- Deirdre Le Faye & Me: "I am a scholar, she is a scholar: so far we are equal"
- Darcy's "We neither of us perform to strangers": a Radical New Interpretation
- The Hunger Games’s Veiled Allusion to Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus
- August Wayne Booth in Once Upon A Time: Jane Austen Really IS Everywhere in 2012!
- 20 shades of hero/villain Mr. Darcy
- Rick Santorum would have been the worst person in the world to Jane Austen too!
- The Great Gadsby: an overnight lesbian feminist ‘comedy’ sensation 10+ years in the making (& 3 millenia overdue)
- Austenland: The Movie was Fun, but the Novel was Better [SPOILER ALERT as to both]
- The secret codeword Shakespeare devilishly hid in plain sight in Romeo & Juliet that Shakespeare Uncovered DIDN’T uncover—but John Milton (and then I) did!
- Can Jane Austen forgive Marianne?
Friday, October 22, 2021
I’ve received no answer to my tricky quiz, so now I will give the final (decisive) hints necessary to figure it out. HINT #1: The Austen novel (other than Emma, with Mr. K, like a svelte Santa Claus, missing from most of the Randalls Christmas dinner party) with the missing party-cipant in a small social gathering is PERSUASION. HINT #2: The following passage in Persuasion will greatly assist you in ascertaining which character that might be. You then need to figure out which gathering that character is a surprising no-show at, even though the clueless Anne Elliot never notices that absence, and therefore neither does the narrator!: Ch. 16: “She longed to see the Crofts; but when the meeting took place, it was evident that no rumour of the news had yet reached them. The visit of ceremony was paid and returned; and Louisa Musgrove was mentioned, and Captain Benwick, too, without even half a smile. The Crofts had placed themselves in lodgings in Gay Street, perfectly to Sir Walter's satisfaction. He was not at all ashamed of the acquaintance, and did, in fact, think and talk a great deal more about the Admiral, than the Admiral ever thought or talked about him. The Crofts knew quite as many people in Bath as they wished for, and considered their intercourse with the Elliots as a mere matter of form, and not in the least likely to afford them any pleasure. They brought with them their country habit of being almost always together. He was ordered to walk to keep off the gout, and Mrs Croft seemed to go shares with him in everything, and to walk for her life to do him good. Anne saw them wherever she went. Lady Russell took her out in her carriage almost every morning, and she never failed to think of them, and never failed to see them. Knowing their feelings as she did, it was a most attractive picture of happiness to her. She always watched them as long as she could, delighted to fancy she understood what they might be talking of, as they walked along in happy independence, or equally delighted to see the Admiral's hearty shake of the hand when he encountered an old friend, and observe their eagerness of conversation when occasionally forming into a little knot of the navy, Mrs Croft looking as intelligent and keen as any of the officers around her.” HINT #3: The following passage (that begins the scene in the first cancelled chapter of Persuasion that Jane Austen completely deleted in her final published version) is a further (oblique) clue as to the identity of the missing party-cipant, and also perhaps a clue as to why that character might have no-showed. Recall that at this moment in the story, Anne has just left Mrs. Smith’s apartment after hearing all about Cousin Elliot: “With all this knowledge of Mr E--& this authority to impart it, Anne left Westgate Buildgs--her mind deeply busy in revolving what she had heard, feeling, thinking, recalling & forseeing everything; shocked at Mr Elliot--sighing over future Kellynch, and pained for Lady Russell, whose confidence in him had been entire.--The Embarrassment which much be felt from this hour in his presence!--How to behave to him?--how to get rid of him?--what to do by any of the Party at home?--where to be blind? where to be active?—It was altogether a confusion of Images & Doubts--a perplexity, an agitation which she could not see the end of— -and she was in Gay St & still so much engrossed, that she started on being addressed by Adml Croft, as if he were a person unlikely to be met there. It was within a few steps of his own door.--"You are going to call upon my wife, said he, she will be very glad to see you."--Anne denied it "No--she really had not time, she was in her way home"--but while she spoke, the Adml had stepped back & knocked at the door, calling out, "Yes, yes do go in; she is all alone. go in & rest yourself."--Anne felt so little disposed at this time to be in company of any sort, that it vexed her to be thus constrained--but she was obliged to stop. "Since you are so very kind, said she, I will just ask Mrs Croft how she does, but I really cannot stay 5 minutes.--You are sure she is quite alone."— -The possibility of Capt. W. had occurred--and most fearfully anxious was she to be assured--either that he was within or that he was not; which, might have been a question.--"Oh! yes, quite alone--Nobody but her Mantuamaker with her, & they have been shut up together this half hour, so it must be over soon."--"Her Mantua maker!--then I am sure my calling now, wd be most inconvenient.--Indeed you must allow me to leave my Card & be so good as to explain it afterwards to Mrs C." "No, no, not at all, not at all. She will be very happy to see you. Mind--I will not swear that she has not something particular to say to you--but that will all come out in the right place. I give no hints.--Why, Miss Elliot, we begin to hear strange things of you--(smiling in her face)--But you have not much the Look of it--as Grave as a little Judge." --Anne blushed.