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|Sir Thomas' Ideal Woman.
Written by Rachel G
(10/4/2010 2:45 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Coddled rather than Throttled, penned by Robbin
Sir Thomas is certainly conscious of Lady B's shortcomings and finds Mrs Norris a useful substitute, as we see when he is going to Antigua:
"... leaving his daughters to the direction of others at their present most interesting time of life. He could not think Lady Bertram quite equal to supply his place with them, or rather, to perform what should have been her own;(3)
I think DeborahAnnebelle's observation that Sir Thomas has a nasty snarl when things don't go his way is absolutely right. I find him a real Jekyll and Hyde in this weeks chapters. Through most of these chapters he seems much more agreeable than previously; his greater sociability, his sensitivity when he prevents Mrs Norris from spoiling Fanny's first monents with William, and his giving a ball "to give pleasure to the young people all make me warm to him. Then Wham! In ch,32 when Fanny says she does not want to marry Henry, Sir Thomas turns his anger on her in a tirade which I find quite distressing to read.
KatharineW's 'armchair diagnosis is very interesting. Another possibility might be that Lady B suffers from a prolapse of some sort - even untreated prolapsing hemorrhoids would be reason enough for her to be glad to spend her days comfortably upon the sofa. This would not account for her other 'symptoms', but I don't think that health problems are entirely to blame for Lady B's inertia. Consider the following from ch.2:
Lady Bertram, in consequence of a little ill–health, and a great deal of indolence, gave up the house in town.
From that I conclude that while she does have some minor health problems, the chief reason why she behaves as she does is mainly down to her "indolence". In other words she is lazy, but I don't think Sir Thomas minds this. A beautiful woman who has nothing whatever to do except sit around looking ornamental could be seen as a very appropriate wife for a wealthy man - just like his park and his fine house she is a visible sign of his wealth. He is rich enough to hire servants and governesses to do almost everything a wife might do, and luckily Mrs Norris was available to chaperone his daughters to balls.
Lady B's ineptitude at simple card games suggests that she isn't very intelligent, but while Sir Thomas might prefer a quicker witted partner at whist I don't think he would really want a wife who was at all intellectually challenging or disposed to disagree with him. We know he chats to her in private and she likes to listen to him. She relies on him for all her opinions, and what could be more wonderfully flattering than that to the male ego?
Consider the accusations Sir Thomas makes against Fanny in ch.32 when she dares to say she does not want to marry Henry:
"I had ......... formed a very favourable opinion of you .... I had thought you peculiarly free from wilfulness of temper, self–conceit, and every tendency to that independence of spirit which prevails so much in modern days, even in young women, and which in young women is offensive and disgusting beyond all common offence".
In a nut-shell I think this sums up what Sir Thomas would always have disapproved of in a young woman and would dislike in a wife. I believe that even when she was Miss Maria Ward, Lady Bertram was in essentials very much as we see her in the novel, and I strongly suspect that when Sir Thomas was captivated by her he was attracted by her passivity and her lack of opinions as well as by her beauty. I think he got very much the sort of wife he wanted, despite the occasional inconveniences. Lady B will never challenge him or argue with him, and her reliance on his opinions is flattering. She is restful to be with and no trouble at all. Indeed she may well be very nearly his ideal wife.
So I agree with Jeffrey that Sir Thomas and Lady B's marriage is comfortable and agreeable for them both, even after all these years, as we see by their happiness when he comes home from Antigua.
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