Our story begins in the year of our Lord, nineteen-hundred and thirteen. It was to be a year that would have totally amazed the good lady of literature, Jane Austen and her companions of family and acquaintance, both male and female, by the events of the times and the behaviour of the women of the various Suffragette movements when compared to the idyllic, mild-mannered and indolent lifestyle of the ladies of middle class leisure wherein she had moved a century previously. That a female campaigner for the votes for women could step into the path of the King's race horse at Epsom Racecourse bringing it down and sustaining injuries that caused her own death four days later would be quite beyond Jane's comprehension. Despite having a healthy disregard for the royalty of her own time, she may still have described such behaviour as "quite shocking!"
Within a year of our present tale also, the world would be at terrible war and amongst many other events far beyond the comprehension of the middle class lifestyles. Motorised vehicles would appear on the streets, a major mining tragedy with immense loss of life would occur at Senghennydd in Wales, and aero planes would populate the skies where previously nothing bigger than herons and plump geese had done so in the Austen era. Our tale begins in the interim period just prior to these events, when Holmes and Watson were living a comparatively relaxed lifestyle of their own. Daily business events were much as ever, but a new interest was taking up their evening leisure time. Three months previously Sherlock Holmes, already a devotee of Jane Austen's six novels, and in a moment of frivolity and French brandy, had laid down a task before his companion, to read all the six main novels and draw conclusions as to their individual views on the leading characters in each. This was to be done without any prior conversation, and the results were to be disclosed commencing over a weekend break in a hired sailing craft with one attendant, on the Norfolk Broads, another Sherlock Holmes innovation due to boating becoming vogue with Lords and Ladies of leisure.Chapter One. To Devonshire we will go...
Posted on 2015-10-16
Fueled by a hearty breakfast and with a couple of pots of best English tea leisurely consumed, the companions set forth one sunny morning early in the month of June. Content to leave the direction and speed of the water craft's progress to Ernest Dale, a dour but competent -seeming local man, the pair took seats on the sunlit deck and commenced disclosing their findings.....
"Now then, Watson. Let us commence the way that Jane Austen did and begin with her Sense and Sensibility. What are your observations on the main characters therein?"
Holmes sat back, applied a match to his pipe and watched as his friend opened up his journal and found the relevant page of notes. Watson cleared his throat and began:
"In truth, I found this rather an odd tale from the very start Holmes. I mean, what an absolute dish-cloth of a man is John Dashwood? To be browbeaten in such a fashion by a domineering, greedy and self-serving, snobbish woman is more than disgusting. He allows, nay forces, his mother and half - sisters, one of whom is only thirteen years of age, to become homeless and move out into a future of almost wretched poverty without any help, whilst he and his harpy of a wife and spoiled child live in luxury because he won't stand up to her? Good grief man, could it even happen? He promised his father on the man's death bed to take care of both mother and children. What sort of man is that? "
Holmes gave a half-smile, but simply waved his hand for Watson to continue. The Doctor allowed himself a headshake before doing so. He glanced down at his journal, peered at his own handwriting, frowned slightly, then proceeded.
"In my understanding of what main characters you really meant, Holmes, I've omitted both this wimp of a man and his wife as being of little importance. The Fanny woman carries on dispensing bile right through the story, but in the background mainly, and her husband is hardly worth a mention. I just could not help but be annoyed at such a situation as theirs existing. That damned silly male-only entailment law was just too infuriating for words. There are other things that worry me but they are of the period rather than being relevant to our task here. It is easy to escape the reader's notice that Marianne Dashwood is but sixteen years of age when all this is going on. Willoughby is almost a child stealer. He had already got one fifteen year old girl pregnant and then abandoned her. Damned if I can see anyone feeling any sort of sympathy for him. The man is a rotter of the first order. Even the sensible one, Elinor is only nineteen at the start of things. We had some rum ideas of society in England back then, Holmes. Despite all the to and fro of the story, I decided I should just concentrate on the two main couples and the Willoughby fellow, or it would be like re-writing the Bible".
Again, Holmes gave his half-smile before nodding agreement. Heroes and heroines had always been his intent. He scraped out his pipe and refilled it and settled back against the cushioned seat. Watson turned a page in his notes.
"John Willoughby and love, humph! In my somewhat unromantic view, love should not be mentioned near him. He was a philanderer, a total womaniser and he married purely for money. Had that just been it, then I suppose he was typical of many others of the time, but he latches on to a silly over-romantic young girl, reads pretty poems to her and is off like a rocket when his past is threatened with disclosure by his refusal to do the right thing by the girl he made pregnant and abandoned. His aunt cuts him out of her will and he marries a woman for her money. I care not for whether he loved Marianne Dashwood or not, he was a bounder who had no right to court her anyway. She at least had the small excuse of foolish youth, though she was a head-in-the-clouds sort of girl to me. He could claim no such thing. He was hard headed, calculating and a land owner. A pity the Colonel chap didn't skewer him and see him off completely. If Jane Austen intended her readers to feel any sympathy for Willoughby, she totally failed with me. A thoroughly detestable man. He got his just deserts "
Watson turned a page in his notebook and studied it for several seconds.
" Edward Ferrar, Elinor Dashwood's love interest, almost landed himself in a pickle by his own youthful impulsive views of unrequited love and misguided sense of honour, but fortunately he came out well in the end because that sense of honour made him at least want to do the right thing. I must confess, Holmes, he is a bit of a goody-goody type who seems typical of Jane Austen. A man of the church, uncaring about money and as shiny and dutifully bound as old Sir Galahad of King Arthur's Court fame. A bit too good to be true for me, but compared to Willoughby, I suppose, almost heroic. A real happy-ending type, just right for good old, suffer-in-silence Elinor Dashwood. She's a nice-sounding heroine, a woman of real worth, but she should probably have given the Fanny woman a swift kick up the butt in Chapter One. I'd actually have loved that Holmes...."
