(& scroll down to read my literary sleuthing posts)
Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Monday, September 28, 2020

For Love, Money….and Worldly Wisdom: How to Read Jane Austen Better

Today, a good (non-Janeite) friend alerted me to the publication of yet another article about Jane Austen:

“How to Misread Jane Austen (or, For Love or Money)” by Louis Menand in The New Yorker 09/28/20

(I believe this link is now openly accessible, even without a New Yorker subscription) 

I just read with great interest this serious, comprehensive article, by a well-respected public intellectual, Louis Menand, a Harvard prof. He made a number of good points, in particular in his detailed analysis of the nuts and bolts of Regency Era dollars and cents (no, make that pounds). And he didn't shy away from  grappling with the Big Picture, trying to bring a fresh perspective on the central  mystery of Jane Austen, which is "Why she is read so differently by readers coming from varied perspectives?"

Nevertheless, every so often, Menand popped out a statement that I believe would benefit from clarification (and in a couple of cases, correction) from my admittedly non-mainstream perspective on Austen, so here goes. I quote selectively, but obviously you will want to read Menand's full article, to see the full context of his claims:

Menand: “[Jane Austen’s surviving] letters that remain are not especially “Austenian,” and they can be a little hard-hearted and judgy, which does not match very well the image of Austen in the pious biographical sketch written by her brother Henry, shortly after her death, or in the memoir by her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh, published more than fifty years later, which is mainly family oral remembrance, and in which she is “dear Aunt Jane.”

The problem of misrepresentation of the real Jane Austen by his nephew is far more serious. The surviving letters indeed do not match the bowdlerized portrait of Austen both literally and figuratively provided by the 1870 Memoir. This was not because her nephew wore rose-colored glasses, however, it was because, as my research has shown, her nephew deliberately distorted his Aunt Jane, both as a person and as a writer, to the world. 

This was, I further assert, a deliberate erasure of the real Jane Austen, who was a strong feminist and probably not heterosexual. But it was also personal -- it was a long-delayed revenge on behalf of his late mother, Mary Lloyd Austen, who was not kindly disposed to her sister-in-law, Jane; and, when you look at veiled portraits of Mary in Jane Austen’s fiction, most notably Fanny Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, you see that the antipathy was entirely mutual.

Menand: “Instead of asking what Austen is trying to tell us [in her fiction], we might ask what she’s trying to show us. But the answer to that seems to be: It depends on who’s looking.”

That is both accurate and highly significant, and I will explain what that means to me, further, below.

Menand: “The critical line on her, even from admirers like Sir Walter Scott, was that she was a miniaturist specializing in an exceedingly narrow sector of British society, the landed gentry. Everyone agreed that she captured that world with astonishing precision; not everyone felt that it was a world worth capturing. “A carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden with neat borders and delicate flowers,” Charlotte Brontë described P&P to a friend. “I should hardly like to live with her ladies and gentlemen in their elegant but confined houses.”

I believe it’s much more complicated, and much more interesting, than that, both as to Scott and even more so as to Charlotte Bronte:

Scott’s 1816 review of Emma shows that he actually was the first to recognize Austen’s towering genius, especially her subtle subversiveness. Check out how, e.g., in that same review, he captured, in passing, the anti-romance hidden just beneath the romantic climax of Pride and Prejudice:

Scott: " The lady [Elizabeth], on the contrary, hurt at the contempt of her connections, which the lover [Darcy] does not even attempt to suppress, and prejudiced against him on other accounts, refuses the hand which he ungraciously offers, and does not perceive that she has done a foolish thing until she accidentally visits a very handsome seat and grounds belonging to her admirer. They chance to meet exactly as her prudence had begun to subdue her prejudice; and after some essential services rendered to her family, the lover becomes encouraged to renew his addresses, and the novel ends happily."

