Study Guide

Vanity Fair Chapter 34

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Chapter 34

James Crawley's Pipe is put out

  • Miss Crawley, bored in Brighton, is happy to meet Pitt, Lady Jane, and her mother.
  • The visit goes well, with Pitt mediating between the two bossy old women with a skill "which showed that, had his diplomatic career not been blighted by early neglect, he might have risen to a high rank in his profession" (34.3).
  • Miss Crawley loves Lady Jane, who is just naïve and dumb enough to be extremely nice and kind to everyone.
  • So Pitt and Jane visit Miss Crawley often, until Mrs. Bute down in the country gets wind of the arrangement and becomes crazily jealous (remember, everyone is hungry for the inheritance).
  • She and her husband decide to send their son Jim – the only good-looking one of their children – down to Brighton to see whether Miss Crawley would like him.
  • Jim is still in college and so isn't really used to polite society. And being descended from Bute Crawley doesn't help him much in the brains department.
  • He goes down to Brighton with his dog and, after spending a night at an inn, comes to his aunt's house.
  • At first she likes him because he's handsome and kind of awkward, and on top of that she pretends to really, really like him in order to make Pitt uncomfortable. They're a nice, loving family that way – everyone just wants to make each other feel as bad as possible.
  • To really stick it to Pitt, Miss Crawley asks Jim to leave the inn and stay at her house instead. She sends off her butler, Mr. Bowls, to go pay his hotel bill.
  • That night Jim is still charmingly shy at dinner, so after dinner Pitt tries to get him to embarrass himself by getting him totally wasted. Pitt also tells him that Miss Crawley is super-liberal and wants everyone to just do whatever they want in her house. Jim does get wasted, but when they rejoin the ladies, he clams up again.
  • But suddenly, Jim's luck begins to change. Turns out that when he stayed at the inn, he made friends with a bunch of prizefighters and treated them to several rounds of gin. When Bowls went to pay the hotel bill, the innkeeper told him that Jim himself had drunk every one of these gin shots (18 total!), worried that otherwise Bowls wouldn't pay. Bowls told Briggs about the 18 gins, and she tells Miss Crawley, who is totally scandalized. Mostly she is shocked that Jim drinks gin, which is considered a vulgar, low-class alcohol. If were claret or sherry it would have been OK.
  • In any case, that's strike one.
  • Strike two is that on the second day, Jim loses his shyness. His giant dog attacks Miss Crawley's little lap dog, and he just laughs about it.
  • That night Jim gets totally wasted again after dinner, and this time he tries to be the life of the party. He tells the ladies all about his boxing friends and jokes that he wants to fight Pitt with or without gloves on (without gloves would be a tougher, more brutal style of fighting). Strike three!
  • In his room Jim lights up a tobacco pipe and smokes and smokes and smokes. He thinks he's being very clever because he opens the window, but he's so drunk that he doesn't realize the door of his room is also open. This creates a cross-breeze and blows all the smoke into the house.
  • Miss Crawley is totally grossed out by the smoking, which makes her ill.
  • The next morning Jim gets a note from Bowls asking him to get the heck out of there ASAP.
  • The narrator laughs and says that Jim has gotten his wish of fighting Pitt with his gloves off.
  • And what are Becky and Rawdon up to? Well, Becky is the toast of Paris, meeting the king's official mistress and generally living the high life. And she's pregnant! Rawdon is happy there, too.
  • After a while Miss Crawley reads an announcement in the paper that Becky has given birth to a son.
  • She freaks out, because this son is the only heir to the Crawley family fortune.
  • She demands that Jane and Pitt get married instantly and rewrites her will to leave them all her money. The ceremony takes place on the spot.
  • Pitt wants to go on a honeymoon, but Miss Crawley says she's so attached to Jane that she won't let them go. So now Pitt has to deal with Miss Crawley and Lady Southdown bossing him around even more.
  • Finally, Miss Crawley dies. A moment of silence, everyone.

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