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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

‘We could paint a better world’: Gadsby’s Nanette ‘repaints’ Picasso’s misogyny

Nearly two months after the debut of Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette on Netflix, I’m thrilled, but unsurprised, to report that the universal acknowledgment of its brilliance, importance, and power continues unabated.
In my first post about Nanette,, I concluded with some speculations about Gadsby’s enigmatic title:

‘It occurred to me…that there was one more clue hidden in plain sight by Gadsby, begging an answer to the question – ‘Who was Nanette, really?’ I ask that, because there is something quite fishy about Gadsby beginning Nanette as follows:   ‘My show is called Nanette, and the reason my show is called Nanette is because I named it before I wrote it. I named it at around the time I’d met a woman called Nanette who I thought was very interesting, So interesting, that I reckon I can squeeze a good hour of laughs out of you, Nanette. But, it turns out...nah….I met her in a small town cafĂ©…’
Gadsby then segued to the topic of growing up in a small town, and she never mentioned Nanette again.

I’ve read enough Austen to be suspicious of a writer with such a compelling message as Gadsby’s, who gives the prominence of her opening words –in an article, it would be called the all important ”opening lead”-- to a subject, the origin of the title Nanette, which she promptly abandoned without any real answer, and never returned to it.  To borrow from Chekhov’s famous comment, if Gadsby hung the name ‘Nanette’ on the wall in her ‘first act’, then where is the part when her choice of the name is explained? I could not open Google fast enough to Google “Picasso Nanette” – and look at what blew my mind when I read it:  Picasso’s World of Children (1996), p. 65, a reminiscence by Picasso’s granddaughter, Maya:  “The adorable Paloma, even though more interested in the tadpoles than in posing for the greatest painter in the world, is already completely absorbed in her work. With me it’s exactly the same; he’s shown me hugging my doll. I was delighted to see that it was the one I liked the best (I still remember her-she was called Nanette—you see, I’m telling you everything!), but even more surprised to see myself….”  

So, can it possibly be a random coincidence that Gadsby (an art history major so wonky that she knew Van Gogh took digitalis for epilepsy, thereby making him experience the color yellow more intensely; and also knew that Picasso had justified having sex with a 17 year old while he was married and a quarter century older than her) just happened to title her breakout performance, the culmination of a decade of her life’s work, with the name of the favorite doll of the girl child born of that sexual relationship between Picasso and his too-young mistress? Before you answer, consider also the tragic additional fact that Marie-Therese committed suicide in 1977 at age 69, three years after Picasso died. Her suicide seems like strong evidence that, in Gadsby’s terms, Picasso, from the grave, “burned and destroyed” Marie-Therese, when viewed with “hindsight” provided by Gadsby. Marie-Therese seemed to be fulfilling Picasso’s mandate that she die, because she could have no life of her own beyond his, and so Marie-Therese never had a “prime”.

And armed with that anecdote, I went back to Google, and was astounded once again:
“Paris, Feb. 28 [2007]—Two important paintings by Picasso estimated by the police to be worth a total of about $66 million have been stolen from the Left Bank home of his granddaughter Diana Widmaier-Picasso…Paris police officials said the two oils, Maya with Doll from 1938 and Portrait of Jacqueline from 1961, were taken sometime overnight…Ms. Widmaier-Picasso and her mother, Maya, the daughter of Picasso’s longtime mistress Marie-Therese Walter, were asleep in the house when the theft occurred ….Maya with Doll is a colorful Cubist portrait of Picasso’s daughter as a child clutching a doll…Maya Widmaier-Picasso is often called on to verify questionable works attributed to Picasso, while her daughter, an art historian, recently published an illustrated book of Picasso’s erotic works called ‘Art Can Only Be Erotic.’ “

What I take away from that, is that Gadsby surely knew that factoid as well, and thought it fitting that, in her Robin-Hood-like “stealing” Picasso’s true story for recycling in Nanette, she named her show for the favorite doll of the little girl “created” by the tragically abusive relationship of Picasso and his victim Marie-Therese. So, I believe Gadsby is giving Nanette. as a kind of healing “doll”, to all the women of the world -- especially the “non-normal” ones -- to inspire each of them on the journey to her “prime”. So I’d say that Gadsby’s “art history degree” came in very handy, indeed! “

I revisit this topic today, to expand on the shadowy presence of “Maya with Doll” I perceive in the subtext of Nanette. At first glance, Picasso’s painting appears to be a cubist rendering of his young daughter Maya holding her favorite doll Nanette, and no more. However, when I take my cues (and clues) from Gadsby, and look at “Maya with Doll” through the lens of Gadsby’s fiercely feminist critique of Picasso’s personal misogyny reflected in his art, I see an alternative, disturbing reality concealed behind that neutral surface:

When I shed the blinders of “cubist aesthetics”, and simply see the images on the canvas, I note the poignant paradox of a ‘lifeless’ doll who appears uncannily alive and human, cradled by a ‘living’ girl who seems broken, unreal, dead. But might we also interpret the doll as that broken girl reborn and rebuilt? I believe Gadsby intentionally hinted at that outside-the-frame notion, via what are among her most powerful, climactic words in Nanette:  

“Picasso’s mistake was his arrogance. He assumed he could represent all of the perspectives. And our mistake was to invalidate the perspective of a 17-year-old girl, because we believed her potential… was never going to equal his. Hindsight is a gift. Can you stop. wasting my time? A 17-year-old girl is just never, ever, ever in her prime! Ever! I am in my prime! Would you test your strength out on me? [audience applauds] There is no way anyone would dare… test their strength out on me, because you all know… there is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.”

