Monday, October 01, 2007

Chapter Forty-two



Originally published 3/11/2007.

The answer to life, the universe, and everything.

Although this is a short chapter, it has much going on. After a short reverie as to the nature of the Bennet family, and Kitty showing signs of a little improvement, Austen fixes her attention on Lizzy's trip to the Lakes, and the beginning of that fateful trip. As promised, another week with the lovely Susan.

Had Elizabeth's opinion been all drawn from her own family, she could not have formed a very pleasing opinion of conjugal felicity or domestic comfort. Her father, captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour which youth and beauty generally give, had married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind had very early in their marriage put an end to all real affection for her. Respect, esteem, and confidence had vanished for ever; and all his views of domestic happiness were overthrown. But Mr. Bennet was not of a disposition to seek comfort for the disappointment which his own imprudence had brought on, in any of those pleasures which too often console the unfortunate for their folly or their vice...

Probably referring to adultery or drink.

...He was fond of the country and of books; and from these tastes had arisen his principal enjoyments. To his wife he was very little otherwise indebted, than as her ignorance and folly had contributed to his amusement. This is not the sort of happiness which a man would in general wish to owe to his wife; but where other powers of entertainment are wanting, the true philosopher will derive benefit from such as are given.

Elizabeth, however, had never been blind to the impropriety of her father's behaviour as a husband. She had always seen it with pain; but respecting his abilities, and grateful for his affectionate treatment of herself, she endeavoured to forget what she could not overlook, and to banish from her thoughts that continual breach of conjugal obligation and decorum which, in exposing his wife to the contempt of her own children, was so highly reprehensible...


He allows the breaking of one of the cardinal rules of the home, which is to respect one's mother. Interesting that the allowance of disrespect for the mother brings on a disrespect for the father.

...But she had never felt so strongly as now the disadvantages which must attend the children of so unsuitable a marriage, nor ever been so fully aware of the evils arising from so ill-judged a direction of talents; talents, which, rightly used, might at least have preserved the respectability of his daughters, even if incapable of enlarging the mind of his wife.

Mrs. Bennet has already been judged incorrigible by this commentator, and perhaps by some of my readers.

When Elizabeth had rejoiced over Wickham's departure she found little other cause for satisfaction in the loss of the regiment. Their parties abroad were less varied than before, and at home she had a mother and sister whose constant repinings at the dullness of everything around them threw a real gloom over their domestic circle;...

Thus showing the sin of discontent.

...and, though Kitty might in time regain her natural degree of sense, since the disturbers of her brain were removed,...

Meaning Lydia, of course, and the officers.

...her other sister, from whose disposition greater evil might be apprehended, was likely to be hardened in all her folly and assurance by a situation of such double danger as a watering-place and a camp. Upon the whole, therefore, she found, what has been sometimes found before, that an event to which she had been looking with impatient desire did not, in taking place, bring all the satisfaction she had promised herself...

Meaning that Lizzy wanted the officers to leave, badly. And when they did leave, it didn't make her so happy as she imagined it might. I find this to be often the case, which makes me more than ever inclined to believe that God not only wants what is best for me, but actually knows what it is. I sure don't.

...It was consequently necessary to name some other period for the commencement of actual felicity--to have some other point on which her wishes and hopes might be fixed, and by again enjoying the pleasure of anticipation, console herself for the present, and prepare for another disappointment...

So Lizzy is a realist, not a pessimist.

...Her tour to the Lakes was now the object of her happiest thoughts; it was her best consolation for all the uncomfortable hours which the discontentedness of her mother and Kitty made inevitable; and could she have included Jane in the scheme, every part of it would have been perfect.

"But it is fortunate," thought she, "that I have something to wish for. Were the whole arrangement complete, my disappointment would be certain. But here, by carrying with me one ceaseless source of regret in my sister's absence, I may reasonably hope to have all my expectations of pleasure realised. A scheme of which every part promises delight can never be successful; and general disappointment is only warded off by the defence of some little peculiar vexation."


In our fallen world, nothing is perfect; it is wise of Lizzy, therefore, not to expect it to be so.

When Lydia went away she promised to write very often and very minutely to her mother and Kitty; but her letters were always long expected, and always very short. Those to her mother contained little else than that they were just returned from the library, where such and such officers had attended them, and where she had seen such beautiful ornaments as made her quite wild; that she had a new gown, or a new parasol, which she would have described more fully, but was obliged to leave off in a violent hurry, as Mrs. Forster called her, and they were going off to the camp; and from her correspondence with her sister, there was still less to be learnt--for her letters to Kitty, though rather longer, were much too full of lines under the words to be made public.

Are we surprised that Lydia's letters are pure fluff? I'm not at all sure what the phrase "lines under the words" means. Any help from readers here would be much appreciated.

After the first fortnight...

That is, two weeks.

...or three weeks of her absence, health, good humour, and cheerfulness began to reappear at Longbourn. Everything wore a happier aspect. The families who had been in town for the winter came back again, and summer finery and summer engagements arose. Mrs. Bennet was restored to her usual querulous serenity;...

A contradiction in terms, surely.

...and, by the middle of June, Kitty was so much recovered as to be able to enter Meryton without tears; an event of such happy promise as to make Elizabeth hope that by the following Christmas she might be so tolerably reasonable as not to mention an officer above once a day, unless, by some cruel and malicious arrangement at the War Office, another regiment should be quartered in Meryton.

This sentence is very funny to my mind: the usual Austen understatement at work again.

