Lies, Lies, Lies Week 4
Ch21:3 (Emma, Jane, Harriet) Ch22:0 Ch23:2 (Mr Weston, Frank) Ch24:3 (2Frank,1Emma) Ch25:0 Ch26:4 (Mrs Weston, Jane, Frank, Emma) Ch27:1 (Frank) Ch28:1 (Frank)
Chapter 21: We know that Emma "could not help but"(20) be struck by Jane Fairfax's appearance and manners, but that she had been on the look-out for evidence of Jane's attachment to Mr Dixon. Emma is far from "always watching to admire" - she found Jane's company insufferable last night because she delighted her aunt, played the piano well, and did not confirm or deny Emma's suspicions - but it would not do to tell Mr Knightley so.
Miss Bates informs us that Jane Fairfax is quite as good as Emma at telling a polite lie. "I think you have a little cold" is a pretext. Without presuming to divine her motives, we can see she makes no show of concern for her aunts health when there is a risk Miss Bates might be caught in a rain storm on the way to Mrs Coles.
I am not sure that the Bates share of Mr Woodhouse's porker deserves comparison to God's gift of Israel to the Isralites, but "goodly heritage" is quoted straight out of the Book of Common Prayer - was it intended as an expression of gratitude, or as a subtle reminder that the poor are blessed, and those that share with them are given more spiritually than they lose temporally? Mrs Bates might not be as grateful as her daughter to be so blessed. "He really quite oppresses me." does not sound as if it were intended to close the message 'Give Mr Woodhouse my"very best compliments and regards, and a thousand thanks."' , although, even with such a reliable and transparent narrator as Miss Bates, one cannot be sure that the original meaning is communicated, or the context.
Jane's curiosity to see Mr Elton takes her as much by surprise as the news of his marriage does Emma. The only question that springs to her mind is unfortunately the same one she asked yesterday, and her aunt can't refrain: "I told you yesterday he was precisely the height of Mr Perry." The only reason I can't treat this as a lie, is that it was framed as a question. Emma does better at feigning curiosity about Mr Elton, although she abstains from asking questions about him. She is rewarded by another revelation from Miss Bates - Jane has regard for Mr Dixon and thinks him well-looking. I am not sure if what she says should be classed as a lie, because she clarifies that she was striving for objectivity, knowing herself to be biased. Incidentally, we learn that Mr John Knightley is tall and, loosely speaking, handsome.
Harriet arrives, and her visit to the dressmaker, "though she did not seem to stay half a moment there", must have been at least ten minutes, assuming she reckons time more accurately when she claims to have "set, without an idea of any thing in the world, full ten minutes, perhaps" at Fords.
Chapter 22 No lying, just scheming.
Chapter 23 Mr Weston warns "'But you must not be expecting such a very fine young man...' - though his own sparkling eyes at the moment were speaking a very different conviction"
"Frank comes tomorrow" is not a lie, but even at this point we have reason to suspect that Mr Weston is deceived. "He is at Oxford today" seems quite unreasonable if we suppose the letter from Frank was sent from Enscombe (as Mr Weston's history of the engagements at Enscombe implies). Even if Enscombe was in the vicinity of Sheffield, on the southernmost border of Yorkshire, it would be more than 100 miles from Oxford as the crow flies - rather more than 24 hours non-stop travel. A long days journey, and an odd place to divide it, is it not?
More likely, Enscombe is near Leeds (and now that this post is so late, I can quote Mr Weston, who says Enscombe is "190 miles from London"(36) - closer to Leeds or York.)
If Frank doesn't go by stage-coach, he must still go via staging inns, to change horses (or spend more days on the road resting his own horses). This brings another puzzle: consulting the coach time-tables (and feeling the want of JulieW's expertise too sorely to abstain from mentioning it) there does not appear to be a direct route from any part of Yorkshire to Oxford. The South and West are blocked by the well known beauties of Derbyshire, and all the most direct routes seem to pass through London.
Harriet's idea that Mr Churchill might travel to Bath and then Oxford is not so convoluted as some of the routes from Sheffield or York that I have tried to trace - there are quite a number of possible paths, but none direct. Oxford, with its confluence of roads and canals, is a busy transport hub, with fifteen coach routes (making it easy to confuse exactly what coach is going along which route to which inn at what time). But if he were to travel the London road, (which appears to be the quickest way from Yorkshire), why should he go through Oxford at all? Is it so he can appear to travel at a slower pace than the letter that informs his father? Is it that he is already at Oxford when he writes?
From Oxford, he has to get to Highbury, and again, there does not seem to be a direct route from Oxford to Kingston. I can see that he could make the journey quite quickly if he could go down the rivers, but by road, to get from Oxford to London takes 8 hours (8am to 4pm) by the fastest stage coach I can find, and Kingston to London is two and a half hours, so it seems unlikely that a journey from Oxford to Kingston via a more direct route (if there is one) would take less than five hours. There might be stages available that were not mentioned in Cary's Itinerary (the version I used was last updated in 1810), or I have missed a crucial point in the route and method of his journey (very likely.)