Put another way, I believe Gadsby, in Nanette, has ‘sampled’ Picasso’s art the way a rap artist samples other music genres, appropriating it in order to convert Picasso’s misogyny into truthful, healing story telling. And in this worthy, magical artistic ‘hostile takeover’, there’s sharp irony, as the following scholarly article excerpts (which I half-suspect Gadsby had already read!) reflect Picasso himself as an artistic magpie:

Timothy Anglin Burgard (1991) “Picasso and Appropriation” in The Art Bulletin 73:3, 479-494
…For Picasso, appropriation was not merely an artistic exercise in which he critiqued the Modernist reverence for originality and explored his relationship to great art and artists. Indeed, the artist perceived appropriation as a magical transference of power that could be applied to both historical and contemporary art and to objects and people…Picasso borrowed the vivid colors and broad brushstrokes of The Dead Casagemas from the paintings of Vincent van Gogh. His appropriation of Van Gogh's work, and its inevitable associations with the Dutch artist's life and death, enabled him to glorify Casagemas's own brief and tragic life. … Picasso's belief that possessing an object meant possessing the properties of the former owner. Gilot also noted Picasso's superstition "that one person can assume control over another through the possession of his fingernails or hair trimmings," and added: ... There are other fetishistic addictions which Pablo has followed in the most systematic manner…It was a metaphorical way of appropriating someone else's substance, and in that way, I believe, he hoped to prolong his own life. Picasso gave form to these beliefs in Maya in a Sailor Suit of 1938, in which he depicted his daughter Maya wearing a sailor suit with "Picasso" inscribed on the hat band. In an interview of 1945, Jerome Seckler, believing the portrait to be of Picasso himself, asked why the artist had depicted himself as a sailor. " 'Because,' he answered, 'I always wear a sailor shirt. See?' He opened up his shirt and pulled at his underwear-it was white with blue stripes!" No doubt Picasso did not contradict Seckler on his identification of the portrait because it depicted both Maya and Picasso, who thus appropriated his daughter's identity in order to project himself in an eternally youthful state.
…Picasso's belief that one artist could acquire a second artist's power by appropriating his models or work was manifested in several exchanges with Henri Matisse. In 1946, when Picasso took Francoise Gilot to meet Matisse for the first time, the older artist observed that if he were to paint Gilot's portrait, he would depict her with green hair. Picasso was troubled by this potential artistic violation of his model by an outsider…when Matisse wrote in 1947 that his initial sketches for the Virgin and Child for the Chapel of the Rosary at Venice resembled Francoise and her son Claude, Picasso exclaimed, "I feel negated-that's it, negated, obliterated from A to Z, not only as an artist but even as a father." Picasso seems to have believed that Matisse's depiction of his mistress and muse would give the older artist power over one of the sources of Picasso's creative drive and art. Picasso nearly carried this proprietary belief to its ultimate extreme when he told Gilot: "You should wear a black dress with a kerchief over your head so that no one will see your face. In that way you'll belong even less to the others. They won't even have you with their eyes."   END QUOTE FROM BURGARD ARTICLE

I can’t help but wonder if Gadsby, in weaving Picasso into Nanette, has striven to magically acquire, while at the same time pulling the plug on, Picasso’s power! And so, via her enigmatic title, she first invites an e-scavenger hunt to locate “Maya with Doll”; and then proceeds to teach us, in code, how to reinterpret Picasso’s art subversively. Instead of just taking “Maya with Doll” at face value, Gadsby ‘reframes’ Picasso’s painting as an unwitting confession of his misogynist crimes – confessing that, in service of his “art”, he heartlessly shattered the ‘face’ (i.e., the soul) of his mistress -- a vulnerable 17 year old girl ill-equipped to defend herself –and shattered her so permanently that, a half century later, she took her own life as soon as he died, as if she were a “doll” programmed to self-discard when no longer needed by her ‘owner’.

And I only just realized that Gadsby slid another sly bit of wordplay into her explanation of her title:
“I named it at around the time I’d met a woman called Nanette who I thought was very interesting, So interesting, that I reckon I can squeeze a good hour of laughs out of you, Nanette. But, it turns out, nah”.
Since “Nanette” is the name of the doll which Maya (in her own adult words) “hugged’, Gadsby seems to have her tongue firmly in cheek when she tells us, again in code, that she found the story of Marie-Therese, Maya, and Nanette very interesting, and initially reckoned she could “squeeze” a good hour of laughs out of their story. She seems to deliberately echo the way Maya squeezed her beloved doll, in describing how she had for so long milked laughs about high art during her career; but now she no longer is willing to submerge the third, painful part of their story, for the sake of a laugh.

That “nah’ (as in Nah-Nette) speaks volumes-it is Gadsby’s renunciation of the false face of ‘comedy’ in favor of the searing truth of trauma and shame which she so brilliantly enacts for the world in Nanette. And as a final act of parodic disrespect, Gadsby’s riff about the color “blue” implicitly points to Picasso’s “blue period”, an echo which Gadsby subtly amplifies by wearing a blue outfit, and even having her stage backdrop consist of an array of blue panels which (unlike the “busy” six-color LGBT pride flag) reminds the eye of Picasso’s key cubist splintering. Like a mythological fury, Gadsby has exacted karmic justice by taking what was most precious to Picasso- his reputation!

But it’s not just about Picasso. Gadsby repeatedly draws attention during Nanette to her own traumatic childhood, as well as to babies, all with repeated subliminal echoes of “Maya with Doll”:

“I have been learning the art of tension diffusion since I was a child…Might’ve peaked a bit early, but…
I love Tasmania. I loved growing up there. I felt right at home, I did. But I had to leave as soon as I found out I was a little bit lesbian….I took a long time to come to terms with my sexuality. There’s a few reasons for that. A lot of it has to do with bad press. Yeah, they didn’t get a good rap when I was growing up, the homosexuals. We didn’t have social media like we do now, but… “Letters to the Editor,” let me tell you. Slow Twitter. Brutal”

You know what’s weird? Pink headbands on bald babies! That’s weird. I mean, seriously, would you put a bangle on a potato?...I don’t assume bald babies are boys. I assume they’re angry feminists, and I treat them with respect. How about this? How about we stop separating the children into opposing teams from day dot? How about we give them, I dunno, seven to ten years to consider themselves… on the same side?”

“I’ve always been judged by what I am. Always been a fat, ugly dyke. I’m dead inside. I can cope. But you fellas…And what I had done, with that comedy show about coming out, was I froze an incredibly formative experience at its trauma point and I sealed it off into jokes.”

Can you hear the subtle refrain of being frozen and dead? And then, as she explains her own traumatic childhood, she also can be heard as narrating the story of that sad fragmented face of Maya (masking Marie-Therese) hugging her doll:

Nobody is born ahead of their time. It’s impossible! Nobody’s born ahead of their time! Maybe premmie babies, but they catch up!....By the time I identified as being gay, it was too late. I was already homophobic, and you do not get to just flick a switch on that. No, what you do is you internalize that homophobia and you learn to hate yourself. Hate yourself to the core. I sat soaking in shame… in the closet, for ten years. Because the closet can only stop you from being seen. It is not shame-proof. When you soak a child in shame, they cannot develop the neurological pathways that carry thought… you know, carry thoughts of self-worth. They can’t do that. Self-hatred is only ever a seed planted from outside in. But when you do that to a child, it becomes a weed so thick, and it grows so fast, the child doesn’t know any different. It becomes… as natural as gravity.”

