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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Pride And Prejudice And H G Wells: Part 1

In his novel Love and Mr Lewisham, H. G. Wells introduces us to a young teacher at a boy's elementary school in rural England. Mr. Lewisham holds great academic aspirations, but he is poor, with no family or friends to support him. Although he earns forty pounds a year, he must pay thirty on room and board to his landlady. So every hour he is not at school, he sits in his tiny attic room, at a small desk made of boxes, and studies. 

Perhaps Mr Lewisham studies too hard. For one day he catches sight of Miss Henderson, a young woman who is visiting some relatives. Her beauty shines like the rays of the afternoon sun upon the coldness of his isolated existence. Suddenly he loses interest in studying. All he wants to do is be with her.

A chance meeting with Miss Henderson in the country lane only deepens his ardor. When the head of the school sees them together, he reprimands Mr. Lewisham. But the young man refuses to take his cues from the older school master. Although it is never stated, Mr. Lewisham knows he should never have spoken to Miss Henderson, or walked along beside her in the country lane, as they have yet to be properly introduced by her family or his academic superiors. 

Unable to control his passion, Mr Lewisham later refuses to take over a class for another teacher. This is because the headmaster wishes to take along another teacher, to a party being given by Miss Henderson's relatives. What if his colleague and Miss Henderson fell in love? Knowing her schedule, Mr Lewisham uses his free time that afternoon to meet with Miss Henderson again. When he realizes that she returns his affection, he convinces her to spend the rest of the afternoon together. Consequently, she doesn't return to the house by the time she promised, and misses the party. Likewise, he fails to oversee a scheduled class later that afternoon. Although they merely talk and walk through the surrounding farmland, and have tea in a nearby village, when they return that evening, Mr Lewisham and Miss Henderson find their reputations are in tatters. 

Taking tea with my wife,
in a cafe along the Serpentine in London,
while under the careful supervision of the Daleks.

Miss Henderson is looked down upon by all the other women in the village. They see her as a fast woman, someone of low morals. Her relatives confine her to their house after that, and never let her out of sight when they go out. Meanwhile, Mr. Lewisham finds the head of the school unwilling to forgive his absence that afternoon. Without his superior's recommendation, his applications to the universities, and the prestigious programs he hoped to enter, come back rejected.

In Jane Austen's novel Pride And Prejudice, self-important clergyman Mr Collins insists upon speaking to Mr Darcy at a ball. As Mr Collins holds close ties to Lady Catherine de Borough, Mr. Darcy's aunt, he feels sure of a warm welcome. Instead, Mr Darcy feels affronted, and rebuffs Mr Collins' attempts at conversation. While Mr Darcy might have spoken more kindly with Mr Collins, and even tolerated a little of the vicar's prattle, he is conscious that they have yet to be properly introduced. Under those circumstances, Mr Darcy feels it would be improper to speak with Mr Collins.

What do you think? Would society function more smoothly, and people get along more peacefully, if you and I refrained from speaking to people we had not yet been introduced to by our family and civic superiors? Or is that just a meaningless aspect of society that we have, quite rightly, dispensed with?

One thing's for sure. Had Jane Austen and H. G. Wells had access to the Internet, Facebook and Twitter would have functioned far differently than they do today.

Dragon Dave

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