Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Mrs Cadwallader

Mrs Cadwallader, the rector's wife, has fast become my firm favourite. She's that kind of gossipy woman we all love to hate. You know the type. She's a little mean with a dash of nastiness thrown in. Perhaps you could call her poisonous.

Put her in a room with Sir James and the delightfully withering bitching about Casaubon begins.

In chapter 6 she describes him as "a great bladder for dried peas to rattle in!"

In chapter 8 she makes fun of his scholarly nature. I laughed out loud at her response to Sir James' comment that Casaubon had no red blood in his body. "No. Somebody put a drop under a magnifying glass, and it was all semicolons and parenthesis," she declares.

Later she adds, "Oh, he dreams footnotes, and they run away with all his brains!"


Does anyone else think her venomous behaviour is a bit out of the ordinary given she's married to the rector!?


Blogger gina c said...

She's introduced as "a lady of immeasurably high birth, descended, as it were, from unknown earls, dim as the crowd of heroic shades--" My first impression of Mrs. Cadwallader (nee de Bracy) is that she knows very well who she was/is, and that since she has come (down?) to living in a small town as the rector's wife, she is going to amuse herself by playing chess with the lives of the worthy locals. She is the one who started Sir James thinking of Dorothea, and after that doesnt work out, she takes it as her task to make the match happen for Celia. Perhaps not malicious, but she's definitely a player. At least on first acquaintance. She reminds me of Mrs. Flushing in Woolf's The Voyage Out. Someone from a very different world and background to that of Rachel and the Ambroses, as Mrs. C is from a different one to the Brookes and others.

5:11 PM  
Blogger Isabella said...

"Let any lady who is inclined to be hard on Mrs Cadwallader inquire into the comprehensiveness of her own beautiful views, and be quite sure that they afford accommodation for all the lives which have the honour to coexist with hers." (ch 6)

I, too, was laughing out loud at the lines you cite, Kim. But to be honest, I hadn't really given Mrs Cadwallader much thought till you posted this.

I suppose being the rector's wife puts her in the position to know the goings on of everyone in town.

It's worth noting that she herself "set a bad example — married a poor clergyman, and made myself a pitiable object among the De Bracys." Even while "she believed as unquestioningly in birth and no-birth as she did in game and vermin." (So why did she marry him?)

I don't think she's malicious; she just has firm ideas about the way things should be. (And if she did succumb to love, she may be struggling to reconcile her views with her reality.) "A strong lens applied to Mrs Cadwallader's matchmaking will show a play of minute causes producing what may be called thought and speech vortices to bring her the sort of food she needed." I don't know if it's self-interest or her way of reclaiming some of her previous life. Or something.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Ella said...

I think Mr. Cadwallader is adorable. (I like Mrs. C, too, but intelligent & fearless people scare me a little bit.) I like how nothing bothers him and he doesn't mind being bothered by his family.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Ella said...

I might add, the part where Mrs. C says, "They say, when he was a little boy, he made an abstract of 'Hop o My Thumb', and he has been making abstracts ever since." did make me laugh out loud.

11:21 AM  
Anonymous rachel said...

I have always been a big fan of both Cadwalladers, although I think they are closer to Dickensian cariacatures than most characters in this book. That "semicolons and parentheses" quip was particularly funny.

If I had to analyze Mrs. Cadwallader, however, I think she typifies what must have been a fairly common problem in those days: the intelligent woman who, due to her gender (but also her rank), simply doesn't have enough to occupy all her wits, and so she has to meddle and comment on everybody else's business. That, and be stingy, which requires a certain deviousness as well.

But I mean, think about it -- if you're a smart woman who believes wholeheartedly in the system that prevents you from doing much with your smarts, what the hell are you going to DO with your excess pithiness?

1:09 AM  
Blogger the the said...

"But now I wish her the joy of her hair shirt." OH SNAaaPPP! i think. i mean, if i knew what a hair shirt was.

8:07 PM  

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