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|An obliging landlord??
Written by Rachel G
(10/8/2011 7:57 p.m.)
Several passages in this week's chapters shed light on Sir Walter as a landlord:-
"As to all that," rejoined Sir Walter coolly, "supposing I were induced to let my house, I have by no means made up my mind as to the privileges to be annexed to it. I am not particularly disposed to favour a tenant. The park would be open to him of course, ...... but what restrictions I might impose on the use of the pleasure-grounds is another thing. I am not fond of the idea of my shrubberies being always approachable; and I should recommend Miss Elliot to be on her guard with respect to her flower-garden. I am very little disposed to grant a tenant of Kellynch Hall any extraordinary favour, I assure you, be he sailor or soldier." (ch.3)
"The last office of the four carriage-horses was to draw Sir Walter, Miss Elliot, and Mrs. Clay to Bath. The party drove off in very good spirits; Sir Walter prepared with condescending bows for all the afflicted tenantry and cottagers who might have had a hint to shew themselves." (ch,5)
I think Sir Walter's tenants are 'afflicted' by his departure only in his narcissistic imagination, and I have a hard time imagining Sir Walter doing anything for his tenants which might cause them to be really afflicted when he goes. I rather doubt that Elizabeth does either, considering that her first instinct when called on to retrench is to cut off some unnecessary charities. It appears that Anne is the only one who shows any active concern for their tenants:
"And one thing I have had to do, Mary, of a more trying nature: going to almost every house in the parish, as a sort of take-leave. I was told that they wished it;" (ch.5)
All this is difficult to reconcile with Lady Russell's view of Sir Walter:-
"..... Sir Walter, independent of his claims as an old acquaintance, an attentive neighbour, an obliging landlord, the husband of her very dear friend, the father of Anne and her sisters, was, as being Sir Walter, in her apprehension entitled to a great deal of compassion ...."(ch.2)
How ever does Lady Russell arrive at the idea that Sir Walter is an "obliging landlord"?
One possibility is that the responsibility for collecting rents and organising property repairs on the estate would lie with Sir Walter's Land Steward if he has one, or with Mr Shepherd as Sir W's agent. Mr Shepherd might see it as part of his duty to ensure that estate properties are kept in good repair. Sir Walter is too lazy to interfere, and would think it beneath him to quibble about expenditure. Maybe Lady Russell interprets this as being an 'obliging' landlord.
Another speculation is that Sir Walter might be pretty open handed over matters such any customary feasts for the tenants - (an ox-roast for the tenant farmers, sausages and a beer tent for the labourers). Sir W would think it necessary to his rank and consequence to do the expected thing in style, even though he has no real feelings of generosity or concern for his grateful(?) tenants.
I'm not convinced by my own arguments though, and am still unsure why Lady Russell Calls Sir Walter 'an obliging landlord'.
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