--"Aye, aye, that will do. Now, it is right. I thought we were not mistaken." She was left to guess at the direction of his Suspicions….” At our Zoom on Thursday, I will be giving my interpretation of how the mysterious no-show fits within the broader context of the shadow story of Persuasion – at this point, please do not respond in this group before then, but feel free to email me privately if you wish to discuss any of this before Thursday. ARNIE MY PRIOR POSTS In Persuasions #18 (1996)… https://jasna.org/persuasions/printed/number18/austen-leigh.pdf …Joan Austen-Leigh famously speculated that Jane Austen had nodded, i.e., that she had forgotten about Mr. Knightley while writing the Randalls dinner party in the (very light) snow, until late in the party, when he suddenly is just there. As Austen-Leigh argues: “Mr. Knightley is silent. He says not a single word until there is an alarm about snow and we are told he "left the room immediately" (but we have not been told that he was ever in it!). When he returns it is to "answer for there not being the smallest difficulty in their getting home, whenever they liked it". Also "he had seen the coachmen and they both agreed with him". Both! Only two coachmen, so he did not bring his own carriage. Poor fellow, I hope he did not get his feet wet. But it is no matter. It is as we expect, while the others are flapping and fussing to no purpose, Mr. Knightley takes charge. He and Emma settle it all between them, which is entirely satisfactory and exactly what we have counted upon their doing. For this purpose and no other was he present at Randalls.” I don’t agree with her, I believe instead that Jane Austen knew exactly what she was doing, and that she meant her most attentive readers to not only notice his absence during most of the party, but also to then wonder what Mr. Knightley might have been doing, and where he was doing it, while he was discreetly absent from Emma’s observant eye for that crucial few hours. Well… just yesterday, in one of Austen’s other novels besides Emma, I happened upon what appears to me to be another unexplained absence of a character who we would have expected to be present at a party – but in that other case, the missing character never shows up at all, and the heroine never notices that absence! So, unless I have overlooked an explanation, whether oblique or explicit, for that absence, I believe this is another instance in which Jane Austen wanted her best readers to notice that missing “party-cipant”, and to wonder where that character might have been during the party. And now I wouldn’t be surprised if there weren’t one or two more of these hidden puzzles scattered among Austen’s novels, which have not (yet) been noted. One hint, to make your solving this puzzle less onerous. The instance I have in mind is found in one of the following three novels: Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, or Persuasion. Please respond to me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org with any answer you come up with, and I will announce my answer (and any other answer that I receive that fits my parameters) on Monday evening 7 pm PST, October 25. Happy hunting, ARNIE MY FOLLOWUP QUIZ POST Here is one necessary clarification, and two more hints: I realized a few minutes ago that I was unintentionally very misleading, when I referred to the gathering that a certain character was absent from as a "party". The gathering actually had no dancing, or food served as far as I can tell, it was a small informal group, and most of the activity was just conversation among them. My apologies! My only excuse is that when I started out my quiz talking about Knightley being absent from the Randalls Christmas dinner party, I had parties on the brain, when I drew the parallel between the two scenes! Anyway, as penance, I will now give you a few more significant clues. First: the absent character is one whom orthodox Janeites would never in a million years think of as being Machiavellian offstage; and yet, there is some Austen scholarship that has been out there for nearly 30 years, and documentary evidence dating back to Jane Austen's lifetime, that fits really, really well with the idea of that missing character being manipulative. Second: I said before, that this scene occurs in one of the following three novels: NA, Mansfield Park, or Persuasion. Well, now I will narrow it down still further, to save you time - it's not in NA, it is in either MP or Persuasion. Okay, so now I think you have enough (non-misleading) clues, so as to have a fair chance of figuring out which scene I am referring to. And if you get that far, I believe that if you make a list of the characters who are clearly present and speaking, then you will be able to immediately recognize who you might have expected to be there, too, but who is AWOL, so to speak.
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
[Be sure to read this post to the very end, I've added a couple of significant points since I first posted this]
I’ve long suspected Lennon & McCartney of being sneakily serious readers of English literature, and that John Lennon in particular loved pretending that his most cryptic lyrics were mere jokes. Even as he tweaked the beards of those who looked for his hidden meanings, he actually took great delight in being very slyly erudite, and I think he wanted to make the search for hidden meaning more fun and more challenging, by denying that it was there.
For example, Lennon claimed with a straight face, that Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, with its iconic psychedelic imagery, was not at all about LSD. Yeah, right. How he must have laughed on the inside, when most of the wider world, including many hardcore Beatles fans who shoulda known better, swallowed that obvious whopper.
Anyway, as a result of my suspicions, I’m always on the alert for insight into literary allusions in the Beatles canon, and over the past decade, I’ve been rewarded with insights into 3 Beatles songs that I see as having a surprising, hidden, English literary pedigree, as I’ve blogged at the linked posts:
“Shakespeare’s holy hilltop fool Henry VI was McCartney’s Fool on the Hill!”
“The View from Ford’s: The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour of PeRRy Lane & Strawberry Fields for Emma”
“ ‘Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see’---The Song of Emma Woodhouse”
Those 3 songs, The Fool on the Hill (Sept. 1967), Penny Lane (Jan. 1967), and Strawberry Fields Forever (Dec. 1966), were all recorded within 9 months of each other, and all 3 appear on the same Beatles album – Magical Mystery Tour. Not a coincidence, in my view.