So much for the romantic ending of Pride and Prejudice! Scott slyly suggests that the joke is actually on Elizabeth, when she unwittingly reveals her own “prudence” to the reader, as she answers her sister Jane’s question at the end of the novel:

Jane: “My dearest sister, now be serious. I want to talk very seriously. Let me know every thing that I am to know, without delay. Will you tell me how long you have loved [Darcy]?”

Eliza: “It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.”

I could not agree more with Scott, and tip my hat to him for reading Austen through an Audenesque lens.

As for Charlotte Bronte, her famous comments about Austen’s fiction were not written to “a friend” – they were written to George Henry Lewes, one of the most prominent literary critics of her day, who also just happened to become, not much later, the long-time S.O. of the next great English female novelist, George Eliot. 

Oh, and I assert that C. Bronte, in complaining about the lack of passion in Austen’s novels, was pulling Lewes’s pompous leg, in just the same way that Mark Twain would do with his friend and avid Janeite, William Dean Howells, a half century later – Jane Eyre is actually crammed from one end to the other with veiled allusions to each and every one of Austen’s six published novels; and Mark Twain, I assert, lurved Austen’s writing – of course he did, because she was an inspiration to him in the Art of the Put-on.

Menand: “Still, there were readers who detected an edge. Woolf was one. “I would rather not find myself in the room alone with her,” she wrote. The British critic D. W. Harding, in 1939, proposed that Austen’s books were enjoyed “by precisely the sort of people whom she disliked; she is a literary classic of the society which attitudes like hers, held widely enough, would undermine.” The title of his essay was “Regulated Hatred.” Lionel Trilling, in 1955, called Austen “an agent of the Terror,” meaning that she is merciless in forcing us to confront our moral weaknesses.”

Harding, 80 years ago, was one of the first to “get” the real Jane Austen. However, it should be noted that his brilliant insight has still not become mainstream in Austen scholarly circles, even now in 2020. 

Menand: “Today, there are two Austens, with, probably, a fair amount of overlap: the recreational reader’s Austen and the English professor’s Austen… the professor thinks that the novels are about things that people like Churchill and Leslie Stephen thought they leave out: the French Revolution, slavery, the empire, patriarchy, the rights of women…”

As Menand goes on to clarify a bit later in his essay, it’s a much more complicated readerly landscape than that. There are many recreational, non-scholarly readers of Austen who “get” what Harding got, and also see that Austen was what we today would call a strong feminist; and conversely, there are still a fair number of Austen scholars who (100% wrongly, in my view) still read Austen as a pious conservative, who was not concerned with the wider world. And by they way, I am also, as I mentioned above, firmly of the small camp that sees Austen herself as non-heterosexual, and I also see that as present in every one of what I call her "shadow stories" (a central term of my way of reading Austen's fiction, as I explained in an 2016 interview which I've linked below.

Menand: “Literature professors love the notion of texts “interrogating” things; I am a literature professor, and I have certainly used that line. But, in this case, it feels like fence-straddling. It asks us to accept an Austen who is somehow simultaneously conservative as a person and subversive as a writer. Keymer says things like “The courtship plot that structures all 6 of Austen’s published novels, though sometimes held to imply her endorsement of a patriarchal status quo, is equally a means of exploring themes of female disempowerment.” It’s hard to see how the novels can be “equally” endorsements of patriarchy and criticisms of it.”

My answer is, simply, that the apparent endorsements of heterosexual white patriarchy were a necessary cover or ‘beard’ (or else Austen could never have gotten published) for her own genuine, savage, but veiled, critique of white male oppression of women and POC. Jane Austen, as I see her, was not of two minds in this regard. However, what she was perhaps most interested in, was in teaching her female readers how to read the male-dominated world they lived in.

Menand: “[Helena] Kelly’s Mr. Knightley, in short, is a heartless landowner intent on building a private fiefdom. She thinks the reason he marries Emma is that he wants to absorb her property, one of the few parcels of land around Highbury he does not already own, into his estate. Keymer would not object to this line of interpretation, presumably—“implication, not explication, was Austen’s way,” he says—but would be reluctant to conclude that it means that Austen was a revolutionary.”