Watson broke off to allow himself a brief guffaw at his own wit,
" I digress. Edward Ferrars I don't actually see as a hero figure at all. He's a quiet, vague, wishy-washy young chap at best, noble and harmless enough, but hardly heroic in any respect. "
Watson turned another page in his journal then put it face down on the seat as he took out his own pipe and lit it. When it was going to his satisfaction he picked up his book again. Holmes gazed around the sunlit waterway, smiled contentedly, and decided his idea of the trip smacked of genius. Watson began to speak again:
" Now, we come to the somewhat mysterious Colonel Brandon. Incidentally, Holmes, why do they always have to be Colonels? Why not sergeants or corporals? : Our Colonel Brandon is seemingly regarded as almost geriatric in his mid thirties. Quite the father figure really. Was this a sort of half and half combination of Jane Austen's perfect man, one wonders? Anyway, he seems a solid sort of chap if a bit of an odd match with a girl almost young enough to be his daughter? Much to do with financial security again, I suppose. All in all, a decent, caring chap, ex soldier and a decidedly honest man. A good combination and Marianne was lucky he was around. Elinor gets the gentleman preacher who had just recently been donated a handy living by his soon to be brother in law , Marianne the ex-soldier come wealthy land owner , and it all ends tidily. Thus, Sense and Sensibility are dealt with in one novel."
Watson made to close his journal and looked enquiringly across at Holmes.
Are you going to give me your views now Holmes, or do I have to carry on with the next novel?"
Holmes put down his pipe and rubbed his hands together. He had a leather bound notebook by him but didn't open it. He steepled his fingers and shook his head.
"No, You may sit back and relax Watson. I'll give you my views on this topic and then we'll pull in at a convenient riverside inn and take lunch. In truth, I do share some of your sentiments, but Jane Austen seemed to direct her own sympathies towards the elder sister, Elinor Dashwood, above all others in the story. A real point that we must keep in mind is that Sense and Sensibility was her very first novel and thus, like all first attempts must inevitably leave room for improvement. Now then - Willoughby I shall deal with first, after a short but important observation of the author. . By standards of our own time such man as Willoughby will be ever regarded just as you describe him, but exposure to Jane Austen's works must be treated with a great deal of care. We are reading history in her work, not just romantic fabrication based on past research, as is usually the case in many historical works. One of her strong points is her very simplistic core descriptions of her characters. We are left to imagine much on that score and I doubt many readers see things in exactly the same light as one another. The section of society Jane Austen moved in was almost utterly one where women just had to marry decently and preferably youngly in order to avoid real poverty later. They were totally unsuited for employment as such a thing was not considered a requirement for a woman of middle class. Thus the young child you see Marianne as was actually of marriageble age in that era. If a girl got too far beyond her teens, he chances of marriage lessened. Men made and provided the money in the main, except in rare cases where females had specifically been left wealth. This did happen in moderation, as progression of the novels will reveal. Men had the simple choices of either acquiring wealth by whatever methods at their disposal or marrying women with a healthy dowry. Because the aristocracy and upper-middle classes regarded trade as a polution on their lineage, working for a living was not a young man's first choice in life. The military, particularly the navy, and the church were the only real exceptions to the rule. We will thus find a lot of Colonels, Admirals and men of the cloth in Jane Austen's stories, hence your earlier observation and question. Jane Austen wrote about a lifestyle where privates and corporals were just the rank and file of society I suppose. Basically, an area she was unfamiliar with in the main. "Sergeant" Brandon wouldn't be likely to own an estate the size of half of south west England and throw strawberry picking parties with gay abandon. He would be lucky if he could even afford to buy a punnet of strawberries, probably. No. he had to be much further up the ladder and even that would probably be due to family influence or a bought commission "
Holmes paused here and stood up to remove his jacket. The morning was incredibly bright and warm and he took the opportunity to refill his pipe again before resuming his seat. Again, he left his notebook closed. He waited a few seconds whilst Watson brushed away an adventurous dragon fly that was buzzing around around him.
" Willoughby, thus, on the surface a pure rotter, was also a bit of a victim of the times in as much as he didn't dictate society requirements. He did own a small estate and had his own carriage as we have seen. He was also not an overly pleasant man and vain in his expectations that life was designed to suit him. As such he was probably typical of many others of his age group, indolent by birth rather than design and a total stranger to any form of occupation that required work. I do agree with your assessment of him to a large degree. His actions later disclosed however, took away any reason to see him in any good light and a rotter he must ever remain"
Holmes held up a finger at this point and consulted his notebook before nodding to himself. Watson had decided lighting his pipe was a deterrent to the dragonfly and blew a large cloud of smoke in its direction. This did seem to do the trick, at least temporarily.
"Edward Ferrar is a man you so rightly describe as a non-hero. A man of honour, no doubt, and with that sort of decency, obviously a devout Christian and a man of God. Best confined to a country parsonage because he would hardly last five minutes in a tougher environ in a town. A very noble, but rather forgettable hero, if hero is the correct word for him".
Holmes scratched his chin as he flicked rapidly through a couple of pages of notes
"The ladies! Jane Austen did succeed cleverly at the onset in giving the readers someone to dislike intensely in the pairing of John and Fanny Dashwood. I would hazard a guess she raised a quiet chuckle as she moulded Fanny into such a despicable creature but, as you say they were incidentals rather than major influences in the tale. The Dashwood sisters however, are a major focus point and the reason for the book title. Despite a somewhat low profile, Elinor Dashwood is a woman of admirable character. Ever looking to the needs of others she puts her own feeling to the rear in everything. She could quite easily have been openly unfriendly towards the Steel sisters knowing what she did and how it affected her own chance of happiness. Marianne, you have described well enough, and, to her later credit, she did realise what a treasure her sister was. She did exceedingly well in eventually catching the good Colonel Brandon. Young, inexperienced and hardly ready to cope with intense feelings except in a fluffy overly romantic way. There is the hope that time will allow her to follow in her sister's footsteps. She could do no better. In short, Elinor Dashwood was a lady worthy of great respect. A true heroine...!
Holmes knocked out his pipe over the boat's side and nodded to emphasise his thoughts. He seemed about to add fresh tobacco then changed his mind and put the pipe down.
"And so, to Colonel Brandon. Much of what you have said, Watson, is entirely true. He is a wealthy man of good repute. Honest, conscientious and caring. An ex soldier who made colonel, so a man of respect in the military and also a man willing to put aside his own needs for those of others. He is thirty five and in my view, the story only went wrong in one direction that puzzled me greatly: Why did Jane Austen not give such a man to Elinor Dashwood instead of Marianne? Was he a later addition that became more essential to the story than she intended? Did she really intend Edward Ferrar to be missing for large parts of the story whilst Brandon became increasingly more important to the ending. Without his donation of the parish living, Edward would have been nowhere and not much of a catch for Elinor, despite his noble attitude. Brandon was made for Elinor and the very best of my detecting skills cannot fathom out why they didn't finish up together? It will have to remain a mystery and the only thing left now is.....where shall we take lunch? After that we shall move on to Pride and Prejudice."
