Would you like my spleen? We can share.
March 11, 2009 9:11 AM   Subscribe

What is the meaning of the phrase, "I will keep my spleen to myself?"

On page 34 of Jane Austen's Emma, during a very humorous exchange between Mr. Knightley and Mrs. Weston, the former remarks wryly that "Emma shall be an angel, and I will keep my spleen to myself till Christmas brings John and Isabella."

I've been itching to find out what this means since I read it last night. My google-fu has failed me.

Thanks MeFites!
posted by DeltaForce to Writing & Language (9 answers total)
 
"Venting one's spleen" means to unleash one's anger, sp presumably Mrs. Weston will hold her tongue until Christmas.
posted by jquinby at 9:14 AM on March 11, 2009


Bah, forgot the link.
posted by jquinby at 9:15 AM on March 11, 2009




Old beliefs about where a person's character came from was based on levels of bile and other bodily fluids, some of which were thought to come from the spleen. The person doesn't mean they'll literally share their organ, but to be full of spleen or sharing your spleen implies crabby and angry. This is intended to be a witty way of saying that they’ll both behave.
posted by Phalene at 9:16 AM on March 11, 2009


Too slow...
posted by jon1270 at 9:16 AM on March 11, 2009


Response by poster: Ah. This is why I love the green. Thank you!
posted by DeltaForce at 9:25 AM on March 11, 2009


Old beliefs about where a person's character came from was based on levels of bile and other bodily fluids, some of which were thought to come from the spleen.

among them, red blood, coming from the heart - that one we still use. Emotions like love aren't really thought to come from that organ, and when people use phrases like "you'll always be in my heart" they don't intend anything literal about their blood pump...
posted by mdn at 10:30 AM on March 11, 2009


Spleen means anger or ill-temper. But it would have been hard to mention 'spleen' in Regency England without thinking of the most famous fit of spleen in English literature, in Canto IV of Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock, where Spleen is described as:

Parent of Vapours and of female wit,
Who give th'hysteric or poetic fit,
On various tempers act by various ways,
Make some take physic, others scribble plays;
Who cause the proud their visits to delay,
And send the godly in a pet to pray.


So although 'spleen' sounds rather serious, it is undercut by humour, and although Mr Knightley appears to be saying that he's rather annoyed ('I will keep my ill humour to myself', he says a moment later), we can guess that the remark is made with a smile. The alert reader will deduce that even though Mr Knightley likes to find fault with Emma, he is secretly rather fond of her.
posted by verstegan at 1:34 PM on March 11, 2009


Response by poster: @verstegan, thank you. And yes, Mr. Knightley has definitely been dropping hints all over the place. I see where that is going. Ha.
posted by DeltaForce at 4:40 PM on March 12, 2009


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