Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pride & Prejudice, Volume II, chapter 18 (ch 41)

Lizzy "felt anew the justice of Mr Darcy's objections"

Listening to her foolish mother and foolish sisters Lydia and Kitty moaning about the imminent departure of the troops and how much they want to go to Brighton, Lizzy can no longer laugh them off. Instead, she realizes how right Mr Darcy was to object to a connection with them. In fact, knowing that Mr Darcy had no way of knowing that Jane was actually attached to Bingley, "never had she before been so much disposed to pardon his interference in the views of his friend."

That's pretty round condemnation of some of the Bennet women, n'est-çe pas?

Lydia is invited to go to Brighton

As mentioned in this previous post, Brighton was the Regency equivalent of Vegas, baby. And Lydia has been asked to accompany Mrs Forster – a very young woman who is only recently married herself and who shares Lydia's "high spirits", marking her as likely quite frivolous. Brighton, the militia, and an extremely young and possibly incompetent chaperon – what can possibly go wrong?

Elizabeth quickly does that math and tries to convince her father to, you know, act like a parent and preclude Lydia from going, but he refuses:

She represented to him all the improprieties of Lydia's general behaviour, the little advantage she could derive from the friendship of such a woman as Mrs Forster, and the probability of her being yet more imprudent with such a companion at Brighton, where the temptations must be greater than at home. He heard her attentively, and then said,"Lydia will never be easy till she has exposed herself in some public place or other, and we can never expect her to do it with so little expense or inconvenience to her family as under the present circumstances."

"If you were aware," said Elizabeth, "of the very great disadvantage to us all, which must arise from the public notice of Lydia's unguarded and imprudent manner; nay, which has already arisen from it, I am sure you would judge differently in the affair."

"Already arisen!" repeated Mr Bennet. "What, has she frightened away some of your lovers? Poor little Lizzy! But do not be cast down. Such squeamish youths as cannot bear to be connected with a little absurdity are not worth a regret. Come, let me see the list of the pitiful fellows who have been kept aloof by Lydia's folly."

"Indeed you are mistaken. I have no such injuries to resent, It is not of peculiar, but of general evils, which I am now complaining. Our importance, our respectability in the world, must be affected by the wild volatility, the assurance and disdain of all restraint which mark Lydia's character. Excuse me -- for I must speak plainly. If you, my dear father, will not take the trouble of checking her exuberant spirits, and of teaching her that her present pursuits are not to be the business of her life, she will soon be beyond the reach of amendment. Her character will be fixed, and she will, at sixteen, be the most determined flirt that ever made herself and her family ridiculous. A flirt, too, in the worst and meanest degree of flirtation; without any attraction beyond youth and a tolerable person; and from the ignorance and emptiness of her mind, wholly unable to ward off any portion of that universal contempt which her rage for admiration will excite. In this danger Kitty is also comprehended. She will follow wherever Lydia leads. -- Vain, ignorant, idle, and absolutely uncontrolled! Oh! my dear father, can you suppose it possible that they will not be censured and despised wherever they are known, and that their sisters will not be often involved in the disgrace?"

Mr Bennet saw that her whole heart was in the subject; and affectionately taking her hand, said in reply, "Do not make yourself uneasy, my love. Wherever you and Jane are known, you must be respected and valued; and you will not appear to less advantage for having a couple of -- or I may say, three -- very silly sisters. We shall have no peace at Longbourn if Lydia does not go to Brighton. Let her go then. Colonel Forster is a sensible man, and will keep her out of any real mischief; and she is luckily too poor to be an object of prey to any body. At Brighton she will be of less importance, even as a common flirt, than she has been here. The officers will find women better worth their notice. Let us hope, therefore, that her being there may teach her her own insignificance. At any rate, she cannot grow many degrees worse without authorizing us to lock her up for the rest of her life."
A kick in the head for Wickham before he goes
Elizabeth finds herself in company with an again flirtatious Wickham the night before the militia's departure for Brighton, and she finds herself wanting desperately to poke him with a stick. She therefore mentions having seen Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr Darcy for three weeks during her stay at Hunsford, and speaks approvingly of Darcy and his "essentials", conveying her recently developed respect and understanding of Darcy's character and rendering Wickham fairly desperate to get away from her.

Elizabeth could not repress a smile at this, but she answered only by a slight inclination of the head. She saw that he wanted to engage her on the old subject of his grievances, and she was in no humour to indulge him. The rest of the evening passed with the appearance, on his side, of usual cheerfulness, but with no farther attempt to distinguish Elizabeth; and they parted at last with mutual civility, and possibly a mutual desire of never meeting again.
Gotta love Miss Eliza Bennet, say I.


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