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|So Many Couples of Lovers
Written by Robbin
(9/23/2010 8:03 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Fanny- a typical girl, penned by Ramya
It was Fanny’s first ball, though without the preparation or splendour of many a young lady’s first ball, being the thought only of the afternoon, built on the late acquisition of a violin player in the servants’ hall, and the possibility of raising five couple with the help of Mrs. Grant and a new intimate friend of Mr. Bertram’s just arrived on a visit. (12)
I think the primary reason Fanny is at her first ball is that she was needed. It seems to have been raining men and MP was a bit lopsided with them when dancing was suggested. Tom, Edmund, Henry, and Misters Yates and Rushworth need an equal number of ladies to make up five couples. Of the usual horse-back riding crowd ladies consisted of a paltry three—Maria, Julia and Mary. Fanny and Mrs. Grant are needed for the others’ enjoyment. Had no one wished to think of obliging Fanny, Mrs. Norris comes to mind, they could not avoid it unless they were willing to leave a gentleman tapping his toes on the sidelines.
I thought it would be fun to work out the various dancing partners for all three sets. Between Fanny’s thoughts and the conversation overheard between Missus Norris and Rushworth the partners of the current set (third) is clear and there are some hints about the makeup of the first and second as well. I considered the text, common forms (etiquette), sibling relationships and the characters of the gentlemen—they have the privilege of choice. I also assume none of the siblings dance together and that Henry is too busy sporting with the Miss Bertrams to notice dearest Fanny. Here is how I think the partners fell out and explanations follow:
Third Set: Maria & Rushworth, Julia & Henry, Mrs. Grant & Yates, Fanny & Tom, Mary & Edmund
* I have bolded the partners mentioned in the text.
Fanny’s first ball began well, she danced the first four dances very happily and the third set is in progress. Fanny is wall-flowered with the chaperons because it appears Tom decided between the second and third set to check on a sick horse. Fanny is “quite grieved to be losing even a quarter of an hour” of dancing and as she watches the other young people she is wishing for Tom’s return.
“I think, ma’am,” said Mrs. Norris, her eyes directed towards Mr. Rushworth and Maria, who were partners for the second time, “we shall see some happy faces again now.”
“Yes, ma’am, indeed,” replied the other, with a stately simper, “there will be some satisfaction in looking on now, and I think it was rather a pity they should have been obliged to part. Young folks in their situation should be excused complying with the common forms. I wonder my son did not propose it.”
Maria & Rushworth are dancing for the second time and Mrs. Rushworth, ‘who saw nothing but her son’ complains they were obliged to part for sake of “the common forms” which I take to mean dancing two sets in a roll with the same partner. So Maria & Rushworth have partnered for the first and third sets.
“I dare say he did, ma’am. Mr. Rushworth is never remiss. But dear Maria has such a strict sense of propriety, so much of that true delicacy which one seldom meets with nowadays, Mrs. Rushworth—that wish of avoiding particularity! Dear ma’am, only look at her face at this moment; how different from what it was the two last dances!”
Miss Bertram did indeed look happy, her eyes were sparkling with pleasure, and she was speaking with great animation, for Julia and her partner, Mr. Crawford, were close to her; they were all in a cluster together. How she had looked before, Fanny could not recollect, for she had been dancing with Edmund herself, and had not thought about her.
It seems Rushworth wished to keep Maria as his partner for the second but she refused citing the common forms. I believe she wishes to avoid particularity with her fiancé but the reason would be freeing her to dance with Henry. Rushworth would be displeased to relinquish her—especially to Henry and it explains why Mrs. Norris began the conversation by assuring his mother they will now see happy faces. Fanny does not remember how Maria looked before, during the second set, because she was dancing with Edmund.
what do you say… to the chance of another match? Mr. Rushworth has set a good example… such things are very catching.”
I think when Mrs. Norris’ speaks of Rushworth’s example she is referring to his dancing a second time with Maria and alluding to Julia & Henry doing the same. Henry has followed Rushworth’s example with the “well suited” Julia. If they are dancing again adherence to the common forms would dictate they partnered before during the first set. Mrs. Norris describes Henry’s attentions to Julia as extremely particular which is suggestive of their dancing twice. Of course I feel he is taking this opportunity to go from one sister to the other.
Mr. Bertram was in the room again… though feeling it would be a great honour to be asked by him, she thought it must happen. …Fanny found that it was not to be, and… immediately felt that she had been unreasonable in expecting it. ...I [Tom] …only wonder how the good people can keep it up so long. They had need be all in love, to find any amusement in such folly; and so they are, I fancy. If you look at them you may see they are so many couple of lovers—all but Yates and Mrs. Grant…
Tom names Mrs. Grant & Yates as one of the four couples dancing. Fanny’s feeling she has been unreasonable to expect him to ask her suggests they have not yet partnered but he remedies it by finally asking to avoid whist. That leaves only Edmund for Mary fitting with Tom’s comment three of the partners appear to be couples of lovers: Maria & Rushworth, Julia & Henry and Mary & Edmund. The rest of the third set consists of Mrs. Grant & Yates and Fanny & Tom.
The first and second set required a great deal more speculation on my part than the third:
I think the first set had Maria & Rushworth (per text) and Julia & Henry because he intends to bounce between the Miss Bertrams to continue the game. I think Tom as the host and rather selfish would ask Mary the only bell at the ball not his sister and she would feel it an appropriate honor. Edmund would distinguish Mrs. Grant who was kind enough to join the young people and equalize the sexes. That leaves Fanny & Mr. Yates as the fifth couple.
The second set appears to be Fanny & Edmund (per text), Maria & Henry because he is gamming and she refused Rushworth to be free. Having already danced with Mary, Tom would ask Mrs. Grant over his sister Julia. I think Mr. Yates would ask Julia because he seems to be sweet on her. He declared it an insult to offer her the ‘most trivial, paltry, insignificant part’ (14) of cottagers wife. He also tries to ‘make himself agreeable to Julia’ (15). That leaves Mary to the less agreeable attentions of Mr. Rushworth.
Of course the first and second sets could have different makeup. Other suggestions for partners welcome. (:D)
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