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Written by Roisin
(5/22/2010 12:57 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Mr. Bennet, helpless?, penned by Robbin
My post did not touch on his parenting skills. Yes, he was not a good parent. He was negligent and overindulging both as a father and a husband. However, I do not think it was always that way. Jane and Elizabeth turned out beautifully and there's no reason to think he did not have a hand in that. By the time they got around to the 'silly girls' and began to lose hope of procuring an heir, I believe he retreated to his library.
Regarding the girls behavior, they were raised by their mother and it shows. We know there was no governess to guide them, which I assume is because they could not afford it. They were left to rely on the resources of their mother. They may have started out better than they ended up, with the added stress of more children and fewer resources.
Mr. Bennet's lack of visible concern, IMHO, holds quite true to the reserved nature of the time, and not just in gentlemen. He guards his emotions and maintains his privacy as a matter of dignity. However, what about when we, the reader, are not peeking over Mr. Bennet's shoulder? When he's shut away in his library. We can only assume his activities. Sure, he may be reading, but he may also be fretting over the family ledger (as is alluded to in P&P2) and determining to put an end to frivolous spending, something he most likely fails to do because he is overindulgent.
Regarding the business with Mr Collins, to which I am focusing on a very small portion of the text, I do believe Mr. Bennet had high hopes. My allusion to Mr. Bennet possibly hoping to extend his family's stay at Longbourn after his death, which is not directly stated in the text, came into play before we knew what kind of person Mr Collins is. Even Mr. Bennet is left to determine his character from a letter. (Chapter 13)
"At four o'clock, therefore, we may expect this peace-making gentleman," said Mr. Bennet, as he folded up the letter. "He seems to be a most conscientious and polite young man, upon my word, and I doubt not will prove a valuable acquaintance, especially if Lady Catherine should be so indulgent as to let him come to us again."
"There is some sense in what he says about the girls, however, and if he is disposed to make them any amends, I shall not be the person to discourage him."
Yes, there was teasing regarding Mr. Bennet looking forward to some amusement, but that doesn't mean there was not serious thought regarding the visit. It's not as if Mr Collins was invited purely for the purpose of vexing Mrs. Bennet and ticking her husband's funny bone.
At this point, Mr Collins is an unknown entity, and even after thier initial meeting, he's just an annoying curiosity. We have absolutely no way of knowing how his character will evolve or that he would not be so generous as to allow the Bennet ladies to stay on the property. We are even given evidence of Mr Collins wanting to marry a random Bennet girl right away.
"I am very sensible, madam, of the hardship to my fair cousins, and could say much on the subject, but that I am cautious of appearing forward and precipitate. But I can assure the young ladies that I come prepared to admire them. At present I will not say more, but perhaps when we are better acquainted -- -- "
Who knows how different things would have been had a wedding taken place?
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