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Thursday July 24, 2014

Dr. Lydgate, who is in Paris for his studies of medicine, falls in love with a French actress, Laure, who was scripted to stab her husband, an actor, in a play they performed in—one evening she actually stabs him to death before Lydgate's eyes. Screams. He clamors on to the stage to give aid but the husband dies.

Laure is acquitted of the crime. He is sympathetic and finds her performing in Avignon.

"You have come all the way from Paris to find me?" she said to him the next day, sitting before him with folded arms, and looking at him with eyes that seemed to wonder as an untamed ruminating animal wonders. "Are all Englishmen like that?"

"I came because I could not live without trying to see you. You are lonely; I love you; I want you to consent to be my wife; I will wait, but I want you to promise that you will marry me—no one else."

Laure looked at him in silence with a melancholy radiance from under her grand eyelids, until he was full of rapturous certainty, and knelt close to her knees.

"I will tell you something," she said, in her cooing way, keeping her arms folded. "My foot really slipped."

"I know, I know," said Lydgate, deprecatingly. "It was a fatal accident—a dreadful stroke of calamity that bound me to you the more."

Again Laure paused a little and then said, slowly, "I meant to do it."

Lydgate, strong man as he was, turned pale and trembled: moments seemed to pass before he rose and stood at a distance from her.

"There was a secret, then," he said at last, even vehemently. "He was brutal to you: you hated him."

"No! he wearied me; he was too fond: he would live in Paris, and not in my country; that was not agreeable to me."

"Great God!" said Lydgate, in a groan of horror. "And you planned to murder him?"

"I did not plan: it came to me in the playI meant to do it."

Lydgate stood mute, and unconsciously pressed his hat on while he looked at her. He saw this woman—the first to whom he had given his young adoration—amid the throng of stupid criminals.

"You are a good young man," she said. "But I do not like husbands. I will never have another."

Middlemarch, George Eliot 1871, page 92.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
7/23/2014 3:48 pm

To Jane, her elder sister,

Til I have your disposition, your goodness, I never can have your happiness. 

Pride And Prejudice, Jane Austen 1813, page 228.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
7/20/2014 9:43 pm

Reading in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice that "Mr. Darcy looked a little ashamed of his aunt's (Lady Catherine de Bourgh) ill-breeding, and made no answer," (page 113) made me think of one of my favorite passages in Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu about ill-breeding and then thinking of Mr. Darcy's no answer as the Narrator's masterpiece bow.

"The idea of supposing that you were not invited! Besides, wasn't I there? Do you suppose that I should be unable to get you an invitation to my cousin's house?" I must admit that frequently, after this, she (Duchess de Guermantes) did things for me that were far more difficult; nevertheless, I took care not to interpret her words in the sense that I had been too modest. I was beginning to learn the exact value of the language, spoken or mute, of aristocratic affability, an affability that is happy to shed balm upon the sense of inferiority in those persons towards whom it is directed, though not to the point of dispelling that sense, for in that case it would no longer have any reason to exist. "But you are our equal, if not our superior," the Guermantes seemed, in all their actions, to be saying; and they said it in the most courteous fashion imaginable, to be loved, admired, but not to be believed; that one should discern the fictitious character of this affability was what they called being well-bred; to suppose it to be genuine, a sign of ill-breeding. I was to receive, as it happened, shortly after this, a lesson which gave me a full and perfect understanding of the extent and limitations of certain forms of aristocratic affability. It was at an afternoon party given by the Duchesse de Montmorency to meet the Queen of England; there was a sort of royal procession to the buffet, at the head of which walked Her Majesty on the arm of the Duc de Guermantes. I happened to arrive at that moment. With his disengaged hand the Duke conveyed to me, from a distance of nearly fifty yards, a thousand signs of friendly invitation, which appeared to mean that I need not be afraid to approach, that I should not be devoured alive instead of the sandwiches. But I, who was becoming word-perfect in the language of the court, instead of going even one step nearer, keeping my fifty yards' interval, made a deep how, but without smiling, the sort of bow that I should have made to some one whom I scarcely knew, then proceeded in the opposite direction. Had I written a masterpiece, the Guermantes would have given me less credit for it than I earned by that bow. Not only did it not pass unperceived by the Duke, albeit he had that day to acknowledge the greetings of more than five hundred people, it caught the eye of the Duchess, who, happening to meet my mother, told her of it, and, so far from suggesting that I had done wrong, that I ought to have gone up to him, said that her husband had been lost in admiration of my bow, that it would have been impossible for anyone to put more into it. They never ceased to find in that bow every possible merit, without however mentioning that which had seemed the most priceless of all, to wit that it had been discreet, nor did they cease either to pay me compliments which I understood to be even less a reward for the past than a hint for the future..."