And yet, you may ask, what about the other Beatles song on Magical Mystery Tour that has raised more speculation about its cryptic lyrics and hidden meanings than any of the others? Of course, I refer to the one in my Subject Line, I Am The Walrus (Sept. 1967).
Well, funny you should ask, because literary lightning struck again the other day for me. While listening to the Beatles Channel on Sirius Radio, my attention was caught by the commentary about Walrus of Kevin Howlett on one of his “Magical History Tour” segments.
Specifically, Howlett repeated what I had heard a few times before, but had never paused to consider more curiously – that the spoken word dialog that pops out through the writhing rhythms of Lennon’s grotesque imagery late in that song, is actually taken from a live performance of a very specific source – two speeches in Act 4, Scene 6 of King Lear.
Howlett essentially repeated the following conventional understanding of how Shakespeare happened to wander into Lennon’s nightmarish tableau: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/11/i-am-the-walrus-50-years-later/546698/
“To further tantalize literary types, at the end of the song listeners hear a scene from King Lear in the background, with Oswald’s final words, “O, untimely death!” standing out. (That line ended up as grist for the “Paul is dead” conspiracy mill, of course.)
As it turns out, the performance of Lear just happened to be on a radio that was tuned to the BBC while they were mixing the song. The studio engineer Geoff Emerick said it was Lennon’s idea to get some “random radio noise” from “twiddling the dial,” an injection of John Cage–style found audio. Talking about the song with the New York radio DJ Dennis Elsas, Lennon claimed he “never knew it was King Lear until years later” when someone told him…”
However, with all my prior suspicions of Lennon’s literary slyness about L.S.D, and those 3 other Beatles songs that I claim draw upon Shakespeare and Austen, I read Lennon’s disclaimer the same way I read the following famous comments by that very same Jane Austen, whom was capable of infinite sly misdirection and faux modesty (and who inspired the name of my blog 12 years ago), as epitomized in this famous bon mot about Pride and Prejudice:
“There are a few Typical errors–& a ‘said he’ or a ‘said she’ would sometimes make the Dialogue more immediately clear–but ‘I do not write for such dull Elves as have not a great deal of Ingenuity themselves.'”
If you actually believe that Austen sincerely thought that her pronomial ambiguities in Pride & Prejudice were “typical errors”, rather than intentional acts of genius on her part, well, this post is not for you – but for the rest of you, please read on!
Back to I am the Walrus --I knew instinctively that Lennon was thinking of the sharp elves in his audience, and was up to something ambitiously literary with that Lear insertion, but what? Well, it took me less than an hour to gather the following passages from the text of King Lear, in addition to the brief snippets of dialogue in 4.6 that we actually hear on Walrus. To figure out his meaning, I had to first assemble all the relevant textual evidence.
And one quick and necessary caveat- of course I am already aware that numerous explanations have been presented over the past 54 years as to sources for many of Lennon’s word choices in his lyrics for Walrus, including, most notably, The Walrus and the Carpenter. But this in no proves or even suggests that Lennon could not have also had Shakespeare on the brain as he wrote the song.
So, please meet me on the other side of these quotations, and I will then progress to my speculations as to what this King Lear subtext meant to John Lennon.
“I am the Egg-Man”: King Lear 1.4, 4.6
FOOL …………….Give me an EGG, nuncle, and I'll give thee two crowns.
KING LEAR What two crowns shall they be?
FOOL Why, after I have cut the EGG i' the middle, and eat up the meat, the two crowns of the EGG. When thou clovest thy crown i' the middle, and gavest away both parts, thou borest thy ass on thy back o'er the dirt: thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown, when thou gavest thy golden one away. If I speak
like myself in this, let him be whipped that first finds it so.
“Cuckoo-ka-choo” King Lear 1.4
For, you trow, nuncle,
The hedge-sparrow fed the CUCKOO so long,
That it's had it head bit off by it young.
So, out went the candle, and we were left darkling.
So we have two speeches in the same scene, in which the Fool speaks words which Lennon seemed to echo in Walrus – might we also say, then, that Lennon was channeling Lear’s witty Fool, with his penchant for acidic riddling directed at King Lear, in this line?:
“Don't you think the JOKER LAUGHS AT YOU (ho ho ho, hee hee hee, hah hah hah)”
“See how they SMILE like PIGS in a sty, see how they snide”
“Dripping from a DEAD DOG's eye”: King Lear 2.2
When Kent lights into Oswald, the toadying courtier of Goneril and Ragan, he is thinking of pigs in a sty who snidely smile:
That such a slave as this should wear a sword,
Who wears no honesty. Such SMILING rogues as these,
Like rats, oft bite the holy cords a-twain
Which are too intrinse t' unloose; smooth every passion
That in the natures of their lords rebel;
Bring oil to fire, snow to their colder moods;
Renege, affirm, and turn their halcyon beaks
With every gale and vary of their masters,
Knowing nought, like DOGS, but following.
A plague upon your epileptic visage!
SMILE you my speeches, as I were a fool?