Mr Weston seems aware of and well satisfied with the details - enough to be sure Frank will arrive at 3pm the next day.
But Frank does not arrive the next afternoon, or even "gain half a day" by arriving in the small hours of the next morning. Arriving that evening, he is more like 16 hours ahead of his time. Again, his father can account for it, and nobody seems inclined to press him for details. Hmmm.
Frank lays it on thick about being at last able to come home and that he "always felt the sort of interest in the country which none but ones own country gives", even Emma suspects is a lie. But he has her own method of making instant friends by incessant interrogation. Emma does not surmise that his questions might be shaped by an ulterior motive just as hers to Jane Fairfax were, or maybe she has guessed a motive for his questions that pleases her.
Emma's tendency to believe what suits her best was demonstrated the day before when she "thought the elder at least must soon be coming out; and when she turned round to Harriet, she saw something of a look of spring, a tender smile even there." she is at least a month ahead of any reasonable expectations in either case (and I speak of elder leaves, not blossoms).
When Frank talks to Mr Woodhouse it is probably as well to discuss the sad evils of two days on the road, as one. Emma is happy to hear his exaggerated praise of Mrs Weston, but it is understatement that cements his friendship with Emma - the uncharacteristically diffident 'yes' to her claim that Jane Fairfax is "a very elegant young woman". This is generous praise from Emma, but it is the sort of praise one would give a lady one is not on intimate terms with, and also the sort of praise one would give a lady one has no intention of being on intimate terms with. (Not that Emma need or must be a friend to Miss Fairfax, just that Frank Churchill would be able to detect by her answer, that she is not a close friend of Miss Fairfax.) Still, neither his praise or his lack of praise quite meets the definition of lying, no matter how effectively it conceals his true feelings.
References: The Emma Gazetteer and Leicestershire 1814 from John Cary's Travellers Companion and Nottinghamshire 1814 from John Cary's Travellers Companion and the list of coaching inns from Cary's New Itinery 1810
The routes I thought most direct(not including canals)
Leeds to Oxford: Leeds, Wakefield, Barnsley,Sheffield, Mansfield,Nottingham, Leicester, Hinckley, Coventry, Warwick, Banbury, Woodstock, Oxford.
Oxford to Highbury: Oxford, Henley, Reading, Staines, Kingston, Highbury. (It would be quicker to go to London from Oxford, via High Wycombe, and from London to Highbury)
Chapter 24: Frank chooses to walk out to Highbury with Mrs Weston, rather than his father, but "Highbury, with Mrs Weston, stood for Hartfield". This gives Emma the satisfaction of seeing Frank "secure [Mrs Westons] affection" and listen while he "admired Hartfield sufficiently for Mr Woodhouse's ear"; and also lets her tag along to Highbury proper, when he "confessed his wish to be made acquainted with the whole village." Emma remembers what Mr Knightley had said about Frank's avoiding Highbury, but decides "Mr Knightley certainly had not done him justice.".
Frank is better than Mr Knightley at getting his own way without causing offense, and can even poke sly fun at Emma's notions ("unwilling to admit that the inconvenience of such a mixture would be any thing, or that there would be the smallest difficulty in every body's returning into their proper place the next morning.") when he disagrees with her.
They debate the merits of Jane Fairfax - Emma takes Jane's side, and Frank accusing Jane of "a most deplorable want of complexion". This backfires on him almost straight away, when Emma asks how well he knows Jane Fairfax, and if he knows "what she is destined to be". He is lucky to have Mrs Weston by to answer for him, but he continues to push his luck. Emma claims that "I have heard her every year of our lives since we both began", which can't be true if "It really is two full years, you know, since she was here"(19) (unless Emma has heard Jane play on a visit to London in the previous year).
Frank protests so much about not being musical, one is rather inclined to believe that he is - and in any case, as he has never heard Miss Woodhouse play, how does he know that she is "some one who could really judge"? He appeals to her judgement (and vanity) a second time, I think to smooth over their differences while she was talking of an event that he had witnessed and she had not - "But you, who have known Miss Fairfax from a child, must be a better judge of her character" , leaving Emma with the impression "He perfectly agreed with her" (!), and so well disposed to agree with him herself that she takes his side when he disagrees with Mrs Weston.
Chapter 25 No lies, but plenty of deception. Frank "sent for a chaise and set off" at breakfast time, (which means he did not use an Enscombe carriage to get to Highbury). Mrs Weston tells how he "appeared to have a very open temper" She is right to hedge a little. When she tells "though there was no being attached to the aunt, he acknowledged her kindness with gratitude, and seemed to mean always to speak of her with respect" I wonder how Frank could speak of any fondness for his aunt without provoking his father, and why he would mention her kindness at all, if he was not really attached to her. He could more conveniently please the Westons and let them believe as they like, if he did not. His defense of his aunt shows he does know how to do his duty, and make remarks of respect in exactly the way Mr Knightley outlined in chapter 18.
