Chapter Forty-three, Part One
Originally published 3/18/2007.
This is really fun. Lizzy sees more of her prejudices swept away by the highly favorable report of Darcy from his housekeeper, and Darcy and Lizzy meet unexpectedly. The latter brings on a scene of such incredible confusion and awkwardness that it's quite delicious to contemplate. Lizzy is embarrassed because it will seem as if she had thrown herself in his way (though as we learn later, this does not occur to Darcy), and Darcy is awkward probably because he is surprised and does not know how to interpret Lizzy's presence. He says later, in Chapter 58, that he "felt nothing but surprise."
This chapter is so long that I'm going to break it up; the text falls naturally into two divisions. The first division is the conversation with the housekeeper, and the second is everything after Darcy and Lizzy meet.
Alas, this is a Susan-less week. Hope you enjoy anyway.
Elizabeth, as they drove along, watched for the first appearance of Pemberley Woods with some perturbation; and when at length they turned in at the lodge, her spirits were in a high flutter.
Thus showing that she is by no means indifferent to Darcy.
The park was very large, and contained great variety of ground. They entered it in one of its lowest points, and drove for some time through a beautiful wood stretching over a wide extent.
Elizabeth's mind was too full for conversation, but she saw and admired every remarkable spot and point of view. They gradually ascended for half-a-mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills;...
I can't help but compare it with Rosings. According to the eminent Mr. Collins, Rosings is excellently situated on more than simply rising ground: a hill, indeed. Austen goes on to describe Pemberley in more detail; Pemberley comes out sounding much better than Rosings. Rosings is expensive, to be sure, as is Pemberley. But Pemberley has real elegance, refined by good taste.
...and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste...
My mother likes to point out that, in the BBC, when Lizzy actually says this last statement, that it is rather a clever comment.
...They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!
They descended the hill, crossed the bridge, and drove to the door; and, while examining the nearer aspect of the house, all her apprehension of meeting its owner returned. She dreaded lest the chambermaid had been mistaken. On applying to see the place, they were admitted into the hall; and Elizabeth, as they waited for the housekeeper, had leisure to wonder at her being where she was.
The housekeeper came; a respectable-looking elderly woman, much less fine,...
The word "fine" here means, I think, marked by or affecting elegance or refinement. In other words, the housekeeper matches the rest of the estate by having real elegance and good manners, rather than appearing to have them. Good manners are really about making other people feel comfortable.
...and more civil, than she...
...had any notion of finding her...
Meaning the housekeeper.
...They followed her into the dining-parlour. It was a large, well proportioned room, handsomely fitted up. Elizabeth, after slightly surveying it, went to a window to enjoy its prospect. The hill, crowned with wood, which they had descended, receiving increased abruptness from the distance, was a beautiful object. Every disposition of the ground was good; and she looked on the whole scene, the river, the trees scattered on its banks and the winding of the valley, as far as she could trace it, with delight. As they passed into other rooms these objects were taking different positions; but from every window there were beauties to be seen. The rooms were lofty and handsome, and their furniture suitable to the fortune of its proprietor; but Elizabeth saw, with admiration of his taste, that it was neither gaudy nor uselessly fine; with less of splendour, and more real elegance, than the furniture of Rosings.
Here we see that Lizzy, who has said she does not ridicule what is wise and good, lives up to her claim. Too often in modern times, people think that anything of real worth only deserves to be made fun of, instead of showing admiration for it.
"And of this place," thought she, "I might have been mistress! With these rooms I might now have been familiarly acquainted! Instead of viewing them as a stranger, I might have rejoiced in them as my own, and welcomed to them as visitors my uncle and aunt. But no," recollecting herself-- "that could never be; my uncle and aunt would have been lost to me; I should not have been allowed to invite them."
An opinion of which she is shortly to be dispossessed.
This was a lucky recollection-- it saved her from something very like regret.
She longed to inquire of the housekeeper whether her master was really absent, but had not the courage for it...
To ask might be considered too forward by a young lady such as herself.
...At length however, the question was asked by her uncle; and she turned away with alarm, while Mrs. Reynolds replied that he was, adding, "But we expect him to-morrow, with a large party of friends." How rejoiced was Elizabeth that their own journey had not by any circumstance been delayed a day!
Her aunt now called her to look at a picture. She approached and saw the likeness of Mr. Wickham, suspended, amongst several other miniatures, over the mantelpiece. Her aunt asked her, smilingly, how she liked it. The housekeeper came forward, and told them it was a picture of a young gentleman, the son of her late master's steward, who had been brought up by him at his own expense. "He is now gone into the army," she added; "but I am afraid he has turned out very wild."
Interesting that the housekeeper, unlike with Mr. Darcy, does not ask if Lizzy knows Wickham. Perhaps there are two reasons for that. One might be that the housekeeper does not wish to remember Wickham any more than does Darcy. The other might be that the housekeeper shows grace to Lizzy in not assuming an intimate connection with someone so vile.
Mrs. Gardiner looked at her niece with a smile, but Elizabeth could not return it.