Chapter Two. On to Hertfordshire, Kent and Derbyshire.
Posted on 2015-10-21
Lunch for Holmes and Watson was acquired and consumed with gusto at a charming riverside inn ironically named."The Riverside Inn", a fact that amused Doctor Watson immensely for reasons best known to himself. A first course of potato and leek soup, with a chunk of warm bread, was followed by a shared rack of Lamb, new potatoes and garden peas with mint sauce. A treacle pudding with custard finished off a delightful meal and both had a glass of locally brewed beer with their pipes. They left the pleasant inn with a comfortable sense of well-being and boarding their transport, rejoined their boatman who had dined on sandwiches aboard his craft. He was a polite and pleasant man despite seeming quite happy to keep his own counsel. When they had travelled a short way down river, Holmes clapped his hands together and grinned at his friend.
"Well, Watson, that was indeed a very enjoyable meal and now, to return to our task again. Please continue with your next assessment of Pride and Prejudice. This is by far the most enjoyable of Jane Austen's books in my eyes so, what are your findings?".
Watson again produced his journal and sought the relevant page. He took a deep breath of the clear country air and began:
" As you know, we read this book some time ago, albeit in a somewhat different manner. In terms of heroes and heroines we have a somewhat similar scenario to Sense and Sensibility in that we have two main couples and a villainous liar and all-round bad egg in George Wickham. I shall concentrate on these, for no doubt your own assessment will differ from mine considerably. I shall begin with Elizabeth Bennet, a charming young lady who, together with four sisters and her mother will eventually fall foul of the same unfair law of property entailment. Of course, their father, a somewhat hale and hearty gentleman with some odd traits, has to pass on first before this will happen. Elizabeth's elder sister, Jane is a focus of the same disappointment in love that Marianne Dashwood suffered, at least for much of the novel. Things turn out slightly better for her, but again her chosen beau, the easy-going happy-chappie , Charles Bingley, comes across as less than a bold and forceful hero type. His main fault is allowing himself to be far too easily manipulated by others. We are also, in his case, introduced to a little quirk of Jane Austen's that we find in other works, that of removing people from the chessboard by making her characters disappear for a time. She is clever in that respect and maybe wishes to avoid over complication of the plot . Either way, we do not really become exposed to much of Bingley except in the beginning and end and mainly from mention by others. Jane Bennet is the main focus of that particular somewhat phantom romance, phantom in as much as they hardly have any contact with each other after their initial deep attraction. It is much discussed but little acted out in any physical way since they have no contact for eight months.
"At which point I'll mention the arrogant, lying scoundrel George Wickham. No hero that is certain, but such a bad egg that a comparison is needed between heroes and their counterparts of almost nemesis proportion. There is no more dangerous enemy than a good liar, and Wickham certainly was such a one. He fooled Lizzie completely for a while. I could have almost forgotten him until his dastardly action with young Lydia Bennet".
He paused here and attended to his pipe for a moment. Holmes smiled and nodded appreciatively at Watson's comments. His friend's perception so far was very good if not entirely in agreement with is own. His pipe drawing smoothly to his satisfaction, Watson then continued.
"There are a whole horde of characters involved in the plot, but Elizabeth Bennet is the one whose thoughts and ideas we are most subjected to. She shows from the start that she is not prepared to put up with any nonsense from anyone and soon rattles the main male of the tale, Fitzwilliam Darcy into shape. Cousin William Collins, a man of the cloth again, also gets his knuckles rapped when he tries to force his attentions on Lizzie. She above all others in the story is the most admirable character and also the one we almost follow around. There are actually a whole neighbourhood full of characters in Pride and Prejudice but, like the others, we have to stay with the heroes and heroines. Truth is Holmes, I'm not sure if Elizabeth Bennet doesn't take the prize hands down for the best of both categories. A remarkable young woman. Her sisters range from stupidly self centred to almost saintly, but Elizabeth is magnificent.....And then we have Darcy!
A short time for a consultation of pages and a filling and lighting of his pipe ensued, whilst Watson collected his thoughts. Holmes used the brief interval to re stock his own pipe. Eventually, Watson was ready to continue his analysis.
" Fitzwilliam Darcy. A man I disliked right from the start. Above his company, refuses to dance with the local ladies and doesn't want to be introduced to anyone. Even his close companions, the bangle-twirling Bingley girls, made some sort of an effort at civility, and Charles was the life and soul of the party, but Darcy was above it all and insulted Lizzie in the bargain. Yes, he improved over the story, albeit reluctantly and painfully slowly, but only his actions regarding the feather-brained Lydia at the end make him any sort of hero for me. In my opinion, he was exceedingly lucky to win Lizzie in the end".
Watson snapped shut his journal and spread his hands with a smile to indicate he was done with his findings. Holmes nodded and stood up for a moment to stretch his legs. This time he did reach for his own notebook and weighted it open with a tobacco tin.
" I'm afraid, old friend, that our opinions are about to take an "at-odds" turn here. My own evaluations may cause some disagreement between us. I shall leave Elizabeth Bennet till the end and dispense completely with Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet. Although some may find them endearing and obviously almost lovable, our focus on heroes and heroines cannot include either. They are too gentle and somewhat naive to be more than fringe characters in this category. Bingley is not hero material, Jane Bennet not a heroine. Pride and Prejudice is indeed a master work of character usage. There are so many magnificent creations like Mr and Mrs Bennet, Mr Collins and Lady Catherine etc, that I could dwell on extensively, but a hero, a heroine and a villain shall be my topic as our agreement. I will complement you on your astute observation of Jane Austen's manipulation of characters. If she neither wants or needs to follow some of them around she simply sends them on business, a holiday or to visit friends. It saves an awful lot of unnecessary explanation of what could be construed as boring normality. The visit to Rosings for example, is a clever way of getting six weeks to pass without simply beginning a chapter by saying.."six weeks passed".
Holmes checked a page in his book, then continued.
