Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Chapter Twenty-three, Part 1

Originally published 9/17/2006.

Here we see how Charlotte tells the Bennet family of her engagement, and also a bit of how Jane pines for Mr. Bingley.

Elizabeth was sitting with her mother and sisters, reflecting on what she had heard, and doubting whether she was authorised to mention it, when Sir William Lucas himself appeared, sent by his daughter,...

Probably wise.

...to announce her engagement to the family. With many compliments to them, and much self-gratulation on the prospect of a connection between the houses,...

Was that wise or not? It could be viewed as a compliment to the Bennets. Or, it could be simple self-adulation. What think you?

...he unfolded the matter-- to an audience not merely wondering, but incredulous; for Mrs. Bennet, with more perseverance than politeness, protested he must be entirely mistaken; and Lydia, always unguarded and often uncivil, boisterously exclaimed:

"Good Lord! Sir William, how can you tell such a story? Do not you know that Mr. Collins wants to marry Lizzy?"

Taking the Lord's name in vain, calling Sir William a liar, answering a matter without being in possession of the facts (answering a matter before hearing it), probably interrupting; those are only some of the sins Lydia has just committed.

Nothing less than the complaisance of a courtier could have borne without anger such treatment; but Sir William's good breeding carried him through it all;...

We see that, while he is probably puffed up a bit by his courteousness, it does him good service here by not complicating the matter. Better to let it go. He probably did not particularly enjoy the spectacle, and internally might very well have fumed; I'm not sure Austen says what he's thinking. Certainly there's no outward reaction.

...and though he begged leave to be positive as to the truth of his information, he listened to all their impertinence with the most forbearing courtesy.

Elizabeth, feeling it incumbent on her to relieve him from so unpleasant a situation, now put herself forward to confirm his account, by mentioning her prior knowledge of it from Charlotte herself;...

This is really quite good of her. Who better to second the story than Charlotte's intimate friend, and one who, until recently, was courted by Mr. Collins? It directly contradicts Lydia's statement, at least.

...and endeavoured to put a stop to the exclamations of her mother and sisters by the earnestness of her congratulations to Sir William, in which she was readily joined by Jane,...

I've mentioned it before, but the BBC inserts a wonderful line for Jane: "Well, they may be happy. The heart finds happiness in the strangest places." However, she doesn't say that line while Sir William is present! It's only the family at dinner.

...and by making a variety of remarks on the happiness that might be expected from the match, the excellent character of Mr. Collins,...

I suppose they must mean that, while he is silly, he is at least decent and moral. Or are they "being polite" and dishonest?

...and the convenient distance of Hunsford from London.

This is a bit confusing to me. In Chapter Thirty-two, if you recall, Darcy visits Lizzy at Hunsford, and they are very awkward together. They have the following conversation:

[begin quote, Lizzy starts]
"Yes, indeed, his friends may well rejoice in his having met with one of the very few sensible women who would have accepted him, or have made him happy if they had. My friend has an excellent understanding-- though I am not certain that I consider her marrying Mr. Collins as the wisest thing she ever did. She seems perfectly happy, however, and in a prudential light it is certainly a very good match for her."

"It must be very agreeable for her to be settled within so easy a distance of her own family and friends."

"An easy distance, do you call it? It is nearly fifty miles."

"And what is fifty miles of good road? Little more than half a day's journey. Yes, I call it a very easy distance."

"I should never have considered the distance as one of the advantages of the match," cried Elizabeth. "I should never have said Mrs. Collins was settled near her family."

"It is a proof of your own attachment to Hertfordshire. Anything beyond the very neighbourhood of Longbourn, I suppose, would appear far."
[end quote]

Perhaps the difference is that in the quote they are talking of the distance between Hunsford and Charlotte's family, whereas in this chapter they are talking about the convenient distance between Hunsford and London. And the one sentence Lizzy says, namely, "I should never have considered the distance as one of the advantages of the match...", does have "the distance," as opposed to "distance." Maybe I'm comparing apples and oranges.

Mrs. Bennet was in fact too much overpowered to say a great deal while Sir William remained; but no sooner had he left them than her feelings found a rapid vent...

In the multiplication of many words, transgression abounds.

...In the first place, she persisted in disbelieving the whole of the matter; secondly, she was very sure that Mr. Collins had been taken in; thirdly, she trusted that they would never be happy together;...

That, as my father would (almost gleefully) point out, is envy.

...and fourthly, that the match might be broken off. Two inferences, however, were plainly deduced from the whole: one, that Elizabeth was the real cause of the mischief;...

