Tea Time Tattle– First Experience (short story)

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

Put down your tea before you go any further! I don’t want anyone spitting out their drink in surprise. This post is also intended for readers over the age of 18.

The other day I saw a debate about Mr. Darcy’s sexual past. Oh, it wasn’t the first time I’ve seen the arguments. It’s always jarring to me because I read Pride and Prejudice nearly exclusively for ten years before trying Jane Austen Fan Fiction. I never once wondered about Darcy’s sex life. I read P&P for the first time at 17, just before I began dating the man who became my husband. The only real boyfriend I’ve ever had. My only real kiss. And I was the same for him. I’m sure you can guess that we were virgins too. However, I don’t think it was that which made me just never wonder about a fictional character’s past. I knew a large variety of people and was certainly aware that virginity until marriage in the 21st century is a rare thing. Throughout this decade-long embargo on any other books, I was a married adult and anything but celibate. I say all this to explain that I’m not a prude and don’t expect people to have no desires.

In the first JAFF I ever read, dealing with the wedding night scenario was the very first scene. I was surprised to read Darcy as a virgin. I was surprised it needed to be such an issue but I was not displeased. He had lots of good reasons and even admitted that it was never a very conscious decision. He didn’t take some religious vow of celibacy–which wannabe historians will tell you is a post-Victorian belief.

When I began writing JAFF, I chose to make every Darcy I’ve written be a virgin. It doesn’t always come up, but it does many times. The reasons are not always the same, but they are always rooted in logic, I think.  I thought about weighing in on the debate, but then I decided that the pen is always mightier than the sword. Why argue when I can write? So here it is. The wedding night that would have happened if Darcy had been like all the other men for the era and used all the arguments that I have seen over the years for what is in effect reverse slut-shaming; you’re not a sexy man if you haven’t had dozens of partners.


Elizabeth turned from her seat at the vanity when she heard her husband’s gentle knock. Husband! The word was still so new to her. Everything in the grand London house was unfamiliar to her but the person on the other side of the door. She bade him enter, her heart in her throat.

“Elizabeth,” Darcy said as he took in her layers of frothy white. “You look beautiful. I could never have imagined anything more perfect.”

He came to her and kissed her deeply. Elizabeth melted into his arms, willing and even a bit eager for what would happen next. Unexpectedly, Darcy pulled back.

“I must confess something to you.” He avoided her eyes as he flushed. “I have never been with a woman.”

“Oh,” Elizabeth said. “I have not been with a man. Surely we can figure it out. Many unintelligent people find proficiency in the bedroom if their numerous children are any testament.”

“I fear that you will be disappointed,” Darcy frowned. “You see, men are often educated with women so they know how to please their wives.”

Elizabeth furrowed her brow. “Who are these women they are with? I can think of no lady whether she loves her husband or not who would take comfort in knowing he bedded a dozen before her.”

“It is far more than a dozen,” Darcy sighed. “Men of my status can find willing partners each and every night of their lives. Sometimes more than one a night—or more than one at a time.”

Elizabeth’s cheeks flamed scarlet at the thought. “How do they find women so willing to do this? Any lady I have known understands the value of her virtue. I do not doubt the women exist, only that they could be so easily found. You speak as though they are available en masse.”

“They are,” Darcy shrugged. “Women live and work in a house with others with one man or woman presiding over them.”

“Work?”

“Making love requires exertion.”

“So they are paid for taking men to bed?”

“Did you not know of such things?”

“I did, of course,” Elizabeth acknowledged. “However, I did not know it was available without condemnation for men to freely partake of. You sound as though you are the only man in the world who has not done this.”

“I might be,” Darcy said. “All others and I do mean all—your father and uncles, your rector, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Bingley, even that toadying cousin of yours—would have visited a brothel. We cannot control ourselves. We have desires, and we cannot stop them. The women are available, and if we have any coin at all, then we will go there.”

Elizabeth sat in her chair again as a queasy feeling invaded her stomach. “Why have you not?”

“Because I hate people so much,” Darcy acknowledged. “Could you imagine a stranger asking me questions let alone touching me?” He shuddered.

Tears welled in Elizabeth’s eyes. “I had thought maybe for other reasons.”

“Did you think that I objected to the double standard between men and women?” He laughed. “My naïve little heart. Think of your sister. She was ruined but did anyone call Wickham names?”

They did, actually, Elizabeth mentally corrected. Lydia had been thoughtless and stupid, but Wickham was branded as one of the worst men to walk the Earth. Perhaps it was so only in Meryton? But then Fitzwilliam seemed so sure that every other man would have had numerous lovers.

