Sunday, October 14, 2007

Chapter Thirty

Originally published 11/5/2006.

In Chapter Thirty, we have essentially one important event occuring: the coming of Mr. Darcy. Everything is working up to the climax of Pride and Prejudice, which is chapters thirty-four, thirty-five, and thirty-six, but especially thirty-six. The letter, as I've been calling it, is chapter thirty-five. With the addition of Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam, all the players are in place and on scene.

Sir William stayed only a week at Hunsford, but his visit was long enough to convince him of his daughter's being most comfortably settled, and of her possessing such a husband and such a neighbour as were not often met with...

This opinion is, of course, from Sir William's point of view. I can't help but think that Austen might be being a bit sly here, so that what's she's really saying is that it might be difficult to find such silly neighbors and husbands.

...While Sir William was with them, Mr. Collins devoted his morning to driving him out in his gig, and showing him the country; but when he went away, the whole family returned to their usual employments, and Elizabeth was thankful to find that they did not see more of her cousin by the alteration, for the chief of the time between breakfast and dinner was now passed by him either at work in the garden or in reading and writing, and looking out of the window in his own book-room, which fronted the road...

This seems proper for a pastor to do; we know, however, that Mr. Collins's daily habits, while they may seem acceptable, hide the fact that his reading and writing is probably useless. I can't imagine that he really has much of a ministry.

...The room in which the ladies sat was backwards. Elizabeth had at first rather wondered that Charlotte should not prefer the dining-parlour for common use; it was a better sized room, and had a more pleasant aspect; but she soon saw that her friend had an excellent reason for what she did, for Mr. Collins would undoubtedly have been much less in his own apartment had they sat in one equally lively;...

This shows that Mr. Collins isn't really concerned about people so much as their opinion of him. If Mr. Collins really loved Charlotte, he would want to be with her no matter where she was, though naturally subject to the demands of his occupation.

...and she gave Charlotte credit for the arrangement.

From the drawing-room they could distinguish nothing in the lane, and were indebted to Mr. Collins for the knowledge of what carriages went along, and how often especially Miss de Bourgh drove by in her phaeton, which he never failed coming to inform them of, though it happened almost every day...

Austen pointing out the extremely... unnecessary nature of what Mr. Collins is about here.

...She not unfrequently stopped at the Parsonage, and had a few minutes' conversation with Charlotte, but was scarcely ever prevailed upon to get out.

Very few days passed in which Mr. Collins did not walk to Rosings, and not many in which his wife did not think it necessary to go likewise; and till Elizabeth recollected that there might be other family livings to be disposed of, she could not understand the sacrifice of so many hours...

I suppose by "family livings", Austen means there could be other jobs, essentially, that Mr. Collins could take over. So Mr. Collins has Hunsford, but he may be able to obtain other livings as well and so boost his income. That, I think, is likely what Austen has in mind.

...Now and then they were honoured with a call from her ladyship, and nothing escaped her observation that was passing in the room during these visits. She examined into their employments, looked at their work, and advised them to do it differently; found fault with the arrangement of the furniture; or detected the housemaid in negligence; and if she accepted any refreshment, seemed to do it only for the sake of finding out that Mrs. Collins's joints of meat were too large for her family.

A textbook example of micromanagement. I, for one, find it all rather humorous; though if I were the recipient of such unbearable officiousness, I might scream.

Elizabeth soon perceived, that though this great lady was not in commission of the peace of the county, she was a most active magistrate in her own parish, the minutest concerns of which were carried to her by Mr. Collins; and whenever any of the cottagers were disposed to be quarrelsome, discontented, or too poor, she sallied forth into the village to settle their differences, silence their complaints, and scold them into harmony and plenty.

Despite Austen's perfect comedic timing and choice of words ("scold them into harmony and plenty"), such excessive micromanagement treats her cottagers as though they were two years and old and unable to settle their differences. It's rather demeaning.

The entertainment of dining at Rosings was repeated about twice a week; and, allowing for the loss of Sir William, and there being only one card-table in the evening every such entertainment was the counterpart of the first...

Meaning superlatively stupid, I expect.

...Their other engagements were few, as the style of living in the neighbourhood in general was beyond Mr. Collins's reach...

And here we probably must give a bit more credit to Charlotte; as Austen will say later through the mouth of Lizzy, Charlotte is prudent, and the household expenses do not exceed Mr. Collins's income. This is always a good thing, especially for a young couple just starting out.

...This, however, was no evil to Elizabeth, and upon the whole she spent her time comfortably enough; there were half-hours of pleasant conversation with Charlotte, and the weather was so fine for the time of year that she had often great enjoyment out of doors. Her favourite walk, and where she frequently went while the others were calling on Lady Catherine, was along the open grove which edged that side of the park, where there was a nice sheltered path, which no one seemed to value but herself, and where she felt beyond the reach of Lady Catherine's curiosity.

