Oh, Cecilia, you’re breaking my heart…
What fresh torment has been thrust upon our dear heroine.
I am about to begin Volume 5, and with just two more books to go before I finish Cecilia, I thought it the perfect time to document our heroine’s progress.
After evading her companions, Cecilia arrived in Pall Mall, only to have her whereabouts traced by the intrusive Mr. Morrice, town busybody and gossip. Interrupting her meeting with Mr. Delvile, Morrice is eager to know why this pair should be meeting at such a late hour. Delvile is certain that it will only be a matter of time before Morrice’s news is spread to the whole of London society, therefore her refusing to marry him after such a discovery will only cast a shadow on her virtue and damage her good name. Compelled to agree to meet him for their covert ceremony, Cecilia wrestles with herself and tries to overcome her original misgivings.
Meeting at the appointed location, Cecilia prepares to become Delvile’s wife and hopes time will allow the Delviles to forgive her for her trespass. But, alas, even the best intentions cannot make this ceremony a success. As the couple starts to take their final vows, they are interrupted by a stranger who challenges their union! The unknown woman is pursued, but not found. Too late, the pause allows Cecilia to consider her position and regret the ease with which she agreed to Delvile’s scheme.
Rejecting his claim, she returns to the country and finds temporary solace in the company of Mrs. Harrel and her brother, Mr. Arnott. There she once again meets the unfortunate Mr. Belfield, who embarked on a course of self-imposed solitude and labor to forget the troubles that assail him. Cecilia is taken aback by his actions, but finds that her own effort to forget her troubles by tamping down her emotions is no better.
Seeking to forget all that has transpired, Cecilia finds that the Delviles will not let her be. Mrs. Delvile soon arrives to warn her against seeking her son and tells her that she will never be forgiven for the loss of so fine an heir. Reassuring the lady that she has no intention to purse her claim, Cecilia believes that the trial is at an end when Delvile himself appears. Mother and son both try to wrest an agreement from Cecilia–the son, that she will be his, the mother, that she will reject such a union. The incident only serves to torment Cecilia further, who feels that it is her duty to honor the demands of so honorable a lady, but knows it to be at the cost of her future happiness.
When Mrs. Delvile experiences a terrible fit that leaves her incapacitated for several days, Cecilia feels she must renounce Delvile forever and tend to his mother until she is well enough to be transported to her home. Taking heart from the knowledge that Mrs. Delvile will be spared further pain, Cecilia tries to ignore her own pain. Caught up in the aftermath of her encounter with the Delviles, Cecilia is little prepared for the loss of her close friend, Mrs. Charlton, but when an unexpected visitor arrives and charges her to seek her happiness through good works, Cecilia vows to make the most of her situation and serve the needs of the poor and dejected. After all, what is her plight compared to that of her tenants?
Most of Book VIII was taken up with the several incidents that occured to hinder Cecilia’s marriage to Devile. Cecilia’s indecision may seem like fickleness at first, but it is her unwavering sense of duty that causes her to doubt her actions. During her short acquaintance with the Delviles, Cecilia came to regard Mrs. Delvile as the sort of friend she always sought, someone whose intelligence and sensibilities were in tune with her own. Nevertheless, in Delvile she found an equal whom she considered the most perfect of partners. Caught between two such individuals, Cecilia finds herself in a bind. She knows that giving in to the demands of one will surely earn her the censure of the other; she therefore deliberates too long on the matter and often finds herself changing her mind after giving her word. While she loves Mortimer Delvile, the respect that she has for Mrs. Delvile forbids her from wilfully rejecting that lady’s demands.
Will Mr. Albany’s good works help Cecilia overcome her misery? Her character is so good, that helping others may very well afford her some amount of happiness, but it seems as misguided as Mr. Belfield’s scheme to forget his past by immersing himself in hard labor.
With two books left, what will be in store for Cecilia? There is still the matter of Mr. Monckton’s intentions for her. Did he hire the stranger to interrupt the wedding? Was he involved in informing those close to the Delviles that such an event was to take place? And what will Cecilia do now that he insists on her residing in his home until her own home is completed?