Monday, January 31, 2011

Pride & Prejudice, Volume II, chapter 8 (ch 31)

With Mr Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam as houseguests, Lady Catherine has no need (or desire) to have the Collinses and their houseguests around, so they go a full week without an invitation to Rosings, during which Colonel Fitzwilliam pays several calls at Hunsford parsonage. When she does finally invite them, it is not for dinner, but for the evening, rather in the same manner that Mrs Philips invited the Bennet girls to join the officers after dinner of an evening back in Chapter 16.

"Mr Darcy they had only seen at church."

Church services were held morning and evening on Sundays. Not everyone attended church, but as Austen was the daughter of a clergyman, she most certainly did, as well as participating in morning and evening prayers within the home on a daily basis. Not all Austen characters necessarily attend church, just as not all of them are good people - she was nothing if not realistic. However, it can be assumed that those who are described as religiously observant (a term used here to mean "go to church") are basically upstanding citizens. (Those of you who've read Mansfield Park may recall how many swings are taken at Mary Crawford for mocking the clergy, for instance, and how her attitude is considered a serious lapse of moral judgment.)

We may not know overly much about Mr Darcy apart from knowing that he was powerfully attracted to Elizabeth earlier in the book, but we know for sure that he attends church. At least he has that going for him.

Elizabeth has a new admirer

Colonel Fitzwilliam doesn't really care for his aunt's home, as is plain by his visits to the parsonage and this sentence: "Colonel Fitzwilliam seemed really glad to see them; any thing was a welcome relief to him at Rosings; and Mrs Collins's pretty friend had moreover caught his fancy very much." He and Elizabeth are having such a good time with their conversation, in fact, that they draw the attention of Mr Darcy and Lady Catherine. Mr Darcy obviously wants to know what's going on, but nosy Lady Catherine insists on being told, despite Colonel Fitzwilliam's reticence in involving her in the conversation.

"We are speaking of music, Madam."

And now, for one of my favorite moments in all of Pride and Prejudice:

"Of music! Then pray speak aloud. It is of all subjects my delight. I must have my share in the conversation, if you are speaking of music. There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient. And so would Anne, if her health had allowed her to apply. I am confident that she would have performed delightfully. How does Georgiana get on, Darcy?"

Mr Darcy spoke with affectionate praise of his sister's proficiency.

"I am very glad to hear such a good account of her," said Lady Catherine; "and pray tell her from me, that she cannot expect to excel, if she does not practise a great deal."

"I assure you, Madam," he replied, "that she does not need such advice. She practices very constantly."

"So much the better. It cannot be done too much; and when I next write to her, I shall charge her not to neglect it on any account. I often tell young ladies, that no excellence in music is to be acquired, without constant practice. I have told Miss Bennet several times, that she will never play really well, unless she practices more; and though Mrs Collins has no instrument, she is very welcome, as I have often told her, to come to Rosings every day, and play on the pianoforté in Mrs Jenkinson's room. She would be in nobody's way, you know, in that part of the house."

Mr Darcy looked a little ashamed of his aunt's ill breeding, and made no answer.
LOL! I love how Lady Catherine asserts her authority with respect to the subject when, in fact, she has no musical talent of her own, then insults Elizabeth by saying she needs to practice more, then insults her more horribly by offering to let her into something that is close to being the servants' quarters to have the use of an instrument (since the Collinses do not have one). Mrs Jenkinson may not be a servant in the same way that a maid, cook, footman or butler was, but she is a paid companion to Miss De Bourgh, and is therefore likely an impoverished gentlewoman (possibly a relative of some sort) who had no establishment of her own and is therefore in Lady Catherine's direct employ or is, at the least, dependent upon her.

A word about Mr Darcy here: Please note that he speaks of his sister with affection. I should point out that in Austen books, how men treat their sisters is often an indicator of what sort of man they are. John Dashwood was a complete jackass in Sense & Sensibility and was not loyal and supportive of his sisters, one indicator of his callowness and one of many reasons not to admire him; Henry Tilney quite obviously adores his sister and enjoys spending time with her, which is an indicator of his being a mensch.

Mr Darcy makes a move

Literally. He gets up and walks away from his aunt while she's talking to him in order to be able to see Elizabeth's face as she plays and, one presumes, sings. Between songs, Elizabeth tweaks him in a teasing manner, and he actually teases her back. It's a rather brilliant conversation, in which Darcy offers some explanation of his reticence at interacting with people at the Assembly in which we first met him, back in Chapter 3: turns out that he's a bit shy when in company with people he doesn't know particularly well, and he isn't especially good at small talk. Hmmm . . . that's interesting, yes? Who among us doesn't know someone who is so uncomfortable in large groups that they put up walls that can make them seem unapproachable? Again, I'm just putting that out there.

"I had not at that time the honour of knowing any lady in the assembly beyond my own party."

"True; and nobody can ever be introduced in a ball room. Well, Colonel Fitzwilliam, what do I play next? My fingers wait your orders."

"Perhaps," said Darcy, "I should have judged better, had I sought an introduction, but I am ill qualified to recommend myself to strangers."

"Shall we ask your cousin the reason of this?" said Elizabeth, still addressing Colonel Fitzwilliam. "Shall we ask him why a man of sense and education, and who has lived in the world, is ill qualified to recommend himself to strangers?"

"I can answer your question," said Fitzwilliam, "without applying to him. It is because he will not give himself the trouble."

"I certainly have not the talent which some people possess," said Darcy, "of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done."

"My fingers," said Elizabeth, "do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women's do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault -- because I would not take the trouble of practicing. It is not that I do not believe my fingers as capable as any other woman's of superior execution."

Darcy smiled, and said, "You are perfectly right. You have employed your time much better. No one admitted to the privilege of hearing you, can think any thing wanting. We neither of us perform to strangers."
1. Who's smiling now? (Remember Mr Darcy criticizing Jane Bennet for smiling too much?)

2. Note that Mr Darcy has become "Darcy" in Austen's text, a sign of familiarity and, probably, liking.

3. Darcy has managed to (a) tease Elizabeth; (b) point out that he understands her fairly well - he has seen that she enjoys teasing him, and is willing to say something contrary to her own beliefs in order to do it - and (c) find some common ground between them.

4. Elizabeth observes how Darcy acts around Anne De Bourgh, the woman he is "supposed" to marry, and notes that he's not interested in her in the slightest.

Tomorrow: Chapter 32
Back to Chapter 30

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pride & Prejudice, Volume II, chapter 7 (ch 30)

Truly, not much happens in this chapter. We are reassured that Lady Catherine is a huge busybody and possibly a bit of a bully (involving herself in family quarrels in the the nearby village, even). Sir William left after a week. Another week or two went by and then Mr Darcy arrives at Rosings along with his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam.

Those Colonel Fitzwilliam's last name is Fitzwilliam - the same as Mr Darcy's first name. Colonel Fitzwilliam is the son of Darcy's uncle, the current Earl, who is the brother of Lady Catherine and Darcy's (dead) mother, Lady Anne. He does not stand to inherit the title and estate because he is a younger son; his eldest brother will be the next Earl.

Tomorrow we move on to real interaction among the parties, but before I go, I thought I'd mention the tidbit that I like so much from this chapter:

The room in which the ladies sat was backwards. Elizabeth at first had rather wondered that Charlotte should not prefer the dining parlour for common use; it was a better sized room, and had a pleasanter aspect; but she soon saw that her friend had an excellent reason for what she did, for Mr. Collins would undoubtedly have been much less in his own apartment, had they sat in one equally lively; and she gave Charlotte credit for the arrangement.
Tomorrow: Chapter 31
Back to Chapter 29

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pride & Prejudice, Volume II, chapter 6 (ch 29)

First, a confession. I cannot read this chapter without hearing what I think of as "Lady Catherine's Theme" (but which is actually called "Rosings") in my head from the 1995 BBC production. Here it is, accompanied by photographic stills of Darcy & Elizabeth from that production:

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's dine at Rosings!

1. Forget Smekday, and let's talk about the true meaning of "condescension." The word is supposed to mean "voluntary abnegation for the nonce of the privileges of a superior; affability to one's inferiors, with courteous disregard of difference of rank or position". It is, in fact, a good thing for a person of rank to act with condescension, because it means they come down off their high horse and do not require that others scrape and bow to them, but treat them roughly as equals.

It is readily apparent that for all of Mr Collins's talk of Lady Catherine's "condescension", she insists on preserving all the privileges of rank. Mr Collins says as much when offering Elizabeth (unnecessary) advice about her manner of dress. Lady Catherine is high-handed and peremptory. As we will later see, she is insulting in her superiority, even. She does not, in fact, "condescend" in any positive meaning of the word. That said, she doesn't actually have to invite Mr Collins and his retinue for any meals, so she is, in fact, observing some social niceties by having them.

2. Why "Lady Catherine" is referred to as such, and not as "Lady De Bourgh". The reason is that she was born with a title. Her father was an Earl (third highest title in the realm unless one was royalty - the hierarchy goes King, Prince, Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, Baron, Lord). Lady Catherine and her sister, Lady Anne, were both born with the title "Lady" because of their father's rank. Had her husband had a title, she would have taken it on and been Lady De Bourgh. Because he did not, she remains "Lady Catherine".

