There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
~ Emily Dickinson

Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness. ~ Helen Keller

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Weekend Quote #1

Many months ago now I signed up for the Weekend Quote meme hosted at the Half-Filled Attic blog. I can't promise to post every weekend, but hopefully it will make my updates more frequent. I certainly have more than enough quotes/passages I'd love to discuss.

This week's quote is from Pride and Prejudice, volume II, chapter 12. In many ways I consider the following chapter (13, or 36, depending on the edition) the heart of the novel. In Emma and Northanger Abbey the heroine's moment of self-knowledge comes at nearly the end of the novel, precipitating the romantic denouement. But Lizzy's revelation ("Till this moment I never knew myself") comes almost at the dead center of the novel.

But what I want to focus on here is how Darcy ends his letter:

"This, madam, is a faithful narrative of every event in which we have been concerned together; and if you do not absolutely reject it as false, you will, I hope, acquit me henceforth of cruelty towards Mr. Wickham. I know not in what manner, under what form of falsehood he had imposed on you; but his success is not perhaps to be wondered at. Ignorant as you previously were of everything concerning either, detection could not be in your power, and suspicion certainly not in your inclination.
"You may possibly wonder why all this was not told you last night; but I was not then master enough of myself to know what could or ought to be revealed. For the truth of everything here related, I can appeal more particularly to the testimony of Colonel Fitzwilliam, who, from our near relationship and constant intimacy, and, still more, as one of the executors of my father's will, has been unavoidably acquainted with every particular of these transactions. If your abhorrence of ME should make MY assertions valueless, you cannot be prevented by the same cause from confiding in my cousin; and that there may be the possibility of consulting him, I shall endeavour to find some opportunity of putting this letter in your hands in the course of the morning. I will only add, God bless you.

Darcy's letter starts quite resentfully. His main goal is to clear his character; his former sentiments toward her "cannot be too soon forgotten". But by the end of the letter, he once again demonstrates respect for her, removing any blame from her easy acceptance of Wickham's story. There's a slight thread of resentment in the emphasized me and my, but again there's that tenderness in the "God bless you".

It seems to me that, although he may not realize it himself, writing this letter renews Darcy's love. Reading the letter is Elizabeth's gateway to self-knowledge, writing it is Darcy's.

(Well, that's not much, but I had to start this meme with something.)

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I always love Darcy's letter. I don't usually read Jane Austen, in fact Pride and Prejudice is the only book of her that I've read. Bur Darcy is a kind but proud man, and that's exactly his good and bad point.

    Thank you so much for sharing.