While we don’t yet have a scene like this between Anthony and Eloise on the show, their conversation in To Sir Phillip, With Love stands as one of the strongest moments shared between any of the Bridgerton siblings.
Where book canon is concerned, their dynamic goes beyond what we’ve seen on the page. In a myriad of ways Anthony and Eloise share more than the others. They are connected in a way no two siblings in the series are, and while each of the dynamics are special, and what they share with one another is rightfully different—the unspoken connection between the two of them is one that’s deeply intricate.
We talk a lot about how Edmund Bridgerton’s death has affected Anthony as the eldest, but we don’t talk enough about the fact that Eloise is the one who was with him when the bee sting happened. And whether or not the TV show keeps this detail in canon, in the books, it binds the two of them with something that perpetually stings.
Eloise might not harbor the trauma in the same way, but the loss of their father and watching it unfold has undoubtedly had an enormous impact on her. She might not be deathly terrified of bees or of the detail that death might come knocking when she’s 38, but she is terrified nevertheless in her own way. She is terrified of being forgotten (and that’s a detail that could be broken down with its own article). It might very well be the reason why she holds on to what she treasures so closely. The profound understanding that life is short undeniably plays a large role into why she fixates on her dreams more than anything else. She knows everything could be taken from her instantaneously, and she is a human being who’s afraid of those very things. The conversation with Daphne in “Shock and Delight” proves this.
Thus, on the surface, both Anthony and Eloise appear to always have it together. They appear to be the toughest of all the siblings, they appear to be the ones who seldom need anything, except their conversation in To Sir Phillip, With Love exhibits otherwise.
This is the first time throughout the books where Eloise lets herself be truly vulnerable and for it to happen with Anthony of all her brothers works best. Eloise’s belief that she was left behind, that life was happening to everyone around her while she watched might just be the most relatable angles the series has tackled.
People like Eloise (and Anthony) put up a front. I am going to insert myself in the equation and say that we act like have it all together—we pretend we’re fine, we pretend we don’t care, but ultimately, we do. A lot. And that’s fundamentally why there is such a lack of expression because they’re both empaths, and thus, vocalizing just how much they are struck by the events of their lives is more difficult than even the most gruesome game of Pall Mall.
The vulnerability that’s literally on the table in this moment is a rarity for both of them because though Anthony has grown tremendously since finding love with Kate, allowing himself to be vulnerable with his siblings is a battle yet to be won. Still, it’s necessary to admit that it’s normal for the infamously powerful Viscount Bridgerton to be but a mere human being who’s still learning.
“But here he was, Anthony of all people, who was arrogant and proud and every inch the arch nobleman he’d been born to be, kneeling at her side, placing his hand on hers, and speaking with a kindness that nearly broke her heart.”To Sir Phillip, With Love
And what this scene showcases most evidently is that the process of learning is much easier when one allows oneself to be vulnerable. It’s a colossal step for both of them to meet each other halfway, and to find a reasonable solution to the (lovely) mess Eloise has gotten herself into.
If there’s one thing we know about Anthony Bridgerton from The Viscount Who Loved Me, it’s that when it comes to making someone else feel safe, he isn’t afraid to make himself small in the process. He isn’t afraid to be at eye level with them. He isn’t afraid to come off his high horse, so to speak. (We see this beautifully with Kate in the library.) He’s willing to meet people halfway because beyond the stoicism, beyond the façade of an arch nobleman, there is a gentle spirit in him that has always made him a better man.
And so, he’ll kneel by his sister to ensure that she understands he is entirely with her—she is safe with him, she could open up to him about whatever it is that she needs to say, and he won’t judge her for it. The powerful stance, the commanding voice, and all that society demands from him, he puts it aside when he realizes that the process of vulnerability is more important, and that the person in front of him needs his heart more.
In a society where fathers and older brothers likely view themselves as a woman’s superior, Anthony Bridgerton reverently sees them as his equals. (His wife as we all know, he views as his superior.) He could have easily gone dark here, he could have easily chosen the path of cruelty, to continue chastising, but instead, even though Eloise has damn near terrified the family, he chooses to instill hope in her. The very kind of hope that was instilled in him by Kate’s patience, devotion, and the choice to remind him of who he is underneath.