Helena Kelly learned a thing or two from me, as I explained in this blog post 4 years ago:

I also believe that Austen’s primary subversive focus was eerily prescient of the culture wars raging at this very second in the U.S. – the battle for control over women’s bodies and sexuality. Her hobby horse, revealed a dozen times over in surviving letters she wrote over the entire last 20 years of her all-too-short life, was the plague which afflicted married English gentlewoman in “normal” English marriages – bearing the heavy cross of serial pregnancy, the ever-present danger of death in childbirth, and the lack of any sort of creative life for those wives lucky enough to run that gauntlet and survive physically.

That is the essence of the shadow story of Northanger Abbey that I spoke about at the 2010 Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA). Hovering over that "lightest" of Austen's six novels is the ghost of Mrs. Tilney as the symbol of all the dead or deadened English wives “murdered” by their Bluebeard-like “normal” husbands via sex -- unwilling soldiers conscripted into a domestic war they never asked to fight in, fought to perpetuate male domination.

Menand: “…Isn’t it because Austen’s texts are so indeterminate that she is beloved by people who come to her with different prejudices and expectations? And isn’t her mythic stature produced by her writing, rather than projected by her readers? Isn’t inscrutability part of the intention? That we don’t know much about Austen from her letters (or from what we have of them) suggests that she didn’t want people to know much about her, period.”

I was with Menand in that passage till that last sentence. We can know a great deal from her fiction and her letters, if we are prepared to learn how to read what I call The Jane Austen Code, as I explained in this 2017 interview:

Anyone who enjoys solving Will Shortz’s Thursday-Saturday crossword puzzles will really love solving Jane Austen’s literary puzzles – I believe she meant them to be difficult, but not unsolvable!

Menand: “All of Austen’s novels are about misinterpretation, about people reading other people incorrectly. Catherine Morland, in NA, reads General Tilney wrong. Elizabeth Bennet reads Mr. Darcy wrong. Marianne Dashwood, in S&S, gets Willoughby wrong, and Edmund Bertram, in MP, gets Mary Crawford wrong. Emma gets everybody wrong. There might be a warning to the reader here: do not think that you are getting it right, either.”

Half-correct. I say Jane Austen’s literary game was much more complicated (and brilliant), The above only describes the essence of Austen’s overt stories. But it turns out that in her shadow stories, all of that is topsy turvy --Catherine reads the General right; Elizabeth Bennet initially reads Darcy right, but then gets conned by his imposture of a repentant narcissist; Mary Crawford is the true heroine of Mansfield Park, etc. etc. Although it never came to pass, I believe that Austen's dream was that her readers, in being able to see both of these realities in each novel, would be better equipped to deal with the ambiguity of their own lives.

Menand: “Emma, for instance, is the only mature novel Austen named for a character, and that is because the entire narrative, except for one chapter, is from Emma’s point of view.”

NO!!! That was the only truly wrong statement by Menand that initially prompted me to write this post. Although it is almost never noted by Austen scholars other than myself, all 6 of Austen’s published novels (and also her 3 fragments Catharine, or the Bower, The Watsons, and Sanditon) are written 98% from the focal heroine’s point of view. Emma is merely the one Austen novel in which Austen foregrounds that near-exclusivity of point of view – in the others, it's there, but she seems to deliberately conceal it, hoping it would eventually be detected - but that never came to pass in the 2-century history of people reading her novels.

That is the foundation upon which Austen’s entire fictional enterprise rests. The focal heroines of each novel, and not just Emma, are almost entirely the only eyes and minds through which we know their respective fictional worlds. There are therefore two completely different ways to read Austen’s famous third person narrative voice: as largely objective, and therefore largely reliable; or as largely subjective, and therefore potentially largely unreliable.

This is precisely what enabled Jane Austen to write double stories – if the reader accepts the focal heroine’s hundreds of judgments on what they see, feel, hear, etc., then we have the overt story; but if the reader makes a concerted effort to get outside that bubble, then the shadow stories – with all their pervasive subversion of the patriarchy that I have found there – become accessible. 

