Quote: Regency Refashion

Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg 001

“Look here, I have bought this bonnet. I do not think it is very pretty; but I thought I might as well buy it as not. I shall pull it to pieces as soon as I get home, and see if I can make it up any better… there were two or three much uglier in the shop; and when I have bought some prettier-coloured satin to trim it with fresh, I think it will be very tolerable.”
Lydia Bennet, from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The Awkward Conversations of Great Literature

Warning: potential spoilers lie ahead!

We can probably all remember Awkward Conversations we’ve been part of, but what about the ones we weren’t even there for? Conversations that technically never even happened, because they are fictional, but can make us squirm with sympathetic embarrassment nonetheless.

Mr Collins’ proposal to Miss Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, for example. We, like Miss Elizabeth, want to get the unpleasant necessity over with as quickly as possible, but he drones on and on, pontificating about his two favourite subjects, viz. Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Mr Collins.


A word of advice to any young lady readers: if you are proposed to by a man who mentions another woman more often during his proposal than he mentions you, refuse him. We know he doesn’t stand a chance with Lizzy, but he’s so certain of his own desirability he doesn’t even need her answer to start congratulating himself.
Full credit to David Bamber for truly conveying the depths of awfulness in this Pilbeam among parsons.

Agatha Christie’s Lady Bundle Brent, on receiving a similar proposal in The Seven Dials Mystery, opts to leg it out the window herself, not being burdened with a mother who will insist on her seeing it through. If anyone knows of a book in which the pompous proposer is defenestrated, please do let me know.

I’m currently half-way through Anna Karenina – for the first time – and I have already grimaced through some very awkward conversations. This one’s a prize-winner, though: Oblonsky comes to ask his brother-in-law (in town on business) to dinner.

Piotr Petrovich Karataev by I Turgenev Illustration by P Sokolov
It goes something like this:

Oblonsky: Come to dinner!
Karenin: I can’t.
Oblonsky: Why not?
Karenin: Because I am about to sever the ties between us by divorcing your sister, my wife.
Oblonsky: Oh! Well, come to dinner anyway…

What are your favourite Awkward Conversations? Tell all! Unless they’re in the second half of Anna Karenina, in which case please wait a few weeks before commenting…
Awkward silences also welcomed, although please include the context as well as the silence 🙂