Chapter Nine Lucy as a Work of Art:
Mrs. Honeychurch, Lucy, and Cecil attend a neighborhood garden party. Cecil is disgusted by the experience, appalled by the niceties of country gentry. On the carriage ride home, he shares his feeling with Lucy, spinning out convoluted metaphors about fences between people. He is impressed by his own travel record, and seems to think of himself as some kind of Bohemian dynamo; Lucy is intelligent enough to know that a few quiet months in Rome with one's mother do not a rebel make. He implies that he does not like Mr. Beebe; while on the subject of unlikable clergymen, Lucy vehemently expresses her hatred for Mr. Eager, the chaplain of the British colony in Florence. She talks about how Mr. Eager slandered a certain friend of hers, and when Cecil and Mrs. Honeychurch ask the identity of this friend, Lucy lies. She says the man's name was Harris. Cecil makes naïve comments romanticizing the countryside and its people.
The carriage stops at Cissie and Albert, the two estates recently acquired by Sir Harry Otway. Sir Harry has bought the estates in part out of a sense of duty to the community; he wanted to fix the two homes up (both buildings are eyesores) and find desirable tenants. While discussing the problem of tenants, Lucy suggests Miss Teresa and Miss Catherine Alan, the two spinster sisters whom she met at the Pension Bertolini. Mrs. Honeychurch and Cecil object to the idea of having two depressing old maids in the neighborhood, but Lucy stands by them and asks Sir Harry if she can write to them and ask if they are interested. He gives his consent. Cecil wishes to walk back to Windy Corner with Lucy instead of riding the carriage, and Mrs. Honeychurch grants her consent.
Cecil complains about Sir Harry; although Lucy sees that there is truth in his criticisms, she wonders if these truths matter so much. Lucy begins to worry that Cecil will harshly judge the people close to her, like her mother and Freddy. Lucy is about to take the road home, but Cecil insists on walking through the woods. He complains that she seems most comfortable with him in a room, and after a moment's consideration Lucy realizes that he is right. In the woods, Lucy shows Cecil the Sacred Lake, a little pond where she and Freddy used to bathe. Cecil points out that he has never kissed her, and asks if he can kiss her now. She grants permission, and the kiss is embarrassing and awkward. There is absolutely no spontaneity or natural passion in the kiss. As they continue their walk, Lucy confesses to Cecil that the name of the old man whom Mr. Eager slandered was not Harris, but Emerson. He seems to think it a strange and unimportant comment for her to make, but the narrator tells us that it is the most intimate conversation that they have ever had.
Cecil has contempt for the world in which Lucy grew up. She, too, recognizes that garden parties and Sir Harry are silly, but she sees no reason to condemn them. Since Italy she has been more aware of the provinciality of her life at Windy Corner, but her family and old neighbors are still dear to her. The title of the chapter is "Lucy as a Work of Art": Cecil's dissatisfaction with Lucy's town is a rejection of something that is an important part of her. He wants to remake her into something as urban and critical as himself; he seeks to shape her as he would shape a painting or a sculpture.
The theme of women and their independence is here again: in many ways, Cecil sees Lucy as an object that needs to be refined, or a creature that needs to be trained. He constantly compares her in his mind to a woman painted by Leonardo DaVinci: mysterious, beautiful, the embodiment of a certain mystique. While Cecil's view of Lucy might be flattering, it is naïve and fails to treat her as a living person. He is more in love with the idea of Lucy than he is with the person.
Lucy's lie about Mr. Emerson shows that she is very guarded about her experience with George. The need to lie about a name shows her awareness that something about her experience in Florence needs to be concealed. The memories are uncomfortable, just as George's company was uncomfortable, because she cannot reconcile the honesty and intensity of her interactions with George to the dull and conventional suitor she is now engaged. Cecil is completely unaware of what is going on: when Lucy tells him Mr. Emerson's real name, she is letting him see a vital part of her life. But Cecil has no way of knowing this, and Lucy is too afraid of her own feelings to pursue the topic.
