Maggie Alderson in her recent column in Melbourne’s The Age channels Mrs Bennet in wondering who is the ‘best possible choice’ for her daughter. And what does Austen suggest? Sure, Mr Darcy is a man of consequence and with a fortune to match. But there are a myriad of heroes who always have enough money – let’s face it one always needs enough in the 18th Century – but are distinguishable by their values rather than their bank balances. Honourable Edward Ferrars is case in point.
Edward’s sister, who I like to call, Supercilious-Superior-Sister-in-law-Fanny Dashwood, was from a family where the ambitious matriarch ruled. Mrs Ferrars, Fanny’s mother insisted her children be seen to be “achieving”. Honourable-Edward Ferrars was a disappointment. Jane Austen tells us that Edward had:
“no turn for great men and barouches. All his wishes centred in domestic comfort and the quiet of private life”.
His mother and sister were not happy. They wanted him to be a man of money. They wanted a man who had similar values to themselves, where integrity was optional; a man who put himself above others. But Austen shows us that relationship success is more likely with such a man; a man of kindness and unselfishness. And so this is the type of man that mothers need for their daughters. A principle that Maggie I think will also agree with.