“You’re one of the special ones, Eloise. Life never happens to you. Trust me on this. I’ve watched you grow up, had to be your father at times when I wanted only to be your brother.” Her lips parted as something squeezed around her heart. He was right. He had been a father to her. It was a role neither of them had wanted for him, but he had it done it for years, without complaint. And this time, she squeezed his hand, not because she loved him, but because it was only now that she realized how very much she did. “You happen to life, Eloise,” Anthony said. “You’ve always made your own decisions, always been in control, it might not always feel that way, but it’s true.”To Sir Phillip, With Love
And here, Anthony doesn’t necessarily need to hear that he was a great father to them—he knows it. He feels it by Eloise’s decision to squeeze his hand, to say without words just how grateful she is for all that he’s done. It’s a moment of vulnerability where both of them come to the categorical understanding of how alike they truly are, how much they’ve endured, and the detail that opening up isn’t easy. Admitting to defeat, admitting to sadness can be daunting, but at the very least, they understand it best.
There is something to be said about Anthony’s vulnerability and the decision to admit how difficult it was for him to have been a father when he’s only wanted to be a brother. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but even if he’s admitted it to any of the other siblings, it’s never been at the level of earnest admission as this is. It’s never been laced with the tinge of sadness that’s present in this moment.)
Julia Quinn’s word choice here is crucial because “only” signifies so much. Anthony Bridgerton got to be a boy, he got to be a teenager, but when life showed its most harrowing fangs, he never really got the chance to be a brother. He became the brother, the father, the man of the house. And for a man to admit to such things to his little sister, the one he’s most alike, it’s an exhibition of his heart, but also, the kid inside of him bursting through.
He knew that all eyes were on him. He couldn’t be the brother who smokes outside, he had to be the responsible one. He had to be the one most like Edmund Bridgerton. And Eloise in a lot of ways took up the darkness she witnessed and spun it into the kind of thread that would stitch everyone else together. She stood strong as an independent woman because she is one, but also because she believed she had to be. She became the woman no one had to worry about.
It’s a testament to the detail that Eloise does finally see just how much he has done and how hard he has tried because she sees that part in herself as well. She understands that she’s looking into a mirror here.
No one’s perfect, even Edmund wasn’t perfect, and here we understand that both Anthony and Eloise feel so intensely, neither have them have vocalized it as openly in the household. He’s supposed to be the one they look up to, and in the type of patriarchal society they are in, men aren’t given the safe space to say they aren’t okay or that they’re struggling. And she is the one who’s supposed to be moved by the fire within her, the quips and the curiosities, it’s already a challenge wanting to be more in a society that puts chains around her.
The complexities within both of them might be too much for the world, but they are bound because of them, and for those that matter, these are the details they’re noticing they’re most fond of.
And in this scene especially, when he kneels to be at eye level with her, it is a great showcase of surrendering for him as well. He’s not only giving Eloise the chance to be vulnerable, but he is allowing it for himself as well. He is allowing himself the chance to be her brother more than her father. It’s a cathartic moment for him just as much—a moment for him to know that he hasn’t failed her. He’s trying his best. He is a father to his own children now, but in this moment, for the first time in a long, long time, he gets to be Eloise’s brother again.
And once more, for this scene to happen with Eloise of all people, it’s a wakeup call of him sorts for him. She really is the only one he never had to worry about, so to have this moment where he sees that she’s crumbling, it’s a punch in the guts. Because he realizes, she also needs to be taken care of and to be heard in the same way he was.
Eloise might be closer to Benedict in a lot of ways, but she is most like Anthony–she’s the one with fire in her, and so much of that is in Anthony too. You know somehow they’re going to be okay, you believe in it wholeheartedly because their strength is something to be admired, and so, when they break in front of people, the world comes crashing down. And this moment between the two of them is something that they’ll both carry forever.
There are a plethora of ways in which this scene could be broken down. We could talk in length about what this says about the people who always appear to have it together. We could talk in length about the ways in which grief manifests itself in different people. We could talk in length about the ways society looks at men and women differently. It’s a marvel of a scene, and it’s one that Julia Quinn should be exceptionally proud of for writing.
Can we have a collective prayer circle to ensure this scene and all the scenes with the Bridgerton brothers are included if the series is renewed for season five? Amen.