And so that is why I am even more convinced of the aptness of the title “Nanette”. Gadsby has illuminated how her own story paralleled that of Marie-Therese, but whereas Gadsby survived, Marie-Therese did not; and Gadsby hopes that with Nanette, she will avert future tragedies, by giving hope and inspiration to others suffering in some similar way:  “My story has value. I tell you this ’cause I want you to know, I need you to know, what I know. To be rendered powerless does not destroy your humanity. Your resilience is your humanity.”

Did you catch that final pun on “render another human being powerless’? ‘Render’ ordinarily means ‘cause to be’ in that sentence, but it also can mean ‘depict’, as in an artistic ‘rendering’ of a model’s image, as in  “Maya with Doll’. Gadsby has worked very hard to hide in plain sight the poignant fact that Marie-Therese Walter was rendered powerless by Picasso in life and in that painting of a sad little girl hugging her beloved “Nanette”.

[Added 08/16/18:
I believe it is far more likely that Gadsby was intentionally hinting at Nanette the doll in Picasso's "Maya with Doll" than that (i) she did so unconsciously, or (ii) it was a random quadruple coincidence. Nanette is a work in which, I believe it is clear, every single word spoken was carefully chosen -- there are so many interwoven echoes that unify the entire 70-minute script, that it is clear, to me, that the choice of her title -- perhaps the most significant word spoken by her during the show-- was also intentional. And I just realized while writing this comment that my claim that the name points to the doll in Picasso's painting is also supported by Gadsby’s discussion of how a joke has 2 parts, but a story has 3. What I am claiming is that taking the title as really being about a passing encounter by Gadsby with a woman named Nanette is like hearing a joke with 2 parts, whereas pointing out that Nanette was Maya's doll's name is like hearing the full story with 3 parts!]

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Marianne’s “sensibility…without bounds”: Why the Prince Regent bought S&S

This is in followup to my post yesterday  in which I speculated that the Prince Regent bought the first copy of Sense and Sensibility not for his own reading pleasure, but as a cautionary tale as to the grave dangers of excess sensibility, to be “administered” to his “Marianne Dashwood”-like 16 year old daughter Princess Charlotte, as a “cure” for that same “disease”.

In my earlier post, I wondered “how would the Prince have known enough about the story and characters of S&S when he bought that first copy of it in October 1811, to know that Marianne Dashwood would make an ideal Exhibit B for his daughter to learn about the perils of over-sensibility?
I have no solid answer at present, but can speculate about it. Perhaps Jane Austen and/or her publisher Egerton wished for the Prince Regent to have some advance inside info about S&S, so as to tempt him to buy it, as he did? If so, how would either of them have managed to get that inside info communicated to the Prince? Egerton had accepted S&S for publication a year before it was actually published, so there was time during which some summary of S&S might have somehow reached the Prince?”

When I awoke today, I realized that the answer was fairly obvious after all. The fact that the first review of S&S (in the Critical Review) wasn’t published till Feb.1812, doesn’t mean that this reviewer had not read an advance copy of S&S prior to October 1811 – that’s certainly the custom with newly published books today, and I’d imagine it was back then as well. If so, then the Prince could very well have been informed ahead of first public sale as to the extensive portions of that first review, which focused on Marianne’s excess of sensibility. And if so, it makes perfect sense that he’d have exercised his royal privilege, and made sure he had the very first copy in hand, as a special gift for his daughter –but a gift granted with ulterior motives.

If Egerton were going to put out feelers for S&S among the literati, it would’ve been canny marketing on his part to make sure that the Prince was the first to be made aware of how closely S&S fit with the Prince’s concerns about his daughter that were on the tip of many tongues. And if word spread about the Prince’s purchase of the first copy of S&S, that would seem to be a pretty good launch buzz for S&S. And so it was that shortly after that review was published, the buzz did begin, including the well known gossip speculating about the identity of the anonymous “Lady” who wrote S&S, gossip which Princess Charlotte participated in!

With that background, then, I quote for you, below, those portions in that first review which relate to Marianne, and suggest that as you read them, imagine how they would have been eagerly seized upon by the Prince and his minions as a tool to rein in his daughter’s Marianne-ness – especially if that cautionary message was being amplified and reinforced by Mercer Elphinstone, who, as my prior post indicated, was thought by many to be the Prince’s “double agent” passing intel about Charlotte back to him –and also, notice the comments about the character of Mrs. Dashwood, and think about how they would resonate with the Prince’s assertions that his wife the supposedly out of control Princess Caroline was exactly the wrong parent to be able and willing to restrain Charlotte’s impulsivity:

