Tea Time Tattle–Edward’s love for Elinor

on a white wooden table red roses, cup of tea, heart made of lac

I have previously defended why Elinor is best suited to marry Edward, and not Colonel Brandon. In this post, I want to explore the nature of Edward’s feelings for Elinor as they began while he was engaged to another woman.

At the end of the book, we are finally given an accounting for how he accidentally strung Elinor along and made all of their acquaintance believe he was in love with her and if not capable of marrying her, at least in danger of it.

Elinor scolded him, harshly as ladies always scold the imprudence which compliments themselves, for having spent so much time with them at Norland, when he must have felt his own inconstancy.

“Your behaviour was certainly very wrong,” said she, “because, to say nothing of my own conviction, our relations were all led away by it to fancy and expect what, as you were then situated, could never be.”

He could only plead an ignorance of his own heart, and a mistaken confidence in the force of his engagement.

“I was simple enough to think, that because my faith was plighted to another, there could be no danger in my being with you; and that the consciousness of my engagement was to keep my heart as safe and sacred as my honour. I felt that I admired you, but I told myself it was only friendship; and till I began to make comparisons between yourself and Lucy, I did not know how far I was got. After that, I suppose, I was wrong in remaining so much in Sussex; and the arguments with which I reconciled myself to the expediency of it were no better than these:—The danger is my own; I am doing no injury to anybody but myself.”

How could Edward possibly think spending time with a young lady would not engage her heart? Well, in his defense, Elinor is hardly the young, romantic thing that Marianne is. Additionally, Willoughby represents a foil to Edward. For Willoughby did intend to make Marianne attached with no intention of returning the feelings.

I must confess, my vanity only was elevated by it. Careless of her happiness, thinking only of my own amusement, giving way to feelings which I had always been too much in the habit of indulging, I endeavoured, by every means in my power, to make myself pleasing to her, without any design of returning her affection.”

We see from Edward’s quote that he did not set out to manipulate Elinor’s feelings and provide amusement for himself—although he had long been miserable with his engagement to Lucy.

He did attach Elinor but had no idea of his really doing so. How could that be? Alas, Miss Austen’s Edward Ferrars is not the hunky hero we see in Dan Stevens or Hugh Grant.

Edward Ferrars was not recommended to their good opinion by any peculiar graces of person or address. He was not handsome, and his manners required intimacy to make them pleasing. He was too diffident to do justice to himself; but when his natural shyness was overcome, his behaviour gave every indication of an open, affectionate heart. His understanding was good, and his education had given it solid improvement. But he was neither fitted by abilities nor disposition to answer the wishes of his mother and sister, who longed to see him distinguished—as—they hardly knew what. They wanted him to make a fine figure in the world in some manner or other.

Here, we see further reasoning for his thinking little of himself. He knows his deficiencies and his family prefers his younger brother. He knows it about himself as well:

“Shyness is only the effect of a sense of inferiority in some way or other. If I could persuade myself that my manners were perfectly easy and graceful, I should not be shy.”

Indeed, he is hardly what young men were expected to be in the era:

Edward is very amiable, and I love him tenderly. But yet—he is not the kind of young man—there is a something wanting—his figure is not striking; it has none of that grace which I should expect in the man who could seriously attach my sister. His eyes want all that spirit, that fire, which at once announce virtue and intelligence. And besides all this, I am afraid, mamma, he has no real taste.

When Marianne further abuses Edward to Elinor, she defends him thusly:

He distrusts his own judgment in such matters so much, that he is always unwilling to give his opinion on any picture;

Elinor has spent enough time to know that Edward’s reticence is due to his humility and even knowledge of his awkwardness. The subtext of this is that he must prefer other things but find people disagree with him and mock his preferences. If Edward were to tell Marianne he preferred a sermon to a sonnet, she would never forgive him. However, if he could rationalize it as a way that did justice to her own views, she might tolerate it. If he could say that he prefers to be out of doors to witness all of its grandeurs rather than read about it, she would likely praise him. However, Edward is simply too awkward to get that far.

Elinor continues to praise him, however.

“Of his sense and his goodness,” continued Elinor, “no one can, I think, be in doubt, who has seen him often enough to engage him in unreserved conversation. The excellence of his understanding and his principles can be concealed only by that shyness which too often keeps him silent. You know enough of him to do justice to his solid worth. But of his minuter propensities, as you call them, you have, from peculiar circumstances, been kept more ignorant than myself. He and I have been at times thrown a good deal together, while you have been wholly engrossed on the most affectionate principle by my mother. I have seen a great deal of him, have studied his sentiments and heard his opinion on subjects of literature and taste; and, upon the whole, I venture to pronounce that his mind is well-informed, his enjoyment of books exceedingly great, his imagination lively, his observation just and correct, and his taste delicate and pure. His abilities in every respect improve as much upon acquaintance as his manners and person. At first sight, his address is certainly not striking; and his person can hardly be called handsome, till the expression of his eyes, which are uncommonly good, and the general sweetness of his countenance, is perceived. At present, I know him so well, that I think him really handsome; or, at least, almost so.

We see little of Elinor and Edward’s interactions at Norland. Instead, the chapters are full of complications from both Mrs. Dashwoods seeing an interest between the two. It’s written so vaguely that half way through the book, Elinor is able to question if Edward had ever really loved her. The reader is left in the dark just as much as she is for we never saw it either. The above quote, however, proves Elinor has “love goggles” on. Not only is he more attractive to her now but she has turned all his flaws into strengths.

Elinor is not so blind as to admire what is not there. Everyone can see the potential in Edward. Praise from Elinor means something. It is not the blind flattery of Lucy Steele. Perhaps this is one of the things on which Edward compared the two.

Elinor continues to be the more sensible between the two ladies. She does not see enough from Edward to be entirely certain of his loving her and is cognizant of the fact that even if he does, it may come to nothing.

I am by no means assured of his regard for me. There are moments when the extent of it seems doubtful; and till his sentiments are fully known, you cannot wonder at my wishing to avoid any encouragement of my own partiality, by believing or calling it more than it is. In my heart I feel little—scarcely any doubt of his preference. But there are other points to be considered besides his inclination. He is very far from being independent. What his mother really is we cannot know; but, from Fanny’s occasional mention of her conduct and opinions, we have never been disposed to think her amiable; and I am very much mistaken if Edward is not himself aware that there would be many difficulties in his way, if he were to wish to marry a woman who had not either a great fortune or high rank.”

While Elinor reproaches Edward for his behavior at Norland, she had always felt there was something missing in his treatment of her:

There was, at times, a want of spirits about him which, if it did not denote indifference, spoke a something almost as unpromising. A doubt of her regard, supposing him to feel it, need not give him more than inquietude. It would not be likely to produce that dejection of mind which frequently attended him. A more reasonable cause might be found in the dependent situation which forbad the indulgence of his affection. She knew that his mother neither behaved to him so as to make his home comfortable at present, nor to give him any assurance that he might form a home for himself, without strictly attending to her views for his aggrandisement. With such a knowledge as this, it was impossible for Elinor to feel easy on the subject. She was far from depending on that result of his preference of her, which her mother and sister still considered as certain. Nay, the longer they were together the more doubtful seemed the nature of his regard; and sometimes, for a few painful minutes, she believed it to be no more than friendship.

When he visits the Dashwoods at Barton, there is also no sign of him intending to attach Elinor.

He was not in spirits, however; he praised their house, admired its prospect, was attentive and kind; but still he was not in spirits. The whole family perceived it;

Edward made no answer. His gravity and thoughtfulness returned on him in their fullest extent—and he sat for some time silent and dull.

Elinor saw, with great uneasiness, the low spirits of her friend. His visit afforded her but a very partial satisfaction, while his own enjoyment in it appeared so imperfect. It was evident that he was unhappy; she wished it were equally evident that he still distinguished her by the same affection which once she had felt no doubt of inspiring; but hitherto the continuance of his preference seemed very uncertain; and the reservedness of his manner towards her contradicted one moment what a more animated look had intimated the preceding one.

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After Marianne comments on his ring, which we later learn is made of Lucy’s hair, he is describe as this:

Edward’s embarrassment lasted some time, and it ended in an absence of mind still more settled. He was particularly grave the whole morning.

Indeed, he even successfully relies on his honor when at Barton:

Edward remained a week at the cottage; he was earnestly pressed by Mrs. Dashwood to stay longer; but, as if he were bent only on self-mortification, he seemed resolved to be gone when his enjoyment among his friends was at the height. His spirits, during the last two or three days, though still very unequal, were greatly improved—he grew more and more partial to the house and environs—never spoke of going away without a sigh—declared his time to be wholly disengaged—even doubted to what place he should go when he left them—but still, go he must.

