Friday, October 05, 2007

Chapter Thirty-eight

Originally published 2/4/2007.

In this chapter, Lizzy finally breaks away from Mr. Collins and makes it to the Gardiners en route to Longbourn. My apologies for having to suffer through another non-Susan week. More on that later.

On Saturday morning Elizabeth and Mr. Collins met for breakfast a few minutes before the others appeared; and he took the opportunity of paying the parting civilities which he deemed indispensably necessary.

Notice Austen does not say, "...which were indispensibly necessary." Mr. Collins' judgment on the matter is, as usual, off. Some civilities were certainly in order, but probably not nearly as many as Mr. Collins is about to inflict.

"I know not, Miss Elizabeth," said he, "whether Mrs. Collins has yet expressed her sense of your kindness in coming to us; but I am very certain you will not leave the house without receiving her thanks for it...

Completely unnecessary statement. What does it accomplish?

...The favor of your company has been much felt, I assure you. We know how little there is to tempt any one to our humble abode. Our plain manner of living, our small rooms and few domestics, and the little we see of the world, must make Hunsford extremely dull to a young lady like yourself; but I hope you will believe us grateful for the condescension, and that we have done everything in our power to prevent your spending your time unpleasantly."

This is a bit odd, since it's the first time Mr. Collins has thought fit to think of Lizzy as "condescending" to do anything for him. I rather think that the connection of Lady Catherine to Mr. Darcy to Lizzy is responsible for this. Collins sees that Lizzy is at least quite equal to conversing with Lady Catherine and company. This raises Lizzy in his estimation, hence the servility.

Elizabeth was eager with her thanks and assurances of happiness. She had spent six weeks with great enjoyment; and the pleasure of being with Charlotte, and the kind attentions she had received, must make her feel the obliged...

Notice how much space this reply took, compared with Collins' original statement.

...Mr. Collins was gratified, and with a more smiling solemnity replied:

"It gives me great pleasure to hear that you have passed your time not disagreeably. We have certainly done our best;...

First statement ok, second very officious. It's a dwelling on self: look at how well I did.

...and most fortunately having it in our power to introduce you to very superior society, and, from our connection with Rosings, the frequent means of varying the humble home scene, I think we may flatter ourselves that your Hunsford visit cannot have been entirely irksome...

I think Lizzy did enjoy her visit, but because of reasons entirely foreign to Mr. Collins' way of thinking. Lizzy enjoyed Charlotte and Colonel Fitzwilliam and probably her solitary walks, not so much Lady Catherine except possibly in the same way Mr. Bennet enjoys Mrs. Bennet.

...Our situation with regard to Lady Catherine's family is indeed the sort of extraordinary advantage and blessing which few can boast. You see on what a footing we are. You see how continually we are engaged there...

Ironic, isn't it? They're only on that footing because there isn't anybody around who is better company. We've already seen Lady Catherine essentially ditch them in favor of her nephews. Hmm. This says something about the society available near Rosings.

...In truth I must acknowledge that, with all the disadvantages of this humble parsonage, I should not think anyone abiding in it an object of compassion, while they are sharers of our intimacy at Rosings."

Words were insufficient for the elevation of his feelings;...

Though he no doubt exhausted every possibility along these lines.

...and he was obliged to walk about the room, while Elizabeth tried to unite civility and truth in a few short sentences.

Austen really is leaving nothing to the imagination here. Lizzy's views on volubility and Mr. Collins' differing views are in quite a contrast. "A few short sentences" is what Lizzy thinks is appropriate. Mr. Collins thinks sermons are. While there's certainly a time and place for sermons, this isn't it.

"You may, in fact, carry a very favourable report of us into Hertfordshire, my dear cousin. I flatter myself at least that you will be able to do so. Lady Catherine's great attentions...

Oh, yes. Very great. Perhaps a little too great - and detailed. Mrs. Collins you have been a daily witness of; and altogether I trust it does not appear that your friend has drawn an unfortunate - But on this point it will be as well to be silent...

Too late.

...Only let me assure you, my dear Miss Elizabeth, that I can from my heart most cordially wish you equal felicity in marriage...

On the face of it, this isn't too terribly rude. However, it could very easily carry the connotation, especially via body language, that Collins is hinting it may be difficult for Lizzy to find "equal felicity in marriage," or at least, felicity equal to Charlotte's. Ahem.