Best example: If Darcy actually reforms and repents, then it is a truly happy romantic ending. But if he only pretends to reform and repent, and then devotes all his energy toward conning Elizabeth into believing a fake version of his character, then it’s the ultimate cautionary tale. Both fictional worlds are contained in the same words, depending on the reader’s point of view -- an omniscient narrator or a fallible young person.

Menand: “The people who read Austen for the romance and the people who read Austen for the sociology are both reading her correctly, because Austen understands courtship as an attempt to achieve the maximum point of intersection between love and money. Characters who are in the marriage game just for love, like Marianne Dashwood, in S&S, are likely to get burned. Characters in it just for the money, like Maria Bertram, in MP, are likely to be unhappy.”

And, for all my above criticisms of Menand’s statements, I am largely in accord with the above, pithy summation, and the rest of his detailed analysis of Austen’s meticulous focus on the actual income and wealth of each of the characters. 

Menand’s final words: “Does this mean that [Austen] was pressing her nose against the glass imagining a life she was largely excluded from? Or does it mean that she could see with the clarity and unsentimentality of the outsider the fatuity of those people and the injustices and inequalities their comforts were built on? We can only guess.”

The latter. But we can do much more than guess, and I will let “Mrs. Pole”, one of the persons whose opinion of Mansfield Park Jane Austen collected in 1814, explain:

"There is a particular satisfaction in reading all Miss A----'s works -- they are so evidently written by a Gentlewoman --most Novellists fail & betray themselves in attempting to describe familiar scenes in high Life; some little vulgarism escapes & shews that they are not EXPERIMENTALLY ACQUAINTED with what they describe, but here it is quite different. Everything is natural, & the situations & incidents are told in a manner which clearly evinces the Writer to belong to the Society whose Manners she so ably delineates.” 

[Mrs. Pole is then quoted by Austen in third person] 

Mrs. Pole also said that no Books had ever occasioned so much canvassing & doubt, & that everybody was desirous to attribute them to some of their own friends, or to some person of whom they thought highly.”

But who was this “Mrs. Pole”, and why should be trust her high praise for the accuracy of Austen's portrait of those aristocrats whom Harding (rightly) said she hated? It’s a reflection of the lack of curiosity about Jane Austen’s possible connectivity to the highest levels of English intellectual society, that it was not until 2005, when I was the first Austen scholar to ever take the time to figure out who, exactly, this “Mrs. Pole” was, who wrote such a startlingly brilliant reaction to Mansfield Park

She was born Elizabeth Colyear, the illegitimate daughter of an Earl (like a character in one of Austen’s wild juvenilia). And she then became Mrs. Pole. But, after her husband died, the world came to know her by her final married name: “Elizabeth Darwin”, the wife of Erasmus Darwin! 

She was also the inspiration for Erasmus Darwin's famous erotic poem “The Botanic Garden”, which I believe was part of the subtext of Austen’s Catharine, or the Bower. And she was also the stepgrandmama of Charles Darwin, the passionate Janeite who was a great scientist of the natural world the way Jane Austen was, as Mrs Pole implied, a great scientist of the social world.

So, as I said, we don’t have to guess – we know that Jane Austen was the ultimate social critic; and, what’s even more remarkable, she found a way to share some of her insight with her readers, for them to learn about life as she saw it, by reading these novels which function as Zen koans. 

Or as Elizabeth Bennet put it, in a line that never makes it into any of the Austen film adaptations, because nobody knows what the hell she means: “We all love to instruct, though we can teach only what is not worth knowing.”

Jane Austen ultimately was all about teaching by not teaching, what was worth knowing. And we can all agree that she not only gave us the highest quality fiction reading experience, she also taught us how to live better. 