The Coles also seem insincere, with their delayed invitation to Hartfield and their fawning, aquisitive, lame excuse. Mr Woodhouse does not seem to share Emma's (rapidly vanishing) concern about the Coles social status, having to be talked out of having dinner with them, talking of having tea with them next summer, even revealing that he and Emma had been to the Coles "once since the new approach was made" - the new approach being presumably one of the objectionable additions made to their house in "the last year or two". How strange that Emma should have talked herself into going to the Coles, and her father into staying at home.
Chapter 26 The narrator exposes another of Mrs Weston's tactful omissions - "too anxious for his being a favorite with Mr Woodhouse, to betray any imperfection which could be concealed" (I think she might also have hidden his descending on them before she had time to properly air the guest room or light a fire in it, in chapter 23, but there is no proof).
Mrs Cole appears to be similarly good-hearted and tactful, slapping herself for saying "considering how many houses there are where fine instruments are absolutely thrown away." in Emma's presence and adding her particular hope that "Miss Woodhouse may be prevailed with", to ensure that Miss Woodhouse knows that she was not alluding to Hartfield's piano in any way.
Frank is better prepared for Emma's speculations about Mr Dixon than when they last met. Even the very provoking "but you observed nothing, of course" is greeted by the amused "but I, simple I, saw nothing but the fact". Emma really can make discoveries,though: "Miss Fairfax knows it is not from the Campbells...She would not have been puzzled, had she dared fix on them."
She does not need to be near Jane to see "the blush of guilt which accompanied the name of 'my excellent friend Col. Campbell.'" Emma's friendly reason for avoiding her, is probably not detected by Miss Fairfax - but the "Smiles of intelligence" might have been. How mortifying for Jane, to be caught out lying. No wonder she looks heated.
Frank's life at Enscombe appears to be very much confined like Emma's at Hartfield - although (unlike Emma) "he had his separate engagements", he is too necessary to his aunts comfort to be allowed to leave the country, but as his leash can stretch as far as the Dorset coast, I can't believe his aunt has the power to regulate his behavior towards his father, as Emma does. Emma's imputations are not Franks fault, but claiming "you shall see how she takes it" and then standing "exactly between them" shows at least an indifference to Emma's opinion.
Frank demonstrates a good knowledge of music with his "second, slightly but correctly taken. in spite of his denials.
Emma claims "I often feel concerned...that I dare not make our carriage more useful on such occasions" - this is the first time she has admitted any deficiency in her treatment of the Bates, but I don't think she is truthful. Her father is quite reconciled to James picking up Mrs Bates and Mrs Goddard to entertain him while Emma is out, it could not be too hard to overcome any objections he might have had to picking up Miss Fairfax while James waited at the Coles for Miss Woodhouse, especially considering the young ladies delicate health. If Emma wished, it would have been, and it is unjust to blame her father. Mr Knightley does not object, however, and his consideration for Jane Fairfax is plain, although we must think of some reason other than his giving Jane Fairfax a piano for his being "particularly silent when Mrs Cole told us of it at dinner."
Chapter 27: Harriet displays her vulgar ignorance with a comforting "besides, if she does play so very well, you know, it is no more than she is obliged to do, for she will have to teach." and "I hate Italian singing - there is no understanding a word of it" This last might be satirical - the lyrics of bel canto arias by the likes of Mozart and Rossini are often repetitions of simple phrases made unintelligible by displays of the range and control of the soprano, and the librettist sometimes used the camouflage of the intricate music to score a political point against the Hapsburg monarchy or Napoleonic republic, to the detriment of the songs intrinsic meaning, (or the entire operas plot). I don't think an educated person of the era would be inclined to disparage a taste for this kind of music. Even now, people who prefer popular music to opera do not tend to criticize the taste of those that do. Harriet cannot see, as Emma does, that Mr Cole and Frank Churchill praise Emma's taste because they know too much about music to speak of her skill, especially not worth praising after Jane's performance.
Frank shows that he is quite a master of the civil falsehood the next day, Mrs Weston acting as if she really had "absolutely promised Miss Bates last night, that I would come this morning" even though her own recollections are not so specific, and "Miss Woodhouse's opinion of the instrument will be worth having" when he can only mean mischief.
Chapter 28: Frank claims to Miss Fairfax, of the waltzes danced at Mrs Coles "I would have given worlds- all the worlds one has ever to give - for another half hour", although at the time he told Emma "I must have asked Miss Fairfax, and her languid dancing would not have agreed with me, after yours"(26)
Miss Bates breaks the resolution she made in Ch23 "I would not have Mr Knightley know about [Mrs Hodges anger] for the world!", but as she had already told Jane in spite of herself, and confessed all her twice baked and apple dumpling sins to Emma, this compulsive truth-telling can take only herself by surprise.