in Claverings

Chapter 40 – Showing How Mrs. Burton Fought Her Battle

Florence sacrificed

Cecilia explains to Theodore her motivation for visiting Lady Ongar:  she wants to do her utmost to save the engagement of Florence and Harry.  In her words, “I could not bear that Florence should be sacrificed whilst anything remained undone that was possible.”  Florence as a bride would stand before a marriage altar; if Florence’s marriage is cancelled, she metaphorically stands before the sacrificial altar and becomes the sacrificial victim herself.  See commentary for Chapter 30 of The Bertrams for a different juxtaposition of sacrificial and marital altars.  [RR 2013]


Julia “not uncivil”

This double negation uttered by Cecilia Burton is an example of the Classical rhetorical phenomenon called litotes.  Litotes is a construction that renders a statement more emphatic by denying or negating the opposite of what is meant.  Cecilia chooses not to say positively that Lady Ongar was civil, but rather to say negatively that she was “not uncivil.”  This biting negative statement clues the reader into the fact that Cecilia’s dislike for Lady Ongar has not changed much since their interview.  In fact, Cecilia’s remark might stem from her dislike of Lady Ongar:  if she still thinks of Lady Ongar as immoral and bold, she might not believe her to be capable of true civility.  The closest Lady Ongar can come to receiving a positive reaction from those around her is in receiving a non-negative reaction.  [SH & RR 2012]