Sir Thomas Bertram & Mr. Bennet, Part II

Both Sir Thomas Bertram and Mr. Bennet have a daughter that runs away with a lover… and both refuse to countenance their daughters’ misconduct. Sir Thomas will not have Maria back to live at Mansfield Park after she finally leaves Mr. Crawford.

Where she [Maria] could be placed became a subject of most melancholy and momentous consultation. Mrs. Norris, whose attachment seemed to augment with the demerits of her niece, would have had her received at home and countenanced by them all. Sir Thomas would not hear of it …. Sir Thomas very solemnly assured her that … had there been no young person of either sex belonging to him, to be endangered by the society or hurt by the character of Mrs. Rushworth, he would never have offered so great an insult to the neighbourhood as to expect it to notice her. As a daughter, he hoped a penitent one, she should be protected by him, and secured in every comfort, and supported by every encouragement to do right, which their relative situations admitted; but farther than that he could not go. Maria had destroyed her own character, and he would not, by a vain attempt to restore what never could be restored, by affording his sanction to vice, or in seeking to lessen its disgrace, be anywise accessory to introducing such misery in another man’s family as he had known himself. (Ch. XLVIII)

As for Mr. Bennet, as Lydia was eventually married to the man she had run off with, her disgrace could not be so deep as that of Maria’s. Nonetheless, Mr. Bennet was determined not to have her and her husband living with his family. He even refused to give her money to buy wedding clothes.

Her husband allowed her [Mrs. Bennet] to talk on [about finding a house for Lydia and Wickham close by] without interruption while the servants remained. But when they had withdrawn, he said to her: “Mrs. Bennet, before you take any or all of these houses for your son and daughter, let us come to a right understanding. Into one house in this neighbourhood they shall never have admittance. I will not encourage the impudence of either, by receiving them at Longbourn.”

A long dispute followed this declaration; but Mr. Bennet was firm. It soon led to another; and Mrs. Bennet found, with amazement and horror, that her husband would not advance a guinea to buy clothes for his daughter. He protested that she should receive from him no mark of affection whatever on the occasion. Mrs. Bennet could hardly comprehend it. That his anger could be carried to such a point of inconceivable resentment as to refuse his daughter a privilege without which her marriage would scarcely seem valid, exceeded all she could believe possible. She was more alive to the disgrace which her want of new clothes must reflect on her daughter’s nuptials, than to any sense of shame at her eloping and living with Wickham a fortnight before they took place. (P&P, Ch. 50)

Mr. Bennet is eventually persuaded to allow his daughter to visit his home before leaving for the North after her marriage, but further than that he will not go.

His daughter’s [Lydia’s] request, for such it might be considered, of being admitted into her family again before she set off for the North, received at first an absolute negative. But Jane and Elizabeth, who agreed in wishing, for the sake of their sister’s feelings and consequence, that she should be noticed on her marriage by her parents, urged him so earnestly yet so rationally and so mildly, to receive her and her husband at Longbourn, as soon as they were married, that he was prevailed on to think as they thought, and act as they wished. (P&P, Ch. 50)

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Apart from the similarities between their erring daughters, Sir Thomas and Mr. Bennet, for different reasons, find themselves changing their minds about the marriages of their “daughters”, Fanny Price and Elizabeth Bennet—to the entertainment of their neighbours. Mr. Bennet thinks that his daughter Elizabeth would never marry Mr. Darcy, and doesn’t wish her to, as he thinks she would be unhappy. When the idea is suggested to him by Mr. Collins, he tells Lizzy, “Had they fixed on any other man it would have been nothing; but his perfect indifference, and your pointed dislike, make it so delightfully absurd!” “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?” he asks her teasingly (P&P, Ch. 57).

However, Elizabeth convinces him that she deeply loves Mr. Darcy, and he gives them permission to marry. “He then recollected her embarrassment a few days before, on his reading Mr. Collins’s letter; and after laughing at her some time, allowed her at last to go” (P&P, Ch. 59).

After his own daughters’ disgrace, Sir Thomas is done with mercenary plans. When his son Edmund falls in love with Sir Thomas’s niece Fanny, whom he had raised as his daughter, he approves, even though when he first thought to take her in, he had had some qualms because of his two sons. He had thought uneasily “of cousins in love, etc.” (Ch. I), but decides to take Fanny in anyway. Now, one of his sons is asking to marry this same Fanny, but by this time

It was a match which Sir Thomas’s wishes had even forestalled. Sick of ambitious and mercenary connexions, prizing more and more the sterling good of principle and temper, and chiefly anxious to bind by the strongest securities all that remained to him of domestic felicity, he had pondered with genuine satisfaction on the more than possibility of the two young friends finding their natural consolation in each other for all that had occurred of disappointment to either; and the joyful consent which met Edmund’s application, the high sense of having realised a great acquisition in the promise of Fanny for a daughter, formed just such a contrast with his early opinion on the subject when the poor little girl’s coming had been first agitated, as time is for ever producing between the plans and decisions of mortals, for their own instruction, and their neighbours’ entertainment. (Ch. XLVIII)

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Notes:

This post is a continuation of the post Sir Thomas Bertram & Mr. Bennet.

All chapter references labelled P&P refer to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The rest refer to Mansfield Park.

The pictures in this post are details of watercolor illustrations by C. E. Brock—the first being for an edition of Mansfield Park and the second for one of Pride and Prejudice.

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