Chapter Ten Cecil as a Humourist:
The narrator explains Lucy's family history. Her father was a successful solicitor, and he built Windy Corner before the neighborhood had really been built up. When rich people from London began moving into the neighborhood, they mistook the Honeychurches for an old aristocratic family with a long history in the area. Without explicitly lying, Mrs. Honeychurch took advantage of their mistake to procure good society for her children; by the time the new neighbors learned the truth about the Honeychurches, they liked them enough so that it did not matter. Lucy has learned to see her old neighbors in a new light since her return from Italy, but although she recognizes that her old neighbors are provincial and silly, she does not want to despise them. Cecil cannot abide the social situation, and seeks to introduce Lucy into high levels of London society.
Freddy, Lucy, and Minnie Beebe (Mr. Beebe's niece) are playing bumble-puppy, a silly game played with tennis balls. Mrs. Honeychurch and Mr. Beebe are enjoying the fine weather, and Cecil is indoors. Lucy, Mrs. Honeychurch, and Mr. Beebe discuss the imminent arrival of the Miss Alans to Cissie villa. Freddy chimes in that the Miss Alans aren't going to be occupying Cissie at all. He has just spoken to Sir Harry, who told him that he has procured different tenants for the house: some people called the Emersons. Lucy is not sure if they are the same Emersons, but the possibility throws her into a daze. Freddy mentions that Cecil arranged the whole thing. Mr. Beebe and Lucy discuss the possibility that these Emersons might be the same ones from Florence; Mr. Beebe mentions that Mr. Emerson was rumored to have murdered his wife. Mrs. Honeychurch remembers that Lucy told her about another friend, a man named Harris, who supposedly killed his wife. Lucy is mortified at having told a lie without ever correcting it, but the subject is fortunately dropped.
Lucy rushes in to confront Cecil: he has arranged this whole thing as a joke on her. Lucy went to a great deal of trouble to arrange an agreement between the Miss Alans and Sir Harry, and now she will be seen by the Miss Alans as having let them down. Cecil's joke goes further: he met the Emersons at the National Gallery in London, and saw that they were exactly the kind of "undesirable" person feared by the snobbish Sir Harry. He did the whole thing as a joke. From Cecil's description, it becomes clear that these Emerson's are indeed Mr. Emerson and George.
We see the separation of Cecil from Lucy's family and Lucy from everyone else. Cecil stays inside rather than join the other outdoors. Forster slips in that they would not be playing bumble-puppy if Cecil were around. His snobbery makes it difficult for the Honeychurches to act naturally; he rejects many of the things that bring pleasure to Lucy's family.
Lucy's isolation is different and more profound. Confronted with her earlier lie, she has no one to be her confidante. More prone to see the faults of her neighbors since her return from Italy, she is also unable to join with Cecil in despising them. Cecil seeks to introduce her to what he views as more suitable circles, but the narrator explains to us that this move will not work. Forster writes, "Nor did he [Cecil] realize a more important pointthat if she was too great for this society, she was too great for all society, and had reached the stage where personal intercourse would alone satisfy her" (108). Lucy has moved beyond superficial interaction with "society"; she longs for something deeper. Cecil will not be able to provide it.
The great irony is that Cecil, in attempting to play a cruel joke, brings George back into Lucy's life. If Lucy is to break away from Cecil and, paraphrasing Mr. Beebe, learn to live as beautifully as she plays, she must confront George Emerson again. Being forced to deal with George will remind her of the feelings she has tried to suppress since she returned from Italy. Lucy has not yet realized that Cecil is unsuitable for her needs, and she reacts to the news of George's imminent arrival with a confusing mix of intense and contrary emotions. Here again is the "muddle"; it will take George to help Lucy work through this confusion.
Chapter Eleven In Mrs. Vyse's Well-Appointed Flat:
Lucy is in London visiting with Cecil's mother when the Emersons move into Cissie Villa. She has convinced herself that the Emersons' arrival does not matter in the least.