Cheers, ARNIE 

@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

P.S.: I checked my old files, and saw that Menand, in The NY Review of Books in February 1996, opined that Emma Thompson’s making Edward Ferrars and Colonel Brandon much more sexy and appealing as romantic heroes were “improvements on Austen’s original”. Menand further wrote that the chief problem of Sense and Sensibility that Thompson solved was “the stupefying dullness of the men the Dashwood sisters eventually pair off with”.

What I hope I’ve made clear in my above post is that Jane Austen fully intended to de-romanticize Edward and the Colonel, because, in the shadow story of the novel, they are neither of them good men, not by a long shot – Marianne Dashwood was right, not Elinor!

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Quiz about two famous stories, seemingly unrelated, which actually have (at least) 9 parallels between them

[Answer is given below when you scroll down]

I’m thinking of two famous stories which are parallel with each other in each of the following nine ways. In each story:

ONE: There is an unreliable narrative point of view;

TWO: The plot involves multiple interwoven, doomed extramarital affairs;

THREE: There is a death of a major character near the end of the story which occurs in water, and it may be a homicide;

FOUR: We repeatedly witness the careless arrogance of the rich toward the less well off;

FIVE: Most or all of the action takes place in a small seaside community on Long Island, and in nearby NYC;

SIX: A key plot turn involves the death of one character by hit-and-run in a car driven by a woman; but then the man who loves her in their doomed affair takes responsibility, and falsely claims to have been the driver, in order to save her from prosecution; 

SEVEN: A major male character is covertly involved in the distribution of an illegal intoxicating substance,

and, last but not least, these two word clues:

EIGHT: One of the male characters whose point of view is major in the story has a first name beginning with the letter N, and a last name ending with the syllable "way", and

NINE: The first name of the character who is killed in the hit and run in one story is the same as the first name of the famous author of the other story.

Any guesses? Rather than tease around, I will give you the answer below, but if you want to have some fun, wait to scroll down. You may well recognize one of the answers right away, but not the other. 

NOTE: Spoilers as to certain plot points in both stories





The two correct answers are The Great Gatsby and The Affair. Now for a brief unpacking of all this. First the actual parallels (and this is massive spoilers for both The Affair and The Great Gatsby)

I first got the idea for this post, when my friend Elaine Bander wrote in Facebook the other day, that she had noticed for the first time that there were structural parallels between Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. 

I was curious to try to figure out what those parallels might be, given that I had read both WH and TGG, and I always love investigating intertextuality hidden in plain sight – and it was while reading the Wikipedia synopsis of TGG, and I was reminded that there was a hit-and-run negligent homicide in it, which was a pivotal plot twist leading to the tragic climax of the novel. 

That immediately brought to my mind one of the most pivotal plot points of the recently concluded 5-season Showtime series The Affair, in which a hit-and-run negligent homicide similarly functions as a pivotal plot twist, although it occurs near the start of the series, a terrible event that shapes the arc of the entire rest of the story.

Now, as of 2 days later, I have collected the above 9 parallels between The Great Gatsby and The Affair, which, trebly over, confirm that Sarah Treem, the show creator, was being very very sly about alluding to The Great Gatsby, hiding it in plain sight, but only for those who were familiar with The Great Gatsby. I am sure there are more that I have not yet found, as I need to reread TGG to see what else rings a bell in The Affair. 

And, beyond the scavenger hunt, puzzle solving fun of the above, the more significant question is to ask what light this hidden-in-plain-sight allusion in The Affair casts on The Great Gatsby? And also, in reverse, what light does The Great Gatsby cast on how we should understand The Affair? I don’t have any developed answers yet, but I have a strong hunch that this was not just a literary parlor trick by Treem, and that both of these inquiries will enrich our understanding of both works.

