Thursday, March 31, 2011

3/31 - Confessions of a Drama Queen

Well, as is probably known by now (people doubtless saw the Submariner's thread earlier), Dan Savage Himself has called me a Drama Queen. Such an accomplishment will be difficult to match, let alone top. Or should I say bottom? I have decided that this page has eaten my post once too often. Accordingly, I shall shorten my comments and concentrate on one letter only each week, giving it as full a treatment as I feel inspired to do. The alternative would be breaking each letter into a separate post, which seems as if it would be too much clutter. The debate over whether to raise two nephews or not from Monday was highly reminiscent of the opening chapter of Mansfield Park. Miss Maria Ward of Huntingdon had had the great good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, despite her fortune of only seven thousand pounds being at least three thousand short of any equitable claim to a baronet. Miss Ward, the eldest of the three sisters, was able to make quite a fair match with the Reverend Mr Norris, a friend to Sir Thomas and the possessor of the Mansfield living, so that the Norrises began their career of conjugal felicity with very little less than a thousand a year. Miss Frances, however, managed, by marrying a lieutenant of marines without fortune or education, to disoblige her family. Afterwards, some sharp words of Mrs Norris' resulted in the new Mrs Price sending her sister a letter written in heat and haste, including such frank opinions as Mrs Norris could not possibly keep to herself, that an absolute estrangement occurred until Mrs Price, faced with her ninth lying-in, such a superfluity of children and such a want of almost everything else, could not afford to continue the sacrifice of any connexion (Austenian spelling, but I think it chic) that might be of advantage to her. She wrote humbly, wondering if Sir Thomas could possibly assist her oldest boy William to get out into the world. "The letter was not unproductive. It re-established peace and kindness. Sir Thomas sent friendly advice and professions, Lady Bertram dispatched money and baby-linen, and Mrs Norris wrote the letters." But within a year, Mrs Norris, who could not get poor sister Price out of her head, conceived a scheme for Mansfield Park (and Parsonage, as Mrs Norris presents it, although she manages, to everyone's satisfaction, to get out of ever having Fanny to live with her) to take in and raise Mrs Price's oldest daughter in order to relieve that prolific mother of the burden of one entire child of her brood. Lady Bertram agrees at once. Sir Thomas dithers over such concerns as being prepared to offer his niece, if necessary, the provision of a gentlewoman, whether their cousin will be a bad influence on his own, older, two daughters, and how the cousin is to be treated, given that she is not a Miss Bertram. His last concern is of worry over his two sons, fearing the possibility of cousins in love. But Mrs Norris is quite prepared for this. She points out that, if Fanny were a pretty girl and not met by Tom or Edmund until she were fifteen or sixteen, her having been raised in poverty and isolation would be enough to make either of the boys fall in love with her, but, raised together, let her have the beauty of an angel, yet she would never be more to either than a sister. Some quick thoughts on the non-highlighted letters: L2: What a piece of work. This letter reminds me of Hyacinth and Richard Bucket test-driving a Rolls Royce. When the manager prepared to accompany them is called back in to the telephone and never reappears, Hyacinth bullies Richard into driving to a hotel where Delia Wheelwright (or some other of Hyacinth's various nemeses who either won First Prize at Flower Arranging or went to one of her Candlelight Suppers and said that Kiwi fruit were lower-middle-class) occasionally goes for coffee, where she happily pretends it's their Rolls for a while. Sadly for Hyacinth, her nemesis arrives just in time to see the police arresting Richard and Hyacinth for theft. May LW2 experience something similar. L3: Now here, while I am perfectly fine with LW3 not attending the rather ghastly-sounding event, I am not prepared to let her entirely off the hook. While it is all well and good to donate what she can afford, I should think that a good friend and such a death would merit at least one symbolic gesture that is at least a little beyond what LW3 can afford. As I do not know her budget, I shall not comment on how extravagant the given sum of $250 might be. But it seems to be not outrageous, particularly compared to some of the wedding-related expenses mentioned by various recent LWs. LW3 would likely have the moral high ground if she were to donate $250 to the cause and not attend the event. I could reminisce about Chapter 10 of Pride and Prejudice, in which Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet disagree about the influence of friendship. Darcy declares that, if Bingley were prepared to leave the country and go to London and a friend said he ought to wait a week, Bingley would probably not go, and at another word might stay a month. Elizabeth considers it a great compliment to Mr Bingley. L4: Now, who, dear Prudecutor, is Erica? There is no way LW4 is going to drop Poor Cynthia (can't people just hear her calling her that, just as Mr Woodhouse refers to Poor Isabella and Poor Miss Taylor in Emma? A friend towards whom one can always feel superiour? Cynthia is much more likely to realize this and make a pre-emptive break. I disagree with the Prudecutor that Cynthia is necessarily headed for much medical misery. Cynthia reminds me of Christine Redfern in Evil Under the Sun. We get a very good look at the Poor Little Wife for who Everybody Feels Sorry while her husband carries on under everybody's nose with a Man Eating Tigress. Now if this were really the plot of a book, LW4 being on the scene would have been arranged by Cynthia and Derek, but I suppose we must acquit the couple of murderous intent. Now for L1. First off, I really wonder what on earth made the Prudecutor go so far off the deep end. Yet of everything she wrote, perhaps the most interesting is that she insists of particularizing the U.S. military. Do we really have a Prudecutor who is an advocate of U.S. exceptionalism? While the role of the military varies from country to country, it is necessary for each, and at least possible for the position to be filled honourably, even in countries of which the Prudecutor disapproves. One might also wonder about what life is like in those countries where criticism of the military is as unheard as one infers would suit the Prudecutor's taste. Why the Prudecutor should suddenly start sounding