Goose, if I had you upon Sarum plain,
I'ld drive ye cackling home to Camelot.
“Man you've been a NAUGHTY boy”
“Boy, you've been a NAUGHTY girl, you let your knickers down”: King Lear 3.7
And when Regan torments Gloucester before savagely blinding him, and then takes up with Edmund, does she not fit Lennon’s description of a naughty girl?
REGAN plucks his beard
By the kind gods, 'tis most ignobly done
To pluck me by the beard.
REGAN So white, and such a traitor!
These hairs, which thou dost ravish from my chin,
Will quicken, and accuse thee…
“I'm CRYING, I'm CRYING
I'm CRYING, I'm CRYING”: King Lear 4.6.
And so Lennon’s repeated weeping wails remind us of Lear’s, in that very same Act 4, Scene 6 from which Lennon “accidentally” chose to record from the BBC, and then insert in his song:
EDGAR O, matter and impertinency mix'd! Reason in madness!
If thou wilt weep my fortunes, take my eyes.
I know thee well enough; thy name is Gloucester:
Thou must be patient; we came CRYING hither:
Thou know'st, the first time that we smell the air,
We wawl and CRY. I will preach to thee: mark.
GLOUCESTER Alack, alack the day!
When we are born, we CRY that we are come
To this great stage of fools…
“Sitting on a corn FLAKE”
“Dripping from a DEAD DOG's eye”
“See how they SMILE like PIGS in a sty, see how they snide”: King Lear 4.7
Had you not been their father, these white FLAKES
Had challenged pity of them. Was this a face
To be opposed against the warring winds?
To stand against the deep dread-bolted thunder?
In the most terrible and nimble stroke
Of quick, cross lightning? to watch--poor perdu!--
With this thin helm? Mine enemy's DOG,
Though he had bit me, should have stood that night
Against my fire; and wast thou fain, poor father,
To hovel thee with SWINE, and rogues forlorn,
In short and musty straw? Alack, alack!
Cordelia has returned, and Lennon “tags” that return with the “cornflake” he sits upon, like little miss muffet.
And that brings us to what I see as the emotional center of Lennon’s veiled allusion to King Lear:
“Dripping from a DEAD DOG's eye”: King Lear 5.3
And my poor fool is hang'd! No, no, no life!
Why should a DOG, a horse, a rat, have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou'lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never!
In other words, Lear bemoans that there is no “dead dog”, but there is a “dead Cordelia”!
After collecting those passages from King Lear with this very distinctive imagery that seems to be obliquely echoed in Walrus, I stepped back a pace and considered these parallels in a more global way. It’s safe to say that Shakespeare was never more sour, pessimistic, cynical, and sexually grotesque than in King Lear, and the same can also be said about John Lennon and Walrus – don’t you think the latter would work really well as a soundtrack for a modernized film version of Lear?
What also leapt off the page at me about that final quotation, when Lear wails in extreme grief at the death of his beloved Cordelia, we cannot help but be reminded of what has been pointed out by some clever Beatles elves who haven’t connected it to King Lear – that Brian Epstein, the “glue” that had held the Beatles together since their rise to fame, had suddenly and shockingly died, right before Lennon wrote Walrus.
But also, we can look at the first lines of Walrus as obliquely pointing to King Lear himself:
“I am he as you are he as you are me
And we are all together”
In his very first speech in the play, Lear repeatedly speaks in the royal “we”. And yet, by the final scene of the play, Lear speaks repeatedly and only in the personal “I” – not a royal “we” in sight. So we may well say that Lennon has, in brilliantly absurdist poetry, captured that metamorphosis from king to father.
And so, that was where I stood after applying my usual methods to parsing texts for allusions. But I just could not believe that I was the first to reach this sort of insight into Walrus – and here’s the spooky part – after further diligent search, I still could not find any written commentary on this topic that got this far – it seemed that Lennon’s claims of “accidental” inclusion of Lear had not been challenged for nearly 54 years.
However, what I did find was a recording of the My Favourite Beatles Song podcast that aired only a week ago, on August 31, 2021:
In it, host Tim Tucker interviewed musician and music analyst Scott Rowley, and their topic was I am the Walrus. As their fascinating discussion progressed, I held my breath, as they described it as both playful and nightmarish, like a Hieronymus Bosch painting, with a dark vision, as if Lennon sought the sharpest possible contrast to the psychedelic sermon on the mount that is All You Need is Love.
Things then got really exciting when Rowley noted that “I’m crying” seemed to be an expression of grief for Brian Epstein, a really bad trip that Lennon had been hurled into in his grief.
And then, beginning at 24:00 running time, and then continuing for about 4 minutes, Rowley took that same giant imaginative leap that I had, and realized that Act 4, Scene 6 was exactly where Lennon wanted his sharpest elf listeners to go in their imaginations!
So all kudos to Rowley (and to Tucker for providing the perfect catalytic environment for Rowley to make his leap) for connecting those dots several days before I did – but I do believe that the echoes of imagery and verbiage that I retrieved and outlined, above, seal the deal – it all can’t be one humongous coincidence, or even unconscious echoing by Lennon – no, this was all entirely intentional on his part, a tribute to his own (apparent) secret love of Shakespeare, and of grief for the loss of Brian Epstein.
