Monday, February 27, 2012

Another look at Caroline Bingley's pursuit of Mr. Darcy

It is safe to say that Caroline Bingley is one of the most hated of Austen's characters.  While she certainly has other, more serious, faults, much of the hatred seems to come from general disapproval of her continued pursuit of Mr. Darcy, probably because many of us feel a kinship to Elizabeth Bennet.  This post looks at why Miss Bingley's pursuit makes sense.

At the beginning of Pride and Prejudice, Caroline Bingley is presented as the fashionable unmarried sister of the wealthy and eligible Charles Bingley who will be acting her brother's housekeeper while he is at Netherfield.  On its face this sounds like a good situation, and it is except for the fact that she will lose that position the second her brother marries.  After her brother's marriage she will go from being in a position where she performs a useful function that gives her a degree of status to a position where she is a mere dependent who lives in her brother's house without any real authority over anything.

Enter Mr. Darcy, wealthy, handsome, intelligent, educated, wealthy, independent and all together an excellent example of a good Regency catch.  If anything Miss Bingley's interest in him is a sign that she has good taste in at least one respect and rationally speaking, Miss Bingley isn't a horrible match for him.  She herself is apparently educated, even if not a great reader, she associates with people of rank, and has a respectable fortune.  She and Darcy appear to have a relationship (not in the romantic sense) based on the mutual enjoyment of snobby repartee while in Meryton.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet as parents

When it comes to parenting their five daughters, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet aren't likely to be up for any awards. Both of them play favorites while neglecting to educate their daughters and have chosen an economic course that requires the girls to marry well or face lives of genteel poverty which their upbringings have made them entirely unprepared for.

This is something I have referenced in previous posts, (see Mr. Bennet and the Entailment Part I and Part II) but that I think is very important to consider.  I really do think that in some ways Mr. Bennet could be considered one of Pride and Prejudice's villains, primarily due to his neglect of his family.  Mrs. Bennet really didn't do her daughters many favors, but she does at least appear to be attempting to do something and if she wasn't so focused on the idea of marrying her daughters off to rich men or so intellectually limited she might have actually accomplished something.  Mr. Bennet was certainly aware of his wife's limitations and obsessions and could have at least attempted to direct her efforts towards more useful pursuits.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Babes and Babies

A search of's electronic texts, shows that the word "baby" appears seven times (Sense and Sensibility, Emma, and Mansfield Park), "infant" appears four times in the same novels and "babe" is never used.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Trees in Jane Austen's England

The research for this post surprised me a little.  It is generally acknowledged that current Christmas traditions largely had their root in the Victorian Era, including the Christmas tree which became popular after a picture of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's Christmas Tree was published on the cover of The Illustrated London News

It turns out, that "became popular" were the key words there and the more I think about it, the more this makes sense.  The German Prince Albert was supposed to have introduced the Christmas tree to England from his native home, however he was not the first German royal consort in England (see this earlier post) and not only that, but King George I had also started out as the Elector of Hanover (a German province).  According to The Christmas Archives, it was the German Georges along with German merchants who first introduced Christmas trees to England and some English families apparently did copy the tradition, but it wasn't as widespread as it would become later.  The Christmas Archives attributes this to the fact that the Georgian kings were not terribly popular with their subjects leading those subjects to be disinclined to follow the Royal Family's example in matters of fashion.  Personally, I think that could be part of the reason but I would also like to point out that it was a picture of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's tree that really started making Christmas trees popular.  It could have been that picture that showed everyone how charming and beautiful a Christmas tree could really be.

So to bring us back to the pre-Victorian time in which Jane Austen lived, it is possible that she knew people who had Christmas trees and that some of her characters might have had them.  Personally, I think that the most likely characters to have a Christmas tree would be the Gardiners, it would be a fun decoration for the Gardiner children while their parents were at Longbourn and since Mr. Gardiner is in trade they could have picked up the idea from a German merchant (or merchants) that he did business with.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Yes, I'm back

My apologies for the extended departure, all I can say is life has been crazy. I am currently in the process of starting my own law firm, which while very exciting is also very time consuming. However things are starting to settle a little bit for the present and I intend to dedicate a little bit of the additional time to this blog.