 132 et seq.:  
“…even though Da Ponte [of course, Mozart’s librettist for Figaro] was librettist at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket—a complete opera by Mozart was not performed there until 1806, when La Clemenza di Tito was first staged at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket, on 27 March. Between 1809 and 1811, there were amateur performances of Don Giovanni, Le Nozze di Figaro, and Cosi Fan Tutte. However, Cosi Fan Tutte was first staged professionally on 9 May 1811 (with the addition of ‘Voi che sapete’, sung by Guglielmo), Die Zauberflote, in Italian, on 6 June, 1811, Le Nozze di Figaro on 18 June, 1812…. The London premiere of Le Nozze di Figaro…received the following announcement in The Times:
‘There will be represented at this Theatre [the King’s Theatre, Haymarket], THIS EVENING, June 18, and for the first time in this country, the celebrated Opera of LE MARIAGE DE FIGARO: the music by Mozart. [lists cast] All the above eminent performers have generously given their gratuitous assistance on this occasion…The performance was for the benefit of the Scottish Hospital…Henry Robertson, writing in The Examiner [Leigh Hunt’s newspaper, which JA read in connection with her Prince of Whales satire in Emma], commented on the delay in bringing Mozart to the London stage, offering some perceptive insights into the opera…:
‘The works of MOZART, which have long lain dormant…have at length shone forth from the obscurity in which jealousy and bad taste had involved them. Till the last two or three years, this genius had been known chiefly as an instrumental writer, and might still have remained so, had not a society of amateurs, who were capable of perceiving where true merit was to be found, laudably exerted themselves to diffuse the delight his vocal works had given themselves. With this view, and aided by some tasteful professors, they brought forward the Opera of Don Giovanni, and followed it up successively with performances of two of his other productions, which required only to be heard, to ensure them a high reputation….The last which has been produced, Le Nozze di Figaro, is perhaps, altogether, the finest of his works. The subject is taken, with little alteration, from BEAUMARCHAIS’s celebrated comedy… and in its quick succession of incident, gives full scope to the fancy [much praise, then] Figaro was given 8 times in 1812, and then revived in March 1813, June 1816, and February 1817. The 1817 revival, first staged on 1 February with an all-Italian cast, was given 11 performances and seems to have been a marked success….“  END QUOTE

So from Tim Carter’s detailed account, we learn first & foremost that The Marriage of Figaro was first staged professionally in London at the Haymarket Theatre on June 18, 1812----a date which happens to fall smack dab in the middle of JA’s famous lopping and cropping of Pride & Prejudice for its January 1813 first publication! And Carter also shows that an amateur production of Figaro had previously been staged in London between 1809 and 1811. So, might JA have actually seen any of those productions?

There’s no mention of this in any of her surviving letters, but given that we have no surviving Austen letters at all from 1812 prior to November, that silence does not settle that question. Suffice to say that with
(1) brother Henry and sister in law Eliza living in London that entire time, &
(2) JA having visited London repeatedly during the final five years of her life, &
(3) JA’s London visits included frequent attendance at theatrical and musical performances, &
(4) Figaro having received such positive reviews in publications read by JA and her brothers,
I believe it very plausible that she saw Figaro, particularly during its Summer 1812 run.  It was the talk of the town, she loved music, and so she had both opportunity and motive to see it!

But all of that turns out to be only one third of the extraordinary extrinsic synchronicity between P&P and Figaro that I’ve dug up since yesterday.

PART TWO:  As I was writing this post, my memory was jogged to a post I wrote 8 years ago in Janeites, about “the irony that Lydia bemoaned not getting to see a performance at "the Little Theatre" while she was in London, at the precise moment that a performance of a different kind was being staged for her benefit in "the Little Theatre" in her room at Gracechurch Street. [i.e., when Mr. Gardiner fibbed to Lydia so as to keep her under wraps at his home till the wedding could take place]”.