Sodom et Gomorrhe by Marcel Proust, 1921-1922; translated as Cities of the Plain by C. K. Scott Moncrieff, 1928. My emphasis.

~

One experiences Jane Austen's symmetry of construction: Mr. Darcy is ashamed of Lady Catherine's ill-breeding, but as it is explained, the Bennet familial ill-breeding—primarily the caterwauling of Lizzy's mother and three younger sisters—is why Mr. Darcy separates Jane (Lizzy's older sister) from his friend Mr. Bingley who is in a reciprocal love unbeknownst to Mr. Darcy.  

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
7/20/2014 1:23 pm

You may fault Jane Austen for giving the twenty-year-old Elizabeth Bennet words that are beyond a young person's years but you can not fault the words. 

Early in the morning Lady Catherine de Bourgh arrives—probably after having been driven all night in a carriage—at the Bennet household; she and Elizabeth speak to one another,

"Whatever my connections may be," said Elizabeth, "if your nephew (Mr. Darcy) does not object to them, they can be nothing to you."

"Tell me once for all, are you engaged to him?"

Though Elizabeth would not, for the mere purpose of obliging Lady Catherine, have answered this question, she could not but say, after a moment's deliberation:

"I am not."

Lady Catherine seemed pleased.

"And will you promise me, never to enter into such an engagement?"

"I will make no promise of the kind."

"Miss Bennet I am shocked and astonished. I expected to find a more reasonable young woman. But do not deceive yourself into a belief that I will ever recede. I shall not go away till you have given me the assurance I require."

"And I certainly never shall give it. I am not to be intimidated into anything so wholly unreasonable. Your ladyship wants Mr. Darcy to marry your daughter; but would my giving you the wished-for promise make their marriage at all more probable? Supposing him to be attached to me, would my refusing to accept his hand make him wish to bestow it on his cousin? Allow me to say, Lady Catherine, that the arguments with which you have supported this extraordinary application have been as frivolous as the application was ill- judged. You have widely mistaken my character, if you think I can be worked on by such persuasions as these. How far your nephew might approve of your interference in his affairs, I cannot tell; but you have certainly no right to concern yourself in mine. I must beg, therefore, to be importuned no farther on the subject." 

Pride And Prejudice, Jane Austen 1813, page 235 ff. 

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
7/15/2014 6:49 am

Miss Elizabeth Bennet speaks to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy,

"The fact is, that you were sick of civility, of deference, of officious attention. You were disgusted with the women who were always speaking, and looking, and thinking for your approbation alone. I roused, and interested you, because I was so unlike them." 

Pride And Prejudice, Jane Austen 1813, page 248.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
7/14/2014 7:03 am

"But think no more of the letter. The feelings of the person who wrote, and the person who received it, are now so widely different from what they were then, that every unpleasant circumstance attending it ought to be forgotten. You must learn some of my philosophy. Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure."

Pride And Prejudice, Jane Austen 1813, page 241.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
7/13/2014 6:34 am

Hmm...our heroine does sound like Mr. Darcy here,

There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.

Pride And PrejudiceJane Austen 1813, page 88.

Hear, hear Lizzy...

"1683 other people highlighted this part of the book," so says the Kindle edition. My—so many other people. Thank you, Jane Austen, for giving us Elizabeth Bennet so dire and dear and Mr. Darcy too.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
7/11/2014 8:11 pm

In Pride And Prejudice, at the insistence of his wife, Mr. Bennet speaks to Elizabeth, the second eldest of his five daughters.

"Let her be called down. She shall hear my opinion."

Mrs. Bennet rang the bell, and Miss Elizabeth was summoned to the library.

