Monday, January 28, 2013

Pride and Prejudice Readathon: Chapters Twenty-seven, Twenty-eight, and Twenty-nine

Chapter Twenty-seven shows us the Gardiner home, informs us Jane's spirits are still depressed, though her health is strong, and prepares the way for Elizabeth's travels in the spring with the Gardiners. It is am mostly a transitional chapter, taking us from Hertfordshire to Kent, but there are some very fine moments between Elizabeth and Mr.s Gardiner, who engage in polite dispute over Wiskham's conduct to Mrs. King, Elizabeth continuing to maintain a partiality towards him that denies censure. I believe it is this exchange, and its illustration of Elizabeth's current mood, that prompts Mrs. Gardiner to invite her on the trip to the Lakes:
"Thank Heaven! I am going to-morrow where I shall find a man who has not one agreeable quality, who has neither manner nor sense to recommend him. Stupid men are the only ones worth knowing, after all."

"Take care, Lizzy; that speech savours strongly of disappointment."
The applied remedy has instant effect: "Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains?"

Chapter twenty-eight introduces a far more cheerful Elizabeth to Hunsford. Most notable is Mr. Collins gloating manner towards Elizabeth, so unshaken is he in his conviction of his own superiority. Though Mrs. Collins bears with him well, such a display cannot be pleasant for a wife to endure, and surely renders him even worse than usual. Her pride in her house has, so far, provided comfort to her marriage. One has to wonder how long such succor can last, and it has been the subject of many Pride & Prejudice sequels.

The best comic moment in these chapters comes with the introduction of Miss De Bourgh:
About the middle of the next day, as she was in her room getting ready for a walk, a sudden noise below seemed to speak the whole house in confusion; and after listening a moment, she heard somebody running up stairs in a violent hurry, and calling loudly after her. She opened the door, and 
met Maria in the landing place, who, breathless with agitation, cried out, "Oh, my dear Eliza! pray make haste and come into the dining-room, for there is such a sight to be seen! I will not tell you what it is. Make haste, and come down this moment."

Elizabeth asked questions in vain; Maria would tell her nothing more, and down they ran into the dining-room, which fronted the lane, in quest of this wonder; it was two ladies stopping in a low phaeton at the garden gate.

"And is this all?" cried Elizabeth. "I expected at least that the pigs were got into the garden, and here is nothing but Lady Catherine and her daughter!"

"La! my dear," said Maria quite shocked at the mistake, "it is not Lady Catherine. The old lady is Mrs. Jenkinson, who lives with them. The other is Miss De Bourgh. Only look at her. She is quite a little creature. Who would have thought she could be so thin and small!"

"She is abominably rude to keep Charlotte out of doors in all this wind. Why does she not come in?"

"Oh! Charlotte says, she hardly ever does. It is the greatest of favours when Miss De Bourgh comes in."

"I like her appearance," said Elizabeth, struck with other ideas. "She looks sickly and cross. -- Yes, she will do for him very well. She will make him a very proper wife."
Telling that even now, Mr. Darcy is on her mind.

Chapter twenty-nine finally takes us to Rosings Hall, and Mr. Collins proves just how intolerable he can be as they prepare to leave:
When the ladies were separating for the toilette, he said to Elizabeth,
"Do not make yourself uneasy, my dear cousin, about your apparel. Lady Catherine is far from requiring that elegance of dress in us, which becomes herself and daughter. I would advise you merely to put on whatever of your clothes is superior to the rest, there is no occasion for any thing more. Lady Catherine will not think the worse of you for being simply dressed. She likes to have the distinction of rank preserved."

While they were dressing, he came two or three times to their different doors, to recommend their being quick, as Lady Catherine very much objected to be kept waiting for her dinner.
Lady Catherine, as I have said before, is one of my favorite characters in the book. I can't help it: she's just irresistible in her tyranny. The evening at Rosings is insipid in the extreme, and only Elizabeth's appreciation for the ridiculousness of her companions renders it tolerable. We are left with excellent moments like this: "After sitting a few minutes, they were all sent to one of the windows to admire the view, Mr. Collins attending them to point out its beauties, and Lady Catherine kindly informing them that it was much better worth looking at in the summer."

Lady Catherine takes an active interest in Elizabeth, probably because she intuitively senses that she is the most interesting person amongst the guests. As little as Elizabeth cares for her condescension, Lady Catherine truly does show surprising favor towards her throughout the stay in Kent, even expressing a good deal of disappointment when she leaves. It is this unappreciated notice that fuels her indignation when the ladies meet again at the end of the novel.

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