like a talk radio host and what her motivation might be others are in a better position than I to reveal. There are, one assumes, some among LW1's commenters who might reasonably fit the Pruidecutor's bill, but simply giving voice to a repellent opinion does not mean that the opiner is necessarily as full of herself as the Prudecutor and equally convinced that she is the soul of enlightenment. I shall somewhat mirror the Prudecutor here and say that I should like to think that the number of genuine jerks who do consider themselves to be the soul of enlightenment as they cast slurs far and wide might be proportional to the number of bad apples the Prudecutor claims to exist in the military, and that they all receive a similar comeuppance, although I am prepared to concede that the number of both is rather larger and the administration of justice less sure and swift. I refuse to engage with ugly comments about the cosseted and the smug of any colour state, but it seems appropriate here to thank the Submariner for his comments on this letter, which naturally carry far more force than mine ever could. It might help LW1 in dealing with individual encounters with particular evil-sayers if she could sort out with which sort of evil-speaker she is dealing. I suppose we can rule out Republican plants in her case. There are those who match the Prudecutor's portrait of the whole set and are complete and utter jerks. I shall include with them those who aren't quite such complete jerks by nature, but who sincerely believe what they spout, no doubt as fueled by some source that acts as an opposing counterpart to Fox News. Then there are one-uppers, who don't necessarily believe most of what they say or even ever examine the full implications of their words, but who just take a starting point, pick up bits and pieces, and add on from there, often to establish some sort of cred or other. And then there are those with a genuine grievance against the military. There is actually perhaps a decent riposte to Type 1B (I don't know that much of anything will work with Type 1A). LW1 might point out that this is the sort of military that various powerful people and bodies were trying to create in years of the not-too-distant past, when various changes were made in such matters as accepting applicants with various felony convictions. But there is hope! Suppose there were to be some significant change in military policy on the horizon in the near future, one that would make a considerable contribution for good to the military while reflecting positive societal trends... wouldn't that sort of thing just improve the military a thousandfold from the inside? Now, if only I could think of such an impending change... perhaps the Submariner can supply one? Similarly, what might give Type 3 a reasonable grudge? Now, this is entirely hypothetical, but suppose that hundreds and thousands of competent servicemen have been dismissed from their military positions for some ridiculous reason that has nothing to do with their ability to fill the position and whose dismissals have carried considerable cost, especially when many of those convinced have proven to be not convicted felons but among the best and the brightest. Such a person, or, say, the sister of such a person, might reasonably get a bit overheated, which might lead to its being the better part of valour to agree to disagree and not broach the subject. Now Type 2 may be the most interesting. Type 2 people are, in this case, basically liberal people who don't particularly have strong opinions or really believe much but just sort of chase in a vague direction and spout opinions which they think will increase their liberal cred. It's a sort of parallel to the behaviour exhibited by Guthrie Featherstone after Pinhead Morgan's conviction was overturned and Guthrie was savaged by the Court of Appeal. Leaving the Sheridan Club, he promptly bumped into his old clark, Henry, from #3 Equity Court, accompanied by the Bexley Heath Thespians, up to London to see Diana Rigg performing the role of Hedda Gabler. Among the BHT was Henry's comely new typist, Dot Clapton, who invited the judge to accompany the group to Bloke's for a bit of a bop. There Guthrie shuffled about vaguely attempting to keep time as he poured out his misery to Dot (only calling her Debby instead of Dottie), and the next day sent her roses at Chambers, where Claude Erskine-Brown observed the card reading, "From a judicial admirer - thanks for the bop." An innocent enough encounter, surely? But then Guthrie went to the Sheridan Club for lunch, where he ran into new member Claude Erskine-Brown, who was celebrating by treating Rumpole to a meal. Consoled by Claude about the Morgan case, Guthrie raised his spirits by recounting his intrigue of the evening previous. What cared he for the Court of Appeal when he had taken out a young lady for a bit of a bop at the discotheque? And he could just happen to inform Claude and Rumpole that many young ladies, indeed, girls, preferred an older man for a partner in every sense of the word. Indeed, he had struck lucky with his partner in every possible way. Now such a piece of exaggeration is common enough, and it all might have ended there. Alas, there was an eavesdropper in the vicinity. After Guthrie left to join his luncheon companions, Toby Fotheringhay made it clear to Rumpole and Claude that he'd overheard. And Toby, of course, proved to be a member of She Who Must Be Obeyed's bridge club. And of course he just happened to partner Hilda in a rubber, during which he was able to regale her with cheerful gossip about some judge at the Sheridan who'd been busy indulging in hanky-panky, at last recalling that the judge was named Feather-something. And of course Hilda told Guthrie's wife Marigold, who shut Guthrie out of the marital bedroom for quite some time. I rather imagine that the view of military personnel held by many people of a liberal persuasion is that they are in the main similar to Dick Musgrove in Persuasion, who was sent to sea because he was stupid and unmanageable on shore. LW1 might be able to steer such people into the more benign water of Anne Elliot's sincere regard for the navy in particular. Her admiration does not, as might be suspected of the Miss Musgroves, begin and end with Captain Wentworth. So I conclude with the recommendation that everybody read Persuasion, which would, no doubt, make the world a considerably better place. Moral: "...he had been very little cared for at any time by his family, though quite as much as he deserved; seldom heard of, and scarcely at all regretted, when the intelligence of his death abroad had worked its way to Uppercross two years before."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