In this regard, check out this answer by Treem to a question in an August 2016 interview about The Affair:
“The Affair’ Creator Answers Key Question: Is Noah Solloway Actually a Good Writer?”
By Vinnie Mancuso  08/11/16 
But the one trait we can’t confirm with absolute certainty is whether Noah Solloway–two time novelist, literary dynamo, pillar of masculinity, etc etc–is actually a talented writer. We posed that question to The Affair creator Sarah Treem, as part of a larger interview that will run closer to season 3’s November premiere date.
“Oh, you mean THE Noah Solloway? I think Noah has the potential to be a great writer,” Treem said, sitting in the lobby bar of the Beverly Hilton hotel. “I’m not sure he’s reached it yet. But I think he’s got it in him.
“I think in a lot of ways,” she continued, “Noah is writing to be known. He’s writing basically for the sake of having that reputation, of being known as a writer. But I think some people that are heavily invested in the identity of a writer are incredible writers. You go back to the F. Scott Fitzgeralds and the Ernest Hemingways, they all cared very deeply about being seen as a writer.”
Well, there you have it. Noah Solloway is basically F. Scott Fitzgerald mixed with Ernest Hemingway. Suck it, Bruce Butler." 

So Sarah Treem played fair with her fans, and couldn’t resist leaving an extra-textual Easter Egg (or should I say, East Egg?) for fans of The Affair! 

And now that I reread that quote, it also makes me wonder whether it is only my relative lack of familiarity with Hemingway’s fiction is the reason why I haven’t yet realized that Hemingway might be a spice in Treem’s literary stew as well --- “Sollo-WAY” as pointing not only to “Nick Carraway” but also… “Nick Adams” the protagonist of Hemingway’s autobiographical story collection?

But for today, I will finish with a quotation of the final paragraphs of The Great Gatsby. I defy anyone who has watched The Affair to tell me that they’re not strangely reminded of it, especially of the tragic character of Allison:

On the last night, with my trunk packed and my car sold to the grocer, I went over and looked at that huge incoherent failure of a house once more. On the white steps an obscene word, scrawled by some boy with a piece of brick, stood out clearly in the moonlight and I erased it, drawing my shoe raspingly along the stone. Then I wandered down to the beach and sprawled out on the sand.
Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes--a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.
And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning----
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

I can almost hear the haunting strains of Fiona Apple's compelling song "Container" that is the theme music of The Affair.

Cheers, ARNIE

Monday, September 7, 2020

Austen's Persuasion & Richardson's Clarissa

It seems like the author, Christopher Fanning, of one of the articles in the latest Persuasions #41 (2019) failed to use Google in checking for prior scholarly commentary – specifically, mine -- on his topic. However, I am glad for his article, as I’ll explain below.

First, here is a link to the post I wrote in my blog (and in Janeites, while it was still at Yahoo) on January 8, 2018:
“The Faces of Griselda: Chaucer, Prior, Richardson….and Shakespeare & Austen, too!”

I began as follows:

“In this followup post to my earlier ones (responding to Ellen Moody’s initial post) about the allusion in Austen’s Persuasion to Matthew Prior’s Henry and Emma, I’m now ready, after further scholarly delving and reflection, to confidently explain the full significance of Austen’s allusion, to wit: Austen’s revised ending of Persuasion, with its memorable debate between Anne and Harville about male-dominated literature’s denial of female constancy, is part of Austen’s complex response to Prior’s famous poem; with the crucial additional insight that Austen filtered her response to Prior through Sarah Fielding’s protofeminist Remarks on (Richardson’s) Clarissa, which illuminates an intertextual matrix that includes Chaucer’s Clerk’s Tale (and the Wife of Bath’s Tale), and one of Shakespeare’s great comedies as well!
Within that overview, I see Austen as having particularly engaged in a variety of subtle ways with Richardson’s complex, tragic dyad of Clarissa and Lovelace, in constructing the relationship between her own couple, Anne and Wentworth; and having left several key textual hints in Persuasion pointing in that direction. That’s a lot to unpack, so I’ll get right to it….”