This is classic post hoc ergo propter hoc: after the fact, therefore because of the fact. It's a logical fallacy, the usual example being, "I brush my teeth every morning, and after I brush my teeth, the sun rises. Therefore brushing my teeth causes the sun to rise." Yes, Lizzy refused Mr. Collins, who would then naturally turn to someone else. But to say that Lizzy caused Mr. Collins to get engaged to Charlotte is quite ludicrous. Lizzy would have vetoed it if she could! And she would have done so for reasons quite beyond her mother to comprehend. Ergo, Mrs. Bennet is off her rocker. But we already knew that.

...and the other that she herself had been barbarously misused by them all; and on these two points she principally dwelt during the rest of the day. Nothing could console and nothing could appease her. Nor did that day wear out her resentment. A week elapsed before she could see Elizabeth without scolding her, a month passed away before she could speak to Sir William or Lady Lucas without being rude, and many months were gone before she could at all forgive her daughter.

Churchill's definition of a fanatic: she can't change her mind, and she won't change the subject. And to be wrong as to the facts of the case. *tsk, tsk*

Mr. Bennet's emotions were much more tranquil on the occasion, and such as he did experience he pronounced to be of a most agreeable sort; for it gratified him, he said, to discover that Charlotte Lucas, whom he had been used to think tolerably sensible, was as foolish as his wife, and more foolish than his daughter!

Way to boost your wife, to build her up especially in front of her children.

Jane confessed herself a little surprised at the match; but she said less of her astonishment than of her earnest desire for their happiness; nor could Elizabeth persuade her to consider it as improbable...

Though she probably tried, for Lizzy herself sees only conflict in the future from so intellectually unequal a match.

...Kitty and Lydia were far from envying Miss Lucas, for Mr. Collins was only a clergyman; and it affected them in no other way than as a piece of news to spread at Meryton.

As difficult as it might appear, Kitty and Lydia actually manage to top their mother's silliness with apathy and unconcern. Not being concerned about their sister's friend shows a bit of callousness, I think.

Lady Lucas could not be insensible of triumph on being able to retort on Mrs. Bennet the comfort of having a daughter well married; and she called at Longbourn rather oftener than usual to say how happy she was, though Mrs. Bennet's sour looks and ill-natured remarks might have been enough to drive happiness away.

Rather uncharitable of Lady Lucas, don't you think? If she had any sense, she could see that her visits were unwelcome, since her daughter had "stolen" Mr. Collins away from Lizzy. This is called "wearing out your welcome."

Between Elizabeth and Charlotte there was a restraint which kept them mutually silent on the subject; and Elizabeth felt persuaded that no real confidence could ever subsist between them again. Her disappointment in Charlotte...

See previous chapter notes about Charlotte's wisdom in choosing Mr. Collins.

...made her turn with fonder regard to her sister, of whose rectitude and delicacy she was sure her opinion could never be shaken, and for whose happiness she grew daily more anxious, as Bingley had now been gone a week and nothing more was heard of his return.

This is a good place to split up the chapter.

Chapter Twenty-three, Part 2

Originally published 9/17/2006.

Jane had sent Caroline an early answer to her letter, and was counting the days till she might reasonably hope to hear again...

Who hasn't done that?

...The promised letter of thanks from Mr. Collins arrived on Tuesday, addressed to their father, and written with all the solemnity of gratitude which a twelvemonth's abode in the family might have prompted...

Are we surprised?

...After discharging his conscience on that head, he proceeded to inform them, with many rapturous expressions, of his happiness in having obtained the affection of their amiable neighbour, Miss Lucas, and then explained that it was merely with the view of enjoying her society that he had been so ready to close with their kind wish of seeing him again at Longbourn,...

So Mr. Collins clears that surprise up. All the Bennets, in case they hadn't guessed, now know why Mr. Collins wanted to return so soon.

...whither he hoped to be able to return on Monday fortnight; for Lady Catherine, he added, so heartily approved his marriage, that she wished it to take place as soon as possible, which he trusted would be an unanswerable argument with his amiable Charlotte to name an early day for making him the happiest of men.

As if he has to convince her anyway. Charlotte, we know, is interested in getting married quickly.

Mr. Collins's return into Hertfordshire was no longer a matter of pleasure to Mrs. Bennet...


...On the contrary, she was as much disposed to complain of it as her husband. It was very strange that he should come to Longbourn instead of to Lucas Lodge;...

Strange according to Mrs. Bennet. It is not strange to me that a conscientious man such as Mr. Collins would not want to stay in the same house with his betrothed. Perhaps many men could do so without temptation, but there could be weak men who know their foibles and refrain.

...it was also very inconvenient and exceedingly troublesome...

Only now when Mr. Collins is not going to marry Lizzy. Otherwise, Mrs. Bennet would have been glad to have him. Perhaps this is mildly understandable.

She hated having visitors in the house while her health was so indifferent, and lovers were of all people the most disagreeable...

Words to live by. Lovers can be most disagreeable indeed. They distinctly run the danger of focusing on their relationship to the exclusion of all others.

...Such were the gentle...