"And so, we move to Fitzwilliam Darcy and the first of our disagreements. In what way was he particularly rude to anyone by not talking to them, dancing with them or wanting introductions? Why, many time I myself have been in new company on a social occasion and heartily wished I were elsewhere. It does not make me unsociable or rude, at least I hope not. The people at the Meryton Assembly were complete strangers. Darcy didn't particularly wish to dance because he expressed to Sir William Lucas on another occasion his total dislike of the art, and how he avoided it at every opportunity. Hardly a sin, was it? Some people are like that. His annoyance seemed to be directed at Bingley's insistence that he danced when he didn't wish to, not at anyone else. But for that, Darcy might never have noticed Lizzie Bennet. That the company were not his usual level of society he made no bones about and that his mood was less than expansive is beyond argument as is his initial behaviour in general. But then again, something done on one occasion does not typify someone completely. I'm sure we both have behaved less than perfectly on occasion. As part narrator, Jane Austen does not decry him, she allows the locals to do that, but how perfect are the same locals? They gossip about his financial worth, band together against a stranger and label him unworthy of their own friendship on the basis of half an evening's acquaintance- actually a non-acquaintance if we observe the rules of such, as without a formal introduction, no acquaintance exists, which, according to themselves was nothing at all as, apart from one mention of a single person-Mrs Long- he never spoke a word to any of them? That, in my view is rather wrong a basis to judge someone on.
The slight on Elizabeth Bennet was, in reality, no slight at all and her claiming he had mortified her pride rather silly. He didn't say a word to her, or even about her except to react to Bingley's insistence on his dancing. She overheard him say she was tolerable - as a dance partner - but not handsome enough to tempt him - to dance. Did he mean her to hear it? I doubt that, given his reluctance to talk to anyone. He was simply talking to Bingley. Beyond that he said not a word outside of his friends. His remark that Caroline Bingley referred to about his saying he'd rather call Lizzie's mother a wit was directed by his annoyance of the mother since it was not long before he was praising Lizzie's "fine eyes".Because of that the locals tagged his as proud and Elizabeth claimed her pride had been mortified and vowed never to dance with him and Mrs Bennet thought him utterly disagreeable. Really? How? This is what the book says, and I quote:"
Here Holmes referred to his notebook for a few moments then said:
"His character was decided. He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and every body hoped that he would never come there again. Amongst the most violent against him was Mrs. Bennet, whose dislike of his general behaviour was sharpened into particular resentment by his having slighted one of her daughters."
" I would ask Watson, logically, on that information how ridiculous is the claim that he was the proudest most disagreeable man in the world? How silly. He is thus tagged and almost excommunicated from society by hardly met locals with dear Mrs Bennet at the forefront. Mrs Bennet was never actually introduced to Darcy and never spoke a word to him that evening, nor he to her. He was declared persona-non-grata, yet soon after Jane Bennet is dining four times with the Bingleys, presumably Darcy would also be there, and leading a normal social life of visiting both the Bennets and the Lucas home. Jane Bennet had already had an invitation to dine with the Bingley sisters and spent several day at Netherfield when she caught a cold. Darcy is in attendance. Oh, Elizabeth is there too. Rather odd to be so intimate with the most disagreeable of men, would you not say Watson?. I could relate many other facts from the text that prove Darcy actually did very little to be classed as disagreeable except keep his distance and try to make purely social contact with Elizabeth Bennet only to be somewhat snubbed. He then disappears off to London for an innumerable period without actually having very much contact with anyone except on two stated occasions, the latter of which makes him decide to take his friend Bingley away from any chance of promises of marriage to anyone. There are no instances of rudeness except his cold attitude when Lizzie quite wrongly taunts him about Wickham. If the reader is to decry Darcy, then there are no facts in the novel to inspire such intensive dislike. "
Watson raised a hasty hand and shook his head vigourously.
" But what about his proposal Holmes? I must ask that of you right now? It was insulting and totally out of order. You surely cannot hope to excuse or defend that!"
"Indeed no. That I cannot do, but let us look at that another way. Jane Austen writes in the third person, but her presence is noted several times as narrator. Now it is not unknown that she had a less than burning love for aristocracy and upper class people including the king. She often mocked them by making her characters somewhat idiotic. Need I quote Walter Elliot, Lady Dalrymple, Lady Churchill etc, and in this case, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, as fine examples of snobbery and class distinction personified? Darcy was a product of that level and mindset of society. He had been brought up in that environ as thinking he was a superior being. He was also twenty seven years old and we can reasonably assume he had never proposed before because in that era, position, wealth and property were everything and his hand would have been snatched off instantly. What he was Jane Austen had made him, yet she chose him to be the hero to her self-confessed favourite female heroine. So ask yourself, would she do that for a rude and arrogant man in general, or for a misguided one who was basically inexperienced in any form of love except that of convenience and had behaved badly because of it? It was Elizabeth's remark of his ungentlemanly behaviour that most shocked him, was it not, yet she was referring to earlier as she had been in his company several times at Rosings. She was also allowing her quite wrong prejudices to affect her behaviour. Darcy actually thought he was doing Elizabeth a huge favour by proposing at all. He went about it all wrong but insult was never his intent. Clumsy, misguided and very wrong, yes, but intentionally insulting, no.He was even amazed that she thought so"
Watson raised a finger and Holmes's open hand invited him to continue.
" I take your point, but why did he not speak up and defend her allegations? He could have very quickly cleared up her wrong thinking, yet he didn't and just walked off?"
"And risk his young sister's reputation to someone outside his family? I think not Watson as he himself explained in his letter. He cared about her and that is the action of a good man and not a rude and selfish one. Later events proved him well worthy of being a hero, but he was always a good if misguided man from the onset. He just behaved badly at times, don't we all?. Anyway, enough of Darcy, now, on to our "heroine" Elizabeth Bennet. Another apple-cart I may be about to upset."
" Oh, come Holmes. Of anyone deserving of the title heroine, who better than our beloved Elizabeth?"
Watson actually stood up in surprise and rocked the craft a very small amount. He wagged a reprimanding finger at Homes and laughed, then used the interruption to produce a bottle of lemonade and two glasses from his knapsack. He seated himself and poured the drinks, passed one to Holmes then waved a hand.
"Come Holmes, dethrone Elizabeth Bennet if you dare. Probably my favourite Austen heroine, I believe!."
Holmes took a mouthful of the lemonade, grinned and picked up his book again. The inquisitive dragonfly made a last circle of the boat letting the sun rainbow its wings, , then deciding it was wandering too far from familiar territory, flew leisurely back upstream and away.
Everyone I know who has read Pride and Prejudice seems to see Elizabeth Bennet as a highly attractive heroine. The reality is a little different for me. At the onset of the book she is just one of five sisters, second in seniority and age and, due to Jane Bennet's mild manner and a degree of intelligence, her father's if not her mother's favourite daughter. At the Meryton Assembly she displays a small degree of petulance at a chance remark that, in a truly sensible woman might simply have been ignored. Her father did not praise her as exemplary, but just having slightly more intelligence than the rest. Jane apart, that would not be too hard a task I would say. The story takes place over just one year, so we only know her at twenty. By then she has already become a little starchy in her views of those around here as two extracts from the book show. Again, I quote:
"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."