3. Mr Collins's enumeration of the windows and the cost of glazing is another reference to the wealth of the De Bourgh estate. In some ways, the number of windows is a greater indicator than the cost of the original glass installation - you see, just as there was a tax on carriages and horses (as I discussed yesterday, there was a tax on the number of windows in a home's façade - to be specific, every home paid a 2 shilling window tax that covered up to ten windows. The rate rose according to the number of windows, something easy to assess without the need for entering a person's home. During Georgian times (including the Regency period), the tax was used to raise money for the war effort against the French. Many poor people had only one window per floor in their homes or cottages, and sometimes didn't have glass, so it was a form of luxury tax, if you will. Some people bricked windows in to reduce their tax bills. Others were irate, considering it a tax on "light and air."

4. Sir William and Maria, like Mr Collins, are impressed by wealth and importance. Elizabeth is not. "Elizabeth's courage did not fail her. She had heard nothing of Lady Catherine that spoke her awful from any extraordinary talents or miraculous virtue, and the mere stateliness of money and rank she thought she could witness without trepidation."

5. Lady Catherine does show actual condescension in rising to greet them. She is of superior rank, and therefore was not strictly required to rise in order to welcome them to her home (although people with good manners would certainly have done so).

6. I love that Charlotte has arranged it so that she's in charge of the introductions in order to make sure it's done right: "[A]s Mrs Collins had settled it with her husband that the office of introduction should be hers, it was performed in a proper manner, without any of those apologies and thanks which he would have thought necessary." HA!

7. Lady Catherine is haughty - plus a word about Mr Wickham.
Lady Catherine was a tall, large woman, with strongly-marked features, which might once have been handsome. Her air was not conciliating, nor was her manner of receiving them such as to make her visitors forget their inferior rank. She was not rendered formidable by silence; but whatever she said was spoken in so authoritative a tone as marked her self-importance, and brought Mr Wickham immediately to Elizabeth's mind; and from the observation of the day altogether, she believed Lady Catherine to be exactly what he had represented.
I point out that Lady Catherine seems to exactly fit Wickham's description of her back in Chapter 16. Elizabeth's own observations comport with Wickham's description - no wonder she trusts what he's told her. I'm just . . . putting that out there.

8. Lady Catherine dines in style, at least as far as the dishes and service goes. Whether the conversation is good or not is another thing entirely. It was considered somewhat improper to speak across the table, at least at a formal meal; one was supposed to converse with one's neighbors. Elizabeth is left stranded, as Charlotte is left to listen to Lady Catherine, while on her other side, Miss De Bourgh says nothing (and is fussed over by her paid companion).

9. After the ladies "retire" to the sitting room after dinner, Lady Catherine proves herself to be a busybody. She both asks Charlotte minute questions and gives her unasked-for advice and directives, then asks Elizabeth a number of questions that would have been considered inappropriate on so short an acquaintance. Not only does she ask questions about Elizabeth's breeding; she also criticizes her upbringing, questioning why only two out of five sisters play piano (Elizabeth and Mary), why none paint, why they didn't have a tutor or a governess, etc. Heck, she even directly asks Elizabeth her age - and everyone knows you aren't supposed to ask a lady her age!(Whose relatives are inappropriate now, Mr Darcy?)

10. Elizabeth has the temerity to state an opinion in Lady Catherine's presence. And really, it doesn't go over well with her ladyship.

"Upon my word," said her ladyship, "you give your opinion very decidedly for so young a person. -- Pray, what is your age?"

"With three younger sisters grown up," replied Elizabeth smiling, "your Ladyship can hardly expect me to own it."

Lady Catherine seemed quite astonished at not receiving a direct answer; and Elizabeth suspected herself to be the first creature who had ever dared to trifle with so much dignified impertinence!

"You cannot be more than twenty, I am sure, -- therefore you need not conceal your age."

"I am not one and twenty."
11. Two different card games are set up. One is cassino (sometimes called casino); the other, quadrille. The last Austen character who we saw to play cassino was Lady Middleton from Sense & Sensibility, and we all recall how insipid she was. At Miss De Bourgh's table, Maria is so young & overwhelmed that she says nothing by way of conversation, Miss De Bourgh is so rude/sickly/self-centered that she says nothing, and Mrs Jenkinson only fusses over Miss De Bourgh. "Their table was superlatively stupid." LOL!

Quadrille, a gamed played by partners in pairs, was somewhat similar to whist, but not nearly as popular. In fact, it was falling out of favor at the time Austen wrote the novels - it was an old game that was being supplanted by whist and other games that were gaining popularity. If cassino is a card game attached to imbeciles in Austen, it would appear that quadrille is there to indicate that Lady Catherine is a bit of a dinosaur.

12. Elizabeth doesn't rhapsodize well enough for Mr Collins.
As soon as they had driven from the door, Elizabeth was called on by her cousin to give her opinion of all that she had seen at Rosings, which, for Charlotte's sake, she made more favourable than it really was. But her commendation, though costing her some trouble, could by no means satisfy Mr. Collins, and he was very soon obliged to take her ladyship's praise into his own hands.
Here you can watch some of the 1995 movie from just after Lizzy's arrival at Hunsford. If you've not read on, then I exhort you to stop at 5:12, because after that we find Mr Collins traveling throughout the countryside hollering "Mr Darcy is coming! Mr Darcy is coming!"

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Pride & Prejudice, Volume II, chapter 5 (ch 28)

Welcome to Kent!

Before I get to what really happens in this chapter, a word about the word palings:

"When they left the high-road for the lane to Hunsford, every eye was in search of the Parsonage, and every turning expected to bring it in view. The palings of Rosings Park was their boundary on one side. Elizabeth smiled at the recollection of all that she had heard of its inhabitants." [Emphasis mine.]

The carriage has left the main road and is on a country lane, which is bounded on one side by a fence composed of palings - vertical wooden slats, as it turns out. This tells us that the lands around Rosings Park have been enclosed, a topic which I discussed in this post related to Northanger Abbey and again in this one about Sense & Sensibility. The salient point is that Austen is telegraphing information to her readers that most modern readers miss, and it was a hot-button political issue in her time.

You see, in 1801, Parliament passed the General Inclosure Act, which allowed landholders to enclose open fields and common lands in the country, thereby depriving many small landholders and workers of space in which to graze their sheep and cattle or in which they could gather wood. As a result, numerous country workers who could no longer eke out a living on the land moved to urban areas in search of industrial jobs, thereby becoming wage laborers. In Northanger Abbey, General Tilney shows off his vast enclosures and his greenhouses, likely because Austen means to point out how he has been enriched by the enclosure movement, and – quite possibly – how he is oblivious to or unconcerned with any hardship it causes to others (greenhouses were extremely expensive to set up and run). He has enriched himself while depriving others. Likewise, John Dashwood in Sense & Sensibility has torn down an ancient grove of lovely walnut trees in order to build greenhouses and is enclosing the lands at Norland. General Tilney, while not exactly a villain, is close enough to being such, and John Dashwood is a jackass, so it is to be assumed that Austen is hinting at something in Lady Catherine's nature with this passing mention of palings.

Welcome to Mr Collins's humble abode!

Mr Collins is as much of an ass as always, overly pretentious and in a hurry to try to rub Lizzy's nose in what she missed out on in turning him down. While the house is okay, it's nothing to make Elizabeth wonder if she made a mistake (those of you who are re-reading will appreciate this particular plot point more than those on a first read-through), and instead she wonders how on earth Charlotte puts up with him. "Once or twice she could discern a faint blush; but in general Charlotte wisely did not hear."

Mr Collins takes them on a detailed tour of his garden - so detailed, in fact, that it sucks any pleasure out of the walk, then takes Sir William out into the surrounding fields. Charlotte, it turns out, encourages Mr Collins to spend as much time in his garden as possible, and seems to put him out of her mind when he's not in the house.

More about Lady Catherine

Know that advice about how if a mystery mentions a gun on the mantle in chapter , someone will probably use it before the end of the book? With Austen, you can expect that with characters. If you are told about a character's existence, you ought to expect to meet them, and so it comes as no surprise that this chapter is the run-up to us actually meeting Lady Catherine De Bourgh.

Mr Collins has mentioned how expensive her chimney-piece is (back in Chapter 16), and now he tells us that she sends the Collinses home from dinner in one of her carriages, of which she has several. As of 1812, the tax on carriages was nearly 12 pounds per year (each), and horses were taxed as well. There was a higher tax for carriages bearing a coat of arms. People like the Bennets kept one carriage, which was pretty much what they could afford, and the Bennets didn't have horses always available for carriage use, since their horses were used in farmwork as well. The Collinses don't own a carriage at all, despite being gentry. Lady Catherine, however, has several carriages, which implies vast wealth and (possibly) a bit of ostentation.

Young Maria (pronounced Mariah with a long I in the middle in that time period) is quite out of her league here. She is, I believe, Kitty's age, and is therefore several years younger than Elizabeth, and between her kind but sometimes pompous father and her overbearing and decidedly obsequious brother-in-law, Mr Collins, she is easily impressed by the De Bourghs. Which explains why she is so overwhelmed by Miss De Bourgh's "goodness" in pausing in her carriage at the gate to speak with the Collinses. Elizabeth, noticing that it is windy out, observes that Miss De Bourgh is being ill-mannered in forcing Charlotte to stand outside in order to speak with her, and Elizabeth is correct: A proper morning call would have involved Miss De Bourgh coming inside, like any well-bred young lady. Instead, she is treating the Collinses more like servants, who can be inconvenienced by having to come out of their home and remain standing in order to conduct a conversation with her. It's all very high-handed, when you think it through.

On the plus side, tomorrow we go to Rosings and meet Lady Catherine. I can hardly wait!