This is perhaps why no one seemed to value the path but herself. Lizzy sees the folly of Lady Catherine and, like her father, can only take it in relatively small doses. In contrast, Mr. and Mrs. Collins don't feel the need to avoid Lady Catherine.

In this quiet way, the first fortnight of her visit soon passed away. Easter was approaching, and the week preceding it was to bring an addition to the family at Rosings, which in so small a circle must be important. Elizabeth had heard soon after her arrival that Mr. Darcy was expected there in the course of a few weeks, and though there were not many of her acquaintances whom she did not prefer,...

Austenian understatement through use of the double negative.

...his coming would furnish one comparatively new to look at in their Rosings parties, and she might be amused in seeing how hopeless Miss Bingley's designs on him were, by his behaviour to his cousin, for whom he was evidently destined by Lady Catherine, who talked of his coming with the greatest satisfaction, spoke of him in terms of the highest admiration, and seemed almost angry to find that he had already been frequently seen by Miss Lucas and herself.

Obviously, then, Lady Catherine doesn't need to introduce him to Lizzy and Charlotte, thus preventing a self-aggrandizement she might, perhaps, have preferred to exercise. I think there is always a bit of honor in introducing anyone to anyone; the question is whether you covet that honor, or simply enjoy it when it comes.

His arrival was soon known at the Parsonage; for Mr. Collins was walking the whole morning within view of the lodges opening into Hunsford Lane, in order to have the earliest assurance of it,...

Mr. Collins, we can see, is definitely hankering after the honor of being able to tell the others, perhaps with a not-so-subtle hint of superiority, of the arrival of Mr. Darcy.

...and after making his bow as the carriage turned into the Park, hurried home with the great intelligence...

Great only in the eyes of Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine. Charlotte, too, may respect him, though I am not sure. Charlotte does pay regard to Lizzy's opinions.

...On the following morning he hastened to Rosings to pay his respects. There were two nephews of Lady Catherine to require them, for Mr. Darcy had brought with him a Colonel Fitzwilliam, the younger son of his uncle Lord ----, and, to the great surprise of all the party, when Mr. Collins returned, the gentlemen accompanied him. Charlotte had seen them from her husband's room, crossing the road, and immediately running into the other, told the girls...

Let's not forget that Maria is still there.

...what an honour they might expect, adding:

"I may thank you, Eliza, for this piece of civility. Mr. Darcy would never have come so soon to wait upon me."

Elizabeth had scarcely time to disclaim all right to the compliment,...

Lizzy still does not choose to take the hint that Charlotte is astute enough to realize: Mr. Darcy likes Lizzy very much.

...before their approach was announced by the door-bell, and shortly afterwards the three gentlemen entered the room. Colonel Fitzwilliam, who led the way, was about thirty, not handsome, but in person and address most truly the gentleman. Mr. Darcy looked just as he had been used to look in Hertfordshire-- paid his compliments, with his usual reserve, to Mrs. Collins, and whatever might be his feelings toward her friend, met her with every appearance of composure...

I would imagine that Mr. Darcy is doing the "stiff upper lip" thing. I can't help remembering a Star Trek Next Generation episode, where Dr. Crusher says the following (nearly exact quote): "Men like to pretend they're not interested in a woman, even if it's the most important thing on their minds." That's what I think Darcy is doing here. He may even have prompted himself to go in order to "prove" himself.

...Elizabeth merely curtseyed to him without saying a word.

Colonel Fitzwilliam entered into conversation directly with the readiness and ease of a well-bred man, and talked very pleasantly; but his cousin, after having addressed a slight observation on the house and garden to Mrs. Collins, sat for some time without speaking to anybody. At length, however, his civility was so far awakened as to inquire of Elizabeth after the health of her family...

*Oops. Maybe I'd better show the usual respects in order not to arouse suspician.* Such a strategy allows him to observe Lizzy, surely the occupation he most enjoys, without alerting Lizzy to his intentions, or even preferences.

...She answered him in the usual way,...

That is, "They are quite well, thank you." The old-fashioned equivalent of "How are you?" In those days you asked about the family, perhaps because most of the time you could see whether the person in front of you was well or not.

...and after a moment's pause, added:

"My eldest sister has been in town these three months. Have you never happened to see her there?"

She was perfectly sensible that he never had; but she wished to see whether he would betray any consciousness of what had passed between the Bingleys and Jane, and she thought he looked a little confused as he answered that he had never been so fortunate as to meet Miss Bennet...

Lizzy may or may not be reading into this a bit.

...The subject was pursued no farther, and the gentlemen soon afterwards went away.

The plot thickens.


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