Critical Review Feb. 1812 review of Sense and Sensibility:
“…We are no enemies to novels or novel writers, but we regret, that in the multiplicity of them, there are so few worthy of any particular commendation. a genteel, well written novel is as agreeable a lounge as a genteel comedy, from which both amusement and instruction may be derived. Sense and Sensibility is one amongst the few, which can claim this fair praise. It is well written; the characters are in genteel life, naturally drawn, and judiciously supported. The incidents are probable, and highly pleasing, and interesting; the conclusion such as the reader must wish it should be, and the whole, is just doing enough to interest, without fatiguing. It reflects honour on the writer, who displays much knowledge of character, and very happily blends a great deal of good sense with the lighter matter of the piece. The story may be thought trifling by the readers of novels, who are insatiable after something new. But the excellent lesson which it holds up to view, and the useful moral which may be derived from the perusal, are such essential requisites, that the want of newness may in this instance be readily overlooked. The characters of Ellen and Marianne are very nicely contrasted; the former possessing great good sense, with a proper quantity of sensibility, the latter an equal share of the sense which renders her sister so estimable, but blending it at the same time with an immoderate degree of sensibility which renders her unhappy on every trifling occasion, and annoys every one around her….
…Mrs. Dashwood, the mother of these daughters, possessed an eagerness of mind, which would have hurried her into indiscretions, had it not been somewhat checked by her good disposition and affectionate heart. Elinor, the eldest daughter, has a strong understanding and cool judgment, an amiable temper, with strong feelings, which she knew how to govern. Marianne's abilities are equal to Elinor's: she is sensible and clever, but so terribly impetuous in all her joys and all her sorrows as to know no moderation. She is generous, amiable, interesting, and every thing but prudent. Her sensibilities are all in the extreme. The reader will form a judgment of the character of Mrs. Dashwood and Marianne by the following:
‘On Mr. Dashwood's death, Elinor saw, with concern, the excess of her sister's sensibility: but by Mrs. Dashwood it was valued and cherished. They encouraged each other now in the violence of their affliction. The agony of grief which overpowered them at first, was voluntarily renewed, was sought for, was created again and again. They gave themselves up wholly to their sorrow, seeking increase of wretchedness in every reflection that could afford it, and resolved against ever admitting consolation in future. Elinor too was deeply afflicted, but still she could struggle, she could exert herself. She could consult with her brother, could receive her sister-in-law on her arrival, and treat her with every proper attention, and could strive to rouse her mother to similar exertion, and encourage her to similar forbearance.'
Such is the difference exhibited between Sense and Sensibility. We will make another extract on the subject of love, and then our fair readers will have a pretty good idea of what is wanting in the person and sentiments of a lover to please such a romantic enthusiast as Marianne Dashwood, of whom we fear there are too many, but without her elegance and good sense, who play with their feelings and happiness till they lose the latter, and render the former perfectly ridiculous and contemptible. Marianne and her mother are speaking of a gentleman who is in love with Elinor: her mother asks her if she disapproves her sister's choice.
‘Perhaps,’ said Marianne, ‘I may consider it with some surprise. Edward is very amiable, and I love him tenderly. But yet-he is not the kind of young man-there is a something wanting-his figure is not striking; it has none of that grace which I should expect in the man who could seriously attach my sister. His eyes want all that spirit, that fire, which at once announce virtue and intelligence. [Janeites are familiar with the rest of Marianne’s speech about Edward’s poetic shortcomings]”
Thus argues this fair enthusiast at the wise age of seventeen. This lover of her sister, whom Marianne thinks wants so much to make him to her mind, is endowed with sense, goodness, and every qualification which renders a man amiable, except that he could not read Cowper and jump through the ceiling with the violence of his feelings. He also had another fault. He thought, that a person might fall in love more than once in his life, which Marianne held an utter impossibility; nor was he any admirer of dead leaves, which excited in the breast of Marianne the most transporting sensations. She exclaims: ‘How have I delighted as I walked, to see them,' (the dead leaves), ‘driven in showers about me by the wind! What feelings have they, the season, the air altogether inspired!’
The gentleman had, at the same time, no knowledge of the picturesque, which Marianne considered an indispensable ingredient in a lover and a husband. He called hills steep, which ought to be bold, ‘surfaces strange and uncouth, which ought to be irregular and rugged, and distant objects out of sight, which ought only to be indistinct through the soft medium of a hazy atmosphere.’ In the jargon of landscape scenery, Elinor's lover was a mere ignoramus; he gave things, objects, and persons, their proper names, a crime which could not be overlooked. . . . .
…In the friendly attentions of this family and the society they meet at Barton Park (the seat of Sir John), Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters regain their cheerfulness, and, in a short time, our fair Heroine of Sensibility meets with a gentleman, who exactly meets her ideas of perfection. Mr. Willoughby, possesses manly beauty, uncommon gracefulness, superior gallantry, and fascinating manners. In short, Marianne and Willoughby are strikingly alike. They are equally enthusiastic, equally romantic. In the portraiture of Marianne’s and Willoughby's attachment, the merit of the novel is principally displayed; and it furnishes a most excellent lesson to young ladies to curb that violent sensibility which too often leads to misery, and always to inconvenience and ridicule. To young men who make a point of playing with a young woman's affections, it will be no less useful, as it shows in strong colours the folly and criminality of sporting with the feelings of those whom their conduct tends to wound and render miserable. Such is the conduct of Willoughby after securing the affections of Marianne; being, as far as he is capable, in love with her, and giving herself and her family every reason to think his attachment honourable and unshaken, he finds it inconvenient, from his embarrassed affairs, to marry a girl who has only beauty, sense, accomplishments, and a heart, glowing with the most ardent affection, for her portion. He leaves her with an idea that he will soon return, but afterwards marries a woman for money, that he may continue to enjoy those luxuries which he cannot find it in his heart to relinquish. The sensibility of Marianne is without bounds. She is. rendered miserable, and in her peculiar temperament, this misery is extravagantly cherished, whilst Elinor, who has her own love-difficulties to encounter and her own-sensibilities to subdue, has the painful task of endeavouring to alleviate her sister's grief, which preys upon her health so much, that she is soon reduced to the brink of the grave. The patience and tenderness of Elinor during the long illness of her sister, and the knowledge of her bearing up in so exemplary a manner against the disappointments and mortifications which she has had to endure, sink deep into the mind of Marianne. Her confinement produces reflection, and her good sense at length prevails over her sensibility. After a time, she marries a most amiable man, who had long loved her, and whom, in the height of her delirium of sensibility, she could not bear even to think on for the very wise reason, that he was five and thirty, and consequently in Marianne's ideas of love, had 'outlived every sensation of that kind. In her notions, at that period, a man, at the advanced age of five and thirty, could not have any thing to do with matrimony.’ Marianne sees the fallacy of all this nonsense, and becomes a good-wife to this old gentleman of thirty-five, even though he declares it was necessary for him to wear a flannel waistcoat to prevent a rheumatic affection in one of his shoulders…”

It is fascinating, then, to think about S&S was seen by some of its early readers as a kind of well-written conduct book, designed to scare young women of a Marianne-like tendency out of their sensibility. That, to me, was the “cover story” of S&S, how Jane Austen managed to get it published, even though, as I’ve often argued, I believe that Marianne, and not Elinor, is Jane Austen’s own true alter ego in S&S, and that on a deeper level, S&S’s primary theme is the hypocrisy of powerful men and their female collaborators, and the heroism of female rebels like Marianne. Of course, had the Prince been aware of that deeper subtext, it would have been the last novel in the world he’d have wished to buy for his daughter to read!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The ‘sence & sencibility’ of the Prince Regent’s daughter, his very own ‘Marianne Dashwood’

Jane Austen made another one of her occasional appearances on the pop culture stage with the following major article in the NY Times Books section:

“Jane Austen’s First Buyer? Probably a Prince She Hated” by Jennifer Schuessler    
JA loathed the Prince Regent, who later became George IV but he might’ve been one of her first readers

Schuessler began as follows:
“Jane Austen’s novels may epitomize Regency England, but she didn’t think much of the man for whom the period was named. Like many of her compatriots, Austen loathed the Prince Regent, once railing in an 1813 letter against the man whose gluttony, profligacy and infidelities scandalized the nation. In 1815, when she was strong-armed into dedicating her fourth novel, Emma, to the future George IV, she produced a tribute so strained that a scholar called it “one of the worst sentences she ever committed to print.” But now, in a delicious irony that Austen herself might have appreciated, it turns out that the man who was counted among her most reviled readers might also have been one of her very first….”