Were Elinor’s expectations raised from this visit? She could see how something afflicted him and he did not treat her as he had at Norland.

Disappointed, however, and vexed as she was, and sometimes displeased with his uncertain behaviour to herself, she was very well disposed on the whole to regard his actions with all the candid allowances and generous qualifications, which had been rather more painfully extorted from her, for Willoughby’s service, by her mother. His want of spirits, of openness, and of consistency, were most usually attributed to his want of independence, and his better knowledge of Mrs. Ferrars’s disposition and designs. The shortness of his visit, the steadiness of his purpose in leaving them, originated in the same fettered inclination, the same inevitable necessity of temporising with his mother. The old, well-established grievance of duty against will, parent against child, was the cause of all.

But from such vain wishes she was forced to turn for comfort to the renewal of her confidence in Edward’s affection, to the remembrance of every mark of regard in look or word which fell from him while at Barton, and above all, to that flattering proof of it which he constantly wore round his finger.

Ah, so Elinor’s reasons to believe Edward continued to love her were mostly based on looks and rare words and the blasted ring. Of course, once we meet Lucy and the truth comes out, things are clearer. Or are they?

“To be sure,” continued Lucy, after a few minutes’ silence on both sides, “his mother must provide for him sometime or other; but poor Edward is so cast down about it! Did you not think him dreadful low-spirited when he was at Barton? He was so miserable when he left us at Longstaple, to go to you, that I was afraid you would think him quite ill.”

“Did not you think him sadly out of spirits?” repeated Lucy.

“We did, indeed, particularly so when he first arrived.”

Elinor had thought Edward unusually out of spirits but blamed his mother, and possibly continued affection toward Elinor. Lucy takes the blame for herself. We learn from Edward, finally, it was because he had realized how much he loved Elinor and could never have her.

When Elinor learns about the engagement from Lucy, what are her feelings?

Her resentment of such behaviour, her indignation at having been its dupe, for a short time made her feel only for herself; but other ideas, other considerations soon arose. Had Edward been intentionally deceiving her? Had he feigned a regard for her which he did not feel? Was his engagement to Lucy an engagement of the heart? No; whatever it might once have been, she could not believe it such at present. His affection was all her own. She could not be deceived in that. Her mother, sisters, Fanny, all had been conscious of his regard for her at Norland; it was not an illusion of her own vanity. He certainly loved her. What a softener of the heart was this persuasion! How much could it not tempt her to forgive! He had been blameable, highly blameable, in remaining at Norland after he first felt her influence over him to be more than it ought to be. In that, he could not be defended; but if he had injured her, how much more had he injured himself; if her case were pitiable, his was hopeless. His imprudence had made her miserable for a while; but it seemed to have deprived himself of all chance of ever being otherwise. She might in time regain tranquillity; but he, what had he to look forward to? Could he ever be tolerably happy with Lucy Steele; could he, were his affection for herself out of the question, with his integrity, his delicacy, and well-informed mind, be satisfied with a wife like her—illiterate, artful, and selfish?

As these considerations occurred to her in painful succession, she wept for him more than for herself. Supported by the conviction of having done nothing to merit her present unhappiness, and consoled by the belief that Edward had done nothing to forfeit her esteem, she thought she could even now, under the first smart of the heavy blow, command herself enough to guard every suspicion of the truth from her mother and sisters.

It is not that Elinor does not feel the pain of knowing she now has no hope of ever marrying Edward, even if it seemed nearly hopeless before, it is that she does not let herself wallow. She is greater command of her emotions and has enough sense to see that she has not been an intentional victim.

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What amazes me the most about Elinor’s philosophy, and it is reinforced with her feelings about Marianne and Willoughby’s attachment, is that she fully understands that the heart can’t be controlled. It wants what it wants. For Edward, it wanted Elinor even though he was bound to Lucy. He always tried to act honorably but sank deeper and deeper into true melancholy. Can you imagine the way such feelings would weigh on him? Without any sort of employment or any friends, he must have felt entirely consumed with his problems. Instead of a quick burn from the fire of passion, he was slowly being choked as a ring of fire circled around him.

Regarding his reasons for not breaking the engagement, he was misled about Lucy’s real nature.

he had always believed her to be a well-disposed, good-hearted girl, and thoroughly attached to himself. Nothing but such a persuasion could have prevented his putting an end to an engagement, which, long before the discovery of it laid him open to his mother’s anger, had been a continual source of disquiet and regret to him.

“I thought it my duty,” said he, “independent of my feelings, to give her the option of continuing the engagement or not, when I was renounced by my mother, and stood to all appearance without a friend in the world to assist me.”

When at last he is free of Lucy, he goes straight to Barton. He can barely contain his desire to ask for Elinor’s hand, even as he wondered if she would accept him. He was so eager to end the misery he had been living in for months. Like a man who takes a deep breath of air after being rescued from a fire, Edward needed to lay is heart at Elinor’s feet.

In the end, Austen rewards Edward’s loyal heart and unbroken honor. Why should we not allow his happiness?

 

His situation indeed was more than commonly joyful. He had more than the ordinary triumph of accepted love to swell his heart, and raise his spirits. He was released, without any reproach to himself, from an entanglement which had long formed his misery, from a woman whom he had long ceased to love, and elevated at once to that security with another, which he must have thought of almost with despair, as soon as he had learned to consider it with desire. He was brought, not from doubt or suspense, but from misery to happiness; and the change was openly spoken in such a genuine, flowing, grateful cheerfulness, as his friends had never witnessed in him before.

“I am grown neither humble nor penitent by what has passed. I am grown very happy…”

 

 

Tea Time Tattle–Could Edmund have been happy with Mary Crawford?

on a white wooden table red roses, cup of tea, heart made of lac

Many readers wonder when Edmund fell in love with Fanny and how he could ever have loved Mary Crawford. Still, others hone in on the fact that Austen says Mary and Edmund had married, Fanny probably would have accepted Henry Crawford. But what sort of life would Mary and Edmund have had? Perhaps it is alluded to in the comparison of Sir Thomas’ relationship with Mrs. Norris.

Early in the book, we see Mrs. Norris directing affairs at Mansfield. Lady Bertram seldom speaks, she rarely has an opinion of her own. She defers to either her husband or sister. On my first reading of Mansfield Park, I even questioned if Mrs. Norris was in love with Sir Thomas with the way she seeks his constant approval and must meddle in his affairs. It seemed beyond the common interest in a sister’s family and for one’s nieces and nephews.

Consider her advice on the topic of taking in Fanny:

“You are thinking of your sons—but do not you know that, of all things upon earth, that is the least likely to happen, brought up as they would be, always together like brothers and sisters? It is morally impossible. I never knew an instance of it. It is, in fact, the only sure way of providing against the connexion. Suppose her a pretty girl, and seen by Tom or Edmund for the first time seven years hence, and I dare say there would be mischief. The very idea of her having been suffered to grow up at a distance from us all in poverty and neglect, would be enough to make either of the dear, sweet-tempered boys in love with her. But breed her up with them from this time, and suppose her even to have the beauty of an angel, and she will never be more to either than a sister.”

In the same conversation she adds, to further ingratiate herself in Sir Thomas’ eyes and manipulate him to her opinion:

Whatever I can do, as you well know, I am always ready enough to do for the good of those I love; and, though I could never feel for this little girl the hundredth part of the regard I bear your own dear children, nor consider her, in any respect, so much my own, I should hate myself if I were capable of neglecting her.

Mrs. Norris then suggests a way of collecting Fanny that Sir Thomas found not quite respectable and he makes modifications to the plans. This is an early clue that Mrs. Norris’ way of thinking is not quite right. In the same passage we are told this

As far as walking, talking, and contriving reached, she was thoroughly benevolent, and nobody knew better how to dictate liberality to others; but her love of money was equal to her love of directing, and she knew quite as well how to save her own as to spend that of her friends.

Mary Crawford also had a love of money. Upon first meeting the Bertrams, she believes she will ensnare Tom as heir to Mansfield. After recognizing the grandeur of the estate and its worth, she fully intends to marry him.

It might do very well; she believed she should accept him;

Perhaps if he had never gone to the races, or if she had been able to accompany him, the story might have gone very differently. Instead, she is thrown into Edmunds’ company, and she’s too intelligent to miss how he is the nobler young man.

“I mean to be too rich to lament or to feel anything of the sort. A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.”