“Perhaps you thought I objected to the risk of disease.”

“Disease?”

“Aye. There are terrible diseases amongst the sex workers. It spreads like wildfire, and there’s no cure for it. Husbands catch it in their youth then give it to their wives. Babes are born with it. The treatment can be worse than the ailment.”

“But you would not have risked that,” Elizabeth charged. “Who would be master of Pemberley if you were sick or mad or worst yet, died?”

“I’m afraid I was never so reasonable, my love. My elder cousin the Viscount surely is infected but it is no concern since Colonel Fitzwilliam may inherit should James perish first.”

“Colonel Fitzwilliam has been in the Regulars for over a decade! We are at war. There is no security that he may live. The Viscount has been very risky with his life.”

“It is only an earldom at stake. It can go to a distant cousin or descend into abeyance. I am not really sure.”

Elizabeth’s head began to pound. “But you will not risk this after we are married.” She licked her lips. “I mean, you said you did not want a stranger touching you, but perhaps you will learn what you have been missing and want it more often—you did make it sound as though one woman would be impossible to serve a man’s desires entirely and you said men are helpless to withstand the temptation. Please, Fitzwilliam! I do not wish to become ill, and you would not risk our future children!”

Darcy came and took Elizabeth’s hands in his. He pressed a kiss to each one before answering. “I cannot promise you any such thing, but you need not worry. After all, it is the same position every other wife finds herself in. You, too, might find comfort in the arms of a lover.”

She shrank back as though he struck her. “You doubt my fidelity and love for you?”

“Not at all,” Darcy stroked her cheek. “The pleasure of the bedroom has nothing to do with the heart. I know you love me as I love you but why should we limit our partners? I mean no disrespect by it. I am sure you understand.”

She did not understand it! Just saying it was the done thing did not suddenly make it appropriate in her mind! “Fitzwilliam, I am not that sort of woman. Surely you knew this before we married. I cannot be bidden to do things just because Society expects them to be so.”

“Then keep your standards and be unhappy,” he shrugged. “Your conscience does not trouble me. I am secure knowing I love you and can do what I want with my body. Your possessiveness only thrills me more.”

He would take pleasure in knowing that thoughts of him with another woman tormented her? The new weight of the wedding band on her finger now felt like a shackle. “Seek me first. I promise I will not refuse you.”

“There are times when I must be away. I cannot sit at the house all day with you. There are tenants to visit at the estate, my clubs in Town. We will be invited to house parties, and you may not always wish to go, such as when you are expecting or after the children are born.”

Elizabeth grew dizzy as Darcy spoke. He would take the wives of their friends? Or maybe the maids? The tenants? “Surely I am worrying for naught. You have not partaken of the flesh before. Why should I feel concern that you will do these things?”

“Because I am a man, Elizabeth,” Darcy said. “I am a man, and you are a woman, and this is the way things are. Now, enough talking.”

He scooped her into his arms and carried her to the bed. She shivered in fear. Her maidenly instinct was to fear this moment. She had little to no preparation for the act itself. Now, she feared it for even more reasons. She supposed he had intended to be kind by telling her. Would she rather have heard it all now than find out later and be embarrassed and ashamed? She really could not say.

Above her, Darcy kissed her lips before sloppily going down her neck. His fingers trailed over her garments and plucked at odd places. Finally, he drew the closure to her robe open and let out a frustrated grunt when he discovered another layer. He began to lift her shift from the top only for it to remain pinned beneath her buttocks.

Elizabeth did not know what to do. Somehow, he must get his instrument into her body. How could that be when they were both fully clothed, and she laid stiff as a rod?

Next, Darcy pulled at her garments from her shoulders, attempting to slip them down. They also did not budge. He did not vocalize a desire that she should move and although she had dressed and undressed her whole life, it did not occur to her either. Finally, Darcy tore the thin fabric, splitting it down the middle. His fingers scratched at her body as he did so, ruining what would otherwise be a thrilling moment.

There was more pain to come, she told herself. That her chest now bled was of no concern. A part of her, however, had wished perhaps he had that training he spoke of. Darcy’s eyes flamed when he saw her body open to his inspection. His hands soon followed. He slipped them in various places—some of them drawing a pleasurable sigh from Elizabeth’s lips but he never lingered where her sensation was the strongest. He did not notice what touches she liked, and she never thought to tell him.

Likewise, the pressure of his touch varied. Sometimes it was too hard, almost bruising, and other times far too soft. As he circled her breasts, he seemed uninterested in the way her nipples hardened, and she was nearly lifting off the bed as that sensitive part of her body sought more of his hand.

