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|Lower classes (long)
Written by nan duval
(10/25/2008 6:55 p.m.)
Mrs Clay has been discussed in fair detail in other posts. I only want here to add my observation that she is not only politically savvy in her dealings with Elizabeth & SW but also smart enough to avoid actually following bad advice. Sir Walter has told her to use Gowland's & believes her to be doing so. Anne sees no change in Mrs. Clay's freckles. Given what we learned from JulieW's posts on Gowlands, the fact that there is no change suggests to me that Mrs. Clay knows better than to use it as if she were using it there would be a change for the worse.
Then there is the late Mrs. Elliot: "She was certainly not a woman of family, but well educated, accomplished, rich, and excessively in love with his friend. There had been the charm. She had sought him. Without that attraction, not all her money would have tempted Elliot, and Sir Walter was, moreover, assured of her having been a very fine woman." Mr. Elliot is too discreet to give the details of that relationship himself but Col. Wallis spills them very conveniently--almost as if it had been planned! The late Mrs. Elliot appears guilty of nothing except of not being a woman of family. Had Anne known her, she might have found her "good company".
Now on to Mrs. Smith:
Now the landlady:
Finally Nurse Rooke, Mrs. Smith's assessment of her, & Anne's take on it:
Anne, far from wishing to cavil at the pleasure, replied, "I can easily believe it. Women of that class have great opportunities, and if they are intelligent may be well worth listening to. Such varieties of human nature as they are in the habit of witnessing! And it is not merely in its follies, that they are well read; for they see it occasionally under every circumstance that can be most interesting or affecting. What instances must pass before them of ardent, disinterested, self-denying attachment, of heroism, fortitude, patience, resignation--of all the conflicts and all the sacrifices that ennoble us most. A sick chamber may often furnish the worth of volumes." This speech of Anne's sounds like that of a rookie social worker, while Mrs. Smith counters with "the voice of experience"
"Yes," said Mrs. Smith more doubtingly, "sometimes it may, though I fear its lessons are not often in the elevated style you describe. Here and there, human nature may be great in times of trial, but generally speaking it is its weakness and not its strength that appears in a sick chamber; it is selfishness and impatience rather than generosity and fortitude, that one hears of." Anne should have known this--her experiences nursing Mary & little Charles could not have been the most edifying.
A thousand apologies that this is long & stuffed to the gills with quotations. I wanted to get all the ladies in, in JA's own words.
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