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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, now living in "Portlandia"!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

3 passages & 3 questions about “last summer” in Pride & Prejudice that you never connected…but shoulda!

 Just as Frank playfully puts words in Emma’s mouth at Box Hill…“…she only demands from each of you either one thing very clever, be it prose or verse, original or repeated—or two things moderately clever—or three things very dull indeed, and she engages to laugh heartily at them all."  …today I am presenting to you 3 passages about “last summer” which all occur within the space of only 5 chapters of each other in the middle of P&P, but which I bet you never connected to each other. And then, at the end, I will pose you three questions about those passages which I hope you will agree are at least moderately clever.

Chapter 33:  [Col. Fitzwilliam] "Care of [Bingley]! Yes, I really believe Darcy does take care of him in those points where he most wants care. From something that he told me in our journey hither, I have reason to think Bingley very much indebted to him. But I ought to beg his pardon, for I have no right to suppose that Bingley was the person meant. It was all conjecture."
"What is it you mean?"
"It is a circumstance which Darcy could not wish to be generally known, because if it were to get round to the lady's family, it would be an unpleasant thing."
"You may depend upon my not mentioning it."
"And remember that I have not much reason for supposing it to be Bingley. What he told me was merely this: that he congratulated himself on having lately saved a friend from the inconveniences of a most imprudent marriage, but without mentioning names or any other particulars, and I only suspected it to be Bingley from believing him the kind of young man to get into a scrape of that sort, and from knowing them to have been together the whole of last summer."
"Did Mr. Darcy give you reasons for this interference?"
"I understood that there were some very strong objections against the lady."
"And what arts did he use to separate them?"
"He did not talk to me of his own arts," said Fitzwilliam, smiling. "He only told me what I have now told you."
Elizabeth made no answer, and walked on, her heart swelling with indignation. After watching her a little, Fitzwilliam asked her why she was so thoughtful.
"I am thinking of what you have been telling me," said she. "Your cousin's conduct does not suit my feelings. Why was he to be the judge?"
"You are rather disposed to call his interference officious?"
"I do not see what right Mr. Darcy had to decide on the propriety of his friend's inclination, or why, upon his own judgement alone, he was to determine and direct in what manner his friend was to be happy. But," she continued, recollecting herself, "as we know none of the particulars, it is not fair to condemn him. It is not to be supposed that there was much affection in the case."
"That is not an unnatural surmise," said Fitzwilliam, "but it is a lessening of the honour of my cousin's triumph very sadly."
This was spoken jestingly; but it appeared to her so just a picture of Mr. Darcy, that she would not trust herself with an answer, and therefore, abruptly changing the conversation talked on indifferent matters until they reached the Parsonage.”

Chapter 35: "I must now mention a circumstance which I would wish to forget myself, and which no obligation less than the present should induce me to unfold to any human being. Having said thus much, I feel no doubt of your secrecy. My sister, who is more than ten years my junior, was left to the guardianship of my mother's nephew, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and myself. About a year ago, she was taken from school, and an establishment formed for her in London; and last summer she went with the lady who presided over it, to Ramsgate; and thither also went Mr. Wickham, undoubtedly by design; for there proved to have been a prior acquaintance between him and Mrs. Younge, in whose character we were most unhappily deceived; and by her connivance and aid, he so far recommended himself to Georgiana, whose affectionate heart retained a strong impression of his kindness to her as a child, that she was persuaded to believe herself in love, and to consent to an elopement. She was then but fifteen, which must be her excuse; and after stating her imprudence, I am happy to add, that I owed the knowledge of it to herself. I joined them unexpectedly a day or two before the intended elopement, and then Georgiana, unable to support the idea of grieving and offending a brother whom she almost looked up to as a father, acknowledged the whole to me. You may imagine what I felt and how I acted. Regard for my sister's credit and feelings prevented any public exposure; but I wrote to Mr. Wickham, who left the place immediately, and Mrs. Younge was of course removed from her charge. Mr. Wickham's chief object was unquestionably my sister's fortune, which is thirty thousand pounds; but I cannot help supposing that the hope of revenging himself on me was a strong inducement. His revenge would have been complete indeed. "

Chapter 37:  "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." "

So….here are my 3 questions for you:

ONE: The previous summer, did Georgiana travel to Ramsgate with Anne de Bourgh and two men-servants, as Lady Catherine tells Elizabeth in Chapter 37, or did Georgiana go there with Mrs. Younge, as Darcy wrote to Elizabeth in Chapter 35? 

[Correction added at 11:20 PM PST: When I reread my post, I realized that what appeared to me to be an inconsistency between Darcy's story about Mrs. Younge being in charge of Georgiana in Ramsgate and Lady Catherine's story about two male servants accompanying Georgiana and Anne Darcy, was not an inconsistency. I.e.., it sounds like the two male servants were sent to accompany the two girls while Ramsgate would not have remained in Ramsgate. Instead, it would be plausible that they were also accompanied by Mrs. Young, who then would have been their sole adult supervisor in Ramsgate. This doesn't change the import of my other 2 questions, below, which I still leave out there for consideration.]

TWO: If Darcy and Bingley were together the whole of the previous summer when Darcy rescued Bingley from an imprudent marriage, then how could Darcy have been referring to his having talked Bingley out of proposing to Jane, when Bingley didn’t even meet Jane till early October (i.e., after Michaelmas)?

THREE: For 200 years, readers of P&P have followed Elizabeth Bennet’s inference that Fitzwilliam was talking about Darcy’s interference as Darcy describes it in his Chapter 35 letter, which would date that interference to late November. But did Jane Austen mean for the sharp elves who pay close attention to the above 3 passages to infer other possible, plausible interpretations of what Fitzwilliam was talking about?

I will wait one day for answers, and then post my interpretation(s) tomorrow night. But one caveat: I will find it very dull indeed if anyone responds that Jane Austen just made a mistake during all her lopping and cropping, and that if she meant us to connect these passages, her narrator would have alerted us to do so.

Recall in that regard that P&P is the novel in which the narrator also fails to ever explain to the reader the astonishing QUADRUPLE coincidence that Darcy, Mr. Collins, & Wickham all show up in Meryton within a month of each other, and all wind up courting the niece of Mrs. Gardiner—the coincidence being that Wickham grew up with Darcy, Mr. Collins was given the Hunsford living by Darcy’s aunt, and Mrs. Gardiner grew up in the shadow of Pemberley.

Either you believe Jane Austen was a hack writer or a careless writer, or you will take the challenge, use the old grey cells, and make sense of this mystery hidden in plain sight by Jane Austen.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter


Anonymous said...

What if it was the interference of another imprudent marriage that Darcy saved Bingley from, and Lizzie just assumed it was her family, in that accord, I would have to quote Liv from Bride Wars words, by saying Lizzie, "you came up with that all on your own"

Anonymous said...

What if it was the interference of another imprudent marriage that Darcy saved Bingley from, and Lizzie just assumed it was her family, in that accord, I would have to quote Liv from Bride Wars words, by saying Lizzie, "you came up with that all on your own"