Sunday, 11 October 2009

Dinner in St James's, Madam? and Pride and Prejudice Question 11

To judge by the discussion yesterday, I was (perhaps mistakenly) taking for granted the fact that Elizabeth does fall in love with Darcy. But reading your comments, especially jnaj's, made me wonder if this is something which needs to be discussed. So, at the risk of being a sacreligious here, I'm going to ask this as my next question.

Meanwhile, this has been an eventful week for me. As well as having several guest appearances on blogs as wonderful and diverse as Books Like Breathing, The Burton Review, Bloody Bad Books, Austenprose, The Long and Short of It, and Love Romance Passion, I've had a couple of new reviews.

In her review on Bloody Bad, Katrina picked up on an added dimension of Robert Darcy: his position as an American on British soil during the war, and his reliance on Caroline for the nuances of English polite society. Her conclusion: "just what I needed on a rainy Saturday night."

Marie Burton provides a detailed review of the plot and cast of characters which focuses on some of the twists and turns of the novel, and brings out some of its Regency aspects. She characterizes Robert Darcy "as a sexy, steamy kind of guy" and concludes that the novel is "rollicking fun."

The highlight of a wonderful week was a dinner with my publisher, founder of Sourcebooks, Dominique Raccah. The dinner was held at an exclusive former gentlemen's club, The Reform Club, in Pall Mall, just off St James's, which will  be of particular interest to the history buffs among you (well worth googling).

As I entered, I felt transported back in time. Established in 1836, with the current building completed in 1841, it was not Regency, but it was grounded in a history not too far away from it, and certainly captured the sense of power and privlege these gentlemen had. Membership was exclusive to those who supported the Great Reform Act of 1832. This was where some of the biggest reforms of the Industrial Era were discussed and eventually implemented. History was made here. Some famous names that trod those halls were J. M. Barrie,  E. M. Forster, Henry James, Lord Palmerston, William Makepeace Thackeray, and H. G. Wells. I was on hallowed ground.

My bubble has since been burst by a friend of mine, who reminded me that the gentlemen in clubs like these were precisely the same type who turned Virginia Woolf away when she walked on the grass in "Oxbridge":

"I found myself walking with extreme rapidity across a grass plot. Instantly a man’s figure rose to intercept me. Nor did I at first understand that the gesticulations of a curious-looking object, in a cutaway coat and evening shirt, were aimed at me. His face expressed horror and indignation. Instinct rather than reason came to my help; he was a beadle, I was a woman. This was the turf; there was the path. Only the fellows and scholars are allowed here; the gravel is the place for me. Such thoughts were the work of a moment. As I regained the path, the arms of the beadle sank, his face assumed its usual repose, and though turf is better walking than gravel, no very great harm was done." Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own.

The Reform Club, despite its reformist tendencies, did not allow women to become members until 1981, and it was the first gentlemen's club to do so.

Alas, (though not surprisingly), I was prevented from taking photos of the amazing interior by a very polite young man who worked there, though no one objected when I took pictures of us in the shining dark mahogany bookroom (very appropriate for us writers), where we had our dinner.

(left to right me, Jane Odiwe, and Helen Hollis)



(right to left: Jill Mansell, Elizabeth Chadwick, Dominique Raccah, and Helen Hollis)

(Elizabeth Chadwick and Jill Mansell)

Attending the dinner were fellow Sourcebook writers Jane Odiwe (who like me writes Jane Austen sequels, Lydia Bennet's Story, Willoughby's Return), Helen Hollis, Jill Mansell, and Elizabeth Chadwick. We had an exuberant evening. Dominique filled us in with very good news about Sourcebooks' current growth and success, and reiterated the Sourebooks policy: "We publish authors not books" which I already feel to be true, though I only recently joined. Dominique and her husband Ray were charming hosts, and conversation flowed round the table as quickly as champagne and wine glasses were filled. The bubbles went to my head, as did being in such august company and in such a historically significant setting.

But time to come down to earth, and the next question in the contest. (bg! How can I ask this?)

Pride and Prejudice: Question 11

Was Elizabeth Bennet in love with Mr Darcy?



10 comments:

  1. Thank you Monica for sharing your evening at the Reform Club with us! The men certainly didn't know what they were missing back then! I will definitely do some research into its history!

    And, thank you, for letting me clarify the position I took yesterday. P & P is a very complicated love story. I can't classify it as the typical Hollywood plot: "They hate each other, so they are bound to fall in love". Having said that, they do hate each other and they do fall in love! But, it's not so simple as that.

    Austen's other heroines, Fanny Price, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, Anne Elliot, are all "openly" (through the narrator's eyes) in love. We know that they are striving and hoping to be with the men they love. No ambivalence or "hatred" here. But, Elizabeth pretty much despises Darcy! And even after she has a change of heart, Austen keeps you guessing as to whether Darcy will.

    In the end. Lizzie is "in love with" and loves Darcy. She loves him better, perhaps, because she sees how much he has strived to change her perception of his character. She loves him better bacause he has done much for her and her family without expecting any reward for it. Lizzie loves him because she has found her perfect match behind a flawed exterior, just as she has discovered her own better self!

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  2. I couldn't put it better than jnaj, so I won't. "Lizzie loves him because she has found her perfect match behind a flawed exterior, just as she has discovered her own better self!"

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  3. Love the pictures - looks like a great time!

    I agree jnaj has the perfect answer!

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  4. Yes. ; )

    Congratulations on the great reviews, and thanks for the story and photos. I imagine heaven looks something like that bookroom....

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  5. I really think that Lizzy is in love with Darcy, but it is not that simple.
    I completely agree with jnaj so I don't find a need to write her answers again to my own post.

    milkavainamo@lyseo.edu.ouka.fi

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  6. Thank you for your comments on the dinner and the reviews. Yes, the bookroom, complete with the ladder, took me back almost two centuries. What a treat for a regency buff!

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  7. First, its great to see all the sourcebooks authors in one room and have a great time with one another. I love Mansell, Odiwe, and many other Sourcebooks authors.

    As for whether Elizabeth is in love with Darcy, I would say that not initially. She's attracted to his mysterious presence, only to immediately dismiss him when he says hurtful things about her even though he probably would not have said them in her presence and did not mean them in the way she took them.

    It is Darcy's determination to improve her perception of him regardless of his ability to change her mind about loving him that wins her over. His home, the way others speak about him with love and respect and awe, also help to win her over.

    I think in this way Austen shows the complexity of love, but that love with mutual respect is preferable to a large bank account, social status, and many other things that often pass for love.

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  8. *eep* I'm very late, and I'm just agreeing with everyone else, but - um - I agree with everyone else. In fact, while it's often asserted (more often by lit-crits, but still) that Elizabeth may love Darcy, in the sense that she dispassionately admires his character and cares for his welfare, but is not "in love" with him - he's her Brandon - I think this paragraph is a clear indication of her real feelings:

    "Darcy had walked away to another part of the room. She followed him with her eyes, envied every one to whom she spoke, had scarcely patience enough to help any body to coffee, and then was enraged against herself for being so silly!"

    If it weren't for the touch of self-awareness, it could just as easily be Marianne at the height of the Willoughby affair. In my opinion, this really is a perfect picture of a young woman falling in love, seriously in love, for the first time in her life. And P&P makes that kind of intense, youthful, befuddling love central, and celebrates it.

    So, um, yeah. That'd be a yes.

    eburke86@gmail.com

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  9. OMGosh - what I would have given to be a fly on the wall, during your dinner at the Reform Club!

    I'm so deep in thought about what it would be like to spend an evening with all of you...I can't even begin to think of an answer to this evenings question:-(

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