by William Makepeace Thackeray
Vanity Fair Language and Communications Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Mr. Dobbin went to seek John Sedley at his house of call in the City, the Tapioca Coffee-house, where, since his own offices were shut up, and fate had overtaken him, the poor broken-down old gentleman used to betake himself daily, and write letters and receive them, and tie them up into mysterious bundles, several of which he carried in the flaps of his coat. I don't know anything more dismal than that business and bustle and mystery of a ruined man: those letters from the wealthy which he shows you: those worn greasy documents promising support and offering condolence which he places wistfully before you, and on which he builds his hopes of restoration and future fortune. My beloved reader has no doubt in the course of his experience been waylaid by many such a luckless companion. He takes you into the corner; he has his bundle of papers out of his gaping coat pocket; and the tape off, and the string in his mouth, and the favourite letters selected and laid before you; and who does not know the sad eager half-crazy look which he fixes on you with his hopeless eyes? (20.9)
In a way, Sedley's sad little stacks of neat useless documents are an echo of the other kinds of bundles of documents we see in the novel: Amelia's bunch of letters from George that she cannot bear to send back to him, Mr. Osborne's collection of George's various school writings, and Becky's stash of money and checks in the locked drawer of the little desk Rawdon breaks open. In each case, the bundle of papers is a reminder of things that are not to be.
The recognition was immediate. Rebecca flew into the arms of her dearest friend. Crawley and Osborne shook hands together cordially enough: and Becky, in the course of a very few hours, found means to make the latter forget that little unpleasant passage of words which had happened between them. "Do you remember the last time we met at Miss Crawley's, when I was so rude to you, dear Captain Osborne? I thought you seemed careless about dear Amelia. It was that made me angry: and so pert: and so unkind: and so ungrateful. Do forgive me!" Rebecca said, and she held out her hand with so frank and winning a grace, that Osborne could not but take it. By humbly and frankly acknowledging yourself to be in the wrong, there is no knowing, my son, what good you may do. I knew once a gentleman and very worthy practitioner in Vanity Fair, who used to do little wrongs to his neighbours on purpose, and in order to apologise for them in an open and manly way afterwards--and what ensued? My friend Crocky Doyle was liked everywhere, and deemed to be rather impetuous--but the honestest fellow. Becky's humility passed for sincerity with George Osborne. (22.40)
Compare this to the earlier scene of Becky telling George off for talking down to her as a governess. She has learned even more communication styles than she knew before – here, she demonstrates the effectiveness of the earnest apology. Now she doesn't need to actually be a truth-teller; she just has to seem like one.
Rawdon sate down, and wrote off, "Brighton, Thursday," and "My dear Aunt," with great rapidity: but there the gallant officer's imagination failed him. He mumbled the end of his pen, and looked up in his wife's face. She could not help laughing at his rueful countenance, and marching up and down the room with her hands behind her, the little woman began to dictate a letter, which he took down [...] "She won't recognise my style in that," said Becky. "I made the sentences short and brisk on purpose." And this authentic missive was dispatched under cover to Miss Briggs.
Old Miss Crawley laughed when Briggs, with great mystery, handed her over this candid and simple statement. "We may read it now Mrs. Bute is away," she said. "Read it to me, Briggs."
When Briggs had read the epistle out, her patroness laughed more. "Don't you see, you goose," she said to Briggs, who professed to be much touched by the honest affection which pervaded the composition, "don't you see that Rawdon never wrote a word of it. He never wrote to me without asking for money in his life, and all his letters are full of bad spelling, and dashes, and bad grammar. (25.70-83)
This again seems like a silly mistake for Becky to have made. Hasn't she seen Rawdon's bad writing before? After all, he used to write her notes at Queen's Crawley. Why would she write a grammatically correct letter when she is usually so good at figuring out the right tone and communication style for any given situation? This plot element is frustrating.