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|Coddled rather than Throttled
Written by Robbin
(10/4/2010 2:27 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, I tend to give Sir Thomas the benefit of the doubt..., penned by jeffrey
I agree Lady Bertram knows her place at MP for her behavior again and again illustrates how comfortable she is as a baronet’s lady and in the ‘comforts and consequences of an handsome house and large income’ (1). It seems you are suggesting Lady Bertram has been cowed by Sir Thomas’ discontented snarling into a submissive person who will not make a decision for fear of his anger. I very much disagree. I do not see any hints she is a significantly different woman than when she married nor do I see any hint he has treated her with anything but kindness and respect.
I feel Lady Bertram has always been indolent, good-humored with a rather weak understanding. At the time of her marriage Miss Maria Ward was beautiful. Her fortune does not appear to have been the attraction. Some who felt her sisters ‘quite as handsome… did not scruple to predict their marrying with almost equal advantage’ (1) suggesting Miss Maria’s beauty played a vital role in captivating Sir Thomas. Six years later she is described as ‘a woman of very tranquil feelings, and a temper remarkably easy and indolent’ (1); she is so indolent she easily drops the acquaintance of her sister Frances forever. Eleven years later she just as easily renews it. About a year after upon Fanny’s arrival at MP Lady Bertram persists indolent and good-humored:
Lady Bertram, without taking half so much trouble, or speaking one word where he [Sir Thomas] spoke ten, by the mere aid of a good–humoured smile, became immediately the less awful character of the two. (2)
About seven and a half years later, Lady Bertram is described as ‘too indolent even to accept a mother’s gratification in witnessing their [the Miss Bertrams] success and enjoyment at the expense of any personal trouble’ (4). Around six months later the Crawfords arrive. I do not see any hints that the Lady Bertram we see dozing on the sofa in Chapter 13 was ever remarkably different in personality, disposition or understanding. Can you say what text supports that she fears incurring her husband’s wrath by giving Fanny permission to dine at the parsonage? The reason she gave for refusing was that she could not spare Fanny. Her only concern appears to be her personal comfort in which she feels Fanny necessary:
There was nothing more to be said, or that could be said to any purpose, till Sir Thomas were present; but the subject involving, as it did, her own evening’s comfort for the morrow, was so much uppermost in Lady Bertram’s mind, that half an hour afterwards, on his looking in for a minute in his way from his plantation to his dressing–room, she called him back again…” (23)
It is completely Lady Bertram’s usual focus on her needs and hers alone—she is not in the habit of considering others. She calls out to Sir Thomas in what is essentially a command in a ‘tone of calm languor’ with no hint of unease: “Sir Thomas, stop a moment—I have something to say to you” (23). Her manner suggests every expectation he will attend her which he does. I feel Lady Bertram exhibits the easy assurance of one whose desires are never thwarted and feels she need only ask to have.
I feel Sir Thomas’ contributions to his wife’s character and disposition is that his duteous attentions to her comforts for thirty years may have increased her indolence if that was ever at all possible. I feel Sir Thomas learned early on in their marriage that she could not be trusted with responsibility and had no desire to be and has since not burdened her with any. It is my opinion she never missed it and has always been quite happy in her busy work, her pug and being guided by others because that was the path requiring the least effort:
To the education of her daughters Lady Bertram paid not the smallest attention. She had not time for such cares. She was a woman who spent her days in sitting, nicely dressed, on a sofa, doing some long piece of needlework, of little use and no beauty, thinking more of her pug than her children, but very indulgent to the latter when it did not put herself to inconvenience, guided in everything important by Sir Thomas, and in smaller concerns by her sister. Had she possessed greater leisure for the service of her girls, she would probably have supposed it unnecessary, for they were under the care of a governess, with proper masters, and could want nothing more. (2)
I am not suggesting Sir Thomas is anything close to an angel of heaven, he is far from it but what text is there to support his ever snarling at Lady Bertram or that she is in fear of his temper if she makes a decision he dislikes? (:D)
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