Gaskell Blog © Katherine C.
Frank was praised by his tutors and headmaster as someone who could rise to the highest honor of church or state and while not ambitious, his father was for him. Mr. Buxton’s shyness in society made him averse to Frank’s requests of inviting school fellows and college chums to visit, now he regrets the loss of those connections; the best way to remedy it? Frank marrying a lady of good position and family. Erminia preferably.
And, in the midst of all this, fell, like a bombshell, the intelligence of his engagement with Maggie Browne; a good sweet little girl enough, but without fortune or connection–without, as far as Mr. Buxton knew, the least power, or capability, or spirit, with which to help Frank on in his career to eminence in the land! He resolved to consider if as a boyish fancy, easily to be suppressed; and pooh-poohed it down, to Frank, accordingly.
Edward comes to visit when he hears the news and is shocked at the engagement. His conduct and manners worry Maggie, she cans see his faults strengthening and growing. She wonders, where he gets the money to dress fashionably and go up to London? As if sensing the concern Nancy tells her that her wages, which used to punctual and regular, haven’t been paid for nearly twelve months– she doesn’t need the money but fears it means Edward is draining Mrs. Browne’s resources.
In many ways the relationship between Mrs. Browne and Edward reminds me of Mrs. Reed and John Reed in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Their bad habits, temperament, and path to ruination are very similar as are their mother’s blind admiration of their irrespective sons. Maggie decides to write to her brother hoping she can gently suggest he be prudent. There’s no reply until word is spread that Mr. Buxton has an agent, he asks Maggie to see if it’s true, it would be terribly unjust the position is rightfully his!
“It’s a confounded shabby trick if he has, after what he said to me long ago. I cannot tell you how much I depend on your complying with my request. Once more, write directly.
It is true.
The tensions between Frank and his father remain rigid. Mr. Buxton thinks his son’s love for Maggie is just a phase, he hasn’t seen anyone better and only thinks he’s in love– young fool! But the young lovers are certainly not fools,
It is nonsense to think that we are to go about the world, picking and choosing men and women as if they were fruit and we were to gather the best; as if there was not something in our own hearts which, if we listen to it conscientiously, will tell us at once when we have met the one of all others.
Maggie feels uncomfortable because she too thinks she’s not good enough for Frank and can sympathize that Mr. Buxton is aggravated by Frank’s visits to her. Knowing how much Frank really feels over the estrangement she encourages him to accept an invitation to Scotland. He decides to follow her advice, but not until he knows the new Mr. Henry will be a just agent.