Christmas at Queens Crawley, Hampshire, England, 1823

“Christmas at the Hall was the gayest which had been known there for many a long day.

On Christmas Day a great family gathering took place. All the Crawleys from the Rectory came to dine. Rebecca was as frank and fond of Mrs. Bute as if the other had never been her enemy; she was affectionately interested in the dear girls, and surprised at the progress which they had made in music since her time, and insisted upon encoring one of the duets out of the great song-books which Jim, grumbling, had been forced to bring under his arm from the Rectory. Mrs. Bute, perforce, was obliged to adopt a decent demeanour towards the little adventuress—-of course being free to discourse with her daughters afterwards about the absurd respect with which Sir Pitt treated his sister-in-law. But Jim, who had sat next to her at dinner, declared she was a trump, and one and all of the Rector’s family agreed that the little Rawdon was a fine boy. They respected a possible baronet in the boy, between whom and the title there was only the little sickly pale Pitt Binkie.

The children were very good friends. Pitt Binkie was too little a dog for such a big dog as Rawdon to play with; and Matilda being only a girl, of course not fit companion for a young gentleman who was near eight years old, and going into jackets very soon. He took the command of this small party at once—-the little girl and the little boy following him about with great reverence at such times as he condescended to sport with them. His happiness and pleasure in the country were extreme. The kitchen garden pleased him hugely, the flowers moderately, but the pigeons and the poultry, and the stables when he was allowed to visit them, were delightful objects to him. He resisted being kissed by the Misses Crawley, but he allowed Lady Jane sometimes to embrace him, and it was by her side that he liked to sit when, the signal to retire to the drawing-room being given, the ladies left the gentlemen to their claret—-by her side rather than by his mother. For Rebecca, seeing that tenderness was the fashion, called Rawdon to her one evening and stooped down and kissed him in the presence of all the ladies.” ~Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

Brown Bear Daughter (age 17) has been reading Vanity Fair for her senior English class, and she is not impressed with Miss Becky Sharp nor with the near-perfect Amelia Sedley. I find it interesting that the characters of Gone With the Wind’s Scarlett O’Hara and her sister-in-law Melanie Wilkes are based on Thackeray’s characters, written so many years before. “Adventuresses” and simpering young ladies and hypocrites and the like never go out of style. But Christmas does sometimes make us all behave ourselves for a while and if not remember our better selves, at least act as if we do.

“I mean the baronet and the rector, not our brothers—-but the former, who hate each other all the year round, become quite loving at Christmas.”
~ William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *