Sunday 2 March 2008

Been there, Scene it.

And now I am a graduate! The ceremony was a mystery, I said "Do fidem" but what I was fideming to do, I have no idea - hopefully nothing too nefarious. Magdalen kindly provided a three-course meal beforehand, and some tea and sandwiches afterwards - the seal on the day was going up Magdalen Tower in full Graduation regalia. Actually, going up (and especially coming down) aren't fun experiences, but thankfully Our Vicar was on hand to give me help and encouragement. Neither Latin nor heights are my cup of tea. Cups of tea, on the other hand, very much are.

The point of today's stitch-inducingly-funny pun i
s another ponderer. What's your favourite scene in literature? Not book, not character, but scene. Might be quite a tricky one to think about - some books don't lend themselves to being split into scenes. Mrs. Dalloway, with its lack of chapters, for example. Some are very obviously divided into separate scenes - Rebecca comes to mind, for some reason. Well, it might not surprise you that my favourite scene comes from Pride and Prejudice - an exchange between two wonderful female characters which remains sharp and witty on every syllable, not a word out of place, and a delight to read. The Jennifer Ehle/Barbara Leigh-Hunt portrayal of it is nothing short of rapturous. Know which one I mean yet? It's so brilliant, it's included at some length below...

As always, over to you. Favourite scene in literature, and why? Think on't... and you have to listen to me now. I'm a graduate, doncha know.

(Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; from Chapter 56)

As soon as they entered the copse, Lady Catherine began in the following manner: --

"You can be at no loss, Miss Bennet, to understand the reason of my journey hither. Your own heart, your own conscience, must tell you why I come."

Elizabeth looked with unaffected astonishment.

"Indeed, you are mistaken, Madam. I have not been at all able to account for the honour of seeing you here."

"Miss Bennet," replied her ladyship, in an angry tone, "you ought to know, that I am not to be trifled with. But however insincere you may choose to be, you shall not find me so. My character has ever been celebrated for its sincerity and frankness, and in a cause of such moment as this, I shall certainly not depart from it. A report of a most alarming nature reached me two days ago. I was told that not only your sister was on the point of being most advantageously married, but that you, that Miss Elizabeth Bennet, would, in all likelihood, be soon afterwards united to my nephew, my own nephew, Mr. Darcy. Though I know it must be a scandalous falsehood, though I would not injure him so much as to suppose the truth of it possible, I instantly resolved on setting off for this place, that I might make my sentiments known to you."

"If you believed it impossible to be true," said Elizabeth, colouring with astonishment and disdain, "I wonder you took the trouble of coming so far. What could your ladyship propose by it?"

"At once to insist upon having such a report universally contradicted."

"Your coming to Longbourn, to see me and my family," said Elizabeth coolly, "will be rather a confirmation of it; if, indeed, such a report is in existence."

"If! Do you then pretend to be ignorant of it? Has it not been industriously circulated by yourselves? Do you not know that such a report is spread abroad?"

"I never heard that it was."

"And can you likewise declare, that there is no foundation for it?"

"I do not pretend to possess equal frankness with your ladyship. You may ask questions which I shall not choose to answer."

"This is not to be borne. Miss Bennet, I insist on being satisfied. Has he, has my nephew, made you an offer of marriage?"

"Your ladyship has declared it to be impossible."

"It ought to be so; it must be so, while he retains the use of his reason. But your arts and allurements may, in a moment of infatuation, have made him forget what he owes to himself and to all his family. You may have drawn him in."

"If I have, I shall be the last person to confess it."

"Miss Bennet, do you know who I am? I have not been accustomed to such language as this. I am almost the nearest relation he has in the world, and am entitled to know all his dearest concerns."

"But you are not entitled to know mine; nor will such behaviour as this, ever induce me to be explicit."

"Let me be rightly understood. This match, to which you have the presumption to aspire, can never take place. No, never. Mr. Darcy is engaged to my daughter. Now what have you to say?"

"Only this; that if he is so, you can have no reason to suppose he will make an offer to me."

