Saturday, October 06, 2007

Chapter Thirty-seven

Originally published 1/28/2007.

It is here in this chapter that we see a bit more of the fall-out from the letter; Lizzy finds it impossible to reflect on much of anything besides the letter. There is a bit of a tiff with Lady Catherine regarding when Lizzy is to leave Hunsford and return to Longbourn, with the attendant misplaced statements of Lady Catherine to analyze.

I must warn you, though, that the high quality of exposition to which you have become accustomed, i.e. my collaborations with Susan, are suspended at this time.

The two gentlemen left Rosings the next morning, and Mr. Collins having been in waiting near the lodges, to make them his parting obeisance,...

Servile, as usual.

...was able to bring home the pleasing...

To whom?

...intelligence, of their appearing in very good health, and in as tolerable spirits as could be expected, after the melancholy scene so lately gone through at Rosings...

The melancholy scene referred to here must be the parting scene of the two gentlemen.

...To Rosings he then hastened, to console Lady Catherine and her daughter; and on his return brought back, with great satisfaction, a message from her ladyship, importing that she felt herself so dull as to make her very desirous of having them all to dine with her.

Now that Lady Catherine cannot have the company of her nephews, she is again willing to settle for "second-rate".

Elizabeth could not see Lady Catherine without recollecting that, had she chosen it, she might by this time have been presented to her as her future niece; nor could she think, without a smile, of what her ladyship's indignation would have been. "What would she have said? how would she have behaved?" were questions with which she amused herself.

She jolly well finds out later!

Their first subject was the diminution of the Rosings party. "I assure you, I feel it exceedingly," said Lady Catherine; "I believe no one feels the loss of friends so much as I do...

The first statement is understandable, and hardly objectionable. The second is rather like her statement about no one having a "better natural taste" in music. I suppose she really is serious in thinking that no one misses friends as much as she does, whereas it's plain as a pikestaff that she's as self-centered as they come. The world must revolve around her, a circumstance probably aided by rather poor discipline growing up.

...But I am particularly attached to these young men, and know them to be so much attached to me!...

The attachment may be rather like Mr. Bennet's to Mrs. Bennet: as a source of amusement and how not to act.

...They were excessively sorry to go!...

Probably missing Lizzy more than anyone.

...But so they always are. The dear Colonel rallied his spirits tolerably till just at last; but Darcy seemed to feel it most acutely, more, I think, than last year. His attachment to Rosings certainly increases."

For reasons different from what Lady Catherine imagines.

Mr. Collins had a compliment, and an allusion to throw in here, which were kindly smiled on by the mother and daughter.

Which attentions were certainly more than the comment deserved.

Lady Catherine observed, after dinner, that Miss Bennet seemed out of spirits...

This might be a misinterpretation. We know that Lizzy is usually not out of spirits, but in my experience, reflection is often misinterpreted as lowness of spirits, at least by looking at the face. On the other hand, Lizzy might really be feeling out of spirits because of the troubles that Mrs. Bennet, Lydia and Kitty imposed on the family through their indiscretions. It certainly is not because of having to leave so soon, as Lady Catherine says immediately below:

...And immediately accounting for it by herself, by supposing that she did not like to go home again so soon, she added:

"But if that is the case, you must write to your mother and beg that you may stay a little longer. Mrs. Collins will be very glad of your company, I am sure."

Not a bad thought at all, actually. It certainly is true that Charlotte would appreciate a longer stay. And Lady Catherine does actually produce the kindness of putting the statement as an if-then, instead of her usual command. Naturally, though, the statement could have been uttered in a peremptory tone, thus negating this kindness.

"I am much obliged to your ladyship for your kind invitation," replied Elizabeth, "but it is not in my power to accept it. I must be in town next Saturday."

"Why, at that rate, you will have been here only six weeks. I expected you to stay two months. I told Mrs. Collins so before you came. There can be no occasion for your going so soon. Mrs. Bennet could certainly spare you for another fortnight."

Here again is the tone of command, surely. Lady Catherine does not like to be crossed in anything.

"But my father cannot. He wrote last week to hurry my return."

Lizzy here. We know that Mr. Bennet really likes the company of Lizzy the most in his family, though probably not objecting to Jane. With neither Jane nor Lizzy there, if I recall correctly, there is no sense to be had in the whole of the house.

"Oh! your father of course may spare you, if your mother can. Daughters are never of so much consequence to a father...

Lady Catherine speaks ignorantly; perhaps this is a clue as to the functionality of the De Bourgh household. Without a father figure in sight, perhaps its view of men in general has deteriorated. Father-daughter relationships can be very special indeed, in my limited experience.

...And if you will stay another month complete, it will be in my power to take one of you as far as London, for I am going there early in June, for a week; and as Dawson does not object to the barouche-box, there will be very good room for one of you-- and indeed, if the weather should happen to be cool, I should not object to taking you both, as you are neither of you large."

As to why cool weather would make it more agreeable to have more in the barouche, I imagine it to be a matter of body heat more than anything else. If any reader of mine has a better suggestion, by all means produce it.

"You are all kindness, madam; but I believe we must abide by our original plan."