I quickly retrieved the entirety of Lydia’s speech, which is her whiny account to Elizabeth and Jane of the events leading up to, and including her wedding to Wickham in London:

"Well, and so we breakfasted at ten, as usual. I thought it would never be over; for, by the bye, you are to understand that my uncle and aunt were horrid unpleasant all the time I was with them. If you'll believe me, I did not once put my foot out of doors, though I was there a fortnight. Not one party, or scheme, or anything! To be sure, London was rather thin; but, however, THE LITTLE THEATRE WAS OPEN. Well, and so, just as the carriage came to the door, my uncle was called away upon business to that horrid man, Mr. Stone. And then, you know, when once they get together, there is no end of it. Well, I was so frightened, I did not know what to do; for my uncle was to give me away; and if we were beyond the hour we could not be married all day.”

I read “the little theatre was open” and I wondered, could this be yet another giant hint in the text of P&P, pointing to that very same Summer 1812 London production of Figaro? It took me two minutes to find confirmation in Wikipedia, which convincingly connects the dots between Lydia’s frustrated wish to go to “The Little Theatre” and Figaro’s first production in London:
“The Theatre Royal, Haymarket (also known as HAYMARKET THEATRE OR THE LITTLE THEATRE) is a West End theatre in the Haymarket in the City of Westminster which dates back to 1720, making it the third-oldest London playhouse still in use…”

So, “the Little Theatre” Lydia wished she could have gone to just happens to be the very same venue where that first professional London production of Figaro was staged! And, just like the speech in Chapter 39 describing the cross-dressing Chamberlayne, this speech is also spoken by Lydia! But what, someone else may ask, about the chronology of the fictional action in Pride & Prejudice –does it match up with the real-life chronology of staging of Figaro at the Haymarket Little Theatre? You bet it does!!!

According to the authoritative chronology for P&P originally by Chapman, and updated by our own Ellen Moody, Lydia’s “captivity” at Gracechurch Street begins on August 17, 1812, which is a mere 60 days after that London debut production at the Haymarket Little Theatre—a production that ran for 8 performances, meaning that, if they were weekly, a performance of Figaro might very well have occurred at the very start of Lydia’s “confinement”. In that regard, I’ve reached out to the Little Theatre, and asked their educational department whether their records show this, and I promise to return with their answer when I receive it.

But even if that 8-show run ended in July instead of August, 1812, it’s important for us, looking back two centuries from 2016, to realize that the association to that widely acclaimed production of Figaro at the Little Theatre would still have been very fresh in the minds of the culturati of London in early 1813 when P&P and its mysterious anonymous author were the talk of the town, and they read Lydia’s whiny speech. Lydia’s whiny reference to “the Little Theatre” is then an injoke lost in the mists of history …. until now!

But even the above Parts One and Two are still not all the additional corroboration I found of a strong connection between P&P and The Marriage of Figaro. It’s much more than the amorphous connection between Mozart and Austen that the late Lionel Trilling sensed when he famously wrote a half century ago that “one understands very easily why many readers are moved to explain their pleasures in P&P by reference to Mozart, especially The Marriage of Figaro”.  

PART THREE: It also turns out that there are two transcriptions in Jane Austen’s own hand of music written by Mozart, and both are of arias from Mozart’s operas—and, what’s more, one of those arias is an adaptation from (you guessed it!) The Marriage of Figaro! In Wallace’s very well known book about the strong resonance he sees between Mozart’s music in general, and Austen’s fiction, we read the following in Appendix 1: 
“A second manuscript book entirely in [Austen’s] own hand- this one 84 pages long – contains both songs and instrumental works. The keyboard works include numerous waltzes, marches, and themes with variations…Piggott [1979] has discovered that one of the marches Austen copied into this book is by Mozart, though she would have had no way of knowing it. “The Duke of York’s New March” is not new at all: it is a pirated version of “Non piu andrai” from The Marriage of Figaro. As Piggott points out, this is the “only music by Mozart in the Chawton Collection”. [incorrect, actually there’s also an aria from The Magic Flute]”

