Monday, 15 October 2012

Lady Catherine's Schemes

Workmen have carried everything out of my sitting-room, and I am shortly to quit this seventeen century house for another. Renovations are being done, and poor Mrs McAmbrose must be housed somewhere before (and after) she takes her doting husband to Kraków.

Last night I read up on the First Vatican Council, but as bedtime reading I finished Pride and Prejudice. This time, while noting Caroline's last desperate outbreak of snarling wickedness, I turned my attention to the desperate schemes of Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

Caroline Bingley schemes for herself alone. Lady Catherine schemes on behalf of her daughter. In this she is not unlike Mrs Bennet, who has many more daughters to marry off, and greater cause to worry. Lady Catherine and her daughter are immensely rich and important; for sure someone will marry the Miss De Bourgh, if Mr Darcy doesn't, and in the event that no-one did, she will still be rich.

By the way, Miss De Bourgh is certainly wasting her opportunities. Had I her money, I would get over being ill and rush down to London to make havoc among the fortune-hunters. I would have so much fun, I am sure it would improve my appearance. And, since marriage would mean handing over all the cash to my lucky, pre-Married Woman's Property Act, husband, I would put it off as long as possible. Unless I met the Perfect Man for Me, I would reign over the London Season for decades.

But then this strange seclusion might be Miss D's mother's fault. If Lady C is keeping her daughter for Mr Darcy, then it would explain why she keeps her at home and coddles her supposed illness.

Hmm. Maybe it is Lady Catherine who is wasting her opportunities. She definitely needs another interest in life. Could she not toy with the hearts of fortune-seeking widowers instead?

As a married woman I recognize the temptation to meddle in the love affairs of others. Having wound up the plot of our own love lives in a flourish of white silk and champagne, we married ladies perk up at sound of someone else's plot. Whether or not we are more of a help than of a hindrance to our unmarried friends is an open question.

Lady Catherine's huge mistake is in thinking she can boss absolutely everyone into doing what she wants them to do. As she has known Mr Darcy his entire life, it surprises me that she thinks she can boss him into doing what she wants him to do.

My personal philosophy is that whereas you can stop men from doing stuff (e.g. by locking them out of the house), it is much more difficult to get them to do stuff they don't want to do. They have to be convinced with plausible arguments or bribed/rewarded, e.g. with cake. The nicest men are easy-going and don't object often to doing anything, although even the nicest man is going to draw the line at marrying his cousin when he'd rather marry someone else.

Lady Catherine is a Grande Dame, and I aspire to become a Grande Dame, although a much nicer Grande Dame than Lady Catherine. I would rather be a Grande Dame like the Duchess of Avon (Léonie) in Devil's Cub, for example, tremendously sympathetic to a son's habit of duelling as I should love to duel too.

Seraphique: Oh my son, it is true you are wicked. But it is only because I am so wicked myself.

Fils de Seraphique: Oh mother. You must not say such things.

Seraphique: It is the red hair; it is our curse.

Fils de Seraphique: But perhaps also a blessing. Consider my excellent aim.

Seraphique: Ah, my son. You get that from your uncle. I myself can barely hit the side of a barn.

Actually, if I had a son, I don't think I would make any suggestions about his love life, and just let B.A. make all the embarrassing speeches, which I hope would amount to more than "Anything for a quiet life, son" which is what his grandfather said to him.

Or would I? Hmm. Well, it is moot as if I ever have a son, I will be in my sixties when he is in his twenties, and sixty is really too old for schemes.

What is the responsibility of a married lady towards the single young? I am not sure. I think it is nice to introduce them to each other and have large parties at which the young can take refuge with each other away from the old, but that's about it. Any scheming, and one might end up like Lady Catherine, snubbed in the shrubbery.


Nzie (theRosyGardener) said...

I love the conversation between Seraphique and Fils de Seraphique so much! Poor Lady Catherine, wasting her time because she is ignoring the reality that her nephew has no interest in her daughter. Not only is she souring herself, but she's holding her daughter away from society (and a good deal of fun). Messing with other people's lives doesn't even pay off the misery it causes. (And of course, poor Miss De Bourgh, the real victim of her mother's schemes - Darcy can do what he likes, but she really can't.)