...murmurs of Mrs. Bennet, and they gave way only to the greater distress of Mr. Bingley's continued absence.

Neither Jane nor Elizabeth were comfortable on this subject. Day after day passed away without bringing any other tidings of him than the report which shortly prevailed in Meryton of his coming no more to Netherfield the whole winter; a report which highly incensed Mrs. Bennet, and which she never failed to contradict as a most scandalous falsehood.

Even Elizabeth began to fear-- not that Bingley was indifferent-- but that his sisters would be successful in keeping him away. Unwilling as she was to admit an idea so destructive of Jane's happiness, and so dishonorable to the stability of her lover, she could not prevent its frequently occurring. The united efforts of his two unfeeling sisters and of his overpowering friend, assisted by the attractions of Miss Darcy and the amusements of London might be too much, she feared, for the strength of his attachment.

As we know is, at least partly, occurring. Darcy plus Miss Bingley plus Mrs. Hurst indeed have been successful in keeping Bingley away from Jane.

As for Jane, her anxiety under this suspense was, of course, more painful than Elizabeth's, but whatever she felt she was desirous of concealing,...

Rather interesting here. Is this wise, do you think? I'd be interested in your opinions. Surely, as Christians, we should not always express our feelings. The modern world would have it so, calling us "repressed" if we don't. The Bible simply says otherwise, especially in Proverbs. We may not know all the particulars in this situation. Jane may be concerned for the emotional health of Lizzy. Or she may want Lizzy to think her strong. Clearly, Jane has very strong feelings here, and they are not somehow weaker because they are unexpressed.

...and between herself and Elizabeth, therefore, the subject was never alluded to...

You're not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition, so I'm not going to.

...But as no such delicacy restrained her mother, an hour seldom passed in which she did not talk of Bingley, express her impatience for his arrival, or even require Jane to confess that if he did not come back she would think herself very ill used. It needed all Jane's steady mildness to bear these attacks with tolerable tranquillity.

Really quite uncharitable of Mrs. Bennet. But she wants to wallow in it; another Austen character who does this is Marianne and her mother Mrs. Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility. Those two characters are stronger in other ways, however, which to a good extent make up for any lack in this one.

Mr. Collins returned most punctually on Monday fortnight, but his reception at Longbourn was not quite so gracious as it had been on his first introduction. He was too happy, however, to need much attention; and luckily for the others, the business of love-making relieved them from a great deal of his company. The chief of every day was spent by him at Lucas Lodge, and he sometimes returned to Longbourn only in time to make an apology for his absence before the family went to bed.

Apology for his absence? That is really quite nonsensical. Are the Bennets expecting him to wait on them? Surely not. And surely he could have found out what they expected, or told them what he intended. Therefore, it is just fussy to apologize in this case.

Mrs. Bennet was really in a most pitiable state. The very mention of anything concerning the match threw her into an agony of ill-humour, and wherever she went she was sure of hearing it talked of. The sight of Miss Lucas was odious to her. As her successor in that house, she regarded her with jealous abhorrence. Whenever Charlotte came to see them, she concluded her to be anticipating the hour of possession;...

Another fallacy here that Mrs. Bennet commits. I'd be interested in which one you think it is. It doesn't seem to me to be post hoc ergo propter hoc. Perhaps a simple non sequitur?

...and whenever she spoke in a low voice to Mr. Collins, was convinced that they were talking of the Longbourn estate, and resolving to turn herself and her daughters out of the house, as soon as Mr. Bennet were dead...

Same fallacy as before, I think.

...She complained bitterly of all this to her husband.

"Indeed, Mr. Bennet," said she, "it is very hard to think that Charlotte Lucas should ever be mistress of this house, that I should be forced to make way for
her, and live to see her take her place in it!"

"My dear, do not give way to such gloomy thoughts. Let us hope for better things. Let us flatter ourselves that I may be the survivor."

This is not very consoling to Mrs. Bennet,...

O, the sarcasm! Mr. Bennet might actually have done better here, but it is funny.

...and therefore, instead of making any answer, she went on as before.

"I cannot bear to think that they should have all this estate. If it was not for the entail, I should not mind it."

"What should not you mind?"

"I should not mind anything at all."

"Let us be thankful that you are preserved from a state of such insensibility."

Although a philosopher like Mr. Bennet might want even less from his wife. Who knows?

"I never can be thankful, Mr. Bennet, for anything about the entail. How anyone could have the conscience to entail away an estate from one's own daughters, I cannot understand; and all for the sake of Mr. Collins too! Why should he have it more than anybody else?"

"I leave it to yourself to determine," said Mr. Bennet.

Wise of Mr. Bennet. As explained in Chapter 13, Jane and Lizzy have many times attempted to explain the nature of an entail, but it always appears lost on Mrs. Bennet. Here she is, proving the statement by her ignorance.