3/17 - The Answer is Bridge

As the problems are all so easy this week, the answers shall be very short and sweet, with no morals required.

L1: I hate to break it to you, Sunshine, but Economics hardly counts as being in the top drawer of Intellectual Pursuits. Can you recite whole pages from the Oxford Book of English Verse by memory? Can you whip off without notice a 1,000-word essay on which if either of the Knightley brothers was secretly in love with Jane Fairfax in an hour and a half? Can you at least recognize Muriel Spark and Iris Murdoch from their photographs?

All right, now that we have established you are not really an intellectual, it is time to decide what to do about your marriage. Now it might be enough to refer you to Mr Bennet (if you were a real intellectual, I could take it as a given that you would instantly pick up a reference to Pride and Prejudice), although he was much more of a genuine intellectual, and indeed was possessed of powers Mr Darcy himself need not have scorned. Having that incalculable male preference for youth and beauty in the person of a female partner, and being led into the assumption of good humour which youth and beauty generally give, Mr Bennet chose one of the worst life partners on the face of the planet. However, Mr Bennet showed himself to be quite the philosopher. When his wife failed to provide him with a male heir, a comfortable home or agreeable companionship, he was able to make the best of his situation and settle for being indebted to her on those occasions when her ignorance or folly contribted to his amusement. Perhpas this is not the usual sort of happiness which a man would wish to derive from his wife, but the true philosopher derives benefit from what is on offer. Interested parties might care to read the opening paragraph of Chapter 42.

