Sunday, March 14, 2021

The erasure and return of slavery in Mr. Elton's "Charade" in Jane Austen's "Emma"

The first two lines of Mr. Elton's riddle in Jane Austen's "Emma" associate "kings" with "wealth" and "luxury" but do not mention the source of the riches of the "court" (the riddle's "first"). Similarly, the next two lines bring up "monarchs of the seas" but do not say what the "ship" that is the riddle's "second" is transporting. But while the second stanza "unites" the two words as "courtship" and focuses on the moment when a man in Austen's time would propose to a woman, the figure of that man "bending a slave" to woman reveals that the source of the wealth of the United Kingdom in Austen's time was slavery. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 14 March 2021)




My first displays the wealth and pomp of kings,

Lords of the earth! their luxury and ease.

Another view of man, my second brings,

Behold him there, the monarch of the seas!


But ah! united, what reverse we have!

Man's boasted power and freedom, all are flown;

Lord of the earth and sea, he bends a slave,

And woman, lovely woman, reigns alone.


Thy ready wit the word will soon supply,

May its approval beam in that soft eye!


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