And there’s one final textual goodie, that Rowley caught, but I had missed, in that crucial Act 4, Scene 6, when Edgar is confronted by Oswald, right before Edgar courageously takes out that “serviceable villain”:
EDGAR Good gentleman, go your gait, and let poor volk pass. An chud ha' bin zwaggered out of my life, 'twould not ha' bin zo long as 'tis by a vortnight. Nay, come not near th' old man; keep out, che vor
ye, or ise try whether your COSTARD or my ballow be the harder: ch'ill be plain with you.
OSWALD Out, dunghill!
Of course that is indeed the “Yellow matter CUSTARD” that drips from the “dead dog’s eye”, immediately after Lennon’s four Learian repetitions of “I’m crying”!
I close by observing that this was a prophetic moment for Lennon, in which he played the Fool (in the highest sense of the word) as he foretold that the kingdom that was the Beatles was about to fracture apart into several pieces, just like Lear’s kingdom, now that the human “glue” that had held it together, Brian Epstein, had died.
And also, perhaps, Lennon was, paradoxically, also celebrating his own liberation as an artist.
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter
ADDED 09/07/21 AT 11 AM PST
John Lennon in a 1970 Interview:
„When I was about twelve, I used to think I must be a genius, but nobody's noticed. Either I'm a genius or I'm mad, which is it? "No," I said, "I can't be mad because nobody's put me away; therefore I'm a genius."“
ADDED 09/11/21 AT 1 PM PST
This extraordinary article by Richard Gerber is the missing link in the chain of Lennon’s literary subtexts in I am the Walrus – Lennon read Joyce reading Lear & Carroll, in turn reading Shakespeare’s King Lear:
Last but not least, perhaps John Lennon somehow heard about the following sometime between 1961 and 1967, perhaps by reading this:
11/17/1961 Life Magazine 51/20 p198
“A Deep Freeze Lear in Eskimo Land”
The old king strode into his court dressed in Eskimo furs. He wore a weird crown of WALRUS tusks. He held a harpoonlike spear. A strange get-up for Shakespeare's frosty hero, King Lear, but he was appearing in a new production of the bleak tragedy, set and costumed in Eskimo style.
....This deep freeze King Lear was put on by Toronto’s talented Canadian Players and is now on a tour of 22 American cities.
Thursday, May 20, 2021
My eye was caught today by a retweet by a sharp Twitter elf of the following article:
“The ‘Slave Bible’ is Not What You Think” by Jill Hicks-Keeton June 3, 2020
Hicks-Keeton presents a sharp critique of the hypocrisy of The Museum of the Bible, skewering it for its deceitful attempts to whitewash the Bible’s pivotal role in the historical development of colonial slavery, for which scripture provided “moral justification” for enslaving other human beings.
I’ve long been aware of the subversive subtext of slavery in Austen’s novels – not just in Mansfield Park, but also significantly in Emma and Pride and Prejudice, too -- and that’s why the title of that article caught my eye – what exactly was the “Slave Bible”, and did it have any Austen connection?
I was not disappointed when I read the following excerpts:
“On one exhibit wall [at the Museum of the Bible] appeared an 1808 quotation attributed to Rev. Beilby Porteus, identified as Bishop of London and Founder of the Society for the Conversion & Religious Instruction and Education of the Negro Slaves. It read: “Prepare a short form of public prayers for them . . . together with select portions of Scripture . . . particularly those which relate to the duties of slaves towards their masters”….The quotation is excerpted from a letter to “the Governors, Legislatures, and Proprietors of Plantations, in The British West-India Islands.”
Rev. Porteus’s aim is to convince these readers to allow enslaved Africans time and resources to receive Christian religious instruction. Porteus envisions a labor-free Sunday so that the enslaved can gather and be formed into Christian slaves.
He speculates that local clergy would be willing to prepare “a short form of public prayers for them [the enslaved], consisting of a number of the best Collects of the Liturgy, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, together with Select portions of Scripture, taken principally from the Psalms and Proverbs, the Gospels, and the plainest and most practical parts of the Epistles, particularly those which relate to the duties of slaves towards their masters.”
The museum has taken Porteus’s quotation out of its context and edited it to make it say something it does not say. When we read the unabridged statement, we find that he was not issuing a command, and specifically that he was not issuing a command to produce a Bible. Porteus envisioned a collection that expanded beyond biblical texts and included liturgy for public worship. Such an anthology would have been similar to other compilations of biblical and religious texts intended for liturgical or devotional use, examples of which can be found displayed with appreciative tone at the museum.
…The full context of Porteus’s statement gives us a clue as to what his criteria for inclusion of material would have been. Museum curators have excised a significant segment of Porteus’s statement that makes the phrase “particularly those which relate to the duties of slaves towards their masters” appear to refer to all of scripture, when it actually refers to “the plainest and most practical parts of the Epistles”—a phrase which shows that Porteus was motivated principally by a desire to offer enslaved readers texts deemed easily digestible and relevant to their experiences. He was not playing seek and hide with freedom-themed Bible verses.