I am a little surprised that so many people seem to think that W1 deserves better than LW1. Yes, he is certainly a pill of the first water. But she did, if his evidence can be trusted that far, seek him out, and may well have lured him into marriage. I am developing a little idea that they met in Las Vegas. If she had on offer youth, beauty, and the appearance of good humour which youth and beauty generally provide, then one might allow that very likely he had on offer wealth, respect, and the appearance of bonhomie which wealth and respect generally provide. They sound at least potentially quite well matched to me.

Now, I am as great a fan of divorce as anyone, but, as divorce has been advised by the Prudecution, I must of necessity counsel against it. And happily there is an easy solution at hand. LW1, teach your wife to play bridge. It will give the two of you an interest in common. Many non-intellectual women make quite reasonable bridge players - for example, Mona Symmington in The Moving Finger. And then you can take her to a Bridge Club and play against other married couples, most of whom will be all your age and older. With her presumed people skills (of the sort that got you to marry her), the two of you might be a formidable pair, as she may well be able to tell, when faced with a two-way finesse, which opponent to play for the queen of diamonds. And it should be easy to do well against other married (opposite-sex) couples. Your wife can flirt with the husbands, which will often fluster them and irritate their wives while they make mistake after mistake and the two of you pick up top board after top board. A successful partnership will give you two something over which to bond at long last, and the Prudecutor will be snarling in the cold over your not divorcing. Win-win-win.

L2: Now, I am all in favour of tutors in general. Indeed, I'd go so far as to advise home schooling entirely if the education were provided by a properly credentialed tutor rather than by, as seems to be the case ninety-five times out of an hundred, a parent, primarily a mother. Merging educational and parental authority is far too streamlined, and deprives children of a golden opportunity, so well set out in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, to recognize that adults could differ and were not automatically all bound together by grown-up authority (as Miss Brodie's girls realize when she points out to them with some scorn and derision a portrait pinned to the wall of Miss Mackay's much-admired Stanley Baldwin with the motto Safety First).

If it makes you feel any better, LW2, your work is competing against that of all the parents of your charges' contemporaries and not against that of their contemporaries themselves. Your employers have simply figured out the best way to game the system. It works for them better to pay you to come up with superiour Science Projects and Trigonometric Soloutions than to try to do that themselves, that's all. And it's not as if modern ingenuity and technology haven't already allowed the Trumps of the future to figure out how to cheat on tests as much as they like. And in the end they have to do it because enough other people do so that everybody has to go along just to keep position.

However, LW2, you can imrpove everybody's lot by teaching your charges how to play bridge. If they are half so bright as you say, they will take to it at once. It will improve their math skills by about fourfold, and it will provide you with a powerful incentive. They will soon be able to breeze through their own homework in record time in order to be able to spend the rest of the evening playing bridge, and eventually they will be right up there among that small handful of students who won't have to cheat, at least in math and science.

There may be those who doubt the efficacy of bridge to such a purpose. I venture to point out for the benefit of skeptics the relative lack of success of computers at mastering bridge. We have seen Deep Blue outcrunch and unnerve Garry Kasparov, and of course recently there has been the example of Watson and its triumphs at Jeopardy. But the best of the bridge computer programs (Jack, a Dutch program, which has won something like four or five of the last five or six Computer World Championships) is still a long way from being able to defeat humans.

L3: Now here the Prudecution is being wildly inconsistent. Given her Upstairs, Downstairs attitude about the clerical staff of a law firm being expected to check coats at a party for clients and be thankful they are given the opportunity, it is quite shocking here that, when the relative of one's boss comes in and demands that employees provide and deliver meals to someone during a period immediately after surgery, the Prudecution does not expect everyone immediately to attempt to discover the soon-to-be-surgered-woman's favourite receipts.

Buit as always there is a practical answer to LW3's difficulty. Become your boss' favourite bridge partner. This is an excellent hedge against a wide variety of cutbacks and layoffs and requests for shared suffering. To be entirely honest, most jobs can probably be performed with reasonable proficiency by a vast quantity of the population, assuming that they don't require large quantities of technical knowledge or particular skill. Most employees are interchangeable at least to some extent, and it should remain a hirer's market for a considerable period of time to come. But a good bridge partner is priceless.

