Fragment of a Novel Written by Jane Austen/Chapter 7

Fragment of a Novel Written by Jane Austen  (1925) 
by Jane Austen, edited by R. W. Chapman

CHAPTER 7.

The popularity of the Parkers brought them some visitors the very next morning;—amongst them, Sir Edwd Denham & his Sister, who having been at Sanditon H— drove on to pay their Compliments; & the duty of Letter-writing being accomplished, Charlotte was settled with Mrs P.— in the Drawing room in time to see them all.—The Denhams were the only ones to excite particular attention. Charlotte was glad to complete her knowledge of the family by an introduction to them, & found them, the better half at least—(for while single, the Gentleman may sometimes be thought the better half, of the pair)—not unworthy notice.—Miss D. was a fine young woman, but cold & reserved, giving the idea of one who felt her consequence with Pride & her Poverty with Discontent, & who was immediately gnawed by the want of an handsomer Equipage than the simple Gig in which they travelled, & which their Groom was leading about still in her sight.—Sir Edwd was much her superior in air & manner;—certainly handsome, but yet more to be remarked for his very good address & wish of paying attention & giving pleasure.—He came into the room remarkably well, talked much—& very much to Charlotte, by whom he chanced to be placed—& she soon perceived that he had a fine Countenance, a most pleasing gentleness of Voice, & a great deal of Conversation. She liked him.—Sober-minded as she was, she thought him agreable, & did not quarrel with the suspicion of his finding her equally so, which would arise from his evidently disregarding his Sister's motion to go, & persisting in his station & his discourse.—I make no apologies-for my Heroine's vanity.—If there are young Ladies in the World at her time of Life, more dull of Fancy & more careless of pleasing, I know them not, & never wish to know them.—At last, from the low French windows of the Drawing room which commanded the road & all the Paths across the Down, Charlotte & Sir Edw: as they sat, could not but observe Lady D. & Miss B. walking by—& there was instantly a slight change in Sir Edw:'s countenance—with an anxious glance after them as they proceeded—followed by an early proposal to his Sister—not merely for moving, but for walking on together to the Terrace—which altogether gave an hasty turn to Charlotte's fancy, cured her of her halfhour's fever, & placed her in a more capable state of judging, when Sir Edw: was gone, of how agreable he had actually been.—"Perhaps there was a good deal in his Air & Address; And his Title did him no harm." She was very soon in his company again. The first object of the Parkers, when their House was cleared of morng visitors was to get out themselves;—the Terrace was the attraction to all;—Every body who walked, must begin with the Terrace, & there, seated on one of the two Green Benches by the Gravel walk, they found the united Denham Party;—but though united in the Gross, very distinctly divided again—the two superior Ladies being at one end of the bench, & Sir Edw: & Miss B. at the other.—Charlotte's first glance told her that Sir Edw:'s air was that of a Lover.—There could be no doubt of his Devotion to Clara.—How Clara received it, was less obvious—but she was inclined to think not very favourably; for tho' sitting thus apart with him (which probably she might not have been able to prevent) her air was calm & grave.—That the young Lady at the other end of the Bench was doing Penance, was indubitable. The difference in Miss Denham's countenance, the change from Miss Denham sitting in cold Grandeur in Mrs Parker's Drawg-room to be kept from silence by the efforts of others, to Miss D. at Lady D.'s Elbow, listening & talking with smiling attention or solicitous eagerness, was very striking—and very amusing—or very melancholy, just as Satire or Morality might prevail.— Miss Denham's Character was pretty well decided with Charlotte. Sir Edward's required longer Observation. He surprised her by quitting Clara immediately on their all joining & agreeing to walk, & by addressing his attentions entirely to herself.—Stationing himself close by her, he seemed to mean to detach her as much as possible from the rest of the Party & to give her the whole of his Conversation. He began, in a tone of great Taste & Feeling, to talk of the Sea & the Sea shore—& ran with Energy through all the usual Phrases employed in praise of their Sublimity, & descriptive of the undescribable Emotions they excite in the Mind of Sensibility.—The terrific Grandeur of the Ocean in a Storm, its glassy surface in a calm, it's Gulls & its Samphire, & the deep fathoms of it's Abysses, it's quick vicissitudes, it's direful Deceptions, it's Mariners tempting it in Sunshine & overwhelmed by the sudden Tempest, All were eagerly & fluently touched;—rather commonplace perhaps—but doing very well from the Lips of a handsome Sir Edward,—and she cd not but think him a Man of Feeling—till he began to stagger her by the number of his Quotations, & the bewilderment of some of his sentences.—"Do you remember, said he, Scott's beautiful Lines on the Sea?—Oh! what a description they convey!—They are never out of my Thoughts when I walk here.—That Man who can read them unmoved must have the nerves of an Assassin!—Heaven defend me from meeting such a Man un-armed."—"What description do you mean?—said Charlotte. I remember none at this moment, of the Sea, in either of Scott's Poems."— "Do not you indeed?—Nor can I exactly recall the beginning at this moment—But—you cannot have forgotten his description of Woman.—