Now go here… …and listen to “The Duke of York’s New March”—you’ll immediately recognize the tune, as “Non piu andrai” is, in 2016 as in 1812, among the three or four most famous arias from all of Mozart’s operas. But I strenuously disagree with Piggott’s and Wallace’s belief that Jane Austen would not have known that melody as being pirated from The Marriage of Figaro--- Jane Austen was an accomplished amateur musician and a scholar, and I believe she gave herself a quiet, ironic pat on the back in both those regards, when her narrator drily comments on Mary Bennet’s study of thorough-bass and human nature, two areas JA herself was expert in. Plus we have all the “smoke” I’ve outlined in my prior post, and in Parts One and Two, above, that converges in connecting P&P to Figaro.

So I suggest to you that it is no coincidence at all that JA would have chosen piano music adapted from an aria from Figaro for her own private music collection. At some point, I am also going to find out if it is known when JA transcribed that particular musical piece, but from what I can tell in Google Books, the “Duke of York” version had already been published by 1801.

But that’s still not all! It turns out, when we dig a little deeper, that in this aria, so famous for its melody, the substance is even more interesting to us vis a vis P&P as alluding to Figaro. Why? Because in this aria Figaro teases (you’ll never guess)….. Cherubino about his Spartan military future, in stark contrast with the pleasant and flirtatious life Cherubino has enjoyed in the Count's palace. So we’re right back to Cherubino again, and his strong resemblance to Austen’s cross-dressing Chamberlayne!

Here’s an English translation of “Non piu andrai”, within which I’ve interspersed some quotations from P&P which I believe are reactions to its verbiage:

[Mrs Gardiner: “…I really believe your letter this morning gave [Mr. Gardiner] great pleasure, because it required an explanation that would ROB HIM OF HIS BORROWED FEATHERS…]
That light, romantic cap, That hair, that GLOWING COUNTENANCE,
[[Wickham’s] appearance was greatly in his favour; he had all the best part of beauty, a FINE COUNTENANCE, a good figure, and very pleasing address.] 
That rosy, womanly complexion. Among soldiers, by Jove!
[[Wickham’s] regiment is there; for I suppose you have heard of his leaving the ——shire, and of his being gone into the regulars.]
A big moustache, a little kit. With a rifle on your shoulder, and a sabre on your flank,
Standing up straight, hard faced, A big helmet, or a big turban, Plenty of honour, little pay!
And instead of dancing the 
fandango, A march through the mud.
Through mountains, through valleys, With snow and with the sun beating down.
To the beat of the bugle, Of bombs, of cannons, Whose thunderous report
Makes your ears ring. Cherubino, to victory: To glory in battle!
[[Lydia] saw herself the object of attention, to tens and to scores of them at present unknown. She saw all the glories of the camp—its tents stretched forth in beauteous uniformity of lines, crowded with the young and the gay, and dazzling with scarlet; and, to complete the view, she saw herself seated beneath a tent, tenderly flirting with at least six officers at once.]

In short, once again the Cherubino-esque smoke in P&P all has to do with Lydia and/or Wickham.

So, in conclusion, I hope you’ll now agree that it is highly likely that Jane Austen did indeed intentionally but covertly allude in P&P, in a variety of subtle ways, to The Marriage of Figaro.

Cheers, ARNIE

@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Austen’s shockingly subversive & risque allusion to The Marriage of Figaro in Pride & Prejudice

I’ve been saying for some time that Andrew Davies is an even sharper elf than he’s been given credit for in giving us the great gift of his four Austen film adaptations (and when if ever will he wave his magic cinematic wand over Mansfield Park and Persuasion?). In particular, I not only strenuously contest the common assertion that his adaptations have overly sexed up Jane Austen’s novels, I assert the opposite: i.e., that there’s a great deal more eroticism just under the surface in all of JA’s fiction, and so Davies’s occasional sexualized scenes are actually tame representations of what Austen actually intended.

