Monday, November 05, 2007

Chapter Fourteen

Originally published 4/16/2006.

Here in Chapter 14, we have what reminds me of that moment in the movie Miss Congeniality, where the trainer says, "One brief, shining moment, and then that mouth." For it is here, and only here, in the illustrious Chapter 14, that Mr. Collins has his single, solitary, and in all other ways isolated word of good common sense. Fear not. I will point it out to you.

This is another short chapter, so I will do it all at once. Sorry, Lane.

During dinner, Mr. Bennet scarcely spoke at all; but when the servants were withdrawn, he thought it time to have some conversation with his guest, and therefore started a subject in which he expected him to shine, by observing that he seemed very fortunate in his patroness. Lady Catherine de Bourgh's attention to his wishes, and consideration for his comfort, appeared very remarkable. Mr. Bennet could not have chosen better. Mr. Collins was eloquent in her praise. The subject elevated him to more than usual solemnity of manner, and with a most important aspect he protested that "he had never in his life witnessed such behaviour in a person of rank-- such affability and condescension, as he had himself experienced from Lady Catherine. She had been graciously pleased to approve of both of the discourses which he had already had the honour of preaching before her. She had also asked him twice to dine at Rosings, and had sent for him only the Saturday before, to make up her pool of quadrille in the evening. Lady Catherine was reckoned proud by many people he knew, but he had never seen anything but affability in her. She had always spoken to him as she would to any other gentleman; she made not the smallest objection to his joining in the society of the neighbourhood nor to his leaving the parish occasionally for a week or two, to visit his relations. She had even condescended to advise him to marry as soon as he could, provided he chose with discretion; and had once paid him a visit in his humble parsonage, where she had perfectly approved all the alterations he had been making, and had even vouchsafed to suggest some herself-- some shelves in the closet upstairs."

Aye, we can already see the pride coming to the fore. Lady Catherine is proud, and shows it by suggesting that various home improvements should be made (read as, "You will make these alterations.) This implies that her residence, Rosings, is superior to the parsonage which, while no doubt true, is not something that Lady Catherine needs to parade around at every opportunity. The phrase "noblesse oblige" comes to mind.

"That is all very proper and civil, I am sure," said Mrs. Bennet, "and I dare say she is a very agreeable woman. It is a pity that great ladies in general are not more like her. Does she live near you, sir?"

"The garden in which stands my humble abode is separated only by a lane from Rosings Park, her ladyship's residence."

Mr. Collins here.

"I think you said she was a widow, sir? Has she any family?"

Mr. Bennet.

"She has only one daughter, the heiress of Rosings, and of very extensive property."

Mr. Collins.

"Ah!" said Mrs. Bennet, shaking her head, "then she is better off than many girls. And what sort of young lady is she? Is she handsome?"

"She is a most charming young lady indeed. Lady Catherine herself says that, in point of true beauty, Miss de Bourgh is far superior to the handsomest of her sex, because there is that in her features which marks the young lady of distinguished birth. She is unfortunately of a sickly constitution, which has prevented her from making that progress in many accomplishments which she could not have otherwise failed of, as I am informed by the lady who superintended her education, and who still resides with them. But she is perfectly amiable, and often condescends to drive by my humble abode in her little phaeton and ponies."

Mr. Collins. I don't suppose there is anything wrong with this bit of conversation. That will soon change, as it does so often in Austen.

"Has she been presented? I do not remember her name among the ladies at court."

Mr. Bennet.

"Her indifferent state of health unhappily prevents her being in town; and by that means, as I told Lady Catherine one day, has deprived the British court of its brightest ornaments. Her ladyship seemed pleased with the idea; and you may imagine that I am happy on every occasion to offer those little delicate compliments which are always acceptable to ladies. I have more than once observed to Lady Catherine, that her charming daughter seemed born to be a duchess, and that the most elevated rank, instead of giving her consequence, would be adorned by her. These are the kind of little things which please her ladyship, and it is a sort of attention which I conceive myself peculiarly bound to pay."

I would comment on Mr. Collins here, but Austen herself, by what follows, more than adequately explains this folly.

"You judge very properly," said Mr. Bennet, "and it is happy for you that you possess the talent of flattering with delicacy. May I ask whether these pleasing attentions proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are the result of previous study?"

"They arise chiefly from what is passing at the time, and though I sometimes amuse myself with suggesting and arranging such little elegant compliments as may be adapted to ordinary occasions, I always wish to give them as unstudied an air as possible."

Mr. Collins, who is not all there.

Mr. Bennet's expectations were fully answered. His cousin was as absurd as he had hoped, and he listened to him with the keenest enjoyment, maintaining at the same time the most resolute composure of countenance, and, except in an occasional glance at Elizabeth, requiring no partner in his pleasure.

