Mr. Shepherd and Lady Russell draft plans for cutting back on expenditure. Lady Russell shares Sir Walter’s aristocratic sensibilities but also possesses good sense and honesty, as she attempts to persuade him to a more modest budget. Anne feels their spending should be cut even further; she is less concerned with aristocratic displays of importance than the honest need to pay back their creditors.
In Sir Walter and Anne, we observe competing notions of what constitutes real dignity: both possess a strong sense of family honor, but Sir Walter sees it as inseparable from the luxurious trappings of aristocracy, while Anne sees integrity and responsibility as critical to real dignity.
Sir Walter heatedly rejects the “disgraceful” propositions to cut back on his spending, exclaiming that he would prefer to leave Kellynch Hall altogether before remaining in it without his necessary dignities. Mr. Shepherd seizes upon this suggestion as a good strategy for reducing the costly expenses related to living in the estate. It is eventually decided that the Elliots will move to Bath and find a worthy tenant for Kellynch to appease Sir Walter’s pride.
English aristocracy was associated with blood, wealth, and land, but it was also meant to be supported by responsible stewardship and generosity with regard to the community. Sir Walter clings to the association of blood and land, but his self-important irresponsibility reveals the fragility of the assumptions underlying the aristocracy.
Lady Russell heartily approves this relocation. Although Anne dislikes Bath, Lady Russell feels that it will be good for the family financially. She is also wary of the developing friendship between Elizabeth and Mrs. Clay, the widowed daughter of Mr. Shepherd. She feels Mrs. Clay is not Elizabeth’s equal and is dangerously flattering to Sir Walter.
Lady Russell’s motives reveal both a genuine concern for the Elliot family and her own aristocratic prejudices in what she believes to be best for them. While Mrs. Clay is unpleasantly obsequious, it is clear that her main crime in Lady Russell’s eyes is her low birth and presumption in wheedling her way into Elizabeth and Sir Walter’s affections.