The Voices of Men in Praise
Of Jane Austen
Messages Beginning c. May 10, 2002


Dear Cheryl and Unabashedton,

Regarding the snobby Miss Bingleys, the same passage occurred to me, about their wealth arising from trade, especially during the scene when they were snickering about Sir William Lucas "keeping a very good sort of shop" before being made a knight.

I like M.A.D.'s expression "cinematic enhancement of Jane Austen's vision."  Unlike Cheryl, I found that most of the home scenes brought the times and the action more to life, i.e. Jane drying her hair in the bedroom while (whilst?) talking to Elizabeth; Mr. Darcy taking his fencing lesson; all the family at the dinner table, etc.  I agree with Cheryl that some significant conversations were omitted, but at the same time, I saw what happened when Fay Weldon tried to include all of the descriptive narration under the guise of Elizabeth's inner dialogue.  It fell flat.  Perhaps it could have been done in P&P 95, but I think in all fairness that it would not be possible to film an Austen work exactly as written, with no cinematic enhancement.  The principal men in it simply appeared and disappeared.  We know they went shooting and rode around on horseback, but it makes the story more interesting to imagine what their lives were like when they weren't standing around at balls and saying what they were supposed to.  Does this make sense?

I Agree with M.A.D., Mr. Darcy would never want his good actions known.  Part privacy, part altruism, part embarrassment.  I really did like the way it was represented in P&P 95 - quite likely it happened that way. I still think Col. Fitzwilliam might have had some moments of regret for letting the cat out of the bag. I wonder, if he had not let Elizabeth know Mr. D's part in separating Jane and Bingley, is it possible she would have considered accepting him when he proposed at Rosings? Or at least not rejected him so roundly? Hmmmmmmmm......

Dear Dashton,

Your thoughts on Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennet keep coming back, now I'm finishing my gazillionth reading.  While these two were really quite empty headed (and worse) at times, they received ABSOLUTELY NO CREDIT for behaving appropriately for their times and situations.  As you pointed out, Mr. Collins while, as Jane so exquisitely understated, was not, perhaps, the cleverest of men, he was actually trying to help the family he felt he was "robbing."  The entail wasn't even his fault.  Maybe he was a jerk, but he was a well-meaning jerk.

I keep looking at Mrs. Bennet in different ways.  She wasn't bright, she was often superficial, but she had these problems.  In the first place, she couldn't get a sensible word out of her husband, and no input.  She had all these daughters, whom her clever but negligent husband didn't provide for, and their inheritance was entailed on Mr. Collins.  Why shouldn't she encourage the best matches she could for her daughters?  Obviously someone had to do it.  Of course trying to shove Elizabeth into Mr. Collins' arms showed how little she valued or understood her, and her way of "encouraging" Mr. Bingley was obnoxious and overdone.  But if she had sat back and done nothing, would she have been a good mother?  Lady Lucas certainly didn't do anything to dissuade Charlotte from hooking up with Mr. Collins, and she had more common sense than Mrs. Bennet.

From the point of view of today, when women don't have to get married, it seems one would rather be a spinster unto death than put up with Mr. Collins 24/7.  But women of respectable families (or gentlefolk) didn't really have that much choice at the time.  There were no really respectable jobs (except taking in boarders, I suppose) Even governesses were considered in a lower echelon - remember Jane Fairfax?  Well, it was a hard thing in those days to be a woman. I would far rather have been Miss Bates than Mrs. Collins!

Dear Breep,

Thank you for considering those interpretations of Collins and Mrs. Bennet. They are silly characters, but everybody deserves his due. We must not be the sad victims of our impressions.

