by William Makepeace Thackeray
Vanity Fair Language and Communications Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"I am here to speak French with the children," Rebecca said abruptly, "not to teach them music, and save money for you. Give me money, and I will teach them."
Minerva [Miss Pinkerton] was obliged to yield, and, of course, disliked her from that day. "For five-and-thirty years," she said, and with great justice, "I never have seen the individual who has dared in my own house to question my authority. I have nourished a viper in my bosom."
"A viper--a fiddlestick," said Miss Sharp to the old lady, almost fainting with astonishment. "You took me because I was useful. There is no question of gratitude between us. I hate this place, and want to leave it. I will do nothing here but what I am obliged to do."
It was in vain that the old lady asked her if she was aware she was speaking to Miss Pinkerton? Rebecca laughed in her face, with a horrid sarcastic demoniacal laughter, that almost sent the schoolmistress into fits. "Give me a sum of money," said the girl, "and get rid of me--or, if you like better, get me a good place as governess in a nobleman's family--you can do so if you please." And in their further disputes she always returned to this point, "Get me a situation--we hate each other, and I am ready to go." (2.19-23)
Although (or maybe because) Becky is the novel's best actress, she also knows how to be plainspoken. She is the only one who can cut through the bull in almost any social situation and just tell it like it is. Here, her declaration to Miss Pinkerton is shockingly inappropriate, but it also totally hits the nail on the head.
Whatever Sir Pitt Crawley's qualities might be, good or bad, he did not make the least disguise of them. He talked of himself incessantly, sometimes in the coarsest and vulgarest Hampshire accent; sometimes adopting the tone of a man of the world. (7.38)
Why does Sir Pitt speak in a low-class accent when he knows better? How does this bit of info help us understand his character?
"What have we for dinner, Betsy?" said the Baronet.
"Mutton broth, I believe, Sir Pitt," answered Lady Crawley.
"Mouton aux navets," added the butler gravely (pronounce, if you please, moutongonavvy); "and the soup is potage de mouton a l'Ecossaise. The side-dishes contain pommes de terre au naturel, and choufleur a l'eau."
"Mutton's mutton," said the Baronet, "and a devilish good thing. What SHIP was it, Horrocks, and when did you kill?" "One of the black-faced Scotch, Sir Pitt: we killed on Thursday.
"Who took any?"
"Steel, of Mudbury, took the saddle and two legs, Sir Pitt; but he says the last was too young and confounded woolly, Sir Pitt."
"Will you take some potage, Miss ah--Miss Blunt? said Mr. Crawley.
"Capital Scotch broth, my dear," said Sir Pitt, "though they call it by a French name."
"I believe it is the custom, sir, in decent society," said Mr. Crawley, haughtily, "to call the dish as I have called it"; and it was served to us on silver soup plates by the footmen in the canary coats, with the mouton aux navets. (8.29-37)
Ha! Should we unpack some of the humor in this funny scene? So, they're eating really sad peasant food: mutton (old sheep) and turnips. Ew. But they're serving it super fancy-style, and the butler insists on using French words for the food to class it up. Meanwhile, Sir Pitt is swearing ("devilish" was a mild swear word back then) and talking in his low-class country accent ("ship" is how he says "sheep").