"Oh! Woman in our Hours of Ease—"

Delicious! Delicious!—Had he written nothing more, he wd have been Immortal. And then again, that unequalled, unrivalled address to Parental affection—

"Some feelings are to Mortals given With less of Earth in them than Heaven" &c

But while we are on the subject of Poetry, what think you Miss H. of Burns Lines to his Mary?"—

"Oh! there is Pathos to madden one!—If ever there was a Man who felt, it was Burns.—Montgomery has all the Fire of Poetry, Wordsworth has the true soul of it—Campbell in his pleasures of Hope has touched the extreme of our Sensations—"Like Angel's visits, few & far between." Can you conceive any thing more subduing, more melting, more fraught with the deep Sublime than that Line?—But Burns—I confess my sence of his Pre-eminence Miss H.—If Scott has a fault, it is the want of Passion.—Tender, Elegant, Descriptive—but Tame.—The Man who cannot do justice to the attributes of Woman is my contempt.—Sometimes indeed a flash of feeling seems to irradiate him—as in the Lines, we were speaking of—"Oh! Woman in our hours of Ease"—. But Burns is always on fire.—His Soul was the Altar in which lovely Woman sat enshrined, his Spirit truly breathed the immortal Incence which is her Due.—" "I have read several of Burn's Poems with great delight, said Charlotte as soon as she had time to speak, but I am not poetic enough to separate a Man's Poetry entirely from his Character;—& poor Burns's known Irregularities, greatly interrupt my enjoyment of his Lines.—I have difficulty, in depending on the Truth of his Feelings as a Lover. I have not faith in the sincerity of the affections of a Man of his Description. He felt & he wrote & he forgot." "Oh! no no—exclaimed Sir Edw: in an extasy. He was all ardour & Truth!—His Genius & his Susceptibilities might lead him into some Aberrations—But who is perfect?—It were Hyper-criticism, it were Pseudo-philosophy to expect from the soul of high toned Genius, the grovellings of a common mind.—The Coruscations of Talent, elicited by impassioned feeling in the breast of Man, are perhaps incompatible with some of the prosaic Decencies of Life;—nor can you, loveliest Miss Heywood—(speaking with an air of deep sentiment)—nor can any Woman be a fair Judge of what a Man may be propelled to say, write or do, by the sovereign impulses of illimitable Ardour." This was very fine;—but if Charlotte understood it at all, not very moral—& being moreover by no means pleased with his extraordinary stile of compliment, she gravely answered "I really know nothing of the matter.—This is a charming day. The Wind I fancy must be Southerly." "Happy, happy Wind, to engage Miss Heywood's Thoughts!—" She began to think him downright silly.—His chusing to walk with her, she had learnt to understand. It was done to pique Miss Brereton. She had read it, in an anxious glance or two on his side—* but why he shd talk so much Nonsense, unless he could do no better, was unintelligible.—He seemed very sentimental, very full of some Feelings or other, & very much addicted to all the newest-fashioned hard words—had not a very clear Brain she presumed, & talked a good deal by rote.—The Future might explain him further—but when there was a proposition for going into the Library she felt that she had had quite enough of Sir Edw: for one morng, & very gladly accepted Lady D.'s invitation of remaining on the Terrace with her.—The others all left them, Sir Edw: with looks of very gallant despair in tearing himself away, & they united their agreableness—that is, Lady Denham like a true great Lady, talked & talked only of her own concerns, & Charlotte listened—amused in considering the contrast between her two companions.—Certainly, there was no strain of doubtful Sentiment, nor any phrase of difficult interpretation in Lady D's discourse. Taking hold of Charlotte's arm with the ease of one who felt that any notice from her was an Honour, & communicative, from the influence of the same conscious Importance or a natural love of talking, she immediately said in a tone of great satisfaction—& with a look of arch sagacity—"Miss Esther wants me to invite her & her Brother to spend a week with me at Sanditon House, as I did last Summer—But I shan't.—She has been trying to get round me every way, with her praise of this, & her praise of that; but I saw what she was about.—I saw through it all.—I am not very easily taken-in my Dear." Charlotte cd think of nothing more harmless to be said, than the simple enquiry of—"Sir Edward & Miss Denham?"—"Yes, my Dear. My young Folks, as I call them sometimes, for I take them very much by the hand. I had them with me last Summer about this time, for a week; from Monday to Monday; and very delighted & thankful they were.—For they are very good young People my Dear. I wd not have you think that I only notice them, for poor dear Sir Harry's sake. No, no; they are very deserving themselves, or trust me, they wd not be so much in my Company.—I am not the Woman to help any body blindfold.—I always take care to know what I am about & who I have to deal with, before I stir a finger.—I do not think I was ever over-reached in my Life; & That is a good deal for a Woman to say that has been married twice.—Poor dear Sir Harry (between ourselves) thought at first to have got more.—But (with a bit of a sigh) He is gone, & we must not find fault with the Dead. Nobody could live happier together than us—& he was a very honourable Man, quite the Gentleman of ancient Family.—And when he died, I gave Sir Edwd his Gold Watch.