"Come here, child," cried her father as she appeared. "I have sent for you on an affair of importance. I understand that Mr. Collins has made you an offer of marriage. Is it true?" Elizabeth replied that it was. "Very well—and this offer of marriage you have refused?"

"I have, sir."

"Very well. We now come to the point. Your mother insists upon your accepting it. Is it not so, Mrs. Bennet?"

"Yes, or I will never see her again."

"An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do."

Elizabeth could not but smile at such a conclusion of such a beginning...

Pride And Prejudice, Jane Austen 1813, page 74.

~

Donald Sutherland with a good tongue-in-cheek plays Mr. Bennet in the 2005 production. I've been watching the adaptions of Emma and Pride and Prejudice. Seeing film is valuable for, among other things, coming to an understanding of the settings—and how the English people lived at the turn of the 19th century—the costumes, the coiffeurs, the music, etc. as long the words of Jane Austen are read.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
7/10/2014 6:48 pm

Mrs. Elton says,  

"A line from me would bring you a little host of acquaintance; and my particular friend, Mrs. Partridge, the lady I have always resided with when in Bath, would be most happy to shew you any attentions, and would be the very person for you to go into public with."

It was as much as Emma could bear, without being impolite. The idea of her being indebted to Mrs. Elton for what was called an introduction—of her going into public under the auspices of a friend of Mrs. Elton's—probably some vulgar, dashing widow, who, with the help of a boarder, just made a shift to live!—The dignity of Miss Woodhouse, of Hartfield, was sunk indeed!

She restrained herself, however, from any of the reproofs she could have given, and only thanked Mrs. Elton coolly; "but their going to Bath was quite out of the question; and she was not perfectly convinced that the place might suit her better than her father." And then, to prevent farther outrage and indignation, changed the subject directly.

"I do not ask whether you are musical, Mrs. Elton. Upon these occasions, a lady's character generally precedes her; and Highbury has long known that you are a superior performer."

Emma, Jane Austen 1815, page 280.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
7/3/2014 8:20 pm
Labels: Emma, Jane Austen

...and when she considered how peculiarly unlucky poor Mr. Elton was in being in the same room at once with the woman he had just married, the woman he had wanted to marry, and the woman whom he had been expected to marry, she must allow him to have the right to look as little wise, and to be as much affectedly, and as little really easy as could be.

Emma, Jane Austen 1815, pages 275

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
7/3/2014 8:15 pm
Labels: Emma, Jane Austen

There is an intimacy anterior to this. We come close to Emma because in a strange way, she permits us to—even invites us to—by being close to herself. When we have said that her fault is hubris or self-love, we must make an immediate modification, for her self-love, though it invokes her in self-deception, does not lead her to the ultimate self-deception—she believes she is clever, she insists she is right, but she never says she is good. 

But Emma is jealous of Jane Fairfax and acts badly to her.

It has been thought that in the portrait of Emma there is "an air of confession," that Jane Austen was taking account of "something offensive" that she and others had observed in her own earlier manner and conduct, and whether or not this is so, it suggests the quality of intimacy which the author contrives that we shall feel with the heroine.

Emma and the Legend of Jane Austen, Lionel Trilling 1957; from Jane Austen's Emma, A Casebook, edited by Fiona Stafford 2007.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
7/3/2014 7:14 am

On Jane Austen:

There are those who love her; there are those—no doubt they are fewer but they are no less passionate—who detest her; and the new reader understands that he is being solicited to a fierce partisanship, that he is required to make no mere literary judgment but a decision about his own character and personality, and about his relation to society and all of life.

... What kind of people like Jane Austen: What kind of people dislike her? Sooner or later the characterization is made or implied by one side or the other, and with extreme invidiousness. It was inevitable that there should arise a third body of opinion, which holds that it is not Jane Austen herself who is to be held responsible for the faults that are attributed to her by her detractors, but rather the people who admire her for the wrong reasons and in the wrong language and thus create a false image of her.

