I have just finished Book VII and what a mess Cecilia is in!
To know that one is esteemed and, yet, not esteemed so highly to surmount such a trifle as losing one’s name for the sake of love is quite distressing. Poor Cecilia, driven from the home of the kind but proud Mrs. Delvile, has no alternative but to return to Suffolk and seek the hospitality of her dear friend, the elderly and infirm Mrs. Charlton, until she reaches her majority. What else was there to do but leave Delvile-Castle when it became clear that young Mr. Delvile was in love with her but refused to overcome his vain pride and take her name and all that such a union would imply? No, better to avoid his society altogether than continue to experience the pain of such a barrier.
Finding solace in the company of Mrs. Charlton, Cecilia resigns herself to her loss and applies herself to forgetting her feelings for Delvile, until she suddenly finds herself the recipient of Delvile’s devoted dog and her one-time companion, Fidel. Uncertain what such a message signifies, Cecilia begins to hope that it is a sign of Delvile’s good faith, until she learns that it is another of Lady Honoria’s silly pranks. But too late, Delvile arrives in search of his dog and his feelings cannot be contained.
Delvile proposes that Cecilia marry him in secret, so that they may conceal their union until she can be brought forth before the Delviles as his wife. Certain that his family will forgive the injury caused by the loss of his family name after he marries Miss Beverly, Delvile hopes that his mother’s esteem for Miss Beverly’s virtuous nature will win the family over.
More than anything, Cecilia wishes to agree to the proposal, the thought of betraying Mrs. Delvile’s faith in her is repugnant. Torn by love and honor, Cecilia nevertheless gives in to Delvile’s scheme and consents to marry him within the week, to then be hidden away in London until such a time as they can be united before the Delviles.
Setting off for London to procure a license, Delvile leaves Cecilia to find a male witness. Knowing no one she would trust more than Mr. Monkton, Cecilia turns to this gentleman, ignorant of his designs for securing her and her fortune. Canny as ever, Monkton convinces Cecilia to renege on her agreement, telling her of the derision with which the Delviles will regard her if she goes through with the marriage. Taking it upon himself to deliver Cecilia’s refusal, Monkton sets off for London but fails to find Delvile.
Unwilling to let Delvile think the worst of her should she not meet him as agreed, Cecilia journeys to London only to find herself inadvertently drawn into a party of London’s most ruthless gossips. Will she find Delvile on time or become victim to Miss Larolles incessant chatter?
Miss Larolles is almost as funny as Lady Honoria, these two ladies get up to no amount of trouble for the sake of pleasure and seem to bring comedic relief to the story whenever Cecilia is in an especially dejected mood, though Miss Larolles appearance is surely less than amusing to Cecilia who wishes to make haste and meet Delvile before the proposed wedding is scheduled.
Delvile’s manner of proposing to Cecilia is so full of objections that I cannot help but make the connection to Pride and Prejudice. Like Darcy, he makes it clear that a connection with her will gain him the disapproval of his family, but it is his own dismay at the loss of his name that makes his avowals of love all the more painful to Cecilia. That he loves her, he cannot deny, but that the thought of willingly giving up his name to marry her brings him joy, he cannot proclaim. Cecilia is not as headstrong as Lizzie, but she does feel as strongly. She feels the insult of his proposal and finds that it goes against her sense of duty and honor, but she agrees because she cannot deny her desire to be married to the one man that she esteems as her equal in character and sense. That she is blind to Mr. Monkton’s ulterior motive is Cecilia’s main fault, allowing herself to be swayed by one who means to deny her the happiness that she desires in order to keep her for himself.
Will Cecilia reach Delvile on time or will she her plans be cast asunder?