In my 2018 blogpost, I then went, in detail, through SIX different parallels I saw between Persuasion and Clarissa, including one that is of particular relevance to my post today, in which I credited Jocelyn Harris’s for her 2006 spotting of a striking parallel”

“V: THE TWO “REPULSIVELY’S”: And there’s still more that unites Persuasion and Clarissa. Please now read the following excerpt from Jocelyn Harris’s A Revolution Almost Beyond Expression (2006):
“In the 1818 text [of Persuasion], Anne’s eloquence contrasts vividly with her silence in the manuscript. When Wentworth meets Anne in Union Street, it is he who ‘said nothing- only looked,’ while Anne  could command herself enough to receive that look, and not repulsively’, meaning in a repelling manner. Perhaps Austen recalled Clarissa here, for that compulsive neologist Samuel Richardson seems to have invented the word for a scene where the heroine, discomposed by abduction from her father’s house to a St. Alban’s inn, shows ‘uneasiness’ before the curious servants: ‘She cast a conscious glance, as she alighted,’ and ‘repulsively, as I may say, quitted my assisting hand, and hurried into the house.’ In a typical challenge to her mentor, Austen makes Charles Musgrove incurious and Anne glad rather than disgusted by her suitor’s advances. Those readers who were familiar with Richardson, like Cassandra Austen, would understand that Anne acts in pointed denial of Clarissa’s revulsion from Lovelace when she signals to Wentworth her willingness to walk with him and accepts the offer of his arm. Also, instead of occurring at an early stage of the relationship, as with Clarissa and Lovelace, Austen’s scene occurs in the 1818 text only after Anne speaks out to refute all the old, misogynistic arguments about woman’s inconstancy, after she offers herself implicitly as an example of a faithful woman.” END QUOTE FROM JOCELYN HARRIS
Here’s the full passage in Persuasion
“They were on Union Street, when a quicker step behind, a something of familiar sound, gave her two moments' preparation for the sight of Captain Wentworth. He joined them; but, as if irresolute whether to join or to pass on, said nothing, only looked. Anne could command herself enough to receive that look, and not REPULSIVELY. The cheeks which had been pale now glowed, and the movements which had hesitated were decided. He walked by her side.”
And here is the parallel passage in Lovelace’s letter:
“At their alighting at the inn at St. Alban's on Monday night, thus [Lovelace] writes:  ‘The people who came about us, as we alighted, seemed by their jaw-fallen faces, and goggling eyes, to wonder at beholding a charming young lady, majesty in her air and aspect, so composedly dressed, yet with features so discomposed, come off a journey which had made the cattle smoke, and the servants sweat. I read their curiosity in their faces, and my beloved's uneasiness in hers. She cast a conscious glance, as she alighted, upon her habit, which was no habit; and repulsively, as I may say, quitting my hand, hurried into the house…’
Harris’s sharp ear has alerted her to a parallel which takes on tenfold greater meaning, when it is viewed in the context of all the parallels between Clarissa and the Persuasion scene at the White Hart Inn….”

Prior to my post, the only suggestions of parallels between Clarissa and Persuasion were in passing:

(1 the “repulsively” parallel spotted, and noted in passing, by Jocelyn Harris, as quoted above, and
(2) Anthony M. Kearney, Samuel Richardson, Clarissa (1975):
“When Fanny is strongly advised to marry Henry Crawford (another Lovelace figure) by her uncle, in fact, we are almost back into Clarissa. Similarly in Persuasion Anne Elliot's situation as a young girl whose own inclination to marry the man she loves is thwarted by someone who has what amounts to parental authority over her, echoes the familiar theme, and the ending where parental authority over children is endorsed, despite everything, has a Richardsonian ambivalence about it.
In both novels Jane Austen develops Richardson's way of experiencing things through the consciousness of a central character with even greater subtlety, and avoids the occasional clumsiness and prolixity of Clarissa by dropping the epistolary form…”

That means that the first scholarly claim of a comprehensive allusion by Austen in Persuasion to Richardson’s Clarissa was my January, 2018 blog post, and my followups shortly thereafter, written by me almost exactly two centuries after publication of Persuasion.