Emma and the Legend of Jane Austen, Lionel Trilling 1957; from Jane Austen's Emma, A Casebook, edited by Fiona Stafford 2007.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
7/2/2014 9:48 pm

Thinking of Mr. Elton,

During his present short stay, Emma had barely seen him; but just enough to feel that the first meeting was over, and to give her the impression of his not being improved by the mixture of pique and pretension, now spread over his air. She was, in fact, beginning very much to wonder that she had ever thought him pleasing at all; and his sight was so inseparably connected with some very disagreeable feelings, that, except in a moral light, as a penance, a lesson, a source of profitable humiliation to her own mind, she would have been thankful to be assured of never seeing him again. She wished him very well; but he gave her pain, and his welfare twenty miles off would administer most satisfaction.

The pain of his continued residence in Highbury, however, must certainly be lessened by his marriage. Many vain solicitudes would be prevented—many awkwardnesses smoothed by it. A Mrs. Elton would be an excuse for any change of intercourse; former intimacy might sink without remark. It would be almost beginning their life of civility again.

Emma, Jane Austen 1815, page 185.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
6/29/2014 7:36 pm
Labels: Emma, Jane Austen

In the 1970's reading a bible of the current food movement, Francis Moore Lappé's Diet for a Small PlanetI learned about the nature of complementary proteins and from that time I rudimentarily noted the kind of protein in my diet, even as I began to eat lamb when I got sheep in the late 1980's.

Several years ago a friend and a devoteé to a guru cooked and served an Ayurvedic Kichardy; it consisted of complimentary proteins: ~75% of Basmati Rice (a grain), ~24% of Split Mung Beans (a legume) and ~1% of Mustard, Coriander, Fennel, Fenugreek, Cardamon (seeds) and Turmeric powder ground from a root. 

You pop, like popcorn, the mustard seed in olive oil, you stir in the other spices to the popped mustard seed and oil, you stir in the basmati rice and mung beans, then add ~1.75 cups of spring water to 1 cup of basmati rice/mung beans and cook—after bringing it to a boil—under low heat for ~30 minutes. I often add sliced garlic to the olive oil after the mustard seed has popped.

Kichardy is a dish for me: inexpensive, fast—the measures and the time are always approximate—and the grain/legume/seed proteins complement one another. The recipe is Ayurvedic, it is ~5000 years old and it is a staple of the modern-day food movement too. Its health must be true being both Vedic-old and foodie-new. It makes me conscious of what I eat and that is most important about eating.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
6/29/2014 5:36 pm

In Chapter XV Mr. Elton discloses to Emma Woodhouse that he loves her and not Harriet Smith despite Emma's efforts of matchmaking to pair and marry Harriet and Mr. Elton. Emma is angered by his disclosure. She does not notice her own connivery in making Harriet refuse an offer of marriage by Mr. Martin—an uneducated farmer—whom Emma thought not-the-equal of Harriet (in reality—but ironically—Emma would dread receiving the couple because of her required condescension to Mr. Martin) but in whom the pretty but dull-witted Harriet was interested.

There is much critical talk of Jane Austen's irony in the secondary readings and that is in evidence here regarding Emma's ignorance of the sorrow caused to Mr. Martin; furthermore Jane Austen said in Emma that 'she would have a heroine that was unliked by all but herself'—many people find Emma ironic because of her ways of selfish thinking and being.

Chapter XVI

The hair was curled, and the maid sent away, and Emma sat down to think and be miserable.—It was a wretched business indeed!—Such an overthrow of every thing she had been wishing for!—Such a development of every thing most unwelcome!—Such a blow for Harriet!—that was the worst of all. Every part of it brought pain and humiliation, of some sort or other; but, compared with the evil to Harriet, all was light; and she would gladly have submitted to feel yet more mistaken—more in error—more disgraced by mis-judgment, than she actually was, could the effects of her blunders have been confined to herself.

"If I had not persuaded Harriet into liking the man, I could have borne any thing. He might have doubled his presumption to me—but poor Harriet!"

How she could have been so deceived!—He protested that he had never thought seriously of Harriet—never!

...

It was dreadfully mortifying; but Mr. Elton was proving himself, in many respects, the very reverse of what she had meant and believed him; proud, assuming, conceited; very full of his own claims, and little concerned about the feelings of others.

Emma Jane Austen 1815, pages 134 and 135

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
6/29/2014 9:45 am
Labels: Emma, Jane Austen