Things have been quite cold between Lucy and Charlotte since Italy; Charlotte sends a letter telling her that she has heard about the arrival of the Emersons at Cissie. She gives Lucy much unsolicited advice, instructing Lucy to tell her family about the incident in Italy and to stay away from George. Lucy sends Charlotte a polite but frigid response telling her that Lucy intends to follow none of Charlotte's advice.
Lucy is quite impressed by the cynicism of Cecil's aristocratic friends. Lucy dines with the almost-famous: "In spite of the season, Mrs. Vyse managed to scrape together a dinner-party consisting entirely of the grandchildren of famous people" (118). She plays piano for them, starting with some Schumann. Cecil calls for some Beethoven, but Lucy tries to play another Shumann piece. She falters and stops playing.
After the guests leave, Mrs. Vyse chats with Cecil. She is a woman who is weary without knowing it; the pace and intensity of life in London has robbed her of real vitality. Mrs. Vyse adores Lucy, and she tells her son to "make Lucy one of us" (119). Cecil is clearly enamored with Lucy. Later that night, Mrs. Vyse is woken by a scream from Lucy's room. When she goes to investigate, she learns that Lucy has been having bad dreams. She comforts Lucy, telling the girl that Cecil adores her more than ever. Mrs. Vyse returns to bed; Cecil has slept through the whole incident.
It is natural for Lucy to be somewhat awed by the London friends of the Vyses. She thinks that she should try to be more like the Vyses to please them, and that to marry Cecil she will have to leave behind anything in her that is of Windy Corner. At this point, Lucy thinks that this kind of self-transformation is necessary and beneficial. But something about this environment stifles her passion. We return to the theme of music, and its power to express passion and transcend social barriers. But Lucy cannot play a truly passionate piece for Cecil's friends. She opts for Shumann, and when Cecil calls for Beethoven Lucy tries to play Shumann again. Remember that Beethoven was established earlier in the novel as a symbol for passion and victory. She falters horribly during the second piece; Lucy's music is a symbol of her vitality and passion, and in the Vyses' home her music fails her. The faltering functions as both symbol and psychological insight. Forster is showing us that Lucy will have to give up much of the good in her if she marries Cecil. The reader cannot help but feel menaced by Mrs. Vyses' well-intentioned but ominous advice to Cecil: "Make Lucy one of us." What is at stake is Lucy's individuality. Already, the Vyses are planning to remake her to be acceptable to their social world.
Forster criticizes this world gleefully: the image of Lucy dining with the grandchildren of famous people, all full of cynicism and pretentious wit, balances some of the darkness of this chapter with humor. Forster refers to the guests throughout the chapter as "the grandchildren," demoting these adults to perpetual childhood. Forster's social commentary is most cutting when it is funny, and A Room with a View is a consistently funny book.
On a psychological level, we see that some part of Lucy understands what she will lose. Her music fails her, and later that night Lucy has a terrible nightmare. There is a moment of irony when Mrs. Vyse tries to comfort Lucy by assuring her that Cecil admires her. The reader knows, as some part of Lucy does, that Cecil is the source of Lucy's anxieties. Visiting with Cecil and realizing what kind of world she will live in if she marries him terrifies Lucy. Typically for her character, she cannot articulate or name the source of her own fears, which must then express themselves as nightmares.
Mr. Beebe and Freddy go to see the Emersons, who have just moved in. The house is in a state of disarray, and the visitors have to squeeze past a wardrobe to get inside. George's voice answers Mr. Beebe's greeting, but he does not come down for a while, and Mr. Beebe and Freddy have a chance to look at George's books. There are a good number of texts in German; the book collection reveals an extremely educated reader with eclectic tastes. When George finally comes down, Mr. Beebe introduces George to Freddy and Freddy immediately asks if George wants to go for a swim. Mr. Beebe laughs at the forward greeting, and jokes that as women cannot greet each other in such a manner, they cannot be equal to men. Mr. Emerson, now coming down the stairs, promises that they will be. He explains to Mr. Beebe that humans, to progress, will have to rid themselves of shame for their bodies.