I asked you why you thought Darcy made such an effort to keep his part in Lydia's marriage a secret from the Bennet family. You responded with, "... Mr. Darcy would never want his good actions known.  Part privacy, part altruism, part embarrassment." Here is my interpretation—tell me what you think of this. First of all, notice that he appears alone at the inn in Lambton to visit Elizabeth and her party. Jane Austen gets the Gardiners out of the way by sending them on a walk to the church. There now—now Darcy and Elizabeth can have an intimate conversation about the bad news that just arrived in two letters from sister Jane. But why was Darcy alone? Merely so that the couple would be out of view? Not entirely, I think that Jane Austen had a second purpose in mind. Darcy did not include Bingley or Georgianna in the party, which would have been the natural thing to do, because he had decided to court Elizabeth. We learn in the letter that Collins writes to Mr. Bennet that Darcy was not hiding his feelings or intentions so that they were being widely interpreted and disseminated. It seems to me that it is made clear that Darcy has decided to propose once again although Jane Austen respects us too much to make that explicit. Lady Catherine's visit reinforces this idea. (Characteristically, Mr. Bennet misinterprets everything.)

Where was I? Oh yeah—well, I think Darcy doesn't want Elizabeth to know of his involvement in Lydia's marriage because he doesn't want to compromise his beloved. If she accepts him, then he wants it to be for himself and not out of gratitude. Notice his disappointment just before he proposes when he learns that Elizabeth has already gleaned everything (get accustomed to it, old boy!)

Since you are memorizing Pride and Prejudice, notice that when Darcy and Bingley return to Longbourn, Elizabeth notices that Darcy is looking more often at Jane than at herself. How do you interpret that?

Dear M.A.D. (about you),

When Darcy came to see Elizabeth at Lambton when she had read Jane's letters, it was easy to get caught up in the ensuing action, so I forgot to wonder about Mr. Darcy coming alone.  No Georgiana, No Bingley.  No doubt you surmise correctly, but poor Mr. D. never got the chance.  Wickham struck again!  As far as Mr. D's concentration on Jane Bennet, Elizabeth ascribed it to his "deciding" whether Jane and Mr. Bingley would really be a good couple, and whether he would "allow" Bingley to go ahead with his courtship.  Mr. Darcy always liked to observe first.  Also, it is possible he really was doubtful of his reception by Elizabeth and embarrassed about meeting her eyes too often.  Also, he would probably look anywhere to avoid eye contact with Mrs. Bennet.

You neglected to comment on what might have been ... if Col. Fitzwilliam had not informed Elizabeth regarding Mr. Darcy's meddling with Bingley and Jane, what do you think she would have said when he proposed?  Perhaps the mode of his declaration would still have been such that it affected her only in that it spared her the concern she would have felt, etc. etc.  He did make a very arrogant proposal.  But at least she would have had one less thing against him.  I just wonder ... Elizabeth was very sharp, and Wickham was an idiot.  Why didn't she notice this?

Dear Breeful,

You are dead on correct about Darcy's attention to Jane Bennet—Jane Austen was, as you say, quite explicit about that.

But, even before Colonel Fitzwilliam gave her the "smoking gun", Elizabeth had suspected Darcy's influence on Bingley. (Likely, Miss Bingley had been Elizabeth's chief suspect.) Notice how often that she brings up to Darcy the fact that her sister was in London and if he had seen her there. It seems as if she was probing to find out if he had been involved in Bingley's apparent neglect of sister Jane. Also, at the time of the first proposal, Elizabeth had Wickham's case on her mind and she also had a history of a publicly declared dislike of Darcy. She had told him, in company, that his nature was hateful, his character was in question, and his manners were thoughtless and rude. And, she had published these and worse in the neighborhood of Mereton and Longbourn. There was too much inertia, I doubt that much could have changed her response at the time.

I wouldn't call Darcy's proposal "arrogant"; Jane Austen described it this way, "... the avowal of all that he felt and had long felt for her immediately followed. He spoke well, but there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed, and he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride. His sense of her inferiority—of its being a degradation—of the family obstacles which judgment had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, but very unlikely to recommend his suit."