Schuessler goes on to recount the tale of the recent, surprising discovery in the Royal Archives of an October 28, 1811 Bill of Sale, evidencing that the buyer of the very first copy sold of Austen’s very first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, was none other than the Prince Regent! The article is well written and entertaining, with quotes from two of the better Austen scholars abroad today, Devoney Looser and Janine Barchas, both JASNA stalwarts.

I’ve found Schuessler’s occasional articles about Austen to be among the best among the steady stream of such pieces that are published online about Austen. However, like the others, Schuessler also consistently and inadvertently presents to cultured readers in the world at large, as facts, elements of what I call the Myth of Jane Austen. That vast audience, most of whom have never read a word of Austen, and many of whom have not even seen any of the film adaptations, rely heavily on such mass media articles about JA to present accurate, cutting edge information about Austen’s life and works, when that is actually far from the case. In this instance, articles similar to Schuessler’s also have appeared in the Guardian (by Alison Flood), and Jezebel (Kelly Faircloth), and none of them diverges in any significant way from the others.

So, while Schuessler does a good job conveying this latest exciting news tidbit about the Prince Regent, the self-styled “First Gentleman of Europe”, also being Austen’s first “customer”, she nevertheless unwittingly propagates misinformation about Austen. She demonstrates popular culture’s stubbornly persistent blind spot about Austen’s literary artistry, which was actually deeply subversive of the omnipresent, overreaching patriarchal power that in Great Britain was epitomized by the Prince. This news about the Prince Regent’s supposed interest in Austen’s writing is no exception.

PART ONE  The Prince Regent & Emma:

First, the image of Jane Austen at the top of Schuessler’s article is that same tired, fake, Bowdlerized version commissioned by JA’s nephew for his memoir of his aunt a half century after her death. Once again what is passed over is the authentic 1810 sketch by Austen’s sister, which is in display in the National Portrait Gallery. I’d estimate that 90% of such articles do exactly this, setting the readerly expectation from the start that the Jane Austen described will be the sweet docile creature depicted in the fake portrait, instead of the sharp-edged, stern-featured, arms-crossed country woman drawn by her own talented sister.

Second, Schuessler presents the standard orthodox account of how Emma came to be dedicated to the Prince Regent, in which a deferential Austen is seen as bowing to pressure from Clarke, the Court librarian, and others, to flatter the “great man” with an unctuous over the top Dedication. The reality could not be further from that – and the irrefutable evidence thereof has been out there online for over a decade, without being noticed by Schuessler, or her peers. I refer you to Colleen Sheehan’s amazing discovery, as beautifully laid out in a pair of companion articles in the Winter 2006 edition of the JASNA journal Persuasions Online:

While I urge you to read Sheehan’s brilliant discovery and analysis all the way through, the gist of them is that the two-stanza charade which Mr. Elton delivers to Emma and Harriet Smith has at least one secret answer, in addition to the “courtship” answer that Emma blithely assumes is the only one – and that second, secret answer is “Prince of WHALES”, the savagely satirical moniker given to the corpulent Prince Regent by the essayist Lamb and the caricaturist Cruikshank, and others in the surprisingly scandalous tabloids and caricatures of the day.

Since Sheehan’s two articles were published, I’ve written over a dozen posts in my own blog, extending and fleshing out Sheehan’s brilliant discovery in a variety of directions – the bottom line is that, in a dozen ways beyond Austen’s suspiciously toadyish Dedication to the Prince, Emma is actually Ground Zero of Austen’s career-long mocking skewering of the most powerful man in England, the Prince of W(h)ales!

But you get absolutely no sense from Schuessler’s article that Austen’s subservient Dedication of Emma to the Prince might actually be a massive and audacious put-on—a brave “charade” which might well have had dire consequences for Austen personally had it been discovered when it was first published, before fate intervened less than two years later and illness claimed her life.

And it’s not just conventional wisdom about Austen’s supposed meek Dedication to the Prince that is mythological. I’ve also written several posts over the years about how she skewered, in a different way appropriate to her different target, that court librarian James Stanier Clarke, mentioned by Schuessler. The piece de resistance  is Austen’s letter dated (NOT coincidentally) on April Fool’s Day, 1816, which is filled from one end to the other with faux flattery of Clarke’s career in service to the Prince; and which just barely conceals JA’s contempt for his hypocritical, Mr. Collins-esque sucking up. Via a veiled allusion to Corinthians, Austen subliminally sends Clarke up as a self-styled man of God who is actually a man of Mammon! Read this for the gory, hilarious, satirical details:

So….how could the same author who did what Sheehan and I have detailed, be the doe-like creature of the nephew’s fake portrait, and Schuessler’s tale of submission? No, Austen wass actually one and the same as the writer of the famous private expression of undisguised hatred for the Prince that Schuessler did quote. And it’s crucial to understand that such hatred was expressed not to sister Cassandra, to whom Jane rarely expressed an uncharitable remark about other people,  but to the confidante of Austen’s most subversive feelings- Martha Lloyd, the co-habitor (and perhaps more) of Chawton Cottage during most of the time JA lived there.

How could anyone who has taken the time to read and understand this incontrovertible scholarship about a Jane Austen capable of such satire of the Prince and his toady, believe for one second the explanation given in Schuessler’s article? And yet, think of how many people have read that article this week, and believe it presents uncontroversial truth about Austen’s life and work.

