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|If dedicating the book to him provoked her satire of him, no
Written by Tarn
(3/19/2011 12:22 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Emma dedication, penned by Bridget D
But Jane Austen might have been in the awkward position of having won the favour of the Prince Regent's librarian, by writing yet another novel that poked fun at undeserving aristocrats that bear a likeness to the younger royals, (not to mention the ambitious clerics that serve their wills rather than a higher one). If she was unexpectedly burdened with this show of the Prince's favour, how could she decently refuse the honour without arousing suspicions that she was in sympathy with his friend at the Irish mails and his friends in Horsemongers Lane (then the location of the Surrey County Gaol, although now the gaol that turned Charles Dickens against capital punishment is known as Newington Gardens).
Her hopes of avoiding treasonous libel charges might have been bolstered by the knowledge that Mansfield Park had enjoyed some modest success without any censure of her politics, and it could just as easily be seen as an allegorical tale of what was happening to England under the Regent's rule. There is no sign the prince had objected to either that or Emma, either publicly or through his people (unless Sir Walter Scott's failure to mention MP in his review of Emma is a symptom of the PR's personal censure and not merely Scott's - Scott was in a position to influence the dedication as he had read Emma from a manuscript in October 1815, months before it was published, and had dined with the Regent only days before Jane Austen was summoned to the palace to see Mr Clarke with the Prince not attending. Scott's review of Emma was written between Xmas 1815 and New Year 1816, and he had dined again with the Prince that February, before the review was published March 1816.)
I think it is very likely that Jane Austen had satirized the Prince, but her wit had been overlooked - like all really good satire, Emma is quite readable without prior knowledge of the political climate of the era in which it was written. (Unlike, for example, the plot of the Magic Flute, which is absolutely unintelligible without a knowledge of the political events that inspired it, and the authors personal opinions of the principle personalities involved.)
If the Prince Regent ever had suspicions or thought a dedication might prevent Austen writing any more subtle satires on him in the future, he was sadly mistaken. Sir Walter Elliot and the Prince Regent are exactly the same age, General Tilney as fond of improvements, and the resemblances don't stop there.
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