Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Thoughts on Jane Austen's Sir Thomas Bertram

Probably Jane took from her own family the idea of sending Sir Thomas Bertram off to Antigua on business. Her father had been a trustee of the Haddon Plantation, which belonged to a former fellow student. Jane's brother Francis served on the Canopus when it visited Antigua in 1805.

It is interesting that Sir Thomas has a serious talk to Maria when he has doubts about the wisdom of her engagement to Rushworth.

Advantageous as would be the alliance, and long standing and public as was the engagement, her happiness must not be sacrificed to it.

He offers to act for her in obtaining her release from the engagement if that is what she wishes. It recalls the situation in Pride and Prejudice when Mr. Bennet is concerned to protect his daughter from an unhappy marriage to Darcy, however financially advantageous it would be.

Also like Mr. Bennet, Sir Thomas has found strategies for dealing with a silly wife. We have a delightful example: his wife wants to know whether she should take part in the game of whist or whether the game of speculation would be better for her. Sir Thomas recommends speculation. Why? He was a whist player himself, and perhaps might feel that it would not much amuse him to have her for a partner!

Despite his daunting manner, which unnerves even the innocent Fanny, Sir Thomas can be a kindly man. He shows this especially when he promises Fanny that he will say nothing to anyone about her rejection of Crawford's proposal, even though he is angry about it.