|Dan Stevens as Edward Ferrars|
Dear Period Drama Advice Column,
I find myself in a predicament. Four years ago, I became secretly engaged to a woman named Lucy Steele, the niece of my tutor in Exeter. I thought myself in love, but it was a foolish, idle inclination on my side. I have recently met my sister's sister-in-law, Elinor, and I like her a great deal. I find myself in love with her, but I cannot break my commitment to Lucy. If I were free, I would tell her that my heart is and always will be hers. Her friendship has been the most important of my life. My mother also wants me to marry the rich Miss Morton with 50,000 pounds: all I want, all I've ever wanted is the quiet of a private life, but my mother wants me distinguished. Do you think I am doing the right thing in keeping my promise to Lucy despite all of this?
And now here are two of my answers:
Answer One - Harold Skimpole, Charles Dickens's Bleak House
|Nathaniel Parker as Harold Skimpole|
Dear Mr. Ferrars (may I call you Ned?),Why you poor dear fellow, what a predicament! I feel for you, truly I do, but I must speak plainly for I am a child. I advise breaking with this Miss Steele directly. And if this young lady attempts a legal battle I would recommend my friend Mr. Vholes, a most respectable lawyer.
Romantic commitments are all good in their way but you must think of your own health and comfort sir! Has this Miss Elinor any fortune to speak of? If she has none I dare say she will be as good as you say and will understand if you try for Miss Morton with the 50,000 pounds. But what do I know? As far as worldly matters are concerned I am but a child, a perfect child.
I perfectly understand your desire for the quiet of a private life, sir. I myself have no aptitude for worldly matters at all. I covet nothing, possessions are nothing to me, I live as innocently as a child. I was educated in the medical profession you know, and practiced it for a while. But never having had a head for details and a positive aversion to all that blood I gave it up. I believe I am the idlest man in existence! And there’s no use asking me what my family finds to live on for I really have no idea. Oh yes, my dear fellow, I do have a wife and children, well half a dozen I should say, or more. And I love them very dearly but how can I look after them? for I have no aptitude for work of any kind - none whatsoever. Indeed I rather need someone to look after me! But my excellent friends are always so kind, among whom Mr. John Jarndyce is one of the very best and kindest.
I do hope your predicament works itself out which I am sure it will. Pray give my compliments to that lovely young creature Miss Morton. And when you are married to that good lady pray remember me for I am a child, but a child.
Ever Your Devoted Friend,
Answer Two - Squire Hamley, Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters
|Michael Gambon as Squire Hamley|
You always have a duty to your family but this Miss Elinor reminds me of my dear friend little Molly Gibson. Such a sweet girl, Molly, such a kind friend to my dear wife before she dies. She is one in a hundred, is Molly, very like my own daughter would have been had she lived. If Miss Elinor is such a young woman you must not worry about fortune sir but marry her at once! Some may say that an engagement is an engagement, but did I say it was an elephant sir? No, do not conceal your engagement or your secret plans from your parents until it is too late for them to help you. Whatever your family’s hopes for you distinguishing yourself I am sure they would rather you be happy, even if you take it into your head to marry a Frenchwoman! And besides all this in my experience a quiet private life is always best. My advise to you is to marry this Miss Elinor and settle down in some quiet profession where you can live peacefully and keep a few chickens and a cow for the children.
I must go dress for dinner now. While my wife was alive I became accustomed to her fine London ways and have been unable to break the habit now that she’s gone.
Squire Hamley. Hamley Hall