Lady Catherine seemed resigned. "Mrs. Collins, you must send a servant with them. You know I always speak my mind, and I cannot bear the idea of two young women travelling post by themselves. It is highly improper. You must contrive to send somebody. I have the greatest dislike in the world to that sort of thing. Young women should always be properly guarded and attended, according to their situation in life. When my niece Georgiana went to Ramsgate last summer, I made a point of her having two men-servants go with her. Miss Darcy, the daughter of Mr. Darcy, of Pemberley, and Lady Anne, could not have appeared with propriety in a different manner. I am excessively attentive to all those things. You must send John with the young ladies, Mrs. Collins. I am glad it occurred to me to mention it; for it would really be discreditable to you to let them go alone."

Lady Catherine has a point, though she drives it into the ground like Jael with her tent-peg. It's overdone, surely. True, ladies need protection from highwaymen and others, but to make such an officiously big deal about it is silly.

"My uncle is to send a servant for us."

Lizzy here.

"Oh! Your uncle! He keeps a man-servant, does he? I am very glad you have somebody who thinks of these things. Where shall you change horses? Oh! Bromley, of course. If you mention my name at the Bell, you will be attended to."

As if Lizzy really needed Lady Catherine's name to be attended to. A point of interest: that last sentence ended with a preposition.

Lady Catherine had many other questions to ask respecting their journey, and as she did not answer them all herself,...

Rather sly on Austen's part to thus insinuate that Lady Catherine does tend to answer her own questions, thereby carrying on qutie a lengthy, if not sensible conversation, all by herself.

...attention was necessary, which Elizabeth believed to be lucky for her; or, with a mind so occupied, she might have forgotten where she was.

Though in any other circumstance, Lizzy would have considered it unlucky, as she could hardly have gotten a word in edgewise even had she wanted it.

Reflection must be reserved for solitary hours; whenever she was alone, she gave way to it as the greatest relief; and not a day went by without a solitary walk, in which she might indulge in all the delight of unpleasant recollections.

Isn't that true? We sometimes dwell incessantly on unpleasant recollections, perhaps for the purpose of allowing ourselves to feel sorry for ourselves.

Mr. Darcy's letter she was in a fair way of soon knowing by heart. She studied every sentence; and her feelings towards its writer were at times widely different. When she remembered the style of his address, she was still full of indignation; but when she considered how unjustly she had condemned and upbraided him, her anger was turned against herself; and his disappointed feelings became the object of compassion. His attachment excited gratitude, his general character respect; but she could not approve him;...

This brings up the question of why she studies his letter so much, if she has no inclination of ever accepting him. I'd say it may be because of self-improvement. The letter caused a direct and pretty large change in Lizzy; such things in our lives become treasured possessions. Naturally, when Darcy proposes the second time and asks her to burn the letter, she has Darcy as consolation, and need not remember the letter.

...nor could she for a moment repent her refusal, or feel the slightest inclination ever to see him again. In her own past behaviour, there was a constant source of vexation and regret; and in the unhappy defects of her family, a subject of yet heavier chagrin. They were hopeless of remedy. Her father, contented with laughing at them, would never exert himself to restrain the wild giddiness of his youngest daughters;...

This is laziness of a rather more serious and offensive kind. Its outcome we see later in the terrible affair of Lydia.

...and her mother, with manners so far from right herself, was entirely insensible of the evil. Elizabeth had frequently united with Jane in an endeavour to check the imprudence of Catherine and Lydia; but while they were supported by their mother's indulgence, what chance could there be of improvement? Catherine, weak-spirited, irritable, and completely under Lydia's guidance, had been always affronted by their advice; and Lydia, self-willed and careless, would scarcely give them a hearing...

Therein lies one of the chief dangers of life: if you will not listen to your superiors, and everyone has them, how can you ever improve yourself? Our greatest Superior said in his word that if you rebuke a wise man, he will love you. It follows that if you rebuke a man, and he does not love you, he is not wise.

...They were ignorant, idle, and vain. While there was an officer in Meryton, they would flirt with him; and while Meryton was within a walk of Longbourn, they would be going there forever.

Anxiety on Jane's behalf was another prevailing concern; and Mr. Darcy's explanation, by restoring Bingley to all her former good opinion, heightened the sense of what Jane had lost...

Interesting effect of the letter; probably not exactly what Darcy had in mind.

...His affection was proved to have been sincere, and his conduct cleared of all blame, unless any could attach to the implicitness of his confidence in his friend. How grievous then was the thought that, of a situation so desirable in every respect, so replete with advantage, so promising for happiness, Jane had been deprived, by the folly and indecorum of her own family!

How does this square with Mr. Bennet's comments about "Such squeamish youths as cannot bear to be connected with a little absurdity are not worth a regret"? Austen here is clearly saying that Bingley was a worthy suitor for Jane. Perhaps Austen does not mean for us to take Mr. Bennet's comment too seriously.

Their engagements at Rosings were as frequent during the last week of her stay as they had been at first. The very last evening was spent there; and her ladyship again inquired minutely into the particulars of their journey, gave them directions as to the best method of packing, and was so urgent on the necessity of placing gowns in the only right way, that Maria thought herself obliged, on her return, to undo all the work of the morning, and pack her trunk afresh.

There is legalism for you, in a nutshell.

When they parted, Lady Catherine, with great condescension, wished them a good journey, and invited them to come to Hunsford again next year; and Miss de Bourgh exerted herself so far as to curtsey and hold out her hand to both.

Great courtesy indeed, requiring tremendous effort of mind and will. Nothing could be more difficult in life.