I think these P&P themed posts are really salient for many young women, and I would like to suggest you put them all together or give them all a tag or something and list them in the sidebar, because I think they are a great thing for young NChristianGs to read and would give folks a good introduction to how you approach these subjects in a context (P&P) many young women are familiar with. :-) Maybe it could go near the Swashbuckling Protector and the About Me.

(Also, regarding the Swashbuckling Protector, may I suggest one? Take a look at Eduardo Verastegui - not only is he quite handsome, but he had a powerful reversion and thus would probably be quite a good protector.)


Maddie said...

I wonder what your opinion of Georgette Heyer's heroines is? I find they have quite strange relationships to the heroes...(not to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read them...which you should!)

Have you read the prequel to Devil's Cub? Called These Old Shades - it's about Léonie and the Duke's love story!

English Minor said...

Chiming in to say that I'm loving this P&P-themed mini-series of posts! Any chance you'd be interested in doing one on female characters from Bronte? I just love those moody North Yorkshire girls, they have so many FEELINGS (not that I'm enamored of Heathcliff, mind!)

MaryJane said...

I think married ladies should mostly try to be nice to singles in a non-condescending way, but that kind of advice is really generic for all Christians. Specifically for the married, I think everyone should take a cue from you and BA and host fabulous parties. If two young people meet there, and the man has brains and courage enough to ask the nice single woman he meets for coffee, so much the better. But def. more dinner parties!

Urszula said...

Yes for fabulous dinner parties! And lest couples with kids fear, dinner parties can also be potluck affairs - the point is the company and the good food, not the provenance thereof.

And I am also very much in favor of the idea of a 'special sidebar' featuring the Jane Austen dialogues from a sensible, Seraphic, Catholic perspective!

Jackie said...

Seraphic, your P&P posts *rock*! I second (third? fourth?) the cry for More!

(By the way, there is a rather awesome and fun fanfic from the POV of Miss Anne DeBourgh. Hopefully the link will work: )

As to the role of married ladies... My only request is PLEASE use judicious judgment and don't let any yearning for wedding bells override good sense. I speak from personal experience. :(

A married woman old enough to be my mom was recently encouraging me to give a chance to a guy who had pressured me repeatedly, refused to accept any of my No's, who wanted me to stop having a particular nun as a mentor and said he did all of the above "for my own good." YUCK!

It was only when a completely unrelated issue came up as a "red flag" that she was able to let it go. Her reasoning: "But he's head over heels in love with you. This could break his tender heart." Eeeeeeeeeeek!

Seraphic said...

Now that is interesting. The "But it could break his tender heart" remark suggests that she was not really on your side, but on his.

That is the thing with wicked old married ladies who want to set you up with their sons, earthly or spiritual. We do not necessarily have your best interests at heart, but the interests of our son (or son-figure).

Of course, if I had spiritual sons, I am sure they would be the most delightful and deserving young men in the entire world...

Seraphic said...

By the way, thank you for the compliments. I didn't know you would enjoy my literary criticism that much, goodness.

Well, I will do some more presently. I am not as familiar with the Bronte oeuvre as with the Austen organon, but I do have some sharp things to say about Heathcliffe and Mr Rochester.

I rather like Jane Eyre herself though, as she has a temper percolating under her quiet exterior. She's quite a heroine of the English Stiff Upper Lip variety. The SUL is never about being dead inside but about keeping a lid on your feelings for decorum's/dignity's sake.

okiegrl said...

Sixty is too old for scheming?! Seraphic, you really must tell that to my seventy year old downstairs neighbor. She has tried repeatedly to set me up with someone, even though she knows I have a boyfriend!! I don't think many women who are inclined to scheme ever grow out of it. ;-)

On a serious note, I think that married ladies' obligation is to be understanding to those still single. It's hard being around some married friends sometimes because they are just so condescending.

Married: I'm glad X has a bf now... maybe she will stop talking about her dates.
What I wanted to say: (Witheringly) That's easy for you to say, considering you've been with your now-husband for 10 years, and spent EIGHT waiting for him to marry you!
What I did say: It's hard being single. Besides, we all asked her about her funny but bad dates.

Parties are also good!