Indeed, Edmund often thinks that she loves money and London Society too much to accept a younger son. This is why their courtship takes so many months although they are nearly always together which is vastly different from most Austen stories. Just as Edmund is ready to come to the point, at last, Tom grows ill. Mary even writes to Fanny about how well-suited to the baronetcy Edmund is, and thus she begins to encourage Edmund in his suit wholeheartedly. Previously, she had gone to London to be away from him and, at the very least, bend him to her will regarding his profession and values in life.

Forgive me if I cannot describe such manipulation in a charitable light.

However, despite finding flaws in Mary, Edmund believes he can redirect them. He sees that she wants to please. She wants to be of use. She values Fanny, and nothing is dearer to his heart than her so how can Mary be bad?

We could say, how can Mrs. Norris be bad when she flatters Sir Thomas’ good sense and values good breeding the same as he does? They seem united in what they agree is the most important matters in life, even if their technique in achieving them are different. They are both devoted to the education of the young people of Mansfield.

When all is said and done, Sir Thomas bitterly regrets giving Mrs. Norris such free rein in his house.

Too late he became aware how unfavourable to the character of any young people must be the totally opposite treatment which Maria and Julia had been always experiencing at home, where the excessive indulgence and flattery of their aunt had been continually contrasted with his own severity. He saw how ill he had judged, in expecting to counteract what was wrong in Mrs. Norris by its reverse in himself; clearly saw that he had but increased the evil by teaching them to repress their spirits in his presence so as to make their real disposition unknown to him, and sending them for all their indulgences to a person who had been able to attach them only by the blindness of her affection, and the excess of her praise.

Here had been grievous mismanagement; but, bad as it was, he gradually grew to feel that it had not been the most direful mistake in his plan of education. Something must have been wanting within, or time would have worn away much of its ill effect. He feared that principle, active principle, had been wanting; that they had never been properly taught to govern their inclinations and tempers by that sense of duty which can alone suffice. They had been instructed theoretically in their religion, but never required to bring it into daily practice.

Mrs. Norris’s removal from Mansfield was the great supplementary comfort of Sir Thomas’s life. His opinion of her had been sinking from the day of his return from Antigua: in every transaction together from that period, in their daily intercourse, in business, or in chat, she had been regularly losing ground in his esteem, and convincing him that either time had done her much disservice, or that he had considerably over-rated her sense, and wonderfully borne with her manners before. He had felt her as an hourly evil, which was so much the worse, as there seemed no chance of its ceasing but with life; she seemed a part of himself that must be borne for ever.

She was regretted by no one at Mansfield. She had never been able to attach even those she loved best;

Mary Crawford, at her current age, does not have the nature of Mrs. Norris. She was not overly indulgent. She did see the goodness in Edmund and Fanny over Henry and Maria—even as she justified their affair. Still, it is through manipulation. She would often say one thing and when realizing someone was displeased with her, would come back and alter it later. She could not stand to give an opinion and hold herself to it. In this way, she conceals what she really is. She manipulates Edmund into thinking the best of her and that he has influence over her—something which is shown early in their acquaintance he desires to have in life as his siblings completely ignore his words about the play.

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However, other similarities between the women exist. Consider how Mary wants to give advice to Sir Thomas about how to handle Maria’s adultery.

“What I advise is, that your father be quiet. Do not let him injure his own cause by interference. Persuade him to let things take their course. If by any officious exertions of his, she is induced to leave Henry’s protection, there will be much less chance of his marrying her than if she remain with him. I know how he is likely to be influenced. Let Sir Thomas trust to his honour and compassion, and it may all end well; but if he get his daughter away, it will be destroying the chief hold.'”

Even at the end of their acquaintance, Edmund has this to say:

“Cruelty, do you call it? We differ there. No, hers is not a cruel nature. I do not consider her as meaning to wound my feelings. The evil lies yet deeper: in her total ignorance, unsuspiciousness of there being such feelings; in a perversion of mind which made it natural to her to treat the subject as she did. She was speaking only as she had been used to hear others speak, as she imagined everybody else would speak. Hers are not faults of temper. She would not voluntarily give unnecessary pain to any one, and though I may deceive myself, I cannot but think that for me, for my feelings, she would—Hers are faults of principle, Fanny; of blunted delicacy and a corrupted, vitiated mind. Perhaps it is best for me, since it leaves me so little to regret. Not so, however. Gladly would I submit to all the increased pain of losing her, rather than have to think of her as I do. I told her so.”

Mrs. Norris might be intentionally cruel to Fanny, but she would never have deliberately created such defects in the character of her beloved nieces and nephews. In fact, that neglect she gives to Fanny is what has made her so strong and morally resolute.

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Just as Sir Thomas has regretted giving Mrs. Norris so much influence over his children, Edmund regrets being blind to the real Mary:

All this together most grievously convinced me that I had never understood her before, and that, as far as related to mind, it had been the creature of my own imagination, not Miss Crawford, that I had been too apt to dwell on for many months past.

As Sir Thomas has finally learned to ignore the advice of Mrs. Norris, so too, has Edmund learned to ignore the pull of Mary:

“’Mr. Bertram,’ said she, with a smile; but it was a smile ill-suited to the conversation that had passed, a saucy playful smile, seeming to invite in order to subdue me; at least it appeared so to me. I resisted; it was the impulse of the moment to resist, and still walked on. I have since, sometimes, for a moment, regretted that I did not go back, but I know I was right…”

Edmund would not have been happy with Mary for long. Soon, she would have become the bane of his existence. He would have been completely “taken in” as Mary calls it. For as often as he defends Mary’s way of thinking and speaking, he could not hope to permanently alter or influence it anymore than Mrs. Norris changed from twenty years of knowing Sir Thomas.

And how did Edmund come to love Fanny? I might examine that closer later, but I think it is easy to see that she is quite the opposite of Mary. Just as Sir Thomas must now value Lady Bertram’s complacency more than he had before, Edmund can see the qualities that Fanny has, and he has needed all along.

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Scarcely had he done regretting Mary Crawford, and observing to Fanny how impossible it was that he should ever meet with such another woman, before it began to strike him whether a very different kind of woman might not do just as well, or a great deal better: whether Fanny herself were not growing as dear, as important to him in all her smiles and all her ways, as Mary Crawford had ever been; and whether it might not be a possible, an hopeful undertaking to persuade her that her warm and sisterly regard for him would be foundation enough for wedded love.

 

Tea Time Tattle- Caroline vs. Elizabeth

 

on a white wooden table red roses, cup of tea, heart made of lac

I mentioned in yesterday’s Music Monday post, that this week I wanted to explore Caroline’s jealousy of Elizabeth.

First, let’s break down the meaning of the word “jealous.” Merriam-Webster gives this definition:

hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage : envious

  • His success made his old friends jealous.
  • They were jealous of his success.
  • 2 a : intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness
          • jealous of the slightest interference in household management—Havelock Ellis
      • 2b : disposed to suspect rivalry or unfaithfulness

    jealous husband

3 : vigilant in guarding a possession

    • new colonies were jealous of their new independence

 

CRiKLn6WIAAu42nLet us consider each situation. Did Caroline believe Elizabeth to be a rival for Mr. Darcy’s attention? Yes, and it wasn’t all in her head. He flat out told Caroline he found Elizabeth attractive. It must have been all the more shocking because mere days before he had said he didn’t find her pretty. Did Caroline believe Darcy was being unfaithful to her? Fanon often zeroes in on the fact that he was the unattached bachelor at Netherfield and she was the unattached maiden. Therefore, she had hopes that she would be his sole focus. Consider when Elizabeth is at Netherfield, she has intruded on Caroline’s territory! It might be one thing for Darcy to see Elizabeth now and then, but it is another thing entirely for Elizabeth to be around Darcy his every waking moment! Did Caroline view Darcy as her possession? Again, this goes with the idea that she ought to have been his sole focus, but I think so. Consider how she “guards” him at Netherfield. She has to be involved in his every conversation. She has to protect his interests–he doesn’t want to play cards so the card table is not presented. If he’s going to look at Elizabeth’s figure, then by golly, he’s going to have to look at Caroline’s too!

However, I think these definitions miss out on the root of the psychology behind jealousy. At the heart of jealousy, is believing that you should have everything the other has because you deserve it more. We could say it’s because the jealous individual believes they must have similarities with the other. For example, is Fanny Price ever jealous of Mary Crawford? I would say no. Fanny surely loves Edmund and would rather he love her instead of Mary, but Fanny feels no jealousy. Instead, all of her feelings are selflessly centered on the fact that Edmund is being duped by Mary and would ultimately live a very unhappy life with her. It follows then, that Caroline and Elizabeth must have similarities.