"An odd attitude for a comparatively young person think you not Watson? She also says:
"There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me."
"Again, odd, even slightly aggressive sentiments from a girl who still lives at home in a quiet village environ? We know she has a tendency to , in her words "make sport of people" just like her father, and right from the start dislikes Darcy. This dislike increases profoundly after she meets the smooth-talking George Wickham - a man on second thoughts that I won't waste any time on, you have tagged him well - and we have to be somewhat surprised that she accepts his tale of woe without really attempting to find the veracity of it. Furthermore, she confesses her views to Jane and tries to convince her of their truth again without any proof of their correctness. To compound her own beliefs she takes umbrage at Darcy on every possible opportunity. In reality, Darcy does what he does mainly for Bingley's benefit. Yes, he would like his friend to marry his sister, but he doesn't try to bring that about. In the end, his actions of heroism are based on love for Elizabeth, something I'm not quite sure she deserved. I will, of course, I am sure, be in a minority on that point.. One must stay with fact however and Elizabeth did not change Darcy, he simply re-assessed and found himself wanting based on her views. Views incidentally, that caused her to completely change her own attitude in the end. He also brought Charles Bingley back on to the scene and made Jane happy and Mrs Bennet quite ecstatic. To end this assessment, Elizabeth, had she agreed to marry William Collins, could have saved the family having to worry about the entailment. Had Collins proposed to Mary, a seemingly ideal candidate for a churchman's wife, the same thing could have happened. It didn't, of course."
Watson gave a grunt of disapproval and shook his head.
"I remain unconvinced that Elizabeth Bennet had any real faults. Even Jane Austen said she was a delightful creature, did she not"
Holmes smiled widely.
"She did indeed, my friend, she did indeed, but she still had her marry that rude chap Darcy. Would she have done that if he was a rotter? !"
Chapter Three. Surrey, Donwell and a Box Hill picnic.
Watson descended to the hotel breakfast room on the second day of their holiday afloat on the Norfolk Broads. The previous day, after covering the first two of their challenges, the novels Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, they had decided to suspend operations until the next day and just take in the countryside in the leisurely boat trip. They would base themselves at the charming Swan Inn at the village of Horning and do a little fishing perhaps in addition to boating. This they did and dined pleasantly that evening, before taking a stroll in the mild evening air and partaking of a light supper and retiring for an early night. They had decided to retain the services of the local boatman, Ernest Dale for a few days to be used as needed, an arrangement he was happy to comply with and he would be available after they had breakfasted. Since he would be paid for full days regardless there was no particular hurry involved and they would go down to the moorings at their leisure.
Thus, the next morning when Watson arrived in the dining room, he found Holmes studying a map of the south of England. Watson looked enquiringly at the map and raised an eyebrow.
" I would have imagined a detailed map of Norfolk and the Broads would have been more informative, Holmes. What location are you seeking in particular?"
"Ah, good morning Watson. I'm not actually looking at the Broads, as our guide will know them well enough. No, I'm just taking a look at the location of " Emma" our next topic. It is a fictional location in part as many others are, and there is a Highbury, though not near her area, but Box Hill, the scene of their picnic site, exists and is a well known Surrey beauty spot some twenty three miles south of London and seven miles south of her Highbury, home to Emma's Hartfield and Donwell parish. There it is! "
Holmes pointed to a spot on the map, then folded it up and put it in his knapsack. He rubbed his hands and smiled pleasantly as the waitress came to take their order for breakfast. This arrived in due course, fried ham, eggs and sausage with toasted bread and a large pot of tea, all exceedingly welcome, and one other arrival not greeted with quite as much delight - rain. The waitress looked at the raindrops spattering the window glass and gave a sympathetic smile.
" It will probably clear away by noon sir, but it looks set for the morning. I hope you had nothing outdoors planned. It may be just a shower but the sky has clouded over quickly"
Holmes pursed his lips thoughtfully and looked across at Watson who raised his eyebrows and shrugged questioningly. Holmes nodded reluctantly then forced a smile.
"Ah well, we shall read the morning papers in the lounge and continue our discussion there. With a little luck we may be able to take the air after lunch if the rain clears away. It's warm enough, so it is probably just a summer shower. We shall see. Meanwhile, let us enjoy this excellent looking breakfast. The rain cannot affect that, at least.!"
The period during breakfast brought no respite from the rain, so Holmes ordered a second pot of tea and informed the waitress they would take it in the lounge. They duly settled themselves in a pair of comfortable armchairs, read briefly the headlines of a couple of newspapers and began their discourse on the Austen novel Emma.
It was more or less decided that Watson would offer the first comments on all the works and thus he commenced in usual fashion by a quick consultation of his journal. He began with a sigh that sounded more than a little of frustration.
" I am going to be quite truthful Holmes, and confess I found this novel rather hard going in as much as it might be classed as erm, more appealing to ladies than men. It is the only major work of Jane Austen's where the heroine is clearly defined by the work bearing her name as a title. I read the whole book, but I did not dig too deeply into all the characters due to our rules of hero/heroine and main characters, and it seemed pretty clear cut that only one of each existed in the book. Usual theme of marrying well, meaning primarily somebody rich . Young Emma Woodhouse herself, a somewhat silly young girl who lives with an ageing, fusspot of a father, who thinks he should wear a cape and his hat to take a bath in case he catches cold, and a stern thirty something gentleman of the ilk of Colonel Brandon of Sense and Sensibility, a straight-spoken man of principle, George Knightley. Emma is hardly world-wise, appearing to have reached almost twenty-one and never to have moved very far from her own front doorstep beyond a trip or two out to her sister's house. She meddles and interferes in everyone's romantic affairs, eventually sees the error of her ways and realizes the love of her own life has been on her doorstep all along. If there is a villain, the foppish Frank Churchill, he is of a rather mild variety in that he doesn't seduce anybody vigorously and is a little bit of a victim of his aunt in his love life. I find it somewhat hard to extol the virtues of Emma as she seems somewhat a rather lightweight character. George Knightley is so obviously a very decent sot of man throughout with almost every action a worthy one. The other young girl, the Harriet Smith character sort of drifts aimlessly through the book being impressed by one person, then another and ends up marrying a decent farmer of means that she could have done in the first place. If this sounds like I am struggling to portray the main characters in a hero-heroine mould, then I can only use the excuse that they just didn't really interest me that much. I read the book because of our challenge, but I fear my case is lost already. Frank Churchill is not in any way an engaging character being somewhat of an empty-headed dandy who thinks having his haircut a major event, using flirting with young Emma to pass the time until his great revelation of love. Not villain material a-la Wickham and Willoughby by far. I really would like to offer more Holmes, but, well, that is about all I have that I feel critical of. I liked Knightley very much, although I found the differences in ages again a trifle baffling. He is actually almost twice Emma's age and, in truth, a somewhat unlikely match for a young girl . In Emma, there is no one to really have strong feelings about beyond Knightley, and in the end the changed Emma, no one to really dislike strongly enough to get a headache about and not much else. Thus, Holmes, I end my case. I fear Emma, at least fore me, is not a very good test for what we set out to do".