PART TWO  The Prince Regent and Sense and Sensibility:

Now I come to my final point, one which relates, in very interesting ways, to the recent discovery reported by Schuessler of evidence showing that the Prince Regent bought, apparently at special “pre-sale” perhaps for his sole and private benefit, the very first sold copy of Sense and Sensibility. Strap in for what I think are the most interesting aspects of this discovery, which I seem to be the first Austen scholar to notice.

Schuessler shows almost no interest in the Prince’s purchase of Sense and Sensibility on October 28, 1811, because she rushes past it, in order to get to the long-famous tale of his interest in Emma more than 4 years later (which I have already debunked, above):

To fevered Janeites (and perhaps Hollywood screenwriters), the discovery of the Prince Regent’s early interest might be the seed of a fanciful historical romantic comedy in which the rakish royal book-stalks the tart-tongued, independent-minded (and never-married) commoner. But the real-life connection between the Prince Regent and Austen is delectably awkward social comedy enough. When Sense and Sensibility appeared in 1811, Austen was a nobody, identified on the title page only as “A Lady.” She wasn’t publicly named as the author of her books until after her death, but as her reputation grew, her identity circulated in some circles.” END QUOTE FROM SCHUESSLER

What Schuessler (and, apparently, all the folks at the Royal Archives) were not familiar with, because it is known only to mostly hardcore Austen scholars, is the following excerpt (which first appeared in print, as least as early as 1949, and perhaps much earlier) from a letter written by the then-16 year old Princess Charlotte  on January 22, 1812 (i.e., less than 3 months after her father, the Prince Regent, purchased that first sold copy of S&S), to her bosom friend Miss Mercer Elphinstone:

Sence and Sencibility I have just finished reading; it certainly is interesting, & you feel quite one of the company. I think Maryanne & me are very like in disposition, that certainly I am not so good, the same imprudence, &c, however remain very like. I must say it interested me much.’

When she wrote that letter to her BFF, I’m pretty sure that the Princess was living in her father the Prince’s household. So, I bet you’re with me already in putting the two facts together – doesn’t it sound like the copy of S&S that the Prince bought was actually not bought for himself at all, as Schuessler’s article suggested, but instead was for his daughter to read!? Read on…..

Next, some quick background on the Princess’s correspondent, Mercer Elphinstone. Her full name was Margaret Mercer Elphinstone, she was the only child of Lord Keith, the admiral, and she was seven years the Princess’s senior, a large age superiority at that stage of life. And, most intriguingly of all, the 1889 edition of the Dictionary of National Biography provided this suggestive tidbit about her:
“[She] was introduced at a young age to the circle of the Princess Charlotte of Wales, to whom she became attached and a close confidante; and this position raised a rumour against her (which, however, she was able entirely to refute) that she betrayed the princess's secrets to the Prince Regent.”

It didn’t take me long to seek out some additional detail on this rumored betrayal:
“Margaret Mercer Elphinstone, Princess Charlotte's friend”  Rachel Knowles 05/02/18
“…Margaret, often referred to as Miss Mercer in contemporary documents, became a close and influential companion of Charlotte, Princess of Wales. According to Princess Charlotte’s lady companion, Cornelia Knight, the Princess ‘constantly communicated’ with Margaret. Princess Charlotte’s biographer Coote agreed, stating: “The amiable Miss Elphinstone enjoyed her particular confidence and was continually employed by her to execute her several benevolent commissions.”
Princess Charlotte’s relationship with Margaret was probably encouraged by her father. In 1813, some of the details of the supposedly secret 'Delicate Investigation' into the alleged adultery of Princess Charlotte’s mother, Princess Caroline of Wales, became common knowledge. Princess Charlotte was inclined to take her mother’s part against her father, as did most of the public.
Some people believed that Margaret was being used by the PR to turn Princess Charlotte against her mother. Cornelia Knight wrote: “About this time Miss Mercer Elphinstone came to Town, and Princess Charlotte wrote to ask the Regent’s permission for seeing her; which was granted. It was evident that this had been arranged beforehand, and that the conditions were that Miss Mercer, who had more influence than any one with Princess Charlotte, should open her eyes to her mother’s imprudence, and break the confidential intimacy between them.”

Think about that last sentence in Knowles’s excellent speculations. I wonder if she derived them from that very same comment by Princess Charlotte about Marianne Dashwood: “…I think Maryanne & me are very like in disposition, that certainly I am not so good, the same imprudence, &c, however remain very like….”  

Viewed in this context, the Prince’s very early purchase of S&S begins to appear to be the beginning of a scheme of his to give it to his daughter, while at the same time authorizing his “double agent” Mercer Elphinstone, to shape Charlotte’s reaction to Marianne Dashwood. The almost tragic tale of Marianne, with her impulsive and irrational clinging to Willoughby even after he has clearly jilted her, is in the Prince’s eyes, a perfect cautionary tale for his impulsive daughter – and perhaps the loving but overly romantic Mrs. Dashwood was also being suggested to Charlotte as being similar to her own mother Princess Caroline, as being not the best or steadiest parental guide for an impulsive daughter?

But a question may have already occurred to you – how would the Prince have known enough about the story and characters of S&S when he bought that first copy of it in October 1811, to know that Marianne Dashwood would make an ideal Exhibit B for his daughter to learn about the perils of over-sensibility?

I have no solid answer at present, but can speculate about it. Perhaps Jane Austen and/or her publisher Egerton wished for the Prince Regent to have some advance inside info about S&S, so as to tempt him to buy it, as he did? If so, how would either of them have managed to get that inside info communicated to the Prince? Egerton had accepted S&S for publication a year before it was actually published, so there was time during which some summary of S&S might have somehow reached the Prince?