Tomorrow: Chapter 29
Back to Chapter 27

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pride & Prejudice, Volume II, chapter 4 (ch 27)

Welcome to the merry month of March. Ordinarily, March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb, but I rather expect that whatever the weather does, the emotional climate is just opposite in this book. But I get ahead of myself.

Turns out that when Elizabeth promised to visit Charlotte, she wasn't initially serious, but stuck at home with Jane in London and Charlotte moved to Kent, she's decided to make the trip, which will allow her an overnight visit with her sister on the way.

There was novelty in the scheme; and as, with such a mother and such uncompanionable sisters, home could not be faultless, a little change was not unwelcome for its own sake. . . . The only pain was in leaving her father, who would certainly miss her, and who, when it came to the point, so little liked her going that he told her to write to him, and almost promised to answer her letter.
Gotta love a snarky narrator. Elizabeth sees Wickham before she leaves, and there's this lovely bit of foreshadowing: "[S]he parted from him convinced that, whether married or single, he must always be her model of the amiable and pleasing."

About that carriage ride

The journey to London is twenty-four miles, and they are travelling in a chaise - in this case, probably a hired coach that seats three people inside. The chaise might have been pulled by two or four horses - each pair of horses would have been steered by a postilion - a rider astride one of the horses. A team of four horses would travel faster than a team of two - in fair weather on good roads, a single team would be able to travel 5-8 miles per hour, a team of four probably 8-12 miles per hour. Of course, the faster you go, the sooner you have to stop to change teams, and it is likely that Elizabeth's trip required at least one stop to change horses - and quite possibly more than one stop to pay a toll, which was based on the number of horses and the distance to be travelled. The More You Know*

They arrived by noon, and then spent the morning shopping - in case that is confusing, you ought to know that the entire time period before dinner was known as the "morning" - hence, "morning calls" were paid during the daytime (usually not until after eleven o'clock, in case the family breakfasted late). "Dinner" occurred between five and, say, eight in the evening, depending on whether one was in the country or town and on the particular custom of the family. (Those in the country tended to dine earlier.)

Elizabeth and Mrs Gardiner discuss Wickham's engagement to Miss King, and whether Wickham's motives are merceneary. Elizabeth asks "Pray, my dear aunt, what is the difference in matrimonial affairs, between the mercenary and the prudent motive? Where does discretion end, and avarice begin?" and I believe Mrs Gardiner's analysis is a good one: Wickham paid no attention to Miss King until she inherited her boatload of money.

Lizzy closes the chapter by casting aspersions on men in general, then promising to take a pleasure tour to the Lake District in the summer with her aunt and uncle.

Austen displays her connection with the Romantic movement of her times

No scheme could have been more agreeable to Elizabeth, and her acceptance of the invitation was most ready and grateful. "My dear, dear aunt," she rapturously cried, "what delight! what felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour. Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains? Oh! what hours of transport we shall spend! And when we do return, it shall not be like other travellers, without being able to give one accurate idea of any thing. We will know where we have gone -- we will recollect what we have seen. Lakes, mountains, and rivers shall not be jumbled together in our imaginations; nor, when we attempt to describe any particular scene, will we begin quarrelling about its relative situation. Let our first effusions be less insupportable than those of the generality of travellers."
I particularly adore the phrase "What are men to rocks and mountains?" for its beauty and for its echoes of the Romantic poets such as George Gordon, Lord Byron, Walter Scott, and William Wordsworth, who, in Lyrical Odes, asserted the importance of nature, as in this bit from the Preface:

Humble and rustic life was generally chosen, because, in that condition, the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language; because in that condition of life our elementary feelings coexist in a state of greater simplicity, and, consequently, may be more accurately contemplated, and more forcibly communicated; because the manners of rural life germinate from those elementary feelings, and, from the necessary character of rural occupations, are more easily comprehended, and are more durable; and, lastly, because in that condition the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature.

Tomorrow: Chapter 28
Back to Chapter 26

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pride & Prejudice, Volume II, chapter 3 (ch 26)

This should get us caught up to where we ought to be before I had my stomach virus the other day - tomorrow will be the 27th and we'll be up to Chapter 27. Huzzah!

Today's chapter accounts for the passage of time for us in an interesting way - with letters. Or rather, with an indication that a bunch of correspondence is going back and forth between Elizabeth and others, mostly with a summary about what's going on.

Remember how the last chapter closed with Mrs Gardiner vowing that she was going to speak to Elizabeth about Wickham, so here she is:

Mrs Gardiner: You're too smart to do something just because I tell you not to, so I feel free to share my opinion with you. You should steer clear of Mr Wickham. I mean, he seems nice enough, but he hasn't got two sovereigns to rub together, and so you'd do best to choose someone else.

Elizabeth: Goodness, but you're being serious.

Mrs Gardiner: I call it as I see it.

Elizabeth: I promise not to let him fall in love with me if I can help it.

Mrs Gardiner: You are not be serious.

Elizabeth: Let me take another crack at it. I understand your point. And the truth is, although I think Mr Wickham is sexy, I'm not in love with him - yet. Damn Mr Darcy for robbing him of his inheritance! Still, there are lots of people who get engaged and have to wait for money, so while I will do my best to avoid becoming entangled, I certainly wouldn't be the first person we know to make an imprudent love match if I married him. Still, I'll try to be less flirtatious when I'm in company with him.

Mrs Gardiner: Maybe you should also stop inviting him around so often - at least, don't remind your mother to invite him.

Elizabeth: You mean the way I did the other day. I understand your point, and I'll try to do what's best. I hope that's good enough to satisfy you.

Her aunt assured her that she was; and Elizabeth having thanked her for the kindness of her hints, they parted; a wonderful instance of advice being given on such a point without being resented.
Charlotte Lucas takes a moment the day before her wedding to pay a call on the Bennets - she'll be taking her leave after the wedding and returning to Kent with Mr Collins. Her nervousness about her move is displayed through her remarks, as she practically begs Lizzy to keep up a correspondence with her and to come visit her. When Elizabeth says she will come, Charlotte urges her to come in March - not even three months hence, saying that Elizabeth will be as welcome to her as her own father and sister.

We then hear about letters:

Charlotte's letters: There's less real intimacy between Charlotte and Lizzy now. Charlotte (as expected) only says good things about her house, the neighborhood, and Lady Catherine, and of course, Lizzy is curbing her tongue (her pen?) as well because she can't stand Mr Collins and is still questioning Charlotte's decision.

Jane's letters:

1. I'm here in London safe and sound.

2. I've been here a full week and haven't heard from Caroline. I guess the letter I sent her went amiss?

3. My aunt is heading over toward Mr Hurst's neighborhood tomorrow, so I'm going to pay a call on Caroline Bingley.

4. Caroline seemed out of spirits, although she said she was happy to see me. I was right about both of my letters going missing, since she said she had no idea I was in Town. Unfortunately, she and Mrs Hurst had something else to do so they threw me out our visit was a short one. I'm sure they'll pay me a return call any day now.

5. Any day now.

6. Any day now.

7. It's been two weeks since I called on Miss Bingley, and she finally came for a visit (after I stayed home every day waiting). Elizabeth loves me too much to exult at being correct: Caroline Bingley doesn't really like me. I can't fault myself for thinking that she did, because she certainly acted like she did, but when she showed up yesterday, it was plain as day that she didn't want to be here and that she doesn't want anything to do with me. I have to say that I'm not sorry to lose her acquaintance based on how she behaved, but I do pity her. She has to know how wrong her behavior has been, but she can't still be concerned about her brother being in love with me. If he were, he'd have come to see me himself. And she says he's quite attached to Miss Darcy. In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd suspect duplicity. Miss Bingley hinted that they may never return to Netherfield at all.

P.S. Have fun at Hunsford. Don't forget to write.

Elizabeth's letter to her Aunt Gardiner is written just after the narrator asserts that Lizzy is glad that Jane is no longer being duped by Caroline Bingley. Elizabeth writes a letter to her aunt to say that Mr Wickham is in love with Miss King and her 10,000 pounds. Her feelings aren't hurt, since she believes that if Wickham had his own fortune, he'd have chosen her (Elizabeth).

In a moment of sheer hypocrisy, Elizabeth has no problem with Wickham wanting to marry for money. That said, she realizes that never truly loved Wickham, since she not only wishes him well, but also feels no antipathy toward Miss King.

Kitty and Lydia take his defection much more to heart than I do. They are young in the ways of the world, and not yet open to the mortifying conviction that handsome young men must have something to live on, as well as the plain.
Tomorrow: Chapter 27
Back to Chapter 25

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Pride & Prejudice, Volume II, chapter 2 (ch. 25)

Mr Collins leaves and two of my favorite side characters in all of Austen arrive: Mr and Mrs Gardiner, come from London to spend Christmas. Austen flat-out tells us that they are refined, polished people who would not be supposed to be "in trade" even though Mr Gardiner is, in fact, a merchant of some sort who earns his money that way. He is intelligent and educated and everything his sisters are not, and his wife is lovely and smart and entirely proper. They are well-mannered, well-dressed and well-spoken. We are told that Jane and Lizzy are very close to them, and one cannot wonder at it - Jane and Elizabeth are (as has been established) well-mannered, sensible girls themselves. And it seems to me that their time with the Gardiners may, in fact, account for why they are so much better-mannered than their younger siblings, since their mother certainly wasn't a slave to their education and their father was no better.