His fingers trailed slower, tickling her thighs. A frisson of pleasure danced over her as he came near her sex but he was far more interested in her ankles. Soon, he nudged at her legs, and she let them fall open wide. He was still clothed. He undid a few buttons, and a gigantic member fell out. Elizabeth gulped.

Darcy tried to thrust into her core but could not enter. He persisted, however, and soon, he made his way in. Elizabeth felt ripped on the inside. She cried out in pain.

He grinned at her. “It feels amazing, does it not? I am happy to bring you pleasure too.”

He thought she liked this? She had known he had misunderstood her early in their acquaintance and that he did not have the social skills others did. However, nothing in their courtship could have prepared her for this. He was eloquent enough in his kisses and had always raised a feeling of yearning in her. She had looked forward to their wedding night and years of marriage. However, once he came into her room, it was as though she ceased existing as a person.

He continued to thrust into her, heedless of the tears streaming down her cheek. The pain had not abated. Each movement felt like rough sand irritating her skin. Finally, she felt some moisture but knew from the further stinging it would only be blood from her wounded parts. How did women do this for just anyone? Or was he inept because he had not been trained?

Darcy moved with rapidity and Elizabeth prayed the ordeal would soon be over. Suddenly, he withdrew from her and stroked himself with his hand. He let out a grunt as white fluid exploded from his member and Elizabeth found herself bathed in it.

Darcy looked down perplexed. “Next time, I will have to remember to stay inside you if we want to get you with child ever.”

Elizabeth nodded, confused more than ever by the entire experience. Darcy flopped on the bed and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “I love you, Elizabeth.” He promptly fell asleep and began to snore.

For the remainder of their honeymoon, their encounters were the same. He approached her various times of day, and she did not refuse, as she had promised, even as she began to ache in earnest at all times. It took six or seven times for Darcy to remember to find completion in her body.

At last, their week at the seaside resort was over, and they journeyed to London. By the close of their first week as newlyweds, Elizabeth began to understand what Darcy had said. He was insatiable, but she was not the woman to teach him the bedroom arts. She could hardly tell where she wanted him to touch or what would feel good. It was as though her body was an alien thing to her. Fortunately, outside of their chamber, they were as devoted and happy as ever. Elizabeth was assured that if Darcy did seek further relief or education their marriage would not suffer. He was entirely correct, the bedroom had nothing to do with the heart.

A few weeks after they arrived in London, Elizabeth overheard two women at a soiree. One lady was in tears because her husband had come with his mistress. The other told her not to resent it and that she enjoyed what her husband had learned from the woman and a place called Sally’s.

That evening, before Darcy took her to their bed, Elizabeth brought up the subject. “Do you think I need teaching as a wife? In bed, I mean?”

“Surely you are adequate for now. It is I that should learn more. I feel like the boy at school who has finally learned to read and is insatiable for books.”

“Then your first complaint is now over? The thought of a stranger touching you no longer repulses you?”

Darcy puffed his chest out. “I could bear it for the pleasure that follows. I have always had many offers. I think I will take the next one that comes.”

“Why wait?” Elizabeth said. “I have heard of a place—Sally’s. You could go tonight?”

Darcy nodded. “After I finish here,” he said before thrusting into her.

A few minutes later, Darcy was asleep at her side. He roused after an hour or so of sleeping, his arousal digging into her. “I will go now,” he said. “I love you.”

Elizabeth smiled for she knew he did. What he went to learn was only out of love for her. She did not see him again for a week, but when he did return to her, it was the most glorious experience of her life. Suddenly, he knew where to touch and hold. He kissed her all over and thrilled her to the core. When they had finished, she lay panting and sweaty, eager for a renewal whenever Darcy recovered his strength.

Of course, he still had much to learn. He was a devoted student. Inexplicably, what he learned from one woman always worked on her. It was as if there was no difference whatsoever in the fact that she was a unique person. She also never wondered about his other partners, never felt inadequate, never compared herself to them or wondered if her husband found greater pleasure with them. She was always content to merely exist simply as his devoted wife and occasional play-thing. Elizabeth also never worried about any Darcy bastard children running around, it was not as though anyone needed to worry about people beneath them. They were practically mud on their boots and just as forgettable.