He spread his hands to show he had finished and reached for his pipe. He could not see too many areas that Holmes could effectively expand on beyond his own views. Holmes scraped out and packed his own pipe before replying. He lit it and stared for a moment at the log fire which, despite the early summer period was burning cheerfully in the large hearth.
" I can understand your points to a fair degree if you read Emma just as a story and do not look at a broader canvas, Watson. You see, social commentary is the key focus of all Jane Austen's works. Her works use a base of everyday life in various locations that she has had some practical experience of and merely use that same practicality in her fictional characters. The Prince Regent expressed a wish for her to dedicate a book to him. That book was Emma and it must have galled severely because she had a totally low opinion of him as a man due to his debauchery and unfaithfulness. I'm of the opinion she will almost certainly have come across people of the various types she uses in her stories. In Emma, I do believe that at the onset she is just a female version of Fitzwilliam Darcy in attitude, a Lady Catherine in the making if you will. She has never known want and is actually a total snob and not above occasional rudeness. Consider her attitude to George Martin, a man whom Knightley knows to be honest, intelligent and industrious in addition to being an admirably successful businessman in farming. Emma considers him below even her acquaintance and certainly someone she could never visit. To make matters worse, she passes on this opinion to the younger and gullible Harriet Smith as the correct attitude to adopt. Her character is exposed as lacking and she is almost twenty one as you remarked. Knightley is not above censuring her on several occasions in the book and one cannot but agree with him".
Holmes paused long enough to get his pipe going and waited as the waitress appeared and added a couple of logs to the hearth fire.
"If you read sources on the author, Watson, you will find that Jane Austen said that in Emma, she was creating a character that no one but herself would like. This obviously only lasts beyond a first reading of the book, from whence onwards the improved version of her makes her appear really a sweet, misguided girl. She is a classic case of Austen breaking eggs in order to make omelets. It is however, beyond a doubt that she is not a very nice person at the onset. Like Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, she has intelligence and education and extensive social graces, but lacks compassion for those not so fortunate". Again, in the description of Jane Austen, she has always had far too much of her own way. There is another comparison to Darcy in that she interferes on behalf of a friend in the belief that it is for the best. In both cases, it was not. In both cases the indication of such matches being a "degradation" is markedly strong. In both cases the protagonists firmly believe their actions as beyond argument. This could be, and probably is, the author expressing personal views in opposition to events in her works. I believe Jane Austen took this personal view further to criticize by creating those beyond redemption such as Lady Catherine de Bourgh of Pride and Prejudice and Sir Walter Elliot of Persuasion. Again, she was mocking their level of society. But I digress, here. That will do for Emma Woodhouse for now. Jane Austen gave us a quite comprehensive description of her. "
Holmes stood up and stretched, then walked over to the window. The rain was still falling but had become a heavy and persistent drizzle. He returned to his seat and smiled ruefully at Watson.
"I shall continue in the hope that we may see a little better weather after lunch, Watson, for it would seem we won't see any prior to it. I will mention Robert Martin now, because I am of the personal belief that he was just the sort of decent man that Jane Austen admired. He was also not described as handsome, so Jane Austen is not just obsessed with pretty fellows. At social level, in effect, a tradesman, but well, read, capable of good expression in writing and satisfying George Knightley in every respect of his suitability as a marriage prospect. My only thought that is against the match with Harriet Smith is one that also agrees with Knightley. Was a rather vague-minded negative and easily led girl like Harriet Smith really suitable for such a man? Since Jane Austen thought so, I suppose we must accept it also. The question occurred to me as to what the reader is supposed to think here. Are we supposed to feel sorry for the "daughter of someone" who does not appear over bright, and if so is Robert Martin, an intelligent successful man, who is fortunate to marry above his class because Harriet mixes with a higher society, or is the reality that she is the lucky one since she has no fortune ?
Frank Churchill does not really rate over-much analysis because he is a shallow sort who impresses Emma initially but is never a serious threat to her feelings. He appears, and disappears, tidily taking care of the Jane Fairfax puzzle..... And so to George Knightley!. Shall we call for a glass of pre-lunch beer here Watson, before I commence again.? With such a breakfast inside me I am of a mind to just take a couple of cold beef and mustard sandwiches for lunch and dine royally this evening. How say you?".
Watson grinned, heartily agreed and pressed the bell for the waitress.
" George Knightley is a possible model for Charlotte Bronte's Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre, which she wrote as Currer Bell some thirty years after Jane Austen's death. Both Austen and Bronte were the daughters of men of the cloth in real life, both came from sizeable families and possibly took something from their relationships with father figures. There is a theme of single parents and those passed on in Austens works. Rochester was a much more complex figure, but he is not a focus here. My point is that in an age when security was paramount in a marriage union, romance was not quite what it became later unless accompanied by a secure financial fortune to boot. We, as a working class society almost certainly find the world Jane Austen writes of as almost unbelievable, but poverty could easily loom anywhere, as in the poor situation of Miss Bates and her mother. Class kept them respectable, but in reality, they were barely above the poverty line. Thus it would be for any woman failing to find some security. Our first exercise, Sense and Sensiblity saw the Dashwoods escape such a fate by the kindness of relatives alone. Charlotte Lucas also typified the reality of it in Pride and Prejudice by accepting the proposal of the foolish and subserviant William Collins, who at least could offer her security even if it meant putting aside infeasible romantic fantasies. She took the safe option and ignored the views of Elizabeth Bennet who, at that time was still in a safe environ whilst her father lived. .