Plenty of people with “whole” Bibles have read their Bibles and concluded that they supported slavery. Even though the missionaries who produced Select Parts of the Holy Bible were not manipulating a Bible with malintent, they were engaged in other activities that we are likely to find abhorrent today. Lest Reverend Porteus be exculpated, we must note that racism and paternalism fueled his commendation of Christian education for the enslaved.
In his letter, Porteus portrays converted slaves as feathers in the caps of their owners, calling them a “pleasing and interesting spectacle, of a new and most numerous race of Christians ‘plucked as a brand out of the fire,’ rescued from the horrors and superstitions of Paganism.” Yet if conversion was intended to rescue enslaved Africans from horrors, it was not horrors in the here-and-now.
Porteus reasons that Christian slaves work harder and are more compliant than those who do not convert. He argues that plantation owners should allow their slaves to receive Christian religious education so that their sexual activity can be controlled with the hope of producing more offspring. More enslaved babies, more slaves, more labor, more profit…”
END QUOTE FROM HICKS-KEETON ARTICLE
When I read the above, two words immediately popped into my head: MR. COLLINS!
Now, two hours later, rather than making an elaborate argument as to why I’m certain that Bishop Porteus (the abolitionist who gave helpful advice to slaveowners) was a primary real-life inspiration for Mr. Collins, Jane Austen’s incomparable portrait of clerical hypocrisy, I will simply quote for you the relevant passages from each of their writings, and it will be obvious to all.
First, here are all the relevant passages from Porteus’s 1809 “masterpiece” that Hicks-Keeton brought to our attention, as he explains how he would implement his plan to convert all the slaves in the British West Indies to Christianity -- all, basically, for their own good, and also, incidentally, that of their masters as well. Note in particular how he lists his reasons, one by excruciating one, just like Mr. Collins:
“Assuming, then, that you are resolved upon the measure, the next consideration is, how are sufficient funds to be provided for carrying it into effect? Now I apprehend that in this there will be very little difficulty, as one great excellence of Dr. Bell's plan is, that it is attended with but a very trifling expence. To defray this expence, I would propose:
1: That a general subscription should be set on foot in this country, which I am persuaded would be an extensive and a liberal one. In my own diocese, and particularly in the opulent cities of London and Westminster, I would exert my utmost influence to promote it, and would myself begin it with the sum of £.500; and if the occasion called for it, would at any time be ready to double that sum.
2: I can entertain no doubt but that the British legislature, which has already manifested so laudable a concern for the temporal happiness of the Negroes, will not be indifferent to their spiritual welfare, nor refuse their assistance in promoting it, by encouraging the establishment of these parochial schools.
3: The Society for the Conversion and religious Instruction and Education of the Negro Slaves in the British West-India Islands (of which I have the honour to be President) have I think the power, and would not, I am confident, want the inclination to contribute some share of their moderate revenue towards forwarding the plan proposed; as one part of their institution is the education of the young Negroes, and they are allowed by their charter to send out schoolmasters to the islands, as well as missionaries.
4: Lastly. If these funds should not prove sufficient, a very small parochial rate might be raised on the Proprietors of lands in every island, to which (as they are to reap all the benefits of the institution, in the increase of their native Negroes, and will consequently save all the enormous sums formerly expended in the importation of fresh Slaves from Africa) they cannot, I think, reasonably object.
These are the sources which will, I doubt not, furnish an abundant supply for the support of the establishment here proposed; and the Planters will in a few years, at a very trivial expence to the Proprietor, raise up a race of young Christian Negroes, who will amply repay their kindness by the increase of their population, by their fidelity, their industry, their honesty, their sobriety, their humility, submission, and obedience to their masters; all which virtues are most strictly enjoined, under pain of eternal punishment, by that divine religion in which they will have been educated, and render them far superior to their unconverted fellow-labourers.
This is not merely assertion and speculation. It is proved by fact and by experience; by the conduct of the Slaves who have been converted from Paganism and instructed in the Christian religion by the Moravian missionaries in the English and Danish islands, where the number of converted Negroes amounts to upwards of 24,000; who so far excel the unconverted Negroes, in the conscientious discharge of all the duties attached to their humble station, that they are held by the Planters in the highest estimation, and are purchased at a higher price than their Heathen brethren.
I cannot therefore help flattering myself that you will, without hesitation, adopt this benevolent system. It may be tried at first in one parish in any of the islands, and if it should succeed in that (of which there can be no doubt) it will of course encourage you to extend it gradually through every parish in every British island.”
“…the clergyman of the parish in which they reside will probably have the goodness to add his influence and exhortations for the same important purpose; and also to prepare a short form of public prayers for them, consisting of a certain number of the best Collects of the Liturgy, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, together with select portions of Scripture, taken principally from the Psalms and Proverbs, the Gospels, and the plainest and most practical parts of the Epistles, particularly those which relate to the duties of slaves towards their masters.
“…The other objection which may possibly impede the introduction of the parochial schools into the West-India islands is the idea taken up by some of the Proprietors, that by making their Negroes good Christians they make them bad Slaves; that by admitting them to baptism, to divine worship, to the holy sacrament, and the other privileges and advantages of the Gospel, they bring them too much on a level with themselves, they. raise their ideas above their condition, they inspire them with pride and ambition, render them less fit for labour, less disposed to fulfil the duties of their humble station, and less submissive and obedient to their masters.”
