Monday, April 12, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 31 & 32

Any kindly thoughts you may have had regarding Willoughby can now be kicked to the curb.  A pox upon him!  My goodness.  Well, now you know why he's my most-despised villain in all of Austen's books.  (Not most-hated -- that's John Thorpe from Northanger Abbey.)  I mean, it's bad enough to have jilted Marianne in favor of a rich heiress, but now we learn that he seduced, impregnated, and abandoned another seventeen-year-old girl.  Boy, did Marianne ever dodge a bullet!

And at least she's being nicer to Col. Brandon now that she knows he has the sort of melancholy and Romantic background she always finds the most interesting.  It was very hard for him to relate this painful history of himself, the girl he loved, and her daughter... but at least Marianne talks to him now.  Sometimes.

By the way, a note on the mention of Col. Brandon and Eliza meaning to elope to Scotland.  At this time, underage people could not get married without their parents' consent in England, but they could in Scotland.  And nobody was supposed to get married without going through the proper procedure of getting a license and so on, which took a couple weeks... but you could get married right away in Scotland.  So people who wanted to elope and get married quickly, especially people under the age of 21, often would try to run away together to Scotland and get married.  Such marriages were considered legal in England too, so you can see why it would be popular.  A common destination for eloping couples was a town called Gretna Green that was just over the border into Scotland, which is where the Bennets assume one of their daughters is heading when she runs off with someone in Pride and Prejudice.

Also, uh, did you catch that Col. Brandon challenged Willoughby to a duel over his treatment of Brandon's ward?  That's what he means by "we met by appointment, he to defend, I to punish his conduct.  We returned unwounded..." (p. 390).  Dueling was illegal in England at that time, according to my annotated copy, but still a fairly popular way for gentlemen and soldiers to deal with things like this that couldn't be taken before a court.  As long as you weren't caught in the act by the authorities, it was basically okay.  Also, by this time, it didn't matter if you didn't actually wound or kill your opponent -- to show up and stand up bravely while they fired a pistol at you was still proof of your courage and a way to defend your honor.

Now, Col. Brandon was, obviously, in the military.  He even served a tour in India, where little uprisings all over probably meant that he had at least participated in skirmishes.  The fact that he's a colonel means that he was either the first or second in command of his regiment.  So I feel like him NOT shooting Willoughby at all is a mark of his innate morality, that he's proved his point by calling Willoughby out and facing him, and so he forbears to actually hurt him.  Though MAN, that had to have been hard, not shooting the guy who debauched your ward AND captured the heart of the woman you love.  Wow.

Alas, Marianne sinks into depression. And UGH, Lucy Steele has returned to the narrative.  We're going to turn now away from Marianne's romantic troubles and focus on Elinor's instead.

Last thing:  I laughed aloud over this bit about Mrs. Palmer: "She was determined to drop his acquaintance immediately, and she was very thankful that she had never been acquainted with him at all" (p. 398).  Too funny!

Discussion Questions:

1.  Do you also think Col. Brandon missed Willoughby on purpose?

2.  Do you groan whenever Lucy Steele appears on the page?  Or are you kinder to her than I am?


  1. Col. Brandon may have missed Willoughby on purpose... I hadn't considered that. I certainly can understand his morals preventing him from killing Willoughby, but I don't understand so well why calling him to a duel and not even wounding him is any kind of punishment. Willoughby had a day (or hour) of worry about the upcoming duel, and afterwards he could wipe his brow, and say quite literally, "Whew! Dodged that bullet." And what we know of his character, he would completely forget about it and go on his merry way.
    What I am saying is, Col. Brandon's morals are way better than mine. Because Willoughby DESERVED punishment and Col. Brandon was far too kind.

    Lucy Steele makes me grit my teeth, like hearing fingernails on a chalkboard.

    1. Roxann, calling Willoughby out this way is a semi-public way of declaring you think he's guilty of something really awful. It's a way of calling him to account without involving the legal system, and even if he comes out unscathed, people will know about this now. People that Col. Brandon couldn't go around telling, "this guy got my ward pregnant." The point isn't so much to punish Willoughby at this point as to make it known that he's a blackguard.

      But Col. Brandon IS awfully kind :-)

      And that's an excellent description of Lucy Steele.

  2. No matter what I thought of Willoughby, I think he does or did loved Marianne, that much can be true in small moments anyway but he doesn't have the nerve to live without money, easy money, that is.

    Men do stupid things no matter the century but I like that Col. Brandon is willing to duel with Willoughby. I doubt he would have missed the shot. I think he's a gentleman who probably wouldn't kill anyone if he could help it and I like him for that. But even if he did missed accidentally, he's still a better man than Willoughby.

    It seems to me that people back then or perhaps just in books like these, that marriage seems like something people do on a whim and not think about the serious consequences especially when there are a lot of opposing parties about.

    If there's no Lucy Steele, than Elinor's story would be a bit boring, wouldn't it? But I dislike Lucy but only because she is sneakier than she have people believed. But I sort of admire her as well. Every thing she does furthers her future - this much I believe. Her self preservation is very high which is good for a poor woman in those days because there's no way to get out of poverty aside from marrying a rich guy or doing something very bad.

    Have a lovely day.

    1. Lissa, I think Willoughby's interest and affections were genuine... but not strong enough, in the end. Not like hers.

      I disagree with you on marriage at that time, though -- I think books like Austen's show us that to most people, marriage was something taken extremely seriously. Only actual fools treat it as a whim or a joke. Everyone else is almost hyper-aware of how the rest of your life is going to depend on who you marry, what their family connections are, and what kind of money you're going to have to live on. Very, very serious stuff indeed. Which is what Lucy Steele is treating it as, don't you think?

  3. 1. Do you also think Col. Brandon missed Willoughby on purpose?

    - I don't think Brandon is a violent man, but he has the capability to be.
    Brandon may have missed on purpose as a message. This was a mercy, next time you won't be so lucky.

    2.  Do you groan whenever Lucy Steele appears on the page?  Or are you kinder to her than I am?

    - I. Hate. Her.

    1. Ivy Miranda, I like that idea. It's definitely a message on Brandon's part. A warning.

      And yeah, me too. :-b

  4. I love that even though Col. Brandon had the chance to shoot him he didn't. I groan, I really really don't like her.

  5. I feel like Lucy Steele is a real fake. I actually cringe when I read about her or even think about her. A manipulative conniving fake.

  6. 1. Do you also think Col. Brandon missed Willoughby on purpose?

    I missed the duel on my first read of this. It may not have been pistols, they get to pick weapons, I think Willoughby since he was challenged would get to pick, I assume pistols were most popular but I don't know the stats. They certainly were in HEYER novels but I don't look there for accuracy, lol. I think if it was, Brandon could have fired a warning shot or up in the air to make his point. I'd have to read up more on duels from a historical source. As I said, my experience with HEYER and Dickens doesn't cut it for a source.

    2. Do you groan whenever Lucy Steele appears on the page? Or are you kinder to her than I am?

    She has got to be one of the worst if not the worst villainess in JA, she is SO poisonous, I can't see how Elinor can bear it, constant poisoned barbs always. I'm glad Elinor doesn't take the bait.

    1. Livia Rachelle, it's easy to miss the duel, really. The BBC 2008 version actually shows it, but it's been a while since I watched it and I can't remember if they used pistols or swords. Swords would have been more of a 1700s thing, I think, though. My annotated version didn't mention them, only pistols.

      Poisonous! Yes! Perfect word to describe Lucy Steele.


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