The time fixed for the beginning of their northern tour was now fast approaching, and a fortnight only was wanting of it, when a letter arrived from Mrs. Gardiner, which at once delayed its commencement and curtailed its extent. Mr. Gardiner would be prevented by business from setting out till a fortnight later in July, and must be in London again within a month, and as that left too short a period for them to go so far, and see so much as they had proposed, or at least to see it with the leisure and comfort they had built on, they were obliged to give up the Lakes, and substitute a more contracted tour, and, according to the present plan, were to go no farther northwards than Derbyshire. In that county there was enough to be seen to occupy the chief of their three weeks; and to Mrs. Gardiner it had a peculiarly strong attraction. The town where she had formerly passed some years of her life, and where they were now to spend a few days, was probably as great an object of her curiosity as all the celebrated beauties of Matlock, Chatsworth, Dovedale, or the Peak.

Elizabeth was excessively disappointed; she had set her heart on seeing the Lakes, and still thought there might have been time enough. But it was her business to be satisfied--and certainly her temper to be happy; and all was soon right again.


Contrast with Mrs. Bennet, whose equilibrium state is a "querulous serenity."

With the mention of Derbyshire there were many ideas connected. It was impossible for her to see the word without thinking of Pemberley and its owner. "But surely," said she, "I may enter his county with impunity, and rob it of a few petrified spars without his perceiving me."

The period of expectation was now doubled. Four weeks were to pass away before her uncle and aunt's arrival. But they did pass away, and Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, with their four children, did at length appear at Longbourn. The children, two girls of six and eight years old, and two younger boys, were to be left under the particular care of their cousin Jane, who was the general favourite, and whose steady sense and sweetness of temper exactly adapted her for attending to them in every way-- teaching them, playing with them, and loving them.

The Gardiners stayed only one night at Longbourn, and set off the next morning with Elizabeth in pursuit of novelty and amusement...


I'm sure Austen meant "...and set off the next morning, with Elizabeth, in pursuit of novelty and amusement..." not "...and set off the next morning, with Elizabeth in pursuit of novelty and amusement..." It's rather rare for Austen to have a dangling modifier.

...One enjoyment was certain--that of suitableness of companions; a suitableness which comprehended health and temper to bear inconveniences--cheerfulness to enhance every pleasure--and affection and intelligence, which might supply it among themselves if there were disappointments abroad.

We've already seen Lizzy's affection and intelligence at work in mitigating disappointment.

It is not the object of this work to give a description of Derbyshire, nor of any of the remarkable places through which their route thither lay; Oxford, Blenheim, Warwick, Kenilworth, Birmingham, etc. are sufficiently known. A small part of Derbyshire is all the present concern. To the little town of Lambton, the scene of Mrs. Gardiner's former residence, and where she had lately learned some acquaintance still remained, they bent their steps, after having seen all the principal wonders of the country; and within five miles of Lambton, Elizabeth found from her aunt that Pemberley was situated. It was not in their direct road, nor more than a mile or two out of it. In talking over their route the evening before, Mrs. Gardiner expressed an inclination to see the place again. Mr. Gardiner declared his willingness, and Elizabeth was applied to for her approbation.

"My love, should not you like to see a place of which you have heard so much?" said her aunt; "a place, too, with which so many of your acquaintances are connected. Wickham passed all his youth there, you know."

Elizabeth was distressed. She felt that she had no business at Pemberley, and was obliged to assume a disinclination for seeing it. She must own that she was tired of seeing great houses; after going over so many, she really had no pleasure in fine carpets or satin curtains.


She of course has other reasons for not wanting to see Pemberley. To run into Darcy again would, as Austen points out later, be quite embarrassing.

Mrs. Gardiner abused her stupidity...

As can only charitably be done with people who have a good understanding. It's rather like when guys insult each other and they're good friends. Alas, modern women don't tend to understand this bonding.

..."If it were merely a fine house richly furnished," said she, "I should not care about it myself; but the grounds are delightful. They have some of the finest woods in the country."

Elizabeth said no more--but her mind could not acquiesce. The possibility of meeting Mr. Darcy, while viewing the place, instantly occurred. It would be dreadful!...


It would be dreadful because it would seem like she had purposely thrown herself in his way. This is explained in such terms in the BBC. After having refused Darcy's hand in marriage, to thus "seek him out" would be to appear very forward, which would be inappropriate.

...She blushed at the very idea, and thought it would be better to speak openly to her aunt than to run such a risk. But against this there were objections;...

Because of the following:

1. She would have to explain that she had refused Darcy's hand in marriage, which would imply that he had proposed in the first place.

2. She would then probably have to explain why she refused him, which could only fully be explained by talking about the Jane/Bingley relationship, and about Wickham.

3. Finally, she would have to explain Darcy's letter, else she would slander him. To do so would break the confidence Darcy put in her.

...and she finally resolved that it could be the last resource, if her private inquiries to the absence of the family were unfavourably answered.

Accordingly, when she retired at night, she asked the chambermaid whether Pemberley were not a very fine place? what was the name of its proprietor? and, with no little alarm, whether the family were down for the summer?...


The sequence of questions is intended to indicate, without actually saying so, that Lizzy is not at all acquainted with the Darcys.

...A most welcome negative followed the last question--and her alarms now being removed, she was at leisure to feel a great deal of curiosity to see the house herself; and when the subject was revived the next morning, and she was again applied to,...

Interesting that the Gardiners have the good sense to see that Lizzy is not easy in her mind about seeing Pemberley, and so they do not regard her as having agreed to go.

...could readily answer, and with a proper air of indifference, that she had not really any dislike to the scheme. To Pemberley, therefore, they were to go.

Thus setting the scene for the incredibly amusing awkwardness when Lizzy and Darcy do meet, as we know they do.

1 Comments:

At March 14, 2007 6:26 AM, Blogger Miriam Rebekah said...

As this is one of my favorite books, I really enjoy reading y'alls comments on it.
I like the upcoming scene.

 

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