Today, I’m back with another sly Davies gem, which I only recently fully grasped. One of the many romantic moments in Andrew Davies’s 1995 P&P occurs when Eliza sings an aria that entrances Darcy in the Pemberley salon:    Singing in English, the lyrics perfectly describe the surprisingly powerful love for Darcy that has seized Eliza’s heart, a love of which she cannot quite make sense:

You who know what love is, Ladies, see if I have it in my heart.
I'll tell you what I'm feeling, It's new for me, and I understand nothing.
I have a feeling, full of desire, Which is by turns delightful and miserable.
I freeze and then feel my soul go up in flames, Then in a moment I turn to ice.
I'm searching for affection outside of myself, I don't know how to hold it, nor even what it is!
I sigh and lament without wanting to, I twitter and tremble without knowing why,
I find peace neither night nor day, But still I rather enjoy languishing this way.
You who know what love is, Ladies, see if I have it in my heart.

In 2009, I wrote the following in an email to Richard Jenkyns (Austen descendant, Oxford prof, and attendee at my 2007 Oxford presentation) about a passage in A Fine Brush on Ivory:
“I just went to see The Marriage of Figaro…I was strongly struck during the first act by Susannah's concern that Count Almaviva might send Figaro on a wild goose chase 3 miles away, and then pounce on her--it was strikingly similar to what I believe Knightley actually does do with Mr. Elton in order to get him out of the vicarage for several hours (while Mrs Elton is also, not coincidentally, being entertained by Miss Bates). And then I was also struck by the Count's attempting to send Cherubino away as an officer, in order to get him far away from his manor, and connected that dot to Darcy's arranging for Wickham (who is, like Figaro, very likely the son of the deceased Count) to be sent out of town as an officer when he marries Lydia. And then I was also struck by the situation of cross dressing courtship in The Marriage of Figaro that was so reminiscent of Twelfth Night. And that is when…I reread, with new eyes, the section of your book in which you point out the striking authorial career parallelism between Shakespeare (Twelfth Night and Measure for Measure) and Austen (P&P and Mansfield Park) and Mozart (Figaro and Don Giovanni)…”

Then, a couple of years ago, I posted the following in Janeites & Austen-L about Davies’s decision to have Elizabeth sing an aria from Figaro in his film: 
“…Emily Auerbach wrote at P. 158 of Searching for Jane Austen:  “Elizabeth probably shared the thoughts of Figaro in his daring monologue from Marriage of Figaro: “Because you’re a great lord, you think you’ve a great mind as well! Nobility, fortune, rank, power, it makes a man proud. What have you done to deserve all that? You went to the trouble of being born, nothing more. “ Rest of that quote: “As for the rest -- you're really rather mediocre. Whereas I? ye gods! Buried among the nameless crowd, I've had to deploy more skill, more calculation, simply to survive, than it would take to govern the whole of Spain for a century!"” And I think Davies knew of this connection because he has Lizzy sing a love song from The Marriage of Figaro in his adaptation.,,,”

Many will recognize, as I did then, that Voi se chapete comes from The Marriage of Figaro; but only Mozart opera buffs would know that, in the opera itself, this particular aria is sung by a female soprano playing a male character—Cherubino —the young page who gets into sticky romantic wickets. Here’s a video of Frederika von Stade as Cherubino:  And, for quick orientation, here is Wikipedia’s synopsis of the part of Act Two which includes this aria:

