Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Wives and Daughters: Mr. Preston

I love this description of Robert Preston that Cynthia gives in chapter 43, "Cynthia's Confession":
...for he is cruel in his very soul--tigerish, with his beautiful striped skin and relentless heart.

This captures perfectly his power over Cynthia.

I can't help but wonder about his relationship with Mrs. G--he clearly disappointed her greatly by moving his attentions from her to her daughter while they were still at Ashcombe. Her response to him whenever she sees him, though, has an air of guilt about it that makes me think she allowed him more liberties, to put it delicately, than would have been proper. Just as Cynthia carries the secret of her engagement to him through most of the book, Hyacinth carries the guilt of her prior, perhaps intimate, relationship with him into Hollingford and into her marriage with Mr Gibson.

I noticed that both Miss Browning and Lady Harriet, when facing the fact that Molly was seen meeting privately with Mr. Preston, declare that they will personally go to church and "forbid the banns" to prevent Molly from marrying Mr. P. The mark of a true friend, indeed!


  1. Hi Jane: I came right over to see your blog, and I am delighted that you are sharing your thoughts as you read Wives and Daughters! You are making me think I should try it, after North and South of course. That I have to read! And get myself the DVD so I can see it properly and not on my tiny computer screen with even smaller you tube screen!

    so I have to ask you, as a Janeite: which is your favourite novel? I have to give the edge to Persuasion - I love both of them and read them regularly, but my first love was Persuasion - I read it before it came out on video anywhere. I love Anne's quiet strength and Wentworth discovering he still loves her - that letter he writes to her and when she goes to him - that is beautiful.

    Anyway, I've added you to my blogroll :-D

    I also read the Bronte's - I've been to Haworth! and I've been watching the Tudors on tv - so I'll go comment on your post on Anne, which I really enjoyed. :-D

  2. Susan - looks like you are indeed a kindred spirit! I don't really know that I have a favorite Austen anymore. P&P was my first love, but there's really an issue of overexposure, I'm afraid. Persuasion is near and dear to my heart, and Anne has always been a role model for me, but S&S, which I read most recently is fabulous too.

    I'm a bit fickle in that my favorite Austen tends to be the one I'm reading or have most recently read.

    I really can't think of another writer who is so consistently good. Perhaps had she lived longer, she might have written a clunker, but I think not!

  3. AnonymousJune 14, 2009

    Jane: Permit me to suggest that Elizabeth Gaskell's "North and South" compares favorably, in every way, to Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice".
    I love them both and encourage you to read Elizabeth Gaskell - she writes beautifully!

  4. Hi Anonymous - I'm also of the camp that N&S draws heavily from P&P and have blogged about it here (, which links to other postings on the topic.

    I've spent the last year reading Gaskell end-to-end, and agree that she is a beautiful writer and now one of my favorite authors.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  5. This captures perfectly his power over Cynthia.

    This sounds more like Cynthia's power over Mr. Preston. After all, she was the one who used and discarded him.

  6. It is a shame that no-one ever did a character study of Robert Preston. I always believed that Robert Preston developed an unhealthy obsession with Cynthia and that his "love" was more about power, control and ownership than true affection - however in the end he did let Cynthia go and returned the letters so as Molly said he was better than she believed him to be and to some extent redeemed himself. I also see a similarity with Mr Headstone in Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend as Headstone beat his love rival Eugene Wrayburn nearly to death after being rejected by Lizzie Hexam who was the object of his obsession thus ruining his career and ultimately his own life as well.

    1. I agree--Robert Preston is a fascinating character, and he turned out to be better than I also expected him to be. I haven't read Our Mutual Friend yet, but I will keep your comparison in mind when I finally do so.

      Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting.

  7. I will give points to Mr. Preston for finally letting go of his pursuit. But why is it so hard to "forgive" Mr. Preston and not Cynthia, who clearly made a chump out of him? Because she is a woman?

    I believe in feminine empowerment just as much as any other woman. But I also believe that women, along with men, should take responsibility for their actions and decisions. And in being so reluctant to do so in regard to her interactions with Mr. Preston, Cynthia nearly damaged Molly's reputation.