Much to think about in these chapters. I was left with some nagging questions which I hope the other participants in the read-along might help answer.
First about M. Paul’s habit of spying on the Pensionnate (with a glass if it’s night… shudder). He says:
There I sit and read for hours together: it is my way-my taste. My book is this garden; its contents are human nature – female human nature. I know you all by heart.
All I could think was “RUN, LUCY! SAVE YOURSELF!” When she tells him “It is not right”, he starts going on about religion and his rich father. I don’t know how M. Paul’s supporters will justify this, but I’m curious to see
Also in that same conversation he tells Lucy about St. Pierre’s intentions (not very gentlemanly) and how his spying allowed him to see St Pierre as she truly was (“I have seen her rancours, her vanity, her levietes”). Lucy seems to accept that justification and even says, surprisingly “If you were a wicked, designing man, how terrible would all this be!” You know what this whole scene reminded me of? The Phantom of the Opera, but with a less likable Phantom.
(“One Sunday afternoon, having walked the distance of half a league to the Protestant church, I came back weary and exhausted” Villette, chapter 31 – the photo is of the International Protestant Church of Brussels, where the Brontës used to worship. It’s still active today.)
But moving on to the new-found love between Lucy and Polly. I didn’t see it coming and am not sure if it’s not a bit out of character. Is Polly less annoying than she was before or was Lucy freed of blinding jealousy when she buried her letters and devotion to Graham? Also, can you help me understand this speech of Lucy?
Much pain, much fear, much struggle, would have troubled the very lines of your features, broken their regularity, would have harassed your nerves into the fever of habitual irritation you would have lost in health and cheerfulness, in grace and sweetness. Providence has protected and cultured you, not only for your own sake, but I believe for Graham’s. His start, to, was fortunate: to develop fully the best of his nature, a companion like you was needed: there you are, ready.
At first it seems a sweet thing to say, full of compliments, but when reading closely what it really says is: if you were a bit more complex, a bit less beautiful, Graham wouldn’t want you.
I still don’t understand why she would say that Graham needs Polly in order to “develop fully”. Does he really need another person in his life that thinks he’s God incarnate? Is Lucy truly sincere here?
I just wrote one shot note on the picnic: “Chapter should have been called “An Ode to M. Paul”
Finally about the house in Basse-Ville and ensuing tête-à-tête. It was truly gothic experience and kudos to Lucy for keeping her cool. I wonder what Catherine Morland’s flamboyant imagination would make of it all. I bet nothing as noir as the real story.
The conversation between Lucy and M. Paul in Chapter 35 was really well written: M. Paul did well and Lucy used the right amount of teasing. Her happiness at the end was very genuine and apart from her walk in London, I never felt so close to her. However, I’m afraid that in my heart, M. Paul is beyond salvation. True, he’s generous and selfless but I think he does it a lot because he likes the image of himself as the ever-loyal lover and self-sacrificing man.
He watched as Lucy was submitted to an interrogation which was clearly painful for her because his vanity and honor needed to be saved. In his mind, Lucy’s essay is not a reflection not of her abilities, but of him as a teacher. In the chapters describing his private lessons, he made it clear that Lucy shouldn’t be eager for knowledge or too proud of what she manages to achieved.
I have not doubts M. Paul is a good man and that Lucy has found her intellectual match. I’m just sorry she has to hide this from him.