The Gardiners have come to stay over Christmas. They are undoubtedly going to be at Longbourn for at least a week, since it was then quite common for "Christmas" to mean the entire period from the 24th or so until January 6th. Not long after arrival, Mrs Gardiner hands out her presents, and then settles in to listen to all the various reports and complaints of her relatives - much as Anne Elliot did in Persuasion, when she arrived at Uppercross and was subjected to everyone's complaints about everyone else.

Mrs Gardiner pulls Elizabeth aside to talk about Mr Bingley, proving herself to be (a) a good friend to her nieces, (b) a good judge of character (more on that in a minute) and (c) a kind-hearted, sensible soul:

"It seems likely to have been a desirable match for Jane," said she. "I am sorry it went off. But these things happen so often! A young man, such as you describe Mr Bingley, so easily falls in love with a pretty girl for a few weeks, and when accident separates them, so easily forgets her, that these sort of inconstancies are very frequent."

"An excellent consolation in its way," said Elizabeth, "but it will not do for us. We do not suffer by accident. It does not often happen that the interference of friends will persuade a young man of independent fortune to think no more of a girl, whom he was violently in love with only a few days before."

"But that expression of "violently in love" is so hackneyed, so doubtful, so indefinite, that it gives me very little idea. It is as often applied to feelings which arise from an half-hour's acquaintance, as to a real, strong attachment. Pray, how violent was Mr Bingley's love?"

"I never saw a more promising inclination. He was growing quite inattentive to other people, and wholly engrossed by her. Every time they met, it was more decided and remarkable. At his own ball he offended two or three young ladies by not asking them to dance, and I spoke to him twice myself without receiving an answer. Could there be finer symptoms? Is not general incivility the very essence of love?"

"Oh, yes! -- of that kind of love which I suppose him to have felt. Poor Jane! I am sorry for her, because, with her disposition, she may not get over it immediately. It had better have happened to you, Lizzy; you would have laughed yourself out of it sooner. But do you think she would be prevailed on to go back with us? Change of scene might be of service -- and perhaps a little relief from home, may be as useful as anything."
Mrs Gardiner is an excellent judge of her nieces' characters here - she knows that Jane will be long affected and seeks to ameliorate it. She also opines that it would have been far better for Elizabeth to be the one thwarted, since her temperament is such that she'd get over it more easily. Her comments about Mr Bingley are good ones insofar as they apply to men in general, but having read this book a number of times and knowing what is to come, I feel constrained to point out that Lizzy has the right end of this particular stick.

Mrs Gardiner tries to be clear that Jane shouldn't expect to see Bingley if she goes to London with the Gardiners. Elizabeth assures Mrs Gardiner that Bingley would never pay a visit without Mr Darcy, and that Mr Darcy would never visit Gracechurch Street (a location we discussed back in chapter _) because he would deem it too far beneath him. She predicts that Caroline Bingley will drop Jane's acquaintance. Privately, however, Lizzy hopes that Bingley will catch wind of Jane's being in London and renew their relationship.

Mrs Gardiner is introduced to Mr Wickham and observes his flirtation with Elizabeth. She considers the match imprudent (for reasons we'll get to in the next chapter), but in the meantime, she enjoys hearing about Pemberley and its environs, since she spent time there as a girl.

Is it just me, or can you also feel Austen picking up steam here? Nothing has really happened, yet with the plans being made for Jane to go to London and for Mrs Gardiner to speak to Lizzie, I feel quite tense!

Later tonight: Chapter 26 (to get us back on track)
Back to Chapter 24

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

James Franco

just watched The Daily Show, where James Franco was the guest.

James Franco left NYC this morning at 5 a.m. to get to Yale, where he's going for his Ph.D. in English literature. The Today Show asked him to skip class and appear on their show, anticipating that he'd be nominated for an Oscar for his role in 127 Hours (and he was), but he refused, preferring to attend his course on Byron, Keats and Shelley.

I'll bet his mother (poet Betsy Franco) was especially proud. I know I was impressed to hear how he sets his priorities.

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Pride & Prejudice, Volume II, chapter 1 (ch. 24)

It is easy, I think, to dismiss Jane Bennet in many instances as being a milquetoast or too wishy-washy or too kind-hearted or some such thing. Certainly she has a less forceful personality than does Elizabeth, our acknowledged heroine. She seems, indeed, pale next to Elizabeth, which might have something to do with why she's been cast as blonde to Elizabeth's rich brunette in the most recent versions of Pride & Prejudice (both the 1995 BBC and 2005 movie productions) - Jane is quite literally made paler than Elizabeth. I would argue that the 2005 production got right, however, something that the 1995 production did not, in casting a more stunning actress in the role of Jane (Rosamund Pike), who is supposed to be the acknowledged beauty of the family (no offense meant to Susannah Harker, but Jennifer Ehle was prettier than her). But I digress.

The point is that one can be so easily pulled into Elizabeth Bennet's orbit that it can be hard sometimes to appreciate other characters when their opinions diverge from hers. This is true of Charlotte Lucas, who has opted to marry Mr Collins - Charlotte is willing to overlook his odious personality in favor of his house and income and the prospect of being mistress of her own establishment and having a family of her own. (Were Mr Collins not so stupid, pedantic, obsequious, etc., I'd have no problem understanding Charlotte's choice, by the way, even if it's not one I'd make myself.)

The same is true of Jane Bennet, who Elizabeth repeatedly tells us wants to see only the good in other people. That is, I believe, an oversimplification, but one that it's easy for the reader to buy into. I'd like to take a moment, however, to focus on what Jane is saying in this chapter, and to pick up on what she said back in chapter 17, when Lizzy first told her Wickham's tale about Mr Darcy.

Elizabeth has made the point that Darcy and the Bingley sisters (that's my new band: Darcy & the Bingley Sisters) want Bingley to marry Georgianna Darcy and/or that they do not want him to marry Jane. Elizabeth believes that all of them want Bingley to marry a woman with better social standing and more wealth, and that Caroline wants him to marry Georgianna Darcy because Caroline hopes to marry Darcy herself and she thinks that closer family connections will only help her cause. Her arguments are forceful and, I might add, seem likely, which makes it that much easier for us to dismiss Jane's opinion:

"Beyond a doubt, they do wish him to choose Miss Darcy," replied Jane, "but this may be from better feelings than you are supposing. They have known her much longer than they have known me; no wonder if they love her better. But, whatever may be their own wishes, it is very unlikely they should have opposed their brother's. What sister would think herself at liberty to do it, unless there were something very objectionable? If they believed him attached to me, they would not try to part us; if he were so, they could not succeed. By supposing such an affection, you make every body acting unnaturally and wrong, and me most unhappy. Do not distress me by the idea. I am not ashamed of having been mistaken -- or, at least, it is slight, it is nothing in comparison of what I should feel in thinking ill of him or his sisters. Let me take it in the best light, in the light in which it may be understood."
Jane, you see, prefers to think well of people until they are absolutely proven to be bad.

Speaking of bad people, now that it's clear that the Bingleys and Mr Darcy are gone from the neighborhood for quite some time, word of Mr Wickham's treatment by Darcy is being spread throughout the community, both by Mr Wickham and others. "Miss Bennet (that would be Jane) was the only creature who could suppose there might be any extenuating circumstances in the case, unknown to the society of Hertfordshire; her mild and steady candour always pleaded for allowances, and urged the possibility of mistakes -- but by everybody else Mr Darcy was condemned as the worst of men."

Whereas Elizabeth lets the subject of Bingley drop, not wishing to hurt Jane further by belaboring it, Mrs Bennet cannot let it go - instead, she repeats pretty much the same conversation day after day. Mr Bennet is more philosophical. Time will tell whether he is also prescient:

"So, Lizzy," said he one day, "your sister is crossed in love I find. I congratulate her. Next to being married, a girl likes to be crossed in love a little now and then. It is something to think of, and gives her a sort of distinction among her companions. When is your turn to come? You will hardly bear to be long outdone by Jane. Now is your time. Here are officers enough at Meryton to disappoint all the young ladies in the country. Let Wickham be your man. He is a pleasant fellow, and would jilt you creditably."

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Mea culpa

Today's Pride & Prejudice post is going to have to wait until tomorrow, I'm afraid. I've contracted what I believe to be a 24-hour stomach bug, and have been unable to spend more than a few minutes on the computer today - something about looking at the screen increases queasiness - to say nothing of diminished powers of concentration .

I expect to be able to get to Chapter 24 (or Volume II, chapter 1) tomorrow, however, and will then return you to your regular programming.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011


Within the past week, I've had the good fortune of being asked to be Featured Poet - twice. Once for a live reading, which will take place in Marlton, New Jersey on May 16th, and once for an online journal, about which I will alert you in more detail once the issue goes live.

I am happy and humbled and tickled quite pink.

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Today, a few quotes for you. The first one comes from the inaugural episode of the PBS series, The Artist Toolbox, in which host John Jacobsen interviewed (smokin' hot in all ways) violinist David Garrett:

John Jacobsen: "I think that's essential to learning - it's to challenge everything."

David Garrett: "Never sit on what you've achieved, but every time you start looking at a score, start again. Start from scratch. If you don't, then you just stand still. That's not improvement, and the music becomes not any more the driving force."
The next quote comes from Lynda Barry, from an interview she did with The Paris Review about her new book, Picture This:

In terms of evolution, it’s the immune system that allows the body to fight off a bacterial infection. I believe that the arts are like an external immune system. I believe that they have a biological function.
This third one comes from Virginia Euwer Wolff. I found it as part of Brenda Bowen's blog post about literary awards ceremonies, and copied it into my commonplace book - so I'm copying it here as well. You can read more of Wolff's remarks (for additional context) in Brenda's post:

Faulkner said in 1949 in the Nobel speech that if we are not writing about these six things we are not doing our job. They are love, honor, pity, pride, compassion and sacrifice. I think of them as Faulkner's six.