—" She said this with a look at her Companion which implied it's right to produce a great Impression—& seeing no rapturous astonishment in Charlottes countenance, added quickly—"He did not bequeath it to his Nephew, my dear—It was no bequest. It was not in the Will. He only told me, & that but once, that he shd wish his Nephew to have his Watch; but it need not have been binding, if I had not chose it.—" "Very kind indeed! very Handsome!"—said Charlotte, absolutely forced to affect admiration.—* "Yes, my dear—& it is not the only kind thing I have done by him.—I have been a very liberal friend to Sir Edwd. And poor young Man, he needs it bad enough;—For though I am only the Dowager my Dear, & he is the Heir, things do not stand between us in the way they commonly do between those two parties.—Not a shilling do I receive from the Denham Estate. Sir Edw: has no Payments to make me. He don't stand uppermost, beleive me.—It is I that help him." "Indeed!—He is a very fine young Man;—particularly Elegant in his Address."—This was said cheifly for the sake of saying something—but Charlotte directly saw that it was laying her open to suspicion by Lady D's giving a shrewd glance at her & replying—"Yes, yes, he is very well to look at—& it is to be hoped some Lady of large fortune will think so—for Sir Edwd must marry for Money.—He & I often talk that matter over.—A handsome young fellow like him, will go smirking & smiling about & paying girls compliments, but he knows he must marry for Money.—And Sir Edw: is a very steady young Man in the main, & has got very good notions." "Sir Edw: Denham, said Charlotte, with such personal Advantages may be almost sure of getting a Woman of fortune, if he chuses it."—This glorious sentiment seemed quite to remove suspicion. "Aye my Dear—That's very sensibly said cried Lady D—And if we cd but get a young Heiress to S! But Heiresses are monstrous scarce! I do not think we have had an Heiress here, or even a Co—since Sanditon has been a public place. Families come after Families, but as far as I can learn, it is not one in an hundred of them that have any real Property, Landed or Funded.—An Income perhaps, but no Property. Clergymen may be, or Lawyers from Town, or Half pay officers, or Widows with only a Jointure. And what good can such people do anybody?—except just as they take our empty Houses—and (between ourselves) I think they are great fools for not staying at home. Now, if we could get a young Heiress to be sent here for her health—(and if she was ordered to drink asses milk I could supply her)—and as soon as she got well, have her fall in love with Sir Edward!"—"That would be very fortunate indeed." "And Miss Esther must marry somebody of fortune too—She must get a rich Husband. Ah! young Ladies that have no Money are very much to be pitied!—But—after a short pause—if Miss Esther thinks to talk me into inviting them to come & stay at Sanditon House, she will find herself mistaken.—Matters are altered with me since last Summer you know—.I have Miss Clara with me now, which makes a great difference." She spoke this so seriously that Charlotte instantly saw in it the evidence of real penetration & prepared for some fuller remarks—but it was followed only by—"I have no fancy for having my House as full as an Hotel. I should not chuse to have my 2 Housemaids Time taken up all the morng, in dusting out Bed rooms.—They have Miss Clara's room to put to rights as well as my own every day.—If they had hard Places, they would want Higher Wages.—" For objections of this Nature, Charlotte was not prepared, & she found it so impossible even to affect simpathy, that she cd say nothing.—Lady D. soon added, with great glee—"And besides all this my Dear, am I to be filling my House to the prejudice of Sanditon?—If People want to be by the Sea, why dont they take Lodgings?—Here are a great many empty Houses—3 on this very Terrace; no fewer than three Lodging Papers staring me in the face at this very moment, Numbers 3, 4 & 8. 8, the Corner House may be too large for them, but either of the two others are nice little snug Houses, very fit for a young Gentleman & his sister—And so, my dear, the next time Miss Esther begins talking about the Dampness of Denham Park, & the Good Bathing always does her, I shall advise them to come & take one of these Lodgings for a fortnight.—Don't you think that will be very fair?—Charity begins at home you know."—* Charlotte's feelings were divided between amusement & indignation—but indignation had the larger & the increasing share.—She kept her Countenance & she kept a civil Silence. She could not carry her forbearance farther; but without attempting to listen longer, & only conscious that Lady D. was still talking on in the same way, allowed her Thoughts to form themselves into such a Meditation as this.—"She is thoroughly mean. I had not expected any thing so bad.—Mr. P. spoke too mildly of her.—His Judgement is evidently not to be trusted.—His own Goodnature misleads him. He is too kind hearted to see clearly.—I must judge for myself.—And their very connection prejudices him.—He has persuaded her to engage in the same Speculation—& because their object in that Line is the same, he fancies she feels like him in others.—But she is very, very mean.—I can see no Good in her.—Poor Miss Brereton!—And she makes every body mean about her.—This poor Sir Edward & his Sister,—how far Nature meant them to be respectable I cannot tell,—but they are obliged to be Mean in their Servility to her.—And I am Mean too, in giving her my attention, with the appearance of coinciding with her.—Thus it is, when Rich People are Sordid."—