A Lady’s Maid Soaking Linens c. 1765- Henry Robert Morland
Week Two: Chapter Two “Rape Before Lunch” (pg. 15-34 Hilaritas edition)By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger
There are wheels within wheels and this chapter is a particularly vicious turn, red in tooth and claw. This violence is carried out on many different levels: the immediate, taking place before Maria Babcock’s eyes on July 4, 1776, socially as we are reminded time and again of English hypocrisy and the empty promises of justice, the perennially relevant, as this account of a rape trial could have been written yesterday, and the karmic as we see various ancestors and incarnations of RAW’s cast of characters represented in the courtroom that will decide upon Sir Vaseline-Foppe Wellington being innocent and turn Lady Babcock into a theological revolutionary.
Right now most of the readers are aware of the cultural shift that has occurred since the beginning of the #Metoo Movement, the 2016 election, and as far back as the so-called #Gamergate mess that seemed to kick the hornet’s nest of mediocre white men: all of which were, or were presented as hinging greatly upon sex/gender relations. Right now most of us are aware of Tara Reade’s accusations against candidate Joe Biden and the many accusations against incumbent Donald Trump; many Americans are left in a moral conundrum. Many Americans are disgusted by the hypocrisy and glaring partisanship of those who months ago insisted we #BelieveWomen and today are happy to say “I believe him.” Nearly 250 years from the time that Chapter 2 is meant to portray: we’re still in the same fucking mess. And for that matter: I’m just a guy who likes Robert Anton Wilson and I don’t have any solutions.
Indeed, Wilson’s views on women and the Women's Movement were varied: he could write as enthusiastically about the gritty, or should it be slippery?, details of sex as any schoolboy, he considered himself a male feminist yet he could rant about radical feminists along with the best of the Men’s Movement during the Nineties, he was able to point out to a friend who had never understood how women were afraid of men that the same discomfort he felt earlier when a large gay man hit on him was something women dealt with on the regular, he was able to write this chapter which, again, sounds like an account explaining why women don’t come forward sooner or at all. Wilson’s relationship and attitudes towards the various “women’s” issues of the late twentieth century could be the subject of a long essay or book on its own. What is clear is that Wilson had a deep and abiding respect for Woman and women throughout history: if you root for the underdogs, you’ll be rooting for women. I doubt Arlen would have settled for less.
Justine Case, seemingly an earlier incarnation of the music critic who writes essays in The Illuminati Papers and Right Where You Are Sitting Now and the film critic who attends parties throughout The Schroedinger’s Cat Trilogy, is being defended by a member of that vibrantly gray and odd family, the Drakes. Hartford Coke Bacon doesn’t seem to be connected to any of RAW’s fictional characters but does have a pedigree consisting of blood from the famous jurist Lord Coke and the philosopher Sir Francis Bacon.
Just as institutionalized misogyny drilled in to the reader’s head by the confrontation between Justine and her mother after the trial, to really emphasize the classism that is so pervasive in the court of law under the Union Jack, Hartford Coke Bacon is connected with Delia Bacon, anti-Stratfordian extraordinaire. The younger Bacon not only impressed Emerson with her wit but was beloved of many of the Transcendentalists and American literary icons. Upon her death she was praised by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Hawthorne, and Walt Whitman. She was said to be a genius in her own right and a woman of remarkable eloquence. She also thought that Shakespeare’s “philosophical masterpieces” couldn’t have been written by a commoner for the common man and that they were obviously the product of higher class minds for a higher class of audience, the only audience that could possibly understand Shakespeare after all. And this view of Shakespeare is, shockingly, historically inaccurate, disgustingly elitist, and ignores the pervasiveness of culture and ideas. As someone who has taught Shakespeare, I can personally testify that the rarefied approach to his work is ridiculous and ignores the genius of the plays. The anti-Stratford position is often born of a disbelief that a rather unexciting man who simply read quite a bit for his time and needed money could ever produce great art. Which is utter and complete bullshit. For my money, the best of English literature came from an impoverished engraver who everyone thought was goddamn insane.
For the rest of our literature roundup we have a reference to that ungodly tome, Pamela; or Virtue Rewarded which consists of more than a thousand pages of letters as a servant girl fends off unwanted advances from her employer, Mr. B, who then reforms at the end of the novel and they get married. Samuel Richardson’s popularity is striking for modern readers, most of whom find his novels unwieldy at best and unreadable when honest. He also had his critics at the time, one of whom was Henry Fielding, famous for his (infinitely more readable) The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, wrote a parody An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews. In Shamela, the position of Pamela from Richardson’s novel is built on lies; in “reality,” she is much as Hartford Coke Bacon tries to portray Justine Case, a lewd woman who is bent on entrapping her beneficent master. Happily Mr. B’s name is revealed to be Mister Booby. There are wheels within wheels. We also have a delightful example of RAW writing in the style of Daniel Defoe: aside from being scarily accurate RAW is imitating James Joyce, who imitated Defoe during that most difficult chapter of Ulysses, “The Oxen of the Sun.” Alan Moore would later go on to imitate Defoe’s prose in Jerusalem.
At the end of the chapter Sir Vaseline Foppe-Wellington is released to his own devices which will see him syphilitic and delusional, the Judge easily hangs a starving man the next day, and Justine Case hopefully finds safer accommodations at Babcock Manor. Next week we’ll move across the Atlantic to the new world and some casual conversation between two of the least casual characters in these novels as the wick is lit to blow up the world order. See you then!
From Eric: “I thought this song would work: https://youtu.be/DVrTf5yOW5s”