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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Study in real & imaginary Charlottes: Goethe, Smith, Austen, & Thackeray

This is in furtherance of our recent discussion in Janeites and Austen-L about Austen's allusive interest in Goethe: 

Ellen Moody wrote: “Perfectly true, Nancy, that Charlotte was becoming a more popular name, and I'll venture a guess that might come from the popularity of The Sorrows of Werther. It's after the publication of this book and wide readership, the name Charlotte begins to be found in the UK. Then when George III (a German-English king) married a German wife, Charlotte, the name begins to proliferate.”

Werther was published in 1774, but George III married Charlotte in 1761, so you have the chronology backwards -- but then, it doesn’t matter which came first, it was clearly a cumulative impact on the Georgian zeitgeist --- the name “Charlotte” resonated from both of those salient sources. But also, and even more significantly from an Austenian point of view, as I’ll now show, there are multiple connections to Charlotte Smith – connection that open up a study in Charlottes in every direction that even Sherlock Holmes would’ve enjoyed sleuthing out!

First, please note that in Volume the Second of Jane Austen’s Juvenilia, we have explicit references not only to Goethe’s Werter, but also to that most extreme example of male sensibility, Delamere, from Charlotte Smith’s Emmeline. And so, it closes the allusive circle to note the following passage in Chapter 56 of Emmeline, Smith’s first novel which, as I already demonstrated in my post a few days ago….    …. was a major source for both the overt and the shadow story of S&S:

"Farewell! most beloved Fitz-Edward! Ah! try if it be possible to be happy! Be assured I wish it; even though it be necessary for that end to drive from your memory, for ever, the lost Adelina Trelawny”
Emmeline, to whom this letter was sent open, could not but approve the sentiments it contained, while her heart bled for the pain it must have cost Lady Adelina, and for that which it must inflict on Fitz-Edward.
Having dispatched a note to his lodgings, appointing him to call upon her the next day, she entered into the drawing-room, where a large party were already assembled. To avoid any particular conversation with Lord Delamere, which he incessantly solicited, Emmeline placed herself near one of the card tables, and at a late hour in the evening Mrs. James Crofts was announced, and, dressed in the utmost exuberance of fashion, blazing in jewels and blooming in rouge, entered the apartment. She was followed by her two eldest daughters; one dressed in the character of Charlotte in the Sorrows of Werter; and the other as Emma, the nut-brown maid. Their air and manner were adapted, as they believed, to the figures of those characters as they appear in prints; and their excessive affectation, together with their mamma's gaudy appearance, nearly overcame the gravity of Emmeline and many others of the company….”

So, there, in the 1784 novel that was a huge influence on the character of Marianne Dashwood, we have Charlotte Smith writing a fictional character who in turn dresses in the fictional character of Goethe’s Charlotte! Talk about wheels within allusive wheels!

But the above is not even the only explicit connection of Charlotte Smith to Goethe’s Werther. As Ellen is surely well aware, Smith wrote not one but five Elegiac Sonnets a decade after Werther was published, all explicitly in the voice of Goethe’s Werther (I believe one of those sonnets is actually included in the text of Emmeline). These are five sonnets which JA undoubtedly read as a teenager, along with Emmeline and Werther –and JA was a sharp elf who didn’t need any further help in connecting these literary dots. So, for the young Jane Austen to link Charlotte Smith to Goethe’s Charlotte, and then to wink at both in ‘Lesley Castle’, would’ve been an obvious allusion for JA to make –in fact, it’s a perfect example of the kind of layered allusion that JA wove into the fabric of her fiction her entire career.

Ellen also wrote: “Nonetheless, at the time it was still not that common, and the pairing with this intensely comic pragmaticism -- the point is Austen goes out of her way to make fun of this practicality coupled with the name, and the use of Rousseau for the other heroine of Lesley Castle makes a case for seeing part of this unfinished juvenilia (it is a fragment and not consistent in its focus) as a parody on highly popular romantic texts, viz, Julie or La Nouvelle Heloise and The Sorrows of Werther….I've never seen any one bring in Lesley Castle the way I've just done.”