“…As well might it be affirmed that the laws of England have a natural tendency to encourage despotism, tyranny, oppression, and persecution. But there is no need for reasoning upon the subject. Let us go to experience and to fact. There are, as I have already observed, many thousands of Negro Slaves converted to Christianity in some of the British islands, especially that of Antigua; and what is the case with them? Are they by conversion rendered proud, insolent, idle, disinclined to labour, rebellious and disobedient to their masters?
Quite the contrary. They so much excel all the unconverted Slaves in sobriety, industry, honesty, fidelity, submission and attachment to their masters, that every Proprietor is anxious to procure them, and, as I have before observed, will give a higher price for them than for their Heathen brethren.
And how can we wonder at this superiority over their Pagan fellow-labourers, when we recollect that the DIVINE RELIGION which they have embraced most expressly enjoins them, under pain of God's displeasure here, and of the severest punishment hereafter, “to be subject to their masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward: to please them well in all things, not answering again; not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, with “goodwill doing service as to the Lord and not to man.
If anyone wished to form a slave exactly to his mind, could he possibly do it in terms more adapted to the purpose than these? And accordingly such effects have been produced on the minds and conduct of converted Negroes as might naturally be expected from them. Having thus, I trust, effectually answered the only plausible objections which I have ever heard stated against the introduction of Christianity among the Negro Slaves, and shewn that such a measure would be no less conducive to your temporal advantage than to their eternal interests; I should hope that this consideration alone would be sufficient to determine you in favour of the proposition here made to you.
But you must allow me, Gentlemen, to add, that I by no means rest this great question on the ground cither of private or public utility, but on much higher and nobler principles; on the principles of justice, of humanity, of religion, of duty; by which most sacred ties you are bound as men and as Christians, to take care of the souls as well as of the bodies of that numerous race of men, over whom you have obtained the most absolute dominion.
They are yours, the whole man, both body and soul. They are your sole and entire property. Their welfare is placed exclusively in your hands; their happiness or misery depends absolutely on your care of them, and by taking entire possession of them, you have made yourselves responsible for them, both here and here after. To you they look up as their masters, governors, guardians, and protectors; as the guides that are to open to them the way to a better world; and they will not, I trust, look up to you in vain. It is a debt which is strictly due to them; an act of compassion to which they have the strongest possible claim.
By that very large share which the British Nation and the British Islands have, for several centuries, taken in the importation of Slaves from Africa, many thousands, many millions of innocent unoffending human beings have been torn from their native land, from every blessing that was valuable, every connexion that was dear to them, have been conveyed against their will to a country and to a people unknown to them , and without any offence or fault of theirs have been doomed 'TO PERPETUAL SERVITUDE, a servitude too which at their death they leave (the only inheritance they have to leave) entailed upon their latest posterity.
These surely are sufferings which call for some compensation; and what better, what more proper compensation can there be, than that of communicating to them the blessings of the Gospel, and opening to them the reviving prospect of eternal felicity in another life, since their fate has been so unfortunate in this. This will be an act of kindness, of benevolence, of charity in its highest and sublimest form, and productive of the most extensive and substantial good. It is a boon which, comparatively speaking, will cost you nothing, but to the objects of it will be invaluable. It will be a cordial to their hearts, and a support under their toils; it will sooth their minds with all the consolations of religion; it will make even servitude itself sit light upon them, and cheer their souls with the hope of eternal freedom and felicity in another world.
Instead of lessening their inclination to labour, it will increase their industry and their desire (in conformity to the commands of the religion they have embraced) to please their masters in all things. It will redouble their attachment to those masters, and bind them down to the performance of all their duties by the strongest ties of affection and gratitude. Nor will you, Gentlemen, be without your reward, and that the highest and most gratifying that a human being can receive, the approbation of God , and the applause of the whole world.
You will have the immortal honour of founding a new school for piety and virtue in the bosom of the Atlantic Ocean, of erecting a noble structure of religion and morality in the Western world, of exhibiting to mankind the interesting spectacle of a very large community of truly Christian Negroes, and of leading the way to the salvation of more than 500, 000 human beings, (immersed before in the grossest ignorance, superstition, wickedness, and idolatry) with all their countless descendants to the end of time.
END QUOTES FROM PORTEUS’S LETTER:
What a load of crap! And now, here are the passages in P&P relating to Mr. Collins that I suggest clearly were inspired, in no small part, by Porteus’s exotic mixture of hypocrisy and self-importance:
Ch. 17: “She was not the better pleased with [Mr. Collins’s] gallantry from the idea it suggested of something more. It now first struck her, that she was SELECTED from among her sisters as worthy of being mistress of Hunsford Parsonage, and of assisting to form a quadrille table at Rosings, in the absence of more eligible visitors.