So it went for many years, and Elizabeth knew it was the key to their happiness in the bedroom. In time, she took a lover or two. The Colonel had always been dashing, after all. She did not even cry when the doctor told her Darcy and she both were infected, and it would hurt their children. She had safely born him an heir and a spare. She was uncertain who truly fathered the other three, but it was of no matter. She had been a good wife, discreet in her affairs. Of course, she had no choice but to have fewer partners than her husband since it was difficult to arrange no one seeing her comings and goings and servants were prone to gossip.

Many years later, on her eldest son’s birthday, Elizabeth smiled as she waved off her husband and son. They were going to Sally’s and maybe a few other places to give the Darcy heir a true education. Elizabeth knew her future daughters-in-law would thank her. Indeed, they would only entertain offers for their daughters from experienced gentlemen. When her daughters asked how she could allow her sons to go to a place which treated women so poorly, she told them of her wedding night and how without education a man just could not figure out how things worked. In this way, women—some women, at least—were the superior so really it was not abusive toward women. Indeed, allowing for so many partners was freeing. The daughters wisely nodded in agreement, even Chloe, the one who was born blind due to syphilis complications.


If you’ve made it this far, I hope you enjoyed my tongue-in-cheek explanation of why I write virgin Darcys. The most basic point comes down to consideration for others and for himself. Also, there is quite the line between being an innocent and being stupid.

Tea Time Tattle– Series vs. Incomplete

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

I’m still working on Treasured, Book Three in the Loving Elizabeth Series. I hope to have it out in October. From time to time I’ll hear–or rather read–a comment about the story not being complete. This isn’t unique to me, of course; lots of writers of series get this comment.

Let’s do a bit of research about series. Here’s what Wikipedia says:

Fictional series typically share a common setting, story arc, set of characters or timeline. They are common in genre fiction, particularly crime fiction, adventure fiction, and science fiction, as well as in children’s literature.

Some works in a series can stand alone—they can be read in any order, as each book makes few, if any reference to past events, and the characters seldom, if ever, change. Many of these series books may be published in a numbered series. Examples of such series are works like The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Nick Carter.

Some series do have their characters go through changes, and make references to past events. Typically such series are published in the order of their internal chronology, so that the next book published follows the previous book. How much these changes matter will vary from series to series (and reader to reader). For some, it may be minor—characters might get engaged, change jobs, etc., but it does not affect the main storyline. Examples of this type include Tony Hillerman’s Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn books. In other series, the changes are major and the books must be read in order to be fully enjoyed. Examples of this type include the Harry Potter series.

There are some book series that are not really proper series, but more of a single work so large that it must be published over two or more books. Examples of this type include The Lord of the Rings volumes or the Dark Tower series by Stephen King.

Some authors make it difficult to list their books in a numerical order when they do not release each work in its ‘proper’ order by the story’s internal chronology. They might ‘jump’ back in time to early adventures of the characters, writing works that must be placed before or between previously published works. Thus, the books in a series are sometimes enumerated according to the internal chronology rather than in publication order, depending on the intended purpose for the list. Examples of this series include works from the Chronicles of Narnia, where the fifth book published, The Horse and His Boy, is actually set during the time of the first book, and the sixth book published, The Magician’s Nephew is actually set long before the first book. This was done intentionally by C. S. Lewis, a medieval literature scholar. Medieval literature did not always tell a story chronologically.

The post on this site sagas, serialized epics, and continuing adventures. The author writes SciFi/Fantasy, so things are filtered through that genre. In Romance, we usually find sagas as multi-generational family pieces. He describes serialized epics as:

These are the series where the next book in the series picks up right where the previous one left off. In essence, the author is writing one enormous book, releasing it in installments.

Mr. Sanderson lists The Lord of the Rings as an example. Finally, he says of continuing adventures:

This is the series where you get one central protagonist who has a complete story in each book. Then, when another book comes out, that character can go on another adventure. It differs from the saga in the fact that it goes chronologically and focuses on a single, central viewpoint character.

Sanderson adds that he finds this type of series very successful and the most popular outside of Scifi/Fantasy.

I’ve heard different names for this breakdown of series specifically for Romance. The Continuing Character Series is a series with one or two central protaganists and each story is a stand alone. Connected Character Series would be similar to the description of Saga above. The best friend or brother in Book 1 might be the protagonist of Book 2. Multivolume Series has one large conflict that extends throughout the series while each book will deal with a subplot and will finish the conflict central to that story.

I’ve heard different names for this breakdown of series specifically for Romance. The Continuing Character series is a series with one or two central protagonists, and each story is a stand alone. Connected Character series would be similar to the description of Saga above. The best friend or brother in Book 1 might be the protagonist of Book 2. Multivolume series has one massive conflict that extends throughout the series while each book will deal with a subplot and will finish the conflict central to that story.