L4: I have no patience with LW4. It would have served LW4 right if everyone else in the entire party had partaken of the tainted strawberries and been taken severely ill, and LW4 been accused of poisoning them all deliberately. But the answer, as is the case pretty consistently this week, is bridge. Or, at least, it would have been bridge had it been applied in time. Had the poor old woman in question been a bridge player, her Alzheimer's would have taken a good deal longer to get hold of her in the first place, and it would not have consumed quite so much of her reason once it had. Sadly bridge cannot be guaranteed as complete prevention, but it's better than most.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

3/10 - The Blog Ate My Post AGAIN

Here I am ill again, so that it took me about seven hours to complete my post, and once again it has vanished. I am beyond furious.

This week I was visiting Dame Muriel Spark's Loitering With Intent. For those unfamiliar with the work, it concerns a young woman living in London in 1950. As she finishes her first novel, Warrender Chase, she becomes secretary to an odd Autobiographical Association and struggles for the souls of its members with Sir Quentin Oliver, her employer.

L1: I compared the situation to the autobiogrpahies being produced by the mostly illiterate members of the Association, which Fleur recognizes almost at once as impossible. What possible situation can be true for LW1, given all the time involved since the actions that affected the lives of F1, M1, OW1 and HS1 and brough HS1 into being perhaps can't even be recounted with accuracy by any of the parties involved, and depends on who is in charge of the Association. In the end, I didn't really care what LW1 did.

L2: This letter reminded me of the cocktail party thrown by the impoverished Lady Bernice "Bucks" Gilbert. Fleur is surprised to be so pressed to attend; then, when she arrives, she finds she is expected to work. Luckily, she meets an old friend Wally and they start dating pretty much then and there, irritating Bucks very much by not doing much work during the party despite the insistence on what Sir Quentin would want. I was much taken aback by the Upstairs, Downstairs tone of the Prudecutor. I advised LW2 to watch Gosford Park and Downten Abbey and various similar works, with or without Maggie Smith in the cast, and then to go with whatever mood emerged.

L3: B3 reminded me of the autobiographers, ruining their life stories to try to strain them into prettiness and consistency. Was sorry LW3 ruined a perfectly good case against B3 by trying to argue the merits instead of simply claiming the behaviour was bizarre. Reminded her that B3 is showing her true face now, regardless of how sweet she may have seemed pre-engagement.

L4: Compared LW4 to the hapless Beryl, Mrs Timms, ever doomed in her attempt to attract her employer, Sir Quentin, and unable to see why. Could not bring myself to advise a nine-year-old on how to advance her love life.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

3/3 and a Special Guest Appearance

It appears that nobody concerned with the Monday questions thought to take up one aspect of the Arranged Marriage. It appears to have been made four years ago. This might put the LW on somewhat less secure footing. Given the general lack of decision displayed in her character, it does not seem implausible that she might have at the very least appeared to acquiesce in the arrangement at the time it was devised. Perhaps her college education was riding on it, whether stated or unstated, and she didn't want to mention an inconvenient fact in her question for one reason or another. But there were, at the time, a number of possible positive outcomes. She might have fallen in love with her parents' choice at first sight. Or he might have refused to marry her and spared her the agony. But it appears that everything has turned out for the worst. He's nice but not her idea of The One, and he appears to love her. If she really wants to give herself her best chance to look for an in, discussing his feelings with him might give her some sort of start. As for the concept, either one has the right sort of mind to be able to be up to it or not. Although it seems she has not, there is also the chance that it could be the lesser or least evil of her choices.

