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|Her Excellent Friend
Written by Robbin
(10/24/2005 12:13 a.m.)
Three times Lady Russell has rejected or supported a gentleman interested in Anne Elliot. In my opinion, all three times she has been wrong—at least with regard to the man himself and if his character would suit Anne. My purpose with this post is to evaluate the relationship between Anne and LR and not on the gentlemen although I must discuss them to show my concerns.
The relationship between Anne and LR, if ever really intimate, has steadily declined into something less after Chapter 4 when she persuaded Anne to give up Captain Frederick Wentworth. They have this huge wall of silence between them on the subject. I understand that you do not go around poking someone with the big stick of a sad episode all the time but you should be willing to discuss it occasionally if the object you are truly protecting is Anne and not yourself. Also in Chapter 4, when Charles Musgrove offered for Anne she refused him without consulting LR at all, who was ready to support him although she has wanted more for Anne in the past. I used to think it significant that Anne did not ask LR for advice about Charles, but I do not think so anymore because I am not so sure Anne ever applied to LR for advice on accepting FW either (it happened too quickly) before LR had any inkling of it or she would have persuaded her into not accepting in the first place.
“It was now some years since Anne had begun to learn that she and her excellent friend could sometimes think differently; and it did not surprise her" (Chapter 17)
Anne never asks for LR’s advice about Mr. Elliot and tells LR that she believes Elizabeth to be his object without undue feelings or regret in Chapter 16. In Chapter 17, LR “would venture on little more than hints” to give Anne an understanding that there is a possible attachment on his side and that she approves of him and the match. After getting little response from Anne she says "I am no matchmaker, as you well know," said Lady Russell, "being much too well aware of the uncertainty of all human events and calculations.” I am not certain of what LR is trying to say with this statement because it strikes me as not quite honest, perhaps even with herself—although she is not a matchmaker as Dolly Levi (Hello Dolly) she is certainly trying to influence Anne and even says “I think there would be every possibility of your being happy together. A most suitable connection everybody must consider it, but I think it might be a very happy one.” I think this is a little more than just a “hint.” Anne finally tells LR that “they would not suit” but LR continues by telling her if she marries Mr. Elliot she would be pleased to see Anne in her mother’s place at Kellynch, which is a very emotional issue for Anne—this is just emotional manipulation—now we are far beyond those “hints” first thought of by LR.
I believe I have had the wrong idea about what kind of relationship Anne’s and LR have. The phrase “excellent friend” does not describe their relationship to me very well at all and every time LR runs afoul of my standards I feel the need to point it out. When I think of an excellent friend I think of someone I can confide in and this is not the case with Anne and LR. They do have the total silence concerning FW and the lost engagement; I think the only time they have discussed FW at all was about FW and Louisa and her fall at Lyme resulting in LR’s angry pleasure and pleased contempt. I think of Elizabeth and Jane of P&P as excellent friends, unafraid to share fears, hopes and dreams—they are a comfort to each other in all life’s happiness and woes. LR was very comforting when the Elliot’s had to remove from Kellynch in Chapter 5 but she has been so little in Anne’s confidence over the years that Anne has never told her of how much she regrets breaking off her engagement to FW. Anne cannot tell her, even though she does not blame her, just as she withholds the hurts she felt while at Uppercross or the new hope she has for FW in Bath because she fears her reaction and what LR will think of her, I see this in Anne anxious worries about what will be said and done when LR and FW meet.
I have been thinking of LR in kind of a duel role as a god mother-excellent friend to Anne but I think that is wrong. I think it is really only a god mother relationship and that gives additional explanation to me of why there is so little intimacy and so much embarrassment in their relationship when it comes to Anne being united to a man. I must also say I have been influenced by Helena6 in her “Always a child” post to believe that part of LR’s problem is in not accepting that Anne is an adult who has a mind of her own. I do believe LR is acting out what she feels to be a duty (as well as caring for her) to Anne by advising her about suitors and this gives me a reason why she does not wait to be asked for advice from Anne and even continuing when Anne blatantly says “they would not suit” in Chapter 17. Then looking at LR’s advice as a god mother and not as that of excellent friend—(my definition), I do not have as much to complain about her with regards to the intimacy of conservation between them, but I do not think I can let go all of my grievances. The worst is that LR seems to be unable to understand that what is agreeable to her (Mr. Elliot) may in fact not be the best for Anne or the reverse, that what she does not like (Frederick Wentworth) may be in fact what is best for Anne. I do not think LR has the ability to see the situation from Anne’s point of view or ask herself is this the type of person who makes Anne happy, and she does not consider Anne’s opinion as valid as her own, the Bath question in Chapter 2, for example. It reminds me of P&P, Chapter 24, when Jane and Elizabeth discuss Charlotte accepting Mr. Collins and Jane says “You do not make allowance enough for difference of situation and temper.” I think LR’s inability to imagine what Anne may prefer in a husband and her unwillingness to ask Anne could be a problem for her if she continues to do her duty to Anne on this subject but as bad as she is I have to admit that LR understands Anne no less than many actual mothers understand their daughters and Anne confides in LR no less than many daughters do their mothers. As an excellent friend, LR is horrible by my standards but as a god mother she is fairly good but far from perfect, IMO.
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