Emma Woodhouse was a rudderless ship who needed someone of strong character who could completely countermand her foolish ideas of reality and steer her in a good direction. She probably would have insisted on her own way with a man of similar age, and indeed probably got it. Knightley had known her from childhood and it is only much later that he realizes his actions and frustrations are caused by something he had not realized, or at least considered for himself, love of her as a wife. One might wonder why, at his age, he has not already married? He is honest enough to risk her ire by sanctioning her openly and angrily. His actions at her treatment of Miss Bates is a loud shout against bad manners in anyone. Knightley makes a love story complete in every respect, not just physical attraction. He is a hero because he has attributes beyond romance. I do tend to feel that, had they not been almost intimate acquaintances for a very long time, Knightley might well have just seen a silly young girl he had no time for. He obviously saw the good in her and even, eventually in Harriet Smith, which is probably his one fault in the novel as he initially had not much good to say of her. He did admit, in that he had been wrong.
That, Watson, is my analysis of Emma as a work. I now intend to go upstairs and freshen up before lunch, for I fear the coziness of this room could induce drowsiness in me. If you agree we shall meet for beer and sandwiches at twelve-thirty and then see what the weather holds for us. I would like to tackle Persuasion in the open air if nature and fortune allows. If not, then I think an umbrella and a walk around the village in the rain at least before resuming ".
Watson had no objections to the plan and the pair rose and left the comfortable warmth of the lounge.
Chapter Four. Home are the sailors, home from the sea.
Posted on 2015-10-25
As Holmes and Watson took their sandwiches and beer, nature smiled and bestowed sun light and clear skies upon the Broads. The village of Horning basked in the sunshine and the morning's rain was just a memory when the pair strolled down to the river bank to where their craft, The Mary Jane awaited. Their boatman the somewhat taciturn Ernest Dale gave them a pleasant enough nod and almost smiled; at least Watson thought so, but the local sailor was a man who lived for his boat and seemed really glad to be casting off and moving downriver again. Their friendly waitress at The Swan Inn had made them up a packet of sandwiches and they took more bottled lemonade in knapsacks. It was very warm on the open deck and Holmes breathed deeply of the clear air. He saw their boatman glance at Watson's large rolled umbrella, then was glad to hear him remark that there would be no more rain that day. Watson however, had insisted he was taking no chances.
"So my friend, on to our old companion of Jurassic fossils, sea breezes and walks along The Cobb - Persuasion! We covered the tale extensively enough, but from Jane Austen's experiences, and we know the Lyme area well enough. Now we must look at the people she created for her tale. Are your findings ready?"
"Indeed yes, for Lyme was lovely and it inspires me. Very well then, Persuasion. I shall begin, as the book did, with the Elliots because I must in order to ask myself a few questions. Could a man really be as foolish as Sir Walter and capable of raising a sensible daughter? Could a man care about his skin, hair and appearance to that ridiculous extent, or have looking glasses all round his bedroom? In regard of what you, yourself have already said, was Jane Austen in particular flow against the establishment to make him so ludicrous? In addition to his vanity he appeared to suffer from a weak brain in most areas and had no control over his badly managed finances. The man was an oaf. Of his three daughters, two seemed almost as silly as he. Elizabeth shared his nonsensical thoughts regarding finance and had an appalling attitude to Anne, Mary was a spoiled attention seeker and hypochondriac, and both treated their middle sister with disgusting disdain and rudeness. I only give them all any consideration in order to highlight the absolute difference between them and Anne Elliot. It is surprising they are even related, such is the difference in intelligence"
Watson paused to take let a small amount of gas escape from his spring-topped lemonade bottle before taking a deep swallow of the liquid and returning it to his knapsack.
"Anne Elliot. As the heroine of a story, my first thought was that, at age twenty seven years she must be a rather unattractive woman. Why else was she single, unattached, of good family connection and even, if we are to believe her sister, not a desirable enough companion for anyone to want along with them? Also, when Frederick Wentworth finds that his sister has taken a let on Kellynch Hall, home of the Elliots, does he not connect the fact with Anne, his estranged love? Was he in some way aware that she was still there and also still "available" if you will pardon that uncomplimentary term? In company with her he did declare he himself was "available" to almost any pretty girl and was that a spiteful reminder that Anne had had her chance? His appearance on the scene is easily enough explained; the war in Europe is newly over and sailors are home from the sea, so the timing is perfect. He also has acquired a considerable fortune in his career at sea, is single, handsome and sociable, making him a very desirable target for marriage. He arrives amongst a couple of lightweight young women in the Musgroves so there is no real competition once it is established he has no romantic ties with them, a fact that only emerges after Louisa Musgrove's accident at Lyme. I would have been deeply disappointed if he had, to be truthful. The only real challenge to a possible union comes in the form of a male rival admiring Anne, that particular someone being the distant grandson and devious chancer, William Elliot, called as heir presumptive to the Elliot inheritance in legal jargon. His interest lies not in romance, although he admires Anne, but in financial aspects from the inheritance of Kellynch Hall and the Elliot title. He is more concerned with Sir Walter marrying again. As such, I spent no time on him in the same way that I ignored most of the fringe characters. Harville and Benwick were of some interest and deserved respect as ex seaman, but Benwick seemed a rather odd choice for Louise Musgrove as her initial girlish giddiness seemed ill-suited to a man grieving a love lost to early death, and with a penchant for meaningful poetry. It did however, strike me as a very convenient way of removing her from the scene and leaving Wentworth firmly in the clear as Anne's future partner with no other ties. That was quite a clever move by the author"
Watson broke off to remove his pipe from a jacket pocket and fire it up. Holmes took the opportunity to admire a pair of swans as they made their stately way across the river. Pipe drawing to his satisfaction, Watson continued.....
" Back now to Anne Elliot herself. The book makes it very obvious that she has never really fallen out of love with Frederick Wentworth. Despite the eight years separation she has lived an almost saintly existence and there are no reasons evident why she is not a very likeable person we can sympathise with. I can find no fault with her and certainly have some sympathy - a great deal in fact - that she is never in doubt of where her heart lies. She does seem someone who has given up on love which, at her age should not be so. Compared to the shallow women around her: her sisters and the Musgrove girls, not to mention Sir Walter's ideas of suitable company, she is incomparable. Yes, I like her" .
Watson found a reason here to consult his journal. Holmes closed his eyes for a moment against the bright, warm sunlight as he waited. All traces of the rain clouds had finally disappeared and the sky was a brilliant blue above them. A small smile curved his mouth as he contemplated that fact that, ironically, they were about to discuss a sea captain whilst aboard a boat on the water.