Moving on, it appears that the Prudecutor may have been making an attempt to gain my approval, or the improvement in her writing, while not sufficient to the purpose but still an advance, could be a complete coincidence. But it does tie in neatly with the appearance of today's special guest:

L1: Upon my honour, I don't entirely understand how I came to be here or why. I know Miss Woodhouse - I beg her pardon, I ought to remember to call her Mrs Knightley by now, not but that I didn't at one time wonder... Mrs Cole once whispered something to me, but even at the time, I distinctly remember, because it was the week my mother began wearing her new petticoat, and I remember telling Mrs Cole that no, Mr Elton was a very worthy young, but - oh, dear, I do let my tongue run away with me from time to time. I am a talker, you know, rather a talker, but I have been told by Mr Knightley that it was actually a recommendation for this undertaking, and of course Mr Knightley must know best. He has always been such a kind and attentive neighbour, Mr Knightley, especially when Jane stayed in Highbury before her marriage - my niece, Jane Fairfax - oh, I beg her pardon, Mrs Churchill, I should say, and now gone off to live in Yorkshire, where I am told the weather is not the most... but I was speaking of Mr Knightley, and the way he used to send us all his apples from Donwell Abbey, and how cross his excellent man William Larkin was with him. But now, where was I?

Oh, now it appears that I am supposed to consider a number of questions and consider the merits of what they were told by a particular advisor. Now it is most difficult to be an advisor, as I well recall from when the Westons gave their delightful ball at the Crown Inn, and sent for Jane and myself on purpose to tell them and Miss Woodhouse as she was then whether their plans for what to do about the draughty passage to the supper-room at the Crown would be generally pleasing. But I am rather pleased with myself for how I managed on that occasion, as I did not mention the draughty passage to Mr Woodhouse, not even once. Had he known, he might have insisted on Miss Woodhouse not attending the ball, which would have been dreadful, even if in the end the ball was opened by dear Mrs Elton and Mr Weston. But, oh dear, where was I?

Oh, yes, the letters. Mr Knightley did tell me all about these letters. The first letter makes me very sad. The poor dear, LW1 was all alone when her grandfather died, unable to go and be with her family and with her gentleman friend out of town. Of ocurse, I have never had a gentleman friend, but I have lost my father, as well as wondered from time to time whatever I should do if I were to lose my dear mother, and every year or so when Mother has a cold I sometimes wonder, alhough thankfully Jane has told me that there will always be a home for me in Yorkshire, even if the weather is not always the most congenial... but Mr Knightley has told me I must stick to the point, and I really shall try.

Poor LW1 must have been truly distraught to have misconducted herself with her former gentleman friend. Now, of course, I have never done anything of the sort myself in the entire course of my life, although, naturally, one hears of these things... Mrs Cole once whispered to me... but I never really thought that Miss... oh! dear me, I almost said something I ought not to have said. It is so easy, isn't it, for a thing to slip out when one is unaware? So I imagine in that respect that I know some of what LW1 must have felt when her grandfather died. And I certainly know what it is like to mislay something that one was given by one's mother. Not, of course, that I ever had a pair of diamond earrings, although my mother did once for Christmas give me the most charming bonnet, the most delightful bonnet I ever saw, save, of course, for what Miss Woodhouse - oh, I beg her pardon, Mrs Knightley, was able to afford, and then of course Mrs Elton has always been so very kind as to let me know that she has always had the most excellent understanding of fashion. But, where was I?

Yes, the diamond earrings. The former gentleman friend has found them, and offered to return them. I cannot say anything about his demand for a favour in return, upon my honour! But they have not been returned. I suspect that LW1 might find they are delivered to her when she least expects it, much in the way all of Highbury waited month after month for a view of Mr Frank Churchill, who was always expected on a visit to his father and stepmother but he never came, and then one day, suddenly, there he was with only the least bit of notice in the world!

Mr Knightley has been considering the situation of this LW, and he is of the opinion that he wants to know more about the grandfather's death before he makes a final pronouncement. I believe he thinks that, if LW1 had expected her grandfather to die at about that time, she might have had more foresight. I don't like to judge the poor dear, who might not have realized how hard she would have been hit by such a distressing event, especially if it were entirely unexpected, but then, Mr Knightley thinks that all the people who have been making comments supporting her have been very near giving her a permanent pass for poor behaviour, and, if they do that, how can the poor dear ever be in a relationship of any sort unless it is with someone who wants to be caregiver? But I'm sure everyone else is far more clever than I, and so I should not hold up my judgment against anyone's.

Now I'm told at this point there is supposed to be a moral to the story, and the one that comes to mind is that people who live in stone houses shouldn't drop their spectacles. That is certainly true enough. My poor mother once dropped her spectacles, and could hardly see a thing before they were repaired, even though her eyesight is remarkably good for her age.