The Kiera Knightley version at this point, hereby abbreviated KKn, almost goes over the top, and portrays Mr. Bennet and Lizzy having a great deal of difficulty concealing their mirth. I think Jane probably catches on to the absurdity as well.

By tea-time, however, the dose had been enough, and Mr. Bennet was glad to take his guest into the drawing-room again, and, when tea was over, glad to invite him to read aloud to the ladies. Mr. Collins readily assented, and a book was produced; but, on beholding it (for everything announced it to be from a circulating library), he started back, and begging pardon, protested that he never read novels...

Sad, sad creature. Novels, good novels, teach us so much! Indeed, the present work has been teaching me a great deal. This is no doubt a not-so-subtle jab at various narrow-minded people who think that truth cannot be conveyed in fiction. I don't know how they get that opinion, as Jesus Christ used fiction as his primary teaching tool in the parables. Those narrow-minded types we have still with us, unfortunately. I would almost rather say that the truth is more easily conveyed in fiction than in non-fiction. In fiction, you see, the author can contrive his created world to leave out distracting details so that he can teach precisely what he wants. The real world is so much more complicated, and so much more grey versus black and white, that it can be very difficult to learn anything from history. Which is why too many people don't even try, a different extreme which we should also avoid.

...Kitty stared at him, and Lydia exclaimed. Other books were produced, and after some deliberation he chose Fordyce's Sermons. Lydia gaped as he opened the volume, and before he had, with very monotonous solemnity, read three pages, she interrupted him with:

"Do you know, mamma, that my uncle Phillips talks of turning away Richard; and if he does, Colonel Forster will hire him. My aunt told me so herself on Saturday. I shall walk to Meryton to-morrow to hear more about it, and to ask when Mr. Denny comes back from town."

Rude, rude, rude. Yes, Mr. Collins is a boor; that is no excuse for such interruptions.

Lydia was bid by her two eldest sisters to hold her tongue; but Mr. Collins, much offended, laid aside his book, and said:

"I have often observed how little young ladies are interested by books of a serious stamp, though written solely for their benefit. It amazes me, I confess; for, certainly, there can be nothing so advantageous to them as instruction. But I will no longer importune my young cousin."

Here it is, as promised. Mr. Collins's sole moment of glory. Alas, it is not nearly enough to atone for the avalanche of pomposity he so universally exhibits elsewhere. But truly, if you examine this statement, there is so much truth to it. Before you ladies attack me with something like, "But Mr. Collins is really pointing out the deficiencies of ladies in order to elevate his own sex," which might very well be true, let me ask you: is what he says true, or not? I think the Christian life should focus on our own sins and faults, not so much the sins of others. So Mr. Collins may not be doing the best thing here in saying this, since he does not realize that his statement will quite go over Lydia's head, thus violating the principle of conversation that the listener must be within your realm of influence or authority, and that you must have some probability of success. Mr. Collins, therefore, while speaking truth, does not speak it in love. However, if you are on the receiving end of a comment like this, the wise thing to do is overlook the deficiencies of delivery, and focus on its truth, which is manifest.

Then turning to Mr. Bennet, he offered himself as his antagonist at backgammon. Mr. Bennet accepted the challenge, observing that he acted very wisely in leaving the girls to their own trifling amusements...

Knowing as I do that Mr. Bennet thinks his daughters to be very foolish, viz. his statements in Chapter 7, I am inclined to think that Mr. Bennet may not be sarcastic here. He may mean what he says, especially since it's probably true.

...Mrs. Bennet and her daughters...

Probably excluding Lydia.

...apologised most civilly for Lydia's interruption, and promised that it should not occur again, if he would resume his book; but Mr. Collins, after assuring them that he bore his young cousin no ill-will, and should never resent her behaviour as any affront, seated himself at another table with Mr. Bennet, and prepared for backgammon.


At April 20, 2006 9:49 AM, Blogger Jessie said...

Okay, I'm a little late here. These comments actually refer to the previous post, but you've all TIOC'ed... (Forgive me, one question: I've googled TIOC, and all I can figure is that it stands for Triumph International Owners Club, but this doesn't seem to apply to your conversations... What am I missing??) I gather that it's something you say to politely stop commenting about an issue ; )

No one has talked about Mary!

The A&E Mary and the KKn Mary are so different! I need to read the book to determine which is more accurate (I haven't seem the BBC version- I'll have to get it from the library.), and while the KKn Mary is much more likable in general, I think I actually like the A&E version better because you can see how she would be drawn to *gasp* like Mr. Collins.

And what about that scene in the KKn where Mr. Darcy walks into Lizzy's room and leaves her the letter?? Where did that come from??