However, the line I like best is the last thing she said to him as he was leaving the parsonage with his tail between his legs, "... I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry." That sounds final and definitive, but this is the first time that we can know that she even contemplated such a question. And it took her an entire month to settle on the answer, did it? Jane Austen is beautiful—this is her way of telling us that the potential for a love match had always been there. Darcy's proposal did accomplish one crucial thing, it fundamentally changed the way that Elizabeth must think of him and their relationship from that moment on. He was thoughtless on too many counts but he did make "... the avowal of all that he felt and had long felt for her ..." With that, everything was changed!

Incidentally, what do you think of my reading of Darcy's first words in the novel, what I have called "Jane Austen's kaleidoscope"?

When will you, and so many other women, finally admit that Pride and Prejudice is one of literature's great love—er, L-word stories? Or do you think that confession might trivialize Jane Austen's writing?

Dear Don't-be-Rashton,

I never disagreed about P&P being a (L) story!!!!!  I also agree with you thinking over Elizabeth's general attitude toward Darcy, Wickham, et al.  She wouldn't ever have reacted positively to any proposal from him, but I was also struck from the beginning by her saying she had only known him a month before she was convinced he was the last man she would ever marry.  Actually, if he was so unacceptable, hateful, etc. why would that word ever crop up in her thoughts of him?????

Regarding Darcy's first words, it is true it was probably really a Darcy-Bingley interchange, but Jane would have us see it and perceive it through the eyes and ears of Elizabeth, so it did blur that distinction.  I have to do more thinking on this.

One more question:  have there been, or are there now, any postings on Bridget Jones's Diaries (aka "Mr. Darcy Rides Again)?  I would like to know if there are before I add my dos centavos.

Dear D'Bree,

I may have to rewrite that reference I gave you, because I obviously did not make my point.

Yes, as you say, "Jane would have us see it and perceive it through the eyes and ears of Elizabeth". However, the point that I was trying to make is that Jane Austen, simultaneously, was giving us a completely different view with Darcy's first words. That is why I liken his first speech to a kaleidoscope. It also contains a "lost chord" in the sense that all—and I do mean all—screenwriters delete Darcy's second sentence. I mean they smash our Lady's kaleidoscope! Without that crucial second sentence, Jane Austen's intent is obviated. Perhaps this is an instance of her being too subtle.

As far as I can remember, the only references to Bridget Jones's Diaries were very brief things (see 4/2/02 and 4/2/02R.) However, I seem to remember that Linda mentioned it in some private e-mail so there will likely be some interest if you want to bring the subject up at this board.

Dear Bree,

I've made this point once in the past, but I think I'll bring it up again.  In the action at Rosings we discover a character who is every bit Mrs. Bennet's equal in silly, vulgar behavior.  None other than Mr. Darcy's esteemed aunt Lady Catherine.  She also has her mind on nothing else but local gossip and marrying off her daughter.  This certainly didn't help Darcy's marriage suit.  With his aunt and her daughter less than a mile away, Darcy had little excuse for complaining about the behavior of Elizabeth's family.  Perhaps this is one of the things he realizes in the months between his first proposal and second.

Dear Cheryl,

You make a good point.  Lady Catherine was just more imposing and self-important.  I did note that also, when Elizabeth was visiting Rosings, Lady Catherine was embarrassingly rude, and Darcy was even depicted as being embarrassed when Lady C. said Elizabeth could practice on the piano in the housekeeper's room!  I also wonder about Lady Catherine's age.  While I really liked Barbara Shelley's interpretation, she looked too old to be the mother of a daughter around the same age as Elizabeth.  The Lady Catherine of P&P-85 was too attractive, but age wise, I think she was closer.  Lady Catherine could not be too old really, as women in that time period did not usually have children in middle age (though I suppose it happened at times).  But Mrs. Bennett seemed much younger—I imagine she was around 40.  Next to Lady Catherine, Mrs. B. seemed a model of courtesy!

Dear Cheryl and Bree,

Lady Catherine is haughty, over-confident, overbearing, domineering, and class-conscious. She is also slightly obtuse and slightly foolish.