L2: Now this LW is someone much more within my own poor realm of comprehension. Not that I have ever been a mother, of course - oh, dear me! I should have had to have misconducted myself in the same way that LW1 did, and that would have been dreadful! But Mrs Goddard once whispered to me that Mrs Cole told her that she once heard Miss Woodhouse say that, as an aunt, I was as fond as any mother could be; wasn't that a lovely thing for dear Miss Woodhouse to say about me? But dear Jane was always so clever and accomplished, far more than her dear friend Miss Campbell - you know, Mrs Dixon now, whose husband sent my mother the most lovely new shawl on the occasion of their marriage, even though Colonel Campbell was not sure that they made absolutely the best choice, but Mother wears it every evening in the late autumn and winter, and it is a delightfully warm shawl; since she has had it, she has hardly had a cold at all. Indeed, Mr Frank Churchill once remarked that must be rather hard on poor Mr Perry if we all remain in such excellent health, but I believe he said that at Hartfield, and Mr Woodhouse was quick to correct him that Mr Perry is always most attentive when any of us is ill, and always so easy in his terms that, if I did not absolutely make him charge me what he would charge Mr Knightley, he would quite impoverish dear Mrs Perry and all their children. But, where was I?

Oh, yeas, dear Jane and how clever she always was. It definitely seemed Providential when it appeared that she would have to be a governess, and I certainly could never understand a word of Italian or German or all those other languages she spoke, except maybe for a little French. But LW2's boy may go on to have quite a career in some field where the utmost will be required of his intellect, and I am sure, in that case, she will be glad for him to be as clever as possible. Jane was particularly good at making her dresses, and I was convinced that, when she made herself a dress for the Weston's ball at the Crown Inn, even a London dressmaker could not have done so well, and, except for Mrs Elton, who told me that her gown was the absolute last word in what was being worn in Bristol and Bath that season, although even then, I never told her, but I rather liked Jane's dress better, and Mrs Perry once whispered to me... but where was I?

Oh, yes, irritating clever young people. I am afraid I am all too often a trial myself to those with whom I am in company. Miss Woodhouse - I apologize, Mrs Knightley, I mean, but she was still Miss Woodhouse at the time - Miss Woodhouse, I well recall, seemed quite exasperated with me on the occasion of the excursion to Box Hill, when we went there and there was some woman in an Irish car party who bore the most astonishing resemblaqnce to Mrs Elton... but then Mr Churchill told us we were supposed to tell Miss Woodhouse something very clever, or two things only moderately clever, or three things very dull indeed. Now I am sure that I always say three dull things as soon as ever I open my mouth, but then Miss Woodhouse told me there was a difficulty, as I should be limited as to number, only three at once. I did feel rather like LW2 at the time, and resolved to hold my tongue better in future, but Mrs Knightley has always been such a dear friend, always so kind to myself and Mother, and as LW2 does not indicate that her son has ever said anything of the sort to her, I am sure that, as many clever people appear to do, he is quite fond of her for her own qualities without requiring that she be a genius. Why, Mrs Martin once whispered to me - you know, Miss Smith, she was, such a pretty girl, and Mrs Knightley was so fond of her - but where was I?

Oh, yes, saying the Wrong Thing, which reminds me that I was quite to blame when dear Miss Taylor became Mrs Weston. I ought to have realized that Mr Woodhouse never approved of wedding-cake in his life, it being the sort of food that he always thought nobody's stomach could bear, although I had two slices of it and was not in the least indisposed - actually two, it was so delicious that it made me quite greedy! But I foolishly mentioned in Mr Woodhouse's hearing how kind it was of Mr and Mrs Weston to give a piece of the cake to each of the Perry children, with Mr Perry's full approval, but Mr Woodhouse seemed to become quite ill. Mrs Weston told me that Mr Woodhouse had just been saying that Mr Perry thought wedding-cake unlikely to agree with most constitutions unless taken of in moderation, and I do remember that Mr Woodhouse was constantly worried about the wedding-cake until the last crumb of it had been ate up.

Oh, is it time for the moral now? Well, since we are talking about clever young people, a stitch in nine saves time. That reminds me of the petticoat dear Jane embroidered for Mother for Christmas, and I never thought she would have it finished for the day, but she did it quite beautifully.