We begin with this description of Caroline:

They were in fact very fine ladies; not deficient in good humour when they were pleased, nor in the power of making themselves agreeable when they chose it, but proud and conceited. They were rather handsome, had been educated in one of the first private seminaries in town, had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, were in the habit of spending more than they ought, and of associating with people of rank, and were therefore in every respect entitled to think well of themselves, and meanly of others. They were of a respectable family in the north of England; a circumstance more deeply impressed on their memories than that their brother’s fortune and their own had been acquired by trade.

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We come to know Elizabeth throughout the book, not just in one quotable passage but there are things they are rather the opposite on. Elizabeth has not been educated in town, and she will only have fifty pounds a year upon the death of her mother. Given the opportunity to play cards at Netherfield, she declines because she thinks they are playing high. She doesn’t associate with people of rank. Her family is what would count as respectable but it is a mix of gentry and trade which would lower her esteem in the eyes of some.

What of some of the other points? Is Elizabeth deficient in good humor? No, she loves to laugh. In fact, she can fake being in a good mood even when she is not–such as nearly every encounter with Darcy, Caroline, Lady Catherine, Collins, and her mother. She can certainly be agreeable when she wants to be–which is nearly all the time (we’ll discuss that in another post). Is she proud and conceited? On first glance, no. However, I think a close reading of the book proves that she is. Is she entitled to think well of herself and meanly of others? Well, that’s a million dollar question, but she does think well of herself and meanly of others if not due to rank and income than due to her intellect.

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We are given little physical description of either lady so we cannot compare them on that. We must suppose that Caroline is superior in the these areas, given her criticism of Elizabeth:

“For my own part,” she rejoined, “I must confess that I never could see any beauty in her. Her face is too thin; her complexion has no brilliancy; and her features are not at all handsome. Her nose wants character—there is nothing marked in its lines. Her teeth are tolerable, but not out of the common way; and as for her eyes, which have sometimes been called so fine, I could never see anything extraordinary in them. They have a sharp, shrewish look, which I do not like at all; and in her air altogether there is a self-sufficiency without fashion, which is intolerable.”

Add to this the infamous “accomplished ladies” speech:

“Oh! certainly,” cried his faithful assistant, “no one can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half-deserved.”

 

We can safely assume that Caroline believes she must “greatly surpass what is usually met with” regarding her beauty. She clearly finds Elizabeth deficient in this department, therefore it must be a difference between them. But is it really?

Elizabeth, equally next to Jane in birth and beauty, succeeded her of course.

There is much reason to think that Elizabeth’s annoyance at Darcy is about his words in the well-known assembly slight.

“But there is one of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I dare say very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you.”

“Which do you mean?” and turning round he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said: “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me;”

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I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.”

Elizabeth knows her beauty and, at first, laughs at Darcy for his proud ridiculousness. However, it is a sore spot with her. It’s not enough that the rest of the area finds her beautiful, she had wanted the important new-comers to find her pretty as well. Additionally, we cannot give Elizabeth the compliment of being kinder in her words than Caroline for she observes this of Anne de Bourgh:

“I like her appearance,” said Elizabeth, struck with other ideas. “She looks sickly and cross. Yes, she will do for him very well. She will make him a very proper wife.”

I consider this line a double whammy. One, Elizabeth is happy that Anne de Bourgh isn’t beautiful. Two, she is almost happy that she may not live long once married and would plague Darcy during her life. Compare this with Maria Lucas’ introduction of the topic:

Only look at her. She is quite a little creature. Who would have thought that she could be so thin and small?”

Maria is not being excessively kind but she does have a shred of sympathy and pity in her words.

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Elizabeth’s greatest attribute is the “liveliness of her mind” exemplified by her vivacity and wit–of which even Mr. Collins speaks. However, Caroline is described as being witty and teasing as well.

Caroline:

He listened to her with perfect indifference while she chose to entertain herself in this manner; and as his composure convinced her that all was safe, her wit flowed long.

Elizabeth:

“Did you not think, Mr. Darcy, that I expressed myself uncommonly well just now, when I was teasing Colonel Forster to give us a ball at Meryton?”

Together:

“We can all plague and punish one another. Tease him—laugh at him. Intimate as you are, you must know how it is to be done.”

“But upon my honour, I do not. I do assure you that my intimacy has not yet taught me that. Tease calmness of manner and presence of mind! No, no; I feel he may defy us there. And as to laughter, we will not expose ourselves, if you please, by attempting to laugh without a subject. Mr. Darcy may hug himself.”

Mr. Darcy observes:

To Mr. Darcy it was welcome intelligence—Elizabeth had been at Netherfield long enough. She attracted him more than he liked—and Miss Bingley was uncivil to her, and more teasing than usual to himself.

Ah, perhaps that can help us finally hone in on the difference between Elizabeth and Caroline. Elizabeth gives her teasing with a kinder heart and motive. She says this after Darcy’s second proposal:

But make a virtue of it by all means. My good qualities are under your protection, and you are to exaggerate them as much as possible; and, in return, it belongs to me to find occasions for teasing and quarrelling with you as often as may be; and I shall begin directly by asking you what made you so unwilling to come to the point at last. What made you so shy of me, when you first called, and afterwards dined here? Why, especially, when you called, did you look as if you did not care about me?”

Whereas this is an example of Caroline’s method of teasing Darcy:

She often tried to provoke Darcy into disliking her guest, by talking of their supposed marriage, and planning his happiness in such an alliance.

Throughout the book, Caroline attempts to make Darcy see the drawbacks to a union with Elizabeth. The interesting thing is, however, that he might have never even considered her in such a way if not for her prodding. For, as we all know, admiration need not lead to love.

That Miss Bingley is jealous of Elizabeth, we know without a doubt.

Miss Bingley saw, or suspected enough to be jealous; and her great anxiety for the recovery of her dear friend Jane received some assistance from her desire of getting rid of Elizabeth.

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*Judging you…judging all of you*

This is further shown by Elizabeth’s observations:

Convinced as Elizabeth now was that Miss Bingley’s dislike of her had originated in jealousy, she could not help feeling how unwelcome her appearance at Pemberley must be to her, and was curious to know with how much civility on that lady’s side the acquaintance would now be renewed.

In no countenance was attentive curiosity so strongly marked as in Miss Bingley’s, in spite of the smiles which overspread her face whenever she spoke to one of its objects; for jealousy had not yet made her desperate, and her attentions to Mr. Darcy were by no means over.

 

By contrast, Elizabeth only seems to be jealous of earning Darcy’s good opinion:

She was humbled, she was grieved; she repented, though she hardly knew of what. She became jealous of his esteem, when she could no longer hope to be benefited by it. She wanted to hear of him, when there seemed the least chance of gaining intelligence. She was convinced that she could have been happy with him, when it was no longer likely they should meet.

At some point, Caroline’s feelings morph from jealousy to envy. Here is Merriam-Webster’s definition of envy:

1: painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage

2: obsolete : malice

3: an object of envious notice or feeling–his new car made him the envy of his friends

Let us review the meaning of malice:

: desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another

  • an attack motivated by pure malice
  • 2 : intent to commit an unlawful act or cause harm without legal justification or excuse
    • ruined her reputation and did it with malice

I was unable to find when the meaning for “malice” became obsolete as a definition of envy. However, I wouldn’t say that Caroline’s actions are full of malice. She extremely dislikes Elizabeth and acts out of anger but she doesn’t harm Elizabeth. In fact, the things she says to wound Elizabeth in Darcy’s eyes are all rather just. Elizabeth does have low connections, and she isn’t the Society beauty and full of all their graces, she once favored Wickham. Still, Caroline seems to extend a more hateful feeling to Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship than mere jealousy.

Online Etymology Dictionary offers this information about envy:

late 13c., from Old French envie “envy, jealousy, rivalry” (10c.), from Latin invidia “envy, jealousy” (source also of Spanish envidia, Portuguese inveja), from invidus “envious, having hatred or ill-will,” from invidere “to envy, hate,” earlier “look at (with malice), cast an evil eye upon,” from in- “upon” (from PIE root *en “in”) + videre “to see” (from PIE root *weid- “to see”).

It also furthers the explanation with this difference between envy and jealousy:

Jealousy is the malign feeling which is often had toward a rival, or possible rival, for the possession of that which we greatly desire, as in love or ambition. Envy is a similar feeling toward one, whether rival or not, who already possesses that which we greatly desire. Jealousy is enmity prompted by fear; envy is enmity prompted by covetousness.

