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|True Spirit of Generosity
Written by Robbin
(10/16/2010 8:15 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, William's promotion, penned by Barb JA
Henry’s pursuit of Fanny was initially motivated by his plan to put “a small hole” (24) her heart and kindness in pursuit of such a scheme cannot be motivated by generosity—it is rather the picture of callous self-interest. As soon as Henry became ‘at all aware of her having such a brother’ (24) he tried to benefit from Fanny’s affection for William. Henry wanted to announce the Antwerp’s return so as to create ‘a degree of happiness which must dispose her to be pleased with everybody’ (24). Henry lends William a hunter but Fanny could not ‘feel any of that obligation to Mr. Crawford… which he had fully intended it should produce’ (24) until it proved no harm to her brother. He was finally rewarded with a smile after offering the horse for the entirety of William’s stay at MP.
Like the first two kindnesses the necklace and promotion schemes also impose on Fanny’s affection for William but unlike them perhaps they are inspired by the self-interest of marital bliss rather than the self-interest of breaking a heart for a cad’s amusement.
“You must think of somebody else too… You must think of Henry, for it was his choice in the first place. He gave it to me, and with the necklace I make over to you all the duty of remembering the original giver… The sister is not to be in your mind without bringing the brother too.” (26)
The necklace scheme plays on Fanny’s sisterly regard by providing a grander method to wear William’s cross than her poor ribbon can manage but like loaning a second hunter, giving a used necklace is a kindness without personal inconvenience. A grateful Fanny says “When I wear this necklace I shall always think of you” (27) to which Mary responds by ordering her to remember Henry for the gift. Mary fails to offer another in exchange and accuses Fanny of imagining Henry “too much flattered by seeing round your lovely throat an ornament which his money purchased” (27). All this suggests Henry’s necklace was given to inspire gratitude and focus Fanny’s attention on Henry. If there is generosity in this it is hard to find. His smiling glance at the necklace ‘made her [Fanny] blush and feel wretched’ (28) and Mary’s admitting (36) the scheme she had before scoffed (26) is just icing on the evidentiary cake.
I believe Henry did think to make Fanny happy with William’s promotion and it is very generous but it is unlikely he forgot it would also secure to him a great deal of gratitude. At the end of Ch. 25 he observed Fanny consoling William with the surety their uncle “will do everything in his power to get you made. He knows, as well as you do, of what consequence it is” (25) and it must be the genesis for the promotion. Henry admires William but lacking a sister Fanny I do not think he would have acted on his behalf. Securing his uncle’s patronage suggests to me Henry’s plan for Fanny was no longer idle. I think the opportunity was too fair refers to Fanny’s disposition (infinitely obliged) at that moment. Perhaps Henry did not intend to Disclose & Propose but he realized Fanny was overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude and he could not resist trying to use it to his advantage.
When asked Henry could not say when he began to think seriously of Fanny but of his “wicked project upon her peace” (30) he says it was “bad, very bad in me against such a creature; but I did not know her then” (30). If this is true his plans for Fanny began to morph in Ch. 24 when he first observed her ‘sensibility’ (24) with William. Nevertheless whenever Henry decided to pursue Fanny honorably he continued attempts to “purchase” her good opinion by playing on her affection for her brother. It seems to me Henry always expected to gentle Fanny’s disposition towards him when he did a kindness for William. If it was otherwise he would not have been so keen for her immediately understand his part in each effort. Fanny was perfectly willing to believe Mary kindly offered the necklace and she would have easily believed William’s merit prompted the admiral to act on his behalf.
I hope this did not feel like the splat of rotten tomatoes! I just do not feel Henry’s generosity was ever disinterested but if it is any consolation I do not feel Darcy was disinterested when he saved Lydia or Sir Thomas was disinterested when he brought Fanny to live at MP. Hopefully such an admission will prove I do not wish to deprecate Henry’s generosity to a hopeless degree but I do have to mention that he does come in a sad third among this trio because he desires credit for his generosity but also because he is attempting to obtain Fanny affection by unfair means. Perhaps Henry’s learning how to modify his obtrusive attentions by ‘adapting… more and more to the gentleness and delicacy of her [Fanny’s] character’ (24) is a hopeful quality rather than (sorry) the relentless adaptability of a hunter in pursuit of his prey. (;D)
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