...My dear Charlotte and I have but one mind and one way of thinking. There is in everything a most remarkable resemblance of character and ideas between us. We seem to have been designed for each other."

Is it my imagination, or did Collins repeat himself twice? In computer compression algorithms, they eliminate duplicated material. Seems to me a computer compression algorithm could easily trim Mr. Collins' talk by at least half.

Elizabeth could safely say that it was a great happiness where that was the case,...

The clear implication by Austen here is that Lizzy is not implying that Collins indeed has that case, or maybe that Charlotte is equally happy as Collins.

...and with equal sincerity could add, that she firmly believed and rejoiced in his domestic comforts. She was not sorry, however, to have the recital of them interrupted by the lady from whom they sprang...


...Poor Charlotte! it was melancholy to leave her to such society! But she had chosen it with her eyes open; and though evidently regretting that her visitors were to go, she did not seem to ask for compassion. Her home and her housekeeping, her parish and her poultry, and all their dependent concerns, had not yet lost their charms.

There's something about newly-wed brides who sometimes seem more in love with housekeeping than with their husbands. With a husband like Collins, it's tough to blame her.

At length the chaise arrived, the trunks were fastened on, the parcels placed within, and it was pronounced to be ready. After an affectionate parting between the friends, Elizabeth was attended to the carriage by Mr. Collins, and as they walked down the garden he was commissioning her with his best respects to all her family, not forgetting his thanks for the kindness he had received at Longbourn in the winter, and his compliments to Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, though unknown. He then handed her in, Maria followed, and the door was on the point of being closed, when he suddenly reminded them, with some consternation, that they had hitherto forgotten to leave any message for the ladies at Rosings.

"But," he added, "you will of course wish to have your humble respects delivered to them, with your grateful thanks for their kindness to you while you have been here."

Actually not a bad thought, and unusually brief for Collins.

Elizabeth made no objection; the door was then allowed to be shut, and the carriage drove off.

"Good gracious!" cried Maria, after a few minutes' silence, "it seems but a day or two since we first came! and yet how many things have happened!"

"A great many indeed," said her companion with a sigh.

We, who know more of the more weighty events, can laugh at this.

"We have dined nine times at Rosings, besides drinking tea there twice! How much I shall have to tell!"

Maria here, with a somewhat shallow observation. If you're only going to talk about dining and tea, you might as well not say anything.

Elizabeth added privately, "And how much I shall have to conceal!"

Interesting thought here. I think Lizzy is not intending to mislead anyone. However, it is clear from Scripture that it's ok to conceal knowledge according to wisdom. As my brother Arne is fond of saying, just because something's true doesn't mean you have to say it. It's much better for your information generally to be sought before you reveal it, rather than after.

Their journey was performed without much conversation, or any alarm;...

Probably to Lizzy's great relief. Of course, Lizzy not being inclined to conversation no doubt causes the lapse in conversation.

...and within four hours of their leaving Hunsford they reached Mr. Gardiner's house, where they were to remain a few days.

Jane looked well, and Elizabeth had little opportunity of studying her spirits, amidst the various engagements which the kindness of her aunt had reserved for them. But Jane was to go home with her, and at Longbourn there would be leisure enough for observation.

It was not without an effort, meanwhile, that she could wait even for Longbourn, before she told her sister of Mr. Darcy's proposals...

It is no doubt wise to wait. When you are as eager as Lizzy to tell someone something, waiting is often a very good exercise. If Lizzy had spoken now, without thinking things through, she might, as mentioned below, have said too much and revealed something about Bingley. Lizzy is very, very wise here to wait until they get home. The revelation occurs in Chapter 40.

...To know that she had the power of revealing what would so exceedingly astonish Jane, and must, at the same time, so highly gratify whatever of her own vanity she had not yet been able to reason away, was such a temptation to openness as nothing could have conquered but the state of indecision in which she remained as to the extent of what she should communicate; and her fear, if she once entered on the subject, of being hurried into repeating something of Bingley which might only grieve her sister further.

Preview of next week: Lord willing, it will be another collaboration with the lovely Susan. The chapter, incidentally, contains much silliness on the part of Lydia, so we'll have some fun abusing her mightily.