“The Countess laments her husband's infidelity…Susanna comes in to prepare the Countess for the day. She responds to the Countess's questions by telling her that the Count is not trying to "seduce" her; he is merely offering her a monetary contract in return for her affection. Figaro enters and explains his plan to distract the Count with anonymous letters warning him of adulterers. He has already sent one to the Count (via Basilio) that indicates that the Countess has a rendezvous of her own that evening. They hope that the Count will be too busy looking for imaginary adulterers to interfere with Figaro and Susanna's wedding. Figaro additionally advises the Countess to keep Cherubino around. She should dress him up as a girl and lure the Count into an illicit rendezvous where he can be caught red-handed. Figaro leaves.
Cherubino arrives, sent in by Figaro and eager to co-operate. Susanna urges him to sing the song he wrote for the Countess (aria: Voi che sapete che cosa è amor – "You ladies who know what love is, is it what I'm suffering from?"). After the song, the Countess, seeing Cherubino's military commission, notices that the Count was in such a hurry that he forgot to seal it with his signet ring (which would be necessary to make it an official document). They proceed to attire Cherubino in girl's clothes…and Susanna goes out to fetch a ribbon. While the Countess and Cherubino are waiting for Susanna to come back, they suddenly hear the Count arriving. Cherubino hides in the closet. The Count demands to be allowed into the room and the Countess reluctantly unlocks the door. The Count enters and hears a noise from the closet. He tries to open it, but it is locked. The Countess tells him it is only Susanna, trying on her wedding dress…”

Which brings me to the epiphany I had last month, while revisiting all of the above re: my seeing Figaro as a source for P&P. My eye was caught by the italicized sentences in that synopsis. Can those of you who know the text of P&P guess what specific passage in P&P I was reminded of by “Cherubino” and “cross-dressing”? As an additional hint, I blogged only 2 months ago about an uncanny resonance with that same specific passage in P&P of the following excerpts from JA’s 1801 letter to Cassandra about JA’s travel to, and then arrival in, Bath:
“…Between Luggershall and Everley we made our grand meal, and then with admiring astonishment perceived in what a magnificent manner our support had been provided for. We could not with the utmost exertion consume above the twentieth part of the BEEF. The CUCUMBER will, I believe, be a very acceptable present, as my uncle talks of having inquired the price of one lately, when he was told a shilling….
…The CHAMBERLAYNES are still here. I begin to think better of Mrs. C----, and upon recollection believe she has rather A LONG CHIN than otherwise, as she remembers us in Gloucestershire when we were very charming young women.…My mother has ordered a new BONNET, and so have I; both white strip, TRIMMED with white ribbon. I find my straw BONNET looking very much like other people's, and quite as smart. BONNETS of cambric muslin on the plan of Lady Bridges' are a good deal worn, and some of them are very pretty; but I shall defer one of that sort till your arrival. …We have had Mrs. Lillingstone and the CHAMBERLAYNES to call on us. My mother was very much struck with the ODD LOOKS of the two latter; I have only seen her. Mrs. Busby drinks tea and plays at cribbage here to-morrow; and on Friday, I believe, we go to the CHAMBERLAYNES….”

Now, that’s a pretty big hint!---think about it, and then scroll down for my answer……



My epiphany was to be reminded by Voi se chapete of the following passage in Chapter 39 of P&P:

“We dressed up Chamberlayne in woman's clothes on purpose to pass for a lady, only think what fun! Not a soul knew of it, but Colonel and Mrs. Forster, and Kitty and me, except my aunt, for we were forced to borrow one of her gowns; and you cannot imagine how well he looked! When Denny, and Wickham, and Pratt, and two or three more of the men came in, they did not know him in the least. Lord! how I laughed! and so did Mrs. Forster. I thought I should have died. And that made the men suspect something, and then they soon found out what was the matter."

This of course is Lydia regaling Elizabeth (who is en route home from Kent) at a roadside inn with sexually suggestive details of events involving a crossdressed soldier whose name, CHAMBERLAYNE, is very very similar to CHERUBINO! That scene did not make it into Davies’s 1995 film adaptation, and so it might appear that Davies had missed its significance, but now I believe, after understanding that Davies has Ehle sing Cherubino’s aria at Pemberley, that I have caught Davies in the act of sly greatness, as I now realize that he shifted JA’s Figaro allusion from the roadside inn to the Pemberley salon.