"So to the hero of the story, Frederick Wentworth. He has all the necessary requirements to be heroic. Still youngish, handsome and a successful survivor of naval battles that brought a tidy sum into his bank. The terminated romance was no fault of his as it was broken off by Anne, persuaded by family and Lady Russel. I suppose his time at sea during a war will well account for why he had made no lasting romantic attachments previously. He was a good speaker, a very pleasant conversationalist and able to entertain his company with anecdotes. He liked music and was prepared to dance. Little wonder the ladies found him an attractive companion. He still loved Anne Elliot and finally found the courage to declare it and win her. I have no faults to find with Frederick Wentworth, Holmes, and that just about finishes my conclusions."
Watson closed his journal and looked expectantly at his companion. Holmes smiled and nodded.
" And I have no faults to find with your assessments Watson. In general, I agree totally and you have covered many salient points I might have made. I congratulate you, in fact on some astute observing of Jane Austen's style. I do have my own views on certain aspects of the story and I shall lay them before you.
"Viewed realistically, Persuasion is the only Austen novel that has a love story at its core right from the start. Pride and Prejudice stands apart for me as a story full of interesting characters and, despite the overall views we are given, leaves the romance angle almost till the very end stressing the need for marital security rather than blind passion, Charlotte Lucas being the prime example. Every character plays a significant part in keeping our interest and social comedy is a prime feature showing Jane Austen's command of humour, but the love angle has to grow from scratch. In Persuasion it is already a feature before the story even begins because of the pre-history of Anne and Frederick Wentworth eight years in the past. They had already been in love to the extent of almost committing to marriage. Wentworth had proposed and been accepted. Anne Elliot was then guilty, if that is not too strong a word, of allowing her own feelings as a young woman in love to be over-ridden by the views of others. In Lady Russell's case we can probably assume her objections were based on genuine affection for the young Anne, whatever the views of family. The engagement was broken however, and Wentworth left disillusioned. As love stories go, and mark me Watson, I do not consider Jane Austen an overly romantic writer, a happy ending believer, yes, and love and marriage were a feature of all her works in some way, but we are never overburdened by romantic scenes or flowery declarations of desire amongst the hollyhocks, and Persuasion is far more a renewal of old events rather than an unfolding of new ones. It is also told almost entirely through the eyes and thoughts of Anne Elliot.
"Jane Austen was one of those writers who could look out of her cottage window and write a story about garden gnomes and butterflies. She did not need lengthy, complicated descriptions of anything or anyone because she just used normal everyday situations and allowed her readers to use their imaginations. Because of the pre-history outlined in Persuasion there is a sense of tension created immediately once we ascertain some basic facts. I can almost feel Austen's sense of excitement planning the story's plot with such a beginning. She has the beginning, one where the hero and heroine do not need to meet for the first time, and she knows how it will end, so she could add a little fun and drama. In that she had a totally reliable source of information in two brothers who were naval admirals so her comments on naval matters of the period we're going to be unarguably correct. Her references to ship names and shipping lists of the time when relating to Frederick Wentworth probably came from just such a source. Wentworth, as an active sea captain was a figure of much respect and his admiral brother-in-law only reinforced the sea theme. That he was never going to be cajoled into another romance with Anne Elliot around is predictably easy to forecast and, as you rightly stated, Watson, Benwick was a convenient solution to removing Louise Musgrove from the scene, although she almost removed herself in the process by her foolishness in trying to defy gravity .
Holmes paused as Watson had a quiet chuckle at the mental image then continued:
"I think Wentworth had a sense of uncertainty as to exactly where he stood with Anne, because he did not behave with confidence or in any way indicate his feelings. We don't really know what he was thinking, but events at Lyme began to indicate it. Anne is already being the quiet heroine and it seems that Wentworth seems to be looking towards her to give him clues. If he were confident of success, or sure that she still had feelings for him he would surely have made some move? I suppose it has to be remembered that it was Anne who initially rejected him, and not the other way around. That must have been a real barrier to his confidence. Again, I wonder if he expected Anne to be still residing at Kellynch? It was the family home and had been when he left. Would he wonder if she was there and if she had gone on to marry? Did he actually know she was there? One thing is for sure, he still retains hurt and anger at Anne's initial rejection of him and it takes time for him to realize he never stopped loving her. She knew all along that she had retained all her former feelings for him. Much of the story is of little relevance in their love story and is not necessary in an assessment of characters in their eventual coming together, except for time and place. After a longish absence visiting his brother, Wentworth returns to Bath and declares himself before anyone else can claim her affection, mainly William Elliot, the shallow fortune hunter and would be Baronet of Kellynch Hall who Wentworth sees through eyes clouded by more than a little jealousy. Did that same jealousy prompt him into action as far as Anne was concerned?".
Holmes paused and reached for his knapsack and took out a sandwich and his bottled lemonade. Watson took the action as time for a short break and did likewise. For a while they busied themselves at repast, enjoying the peace and tranquillity of the river and the movement of the various birds. Eventually, Holmes brushed crumbs from his lap, lit his pipe and began to speak once more:
"There are some questions that puzzle a little, such as: A single, attractive young girl of a fine family receiving only one proposal of marriage in eight years in a period when security was paramount? I can understand Wentworth being single because he had been engaged in a war that began before he met Anne, but were many young men of the gentry likewise engaged? With the war ending with Bonaparte's eventual defeat in 1815, the time of our novel, would many soldiers and sailors return home? Was Sir Walter so arrogant and dim-witted that he did not realise the danger he was putting himself and his two unmarried daughters in with his idiotic attitude to spending and an even greater display of senselessness towards his middle daughter ? If Frederick Wentworth had not returned into Anne's life, what direction would she have taken ? Would she have married William Elliot and possibly lived a meaningless life as his wife, or maybe as his sister in law if he had married Elizabeth? All rather immaterial really, as but for Wentworth, none of them would have known or met Harville and Benwick or even gone to Lyme Regis at all. There was no real drama involved amongst the males apart from Elliot dodging around a street corner; no tense situations such as Wentworth and William Elliot fighting an umbrella duel in the pouring rain in Bath, or Musgrove accidentally firing his shotgun in the market place and blowing a spring cabbage to pieces, or even Sir Walter soiling a silk shoe-heaven forbid - by standing in horse manure. No, Watson, a love story pure and simple and, as such, quite a charming exercise. I think. After Pride and Prejudice of course, it may be my favourite Austen work. But come, let us enjoy the afternoon and dine in house. Your choice next; Mansfield Park or Northanger Abbey?"
Holmes signalled to their pilot to turn about and head for home.The End