Several weeks ago, a Word of the Week featured the quotes of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. I received this hilarious Twitter shout-out from Dolores of Course:
Anytime a person is impelled to Jane Austen, it’s a good thing. My goal this week is to invoke the urge toward Sense and Sensibility; specifically, Mrs. Charlotte Palmer, and her incessant chatter, and her husband’s priceless reactions to it.
And really, does one need an excuse to watch a period version of Dr. House?
A jaw-me-dead is a talkative fellow; jaw being speech, discourse.
Mrs. Charlotte Palmer is a giggly, silly, chatterbox…but also essentially a nice person. Just like her mother, Mrs. Jennings, she loves gossip – and sharing it as soon as possible with all her friends. Mr. Palmer, on the surface, is a dour sourpuss whose only conversation seems to be one-liners delivered in passive aggressive rebuttal of his wife’s pronouncements. He’s quiet where she is exuberant. When the action moves to his home, we see he is really serious and concerned about the health of his guest (Marianne) and his family, and that his acerbity is more posture than truth.
Mr. Palmer’s role as straight man to his wife’s Jaw-Me-Dead is pure entertainment.
Mrs. Palmer was several years younger than Lady Middleton, and totally unlike her in every respect. She was short and plump, had a very pretty face, and the finest expression of good humour in it that could possibly be. Her manners were by no means so elegant as her sister’s, but they were much more prepossessing. She came in with a smile, smiled all the time of her visit, except when she laughed, and smiled when she went away. Her husband was a grave looking young man of five or six and twenty, with an air of more fashion and sense than his wife, but of less willingness to please or be pleased. He entered the room with a look of self-consequence, slightly bowed to the ladies, without speaking a word, and, after briefly surveying them and their apartments, took up a newspaper from the table, and continued to read it as long as he staid.
Mrs. Palmer, on the contrary, who was strongly endowed by nature with a turn for being uniformly civil and happy, was hardly seated before her admiration of the parlour and every thing in it burst forth.
Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 19
Only look, sister, how delightful every thing is! How I should like such a house for myself! Should not you, Mr. Palmer?”
Mr. Palmer made her no answer, and did not even raise his eyes from the newspaper.
“Mr. Palmer does not hear me,” said she, laughing; “he never does sometimes. It is so ridiculous!”
Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 19
“But indeed you must and shall come. I am sure you will like it of all things. The Westons will be with us, and it will be quite delightful. You cannot think what a sweet place Cleveland is; and we are so gay now, for Mr. Palmer is always going about the country canvassing against the election; and so many people came to dine with us that I never saw before, it is quite charming! But, poor fellow! it is very fatiguing to him! for he is forced to make every body like him.”
Elinor could hardly keep her countenance as she assented to the hardship of such an obligation.
“How charming it will be,” said Charlotte, “when he is in Parliament!–won’t it? How I shall laugh! It will be so ridiculous to see all his letters directed to him with an M.P.–But do you know, he says, he will never frank for me? He declares he won’t. Don’t you, Mr. Palmer?”
Mr. Palmer took no notice of her.
“He cannot bear writing, you know,” she continued–“he says it is quite shocking.”
“No,” said he, “I never said any thing so irrational. Don’t palm all your abuses of languages upon me.”
Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 20
“Mr. Palmer will be so happy to see you,” said she; “What do you think he said when he heard of your coming with Mamma? I forget what it was now, but it was something so droll!”
After an hour or two spent in what her mother called comfortable chat, or in other words, in every variety of inquiry concerning all their acquaintance on Mrs. Jennings’s side, and in laughter without cause on Mrs. Palmer’s, it was proposed by the latter that they should all accompany her to some shops where she had business that morning…
Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 26
Nothing was wanting on Mrs. Palmer’s side that constant and friendly good humour could do, to make them feel themselves welcome. The openness and heartiness of her manner more than atoned for that want of recollection and elegance which made her often deficient in the forms of politeness; her kindness, recommended by so pretty a face, was engaging; her folly, though evident was not disgusting, because it was not conceited; and Elinor could have forgiven every thing but her laugh.
Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 42
He came, examined his patient, and though encouraging Miss Dashwood to expect that a very few days would restore her sister to health, yet, by pronouncing her disorder to have a putrid tendency, and allowing the word “infection” to pass his lips, gave instant alarm to Mrs. Palmer, on her baby’s account. Mrs. Jennings, who had been inclined from the first to think Marianne’s complaint more serious than Elinor, now looked very grave on Mr. Harris’s report, and confirming Charlotte’s fears and caution, urged the necessity of her immediate removal with her infant; and Mr. Palmer, though treating their apprehensions as idle, found the anxiety and importunity of his wife too great to be withstood. Her departure, therefore, was fixed on; and within an hour after Mr. Harris’s arrival, she set off, with her little boy and his nurse, for the house of a near relation of Mr. Palmer’s, who lived a few miles on the other side of Bath; whither her husband promised, at her earnest entreaty, to join her in a day or two; and whither she was almost equally urgent with her mother to accompany her.
Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 43
Emma Thompson’s faithful and Oscar-winning adaptation of Sense and Sensibility in 1995 showcases the quirky banter of the Palmers to perfection. How many of us could keep our cool and droll sense of humor in the face of such a steadfast Jaw-Me-Dead as Mrs. Palmer?