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In short, Caroline begins to recognize that Darcy was never “hers” and he belongs to Elizabeth in an entirely different way. First, she was afraid to lose him. Then she recognized she had. In the end, that is the largest difference between Caroline and Elizabeth. One wished for Darcy’s attention and never really had it, the other had never asked for it and yet gained it. In the end, it seems Caroline adopted the policy of “if you can’t beat them, join them” for we are told she let go of her animosity toward Elizabeth. Indeed, I think she must have copied some of Elizabeth’s way of smiling when she would rather snark.

Miss Bingley was very deeply mortified by Darcy’s marriage; but as she thought it advisable to retain the right of visiting at Pemberley, she dropt all her resentment; was fonder than ever of Georgiana, almost as attentive to Darcy as heretofore, and paid off every arrear of civility to Elizabeth.

Have you ever related to Caroline and been jealous of another woman? Have you ever been envious?

Tea Time Tattle–Knightley loved Emma as a child??

 

on a white wooden table red roses, cup of tea, heart made of lac

I’ve seen many articles around the Austen-verse with writers opining that Mr. Knightley is a better romantic hero than Mr. Darcy. I won’t bother to touch on that. 🙂 However, I think the thing that makes many readers uncomfortable about Mr. Knightley is the following line:

“The good was all to myself, by making you an object of the tenderest affection to me. I could not think about you so much without doating on you, faults and all; and by dint of fancying so many errors, have been in love with you ever since you were thirteen at least.”

This must be broken down into two sections. The first, which seems most egregious to a modern reader, is his loving Emma while she was only thirteen. The second, that he shaped her into a woman to marry.

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Let’s establish a bit of history for Emma and Knightley. Emma is twenty-one and is the younger of two heiresses of a very comfortable estate. Her father lives, is quite old, and seems generally anxious about everything. We are also told she is far cleverer than her elder sister and was from an early age. In fact, she’s so clever she doesn’t really have a mental companion for her save Mr. Knightley. He’s a neighbor, and his younger brother married Emma’s sister some years ago. However, he’s 37 or 38, so there’s quite the age gap.

So, if he loved Emma at 13, then he would have been 27 or 28. I mean, that’s a huge red flag, even if we want to make allowances for things like Lydia marrying at 16 to a man who is 26. Developmentally, there would be quite a difference between 13 and 16, even in an era that treated teenagers as adults. Even though women could be treated as adults around age 16 (this seems to differ for men), very few of their class married at that age. The average age across the nation for women to marry was 26, and I’ve seen estimates at around 22 or 23 for the gentry. So, although 16-year-olds could join in Society things they were not, generally, accepting suitors and marrying. Emma is “underage” no matter how you slice it.

emma_strongbeckinsale.jpgHowever, did he really romantically love her at age 13? First, we are told that Knightley  “was not only a very old and intimate friend of the family, but particularly connected with it, as the elder brother of Isabella’s husband.”

Emma was 12 years old when Isabella married. There’s little reason to believe that Knightley was often visiting the house when Emma was so young and his brother and new sister-in-law lived in London. It appears for some time he only visited when the John Knightleys were in the area. Even if Mr. Woodhouse invited him to dine, Emma would not have been at the table at such a young age. We are told of this:

The list she drew up when only fourteen—I remember thinking it did her judgment so much credit, that I preserved it some time; and I dare say she may have made out a very good list now.

This statement is before Frank Churchill has arrived, which is worth noting for once Knightley proposes, we are told the following:

On his side, there had been a long-standing jealousy, old as the arrival, or even the expectation, of Frank Churchill.—He had been in love with Emma, and jealous of Frank Churchill, from about the same period, one sentiment having probably enlightened him as to the other. It was his jealousy of Frank Churchill that had taken him from the country.—The Box Hill party had decided him on going away. He would save himself from witnessing again such permitted, encouraged attentions.—He had gone to learn to be indifferent.

Perhaps he did not realize he preserved Emma’s early list out of love, but I think it far more likely that he was merely impressed with a child making such a list. She might have even done it purposefully to please him, as a child often does. She was his sister-in-law for two years by this point. There’s no reason to consider that he desired her as a wife at such an age, or even considered that she could one day become one for him when we also take into account that he did not recognize it as love until long after Frank was in the picture.

I think Knightley is acquitted of anything akin to craving Emma as a companion at such a young age. He loved her as a sister, and that is all the notice he took of her. However, what about his statement that he made her into someone that he could love?

If a man is of sound means at 37 or 38, especially in such an era, one might wonder if he will ever marry. Emma makes sound arguments:

“But Mr. Knightley does not want to marry. I am sure he has not the least idea of it. Do not put it into his head. Why should he marry?—He is as happy as possible by himself; with his farm, and his sheep, and his library, and all the parish to manage; and he is extremely fond of his brother’s children. He has no occasion to marry, either to fill up his time or his heart.”

“My dear Emma, as long as he thinks so, it is so; but if he really loves Jane Fairfax—”

Knightley has no impetus to marry for companionship or lack of an heir. He would only marry for love. The fact that he’s reached such an age and has not fallen in love makes it pretty clear that most people are not up to his requirements. Does it follow, then, that he would have to shape a person into his designs? Would he take nearly ten years to do it? Would that even be love?

An additional question arises from this notion. Does Emma yield to Knightley’s molding? There would be too many quotes to use as they consistently argue throughout the book, but Knightley complains many times that Emma listens to no one, including him. Within her thoughts, we are sure she will never capitulate to anything simply because he says so–lest we forget the dread affair about Harriet and Mr. Martin.

However, when Knightley scolds her after she makes fun of Miss Bates, Emma feels the reproach.

It was badly done, indeed! You, whom she had known from an infant, whom she had seen grow up from a period when her notice was an honour, to have you now, in thoughtless spirits, and the pride of the moment, laugh at her, humble her—and before her niece, too—and before others, many of whom (certainly some,) would be entirely guided by your treatment of her.—This is not pleasant to you, Emma—and it is very far from pleasant to me; but I must, I will,—I will tell you truths while I can; satisfied with proving myself your friend by very faithful counsel, and trusting that you will some time or other do me greater justice than you can do now.”

Emma is described as feeling thus:

He had misinterpreted the feelings which had kept her face averted, and her tongue motionless. They were combined only of anger against herself, mortification, and deep concern.

She was vexed beyond what could have been expressed—almost beyond what she could conceal. Never had she felt so agitated, mortified, grieved, at any circumstance in her life. She was most forcibly struck. The truth of this representation there was no denying. She felt it at her heart. How could she have been so brutal, so cruel to Miss Bates! How could she have exposed herself to such ill opinion in any one she valued! And how suffer him to leave her without saying one word of gratitude, of concurrence, of common kindness!

It is not enough, however, for Emma to regret the justness of Knightley’s remarks or hate that she has disappointed him. The real turning point in Emma’s story comes when she enters self-reproach:

She had been often remiss, her conscience told her so; remiss, perhaps, more in thought than fact; scornful, ungracious. But it should be so no more. In the warmth of true contrition, she would call upon her the very next morning, and it should be the beginning, on her side, of a regular, equal, kindly intercourse.

Knightley tries, again and again, to make Emma understand her ways. He doesn’t like her matchmaking. He doesn’t like Frank Churchill. He doesn’t like Emma making fun of Jane Fairfax. He doesn’t like her friendship with Harriet Smith. He doesn’t like approve of her idleness. However, he always sees the good and the potential in Emma. Emma never backs down and agrees just to please him–or anyone else. She thinks well of Knightley and doesn’t like it when they’ve argued, and it appears he is disappointed in her, but it’s only when she feels the disappointment herself that we see her reverse her opinion. The fact that she’s not obstinate in resisting what needs to change simply because Knightley has said it should be a mark in her favor.

I would say Knightley has no more influence over Emma than most friends have over one another. This should be a familiar theme for Austen deals with friendly persuasion in each novel.

Instead of viewing Emma and Knightley’s relationship beginning at the point of romance, let us consider it from the progression of brother and sister-in-law, to friends, to lovers.

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From Volume III Chapter III, after Knightley is well acquainted with his growing feelings for Emma:

“Whom are you going to dance with?” asked Mr. Knightley.

She hesitated a moment, and then replied, “With you, if you will ask me.”

“Will you?” said he, offering his hand.

“Indeed I will. You have shewn that you can dance, and you know we are not really so much brother and sister as to make it at all improper.”

“Brother and sister! no, indeed.”

So we see they have left brother and sister long behind. They are friends. Knightley even says this when Mrs. Weston is pestering him about Emma’s friendship with Harriet (and I believe trying to make him own his feelings):

“I do not know what I could imagine, but I confess that I have seldom seen a face or figure more pleasing to me than hers. But I am a partial old friend.”

