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|GR: Captain Frederick Tilney
Written by Siobhan
(4/23/2003 8:26 p.m.)
How frustrating is that! I was typing merrily away and had almost got to the end of my comments, when my computer just turned itself off and restarted. I'm sitting here in shock! All gone, just like that. Arrgh..
I will try to start again...
Frederick plays a pivotal role in this last section of the novel. There is much to think on. I maintain my good opinion of him, and much as I doubt that I will sway those who do not like him to my side, I fear I must try.
We first hear of him from Henry, who tells Catherine that both boys were home during their mother's final illness.
He doesn't make another appearance until James's letter to Catherine at which time we are told to expect his engagment to Isabella! How shocking! James thought Isabella engaged to CT. I'm sure Isabella thought so too. But Henry and Eleanor have their doubts. They do not at first credit that their brother would actually marry IT. Then there is the following exchange:
"Is not it inconceivable, Henry? Frederick too, who always wore his heart so proudly! who found no woman good enough to be loved!"
"That is the most unpromising circumstance, the strongest presumption aginast him. When I think of his past declarations, I give him up."
So Captain Tilney is NOT one to go around flattering women and falling in love. Although Henry still does not take it seriously as he says "I am afraid she will be very constant, unless a baronet should come in her way; that is Frederick's only chance. -- I will get the Bath paper, and look over the arrivals." Hmmm... a baronet in Bath... perhaps Mr. Eliot would do for IT!
Although Henry and Eleanor begin to think the engagement must be true given Isabella's surety (would she really give up James before securing Frederick??) they never really reconcile their brother to the action of marrying IT. It doesn't fit.
"A day or two passed away and brought no tidings of Captain Tilney. His brother and sister knew not what to think."
Then comes IT's infamous letter. Full of contradictions and compliments. Don't we all rejoice when Catherine after reading it states of Isabella that "She is a vain coquette, and her tricks have not answered."
Then Henry admits that Frederick was just amusing himself. "If the effect of his behaviour does not justify him with you, we had better not seek after the cause." You know, I can see Henry doing this too! The way he indulges himself with Mrs. Allan, I can see him passing an evening by induging a vain coquette. I cannot see him continuing to press it for days, but I can see him begin. Perhaps he is not so different from his brother.
Then of course is the real meat of the the matter:
"But, suppose he had made her very much in love with him?"
"But we must first suppose Isabella to have had a heart to lose, -- consequently to have been a very different creature; and, in that case, she would have met with very different treatment."
Is it fair to judge CT by how he treated IT? I would need to see how he behaves in better company before finding him guilty. Henry and Eleanor know him better, and they are both very fond of him. In addition to previous indications of this, when Eleanor thinks that her eldest brother has come home to Northanger Abbey, she hurried to welcome him. Catherine muses that "it was certainly in his favour that Eleanor should be so glad to see him." I trust her judgement and Henry's.
Frederick was smart enough to see at once what IT was about, and lively enough to act the part of the lover and prudent enough to get out with his heart intact. This is my theory: he starts out with lively flirting at the ball. When they get home, I am sure that he and Henry discussed the girls. Frederick would have seen that Catherine was in love with Henry and questioned him about her. Finding out that her brother was engaged to Isabella, perhaps Frederick chose to see if he could separate them? It seemed obvious to him that she was amenable to a change, if she could find a man with more money. Does this make him less of a gentleman? Well, most of us have no trouble forgiving Mr. Darcy for separating Jane and Bingley and they were truly in love. I for one can forgive Captain Frederick Tilney for separting James and Isabella when it was obvious to him that she felt nothing close to love for anyone other than herself.
And of course, I can no longer continue to think ill of him, when Henry asks me not to. Frederick could not be unpardonably guilty, while Henry made himself so agreeable.
I prefer to think well of Captain Frederick Tilney. But I do wish that we could have met him under more flattering circumstances.
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