Thursday, June 16, 2011
Evelina, Volume 2, Letters 7-22 (38-53)
Reverend Villars reluctantly agrees to let Evelina stay with Madame Duval and the Branghtons in London for a month rather than let her allow her to return to France with the estranged grandmother. Evelina meets the Branghton’s boarder, Mr. Macartney, a poor Scottish poet. Later, Evelina comes across Mr. Macartney attempting, what she believes to be, suicide and she stops him. When Mr. Macartney recovers he is touched by Evelina’s kindness and is forever indebted to her.
While at Vauxhall with the Branghton brood and her new unwanted suitor, Mr. Smith, Evelina and the Miss Branghtons separate from the group. They are accosted by a group of brutes who manhandle Evelina. She is then saved by none other than Sir Clement. The persistent lover then manages to scheme his way into sharing a coach with Evelina so he can find out where she is staying.
The name of the game this week is “trashy” because that is all I can think of whenever the Branghtons are in the picture. They are so socially unaware of what is acceptable. If I were to travel back in time, I know I would make a few social faux-pas due to the contemporary rules of etiquette but the Branghtons crass-ness transcends time to the point where I am aghast. When the awful Madame Duval told them her sad tale of the Captain’s haywire prank the Branghtons all laugh at her! I think we all know what they really think of their French relative now.
Evelina’s letter from June 10 (XXII) is packed with all sort of juice. It begins with an invitation from Mr. Smith to the Hampstead assembly which Evelina must decline as it would not be proper for her to attend unchaperoned (plus, ew!). Mr Smith has let on that he is more refined than the trashy Branghtons but hillbillies tend to habitate with other hillbillies, and Smith reveals himself as just as unrefined as them by not understanding the impropriety in inviting Evelina.
Evelina is unfortunate enough to have two negative pleasure garden experiences. These London gardens aren’t very pleasurable for her (ba-dum dish)! In the first, she is mistaken for an actress, aka prostitute, by some ruffians, and once again has no choice but to be saved by Sir Clement. The free license these men take with Evelina was pretty eye-opening to how women, particularly those alone were treated by men. At Marylebone it is those “actresses” whom Evelina was previously mistaken for who now save Evelina from men with ill-intentions (no wonder women didn’t go anywhere by themselves). It seems like this occasion was the one time Sir Clement didn’t happen to be around; but I did just die for Evelina when Lord Orville appeared. The poor thing. I am sure she wants him back in her life just as much as I, but not like this, no not at all. However, the fact that he checked in on her the day after their reunion had my hopes up. I was also quite impressed that he was able to find her despite only knowing she was in Holborn. It brought to mind Pride and Prejudice 1995 when Mr. Darcy was scouring the streets of London for Lydia and Wickham. Now where’s that fainting sofa?
Evelina’s time with her dear grandmamma is almost up. That means no more London no more Branghtons. Madame Duval still thinks that she can manage to bring Evelina to Paris, but neither she nor her guardian are going to let that happen. Yet we are halfway through the book. What are your predictions for when Evelina is freed from this trashy crowd? And more importantly, Evelina just reunited with Lord Orville, what will become of the two’s relationship when Evelina leaves London? And do we even care? I know I do but it seems many of our readers just aren't as smitten with Lord Orville as I.
In this grouping of chapters we are also introduced to many of the attractions of London of the time, many of which are gone now. All the famous pleasure gardens Evelina manages to visit yet she also manages to have a bad experience there. Has this book changed your view on the highly romanticized London pleasure gardens? (I'd still go!)