By the end of the novel, however, they are no longer satisfied to simply be friends. A person may have a hundred friends, and they may come and go through life. Emma and Knightley are the best of friends, but that is such an inadequate word for their feelings.

But if you have any wish to speak openly to me as a friend, or to ask my opinion of any thing that you may have in contemplation—as a friend, indeed, you may command me.—I will hear whatever you like. I will tell you exactly what I think.”

“As a friend!”—repeated Mr. Knightley.—”Emma, that I fear is a word—No, I have no wish—Stay, yes, why should I hesitate?—

Instead of leaving it at friendship, Knightley expresses more:

“My dearest Emma,” said he, “for dearest you will always be, whatever the event of this hour’s conversation, my dearest, most beloved Emma—”

Knightley and Emma have ascended from kinship to friendship to potential lovers.

“I cannot make speeches, Emma:” he soon resumed; and in a tone of such sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing.—”If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am.—You hear nothing but truth from me.—I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it.—Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma, as well as you have borne with them. The manner, perhaps, may have as little to recommend them. God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover.—But you understand me.—Yes, you see, you understand my feelings—and will return them if you can. At present, I ask only to hear, once to hear your voice.”

Indeed, Emma returns his affections.

She spoke then, on being so entreated.—What did she say?—Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does.—She said enough to shew there need not be despair—and to invite him to say more himself.


tumblr_m541hoc46w1r53l28o7_250And so we have one of the earliest examples in literature of a romance blossoming from friendship to beloved.

This one half-hour had given to each the same precious certainty of being beloved, had cleared from each the same degree of ignorance, jealousy, or distrust.

Now, the next time you see a Knightley vs. Darcy debate, you might find the fight closer than ever as, I believe, Knightley is free from any immoral insinuation. Jane Austen would not be the last to write such a concept. Romance books are rife with the trope of from friends to lovers or the adopted sibling to lovers etc. I consider my own love story closer to friends to lovers, so it has a soft spot in my heart.

 

Tea Time Tattle- In Defense of Edward

on a white wooden table red roses, cup of tea, heart made of lac

I’m rereading Sense and Sensibility, and it’s made me consider how many people do not like Edward Ferrars. Many a Janeite love Elinor because she seems to be everything a modern woman should be: serious, realistic, grounded, in control of her emotions, capable in a crisis, dependable, reliable. All the other adjectives. Elinor is #goals. I write that as a Marianne who grew up to be an Elizabeth. Yes, I was definitely Marianne at sixteen, and I spend a good deal of the book on each reread cringing at my similarities to Marianne. Someday, I’d like to be more like Elinor.

However, I think Austen ultimately makes it plain that you need both sense and sensibility in your life. Most consider Marianne and Elinor dual heroines of Sense and Sensibility. They each drive the plot, and we root for them both to overcome their obstacles and emerge victoriously. When you study it further, however, Elinor has very little character growth. Yes, she does gain some of Marianne’s sensibility. When danger is real, such as Marianne’s illness, Elinor feels it acutely. When it is revealed that Edward is not married to Lucy Steele and is therefore available, Elinor’s reaction is one of my favorite in all of Austen’s scenes:

Elinor could sit no longer. She almost ran out of the room, and, as soon as the door was closed, burst into tears of joy, which at first she thought would never cease.

For Elinor, that’s an incredible display of emotion.  If Marianne needs Colonel Brandon to temper her more sensational ways, then perhaps Elinor needs someone to draw out her emotions better.

When most people discuss the romance between Edward Ferrars and Elinor Dashwood, they dwell only on things that make them believe Elinor deserves more.

If it’s been awhile since you’ve read (or perhaps you never have), Elinor and the reader know all along that Edward is dependent upon pleasing his mother to gain his inheritance. There has been quite the dispute about his future, and at his current age (24) there is little rush for him to decide. He prefers the quiet, country life and thinks leading a parish would be best for him. His family wants him to enter politics or have a great military career. Edward certainly knows his temperament better than his family does—he is shy and diffident, not the stuff needed to become famous. Although Elinor cannot help but fall in love with her sister-in-law’s brother, she cautions her heart from believing they could ever be together. Nor does she try to press any advantage she has when she believes Edward loves her in return. She would never ask him to defy his mother or give up a fortune for her.

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And the award of the most hated woman in Austendom goes to…Lucy Steele!

Eventually, we learn that more than the familial expectations separate Edward and Elinor. He has secretly been engaged for five years! Elinor hears it from the woman herself, who certainly is revealing it to assert her claim on Edward. For months, Elinor bears the secret alone until it all comes out. Edward does the honorable thing and stands by Lucy, even when he is disinherited.

Elinor is upset to hear all of this, but she had always thought they could never be possible. We can examine Elinor more in another post.

Recently on Facebook, I made a connection between Edward and Marianne. Edward proposed to Lucy after a few weeks of infatuation and fascination. He was young and imprudent. He cared more for his own emotions than any logical arguments about marrying such a poor girl and one he had only (and secretly) courted for a few weeks—although it sounds as though he had met Lucy a few other times over the years. The sort of sensibility this would require does not appear to be very much like the Edward we have known over the course of the book. I suggest that this mistake—for he very soon realized it was—tempered him. Likewise, Marianne soon learns her mistake.

Edward, however, is not given the relief Marianne receives about understanding Willoughby better. Instead, he has dejected spirits for much of the book because he is not free from Lucy. Until the end of the book, he knows unless she calls the engagement off—which he doesn’t believe she shall because he can see how cunning she is—he will be stuck with her for life. All the while, he has since met other ladies worthy of greater respect and admiration, finally falling in love with Elinor.

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Good…good. Let the hate flow through you.

As Elinor has no extreme moment offering her sensibility as Marianne’s illness shows her the use of sense and restraint, I posit that Elinor needs Edward. The sensibility he has in his character evident from his proposal to Lucy can be reanimated once he is free of her.

A secondary argument which readers often give is that Elinor should be matched with Colonel Brandon. While I argue that Edward will throw aside his melancholy after uniting with Elinor, I do not believe Colonel Brandon could be rejuvenated by her. When relating the story of his lost love to Elinor, he says this:

The shock which her marriage had given me,” he continued, in a voice of great agitation, “was of trifling weight—was nothing to what I felt when I heard, about two years afterwards, of her divorce. It was that which threw this gloom,—even now the recollection of what I suffered—”

Indeed, the events of twenty years ago affect Brandon so much that it would take more than Elinor’s cautious cheerfulness to return him to good humor. His true, abiding love and pain upon being separated from Eliza by unfeeling family cannot compare to the wounded pride and unease Edward felt upon realizing should not have not proposed to a Lucy. This does not even touch Eliza’s untimely and awful death which caused Brandon’s perpetual heartache and regret.

There are several couples in Sense and Sensibility we could see as an example of what the Steele-Ferrars marriage would be like. Mr. Palmer surely regrets his choice. Sir John and Lady Middleton are not well-suited. Edward even might succumb to Lucy’s influence, as his sister influenced her husband. There are many options for how Edward’s marriage to Lucy might have turned out and, while he might perhaps forever regret losing Elinor, it could be nothing to compared to the wretched pain that poor Colonel Brandon felt.

Colonel Brandon has not shaken off the melancholy sadness from losing his first love. Marianne adds a youthful quality and energy to Brandon, but Elinor is too staid to offer that. Instead, she needs someone who has not lived in depression for nearly twenty years. Elinor and Brandon have a wonderful friendship and a deep respect for one another but do not have the qualities either needs in a partner to live their happiest life.

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If you judge a well-matched couple by their perfections, then perhaps Elinor and Edward don’t appear to suit. However, if you believe that the best couples balance one another and bring out their best attributes, then Edward has everything Elinor needs.

 

Tea Time Tattle- Jane Bennet

on a white wooden table red roses, cup of tea, heart made of lac

Last week, I discussed Bingley and how some view him as spineless and stupid. Today, I want to consider Jane Bennet.

Fan Fiction usually portrays her as simplistically angelic or stupid and disgustingly naive. A few make her less angelic or maybe even evil. Rarely does one give her a sort of dreamy approach. I tend to disagree with all of these approaches for Canon Jane. Again, this is not criticizing any fan fiction but rather examining the character as Jane Austen wrote her. Be merry and recreate however you please for a re-imagining!

We first learn about Jane with her mother defending her chances with Mr. Bingley while her father has said he would champion his second daughter, Elizabeth.

Lizzy is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good-humoured as Lydia.