Ch. 19: “Believe me, my dear Miss Elizabeth, that your modesty, so far from doing you any disservice, rather adds to your other perfections. You would have been less amiable in my eyes had there not been this little unwillingness; but allow me to assure you, that I have your respected mother’s permission for this address. You can hardly doubt the purport of my discourse, however your natural delicacy may lead you to dissemble; my attentions have been too marked to be mistaken. Almost as soon as I entered the house, I singled you out as the companion of my future life. But before I am run away with by my feelings on this subject, perhaps it would be advisable for me to state my reasons for marrying—and, moreover, for coming into Hertfordshire with the design of SELECTING a wife, as I certainly did.”
The idea of Mr. Collins, with all his solemn composure, being run away with by his feelings, made Elizabeth so near laughing, that she could not use the short pause he allowed in any attempt to stop him further, and he continued:
“My reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it a right thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances (like myself) to set the example of matrimony in his parish; secondly, that I am convinced that it will add very greatly to my happiness; and thirdly—which perhaps I ought to have mentioned earlier, that it is the particular advice and recommendation of the very noble lady whom I have the honour of calling patroness.
Twice has she condescended to give me her opinion (unasked too!) on this subject; and it was but the very Saturday night before I left HUNSFORD—between our pools at quadrille, while Mrs. Jenkinson was arranging Miss de Bourgh’s footstool, that she said, ‘Mr. Collins, you must marry. A clergyman like you must marry. Choose properly, choose a gentlewoman for my sake; and for your own, let her be an active, useful sort of person, not brought up high, but able to make a small income go a good way. This is my advice. Find such a woman as soon as you can, bring her to Hunsford, and I will visit her.’
“Really, Mr. Collins,” cried Elizabeth with some warmth, “you puzzle me exceedingly. If what I have hitherto said can appear to you in the form of encouragement, I know not how to express my refusal in such a way as to convince you of its being one.”
“You must give me leave to flatter myself, my dear cousin, that your refusal of my addresses is merely words of course. My reasons for believing it are briefly these: It does not appear to me that my hand is unworthy of your acceptance, or that the establishment I can offer would be any other than highly desirable. My situation in life, my connections with the family of de Bourgh, and my relationship to your own, are circumstances highly in my favour; and you should take it into further consideration, that in spite of your manifold attractions, it is by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made you. Your portion is unhappily so small that it will in all likelihood undo the effects of your loveliness and amiable qualifications. As I must therefore conclude that you are not serious in your rejection of me, I shall choose to attribute it to your wish of increasing my love by suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant females.”
Ch. 57: “…Mr. Collins moreover adds, ‘I am truly rejoiced that my cousin Lydia’s sad business has been so well hushed up, and am only concerned that their living together before the marriage took place should be so generally known. I must not, however, neglect the duties of my station, or refrain from declaring my amazement at hearing that you received the young couple into your house as soon as they were married. It was an encouragement of vice; and had I been the rector of Longbourn, I should very strenuously have opposed it. You ought certainly to forgive them, as a Christian, but never to admit them in your sight, or allow their names to be mentioned in your hearing.’ That is his notion of Christian forgiveness!...”
And it turns out that Porteus’s striking resemblance to Mr. Collins was actually first noticed 120 years ago:
The Home Counties Magazine 1901
“Sundridge, Kent” by Arthur Maude
“Sundridge… is a village of some interest. The manor has been in the hands of various well- known houses… it is entered in Domesday Book as the property of the archbishop…
…The most important grave in the churchyard is that of Dr. Porteus, once Bishop of Chester, whom Pitt made Bishop of London in 1787. He lived in the house in Sundridge still known as Bishop's Cottage, and was buried there in 1809. Porteus is almost forgotten now, but was a hierarch of importance in his day. He was one of the many scandalous pluralists of that time; he held the living of HUNTON at the same time as Lambeth, kept both when master of St. Cross Hospital, and was rector of HUNTON as long as he was Bishop of Chester.
He was not a great scholar, and was coarsely attacked by Porson, and by that ponderous pedant Parr (who would attack any bishop whom Pitt appointed ), as “a poor paltry prelate, proud of petty popularity and perpetually preaching to petticoats.
There is very good internal evidence in Pride and Prejudice that the diction and foibles of the good bishop were in Jane Austen's mind when she produced that delicate satire on the clergy of the day, the character of Mr. Collins.
We should prefer to remember the excellent position taken by Dr. Porteus on the slavery question, and his judicious support of Robert Raikes' movement for the establishment of Sunday schools.”
Did you notice that little touch – that “Hunton” became “Hunsford”???
And from Anecdotal Reminiscences of Distinguished Literary and Political Characters
by Leigh Cliffe, Esq. (1830, we also learn these Mr. Collins-esque details:
“Though Dr. Porteous was religious in the strictest sense of the term, no man was a stronger advocate for rational amusement. He liked his rubber at whist, and could be pleased with a song.”
However, I doubt that Maude, despite his good ear for echoes of diction, understood that this was not just Jane Austen covertly satirizing a ridiculous hypocrite. It was also, under the surface, a searing condemnation of the complicity of the Anglican clergy in colonial slavery – and of the kind of self-deluding absurdity that could, without a trace of irony (a la The Onion or Borat), construct an elaborate argument for why abolition of the slave trade was good -- and yet, at the same time, making slaves good Christians would also make them good (meaning, productive) slaves – all the while, as Jane Austen would put it, “keeping his countenance” (i.e,. a straight face).
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