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|Lady Russell & the Elliots
Written by Robbin
(10/7/2011 8:22 p.m.)
What kind of a friend is Lady Russell to the Elliot family? Sometimes she is the object of grief for persuading Anne to end her engagement but how does she rate with the rest of the family. Does she fulfill Lady Elliot’s expectations?
She was a benevolent, charitable, good woman, and capable of strong attachments, most correct in her conduct, strict in her notions of decorum, and with manners that were held a standard of good-breeding. (2)
Lady Russell settled in the village of Kellynch to be near Lady Elliot and it was she on whom her friend “mainly relied for the best help and maintenance of the good principles and instruction which she had been anxiously giving her daughters” (1). It is not all friends who would willingly commit to this type of responsibility. I think it shows a great depth of warmth and friendship. Lady Russell is a good friend to Lady Elliot even after her death because from these first six chapters it appears she has tried to do her best for her friend’s daughters and for her foolish husband as well.
The narrator tells us Lady Russell and Sir Walter are “near neighbours and intimate friends” (1). In trying to devise a plan of retrenchment for him she steps into her friend’s dusty shoes once again by promoting his real respectability. She feels he due much consideration because he is an “old acquaintance, an attentive neighbour, an obliging landlord, the husband of her very dear friend, the father of Anne and her sisters” (2). She has a value for rank and consequence, which blinded her a little to the faults of those who possessed them. (2) (lucky really for Sir Walter) but it is friendship also which gentles her retrenching plan for his and Elizabeth’s sake. I have to take the narrator’s word for his side of the friendship because his reaction to Lady Russell’s ideas of the reductions “due to the character of an honest man” (2) are flat out rejected with not so much as a thank you very much but no. I think Lady Russell is a good friend to Sir Walter because she tries to help him, to make his position tenable to himself and world.
Lady Elliot’s efforts to instill good principles in Elizabeth pretty much failed and Lady Russell is fighting a loosing battle on all fronts. Elizabeth is a female version of her father and happy to be so. Lady Russell has “scarcely any influence with Elizabeth” (2) and “never succeeded in any point which she wanted to carry, against previous inclination” (2). She has not been able to get Anne included in the annual visit to London (1) or persuade Elizabeth against favoring Mrs. Clay over “so deserving a sister” (2). Lady Russell had never received from Elizabeth “more than outward attention, nothing beyond the observances of complaisance” (2). To top it all Lady Russell loves her “rather because she would love her, than because Elizabeth deserved it” (2). Lady Russell is a good friend to Elizabeth because she tries to advise her in what is right but I think they are “friends” in the least sense of the word.
So far there has been barely a mention of Mary and Lady Russell in the same sentence. Perhaps Lady Russell was involved in finding a school for Mary (4) but it does not say so in the text. When she set Anne down at Uppercross she did not stop to visit with Mary; which the lady does not let pass unnoticed: “So Lady Russell would not get out. I do not think she has been in this house three times this summer” (5). Kellynch and Uppercross are three miles apart (6) and I don’t know if that distance makes three visits over the summer a lot or a little. Mary surely views it as too little, it suggests to me they are not intimate friends. Considering what Lady Russell puts up with in dealing with Elizabeth it is hard for me to imagine she did not do her best for Mary in the past. Perhaps Mary’s marriage has taken her off Lady Russell’s hands and that is why there is no history of interaction related. Talking of the three sisters, the narrator says “Lady Russell loved them all” (1) so Mary is loved but it does not seem to me they are intimate friends.
I think Lady Russell has tried her best to fulfill her promise to Lady Elliot concerning Elizabeth and probably Mary although so far there is no evidence of it in the text. I think how successful or unsuccessful she has been in the maintenance of those good principles are due to their impenetrable characters. Lady Russell is a friend to all the Elliots. She would never abandon any of them but I think the real friendship is with Anne and her late friend. (:D)
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