To which Mr. Bennet replies:

“They have none of them much to recommend them,” replied he; “they are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters.”

Now, the next interaction reveals Mr. Bennet’s teasing personality and we can be sure he doesn’t actually think so little of his daughters. Jane Austen undoubtedly did this to help reveal Elizabeth as the primary protagonist. It’s worth noting that, usually, in novels of the day the heroine was perfectly demure and beautiful. She was often naive and the target of a cad who she had believed to be a hero. She lacked independence and her romantic interest was usually as pure as she was. In other words, the ingenue. The flip side to the ingenue was the femme fatale who used feminine wiles to try and achieve her means.

If the latter sounds familiar, then it’s because Lady Catherine accuses Elizabeth Bennet of using her wiles to entrance Darcy. However, just as there is far more to Elizabeth than her charming personality which “bewitched” Darcy, Jane Bennet is no ingenue despite it seeming so on the surface. Austen does not give us blank characters.

Jane is not really mentioned again until she dances with Mr. Bingley who is soon revealed to have a heart of gold. While Jane reveals her thoughts about Bingley’s sisters, the reader understands that Elizabeth believes Jane is being too kind-hearted. She also says things to the effect.

69c48443b14dcb7cfac35e3ab277e04eAs the book is from Elizabeth’s perspective, it seems that Elizabeth would be justified in thinking Jane too naive to see the guiles of Caroline and Louisa Bingley. Jane is also mentioned as being the only one who saw merit in Mr. Darcy (although I think Elizabeth was the only one who thought him so bad. I think the rest of the area was mostly indifferent to him while it was an all-consuming obsession for Elizabeth). We learn about half way through the book that Darcy isn’t actually bad, most of it was Elizabeth’s prejudices. Jane is also vindicated in regards to Caroline Bingley. She was not alone in arguing for her brother to stay in London. Darcy, he admitted himself, had more weight there. I could say more about Caroline and her motives, but I’ll leave it at the fact that in the end we’re told that she learns enough to stay in Darcy and Elizabeth’s good graces.

So is Jane stupid for seeing the good side in Caroline and Darcy when Elizabeth did not? I’ll admit, I always had trouble with this quote.

if the same circumstances were to happen again, I am sure I should be deceived again.

Ms. Austen is very authentic about human nature. It takes many times for us to learn. Elizabeth is wrong about Charlotte and she did not learn. She was wrong about Mr. Darcy and still she did not learn. She continued to doubt him. It is not until the final chapters that she really overcomes her prejudices about the world. Why should Jane be any different? Why is it forgivable for Elizabeth to be prejudiced in a hateful way while Jane is prejudiced in a sweet way? If you’re going to make mistakes about people and how the world operates, I think having a rosy view on things would be the better way. Both sisters faced separation and heartache. Elizabeth’s cynicism did not protect her from anything and it does not make Jane naive for being so tenderhearted.

Ah, but there’s more to this impression of a naive, stupid Jane than just Caroline and Darcy. What about Mr. Wickham?

What a stroke was this for poor Jane! who would willingly have gone through the world without believing that so much wickedness existed in the whole race of mankind, as was here collected in one individual. Nor was Darcy’s vindication, though grateful to her feelings, capable of consoling her for such discovery. Most earnestly did she labour to prove the probability of error, and seek to clear the one without involving the other.

Elizabeth has just confessed she was mistaken about Darcy’s character. Jane has learned she was mistaken about Caroline’s. It is only sensible then to consider that they might be mistaken regarding Wickham as well. Elizabeth is very hot-headed and largely believes Wickham and then Darcy based on their own words and appearances. Consider that Elizabeth did not consult with Colonel Fitzwilliam, as was offered. Even if she had, he might have lied to corroborate Darcy’s story. Elizabeth really hadn’t learned very much from the ordeal by this point and it was just as likely that Darcy could still have been a villain. The fact that he wasn’t, I believe, was Austen’s way of reinventing the trope.

janebennet2005Elizabeth argues with Jane and tries to make her pick a side. Hmmm…refusing to change one’s opinion is not generally stupid. It might later prove to be so but we typically call that stubbornness. That’s something the entire Bennet family has in spades. Mrs. Gardiner even says Darcy’s real fault is his obstinancy. So, if we do not fault Darcy for his stuborness and often gladly wear Lady Catherine’s intended insult of “obstinate, headstrong girl” as a badge of honor, why then should we fault Jane for sticking to her understanding?

Jane shows even more prudence when she says this regarding Elizabeth asking if they ought to expose Wickham:

To have his errors made public might ruin him for ever. He is now, perhaps, sorry for what he has done, and anxious to re-establish a character. We must not make him desperate.

There is more regarding Jane’s opinion about Wickham to examine. After Lydia’s elopement, Jane remains hopeful that Wickham intends an honorable marriage. When Mrs. Gardiner tries to calm Elizabeth and remind her of Jane’s views, Elizabeth replies in a fit of passion:

Of whom does Jane ever think ill? And who is there, whatever might be their former conduct, that she would think capable of such an attempt, till it were proved against them?

Well, gosh. Is it stupid to give someone a chance to prove themselves? The benefit of the doubt? The idea of innocence until proven guilty? Regardless of what Darcy’s letter said Wickham had never displayed such dishonorable actions to them. Elizabeth had once hated Darcy on Wickham’s behalf. Next, she hates Wickham on Darcy’s behalf. Jane is level-headed and considers that Wickham might have reasons for his treatment to Darcy but that does not necessarily translate to maltreatment of all mankind. She is wrong, we discover, but I can’t fault her for being cautious to condemn the man who, hopefully, would be her brother-in-law.

Throughout the ordeal, Jane supports Mrs. Bennet’s anxieties alone until Elizabeth arrives. Once Elizabeth is there, she can split that burden but must also soothe her sister. Elizabeth blames herself for not exposing Wickham but dearest Jane replies with this:

“But to expose the former faults of any person without knowing what their present feelings were, seemed unjustifiable. We acted with the best intentions.”

Having lived years with guilt and regret and seeking professional help, I can say the line about best intentions can give you a world of freedom. While Elizabeth is busy flaying herself with regrets which adds to the stress she’s feeling, Jane can handle it better. She was not quick to jump to conclusions, she did not act in haste, and had the best intentions at heart. She has nothing to reprove herself with and can bear this entire situation all the easier.

As the crisis continues, and stories about Wickham rip through Meryton, Jane and Elizabeth both reassess their first feelings.

Elizabeth, though she did not credit above half of what was said, believed enough to make her former assurance of her sister’s ruin more certain; and even Jane, who believed still less of it, became almost hopeless, more especially as the time was now come when, if they had gone to Scotland, which she had never before entirely despaired of, they must in all probability have gained some news of them.

When more evidence came to light, Jane did not stubbornly stick her head in the sand. When Mr. Gardiner writes after Darcy finds Wickham and arranges for them to marry, Jane offers this piece of wisdom:

“We must endeavour to forget all that has passed on either side,” said Jane: “I hope and trust they will yet be happy. His consenting to marry her is a proof, I will believe, that he is come to a right way of thinking. Their mutual affection will steady them; and I flatter myself they will settle so quietly, and live in so rational a manner, as may in time make their past imprudence forgotten.”

Elizabeth refuses to believe that others will forget about the situation but, once more, she over reacts. Of course, people will soon forget. A greater scandal will come and in the end, Lydia is married and respectable. That’s hardly the enduring scandal people need to remember the situation forever. I am convinced Elizabeth’s concerns on the matter shrink significantly when Darcy and Bingley arrive, even more so once Bingley proposes and they likely evaporate entirely when Darcy asks for her hand a second time. Let’s be honest, Elizabeth’s real concern here is how Lydia’s actions will affect her possibilities with Darcy. Not with just any suitor but a man who has reason to hate Wickham. The text explains as much so I won’t go into it here.

There is one more character that Jane is sometimes accused of being wrong about. The love of her life, Mr. Bingley. What does the text say about how she handles seeing him again? She was anxious before his arrival and told Elizabeth she could meet him without a problem if only others did not constantly stare at her or talk about it. After he visits Longbourn, Jane says this:

“Now,” said she, “that this first meeting is over, I feel perfectly easy. I know my own strength, and I shall never be embarrassed again by his coming. I am glad he dines here on Tuesday. It will then be publicly seen that, on both sides, we meet only as common and indifferent acquaintance.”

That does not seem naive or stupid to me. Elizabeth, for whatever its worth as her powers of judgment are in serious question by this point, replies:

“Yes, very indifferent indeed,” said Elizabeth, laughingly. “Oh, Jane, take care.”

