Hehe, I love the Branghtons, they have magnificent cheek, using Evelina’s name to borrow his coach, and that divvy young Mr Branghton sticking his head through the window and then using it as a business opportunity. I can see why Evelina finds them so toe-curlingly embarrassing but I think they are wonderful characters. I was also impressed that her actions worked and that Mr Smith is no longer bothering her.
Indeed, I was loving the Branghtons so much, that I was a little upset to let Evelina back to Berry Hill for some peace and quiet with the worthy Mr Villars. So I was thrilled when Lord Orville’s letter came along, and I thought it a rather lovely letter indeed, but Evelina obviously didn’t. I wrote in my notebook, ‘this part, absolutely fantastic, the way the letter’s change as mood does’ - which is on the things I most love about Fanny Burney’s writing, her ability to find the true moment in the situation. (I also wrote down, but did not cite this little snippet, ‘...a violent burst of tears, which indeed proved a happy release’. Of course it did, such a real little moment.) I also do not believe Orville wrote the letter, my money is on Smith.
After some dull moping, we get to go to Bristol with the very entertaining Mrs Selwyn, where we meet some old friends and some new ones. In this whole section, Lord Orville finally comes to life, Fanny gives him his human moments to give him a real personality, he gets to to have moments like this, ‘...hardly spoke a word, and his grave and thoughtful: yet, whenever I raised my eyes, his, I perceived were directed towards me, though instantly,upon meeting mine, he looked another way.’ I think it is this, that he finally gets to become himself is what warms Orville to us, rather than his jealousy over McCartney and Willoughby.
Other old friends are the Lord’s Merton and Lovell. Where, in the city they seemed harmless and irritating fops, in Bristol, they’ve become driven half mad by boredom. They race light chariots against each other, thank goodness Mrs Selwyn is there to prick their pomposity and tell them how stupid they were. This absurdly led to the old lady race - one of the strangest and cruelest things I have ever read. I found the idea of the young Lords training the women very funny, but the race where the poor women were falling over painfully, it was horrid and no longer funny.
As for new characters, Mrs Larpent - what a cow. As Mr Smith was faux-gallant, she was faux-feminine. Pretending to be weak and easily scared, when it is clear that in her air-headed way she is as firm and cold and steely as something firm and cold and steely. I hate the way she ignores Evelina as well, though that means that Evelina gets to spend time with the increasingly warm Lord Orville and I don’t think she’d have much to do with Lydia anyway.
And as for Mrs Selwyn, I love ‘er, she’s incredibly good fun and to her I’ll give her the last word, when asked how Evelina enjoys her time she responds;
"In a manner that your Lordship will think very extraordinary.... For the young Lady reads.” Good on the young lady, good on Mrs Selwyn.