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Pride & Prejudice, Volume I, chapter 23

Here we are at the end of the first Volume, and everything has gone to hell in a handbasket:

Charlotte is engaged to Mr Collins, who returns to stay with the Bennets (his relatives) pending the nuptials.

Elizabeth is left to question her friendship with Charlotte; since they see so very differently on the Collins issue, she has lost some respect for her friend. She spends even more time than usual with Jane as a result, which brings with it sadnesses of its own.

Mrs Bennet is extremely put out with everyone: Lizzy for turning Collins down, Charlotte Lucas for accepting him, and Lady Lucas for lording the engagement over her. Oddly, the bulk of her anger gets directed to Charlotte, who truly did nothing wrong:

In the first place, she persisted in disbelieving the whole of the matter; secondly, she was very sure that Mr Collins had been taken in; thirdly, she trusted that they would never be happy together; and fourthly, that the match might be broken off. Two inferences, however, were plainly deduced from the whole; one, that Elizabeth was the real cause of all the mischief; and the other, that she herself had been barbarously used by them all; and on these two points she principally dwelt during the rest of the day. Nothing could console and nothing appease her. -- Nor did that day wear out her resentment. A week elapsed before she could see Elizabeth without scolding her, a month passed away before she could speak to Sir William or Lady Lucas without being rude, and many months were gone before she could at all forgive their daughter.
Mr Bingley is off to London with his entourage, leaving Jane desolated at Longbourn, and Miss Bingley, despite claiming a desire for an active correspondence, can't be bothered to respond to Jane's letter.

We close Volume I as we opened it - with a conversation between Mr and Mrs Bennet, in which he (yet again) tweaks his wife, who (as we've already established) does not understand exactly how an entail comes about despite many efforts by Elizabeth and Mr Bennet to explain it to her. Mr Bennet inherited the property with the entail already in place, and it requires that the property go to the eldest male relative, which is Mr Collins. Mrs Bennet, however, doesn't get the reasoning - her understanding is limited to its result:

Mrs Bennet was really in a most pitiable state. The very mention of any thing concerning the match threw her into an agony of ill humour, and wherever she went she was sure of hearing it talked of. The sight of Miss Lucas was odious to her. As her successor in that house, she regarded her with jealous abhorrence. Whenever Charlotte came to see them she concluded her to be anticipating the hour of possession; and whenever she spoke in a low voice to Mr Collins, was convinced that they were talking of the Longbourn estate, and resolving to turn herself and her daughters out of the house as soon as Mr Bennet were dead. She complained bitterly of all this to her husband.

"Indeed, Mr Bennet," said she, "it is very hard to think that Charlotte Lucas should ever be mistress of this house, that I should be forced to make way for her, and live to see her take my place in it!"

"My dear, do not give way to such gloomy thoughts. Let us hope for better things. Let us flatter ourselves that I may be the survivor." [KRF: HA! This line always makes me chuckle.}

This was not very consoling to Mrs Bennet [KRF - as does this; Austen is incredibly droll here], and, therefore, instead of making any answer, she went on as before,

"I cannot bear to think that they should have all this estate. If it was not for the entail I should not mind* it."

"What should not you mind*?"

"I should not mind* any thing at all."

"Let us be thankful that you are preserved from a state of such insensibility."

"I never can be thankful, Mr Bennet, for any thing about the entail. How any one could have the conscience to entail away an estate from one's own daughters I cannot understand; and all for the sake of Mr Collins too! -- Why should he have it more than anybody else?"

"I leave it to yourself to determine," said Mr. Bennet.
Mrs Bennet first uses the word to mean that if it were not for the entail, she wouldn't have to worry about the Collinses having the estate.

Mr Bennet asks her what, specifically, she would not mind, which results in her saying "I should not mind anything at all". She means, of course, that she wouldn't be upset by anything at all, but Mr Bennet willfully misunderstands her to mean "I should not remember anything at all", and therefore makes a comment about her complete insensibility.

It's the end of Volume I and Austen has just gotten warmed up. I am excited to see what tomorrow's chapter will bring.

Tomorrow: Chapter Twenty-Four
Back to Chapter Twenty-Two

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig

Long-time blog readers are well aware that I am a HUGE fan of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig. Which is why, when The Orchid Affair went on sale on Thursday (not Tuesday - I was surprised by that, but whatever), I made the staff at my local Barnes & Noble go dig it out of the back room for me. (I am so not kidding.) Sadly, my ability to stay awake deserted me on Thursday night, but I am now entirely triumphant, having just finished reading this, the seventh book in the series, if one does not count October's issue, The Mischief of the Mistletoe, which was basically a straight-up Regency romance (with a bit of a mystery twist) featuring Reginald "Turnip" Fitzhugh and a young lady named Arabella Dempsey.

Of course, one should count Turnip's book, even though the Pink Carnation does not appear in it, and neither does her devoted modern-day researcher, Eloise Kelly or her boyfriend, Colin Selwick, descendant of a different floral spy during the Napoleonic wars. I like seeing what's going on with their real-life romance, and hearing about the life of an actual researcher (I know, I know - I'm a total nerd; you needn't tell me about it). I also like Eloise's voice. Here's the first paragraph on page three, one of my favorite examples in this particular tome:

Colin's great-great et cetera grandfather had been one of those masked men. Under his chosen fleur de guerre, the Purple Gentian, Lord Richard Selwick had dashed around Europe in tights, rescuing aristocrats from the clutches of the guillotine. Colin liked to point out that at the time they had been called pantaloons, not tights, but a man in tights is a man in tights, call it what you will. Nothing says buckle and swash like a pair of skintight leg coverings.
In this particular novel, Colin and Eloise are in Paris for a long weekend - which is a bit less romantic than it sounds, since they are there for a weekend-long fête in honor of Colin's mother, thrown by Colin's cousin/stepfather (who is only about eight years older than Colin - and smarmy). Eloise is sneaking in a bit of spy-related research about the Silver Orchid, a female spy deployed in France in 1804.

The Silver Orchid was the code name for one Miss Laura Grey, a thirty-two year old governess whom we met back in the second book, The Masque of the Black Tulip, at the spy school run by Richard Selwick and his wife. Born in France, Laura was orphaned at age 16. She became a governess for the next 16 years, and joined the league of the Pink Carnation in 1803. She's now been sneaked into France and provided with false papers in order to become the governess for André Jaouen, a relative of Fouché (the Minister of Police), who has access to papers in which the Pink Carnation has an interest.

Let's just say that this one has some rather heart-pounding adventures in it, as well as some heart-pounding romance, since Monsieur Jaouen and Miss Grey/Mademoiselle Griscogne have quite a complicated relationship for any number of reasons. I enjoyed every minute spent reading it, and look forward to a somewhat more leisurely re-read in the future. (Once M gets through it, of course - she's also a huge Pink Carnation fan.) It was marvelous to see the actors back in France (where we spent most of the first book), and while it wasn't exactly a pleasure to re-encounter the insanely evil Monsieur Delaroche again, I was still glad to see him. I was also quite glad to see the over-the-top poet, Monsieur Whittlesby (whom I secretly ship with the Pink Carnation, but I rather expect - and hope - that it will be ages until I find out if I am correct).

If you're interested in my reviews of the earlier Pink Carnation books, they can be found here, in reverse order.

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Pride & Prejudice, Volume I, chapter 22

In which we learn something about Austen's own opinion of marriages of convenience

Charlotte Lucas ends up with a hard-won proposal

I will remind you that Charlotte is a no-longer-young woman of 27. She is a woman of good sense and rather somewhat plain appearance, and she has decided that Mr Collins might just be her meal ticket. She is willing to overlook his stupidity in favor of securing herself a home of which she will be the mistress.

She is calm and kind to Mr Collins, who (having been turned down by Lizzy on Wednesday) proposes to Charlotte on Friday - the day before his scheduled departure. After all, he doesn't want to see Lady Catherine without reporting that he has taken her advice and gotten himself a spouse.

Charlotte sees Mr Collins making his way to her house and sets out on purpose "to meet him accidentally in the lane." LOL!

In as short a time as Mr Collins's long speeches would allow, every thing was settled between them to the satisfaction of both; and as they entered the house, he earnestly entreated her to name the day that was to make him the happiest of men; and though such a solicitation must be waved for the present, the lady felt no inclination to trifle with his happiness. The stupidity with which he was favoured by nature must guard his courtship from any charm that could make a woman wish for its continuance; and Miss Lucas, who accepted him solely from the pure and disinterested desire of an establishment, cared not how soon that establishment were gained.

. . . [Charlotte's] reflections were in general satisfactory. Mr Collins to be sure was neither sensible nor agreeable; his society was irksome, and his attachment to her must be imaginary. But still, he would be her husband. -- Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want. This preservative she had now obtained; and at the age of twenty-seven, without having ever been handsome, she felt all the good luck of it.
We get a better sense of Charlotte from the books than any movie can give us, as both the narrator and Charlotte reflect on Charlotte's reasons for matrimony. Since we know that Charlotte is clever, we have to assume that she knows what she's doing - she is treating marriage as a strict business transaction. The only serious downside to this, from Charlotte's perspective, is that Lizzy is bound to give her grief about it - and sure enough, Elizabeth - unable to put herself in Charlotte's shoes - does just that.