Now… with that background, take a look at the following quotation from “Austen and Richardson’s Clarissa: The Case of Persuasion” by Christopher Fanning, in that newest Persuasions #41 (2019) that we are looking at:

“…Jocelyn Harris postulates a renewal of Austen’s youthful engagement with Richardson, dating from the publication of Barbauld’s edition of the Richardson correspondence in 1804, suggesting that Barbauld’s discussion of particular scenes in Clarissa as well as questions of technique offered Austen both materials and methods for her own writing (Jane Austen’s Art of Memory). In this study Harris moves on to discuss Richardson, including sustained attention to Clarissa, with particular regard to Sense and Sensibility. Elsewhere, however, she also notes a verbal echo of Clarissa in Persuasion in the important scene in which Anne Elliot accepts Captain Wentworth (discussed below).
I wish to add to this verbal echo an additional and hitherto unnoticed use of a coinage unique to Clarissa in Persuasion, and, moving beyond Harris’s argument that the usage in the scene between Anne and Wentworth is a clue to readers of Clarissa for understanding the local passage in which it is found, I develop an understanding of Persuasion as a whole as a response to and critique of Richardson’s Clarissa.
Harris provides a convincing reading of a Richardsonian neologism in a quiet but climactic scene at the end of Persuasion, when “Anne could command herself enough to receive that look [from Captain Wentworth], and not repulsively”. Important here is the negation of “repulsively,” a word more or less unique to the scene in which the rake Lovelace completes his abduction of Clarissa and takes her to the inn at St. Albans: “She cast a conscious glance as she alighted . . . and repulsively, as I may say, quitting my assisting hand, hurried into the house as fast as she could”. Harris writes: “Those readers who were familiar with Richardson . . . would understand that Anne acts in pointed denial of Clarissa’s revulsion from Lovelace when she signals to Wentworth her willingness to walk with him and accepts the offer of his arm” (Revolution).
The Richardsonian coinage is limited to the adverb, and so Austen’s use of “repulsive” earlier in the novel seems not to interest Harris. It is noteworthy, however, that “repulsive” appears in a sentence containing another quite uniquely Richardsonian word, “unsisterly.”
In Clarissa, the term is used mainly by the heroine, describing her relationship with her cruel sister, Arabella. For example: “do not, dear Bella, give me cause to suspect, that I have found a reason for your unsisterly behaviour to me; and which till now was wholly unaccountable from sister to sister”.
Implicit in its use is a moral framework about the meaning of family, something also of concern to Anne Elliot in Persuasion, as when she makes an interior judgment while preparing to visit her sister Mary and the Musgrove family at Uppercross: “Mary was not so repulsive and unsisterly as Elizabeth”. “Unsisterly” is found nowhere in the corpus of 18th-century literature (at least in the 180,000 titles on ECCO) other than in its 11 uses in Clarissa, and the OED’s 2nd example after Richardson is Austen’s.
Austen’s interest in Clarissa in general is thus well attested, and Harris’s “repulsively” combined with my own “unsisterly” (and other parallels noted below) would seem to place Clarissa in Austen’s hands—or on her desk—as she writes Persuasion.” END QUOTE FROM FANNING

Fanning then goes on to detail his take on the allusion to Clarissa in Persuasion.

So, what is the upshot of the above for me? I do wish that Fanning had just Googled “Persuasion Clarissa Austen” while he was researching for his article, as one of my January 2018 blog posts would have been the second “hit” – that would have earned me a paragraph in his article, right after Jocelyn Harris.

However, notwithstanding that, I tip my hat to Fanning for sleuthing out a couple of really good parallels that I did not catch (confession: I have only read parts of Clarissa, totalling less than 2% of its massive length, mostly focused on the complex relationship between Clarissa and Anna Howe) – and I was glad to see no overlap between his catches and mine – so that, when my and his arguments are read together, they synergize, and remove even the remotest trace of a doubt that JA was indeed deeply engaged with Clarissa as she wrote Persuasion (as well as all of her earlier novels, except maybe NA).

Cheers, ARNIE
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