BUT, Lady C. is some other things as well. First of all, she takes a great liking to Elizabeth—a strong recommendation for Lady C. indeed! She declares her contempt for entailments against the female line; she extends an extraordinary number of dinner invitations to the parsonage during Elizabeth's visit; she hints to the relatively impoverished Elizabeth that she could find the poor waif a respectable position by calling upon her Old Girl Network; and, she becomes irritated when Elizabeth will not extend her visit in Kent. Jeepers, Lady C. would even condescend to allow Elizabeth to practice her piano in the governess's quarters.

Lady Catherine's daughter is sickly, unattractive, unaccomplished, and cross; and, Lady C. is determined to find her sick puppy a suitable marriage partner. Good for her says I. When her most cherished plans go awry—when rumors of Darcy's true inclination become known to her, Lady C. does the manly thing—bravo! She goes to Longbourn and confronts Elizabeth—face to face—to remind that lady of her inferior social position and to make clear her own wishes. It is only after she gets her rear-end kicked in "that prettyish kind of wilderness" that Lady C. goes to Darcy in order to bad-mouth his beloved (boy, that sure did the trick.) She reacts badly when Darcy writes to tell her of his engagement to Elizabeth—so badly that Darcy decides to make a permanent break with her. It is Elizabeth who then reconciles the pair and brings peace to the family. Bravo, Elizabeth!

Dear Bree,

Re: "Darcy's first words and the Darcy-Bingley interchange" Ash's point is well taken, but add into the mix that IMHO Jane Austen is doing this to throw in some mistaken "first impressions".  And a good job she did of it too.  Since that was the original title she wanted for the book, I believe that was a major theme in the book.

Re: Bridgit Jones' Diary as Ash indicated I went to email for that one.  My views were volatile.  I have been doing some study on that subject and now feel as though I am able to carry on a civilized conversation about it.  So fire away.

Dear Linda,

HOW could Colin Firth sink to such lamentable depths?  Well, he did play Mr. Darcy, no mistake about that!  Just a much less interesting one.  How he got pared up with that lump of suet Renee Zellweiger I"ll never figure out.  [OK, I'm no model, but I don't go displaying my --- all over the screen, either!]  After working with Jennifer Ehle!  And Hugh Grant, give me a break!  Fish that fell on the boat deck.  I guess I did really hate that movie!  Did you see Circle of Friends?  Very different Colin.  But still better than this!

Dear Cheryl,

Knowing (what little) I know about the world, I will agree that Churchill probably has it right.  Man has pulled shenanigans from the dawn of time.

As for Blount's article in general and with regards to 'innocence' in particular, I will admit that the thought crossed my mind that it would be hard for him to say much against Twain since Twain and the magazine are so closely tied together.  Twain was a moneymaker for them.  Sorry to be so cynical.

There is another library book sale in June, so I will see what I can find - I seriously doubt that I will come close to matching Roy's 30 odd Volume set.  I can dream though.  Do enjoy yourself at the wedding and the launch!

Dear Folks,

I am not going to make any friends with this, but I can't resist.

Previously, I have presented sweet Charlotte's kind remarks about Jane Austen and then her even more interesting remarks about her own sisters. Today I will post her gentlewomanly remarks about Henry Fielding.

I am excerpting from Charlotte's Preface to the second edition of her Jane Eyre. The first few paragraphs seem almost gracious and humble as she thanks the public, critics, and publisher for their treatment of the first edition. But, the woman never could avoid revealing her true nature. Near the end of the Preface, she thinks to thank Thackeray who had been a supporter and enthusiast. She does that in this interesting way.

