Our panel discussion topic of the day was “Shocking and Scandalous”. Five members chose a rogue and made their arguments for which of Jane Austen’s characters engaged in seductions, illicit liaisons, adultery, elopements, secret engagements or betrayals was the most scurrilous.

The Panel Members, their characters of choice and arguments were:

Meghan Hanet – Mr. Elliott (Persuasion, published posthumously in 1817)
As evidence that Mr. Elliott was the most villianous of the rogues, Meghan used findings in “Jane on the Brain” by Wendy Jones who postulates that Mr. Elliott might have had an Antisocial Personality Disorder since he displayed traits such as lack of empathy as evidenced in his treatment of Mrs. Smith and artificial emotions as witnessed by Anne.

Naomi Sutherland – Lady Susan Vernon (Lady Susan, written in 1794, published posthumously in 1871)
Though Naomi liked and found Lady Susan’s behaviour amusing, she does display less than amiable characteristics such as being a gold digger, liar and adulteress which certainly place her in the rogue category.

Christina Boyd – Mr. Willoughby (Sense and Sensibility, published anonymously in 1811)
The list of Mr. Willoughby’s faults were long. Christina came up from Puget Sound to present evidence gathered by herself and a few of her writer-friends that Mr. Willoughby was indeed the most egregious offender of all the rogues. Among his faults: getting a teenage girl pregnant and abandoning her, gaslighting, excusing his behaviour as if it was the woman’s fault, placing blame on other’s, and letting other people clean up his messes.

Elspeth Flood – Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill (Emma, published under the name “Author of “Pride and Prejudice”” in 1815)
Elspeth made a case that Frank and Jane were not villains at all. He and Jane were in love, but Frank was vulnerable since his livelihood was so dependent on his aunt – the threat that he could be disinherited was real, and Jane had no fortune at all. Elspeth argued that the true romantic hero and heroine of the story was this couple because they chose each other for love, not fortune. By comparison, Emma and Mr. Knightly had a predictable relationship, not a romantic one. Elspeth believed that there was no villainy in Frank and Jane’s secret engagement and that their behaviour was justified.

Phyllis Ferguson Bottomer – Lydia Bennett and her father, Mr. Bennett (Pride and Prejudice, published under the name “Author of “Sense and Sensibility”” in 1813)
Another non-rogue argument came from Phyllis, who explained that Lydia Bennet was not a villain. The excuse for her behaviour was that she was only 15 years old, bored and neglected. She had no governess or domestic chores, and Phyllis suspected that her neurology was also a factor. She perhaps had ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and ASD (Autism spectrum disorder) as evidenced in her behaviour: She was unaware of social standards, had difficulty with eye gaze, and had no sense of others feelings. Phyllis proposed that perhaps the real villian of the Bennett household was Mr. Bennett. Lydia was at risk of being preyed upon without her father protecting her. He was responsible for her wellbeing and did not care. He had six women to care for and he did not do his duty (i.e.. chaperoning his daughters at dances). Lydia’s behaviour was scandalous, yet she was not a scoundrel. Mr. Bennet, on the other hand, left his daughters open to predators, and put his own comfort before theirs. Phyllis speculated that he, too, was on the spectrum, and as it is genetic, it could explain Lydia’s condition. For a more in depth look at these and other Pride and Prejudice characters possibly on the spectrum, read Phyllis’s book, “So Odd a Mixture: Along the Autistic Spectrum in ‘Pride and Prejudice'”.

Everyone enjoyed the presentations, and by vote, the majority of the group agreed that Mr. Willoughby was the most scurrilous of the characters presented.


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