Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Sense & Sensibility, Volume II, chapter 8 (ch 30)

God bless Mrs Jennings, even if she shows a disregard for manners in entering the room as she does:

Mrs Jennings came immediately to their room on her return, and without waiting to have her request of admittance answered, opened the door and walked in with a look of real concern.

"How do you do my dear?"--said she in a voice of great compassion to Marianne, who turned away her face without attempting to answer.

"How is she, Miss Dashwood?--Poor thing! she looks very bad.--No wonder. Ay, it is but too true. He is to be married very soon--a good-for-nothing fellow! I have no patience with him. Mrs Taylor told me of it half an hour ago, and she was told it by a particular friend of Miss Grey herself, else I am sure I should not have believed it; and I was almost ready to sink as it was. Well, said I, all I can say is, that if this be true, he has used a young lady of my acquaintance abominably ill, and I wish with all my soul his wife may plague his heart out. And so I shall always say, my dear, you may depend on it. I have no notion of men's going on in this way; and if ever I meet him again, I will give him such a dressing as he has not had this many a day. But there is one comfort, my dear Miss Marianne; he is not the only young man in the world worth having; and with your pretty face you will never want admirers. Well, poor thing! I won't disturb her any longer, for she had better have her cry out at once and have done with. The Parrys and Sandersons luckily are coming tonight you know, and that will amuse her."
I have to give Marianne some credit in this scene: she actually exerts herself to join the company for dinner. Now, she doesn't exert herself far enough to pay attention to anyone or join the conversation, but the mere fact that she got dressed and went down to dinner is more than I've come to expect from her, so I was pleased to see it.

And again I say: God bless Mrs Jennings. She forbears from mentioning Willoughby at all during their time together, and contents herself with fussing over Marianne like a mother hen:

Their good friend saw that Marianne was unhappy, and felt that every thing was due to her which might make her at all less so. She treated her therefore, with all the indulgent fondness of a parent towards a favourite child on the last day of its holidays. Marianne was to have the best place by the fire, was to be tempted to eat by every delicacy in the house, and to be amused by the relation of all the news of the day. Had not Elinor, in the sad countenance of her sister, seen a check to all mirth, she could have been entertained by Mrs Jennings's endeavours to cure a disappointment in love, by a variety of sweetmeats and olives, and a good fire.
Ah, there's the Marianne we know and love: as soon as she cottons on to the fact that she's the object of pity, she bolts for her room with an exclamation of (capital M) Misery.

And it is then that we get further confirmation of Mrs Jennings's goodness (as if I needed it) - she'd be willing to send far and wide to get something if Marianne would eat it. And it turns out she's held back some of the pertinent information about Willoughby, who has lost his inheritance and is marrying Miss Grey for her money.

So, first-time readers: tell me, do you believe Mrs Jennings is prescient? Will Colonel Brandon have Marianne after all, and be married before mid-summer? What say you?

And I hope you enjoyed the description of Delaford, which is Colonel Brandon's estate. "Stew-ponds", by the way, are ponds that have been stocked with fish. And it sounds delightfully situated, near the church, the parson-house and the butcher and not too far off the road.

Constantia wine: good for whatever ails you I must say that I doubt there's a single reader who doesn't love Mrs Jennings by now. (Do tell me if I'm wrong.) She turns up with a glass of Constantia wine, a sort of muscatel from South Africa that was imported into England in the 18th and 19th centuries. She offers it for Marianne's broken heart, but says her husband used to like it to help his gout. I love Elinor's wry observation, and the fact that she is acknowledging her own heartbreak here.

Colonel Brandon is such a caring soul. He arrives in quite a pensive mood and grows more serious still after receiving confirmation that Willoughby and Marianne will not be getting married. I like what it says about his concern for Marianne that, instead of triumphing as Mrs Jennings predicted, he grew more serious still. Of course, he has something on his mind. You can tell from his halting speech when talking about Willoughby that he is in possession of some additional information, yes? (If not, then I apologize for the extremely short-lived spoiler, since we will find out in tomorrow's chapter just what it is.)

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