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|Miss Bates – Living up to Reputation
Written by Robbin
(2/6/2011 4:43 p.m.)
The old maid Miss Bates makes her début in Ch. 19, until this point we have the narrators rather kind (3) and Emma’s rather unkind (10) views of the lady. The poor dear rather lives up to both descriptions. Miss Bates does not cross the description of a lady without “intellectual superiority… beauty or cleverness” (3) but she does live up to the proposed “universal good-will and contented temper” (3). From the narrator:
She loved every body, was interested in every body's happiness, quick-sighted to every body's merits; thought herself a most fortunate creature, and surrounded with blessings in such an excellent mother and so many good neighbours and friends, and a home that wanted for nothing. The simplicity and cheerfulness of her nature, her contented and grateful spirit, were a recommendation to every body and a mine of felicity to herself. (3)
Emma described Miss Bates as “so silly -- so satisfied -- so smiling -- so prosing -- so undistinguishing and unfastidious” (10) and unreserved about her own business and I can’t deny that it is true yet I do dislike the disparaging “so” that Emma uses repeatedly. I dislike it because it shows a lack of insensitivity—I don’t think Emma understands the strength of a heart which can weather poverty and disappointment without becoming “illiberal and cross” (10). Emma has no idea what it is like to live with true lingering unending adversity and what is more to be truly happy and content in unenviable circumstances. Even the Prices in MP enjoyed the liberty of a small house (MP, 38) but the Bates’ occupy a “moderate sized apartment [on the] drawing-room floor” (19) in a house belonging to people in business—this after having lived at the parsonage. Miss Bates’ life is “devoted to the care of a failing mother, and the endeavour to make a small income go as far as possible” (3). I think Miss Bates possesses what Anne Elliot described as the choicest gift of Heaven:
A submissive spirit might be patient, a strong understanding would supply resolution, but here was something more; here was that elasticity of mind, that disposition to be comforted, that power of turning readily from evil to good, and of finding employment which carried her out of herself, which was from nature alone. It was the choicest gift of Heaven; and Anne viewed her friend as one of those instances in which, by a merciful appointment, it seems designed to counterbalance almost every other want. (P, 17)
Dear Miss Bates also lives up to the description of “She was a great talker upon little matters… full of trivial communications and harmless gossip” (3) however she also passes on some interesting news, if not to Emma then to me, amid the mish-mash in Ch. 19:
"Mrs. Cole had just been there, just called in for ten minutes” with the news Mr. Cole received a letter from Mr. Elton. Mr. Elton is much engaged in company and has attended the “Master of the Ceremonies' ball” in Bath where he was seen dancing.
The Bates received an unexpected letter from Jane Fairfax “this very morning” to announce she is to arrive “next week. …Friday or Saturday” for a “three months” visit after an absence of a “full two years”. Everyone is surprised.
The Campbell’s “are going to Ireland” to visit their newly married daughter, Mrs. Dixon, and her husband at the couples request. Although Jane was invited, pressed and was “quite longing to go to Ireland, from his [Mr. Dixon’s] account of things” she choose to visit Highbury and her aunt and grandmother instead.
The Campbells’ agreed with Jane’s choice reasoning her “native air” may do something towards restoring her to complete health. She “caught a bad cold… so long ago as the 7th November” and “never mentioned it before, because she would not alarm” her aunt and grandmother.
Jane has a “particular friendship” with the former Miss Campbell despite the fact the later is considered “extremely elegant and amiable” but “absolutely plain… not, by any means, to be compared with Miss Fairfax”.
Mr. Dixon saved Jane from being knocked overboard by the “sudden whirling round of something or other among the sails” while part of a sailing party at Weymouth.
Mr. Perry is “so liberal, and so fond of Jane” Miss Bates believes he would not charge them if Jane needs his attendance. She also says they would pay because he has “a wife and family to maintain, and is not to be giving away his time” recommending the good characters of Mr. Perry and the Bates.
Unlike his daughter, I think Mr. Woodhouse would have enjoyed Miss Bates recital especially the proof of Mr. Perry’s kindness to his good friends. Granted, Miss Bates is exasperating, first recapping Jane’s letter and then intending to read the letter aloud to her guests does seem a bit too much to sit for but is this really so different from the to-do surrounding Frank Churchill’s letter? I don’t think Emma was so exasperated then; I think the fact the letter is from Jane Fairfax is irksome in itself. I will say although Emma was itching to escape she was polite and kept up the appearance of interest until something of interest was finally said. I like Miss Bates for her good heart—there are worse things than having to put up with a person whose faults includes a propensity to “almost… overpower them [her friends] with care and kindness” (19).
Thanks for reading! (:D)
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