On first hearing the news, Elizabeth declares the engagement to be impossible. Of course that hurts Charlotte's feelings, and she doesn't really want to injure her friend. She just finds Mr Collins to be such an ass that she can't believe any sensible person would have anything to do with him. Charlotte's lecture, kindly given, is a lecture still:

"Why should you be surprised, my dear Eliza? -- Do you think it incredible that Mr Collins should be able to procure any woman's good opinion, because he was not so happy as to succeed with you?"

But Elizabeth had now recollected herself, and making a strong effort for it, was able to assure her with tolerable firmness that the prospect of their relationship was highly gratifying to her, and that she wished her all imaginable happiness.

"I see what you are feeling," replied Charlotte, -- "you must be surprised, very much surprised, -- so lately as Mr Collins was wishing to marry you. But when you have had time to think it all over, I hope you will be satisfied with what I have done. I am not romantic, you know. I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr Collins's character, connections, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state."
Elizabeth is left to reflect on two points: First, she mourns that she now thinks less of Charlotte than she did before, and secondly, she is distressed for Charlotte based on her sincere belief that Charlotte cannot be happy with Mr Collins.

Charlotte's choice was one that Austen faced, but which she refused to make for herself.

When Austen was nearly 27, a wealthy young neighbor named Harris Bigg-Wither (brother of two of Austen's female friends) proposed to Austen. She accepted him that evening, but by the time morning rolled around, she rescinded her acceptance and fled the premises. Had she married him, she would have had a fine establishment all her own - a large home (called Manydown) with servants to command, etc. Instead, Austen opted for spinsterhood - it wasn't long after that she "put on her cap" - a physical representation that she had removed herself from the marriage market. Although it is not entirely certain, it appears that Austen received at least two additional proposals, both of which she declined - and not because she was still in love with James McAvoy Tom Lefroy, with whom she engaged in a flirtation at age 19.

Austen did not herself support the idea of a loveless marriage.

In correspondence with her niece, Fanny Austen Knight, Austen advised her not to marry without affection. In a letter dated November 18, 1814, Austen wrote, considering both sides of her niece's apparent situation:

Think of all this, Fanny. Mr. A. has advantages which do not often meet in one person. His only fault, indeed, seems modesty. If he were less modest he would be more agreeable, speak louder, and look impudenter; and is not it a fine character of which modesty is the only defect? I have no doubt he will get more lively and more like yourselves as he is more with you; he will catch your ways if he belongs to you. And, as to there being any objection from his goodness, from the danger of his becoming even evangelical, I cannot admit that. I am by no means convinced that we ought not all to be evangelicals, and am at least persuaded that they who are so from reason and feeling must be happiest and safest. Do not be frightened from the connection by your brothers having most wit -- wisdom is better than wit, and in the long run will certainly have the laugh on her side; and don't be frightened by the idea of his acting more strictly up to the precepts of the New Testament than others.

And now, my dear Fanny, having written so much on one side of the question, I shall turn round and entreat you not to commit yourself farther, and not to think of accepting him unless you really do like him. Anything is to be preferred or endured rather than marrying without affection; and if his deficiences of manner, &c. &c., strike you more than all his good qualities, if you continue to think strongly of them, give him up at once. Things are now in such a state that you must resolve upon one or the other -- either to allow him to go on as he has done, or whenever you are together behave with a coldness which may convince him that he has been deceiving himself. I have no doubt of his suffering a good deal for a time -- a great deal when he feels that he must give you up; but it is no creed of mine, as you must be well aware, that such sort of disappointments kill anybody.
It is possible that a letter is missing, or that Fanny seized on Austen's first bit of advice here and decided to continue her relationship with Mr. A. She must have written to Austen and thanked her for advice - also indicating that she was being guided by her aunt, since on November 30, 1814, Austen wrote back and said that Fanny had frightened her out of her wits by making decisions about marriage based on someone else's opinion. She says more, of course, but here's a further excerpt from that letter. The sheer amount of emphasized words shows how angsty Austen was when writing this, which addresses the realities of Fanny's situation - she likes the guy now, but would be facing quite a long engagement - perhaps of several years - and Austen cautions her against making a life-long commitment without love:

I cannot wish you, with your present very cool feelings, to devote yourself in honour to him. It is very true that you never may attach another man his equal altogether; but if that other man has the power of attaching you more, he will be in your eyes the most perfect.

I shall be glad if you can revive past feelings, and from your unbiassed self resolve to go on as you have done, but this I do not expect; and without it I cannot wish you to be fettered. I should not be afraid of your marrying him; with all his worth you would soon love him enough for the happiness of both; but I should dread the continuance of this sort of tacit engagement, with such an uncertainty as there is of when it may be completed. Years may pass before he is independent; you like him well enough to marry, but not well enough to wait; the unpleasantness of appearing fickle is certainly great; but if you think you want punishment for past illusions, there it is, and nothing can be compared to the misery of being bound without love -- bound to one, and preferring another; that is a punishment which you do not deserve.
Tomorrow: Chapter Twenty-Three
Back to Chapter Twenty-One

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Five Things on a Friday

1. I've been reading quite a lot of poetry lately. For grown-up poems, I've been reading that new Neruda book I blogged about as well as re-reading Ted Kooser's Valentines. In the kidlit arena, I've been reading the finalists for the CYBILS awards, since I'm one of the judges for the poetry category. Very good stuff on the short list this year.

2. The Airborne Toxic Event has a new single, "Changing", which has a major hook to it. "I am a gentlemen" is STUCK IN MY BRAINRADIO. I've heard it once in concert and once on the radio and now I'm hooked - can't believe I can't buy it until February, but it was kind of the band to post the track on YouTube!

3. I backed my computer files up today. I mention it in case it's something you need to do too - it can be so easy to let these things slide, somehow, isn't it?

4. On Tuesday, my friend Lisa and I are to see & hear author Brad Meltzer speak at the Free Library of Philadelphia. I'm looking forward to it - and it will make my second theatre-like cultural event this month, so I'm exceeding that particular well-filling goal!

5. January 19th marked the occasion of Edgar Allan Poe's 202nd birthday. Blogger Jef Otte came up with "Five weird ways to celebrate", which is presented in countdown format. Number five, entitled "Creeping", is:

In Tell-Tale Heart, perhaps the most famous of Poe's stories, the narrator spends all night slowly creeping toward his neighbor, who is lying asleep in his bed, intent upon murdering him. Today, try spending a couple of hours creeping toward the guy in the cubicle next to you on your rolly chair. If he says anything, shine a penlight in his vulture eye.
I happen to find #1 ("The cask") hilarious, despite it being very, very wrong: "Invite a friend over. Get him drunk. Bury him alive in your basement."

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me, p

Pride & Prejudice, Volume I, chapter 21

The extremely short version, and really I see no need to belabor today's chapter with a longer post:

Mrs Bennet is annoyed with Elizabeth, Mr Collins is annoyed with Elizabeth and behaving in a sulky/surly/churlish manner toward her (but appears to have captured Charlotte Lucas's sympathetic ear), and everyone has left Netherfield to follow Mr Bingley to town, whence they shan't return until spring, and where (hopefully) Bingley shall marry Georgianna Darcy.

And Caroline has sent a letter that reads roughly as follows:

Dearest Jane,

We've packed up the household to chase Charles to London so we can keep him caged up there for the winter. That Georgianna Darcy is SO talented and SUCH a sweet girl and we all ADORE her and Charles is going to marry her, m'kay? It would be SO nice to see you in London, but we know you won't be there. Please write.
Kiss kiss,
P.S. Have a merry Christmas.
P.P.S. Just kidding. I don't give a rat's ass about your Christmas.

With a mere two chapters to go until the end of Volume I, you can count on something big going down - else why pay the library fee to borrow Volume II? (If that question confused you, I refer you to my post on three-volume novels in the 19th century.)

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pride & Prejudice, Volume I, chapter 20

This chapter is almost entirely given over to comedic characters, as it's primarily Mrs Bennet and Mr Collins doing the talking.

Mr Collins is entirely certain that things with Elizabeth are going swimmingly well, which almost makes me feel sorry for him. Almost. Because really, how clueless can one man be? (A question that has plagued womankind since the dawn of time, yes?)

Mrs Bennet, however, is gobsmacked to hear that Elizabeth turned him down flat - she knows her daughter well enough to believe her, and therefore hints to Mr Collins that his happy bubble may have a hole in it before racing off to bludgeon Mr Bennet into forcing Lizzy to marry Mr Collins.

"Oh! Mr. Bennet, you are wanted immediately; we are all in an uproar. You must come and make Lizzy marry Mr. Collins, for she vows she will not have him, and if you do not make haste he will change his mind and not have her."

Mr. Bennet raised his eyes from his book as she entered, and fixed them on her face with a calm unconcern which was not in the least altered by her communication.

"I have not the pleasure of understanding you," said he, when she had finished her speech. "Of what are you talking?"

"Of Mr. Collins and Lizzy. Lizzy declares she will not have Mr. Collins, and Mr. Collins begins to say that he will not have Lizzy."

"And what am I to do on the occasion? -- It seems an hopeless business."

"Speak to Lizzy about it yourself. Tell her that you insist upon her marrying him."

"Let her be called down. She shall hear my opinion."

Mrs. Bennet rang the bell, and Miss Elizabeth was summoned to the library.

