View Full Version : Colonel Brandon's daughter

01-01-2019, 06:14 PM
When Colonel Brandon tells Elinor he once loved a woman who resembled Marianne, but she had to marry his brother, who she did not love, or him her. Then she had an affair with someone who was not Colonel Brandon and had an illegitimate daughter. Then I can't remember if this woman was divorced or dead, but the girl became Colonel Brandon's ward. Are we supposed to believe this? Elinor is happy to believe it, but it sounds like a whopper to me. I would want to have a good look at the girl to see if there were any family resemblance.

Colonel Brandon challenged Willoughby to a duel, but neither of them were injured. So I suppose, Colonel Brandon having made the challenge, Willoughby had choice of weapons and chose pistols. That would make sense because Willoughby spends a lot of him time shooting, while he would have had little practice with swords. I suppose they only had one shot each, or maybe Willoughby only had to submit to one shot to retain his honour. I could understand Colonel Willoughby doing this for his own daughter more than another man's.

01-02-2019, 11:59 AM
I think that Colonel Brandon's discussion with Elinor is an awkward scene -- one of the few in Austen's novels. Indeed, I think Brandon is something of a failure as a character. He's meant to be brooding and romantic (I think) -- a fit romance for Marianne. But he never really comes alive.

His awkward discussion with Elinor is one of the few times he plays an active, speaking role in the novel. As a result, it's difficult to exult in Marianne's melancholy march to the alter with her aging suitor.

The exposition in Brandon's long discussion with Elinor is important to the plot, and I think it is also meant to increase the readers' affection for and sympathy with Brandon. But it's awkward and seems "tacked on" -- which is one reason I think the three mature novels slightly superior to the three earlier ones. Austen was 21 or so when she wrote S & S, although she probably edited it before it was published 10 years later.

By 1800 (I think) duels in England were generally fought with pistols. Swords were from an earlier era.

Some other problems with Brandon: When the sisters first arrive in London:

"Already Marianne had ben disappointed more than once by a rap at a neighboring door, when a loud one was heard.... In the ecstasy of her feelings at that instant she could not help exclaiming, 'O Elinor, it is Willoughby, indeed it is!' and seemed almost ready to throw herself into his arms, when Colonel Brandon appeared."

Naturally, we readers are almost as disappointed as Marianne. Brandon! What a let down! The good colonel never quite recovers.

Later, as Brandon's romance with Marianne progresses:

"A three weeks' residence at Delaford, where, in his evening hours at least, he had little to do but to calculate the disproportion between thirty-six and seventeen, brought him to Barton in a temper of mind which needed all the improvement of Marianne's looks, all the kindness of her welcome, and all the encouragement of her mother's language to make it cheerful."

Quit moping, Colonel, and try to add some fun to your wooing! Faint (or gloomy) heart ne'er won fair lady!

That being said, I love S & S. Along with Persuasion it's the most romantic of the Austen novels, and the scene of Elinor comforting the broken-hearted Marianne when the news about Willoughby breaks is one of the few Austen scenes that offers the reader the gift of tears.

01-03-2019, 08:42 PM
The age difference between Colonel Brandon and Marianne is not much more than Emma and Mr Knightly, which isn't considered much of a problem in that book.

01-04-2019, 11:51 AM
I don't care much about the age difference, although Emma is 21 and Marianne 17 which, by modern standards, would make a difference. However, Willoughby and Marianne make fun of Brandon for being an old fogy. Here Elinor tries to defend Brandon to Willoughby and Marianne (Willoughby is speaking first):

"I do not dislike him. I consider him, on the contrary, as a very respectable man, who has every body's good word and nobody's notice; who has more money than he can spend, more time than he knows how to employ, and two new coats every year."

"Add to which," cried Marianne, "that he has neither genius, taste, nor spirit. That his understanding has no brilliancy, his feelings no ardour, and his voice no expression."

"You decide on his imperfections so much in the mass," replied Elinor, "and so much on the strength of your own imagination, that the commendation I am able to give of him is comparatively cold and insipid. I can only pronounce him to be a sensible man, well-bred, well-informed, of gentle address, and, I believe, possessing an amiable heart."

Do readers really wish beautiful, romantic Marianne to marry someone lacking genius, taste and spirit? Another time, Elinor and Marianne are discussing the Colonel:

"It would be impossible, I know," replied Elinor, "to convince you that a woman of seven-and-twenty could feel for a man of thirty-five anything near enough to love to make him a desirable companion to her. But I must object to your dooming Colonel Brandon and his wife to the constant confinement of a sick chamber, merely because he chanced to complain yesterday (a very cold damp day) of a slight rheumatic feel in one of his shoulders."

"But he talked of flannel waistcoats," said Marianne; "and with me a flannel waistcoat is invariably connected with the aches, cramps, rheumatisms, and every species of ailment that can afflict the old and the feeble."

In scenes like this the Colonel does not fare well. Austen is (I think) making fun of Marianne. But when characters lack esteem for one of the heroes, the danger is that the readers may agree with those characters. Why DID Colonel Brandon talk of flannel waistcoats? Has he no idea how to recommend himself to a romantic seventeen-year-old girl? What's wrong with him? His whining about rheumatism, far from being out of character, is consistent with his generally gloomy attitude.

p.s. This site isn't working well for me, which is why I can't put quotes in quotes.