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|Goldsmith and Gascoigne
Written by JulieW
(8/20/2004 10:14 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Jane and Shakespeare and Gascoigne, penned by Cheryl
JA, as has been said, was ,in this history of England, parodying Goldsmith’s history book, which was obviously a part of George Austen’s library.
Deirdre Le Faye in her introduction to the facsimile edition says that :
A copy of the 1771 four volume edition ( of Goldsmiths History-JW) which is still preserved in the family archive shows that it was used by the Austen children-small marks and dates at the end of paragraphs suggest that portions were set aside for daily or weekly study. Volumes III and IV bear numerous interjections and comments in the margins, written by the youthful Jane, registering her disapproval of Goldsmith’s Whig view of History and her support for the Stuart family in all its generations.
I will quote her comments about the Stuarts when we reach them in the GR!
Goldsmith’s book was terribly popular. It became adopted as a text used by school children. When it was first published, anonymously, in 1771, it was thought that it was written by Lord Chesterfield who had written the conduct manual ”Letters Written to his Son”.
The mistake was easy to make as Goldsmiths history is also written in the form of a series of letters. The full title is as follows:
A History of England in a series of Letters from a Nobleman to his Son
Throughout this GR I thought it might be useful if I quoted passages from the Goldsmith history, especially as JA directly lampoons many of them.
So: to Sir William Gascoigne ;-)
This is what Goldsmith has to say about Henry IV, his errant son and the strong minded magistrate:
One of his( Prince Hal’s-JW) dissolute companions , having been brought to trial for some misdemeanour, was condemned, not withstanding all the interest he could make in his favour; and he was so exasperated at the issue of the trial that he struck the judge upon the bench. This magistrate , whose name was Sir William Gascoigne , behaved with the dignity that became his office; he forthwith ordered the Prince to be committed to prison. When this transgression was reported to the King, who was an excellent judge of mankind, he could not help exclaiming in a transport of joy “ Happy is the King who has a magistrate endowed with the courage to execute the laws upon such an offender: still more happy in having a son willing to submit to such chastisement ( P134/5 )Letter XXI
It is obvious that Goldsmith was not above taking his sources from Shakespeare either:for example, he includes as facts,other dubious stories, such as the famous scene in which Prince Henry tries on and takes away the Crown while his father lies dying.No wonder JA decided to lampoon this view of history. Familiar with Shakespeare’s plays( which were in turn based on the Chronicles of Raphael Holinshead) she knew just how accurate Goldsmith’s sources were ;-)
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