"Come here, child," cried her father as she appeared. "I have sent for you on an affair of importance. I understand that Mr. Collins has made you an offer of marriage. Is it true?" Elizabeth replied that it was. "Very well -- and this offer of marriage you have refused?"

"I have, Sir."

"Very well. We now come to the point. Your mother insists upon your accepting it. Is not it so, Mrs. Bennet?"

"Yes, or I will never see her again."

"An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. -- Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do."

Elizabeth could not but smile at such a conclusion of such a beginning; but Mrs. Bennet, who had persuaded herself that her husband regarded the affair as she wished, was excessively disappointed.

"What do you mean, Mr. Bennet, by talking in this way? You promised me to insist upon her marrying him."

"My dear," replied her husband, "I have two small favours to request. First, that you will allow me the free use of my understanding on the present occasion; and secondly, of my room. I shall be glad to have the library to myself as soon as may be."
Mrs Bennet nevertheless tries to change Lizzy's mind (to no avail), even attempting to get Jane in on it. To her credit (and, I confess, to my surprise, given her pliant nature), Jane refuses.

At the end of the chapter, Charlotte Lucas arrives and is regaled by Lydia, Kitty and then Mrs Bennet with the story. Mrs Bennet's comment on Elizabeth's appearance - "'Aye, there she comes,' continued Mrs. Bennet, 'looking as unconcerned as may be, and caring no more for us than if we were at York, provided she can have her own way'" - obviously means that Lizzy doesn't care about them, but the phrase "if we were at York" may have had a specific meaning at that time. Still, York is far in the north of England, not near Hertfordshire, the county in which Longbourn is situated. And Richard of York was considered to be on the "wrong side" of the Battle of the Roses, between the houses of York and Lancaster, so it's possible that she's implying that Elizabeth shows them active disregard or dislike, such as was shown to Richard.

Mrs Bennet then waxes extremely eloquent for someone who isn't talking to Elizabeth, at the same time bewailing the fact that "nobody can tell what [she] suffer[s]" - another moment of comedic genius. We end the chapter with Charlotte eavesdropping on Mr Collins retraction of his offer (which he couples with a solemn pronouncement that Lizzie isn't that good of a marriage candidate anyhow).

Today, a choice of options. You may view this scene from the 2005 film production, which takes a few liberties with setting and what characters are where, or the somewhat more faithful BBC production. First, Tom Hollander as Mr Collins. This segment opens at the point in the Netherfield Ball when Mr Collins introduces himself to Mr Darcy - to start with today's portion, begin viewing at the 3:58 mark. (To stop without seeing what comes next, end the viewing when Lizzy returns to the house, or by the 9:45 mark):

And now the 1995 version - but those of you reading the novel for the first time may want to stop at about the 7:25 mark in order not to move into tomorrow's territory:

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fallow hours - a process post

Once upon a time, about 8-1/2 years ago, I left the legal profession after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which makes it impossible for me to work full-time as a lawyer - the long hours and high pressure were causing flares, and I simply couldn't do it anymore.

And then, once upon a time, nearly eight years ago, after a few months of moping and watching HGTV and stuff, I decided to pursue writing. For children. I wrote a (bad) poem about a hippo. I wrote a picture book manuscript that was over 1000 words long. As you do. I started doing quite a lot of reading and research, including a lot of time over on the blue board. I found a critique group. I attended conferences and got encouraging feedback from editors. I wrote additional poems and picture books and got some good early results from my poetry, including a poem accepted by Highlights Magazine. Almost six years ago, I started this-here blog.

But it wasn't until about five years ago that I began to get serious. Four years ago, I started the Jane project - tons of research, gobs of writing. Along the way I wrote three different manuscripts involving garden gnomes - a picture book and two chapter books - two other picture books, and a large number of poems.

Along the way, I started writing regularly. I usually make pretty steady writing progress. But every so often, I find myself completely unproductive - in what I've come to think of as fallow hours - those hours (usually extending over a period of days, and sometimes into a two- to three-week period) where I lost a large percentage of my focus and/or drive.

There was a time when I worried about them. Perhaps I'd lost my mojo. Or my imagination. Or my interest in writing. Invariably, I'd start to worry about what was going on, and what it meant, and whether I'd ever write again. And that actually made the situation worse, because it made stressed me out (sometimes even triggering RA flares - why hello, autoimmune disorder!)

These days, I don't worry so much. I recognize these fallow hours as what they are: a temporary break. Turns out that just as one can only drive so far on a tankful of gas before running out, creative folks can only go so long being productive before they need a break. And as with vehicles, your mileage may vary.

In fact, it can vary project to project, depending on the rigors of the particular project. Or the fallow hours can be triggered by life events that intrude, be they personal or not. Oddly, sometimes personal upset triggers periods of creativity for me (I like to bury myself in my work, you see, which is why I got so damn much done the year that my husband was going through chemo for lymphoma); often, though, it takes a toll.

It's not surprising that between the Tucson shootings at the start of last week and the news of Lisa Madigan's fight with stage IV pancreatic cancer, I've been having difficulty keeping my focus. They are the sorts of things that make me consider my own mortality and the choices that I've made (and will make). Taking a step back to consider how best to seize the day and smell the roses has resulted in a number of fallow hours. And I'm good with that.

I've been reading. And watching a few movies. And working on a small side project for which I wrote two poems, as it turns out, so I suppose my output isn't completely shot.

I've learned that when I accept that fallow hours occur and that they, too, will come to an end when they're ready, I stay much calmer - and the fallow period tends to shorten. For instance, today, my plan was to do nothing. Nothing at all. This is my third blog post since that decision was made. And I wrote half a poem, too, because I am apparently so very perverse that telling myself I'm not allowed to write made me desperate to do so.

Still . . . I've given myself permission to goof off and/or play around until Sunday. Because just like fields in which crops are planted, we all need those fallow hours to regroup, rethink, regenerate, reimagine, and to find the joy again.

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WRAPPED - a book I really want!

Saw this over at Bookshelves of Doom and I agree with Leila - this book sounds right up my alley, and I can't wait until May!

Brief summary: A Regency debutante finds herself at an event where they're going to unwrap a mummy. Shenanigans ensue. Man, do I want a copy of WRAPPED by Jennifer Bradbury - and badly!

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Pride & Prejudice, Volume I, chapter 19

Mr Collins proposes to Elizabeth

I seriously considered reproducing the entire chapter within this post, because it is 100% solid comedic gold. Instead, I will sum up, and link you to the appropriate page at where you can (and, I hope, will) read Mr Collins's proposal in full.

The Setting

It is Wednesday, the day after the Netherfield ball. Knowing that he's got to get home by Saturday, Mr Collins decides to make his move. He corners finds Elizabeth when she is alone with her mother and Kitty after breakfast.

The Wind-Up

Mr Collins: May I, in the most pompous way possible, seek a private audience with Miss Elizabeth?

Mrs Bennet: Of course you may! Kitty and I were just . . . off! To do . . . anything!

Elizabeth: Mom! There's no need for privacy - I'm sure that Mr Collins can't have anything to say that cannot be said in front of the family. Come to think of it, I'm going to get up and go elsewhere myself.

Mrs Bennet: Sit and stay. That's an order.

Elizabeth: [Loud eyeroll.]

The Pitch

Mr Collins: Your desire not to be alone with me adds to your many perfections. Obviously, you know why we're here. "Almost as soon as I entered the house I singled you out as the companion of my future life. But before I am run away with by my feelings on this subject, perhaps it will be advisable for me to state my reasons for marrying -- and moreover for coming into Hertfordshire with the design of selecting a wife, as I certainly did."

Elizabeth: [Is torn between two options: crazed laughter or *headdesk* - opts for stifled laughter, giving herself a had pinch to make sure she does not actually burst out laughing in his face.]

Mr Collins: I have several reasons for marrying. I feel a list coming on:

1. I'm a clergyman, and clergymen should set a good example by marrying.
2. I am convinced it will add to my happiness. (I do not, actually, care if it adds to yours.)
3. Now that I think of it, this should be first. But Lady Catherine told me I should get married.

Those are the reasons for why I'm getting married. And now, why I decided to come to Longbourne to find a wife:

1. I am going to inherit Longbourne
2. I figured if I had to get married anyway, why not do you all a kindness and make sure your entire family still has a place to live once your father died, since otherwise you will all be out in the street?

Elizabeth: O_o

Mr Collins: "And now nothing remains for me but to assure you in the most animated language of the violence of my affection." P.S. - I hear your dowry isn't all that large, so I will belabor that issue and its full extent or lack thereof now, but I promise that once we're married I won't say another word about it. Probably. Maybe.

Elizabeth: Whoa - talk about putting the cart before the horse. You forget I haven't answered you. So let me just say NO. Thanks, but no thanks.

Mr Collins: [waves her off] Piffle. I know how you young ladies are. You say no when you mean yes.

Elizabeth: NO MEANS NO! " am perfectly serious in my refusal. -- You could not make me happy, and I am convinced that I am the last woman in the world who would make you so, -- Nay, were your friend Lady Catherine to know me, I am persuaded she would find me in every respect ill qualified for the situation."

Kelly: Please take not of this wonderful bit of foreshadowing. Because Elizabeth will, of course, meet Lady Catherine.

Mr Collins: If it were certain that Lady Catherine wouldn't like you, I wouldn't have asked.

