September Books 19) Persuasion

19) Persuasion, by Jane Austen

Again, driven to read this at last by my posts here and here. It’s a very nice story, of repressed emotions, shallow pretensions, and the tentative process of picking up a relationship after eight years of interruption. The heroine, Anne Elliott, is perhaps a little too flawless and downtrodden by her useless family, but she does manage to find her way to self-determination in the end. There were a couple of passages in the penultimate chapter that almost seemed to lurch into feminism. A good read.

One thought on “September Books 19) Persuasion

  1. Re: Germaine Greer, Shakespeare’s Wife.

    I’ve not read the book, only a couple of reviews. The reviews have convinced me the book is not worth reading.

    Charles Nicholl in his review for the Guardian, 1 Sep 2007: “yet in the end she offers just a different set of unsupported hypotheses.”

    Christopher Rush in The Guardian, 28 August 2007: “This is what happens when you try to prove an unprovable biographical theory from Shakespeare’s plays – you end up spouting nonsense.”

    James Shapiro firmly relies on some of this nonsense. Page 75: “In addition, it’s likely that a good many of the local records concerning Shakespeare’s business activities in Stratford were actually the affair of his wife, Anne Hathaway, who would have been responsible (though as her husband, Shakespeare would have been officially involved in cases going to court).” Here Shapiro does not acknowledge his source. But in the epilogue (p. 307) we learn it’s Greer’s Shakespeare’s Wife. And Greer’s work, full of “unsupported hypotheses” (Nicholl), in which “At times Greer seems almost to wallow in her own spleen” (Katherine Duncan-Jones. Literary Review, Sep 2007), and at times is “spouting nonsense” (Rush) is elevated to the rank of a serious study: “Thanks to studies like Germaine Greer’s Shakespeare’s Wife, it’s now clear that many of the documents relating to Shakespeare’s economic activities in Stratford — from processing malt to petty debts — concerned matters that were under Anne Hathaway’s jurisdiction, part of the complicated business of overseeing a household for close to thirty years while her husband was mostly off in London.”

    Anne Hathaway’s jurisdiction? Yes, it is what Shapiro writes. One has to look up the word “jurisdiction” for a possible hidden meaning. “Jurisdiction also may refer to the origin of a court’s authority. A court may be designated either as a court of general jurisdiction or as a court of special jurisdiction. A court of general jurisdiction is a trial court that is empowered to hear all cases that are not specifically reserved for courts of special jurisdiction. A court of special jurisdiction is empowered to hear only certain kinds of cases.” So Anne Hathaway would have had some “jurisdiction”, “authority” to hear her own cases!!??. It does not look as if Shapiro were particularly familiar with legal terms. Nor did the gaffe hit Mr White’s attentiveness, though the illogicism is remarkable enough. On page 75 Shakespeare would have had to go to court instead of his wife, and who would have heard the case? Well, on page 307 we are offered the answer: the authority under whose jurisdiction the cases had to be dealt with: Anne Hathaway’s jurisdiction.

    There are some other areas with which the author of this “excellent book” seems at variance. Only one example (but there are many more). On page 267 (bottom) on Francis Meres: “When it came to finding a match for both Plautus and Terence, ‘the best for comedy and tragedy’ among the Roman dramatists, he concludes that only Shakespeare…” Meres, in fact, compares Shakespeare with Plautus for comedy and with Seneca for tragedy. Of Terence only six comedies are known, not a single tragedy.

    Now, this might be an innocuous oversight, a deplorable sloppiness… as long as committed by an orthodox scholar. Had it been committed by an Oxfordian or Baconian, what would it be? No need to regurgitate the word so often used here.


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