"Why have I alluded to [Mr. Thackeray]? I have alluded to him, Reader, because I think I see in him an intellect profounder and more unique than his contemporaries have yet recognized; because I regard him as the first social regenerator of his day—as the very master of that working corps who would restore to rectitude the warped system of things; because I think no commentator on his writings has yet found the comparison that suits him, the terms which rightly characterize his talent. They say he is like Fielding: they talk of his wit, humour, comic powers. He resembles Fielding as an eagle does a vulture: Fielding could stoop on carrion, but Thackeray never does. His wit is bright, his humour attractive, but both bear the same relation to his serious genius, that the mere lambent sheet-lightning playing under the edge of the summer-cloud, does to the electric death-spark hid in its womb. ... "

I love that last sentence but not for the reason that would be a compliment to Ms. Brontë. Still, I think I know what she is saying; in fact, it is exactly the thing I try to say about Jane Austen.

Dear Ash,

Your excerpt prompted me to examine the entire Preface.  Fortunately, my copy had it and a Note to the Third Edition that was of no consequence.  I suppose we will remain friends over this because I have not read Fielding or Thackeray.  I will withhold my opinion of her opinion until I have read both.  I do agree with your conclusion.  Excuse my prejudice, but I would apply that last sentence to Jane as well.  Now I shall make a point or two of my own.

Charlotte appears to have a fixation on the word 'genius'.  In your quote she refers to Thackeray's 'serious genius' and in my quote from Kirkham's book she uses the term 'femmes de genie' with reference to herself and her sisters.  I do wonder how she defines 'genius'.

Prior to your quote in the Preface she mentions 'the world-redeeming creed of Christ' which tracks with that Anne Bronte poem, but then she has the audacity to say: because I regard him as the first social regenerator of his day—as the very master of that working corps who would restore to rectitude the warped system of things.  Well, excuuuse me!  I hardly know who Thackeray is, much less being aware that he did any 'restoring or rectituding' in this old world!  I do intend to find out the difference between him and Fielding though.  I am assuming that you have read both.  Your opinion of Thackeray's abilities will be appreciated.  I just have this feeling that he is no Jane Austen.

Yes, Charlotte does seem to be just a tad unchristian in using her sharp tongue to badmouth others.  There ought to be a nicer way to put it, especially since she is a PK (Preacher's Kid).  I do thank you for bringing CB to our attention.  It should prove to be an interesting study.

Dear Linda,

Actually, you might be familiar with Thackeray in some sense. He wrote Barry Lyndon and Vanity Fair, both of which have appeared in filmed versions. The former, by the way, is one of my all-time favorite films. Not many will second that because the actors in the roles of main characters were not good actors. It is a very strange film in that sense—I would never have imagined that a superb film could be made with mediocre actors. It was all great cinema and great music. The actors' contribution was their fine cinematic, physical appearances; every scene was a cinematic masterpiece.

Thackeray was a great author (far better, in my opinion than any of the Brontës), and his family did originate in the Yorkshire of the Brontës. The point I was trying to make is that Charlotte's comment indicates an uncouth and surly nature. As you know, I very much like Fielding and so I might be a bit oversensitive on this point. What is your opinion?

I think her term "serious genius" means that Thackeray had an underlying serious aspect to what others recognized as humor. I cannot imagine why Charlotte did not recognize the exact same "genius" in Fielding or Jane Austen.

Dear Ash,

I finally checked my inventory and found that I do have a paperback of Vanity Fair which I knew existed, but was never recommended.  Humph, I guess that says something about the company I kept.  Since I had never heard of Barry Lyndon, I checked the IMDb for it and the opinion expressed there was the same as yours.  I would like to see it.

As far as Yorkshire is concerned, I don't know enough to form an opinion, but there seems to be a foreboding over that land that seems to fit the 'uncouth an surly nature'.  I have just heard some rumors about it.  I am beginning to sort out 'what is where' in England since my daughter very kindly bought me a spiral bound map of Great Britain for Mother's Day.  Happy thought indeed!

Thanks for the opinion of Thackeray and I, also, cannot imagine why Charlotte did not recognize the exact same "genius" in Fielding or Jane Austen.  I guess nobody's perfect, well, present company excepted!


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