The Scarlet Pimpernel


Baroness Orczy

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The Scarlet Pimpernel: Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Sally is busy in the kitchen of “The Fisherman’s Rest,” and she can hear the loud and happy crowd that has assembled in the coffee-room. Sally’s father, Mr. Jellyband, the “worthy host” and landlord of “The Fisherman’s Rest,” sits visiting his patrons. It is mostly fishermen who frequent Mr. Jellyband’s coffee-room in Dover, but anyone traveling across the Channel knows “The Fisherman’s Rest.” Mr. Jellyband is a “typical rural John Bull” and is full of “prejudiced insularity.” According to him, all of Europe is “a den of immorality,” and the rest of the world “an unexploited land of savages and cannibals.”
Orczy juxtaposes French and British society to prove her point that the aristocracy is superior to the republic. British society, which exalts and reveres royalty, is portrayed on a small scale at “The Fisherman’s Rest.” Sally is kind and beautiful, Jellyband is “worthy” and “honest,” and everyone is happy. The “Chat Gris,” the French inn mentioned later in the novel, is filthy by comparison, and the landlord is foul and unpleasant. Mr. Jellyband’s opinion of Europe as “an unexploited land of savages” reflects popular colonial assumptions of British superiority, and Orczy’s portrayal of the contrasting inns supports this as well.
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Near the hearth sits Mr. Hempseed, “an authority and an important personage” in Dover known for his knowledge of Scripture. Mr. Hempseed is a regular at “The Fisherman’s Rest,” and Mr. Jellyband often makes “a special selection of him as a foil for political arguments.” The two men talk about the unusually wet weather, which is sure to kill the upcoming crops. “What can you ‘xpect?” Jellyband says in reference to the weather. “There’s all them Frenchy devils over the Channel yonder a murderin’ their king and nobility, […]. ‘Let ‘em murder!’ says Mr. Pitt. ‘Stop ‘em!’ says Mr. Burke.” Mr. Hempseed turns to his host. “And let ‘em murder, says I, and be demmed to ‘em,” Hempseed says.
While the English were generally opposed to the French Revolution, some were hesitant to intervene for various reasons, including cautious politicians like Mr. Pitt.  Mr. Hempseed is one such Englishman, although he exists mostly as a foil to Mr. Jellyband, so his reasons for abandoning the French aristocrats are never known. Most of the British felt as Mr. Jellyband does. It is ridiculous to blame the revolutionists for the weather, but Jellyband despises them so much he blames them for everything.
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Related Quotes
Mr. Jellyband yells to Sally to get the evening meal ready. “Is you ‘xpecting special guest then to-night, Mr. Jellyband?” asks one of the patrons, and he confirms that he is. Lord Anthony and Sir Andrew Ffoulkes are bringing dukes and duchesses over the Channel today, having escaped “the clutches of them murderin’ devils,” Jellyband says. He tells the young patron about an old friend who “made friends with some o’ them frog-eaters” across the Channel, and before Jellyband knew it, his friend was talking “of revolutions, and liberty, and down with the aristocrats, just like [Mr. Hempseed] ‘ere!”
Jellyband’s support of the Scarlet Pimpernel and the aristocracy is obvious. The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel uses his inn as a meeting place after bringing aristocrats across the Channel, and he is proud to be in the mix. He openly denounces the French and speaks of them in a derogatory way, referring to them as both “murderin’ devils” and “frog-eaters.” He even criticizes an old friend for supporting revolutionist views.
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At a nearby table, two strangers sit listening to Mr. Jellyband’s “international opinions.” One of the strangers asks Jellyband how the foreigners were able to sway his friend’s political opinions so easily. “I suppose they talked ‘im over,” Jellyband responds. “Faith, then,” the stranger says, “let us hope, my worthy host, that these clever spies will not succeed in upsetting your extremely loyal opinions.” The coffee-room erupts with laughter. No one “could ever upset Mr. Jellyband’s firmly-rooted opinions [concerning] the utter worthlessness of the inhabitants of the whole continent of Europe.”
Mr. Jellyband is unwavering in his belief of British superiority, and his royalist politics could never be upended by a “clever spy.” The strangers at Jellyband’s inn are certainly mysterious. The man’s reference to “clever spies” suggests that he himself could be just that; however, Mr. Jellyband later claims at the mention of spies that they are “among friends.” A strong case can be made that the strangers are the Scarlet Pimpernel and one of his men, yet they could just as easily be Frenchmen pursuing him.
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