Mrs. John Willoughby
Posted by Jane Elizabeth on September 08, 1997 at 12:21:31:
I've been thinking about Miss Sophia Grey. I always imagined her a bit like Caroline Bingley: bitchy and vindictive. Picture her standing over Willoughby as he copies out the hateful letter to Marianne. But I went back to the book and tried to find all the references to her and here's what I discovered:
1. She lives with her guardians, the Ellisons. She does not get along with Mrs. Ellison. She has 50,000 pounds, but we don't know where it comes from.
2. She is elegant, but not handsome. She is as far as anyone knows amiable.
3. She has suspicions about W's attachment in Devonshire, especially after the assembly meeting. She snatches Marianne's last letter to W. away from him while he breakfasts at her home, acting playful. They are at this time engaged.
4. She forces him to copy out the letter.
5. She knows he does not love her and indeed loves Marianne.
6. She could have called off the engagement. She marries him anyway.
5. After the marriage she is "not always out of humour."
Note that no one speaks ill of her but Willoughby. In his explanatory meeting with Eleanor, he criticizes Sophia so viciously that Eleanor rebukes him. Yet she married him. Why?
Here are my ideas:
1. She was in some sort of awful situation at the Ellisons and desperately needed to escape. Perhaps the fortune was somehow tied up in an obligation to marry? But then why marry a man who hates her?
2. Her fortune was made in trade and she wanted to marry landed gentry. But why Willoughby? Certainly her fortune was substantial enough that she could have done better socially.
3. She loved him. This may be the most romantic and tragic reason, but it may also be the most plausible. After all, he was charming and handsome and he had pursued her in London with the singlemindedness of a man desperate for money. It would also account for the hatefulness of the letter. Imagine the hurt and anger coming not from hostility but from jealousy and desperation.
I think you could write a marvelous back-story novel out of this, the way Joan Aiken did in "Jane Fairfax." Of course, it would be more Bronte than Austen, since the herione's marriage is not a happy one. Or you could carry the story beyond Austen's ending and have some sort of a reconcilation and ultimate love between the Willoughbys.
Anyone have any other thoughts on poor Miss Grey?
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