L3: Now, Mr Knightley seems rather cross with the original advisor to LW3. It appears that she believes that all married couples are entitled to a wedding-trip. It's all very nice for most of them, and Mr Knightley himself took Mrs Knightley to the seaside, once his brother, Mr John Knightley, was able to bring his family down from London to Hartfield to prevent Mr Woodhouse from having to be quite on his own for the duration. But entitlement is a dangerous thing, Mr Knightley was saying only the other day, and if we have that sort of entitlement, where will it end? Why, Mrs Elton, who always swears she is the least ostentatious soul on the face of the planet, is quite convinced that, if given free reign to believe in some sense of entitlement, young brides will make the most outlandish demands upon their poor pappas and mammas and everyone in the least bit concerned with their wedding-parties! But, where was I?

Oh, yes, wedding-trips. So they wish to go to the Continent, do they, but are loath to leave his little girl in inadequate care, or, at least, he is loath to do so. Now I fear that here in Highbury we have little knowledge of divorce. Even Mrs Elton, who claims to have cut the acquaintance of several divorced people in bristol and Bath, always maintains that, however much dear Mr Elton might annoy her, she would never resort to such an extremity. But it must be very hard upon the poor little girl, as I am sure it was on Frank Churchill, who was but a little boy when his mamma died, and Mr Weston not remarrying until his son was well into his twenties! If it had not been for the Churchills taking in their nephew, I don't know how they all would have got on. But, where was I?

Oh, yes, stepmothers. Now, Mrs Weston has been an excellent example of a devoted stepmother, and LW3 would do well to take her as a sort of pattern. And the Westons, of course, had no wedding-trip. Married couples can do very well without one, and Miss Weston is really quite everything that any fond parent could desire. Mrs Goddard once whispered to me that her sister in London, who knows the John Knightleys, thinks that there might be a scheme in motion to make a match between one of the John Knightley's children and Miss Weston, when they are all old enough, of course, to think of marrying, for one must think of so many things, mustn't one? My own modest observation here is that LW3 does not seem to have the best understanding of her fiance's attitude towards his daughter and his parenting duties. Surely, and Mr Knightley will doubtless support me here, it is necessary to discuss all the living arrangements most thoroughly before one has the wedding, is it not? Whether the little girl goes with her father and stepmother on the wedding-trip is of much less importance than what will come afterwards. Why, imagine what might have happened had Mr Knightley not planned everything in great detail about going to live at Hartfield and leaving Donwell - it would never have done to have not discussed the matter thoroughly in all its aspects.

I suppose the moral is, spoil the rod and spare the child, for I never could bear to think of poor little children being punished with a rod, and thankfully Mrs Goddard quite agrees with me. If LW3 wants someone used to dealing with little girls, perhaps she should spend a week visiting Mrs Goddard's school.

L4: Now, I am not sure I entirely comprehend the point of this letter. Of course, as I have said, I am a talker, rather a talker, and yet I am quite sure I don't understand why it would be more efficient for me to sit at home than to do what I do. Mr Knightley has explained it all to me, but I don't really have the headpiece to understand it all. All I know is, I go and call on Mrs Cole, and then I go and call on Mrs Perry, and then I go and call on Mrs Goddard at the school, and on Mrs Stokes at the Crown, and then to the Vicarage to call on Mrs Elton, and if the weather is fine I go to Randalls and call on Mrs Weston, and dear Mr Woodhouse often sends the carriage so that Mother and I might visit him at Hartfield of an evening - he is so fond of his rubber of whist, and Mother has whispered to me that it is highly beneficial to our income. But, where was I?

Of course, calling. I make my little round of calls, and by the time I reach home I've heard all the news in the village, and one or two little things besides, such as why Mrs Perry is not a great favourite with Mr woodhouse, but oh! I nearly said something I ought to keep to myself again, oh, dear!

Perhaps it would be a good time for me to conclude with the moral that a pound lost is many pennies spent, as apparently is the case for people who go in for all the new-fangled machinery Mr Knightley told me about, but of course I cannot get my head around it, and so advise LW4 just to go and visit all her friends, and that should make for a most happy day for her, shouldn't it?