“My dear Lizzy, you cannot think me so weak, as to be in danger now?”

“I think you are in very great danger of making him as much in love with you as ever.”

Hmmm…but does Jane take care to not make Bingley love her? Or does she act as she ever does and he chooses to seek out her feelings? She did not really change her reactions to him as though she learned from the “mistake” of concealing her emotions too much. She can be stubborn, after all. She can only be herself, as much as any other Bennet daughter can be. But she does not send him flying in the other direction. And I think that was encouragement enough for Bingley. He knew as well as anyone that she had every right to hate him but the fact that she met him with as much attention as she had before when at worst she was accused of being indifferent toward him, I think was a sign he rightly interpreted as reason for hope. Additionally, if she were suddenly bold, she would not be the Jane he fell in love with and had as much potential for disaster as it did for success.

 

I hope I’ve made a case for a more complex Jane that is neither all angelic or naive and stupid. She is delightfully complex as full of flaws, insecurities, anxieties, and worries as the next person but she also has wisdom, intelligence, and fortitude.

If you would like to read more about my observations regarding Jane Bennet, I invite you to read my posts on A January of Janes in which I compare and contrast Jane Bennet and Jane Fairfax.

What do you think of Jane Bennet?

 

 

 

 

Tea Time Tattle- Bingley

TTT.jpgThis is a new thing I’m rolling out on the blog. Along with Wordless Wednesday and Thursday 300, it will be related to the Music Monday post…somewhat. So break out the tea pot and get cozy. We’re going to sit down for a nice long chat.

The Music Monday post made me think of Bingley and Jane. This week, let’s talk about Bingley and next week we’ll do Jane.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged in Fanon that Bingley is a spineless idiot entirely dependent upon Darcy.

Blech.

I don’t know where people get this impression. The man had flaws, sure he did. So does everyone in the book. SO DOES EVERYONE. That’s what makes Austen so great. Her characters feel real because no one is perfect or flat.

Let’s look at some of the descriptions of Bingley before we really get to know him.

Bingley was endeared to Darcy by the easiness, openness, and ductility of his temper, though no disposition could offer a greater contrast to his own, and though with his own he never appeared dissatisfied. On the strength of Darcy’s regard, Bingley had the firmest reliance, and of his judgement the highest opinion.

Have you ever had someone you could depend on? Someone whose opinion you valued and respected? Most people would say yes. I think that’s all this passage means. Bingley respected Darcy’s opinion. There’s no reason to interpret this passage into the extremities that Bingley couldn’t do a thing without Darcy telling him.

Next, there’s this:

In understanding, Darcy was the superior. Bingley was by no means deficient, but Darcy was clever.

Have you ever had a friend that you thought was more intelligent than you? Someone who maybe understood things better or faster? I’m pretty good at history and reading. I can write a good story, but I need help with copy edits. I’m nearly hopeless with science or math. Does any of that make me think I’m stupid? No. I would hope no one else thinks I am simply because I have strengths in different areas. I can’t understand that chemical equation, but I can break down that Shakespeare poem for you.

Bingley was sure of being liked wherever he appeared, Darcy was continually giving offense.

So here we have the balance. Darcy is clever, with no real details given as to what he’s clever about, but then Bingley is the one who understands social cues and graces better.

You say, “That’s all well and fine, Rose but Bingley’s behavior in the story supports his spineless and stupid ways.”

As a writer,  I will admit readers need to be careful about what we show and not just what we tell. Just the other day I mentioned to a friend that in Sense and Sensibility, characters are described in generally flattering terms (or at least relatively benign), and then their personalities reveal them to either be endearing or annoying. I’m looking at you, Mrs. Jennings. I would say, however, to never disregard how an author has described a character. Jane Austen does this frequently. Mrs. Jennings might have been intrusive and annoying, but she meant well and was kind-hearted. Does any of her behavior nullify this description?

Mrs. Jennings, Lady Middleton’s mother, was a good-humoured, merry, fat, elderly woman, who talked a great deal, seemed very happy, and rather vulgar.

No, it doesn’t. Likewise, I maintain that Bingley’s actions throughout Pride and Prejudice do nothing to nullify the intelligence and strength of character Austen describes him as having.

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We all know about how Bingley left Meryton and stayed in London after Darcy told him Jane wasn’t that into him. People either blame Darcy or Bingley for that with very few splitting it between the two. However, let’s look at other things before we get there.

Bingley is obviously outgoing. He makes friends easily and mingles at the ball with strangers. Outings are referenced, and he continues to pay attention to Jane whenever the Bennets are present. Even when Jane is at Netherfield, he has plans to dine with the officers. However, there are no mentions of other people spending a lot of time in his inner circle. It is said that the Bennets returned a call on Netherfield. Nothing is said of them hosting dinners at Netherfield. It appears that regardless of how outgoing in a crowd Bingley is, he may not excell at fostering and deepening friendships.

That could be for a few reasons. Perhaps he cannot focus. Darcy does point out how easily Bingley’s attention can be redirected. However, he remained in Hertfordshrie for over six weeks. He had plenty of time to build relationships. Indeed, at the Assembly, he seems eager to please. He tells everyone he wants to host a ball. Then Lydia and Kitty remind him of that, and he emphatically agrees to it.

Hmm…he likes to make people happy.

Being a people-pleaser is not a bad thing. It does not by default make you weak or unintelligent. Notice that he’s friends with Darcy not a man like Wickham. Bingley is smart enough to choose his friends carefully. In fact, while generally pleasing the people of the area but not immediately becoming close friends with any of the other gentlemen is a prudent move. It shows he doesn’t make rash decisions.

Perhaps that is why he tip toes around Jane. He likes her. He singles her out, and Elizabeth even jokes that he ignores other ladies to the point of nearly being uncivil. However, he does not call on Longbourn frequently. He does not act as the besotted lover. For example, there’s an extreme difference in his behavior and Mr. Willoughby of Sense and Sensibility. Maybe Bingley is just more proper. However, he is not taking pains to get to know Mr. Bennet better. Even Mr. Collins made his plans plain to one of the Bennet parents as soon as possible. Finally, let us not forget that Darcy says Bingley had often been in love.

What I am getting at, is that I think there is a bit of insecurity or timidity in Mr. Bingley. Darcy says Bingley is modest but I think it’s a touch more than that. It’s not that he’s sitting in amazement that Jane is even talking to him. It’s that he’s clearly uncertain what she’s thinking and feeling. This, from the man who can easily read societal cues. Rather than just rushing in, he holds back. Even Charlotte says that Jane needs to show more, not only because Jane seems too serene but because Bingley is clearly following Jane’s lead.

After Elizabeth reads Darcy’s letter, she allows for the fact that Jane might have needed to show her feelings more openly to Bingley. This feels like it should be an exoneration for Darcy. Indeed, Elizabeth seems to allow any residual anger to evaporate over the issue. Instead, she’s left with regret that her family’s behavior contributed to the situation.

If Darcy is justified in believing Jane indifferent then why is Bingley often called spineless for believing him? The answer is that readers presume Bingley must have understood Jane better than Darcy did. True, he definitely spent more time with her than Darcy did. But did he understand her when even her closest friends can say that she concealed her feelings too much? For a man that seems to have innate feelings of modesty and insecurities, how could Bingley have acted differently? He deferred to a friend he trusted, who had never steered him wrong and bravely acknowledged his own weakness. How is that spineless?

When Bingley returns to Hertfordshire, he is immediately drawn to Jane again. Indeed, even when he saw Elizabeth the previous summer, he was attempting to ask about her. The poor man clearly has a loyal heart. Unfortunately, Jane is even more likely to act indifferent than before (more on her next week). What can make their story complete but the help of the same man who had previously intruded? Darcy saw what Bingley was too scared to see. Jane still loved Bingley. Once Bingley had that boost in confidence, he didn’t hesitate to propose.

Now, I believe every character is the hero of their own story. However, Bingley is not the hero of Pride and Prejudice. Therefore, one can argue he didn’t go through any big character development. Variations are different things, of course. We writers put in the character development that Jane didn’t show. In canon, however, Bingley doesn’t really evolve. He returns to Hertfordshire feeling insecure and modest. Granted, it takes quite a bit of courage just to come back. So, if Bingley was able to propose at the end and hasn’t gone through any evolution, then he was made of the same stuff at the beginning. If he’s not spineless at the end when he marries Jane regardless of Darcy or Caroline’s opinions, then he’s not spineless at the beginning. Instead, he has better information. And that’s not stupid of him.

What do you make of canon Bingley?