Actually, a little Googling has revealed to me that there’ve been two scholars who’ve noted it previously:

First, Lorraine Fletcher in Charlotte Smith: A Critical Biography (1998) at p. 307:  “…while ‘Love and Friendship’, a piece of similar length, remains parodic throughout, ‘Lesley Castle’ begins to evolve into a straight novel. The domestic, cooking, officious Charlotte Lutterell, who has been organizing her sister Eloisa’s wedding breakfast, has to break the news to her sister that her fianc√© has been injured in a riding accident and is unlikely to live. The name Eloisa comes from Rousseau’s La Nouvelle Eloise…But Eloisa is treated not parodically as one might expect from the name, but sympathetically, and Charlotte is the comic. After briefly condoling with her sister, [Charlotte Lutterall] goes on:
“Dear Eloisa (said I) there’s no occasion for your crying so much about such a trifle. (for I was willing to make light of it in order to comfort her) I beg you would not mind it. You see it does not vex me in the least; though perhaps I may suffer most from it after all; for I shall not only be obliged to eat up all the Victuals I have dressed already, but must if Henry should recover (which however is not very likely) dress as much for you again; or should he die (as I suppose he will) I shall still have to prepare a Dinner for you whenever you marry any one else. So you see that tho perhaps for the present it may afflict you to think of Henry’s sufferings, yet I dare say he’ll die soon and then his pain will be over and you will be easy, whereas my Trouble will last much longer for work as hard as I may, I am certain that the pantry cannot be cleared in less than a fortnight.”  
Unusually for the Juvenilia, sense rather than sensibility, heartlessness rather than the good heart, is the target of Austen’s satire here. ‘Lesley Castle’ was preparing the way for S&S, where Mr. and Mrs. John Dashwood’s sense is exposed early…” END QUOTE FROM FLETCHER

And then Anthony Mandal in Jane Austen and the Popular Novel (2007) at p. 49:  “What Austen is attacking in her depictions of sensibility are the effusiveness, vapidity, and generally rootless gestures of these novels. However, she does not confine herself simply to the sentimental model: Austen is an accurate observer of the novel market in general, and is able to demystify other fictional topoi. ‘Evelyn’ pokes fun at the emergent Gothic of the early Charlotte Smith, Mary Robinson, and Ann Radcliffe…In ‘Lesley Castle’, the overly sentimental Margaret Lesley is compared with the excessively practical (and appositely surnamed) Charlotte Lutterall. If Austen has attacked the ways in which sentimental effusiveness covers vapidity, she also demonstrates how a concern with the practicalities of life can mask shallow materialism. In this case, when her sister’s wedding is postponed owing to her fiance’s near fatal injury, Charlotte’s concern is that ‘I had the mortification of finding that I had been Roasting, Broiling and Stewing both the Meat and Myself to no purpose.’…” END QUOTE FROM MANDAL

I had to stop a minute to ask myself what Mandal thought was so obviously apposite about the surname “Lutterall” that he didn’t feel the need to explain-- and then I (think I) got the joke --- Goethe’s Charlotte loves to butter all the bread she can find, so Austen’s Charlotte, with her obsession with food preparations a parody of Goethe’s Charlotte and her butter, would have the rhyming name of Lutter-all!

Thackeray’s satirical poem, by the way, went like this:
“Sorrows of Werther”
Werther had a love for CHARLOTTE Such as words could never utter;
Would you know how first he met her? She was cutting bread and butter.
CHARLOTTE was a married lady, And a moral man was Werther,
And for all the wealth of Indies, Would do nothing for to hurt her.
So he sighed and pined and ogled, And his passion boiled and bubbled,
Till he blew his silly brains out, And no more was by it troubled.
CHARLOTTE, having seen his body Borne before her on a shutter,
Like a well-conducted person, Went on cutting bread and butter.

And finally, as if we needed it, there’s another Charlotte in the mix, based on what Richard Friedenthal in Goethe: His Life and Times (1963) at p. 113, writes about both of Goethe’s Charlottes –the one from his real life,  and the one he created in Werther:
“Lotte [Von Stein] is a pretty, healthy girl, a ‘desirable creature’, as Goethe calls her, one of those ‘who, even if they do not arouse violent passions, are intended to create a good general impression.’ Above all, she is already pledged, and this is an important safeguard for the young Goethe, as indeed it is for the older Goethe as well. He feels relaxed in her company. And how she [Werter’s Charlotte] mothers that army of children! She cuts their bread and butter for them, and Lotte cutting bread for the children is to become the most famous figure in the most famous novel of the day, celebrated in engravings, and dearer far to sentimental readers than Werther’s questionable end, with its pistols and suicide….”

