“Captain Harville, though not equalling Captain Wentworth in manners, was a perfect gentleman, unaffected, warm, and obliging. Mrs Harville, a degree less polished than her husband, seemed, however, to have the same good feelings; and nothing could be more pleasant than their desire of considering the whole party as friends of their own, because
the friends of Captain Wentworth, or more kindly hospitable than their entreaties for their all promising to dine with them.”
In Chapter 7, Austen’s omniscience takes over and she lets us hear a little Frederick’s mind and heart when it comes to what he wants in a woman.
“’That is the woman I want,” said he. “Something a little inferior I shall of course put up with, but it must not be much. If I am a fool, I shall be a fool indeed, for I have thought on the subject more than most men.’”
He wants what Harville has.
The description of the Harvilles is nearly word-for-word what we have in Frederick’s declaration of what he wants in a wife. When people are looking around, it’s not unusual to want to model the happy marriages they admire. Some look at their grandparents, or parents, or friends. They watch the interaction and want the happiness they see. Or to avoid what they see. The marriage of Pride and Prejudice’s Mr. And Mrs. Bennett come to mind. Austen was very good at giving us good bad examples.
In this chapter we also get the cautionary tale of waiting too long. Benwick loses Fanny Harville because they wait to be secure. Frederick can highly identify with this. Lack of security was just the leverage Lady Russell used to put fear into Anne and persuade her to break the engagement.
It’s not a bad thing to be prudent and wait until some of your ducks are in a row. But the one thing I know after 37 years of marriage is that security is temporary at best. You may have enough money in the bank, but there will be a problem with health, children, extended family relationships, aging parents, the shifting sands of world events, or just plain boredom.
In the case of Anne and Frederick, another of the wedges used to separate them, the exalted position of the Elliot family, is now crumbling. Another proof that prudence is good but nothing lasts forever and if you find someone who wants to go into the vast dark unknown of the future with you, think hard about turning them down or putting it off too long.
For those of you celebrating holidays in the next days and week: merry, happy, and joyous days.
Take care—Susan Kaye