The article (by Lettice Fowler in the November 4 1949 issue of The Spectator ) which was the first to quote from the Princess’s comments about S&S, as part of a review of a new edition of Princess Charlotte’s letters, went on as follows:
“In this observation the Princess showed one of her periodic flashes of perspicacity. For, like Marianne Dashwood, she was destined to be a heroine. She possessed all a heroine’s capacity for entanglement in hopeless love affairs; she devoured the works of Lord Byron; her health was delicate and often gave way; she was consistently misunderstood and occasionally persecuted; she had a confidante to whom she could pour out, in long and almost daily letters, the latest developments in her own affections and in her relations’ plots (Miss Elphinstone indeed, was not unlike Elinor; sensible, calm, urging patience and restraint) and in the end she made a perfectly suitable marriage to an unexceptionable Prince, who was both devoted to her and highly successful in managing her impossible family. " I can only say this," she wrote of her marriage a week after it had taken place, " that the foundation is very reasonable, and therefore there is less chance of its ever being otherwise than with most others; indeed, on the contrary, I am more inclined to think it will improve. I do not see how it can fail to go on well, tho' sometimes I believe it is best not to analyse one's feelings too much or probe them too deeply or nearly." So, surely, might Marianne have written a few days after becoming Mrs. Brandon.” END QUOTE

So, that makes me wonder, wandering further outside the box: Was Marianne Dashwood herself actually a veiled portrait of the young Princess, and Elinor one of Mercer Elphinstone? We know that Jane Austen took a very strong, longstanding interest in the goings on in the Royal Family, and the whole English nation took a very strong interest in the marital “war” waged by the Prince against his wife over a period of years – it is not far-fetched to speculate that Jane Austen knew enough to have woven Princess Charlotte into Marianne Dashwood’s character, such that the Princess’s comments about “Maryann” would actually have been looking in a “mirror” without knowing it!

In that regard, there’s still one last data point to try to fit into this matrix. Let’s go back to that February 1813 letter in which Jane Austen avowed, to her trusted friend Martha Lloyd, her implacable hatred for the Prince, because of his horrid treatment of his wife. That comment was in response to the huge ongoing public scandal and uproar triggered by the Prince’s outrageous and hypocritical denying his wife, Princess Caroline, access to their daughter Charlotte. The Prince’s smear campaign against his estranged wife was based on trumped up charges relating to her unfitness as a mother, for ‘scandalous’ behavior that paled in comparison to his own!

And, it just so happens, that a few sentences earlier in that same February1813 letter, Jane Austen mentioned, of all people, Mercer Elphinstone’s mother, Lady Keith, albeit seemingly only in passing:

“We read of the Pyramus being returned into Port, with interest-& fear Mrs [Dean-Dundas]. will be regretting that she came away so soon. —There is no being up to the tricks of the Sea. — Your friend has her little Boys about her I imagine. I hope their Sister enjoyed the Ball at Lady Keith-tho’ I do not know that I do much hope it, for it might be quite as well to have her shy & uncomfortable in such a croud of Strangers.”

I can’t find that Le Faye or any other Austen scholar has ever claimed to know the identity of Martha Lloyd’s unnamed friend, who had a young unmarried daughter who attended Lady Keith’s ball. It couldn’t be Mrs. Dean-Dundas, named in the prior sentence, because I checked, and Mrs Dundas was under 30 and so could not have had a teenaged daughter attending a ball! But what this passage shows is that Jane Austen’s close friend Martha Lloyd had a married friend, who had a daughter who attended Lady Keith’s ball, and therefore Martha’s friend moved in the same social circle as Lord and Lady Keith, and by extension, Mercer Elphinstone as well! Might this be a possible chain of connection?

All speculative, I freely acknowledge, but at least it suggests a possible personal channel, via a few steps, between Jane Austen and the Prince.  At the very least, this line of speculation should suffice to initiate a scholarly search for the best explanation for the Prince’s early purchase of S&S, other than an uncritical, unfounded assertion of his love of the writing of an author he supposedly had never heard of. There’s more going on here than at first meets the eye.

And so, please keep in mind the next time you read a mainstream pop culture article about Jane Austen, that you will probably be reading some aspect or another of The Myth of Jane Austen. But if you follow my blog, and I’ve also gotten wind of that article, I will do my best to debunk any such mythology, and help you get closer to the elusive truth.

[Added 07/26/18: Here is the link to my followup post: 
"Marianne’s “sensibility…without bounds”: Why the Prince Regent bought Sense & Sensibility"

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Jane and Nanette

The following is a link to my post from a few days ago about an extraordinary worldwide cultural event, that I bet a number of you have already heard about, and some of you have also experienced: the debut a month ago on Netflix of Nanette, the 1-hour "comedy" performance by Hannah Gadsby:

If you Google “Hannah Gadsby”, you'll find 3 dozen articles written in the last month in major ezines, and new ones being published every day, now that her Netflix special has gone completely, wildly viral --and deservedly so. On Twitter you will find hundreds of Tweets every day, including several of her most memorable quotes therefrom, especially from the fiery rhetoric of her closing argument:
“I want my story heard because, ironically, I believe Picasso was right. I believe we could create a better world if we learned to see the world from all different perspectives--as many perspectives as we possibly could. Because diversity is strength. Difference is a teacher- fear difference, you learn nothing. Picasso’s mistake was his arrogance. He assumed he could represent all of the perspectives. And our mistake was to invalidate the perspective of a 17-year-old girl because we believed her potential would never equal his. Hindsight is a gift. Stop wasting my time. A 17-year-old girl is never in her prime. Ever. I am in my prime. Would you test your strength out on me?”

This is an excerpt from the beginning of my post, which I wrote 3 days ago:
“…as Gadsby’s one-hour performance progressed, it grew steadily in power and impact, until, at its emotional crescendo -- to borrow Mark Knopfler’s phrase – it exploded in my heart (and mind)! When it ended, I hit “Restart” and watched it again in its entirety; and that rewarded me with a much better sense of Gadsby’s astonishing rhetorical alchemy. (I’ve since watched it a third time, last night, when I shared the gift of Gadsby, so to speak, with my wife, and I have it on in the background as I write now)."

If any of you have already, or in the near future do, watch Nanette, too, I'd love to talk here about it --in particular, I'd like to explore the extraordinary parallels I now see between Gadsby and Jane Austen. For starters, I suggested the following in my above linked post:
"The Great Gadsby & The Great Austen: I see a crucial, ironic difference between how a great female and great male artists have been romanticized. As Gadsby brilliantly argues, male artists are romanticized by muting and rationalizing his worst character defects, in service of adulation of his artistic reputation; whereas with a female artist, especially one of the past like Jane Austen, it is still all too common to minimize their artistic achievements and aspirations. It might seem to those who haven’t studied Austen that Gadsby’s message and Austen’s message were worlds apart. The prevailing impression of Austen’s stories is that she was the greatest purveyor of  sophisticated heterosexual romance, in which a smart, clear-thinking young heroine winds up with the man she loves despite all obstacles. Turns out that under the official surface, my research has shown me a thousand times that Austen’s ‘shadow stories” are mostly LGBT, that Austen was a connoisseur and collector of female literary voices, even as she satirically deconstructed male narratives.  If Austen were living today, I’d like to think she and Gadsby would collaborate, and rock the world even more together."