Skeptical? Well, then, here’s the capper. Recall what Miss Bingley says to Elizabeth in that very same scene in the novel which Davies adapted by having Elizabeth sing at Pemberley, singing which, by the way, does not occur in the novel text:
“…in the imprudence of anger, [Caroline] took the first opportunity of saying, with sneering civility:
"Pray, Miss Eliza, are not the ——shire Militia removed from Meryton? They must be a great loss to your family." In Darcy's presence she dared not mention Wickham's name; but Elizabeth instantly comprehended that he was uppermost in her thoughts; and the various recollections connected with him gave her a moment's distress; but exerting herself vigorously to repel the ill-natured attack, she presently answered the question in a tolerably detached tone. While she spoke, an involuntary glance showed her Darcy, with a heightened complexion, earnestly looking at her, and his sister overcome with confusion, and unable to lift up her eyes.”

In short, then, Davies connects Figaro to Wickham in a different scene than JA did. And I also see JA adding some sly wordplay to subliminally emphasize the connection of Wickham and pal Chamberlayne to Figaro’s oversexed Cherubino. The “cherubim” of the Bible were, of course, daunting, unearthly beings who do God’s bidding- and so it is surely no accident that Wickham is referred to twice in P&P as an “angel”—with the added irony of course, that the Angel of Light in the Bible is Lucifer!

[Lydia] "You will laugh when you know where I am gone, and I cannot help laughing myself at your surprise to-morrow morning, as soon as I am missed. I am going to Gretna Green, and if you cannot guess with who, I shall think you a simpleton, for there is but one man in the world I love, and he is an ANGEL…”

All Meryton seemed striving to blacken the man who, but three months before, had been almost an ANGEL OF LIGHT. He was declared to be in debt to every tradesman in the place, and his intrigues, all honoured with the title of seduction, had been extended into every tradesman's family. Everybody declared that he was the wickedest young man in the world; and everybody began to find out that they had always distrusted the appearance of his goodness…

In conclusion, I will return within the next week with a followup post about some other significant implications I see in JA having covertly alluded in so shocking a way to gender-bending in Figaro. But for today I leave you with this final teaser---the idea that caused me to recently revisit my long-standing intuition that Figaro was an important allusive source for P&P, was my sense of the shadow Darcy as a version of Figaro’s Count Almaviva – more specifically, my sense that the Count’s attempts to exercise his “droit du seigneur” on Susannah before her impending wedding with Figaro is echoed by the shadow Darcy as similarly doing much the same with a variety of women within his considerable sphere of influence. And that brings me right back to Richard Jenkyns’s sharp observation that Wickham, like Figaro, might be illegitimate sons of the late Count/Mr. Darcy, respectively.

It tells me that another reason for Lydia being sworn to secrecy about Darcy’s presence in London before and during the wedding of Wickham and Lydia, besides Darcy’s supposed modesty:

“ [Lydia] “…Well, I was so frightened I did not know what to do, for my uncle was to give me away; and if we were beyond the hour, we could not be married all day. But, luckily, he came back again in ten minutes' time, and then we all set out. However, I recollected afterwards that if he had been prevented going, the wedding need not be put off, for Mr. Darcy might have done as well."
"Mr. Darcy!" repeated Elizabeth, in utter amazement.
"Oh, yes!—he was to come there with Wickham, you know. But gracious me! I quite forgot! I ought not to have said a word about it. I promised them so faithfully! What will Wickham say? It was to be such a secret!"
"If it was to be secret," said Jane, "say not another word on the subject. You may depend upon my seeking no further."
"Oh! certainly," said Elizabeth, though burning with curiosity; "we will ask you no questions."
"Thank you," said Lydia, "for if you did, I should certainly tell you all, and then Wickham would be angry."
On such encouragement to ask, Elizabeth was forced to put it out of her power, by running away.”

Why would Wickham have been angry? Might the actual need for secrecy have instead been in order not to bring scrutiny to what “droit” Darcy, the “seigneur” of Austen’s comic “opera”, might have been exercising with Lydia the night before her wedding to Wickham?

And that’s a shocking twist that I am pretty sure even the daring, insightful sexer-upper Andrew Davies did not spot. ;)

Cheers, ARNIE

@JaneAustenCode on Twitter