Elizabeth: "You must give me leave to judge for myself, and pay me the compliment of believing what I say. I wish you very happy and very rich, and by refusing your hand, do all in my power to prevent your being otherwise." When you inherit Longbourne, please take it knowing that you did your best to help my sisters and myself. And now, I'm out of here.

Mr Collins: Next time I talk to you about this, I hope to get a better answer. Your saying no doesn't bother me. "I know it to be the established custom of your sex to reject a man on the first application, and perhaps you have even now said as much to encourage my suit as would be consistent with the true delicacy of the female character."

Elizabeth: Dude, if you think I'm encouraging you, you are delusional.

Mr Collins: "You must give me leave to flatter myself, my dear cousin, that your refusal of my addresses is merely words of course." I feel another list coming on:

1. I am not an unworthy marriage candidate.
2. My house at Hunsford is highly desireable.
3. My job is good, my connections are good.
4. This would help your family.
5. There's no guarantee anyone else will ever want to marry you. After all, you're not that well-off.

"As I must therefore conclude that you are not serious in your rejection of me, I shall chuse to attribute it to your wish of increasing my love by suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant females."

Elizabeth: O_o I would never be so "elegant" as to torment a respectable man such as yourself. NO MEANS NO! Thanks, but there's no way in hell I will ever marry you. "My feelings in every respect forbid it" (a phrase which here means something like "I find you totally skeevy and nonsensical"). Do not think of me as some elegant female trying to flirt with you, but as a rational being for whom NO MEANS NO!

Mr Collins: Why, you are just so charming! I'm sure that once your parents have knocked sense into you, you'll say yes!

To such perseverance in wilful self-deception, Elizabeth would make no reply, and immediately and in silence withdrew; determined, that if he persisted in considering her repeated refusals as flattering encouragement, to apply to her father, whose negative might be uttered in such a manner as must be decisive, and whose behaviour at least could not be mistaken for the affectation and coquetry of an elegant female.

Mr Collins has struck out

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pride & Prejudice, Volume I, chapter 18

A list-form summary of the events in this chapter, which could be entitled "The Netherfield ball":

1. Mr Wickham is a no-show.

2. "Elizabeth was not formed for ill-humour"
; therefore, she recovers her spirits while telling Charlotte Lucas about Messrs Wickham, Darcy and Collins.

3. Elizabeth dances the dance of mortification. Mr Collins, you see, has all the grace, skill and manners of, um, a graceless, skill-less, ill-mannered dance partner. You know the type. He'd rather apologize than try to get it right. Remember Darcy's quote from Chapter Six? Yeah, well Mr Collins can't dance.

4. Elizabeth agrees to dance with Darcy. She is caught off-guard, you see, while talking to Charlotte Lucas, and says yes before she remembers that she promised her mother never to dance with him back in Chapter Five.

5. Charlotte gives sound dating advice. She cautions Lizzie not to be an idiot, since Darcy is worth at least ten of Wickham. Charlotte's assessment is entirely based on social status and monetary issues at this point in the book.

6. Elizabeth tweaks Darcy for not chatting during the set. She not only starts the conversation, but she teases him about what subjects might be appropriate, then engages in an intellectual conversation (of sorts) about why conversation during the dance is a good thing. Mr Darcy's question, by the way, indicates that he favors conversation away from the dance floor, where one can speak more intimately (a word that here includes the meaning of "privately").

In an English country dance, it is quite common for partners to line up across from one another - usually at a distance of about five to six feet - far enough that both can take two small steps to meet up in the middle, at any rate. Depending on the dance, not all pairs are in motion at all times, and there can be quite a lot of standing around, during which time one may converse with one's partner - although not usually about anything particularly intimate, since neighboring couples can hear you. Even once all the couples have started to dance in a particular set, it's quite common for the dance to reverse, and in many cases this means that the couple(s) at the end of the line are standing out for one full figure of the dance - again, a perfect time for light conversation.

7. Elizabeth shocks Mr Darcy by alluding to Mr Wickham. Remember how this story was initially called First Impressions? Pay attention to this exchange, in which Darcy unbends so far as to comment that Mr Wickham makes a pleasant first impression, implying that Wickham doesn't wear well over time; Elizabeth (in effect) questions Darcy's character and understanding:

A deeper shade of hauteur overspread his features, but he said not a word, and Elizabeth, though blaming herself for her own weakness, could not go on. At length Darcy spoke, and in a constrained manner said,

"Mr Wickham is blessed with such happy manners as may ensure his making friends -- whether he may be equally capable of retaining them is less certain."

"He has been so unlucky as to lose your friendship," replied Elizabeth with emphasis, "and in a manner which he is likely to suffer from all his life."

Darcy made no answer, and seemed desirous of changing the subject.
8. Sir William Lucas oversteps. How does Sir William transgress? Let me count the ways: (a) He speaks to Mr Darcy while Darcy is dancing with Elizabeth. It just wasn't the done thing - as Henry Tilney pointed out in Chapter Ten of Northanger Abbey when John Thorpe spoke with Catherine. (b) He fawns over Mr Darcy in an obsequious manner. Blech. (c) He strongly intimates that the entire neighborhood considers Jane as good as engaged to Mr Bingley, thereby engaging in speculation and gossip, simultaneously.

9. Darcy pays close attention to Bingley and Jane, observing how they interact with one another.

10. Having started, Darcy attempts to maintain conversation with Elizabeth, choosing "books", a topic which would ordinarily interest her. Sadly, her thoughts are bent toward Wickham, trying to square her observation of Darcy with what Wickham told her.

11. Elizabeth directly questions Darcy's character. She basically indicates that Wickham has told her about Darcy, and she's trying to figure out what to believe. Darcy legitimately takes umbrage at such a thing. They each leave the dance unhappy with the other, but Darcy rapidly forgives Elizabeth "or in Darcy's breast there was a tolerable powerful feeling towards her", and he shifts the blame to Wickham. Elizabeth just stays out of sorts with Darcy.

12. Caroline Bingley warns Elizabeth that Wickham isn't to be trusted. It is tempting, of course, to dismiss Caroline's remarks, as Elizabeth does, because we know Caroline is a meddlesome bitch. And she is so very condescending in her comments, talking about Wickham's lower social status as if that were a crime, that it's easy to understand why Elizabeth and we readers get our back up, but I feel it incumbent to remind everyone that not all bitchy remarks are incorrect.

13. Jane confirms with Bingley that Wickham deserved to lose Darcy's regard, although Bingley is unaware of the particulars.

14. Things are looking good for Jane, who is delighted with Bingley and hopeful that perhaps he will make an offer for her.

15. Mr Collins is an embarrassment. He finds out that Darcy is related to Lady Catherine and rushes off to introduce himself to Mr Darcy. Which is simply not done. Darcy is his social superior in every way, and has the superior relationship claim to Lady Catherine as well. Mr Collins is inappropriate in doing so, and undoubtedly far more inappropriate in the contents of his address to Mr Darcy. As an added bonus, Mr Collins tells Lizzie off and puts her down when she tries to talk him out of it.

16. Mrs Bennet is an embarrassment. She is talking, loud and long, with Lady Lucas about how she fully expects Bingley to propose to Jane, not forbearing to mention such things as financial and social gain to the entire family. All of it overheard by Mr Darcy. As an added bonus, Mrs Bennet tells Lizzie off and puts her down when she tries to talk her mother out of it. As an extra added bonus, Mrs Bennet talks smack about Mr Darcy in front of his face, and where plenty of people can likely hear her.

"Elizabeth blushed and blushed again with shame and vexation", and truly, who could blame her?

17. Mary Bennet is an embarrassment. Although she practices music all the time, she plays and sings with no feeling and little beauty. Small wonder that "Elizabeth was in agonies."

18. Mr Bennet is an embarrassment. Interceding to prevent Mary from moving on to a third song is the right thing to do, but he ought to have approached Mary and pulled her away kindly. Instead, he says aloud (so that the whole room can pretty much hear) "That will do extremely well, child. You have delighted us long enough. Let the other young ladies have time to exhibit."

19. Mr Collins is (again) an embarrassment. He lectures the room on the duties of a parson, as he sees them, with a mortifying side dose of how he feels it incumbent on himself to scrape and grovel to Mr Darcy.

20. Lizzie refuses a second dance with Mr Collins. Sadly, having refused to dance with Mr Collins, she has put an end to all dancing for herself that evening. She couldn't say "I won't dance with you" without breaching societal expectations, so she has been forced to say that she no longer wishes to dance at all - and she's therefore stuck on the sidelines for the rest of the evening.

21. Mrs Bennet delays calling for their carriage, thereby delaying their departure, which leaves them all standing about stupid & awkward - Mrs Bennet and Mr Collins not knowing when to shut up, Mrs Hurst and Miss Bingley blatantly disapproving of them, and only Jane & Bingley carrying on in a normal fashion.

22. Mr Bingley's off on a short jaunt to London.

23. Mrs Bennet is counting chickens before they're hatched. She fully expects Jane to marry Bingley - and soon - and Elizabeth to marry Mr Collins.

Two segments from the 1995 version of Pride & Prejudice spanning the ball:

Those of you in love with the music to which Mr Darcy and Elizabeth dance (and, I should add, to which Mr Knightley and Emma dance in the Jeremy Northam/Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma) is called "Mr Beveridge's Maggot", where a maggot is not fly larva, but is instead the name of a kind of dance tune that relies on repetition and embellishment. The word "maggot" or "magot" sometimes meant "fancy" (as in "flight of . . . "), you see.

Tomorrow: Chapter Nineteen
Back to Chapter Seventeen

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