I'd love to hear what you all think!

At April 20, 2006 9:50 AM, Blogger Jessie said...

sorry- typo.

"I haven't 'seem'" should read seen. sorry.

At April 20, 2006 1:46 PM, Blogger Susan said...

Your deductive abilities are impressive, Jessie! :) Even though you didn't figure out the precise acronym, that's definitely the general idea. . . Adrian invented TIOC - which is why even Google didn't know about it ;). It stands for tie it off cordially.

Yes, yes, Mary. She could be a whole other post. I meant to mention her before :). Each portrayal of her has good and bad points. I think the A&E Mary is too sour, though it is funny to see her background expressions of admiration for Mr. Collins: smoothing her hair as he drives up, her constant encouraging smile and nod, etc. Hehe :).

I think I like the BBC Mary best, though I'm not positive which is the most accurate. Her performances at the piano-forte were a tad over-done. . . but she seemed appropriately bookish, awkward, yet not as sour as the A&E. I also would need to reread the book to see which is the closest to the book, though. The KKn Mary was the most likeable, perhaps, but seemed way to pretty, imo.

Okay, and about the scene in KKn where Mr. Darcy delivers the letter. That was so weird! I have yet to figure that one out. There were several things like that in KKn that just didn't seem very normal, especially for that time period. Mr. Bingley would not have personally come up and seen Jane in her bedchamber! Overall, still an okay version, but yes, the letter scene really perplexed me. I just compare it to the other short version of P&P I've seen and then it seems absolutely wonderful in comparison! Have you seen the Sir Laurence Olivier version? *shudder*

Okay, must go tutor. . .

At April 21, 2006 10:42 AM, Blogger Jessie said...

Good. Now I know. I figured as much as "tie it off..." but then I was stuck. Tie it off commenting?? That didn't make sense but it was all I was coming up with. : )

For being such a short telling of the story, the KKn spent a lot of time on meaningless or confusing points. They spent quite a bit of time following Lizzy around while she read (but they were showing the opening credits- I guess I'll let that one slip). Why was she standing on the cliff with the wind blowing? Why did she need (as Lane recalled) to twirl on the swing for so long? Why did the pig walk through the house so we could see it's- tail? (Were they wanting us to see a parallel between the pig and Mr. Collins, traipsing through their lives? : D ) I think I would have had them develop the characters in more personal ways during the amount of time they spent on "scenery."

But one thing the KKn version did well was showing a more accurate representation of life at that time. Everyone looked hot at some point in the movie, the girls had dirty hair, Kitty and Lizzy had pimples (and they actually looked 15 and 16 in this one, much better than A&E), the scenes after supper were actually dark... And of course I loved the music.

My mom really liked the KKn portrayal of the first Darcy proposal much better than the A&E. She liked how Lizzy seemed to really feel "put out," and her lines were delivered with personality; you could feel like she was really being proposed to and refusing him. In the A&E version she delivers her lines with accuracy and force, but that's just it. She's acting. Maybe they were trying to show the reservedness of that region and era, but people did still have feelings. The KKn version showed more of that feeling.

Is the Sir Oliver version the BBC one? I haven't seen any but the A&E and KKn... yet. : )

At April 21, 2006 12:04 PM, Blogger Susan said...

No, no, the Sir Lawrence Olivier version is different from BBC. I wouldn't shudder over the BBC. It's not as good as A&E, but it has many good points. I don't like anything about the Sir Lawrence Olivier version. It was done in the 1930's (I believe), and is absolutely dreadful! Don't waste your time watching it.

I think the scenery in KKn were just to show the beautiful surroundings, Lizzy's love of nature, etc. The nice thing those sorts of scenes did was make it not seem rushed. If they had tried to fit everything in during those 2 1/2 hours, it would have been awful. Given the fact that it is only that long, they did best to have some more "laidback scenes." I'm not defending the time choice, mind you! - just the amount of content given the time slot. I really think it should have been longer. It's hard to fit Jane Austen into 2-2 1/2 hours, though Emma Thompson did it very well with her S&S adaptation.

And yes, the pig bugged me a lot!!! Also the art gallery. *shudder*

I did like the more "natural" look in KKn, which was more correct. The lighting was more accurate, for sure. I noticed that for the evening balls.

I really didn't like Darcy's first proposal in KKn - Sorry, Jessica's mom! Both she and Darcy seemed so petty and childish. I love the A&E scene for that; Lizzy strikes me as more level-headed than she was in that KKn scene, but I could be wrong. She definitely is supposed to have spunk, though! My absolute favorite movie scene from all the versions is actually the A&E first proposal. My second favorite scene is the BBC second proposal.


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