Interview with Ms. Mary Bennet
Interview with Ms. Mary Bennet
It was beyond my expectation and belief that I could ever have located Ms Mary Bennet in the suburbs of London. In fact she had married a clerk who worked in the firm of her uncle Philip (information from Jane Austen’s Memoirs). All this happened much later. I never thought my trip to longbourn would end up in a cheapside suburb of London. From Longbourn, I learned that after the death of her parents Mary came to live with uncle Philip and finally got married to a clerk in his firm. On reaching her residence, I said: I am from Hapers inc., and the purpose of my visit is to conduct a special interview with you. Her face lit up suddenly. She lost no time in welcoming me in her inimitable style: Though much reduced in financial status now, she still displayed the same affectations and welcomed me thus:
“ I have the greatest pleasure in proposing a befitting welcome to the representative of the most prestigious organization in our empire”. She apologized profusely about the amenities in the house and added that her grand mansion in the country estate is undergoing renovation and this is only a makeshift arrangement. There was an antique piano in the sitting room. She gazed at it proudly and announced her passion of music and added that the instrument was a gift from a renowned member of the House of Lords. In one of his important social gatherings I was taking a close look at this antique piece of Italian wonder when he came near me and said: “ It is an inherited fortune that has come down to me from my great grandfather…but if you like, you may play a composition.” I forgot myself. Before I knew what was happening, my fingers began dancing over the keyboard in ecstasy. Everyone was breathless and the atmosphere reverberated with the melody of my music. Then came the announcement: “ Mary you deserve it. It’s yours”.
All these lengthy explanations from her brought into my mind the description of her character: Mary neither had ‘genius nor taste’ and vanity had given her a pedantic air and conceited manner. On the other hand Elizabeth was easy and unaffected. She was listened to with more pleasure than Mary though she did not play half so well as Mary. Mary, at the end of the long concerto, was glad to purchase praise and gratitude by Scotch and Irish airs. (Paraphrase: Chapter 6). Near the piano was an old bookshelf with a good collection of books. Most of it seemed to be those belonged to Mr. Bennet, her diseased father. Instead of offering me the basic courtesy of at least some snacks, she continued with her sanctimonious sermon on the importance of music art and culture in the lives of women. She said: “ Look at those books, my most prized possessions in this world. The rich legacy of my father.” I jumped in between and threw her this question: “ What do you think of your father? How has he influenced your life? Contrary to my expectation, she continued with her bombastic declarations of her own literary taste and finer creative talents. I reminded her that my prime objective was to record her feelings and memories about her dad, mom and her sisters.
“ Oh yes, she said. My Dad um… he was a great man. He often proclaimed publicly about my affinity to him in matters of literary and artistic inclinations. “What say you, Mary? For, you are a young lady of deep reflection I know, and read great books, and make extracts.” Mary wished to say something very sensible, but knew not how.” (Chapter 2). She continued further, his sole occupation was to digest the wisdom of ages enshrined in the books in his library. He was not mundane like my mum.”
How do you see the role of your mother in shaping your future? I asked her in the little gap that I got. I thought to myself, it is the same old Mary who is only obsessed with herself and her pompous self-image. “Of course, my mum was a very loving woman. Her only occupation was to find suitable grooms for all of us. As a mother she was obsessed with this idea of marrying off her daughters to eligible grooms. She would go any extent to achieve this goal. Of Course, I don’t blame her, it is every mother’s wish to see her daughters comfortably settled in life. Mom’s disdain for higher pursuits was the only point of my disagreement with her. May God rest her soul in peace.”
What about your sisters? specially lizzy (Elizabeth) who was the focus of controversy and Jane who was the cynosure of all eyes. “Oh, Yes…poor Lizzy, I pity her. She had to go through a lot of difficulties. All because of Lady Catherine. I had warned her time and again to be careful about that Lady who had absolutely no breeding or finer accomplishments. She was a woman who was solely motivated by lucre (money). Life is much more than what money can offer. Liz is also partly to blame. She never heeded my wise advices. This reminded me of Mary’s own words to Elizabeth: “ I admire the activity of your benevolence but every impulse of feeling should be guided by reason; and, in my opinion, exertion should always be in proportion to what is required.” (Chapter 7)
What about Jane? I asked. After all she was the beauty of the family. “ First of all let me tell you that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. My concept of beauty is the totality of a person’s qualities of mind and heart. The mind of a woman that is always preoccupied with men and marriage is a shallow mind. The ageless wisdom enshrined in a book can lend beauty to one’s life. This is the chief reason why I chose to spend most of my precious time in my dad’s library digesting the wisdom of the ages. Jane is of course a simple and loving sister for me and of course she will remain so forever in my mind.”
What about the younger ones? Ah… I seldom get to see them. They are always on the move. The officers are stationed at different places. Sometimes, I don’t even have any news about them for months together. Of course… I love them very much and it is my duty to think of their welfare as they are younger to me.”
For a moment I thought, Mary has momentarily come down from her pedestal of high self-esteem. My final question about love and family affirmed the truth embodied in the popular proverb “old habits die hard”. Finally, I asked her: Can you tell me your opinion about love and marriage and of course about your own life? “Love should spring from the depth of your heart. Love should be the solid foundation all marriages. It should not be based on fleeting infatuation generated by physical attraction or momentary craving of the senses. The ideal marriage is a platonic union of minds necessitated by the longing of the soul or the inner being transcending the confines of man-made structures of social division.”
What about your marriage? It took place at the instance of my uncle Philip. He said: “it is not good for a woman to be alone”. I heeded his words and said: “it’s not my will but thine”. Though she continued further in her own inimitable style, I said good bye to her and left the house in a hurry.
Austen, J. (1995). Pride and Prejudice.
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