Let’s tell the truth here: Lucy Steele is a bitch, and not in a good way. She is in rarer form than usual here.
This chapter is wonderful, and I had to take a break from it. Austen has built this house so well. She has shown us Elinor and Edward. She had revealed a secret engagement and suggested a third possible entanglement for Edward. She has created a restrained and, even perhaps, overly civil character in Elinor, and a jealous, ignorant, and hypocritical one in Lucy. And while Lucy shares so much, always in order to either give Elinor pain or to gather information, Edward remains a secret.
We don’t know what will happen, but the tension is high, and then Edward enters the room. We haven’t seen him since Elinor found out about the engagement. Edward doesn’t know what Elinor knows. Wow. Just brilliant set up. I love how Austen follows this amazing meeting by describing each of the characters. What a change from everything that came before. I feel like I need to read this chapter several times.
This is the last chapter of the volume, and in some ways, it seems a let down from Ch. 13. That is not the right term, for I am not disappointed by it, but while it does ratchet things up a bit, perhaps the most important being that the Steeles join Fanny, and Elinor misconstrues this, it doesn’t have the tension of the previous chapter. It’s an intriguing way to end things.
To derail things a bit, I don’t understand why the ladies can’t stay at Mrs. Jennings’ place. Just because she isn’t there? I get the sense it might be because Mrs. J. is afraid they’ll be bored? I would hate this so much. And I have to say, I’m sympathetic with Lady Middleton. I don’t like her, but man, if I got saddled with people I didn’t like who I knew didn’t like me on a daily basis for 8 or more hours a day, I’d be unhappy about this too! I also feel bad for Anne Steele. Yes, she is vapid and so on, but the narrator tells us even given a minute of attention would be enough to satisfy her. She’s not evil like her sister. I think a little kindness could be extended to her.
We meet in this chapter the coxcomb Robert Ferrars, and of course he is Fanny’s brother. Such a jerk. And, like Elinor, I wonder how Edward emerged a mostly decent human being though I am no longer surprised at his diffidence. He was surrounded growing up with a terrible mother, sister, and older brother. Poor Edward. I recommend therapy.
But I am grateful to the meeting with Robert for one thing. He says many stupid things (and I keep thinking of Michelle Obama’s comment that billionaires aren’t really very smart). Austen has Elinor clearly disagree with pretty much everything Robert is saying, but being Elinor, of course, she doesn’t voice this. Instead, the narrator tells us:
Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.
This is what I’ll be writing, paraphrased a bit, in response to racists and anti-covid people. I can’t wait.
The John Dashwoods again turn out to be greedy turds thinking only of themselves. I, personally, think it was a great escape that Elinor and Marianne didn’t end up with them. Ugh.
So we close out Volume 2 with the Steeles ensconced at the John Dashwoods, Edward has not done anything to clear things up, and Marianne continues to be in a bad way. Things do not look good.