Summary, Chapter III, pages 129-137
Anne finds that Sir Walter and Elizabeth are actually glad to see her, although their welcoming attitude is more about showing off their house in Camden-Place and bragging about their consequence in Bath than about being truly glad to see Anne. Anne feels ashamed that her father seems to “feel no degradation in his change; should see nothing to regret in the duties and dignity of the resident land-holder; should find so much to be vain of in the littlenesses of a town. . . .” Elizabeth, she notes, walks “from one drawing-room to the other, boasting of their space” as if she had never been mistress of a much grander space at Kellynch.
Elizabeth and Sir Walter are also happy to have Mr. Elliot behaving most charmingly towards them. He has excused his prior rudeness by pleading a misunderstanding—he somehow got the idea that he was “thrown off” by them, rather than the other way around—and by claiming that he had never spoken disrespectfully of Sir Walter and the family; someone had spread that awful untruth. Elizabeth is delighted to find that he is now a widow. His former wife, Sir Walter has been told by Mr. Elliot’s friend, Colonel Wallis, was not of high birth, but her love for Mr. Elliot—and her considerable wealth—must excuse Mr. Elliot in marrying her. Sir Walter is ready to forgive; Elizabeth is disposed to forgive, now that she believes Mr. Elliot will naturally turn his attentions to her. Sir Walter also forgives Mr. Elliot because he finds him to be a nice looking, gentlemanly, fashionable young man to have at his side.
Elizabeth and Sir Walter report that they are also looking forward to meeting Colonel Wallis’s wife, who is now in confinement until her baby arrives. She is reported to be beautiful, which makes her interesting to Sir Walter because he is disappointed at the number of “plain” women residing in Bath. Sir Walter also laments the lack of men of good looks. He is amazed at the number of women who stare at him—and at the handsome men he associates with—because they are unused to seeing a handsome, well-dressed man. Elizabeth and Mrs. Clay quickly assure Sir Walter that the women are looking mostly at him.
A knock at the door brings Mr. Elliot into Anne’s presence. Upon their introduction, Mr. Elliot appears not to have known who Anne was when he noticed her at Lyme, but he makes clear that he still admires her. Anne finds him handsome, polished, agreeable—everything a man should be. She finds him second only to Wentworth in manners.
Sir Walter and Elizabeth are unchanged and unchastized by their reduced circumstances. They are still, in their minds, big fish in the pond. Their total forgiveness of Mr. Elliot’s previous rude behavior hinges upon the fact that they know he is prepared to treat them with the attention and respect that they feel they deserve for being Elliots. His attention plays right into their sense of vanity. Sir Walter likes that he looks well beside him; Elizabeth fully expects that now he will note her beauty and breeding and marry her as he should have done before. His manners are so perfect that even Anne—usually so discerning and able to detect insincerity—is fooled.
Summary, Chapter IV, pages 137-143
Anne soon has suspicions that Sir Walter is beguiled by Mrs. Clay. She overhears Elizabeth tell Mrs. Clay that Anne’s coming will in no way displace Mrs. Clay in their affections, for Anne is “‘nothing’” to her, compared with Mrs. Clay. Anne also hears Sir Walter tell Mrs. Clay that she must stay to behold the lovely Mrs. Wallis when they all finally see her, for “‘to her [Mrs. Clay’s] fine mind, I well know the sight of beauty is a real gratification.’”
Sir Walter remarks that Anne is looking rather well and wonders if she has been using the same lotion he has recommended Mrs. Clay wear to improve her freckled complexion. Anne notes no change in Mrs. Clay’s freckles. Anne is amazed that Elizabeth cannot see that her father is interested in Mrs. Clay. Lady Russell shares Anne’s apprehensions on this score, but once she meets Mr. Elliot—and duly forgives him as the others have done—she is content to dwell on Elizabeth’s (or Anne’s) trumping Mrs. Clay by marrying Mr. Elliot and thereby being Lady Elliot.
Anne continues to find Mr. Elliot excessively agreeable, although she is cautious. “His value for rank and connexion [sic] she perceived to be greater than hers.” He joins Elizabeth and Sir Walter in worrying about introducing themselves to Lady Dalrymple and her daughter, who are cousins to the Elliots. However, Sir Walter failed to attend the Viscount Dalrymple’s funeral or send a letter of condolence because he was very ill at the time; consequently, Lady Dalrymple has cut off contact with the Elliots. Sir Walter finally writes a letter of apology to Lady Dalrymple, and the Elliots are invited to renew the acquaintance. The Elliots brag of their “cousins in Laura-place” ostentatiously, much to Anne’s shame. She finds the Dalrymples, despite their grand title, vapid and unaccomplished.
When Anne declares that her idea of valuable company is that of well-informed people, Mr. Elliot teases that she must admit that knowing the Dalrymples brings certain advantages. In confidence, he also tells her that he knows certain people gloat in knowing the Elliots, namely Mrs. Clay. It has not escaped his notice that she is aiming her sights at Sir Walter.
Mr. Elliot appears to value rank and appearances as much as Sir Walter and Elizabeth, but his sharpness in detecting Mrs. Clay’s designs suggests that he sees more than he lets on. In her, he sees a woman of no rank using her wiles to gain rank. His exact motive for disapproving of Mrs. Clay is not clear, however. Anne seems to believe Mr. Elliot is only looking out for her father; her father’s obsession with the Dalrymples is, in Mr. Elliot’s eyes, at least an obsession with someone socially acceptable, while an obsession with Mrs. Clay is not. But is that really why Mr. Elliot disapproves of Mrs. Clay?