Lady Catherine hesitated for a moment, and then replied,

"The engagement between them is of a peculiar kind. From their infancy, they have been intended for each other. It was the favourite wish of his mother, as well as of her's. While in their cradles, we planned the union: and now, at the moment when the wishes of both sisters would be accomplished in their marriage, to be prevented by a young woman of inferior birth, of no importance in the world, and wholly unallied to the family! Do you pay no regard to the wishes of his friends? To his tacit engagement with Miss De Bourgh? Are you lost to every feeling of propriety and delicacy? Have you not heard me say that from his earliest hours he was destined for his cousin?"

"Yes, and I had heard it before. But what is that to me? If there is no other objection to my marrying your nephew, I shall certainly not be kept from it by knowing that his mother and aunt wished him to marry Miss De Bourgh. You both did as much as you could in planning the marriage. Its completion depended on others. If Mr. Darcy is neither by honour nor inclination confined to his cousin, why is not he to make another choice? And if I am that choice, why may not I accept him?"

"Because honour, decorum, prudence, nay, interest, forbid it. Yes, Miss Bennet, interest; for do not expect to be noticed by his family or friends, if you wilfully act against the inclinations of all. You will be censured, slighted, and despised, by every one connected with him. Your alliance will be a disgrace; your name will never even be mentioned by any of us."

"These are heavy misfortunes," replied Elizabeth. "But the wife of Mr. Darcy must have such extraordinary sources of happiness necessarily attached to her situation, that she could, upon the whole, have no cause to repine."

"Obstinate, headstrong girl! I am ashamed of you! Is this your gratitude for my attentions to you last spring? Is nothing due to me on that score? Let us sit down. You are to understand, Miss Bennet, that I came here with the determined resolution of carrying my purpose; nor will I be dissuaded from it. I have not been used to submit to any person's whims. I have not been in the habit of brooking disappointment."

"That will make your ladyship's situation at present more pitiable; but it will have no effect on me."

"I will not be interrupted. Hear me in silence. My daughter and my nephew are formed for each other. They are descended, on the maternal side, from the same noble line; and, on the father's, from respectable, honourable, and ancient -- though untitled -- families. Their fortune on both sides is splendid. They are destined for each other by the voice of every member of their respective houses; and what is to divide them? The upstart pretensions of a young woman without family, connections, or fortune. Is this to be endured! But it must not, shall not be. If you were sensible of your own good, you would not wish to quit the sphere in which you have been brought up."

"In marrying your nephew, I should not consider myself as quitting that sphere. He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman's daughter; so far we are equal."

"True. You are a gentleman's daughter. But who was your mother? Who are your uncles and aunts? Do not imagine me ignorant of their condition."

"Whatever my connections may be," said Elizabeth, "if your nephew 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."


  1. Well, first of all many congratulations. I'm glad Our Vicar helped you up and down the tower -- I too have a big problem with heights so I sympathise. And I think your choice of scene is pretty unbeatable. Oh how you are going to enjoy Mrs Darcy's Dilemma (which I know you have not yet received....).

  2. Congratulations on your graduation Simon. It sounds so much more exciting than mine was - just an outdoor ceremony; a speech by a lecturer from the school of public health on SARS (to a bunch of businees graduates?); and fireworks. Oh, for those age old traditions....unfortunately I think Australia is too young a country.

  3. Congratulations on your graduation! Predictably, you have stolen what is easily my favourite scene in all Eng Lit. The way Elizabeth Bennet puts Lady C de B down and the language with which JA furnishes her to do so is nothing short of cheer-inducing!

  4. Congratulations on graduating. How exciting--even the climb up the tower sounds exciting, but I wouldn't have enjoyed the coming down part! I love that JA scene too. Elizabeth Bennet gives Lady Catherine de Bourgh such a wonderful dressing down. You have to admire her--I think I would have been shaking in my shoes to come up against someone like Lady C.

  5. predictably, i love the fountain scene in atonement, lge

  6. My favourite scene? jane eyre's cry of equality to Rochester. I will blog about this now you have put it in my mind!!


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