Let’s consider my various series.

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This series is getting new covers!

The Jane Austen Re-Imaginings series is entirely stand alones. Read them in any order. They do not build upon one another. This would be close to the Continuing Character series. Obviously, it is not the same Darcy and Elizabeth in each story, but it is as though the game board has been reset and the pieces are set up all over again.

The When Love Blooms series was supposed to be a Connected Character series. Darcy and Elizabeth are happily married, and their storyline is complete. Book 2 then fills in the gaps of what the minor characters were going through before they each get their own book. It’s not sold well, and I think the issue is mixing up all the points of views in book 2, Renewed Hope. My new intention is to give the connected characters their own series while continuing to follow Darcy and Elizabeth in When Love Blooms. This will involve taking down the current book 2 (Renewed Hope) and possibly adding scenes from it into Extraordinary Devotion. Instead of following what happens to the Bennet family through the eyes of each sister, I will be keeping with Darcy and Elizabeth.

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Pride and Prejudice and Bluestockings is multivolume. The first book was so long that if I had continued to follow all the storylines, it would be probably 1,000 pages long and years of writing. The primary conflict is completed at the end of Mr. Darcy’s Bluestocking Bride, but other issues remain. Additionally, Darcy and Elizabeth will be going on a new “adventure” in each book.

 

Loving Elizabeth is intended to be a Continuing Character series but within a self-contained universe. The conflict of Pledged is “can they fall in love despite their family’s disapproval?” Wickham and Lord Harcourt were up to no good. Sam and Mr. Darcy disapproved of Will and Elizabeth’s attachment. Reunited begins after they were separated for years. Wickham isn’t even mentioned for most of the book, Harcourt never is, Sam and Mr. Darcy are dead. Yes, Will and Elizabeth loved each other and wished to marry at the end of Pledged, and that never changed. Reunited poses a new question. Why were they separated? The answer is as much about their personal flaws as it is about stolen letters. Treasured‘s conflict will center on conquering all opposition. There are now even more people against Will and Elizabeth’s marriage and for different reasons. Wickham is a potential threat again. Will they give up on each other or will they fight and overcome together?

Additionally, each book in the Loving Elizabeth series uses a different romantic trope. Pledged combined the brother’s best friend and young lovers tropes. The conflict is centered around those problems. Reunited is a second chance story at its core. Treasured will be… well, that’s a secret for now! 😀

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All this to say, each Loving Elizabeth story is a complete story. Should you read in order? It would be helpful. However, enough is said in Reunited and Treasured that you could read out of order.

But if they’re short and I’m releasing several of them, aren’t I just cutting up the story and publishing it in installments?

They are novellas. Length does not determine completion of a story. I have read a few very, very long stories that did not complete the conflict they introduced. I can think of one that despite this fact is a favorite of mine. The Lord of the Rings series is described as being released in installments in both sources above. They are some of the longest books out there. By the same token, even micro of flash fiction can give a complete story: conflict, climax, resolution. Most children’s books contain these elements but are only a few pages long.

Combining the three stories into one book would make for a poor reader experience as the would not be a sustained conflict that continues to build until the final quarter of the book. It might one day be available as an anthology, the way I offer others from time to time. That should not be confused with putting the story into one volume or releasing it as a “complete book.”

To address a less openly discussed criticism of the series: if I had written it as one novel, then it would be nearly 100,000 words or about 600 pages and would be $9.99. It’s actually cheaper to buy it as three novellas.

In conclusion, here’s my confession about incomplete stories being series. Pledged and Reunited at not part of a chopped up longer story. However, Mr. Darcy’s Bluestocking Bride is. No one complains about it because it’s long. Chew on that for a bit.

Additionally, even that isn’t wrong, incorrect, unfair, or unusual. It may not be the standard in JAFF but there’s a wide, wide world of books out there. JAFF is a teeny, tiny niche compared within other genres. Most would place JAFF in Regency Romance (a subcategory of Historical Romance (a subcategory of Romance)) or in Regency Historical Fiction.

Adopting practices from other categories that might not be the norm in JAFF can keep the genre relevant and revitalized. It’s not enough to merely write JAFF as it’s always been done for the sake of always doing it that way. I don’t care if no one else has done a series this way or that way and therefore some readers think I’m doing it wrong. I’ve done my research. I know I’m doing something acceptable and crafting a story intentionally around it. If Regency Romance folks like that style, maybe they will give our JAFF a try. This is something to keep in mind regarding length and series before judging an author’s work.

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?

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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.