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|the Coxes also a lawyer's family
Written by Nikki N
(3/16/2011 12:54 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, acquaintance with the Martins of Abbey-Mill-Farm, penned by Stephanie
Mrs Bennet nee Gardiner was an attorney's daughter, and her brother-in-law Phillips had taken over her father's law business. In Emma, the two Miss Coxes were the legitimate daughters and sisters of lawyers, but Emma said they looked "very vulgar". After Harriet refused Martin's proposal, there were some rumours that he might propose to one of the Miss Coxes, and that either would be glad to accept him. However vulgar the Miss Coxes might appear to Emma, they were girls Emma might meet at evening parties, certainly not a coarse, illiterate farm girl that Emma had predicted Martin would marry.
As to the social status of a lawyer's family -- I think that an attorney's family such as the Gardiners, the Phillipses and the Coxes and also Mr Sheppard in Persuasion, would be close to the tradesman's class -- as an attorney/solicitor in England was regarded as belonging to the "junior" branch of the legal profession. On the other hand, the "senior" branch of the profession, the barristers, were gentlemen, and younger sons such as Mr John Knightley could enter that profession. In P&P, we're told that Mr Darcy's uncle was a Judge, he must have begun his career as a barrister (Miss BIngley sneeringly referred to Mr Phillips as belonging to the same profession as Darcy's uncle only in different lines). In MP, Mary Crawford tried to persuade Edmund to become a barrister, and Mr Elliot intended to become a barrister before he married a rich woman of inferior birth and no longer needed to earn a living.
So Mr Martin was regarded as eligible to marry a girl from a lawyer/attorney's family. While such a girl may be the daughter of a half-gentleman rather than a gentleman, if she was fortunate, she might even marry a gentleman. No wonder Mr Knightley thought that Martin could probably marry a girl of mush better fortune than Harriet. It was only Emma who had pesisted in downgrading the Martins.
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