Sunday, February 06, 2011

Pride & Prejudice, Volume II, chapter 14 (ch 37)

Leaving Rosings and Hunsford behind

Mr Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam have left the building. Colonel Fitzwilliam was quite the same as always, but Lady Catherine reports that poor Darcy was quite out of spirits. She believes he's sorry to be leaving her and her sickly daughter, but we (and Elizabeth) know what's behind his black mood. I would venture to say that we readers better understand it than Elizabeth, because we assume him to have been genuinely in love with Elizabeth and I am not quite certain that Elizabeth has allowed herself to fully comprehend that particular fact; I suspect she simply believes he's disappointed, and not anything like heartbroken.

Being rid of her nephews, Lady Catherine now feels "so dull as to make her very desirous of having them all to dine with her." LOL! During dinner, she tries to persuade Elizabeth to extend their visit with the Collinses for another two weeks. She adds that if they can wait another full month, she'll take one of them - Elizabeth or Maria - to London herself in the Barouche (a luxury sort of open carriage with a retractable hood - Wikipedia has a good page on it). The "Barouche box" is the driver's seat, and Lady Catherine is offering to have her maid sit on the Barouche box next to the driver in order to make space for one of the young women. She adds that if it's not too hot out, she would take both of them (since they're both slim and could therefore wedge into the carriage along with Lady Catherine and, presumably, Anne De Bourgh and her companion).

Elizabeth declines Lady Catherine's invitation, saying that her father is anxious for her to return. I love Lady Catherine's reply: "Oh! your father of course may spare you, if your mother can. -- Daughters are never of so much consequence to a father."

Lady Catherine then interjects her opinions on their travel plans and packing, including demanding that a servant attend them the whole way (already taken care of by Mr Gardiner sending a manservant) and bossing Maria about how to pack her own trunks. Along the way, Lady Catherine confirms that Georgiana Darcy was in Ramsgate the prior summer - it's nothing that Austen belabors, and Lizzy doesn't dwell on it, but it is almost certainly there to lend further credence (for the reader) to Darcy's letter. And perhaps to show that Lady Catherine worries about the details but is clueless when it comes to the big picture.

The chapter closes with an update on Elizabeth's state of mind. She has pretty much memorized Darcy's letter, and although she's not (yet) sorry to have turned him down, she IS sorry for how harsh she was to him, since she now understands him to be an honest, respectable man, and she knows she hurt his feelings and disappointed him, so she feels a bit sorry for him. Those of you reading the book for the first time may want to keep an eye on how Elizabeth thinks and speaks of Mr Darcy from here on out, because it is fascinating to see how Austen develops the progression of Elizabeth's thoughts and feelings.

Elizabeth is also left bemoaning her family's manners and behaviour. She has always realized that her mother was not a particularly diligent parent, but it has now occurred to her that her father is also delinquent in his paternal duties. He so enjoys laughing at ridiculous behaviour that he refuses to "check" the wildness of her two youngest siblings, Kitty (Catherine) and Lydia. Thinking about how her family's behaviour is the real reason that Darcy objected to Bingley's match with Jane (and the primary reason that he hesitated to propose to Elizabeth himself), she is quite depressed - a rare thing for Elizabeth indeed.

Tomorrow: Chapter 38
Back to Chapter 36

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