And today I woke up wondering about an even more intriguing possible parallel between Austen and Gadsby, suggested to me by reading the following about Gadsby yesterday: "Hannah Gadsby on how Picasso is the Donald Trump of the art world, and why we need to rethink art galleries" by Dee Jefferson
"...While a degree in art history and curatorial studies helped, Gadsby says she also has an advantage when it comes to identifying systemic patterns. "I've got Asperger's. I come at things from sideways," she says"My mind is built to see patterns. And my area of interest is art and history. "So that's why I am able to connect the dots — and why I'm shouting and getting angry about them," she laughs. "I'm like 'Guys! Guys! Have a look! This is terrible!..."

" ‘I broke the contract’: how Hannah Gadsby's trauma transformed comedy" by Jenny Valentish
"Three years ago, she was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. “It’s clarified why the comedy lifestyle is so difficult for me,” she says. “It’s a lot of noise and moving around.” A child wails, as if on cue, and she flinches. Gadsby explains that people with autism have an increased sensitivity to traumatisation due to their difficulty in communicating and regulating emotions. They are also more vulnerable to becoming victims in the first place. A Swedish study this year revealed that women who screened positive for autism are nearly 3 times more likely to have experienced sexual abuse. When the Australian TV celebrity Don Burke was at the centre of #MeToo allegations last year, he blamed autism for his actions – and Gadsby took aim on social media. “If there’s one thing that a spectrum brain is great at, it is identifying patterns,” she wrote....she points out that Nanette was built from her ability to see patterns. “Having the framework of autism boils down to not looking out to the world to see how I should exist, but knowing I don’t actually have to be social, knowing that it exhausts me and that I will get confused and look like an idiot,” she says. “Because I also know that I understand things a lot deeper than a lot of people.”

In a nutshell, the Hannah Gadsby I see on the TV screen in Nanette -- who fires elegantly composed, epigrammatic darts of razor-sharp irony out at her audience -- perfectly, even uncannily, fits the famous, spot-on description of Jane Austen by Mary Russell Mitford in 1815: 
a friend of mine, who visits her now, says that she has stiffened into the most perpendicular, precise, taciturn piece of “single blessedness” that ever existed, and that, till Pride and Prejudice showed what a precious gem was hidden in that unbending case, she was no more regarded in society than a poker or a fire-screen, or any other thin upright piece of wood or iron that fills its corner in peace and quietness. The case is very different now; she is still a poker – but a poker of whom every one is afraid. It must be confessed that this silent observation from such an observer is rather formidable. Most writers are good-humoured chatterers – neither very wise nor very witty: – but nine times out of ten (at least in the few that I have known) unaffected and pleasant, and quite removing by their conversation any awe that may have been excited by their works. But a wit, a delineator of character, who does not talk, is terrific indeed!"

And so, for the first time, I begin to wonder if I was wrong when I did not take seriously the possibility that Jane Austen may actually have had Asperger’s -- as Anielka Briggs briefly suggested in 2009 in the Janeites group, and then Ellen Moody advocated for more specifically a few years ago:

Ellen in Janeites: 
"I think Austen had Aspergers traits. I'm quite serious about this. Burney had none. It accounts for Austen's jaundiced attitude in the letters, for her keeping close to her family the way she did, not getting sexually involved and some of her characterizations. It's what the movies work to eliminate. Maybe not diagnosable by which I mean were you to have her before you and go through the modern 6 categories you would not be able to check off 2. That's the criteria: there are six categories and you can to check off two in each. We can't know. We have but one letter from someone to Austen and (Ironically I suppose) it's by someone whom Austen is said to have disliked; it's apparent he does not know this or her well. No family description of her, say, at a party. And Henry is so defensive…The book by [Bottomer] was onto something. We have seen it in the letters. but there is such a stigma she backed away from the obvious."

Gadsby’s matter-of-fact description of herself as a savant of pattern-recognition rings so true. And if there’s any single gift that, for me, best characterizes Jane Austen, it’s her once-in-a-century ability to spot, analyze, and depict character and patterns of behavior in small groups at close quarters.

Which all leaves me with the growing sense that had Hannah Gadsby been born into Jane Austen’s life, she might have written something like the six novels; and had the reverse been the case, then Jane Austen would be the star of her version of that Netflix special.

In 2002, I wrote the following in the Janeites group:
“Mr. Bennet would have been a GREAT standup comic were he alive today. Which means, JANE AUSTEN would have been a great standup comic were SHE alive today. Dontcha think? Can you just imagine? I'd love to see a really talented female standup comic with an encyclopedic knowledge of JA and a gift for mimicry give that one a go. Hal Holbrook made a career out of doing Mark Twain. Stuart Whitman did Harry Truman. Has someone ever "done" Jane Austen?”

Hannah Gadsby, are you listening? Wouldn’t Jane that be a great followup to Nanette?

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Wednesday, July 18, 2018


As something different from my past practice, today I have a double literary quiz for you, and here’s how it works: the answers to the two quizzes are related in a significant way.

QUIZ A:  I’m thinking of a work of English literature in which all of the following details are present:

One: There is a principal character named “Diana”, who works actively to manage the lives of others;

Two: The cure of illness is a major theme of the story;

Three: There is a curious reference to a character being “chill(y) and tender”;

Four: There are notable references to “gates”;

Five: There are notable references to “fires”;

Six: There is a strong subtext of unsavory sex with a young woman, including a suggestion of the horrific Early Modern myth that sex with a virgin female would cure venereal disease in a man; and

Seven: There is a young rake who appears to have no scruples about seducing an unmarried virgin.

QUIZ B: I am thinking of another work of literature in which all of the following details are present:

One: Key action of the story takes place in a “watering-hole” seaside community with a name that begins with the syllable “Sand-“, a place that symbolizes the displacement of traditional country mores by a modern fever for profit and development;

Two: At the end of the story (in its final form), the young heroine travels to that watering-hole;

Three: There is a subtext pointing to Milton’s Paradise Lost;

Four: There is a predatory young rake who endangers a vulnerable young country woman.

Five: There is a woman involved in (or with) the story, who dies tragically, long before her time, in Winchester (or a place sounding a lot like Winchester).

What the two works of literature, and how are they related???

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter