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|Is anyone worthy of Elizabeth?
Written by Robbin
(10/16/2005 11:29 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Jealousy vs. Dislike, penned by Jace
I know not who, if any, Elizabeth has been thinking of since she gave up on Mr. Elliot, but now that he is returned and forgiven, her hopes are again pinned to Mr. Elliot. In Chapter 1 the only impediment she sees to thinking of him again is that he spoke most disrespectfully of them all and when he is exonerated in Chapter 15 it is confirmed by Anne’s observations, “Most earnestly did she (Anne) wish that he might not be too nice, or too observant, if Elizabeth were his object; and that Elizabeth was disposed to believe herself so, and that her friend, Mrs. Clay, was encouraging the idea, seemed apparent by a glance or two between them, while Mr. Elliot's frequent visits were talked of.” Prior to the death of Mr. Elliot’s wife, Elizabeth may very well have been waiting for someone worthy of her and I feel the need to follow it up a little. My first question is what groups of gentlemen is she is searching among for a worthy candidate from the time of Mr. Elliot’s defection and his recent exoneration in Camden Place? Elizabeth’s own standards leave her only a slowly diminishing pool of eligible gentlemen and if she has been waiting for someone worthy to climb out of that pool then I make the proposition that her hopes seem rather pitiful and I will lay out my reasons for this idea.
It says in Chapter 1 that Elizabeth “whose strong family pride could see only in him, (Mr. Elliot) a proper match for Sir Walter Elliot's eldest daughter. There was not a baronet from A to Z whom her feelings could have so willingly acknowledged as an equal.” By her own admission, we can exclude any other baronets or heirs thereof to be considered as worthy of her hand, at least this is true at the time of the opening of the novel and at Chapter 16 we have only progressed a few months further with no reason to think this has changed. To go on to other options we must ask whether Elizabeth is willing to sacrifice any of her standards to consider them. If we accept Elizabeth’s own words, her standard for comparison is Mr. Elliot: a future baronet, heir to the Elliot estate, and a wealthy man. Would she consider persons less than the rank of baronet as worthy? For example, would she consider a knight, such as Lady Russell’s deceased husband? It seems unlikely as according to Chapter 2, “She (Lady Russell) had never received from her (Elizabeth) more than outward attention, nothing beyond the observances of complaisance.” Lady Russell is a close family friend and one of the last links to her mother and obviously neither the connection to her family or the rank of knight excited an interest in Elizabeth. This does not bode well for any knights seeking the hand of Elizabeth no matter how in distress she might be.
Would wealth sooth Elizabeth’s pride enough for her to connect herself and Sir Walter to someone without a title? Let’s consider the gentlemen of P&P, by all accounts fine men, all with wealth of varying degrees, none with a title: Would she consider a wealthy landowner similar to Mr. Darcy worthy? What of a wealthy young man like Mr. Bingley with wealth lately acquired from trade? What of a military man such as Colonel Fitzwilliam who is the younger son of lord---- but is obligated to make his own fortune? Surely I need not speculate on the likes of Mr. Gardiner, a man of trade or Mr. Phillips, a country attorney, with regards to Elizabeth’s hand—Carolyn Bingley, also of P&P, certainly would not have considered them worthy and Elizabeth is much more fastidious than her. Do we believe Elizabeth able to abandon all her standards and marry for love? I am not sure Elizabeth is capable of love; I have not even witnessed it with regards to her father although they get along so well. Nothing Elizabeth has said or done up to Chapter 16 has persuaded me that she is in anyway willing to lower her standards for a husband, so I think the poor gentlemen of P&P, whom I have snatched from their usual comforts and used most abominably in a manner I am sure Mr. Darcy would not approve, have little chance of success with Elizabeth Elliot.
The only other source of potential candidates for Elizabeth’s hand, that I can think of, is those who outrank her, but given her views on this subject as noted in Chapter 5 when she rebuts Anne’s concerns about her useful companion, “Mrs. Clay, never forgets who she is; and as I am rather better acquainted with her sentiments than you can be, I can assure you, that upon the subject of marriage they are particularly nice; and that she reprobates all inequality of condition and rank more strongly than most people.” If she expects this collaboration of views in her friend would she not require it of a husband? Therefore, if we assume that any person Elizabeth would consider worthy must have the same sentiments on condition and rank as she does and would that not preclude this worthy person of higher rank from offering for her in the first place—and should not Elizabeth reprobate the inequality of condition and rank even if she is the lower? The question then becomes is Elizabeth worthy to marry above her father’s rank? I am willing to concede that Elizabeth’s own vanity and bloated understanding of her own importance may allow her to abandon her cherished and particularly nice sentiments in this instance. Conceding that, I can only put forward my own speculation as to why I feel she has had no offers from that realm. I think, without more incentive than the possession of a beautiful but cold mannered and foolish wife, the likelihood of receiving an offer from such a person is very low indeed and this is supposing that they do not also see that she is mean spirited and selfish. The foolishness and lack of pride that Elizabeth and Sir Walter have displayed towards their cousins in Chapter 16, the “Dowager-Viscountess Dalrymple, and the Honourable Miss Carteret,” if displayed to a potential suitor, ready to marry below his rank, is more likely to inspire disdain rather than attachment.
I will however, go one step further and imagine that Elizabeth did receive such an elevating offer from such a person. It is hard for me to imagine that she would be unable to resist the temptation of glorifying both her and Sir Walter’s vanities by refusing and having said this would leap to the conclusion that since Elizabeth is not the wife of some illustrious person that no offer of this kind has ever been made to her. What reasons could she have for refusing? Would not an offer of this nature exceed any hopes in marriage she has expressed by her standard of Mr. Elliot? I do not think she would reject it on the basis of not being in love with the gentleman? Elizabeth seems to obliviously enjoy a rather loveless life as it is and I think she it not one to pursue love, she is more concerned with the outward appearances of respect and dignity. I do not think she would worry overmuch if she were to marry a much older man? She has patience enough to wait out the natural end of a May to December relationship—she initially waited two years for Mr. Elliot and she is now waiting again. Would she reject someone more foolish than herself? She probably would not refuse if they still retained her kind of regard for rank and appearance and showed her the deferential treatment she expects. I am also not convinced she has the wit to recognize someone more foolish than herself and if she can do so, it might be considered by her to be a benefit. What if he was spectacularly ugly? I do not think Elizabeth would care, her cousins are not beauties, Miss Carteret is even awkward and plain and both Sir Walter and she manage to surprise Anne for once by their behavior in Chapter 16, “Anne had never seen her father and sister before in contact with nobility, and she must acknowledge herself disappointed. She had hoped better things from their high ideas of their own situation in life, and was reduced to form a wish which she had never foreseen: a wish that they had more pride.” Last, but not least, I would ask if Elizabeth would purposely miss an opportunity for the illustrious improvement to the Elliot entry in that most worthy book of books though such an elevating liaison? Golly, this would make the book, after so many years, no longer an evil to Elizabeth and would certainly set up Sir Walter for life! I just do not believe that Elizabeth could say no.
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