Freddy, George, and Mr. Beebe go to swim. On the way to the pond, Mr. Beebe and George talk about the strangeness of the Emersons having ended up in the same town as Mr. Beebe and the Honeychurches. Mr. Beebe talks of an idea from his youth, a "History of Coincidence," which he never got around to writing. George believes that he has ended up in Surrey because of Fate. Mr. Beebe argues with him, saying that they all met in Italy, and the Emersons ended up in Surrey because they met Cecil in the National Gallery's rooms of Italian art: it is not Fate, but an interest in Italy that has brought them back together. George insists that it was Fate, and he tells Mr. Beebe to call it Italy if it makes him feel better.
Freddy strips and hops into the water enthusiastically. George disrobes and gets in, but with a much more apathetic attitude. Mr. Beebe stays on shore, clothed. George begins to loosen up, and Mr. Beebe, after making sure no one is around, strips down and gets in the pond. George warms up considerably, until all three of them are playing in and out of the water. Time passes pleasurably, until Lucy, Mrs. Honeychurch, and Cecil come along the path. Freddy and George, racing about naked on the banks, nearly run headlong into the three interlopers. The two naked men both run away and take cover. Cecil feels the need to protect the women; Mrs. Honeychurch is shocked; Lucy says very little but hides her face behind her parasol. They continue on, leaving the naked men behind. As they are leaving, George, half-dressed but still bare-chested, calls out amiably to Lucy. She tries to ignore him, but he calls out to her again. At Mrs. Honeychurch's request, Lucy turns and bows.
In the scene at the Emerson's new home, we learn more about the intellectual and political inclinations of the Emersons. George is extremely well educated, fluent enough in German to read Nietzsche and Shopenhauer in the original. Mr. Emerson is keenly interested in politics. He talks about the liberation of women, which he sees as inextricable from the liberation of man. He imagines that the Garden of Eden lies not in the past but in the future, and it will come when women and men both rid themselves of shame for their bodies. His point ties together themes about propriety, gender, and passion. For Mr. Emerson, the primness of English society is an enemy of progress. The many British anxieties about the human body are an obstacle of love, affection, and the progress of women's rights. His comments remind the reader of the comments he made on the carriage ride in Italy, when he defended the driver and the girl. Mr. Emerson values happiness and passion, and from his perspective any force that stands in the way of these things is wrong.
The talk about fate, coincidence, and Italy brings together other important themes. Although Forster never makes any strong pronouncements about fate, part of A Room with a View is the fact that unlikely coincidence happen, often with life-changing results. George is now back in Lucy's life because of a series of coincidences. Although Forster does not say emphatically whether Mr. Beebe or George is in the right, one must at least admit that coincidences are a part of life. It is now up to the book's characters to make the best of the coincidence that has brought them back together.
The scene at the pond ties in with Mr. Emerson's point. Even the normally dour George is invigorated by the experience of swimming and playing nude. Forster lovingly describes the beautiful landscape surrounding the pond. We return to the theme of connection between the land/nature and man. Stripping symbolizes the removal of the inhibitions imposed by civilization; in the next chapter, Forster refers to the swim as the "rout of a civilization" (130). Just as the land is beautiful and without concern for propriety, so too can man be. Here, just as in the violets scene, George becomes part of the land. The beautiful weather and landscape reflect the happiness and vitality he feels. When uptight Cecil and the two ladies come up the path, the imposition of Cecil's viewpoint and the women's prudishness is not enough to dispel what the men have gained. Freddy and George take cover so as to maintain some level of propriety, but Freddy is apologetic without being regretful and half-dressed George calls out to Lucy. For this scene, Forster does not go inside Lucy's head at all; the effect is that the reader, who usually knows everything that Lucy is thinking, suddenly has no idea about how Lucy feels when she sees George nude. Although Lucy shows the outward signs of being offended, we still are cut off from her thoughts. Her emotions on seeing George again (naked, no less) are probably more complicated than prudish shock.