Daniel Deronda HTML version

Chapter 5
"Her wit
Values itself so highly, that to her
All matter else seems weak."
--Much Ado About Nothing.
Gwendolen's reception in the neighborhood fulfilled her uncle's expectations.
From Brackenshaw Castle to the Firs at Winchester, where Mr. Quallon the
banker kept a generous house, she was welcomed with manifest admiration, and
even those ladies who did not quite like her, felt a comfort in having a new,
striking girl to invite; for hostesses who entertain much must make up their
parties as ministers make up their cabinets, on grounds other than personal
liking. Then, in order to have Gwendolen as a guest, it was not necessary to ask
any one who was disagreeable, for Mrs. Davilow always made a quiet,
picturesque figure as a chaperon, and Mr. Gascoigne was everywhere in request
for his own sake.
Among the houses where Gwendolen was not quite liked, and yet invited, was
Quetcham Hall. One of her first invitations was to a large dinner-party there,
which made a sort of general introduction for her to the society of the
neighborhood; for in a select party of thirty and of well-composed proportions as
to age, few visitable families could be entirely left out. No youthful figure there
was comparable to Gwendolen's as she passed through the long suite of rooms
adorned with light and flowers, and, visible at first as a slim figure floating along
in white drapery, approached through one wide doorway after another into fuller
illumination and definiteness. She had never had that sort of promenade before,
and she felt exultingly that it befitted her: any one looking at her for the first time
might have supposed that long galleries and lackeys had always been a matter
of course in her life; while her cousin Anna, who was really more familiar with
these things, felt almost as much embarrassed as a rabbit suddenly deposited in
that well-lit-space.
"Who is that with Gascoigne?" said the archdeacon, neglecting a discussion of
military manoeuvres on which, as a clergyman, he was naturally appealed to.
And his son, on the other side of the room--a hopeful young scholar, who had
already suggested some "not less elegant than ingenious," emendations of
Greek texts--said nearly at the same time, "By George! who is that girl with the
awfully well-set head and jolly figure?"
But to a mind of general benevolence, wishing everybody to look well, it was
rather exasperating to see how Gwendolen eclipsed others: how even the
handsome Miss Lawe, explained to be the daughter of Lady Lawe, looked
suddenly broad, heavy and inanimate; and how Miss Arrowpoint, unfortunately