So, what a wonderful matrix of Charlottes! But, alas, Diane, I can’t find any evidence that anyone in this matrix of allusion actually picked up on the old saying (per Wikipedia, it dates back to 16th century Italy) about “knowing which side one’s bread is buttered on” – although, I can’t think of a more perfect example of that sort of thinking than we find in Charlotte Lucas’s shrewd, pragmatic calculations:   “In her kind schemes for Elizabeth, she sometimes planned her marrying Colonel Fitzwilliam. He was beyond comparison the most pleasant man; he certainly admired her, and his situation in life was most eligible; but, to counterbalance these advantages, Mr. Darcy had considerable patronage in the church, and his cousin could have none at all.”

Diane Reynolds then replied to Ellen: “It's interesting too that Charlotte, George III's wife, was, if I remember correctly, partly black: a nice nod to multi-culturalism if the current royals named their daughter Charlotte for that reason.”

Yes indeed, that sounds quite plausible and commendable. And, if we go back two centuries from today’s royals, I also wonder whether JA herself might’ve had her Queen’s biraciality in mind as well – Charlotte Heywood is, after all, the heroine of the novel which has Austen’s one explicitly biracial character:

“Of these three [students], & indeed of all, Miss Lambe was beyond comparison the most important & precious, as she paid in proportion to her fortune. ‐ She was about 17, halfmulatto, chilly & tender, had a maid of her own, was to have the best room in the Lodgings, & was always of the first consequence in every plan of Mrs. Griffiths…”

And guess what! That connection led me to be the first to recognize the final Goethe allusion by Jane Austen. While we hear in passing about bread and butter twice in Austen’s completed novels (Miss Bates’s report of how little of it Jane ate, and Fanny’s disgust at its greasiness chez Price at Portsmouth), wouldn’t you know that the Sanditon fragment, with its heroine named Charlotte, just happens to also be the only Austen novel in which the buttering of bread actually takes center stage –it memorably occurs in a scene of exquisite “dry” comedy, observed with great amusement by Charlotte:

“[Arthur Parker] was evidently certainly very happy to turn the conversation on dry Toast, & hear no more from of his Sisters.
‘I hope you will eat some of this Toast’, said he, ‘I reckon myself a very good Toaster; I never burn my Toasts. I never put them too near the Fire at first; & yet, you see, there is not a Corner but what is well browned. I hope you like dry Toast.’
‘With a reasonable quantity of Butter spread over it, very much’ said Charlotte ‘but not otherwise.’
‘No more do I’ said he very much obliged exceedingly pleased. ‘We think quite alike upon that subject. there. So far from dry Toast being wholesome, I think it is a very bad thing for the Stomach. Without a little butter to soften it, it hurts the Coats of the Stomach.’
‘I am sure it does.’
‘I will have the pleasure of spreading some for you directly & afterwards I will spread some for myself. Very bad indeed for the Coats of the Stomach; but there is no convincing some people. It irritates & acts like a nutmeg grater.’
It was rather amusing to see. He could not get the command of the Butter Glass however, without a struggle; His Sisters accused accusing him of eating a great deal too much, & declaring he was not to be trusted; and he maintaining that he only eat enough to secure the Coats of his Stomach; & besides, he only wanted it now for Miss Heywood. Such a plea must prevail, he got the butter & spread away for her with an accuracy of Judgement which at least delighted himself; but when that her Toast was done, & he took his own Toast in hand, Charlotte could hardly contain himself herself as she saw him watching his Sisters, while he scrupulously scraped off almost as much butter as he put on, & then seize an odd moment for adding a great dab just before it went into his Mouth.”

I feel safe in saying that the above scene involving Charlotte Heywood’s amusement at being lectured about the proper manner to butter (toasted) bread, written by JA at the age of 41, is the bookend to Charlotte Lutterall whining about the wasted wedding food, written by JA at the age of about 15!

And with the parting observation that the hyper-sensibilious Sir Edward Denham in Sanditon is surely also a major Werther wannabe, I hope you'll agree that we now can see that Jane Austen's interest in Goethe never waned during the nearly 3 decades of her writing life!

Cheers, ARNIE

@JaneAustenCode on Twitter  

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