Door-bells, petrified spar, and knowing thyself: favorite Shapard annotations from Volume 2 of P&P.

Hello Austenites!

I’m back with my favorite David M. Shapard annotations from Volume Two of Pride & Prejudice! And this is truly a very saucy’ volume as it contains quite arguably one of the worst marriage proposals in the history of fiction! Let’s get to it.

  1. “On the stairs were a troop of little boys and girls, whose eagerness for their cousin’s appearance would not allow them to wait in the drawing-room, and whose whole shyness, as they had not seen her for a twelvemonth, prevented their coming lower.” (p.290)
    • This part of the novel is when Lizzy stops in London on her way to Kent and stays at her Aunt and Uncle’s house. Shapard’s annotation explains that this line has caused confusion, because Mr. & Mrs. Gardiner had recently been to Longborn for Christmas, and people are, like – hold up, why are they away from their kids at Christmas?! Shapard explains that Christmas was not as significant a holiday then as it is now. He says the importance of Christmas in England had declined during the 17th century and many current Christmas traditions, that would appeal to kids, didn’t happen until the middle/late 19th century. During the time of this novel, Christmas was mostly about feasting and partying and therefore mostly just for the adults, so as far as standards of the day, it’s totally reasonable that the Gardiners would have hired a sitter and gone to get their party on at Longborn for Christmas.
  2. “Your father’s estate is entailed on Mr. Collins, I think. For your sake,” turning to Charlotte, “I am glad of it; but otherwise, I see no occasion for entailing estates from the female line. – It was not thought necessary in Sir Lewis de Bourgh’s family.” (p.318)
    • This line is, of course, spoken by Lady Catherine De Bourgh as Lizzy meets her for the first time at Rosings Park. While Lady C is quite awful in many other instances in this book, I do appreciate her view on this. Shapard’s annotation points out that a willingness to allow daughters to inherit an estate is extremely rare in this society. Shapard proposes that Lady C, as the daughter of an Earl (Fitzwilliam), brought a huge infusion of wealth into the family, allowing her husband to build Rosings and perhaps be the first in his family to acquire a title. The prominence of the Fitzwilliams, and Lady C marrying an old, but lesser in rank family, may have allowed for the acceptance of an heiress vs and heir to keep the wealth more directly in the hands of the family vs. a distant relation.
  3. “Elizabeth had scarcely time to disclaim all right to the compliment, before their approach was announced by the door-bell, and shortly afterwards three gentlemen entered the room.” (p.334)
    • Shapard notes his annotation on “door-bell” and shares that doorbells had only recently become a thing. A reference to a doorbell in Persuasion, published 4 years after P & P is the first example of the word cited by the Oxford English Dictionary. I thought that was super cool! Shapard also offers that the fact that Mr. Collins’ house has one is an example of the many great improvements Lady C has done to the place.
  4. “Till this moment, I never knew myself.” (p.406)
    • Okay, stay with me here. This is the point in the novel where Darcy has given Elizabeth the letter explaining himself and telling her the truth about his personal experience with Wickham. We watch Lizzy read and reread this letter and Austen takes us through a very precise and natural progression of Lizzy’s understanding of what the letter says and how she is responding to it. Shapard’s annotation for this line rocked my world and is by far one of my favorites of this edition.  “A key conclusion, one that features in other Austen novels as well. The need to understand oneself, and in particular to acknowledge one’s errors and through that knowledge to correct them, is a critical theme in her work. It is often only after a heroine undergoes that process that she deserves, and is able to achieve, happiness. The same general idea appears in one of the prayers Jane Austen wrote, in which she says, “Teach us to understand the sinfulness of our own hearts and bring to our knowledge every fault of temper and every evil habit in which we have indulged to the discomfort of our fellow-creatures, and the danger of our own souls.” … Y’ALL! I love this so much. It just speaks to the universal nuance of how and why Austen’s work resonates with so many of us and how she as person was able to give us gifts of herself through her writing that have become something bigger than herself.
  5. “But surely, said she, “I may enter his county with impunity, and rob it of a few petrified spars without his perceiving me.” (p.464)
    • This is when Lizzy’s Aunt and Uncle tell her that instead of going to the Lake District, they have to content themselves with visiting Derbyshire, Darcy’s hometown. I am the daughter of a rock nerd, so this annotation was super fun to me. Shapard taught me that petrified spars are pieces of fluorspar (calcium fluoride), a luminous crystalline mineral. He says Lizzy would be referring particularly to a variety of fluorspar called Blue John, a purple and white stone that was popular in fancy decorative vases and urns. It was also known as Derbyshire spar, because it was abundant in the canes of the mine in Derbyshire. People would visit caves full of it as a tourist activity and small trinket sized pieces would be sold in shops as souvenirs.

Only five this time, but I was so engrossed in the Second Volume I forgot to pause and mark all the annotations that stood out to me, but these five were definitely memorable.

Annotations from the Third Volume are coming soon and until then keep it saucy’ – it’s what Jane would do.

About the image: “Blue John” or Derbyshire spar – image from and more info at https://www.thymekeepers.co.uk/explore-ways-blue-john-can-work-to-enrich-the-experience-of-life/.

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