Mrs. Gardiner does not yet know that Wickham is a scoundrel. So this second smile may mean a sort of conspiracy, as if they knew the truth of the matter, and the housekeeper is in the dark. On the other hand, Mrs. Gardiner is very sensible, so that may be entirely a wrong interpretation. I'm certainly open to others.
"And that," said Mrs. Reynolds, pointing to another of the miniatures, "is my master-- and very like him. It was drawn at the same time as the other-- about eight years ago."
Mrs. Reynolds certainly intends a contrast between Darcy and Wickham; in fact Austen intends it.
"I have heard much of your master's fine person," said Mrs. Gardiner, looking at the picture; "it is a handsome face. But, Lizzy, you can tell us whether it is like or not."
Mrs. Reynolds respect for Elizabeth seemed to increase on this intimation of her knowing her master.
"Does that young lady know Mr. Darcy?"
Elizabeth coloured, and said: "A little."
An understatement, in some ways. Or at least, it would have been considered an understatement by anyone who knew the situation. And yet, there is another sense in which it is true. She doesn't know Darcy all that well. She has known him for a while, and so in that sense she knows him.
"And do not you think him a very handsome gentleman, ma'am?"
"Yes, very handsome."
"I am sure I know none so handsome; but in the gallery upstairs you will see a finer, larger picture of him than this. This room was my late master's favourite room, and these miniatures are just as they used to be then. He was very fond of them."
This accounted to Elizabeth for Mr. Wickham's being among them.
Mrs. Reynolds then directed their attention to one of Miss Darcy, drawn when she was only eight years old.
"And is Miss Darcy as handsome as her brother?" said Mrs. Gardiner.
"Oh! yes-- the handsomest young lady that ever was seen; and so accomplished!-- She plays and sings all day long. In the next room is a new instrument just come down for her-- a present from my master; she comes here to-morrow with him."
Mr. Gardiner, whose manners were very easy and pleasant, encouraged her communicativeness by his questions and remarks: Mrs. Reynolds, either by pride or attachment, had evidently great pleasure in talking of her master and his sister.
"Is your master much at Pemberley in the course of the year?"
"Not so much as I could wish, sir; but I dare say he may spend half his time here; and Miss Darcy is always down for the summer months."
"Except," thought Elizabeth, "when she goes to Ramsgate."
"If your master would marry, you might see more of him."
"Yes, sir; but I do not know when that will be. I do not know who is good enough for him."
Mrs. Reynolds, with an highly ironic statement. She's talking with her future mistress! If only she knew...
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner smiled. Elizabeth could not help saying, "It is very much to his credit, I am sure, that you should think so."
A statement which is, in turn, a compliment to the housekeeper.
"I say no more than the truth,...
Meaning the statement about not knowing who would be good enough for Darcy.
...and everybody will say that knows him," replied the other...
Meaning Mrs. Reynolds.
...Elizabeth thought this was going pretty far; and she listened with increasing astonishment as the housekeeper added, "I have never known a cross word from him in my life, and I have known him ever since he was four years old."
This was praise, of all others most extraordinary, most opposite to her ideas. That he was not a good-tempered man had been her firmest opinion...
Aha. Another prejudice swept away.
...Her keenest attention was awakened;...
This indicates further that Lizzy really is interested in Darcy. She knows he's smart, and has seen before some of the similarities between them. In addition, she knows quite well that he has, at one time at least, been interested in her. Therefore, to hear such praise of your admirer would be gratifying, I'm sure.
...she longed to hear more, and was grateful to her uncle for saying:
"There are very few people of whom so much can be said. You are lucky in having such a master."
"Yes, sir, I know I am. If I were to go through the world, I could not meet with a better. But I have always observed, that they who are good-natured when children, are good-natured when they grow up; and he was always the sweetest-tempered, most generous-hearted boy in the world."
Mrs. Reynolds, saying good things about people behind their back. This is a most Christian thing to do. Flattery to the face can be very destructive, but speaking good of people when they are not around is most sensible.
Elizabeth almost stared at her. "Can this be Mr. Darcy?" thought she.
"His father was an excellent man," said Mrs. Gardiner.
"Yes, ma'am, that he was indeed; and his son will be just like him-- just as affable to the poor."
Elizabeth listened, wondered, doubted, and was impatient for more. Mrs. Reynolds could interest her...
...on no other point. She...
Meaning Mrs. Reynolds.
...related the subjects of the pictures, the dimensions of the rooms, and the price of the furniture, in vain. Mr. Gardiner, highly amused by the kind of family prejudice to which he attributed her excessive...
Or not. It's excessive in his eyes, no doubt. He does not know the real worth of Darcy.
...commendation of her master, soon led again to the subject;...
Perhaps he also sees that Lizzy is very interested in the subject.
...and she dwelt with energy on his many merits as they proceeded together up the great staircase.
"He is the best landlord, and the best master," said she, "that ever lived; not like the wild young men nowadays, who think of nothing but themselves. There is not one of his tenants or servants but will give him a good name. Some people call him proud; but I am sure I never saw anything of it. To my fancy, it is only because he does not rattle away like other young men."
"In what an amiable light does this place him!" thought Elizabeth.
This is a changed Elizabeth, indeed.
"This fine account of him," whispered her aunt as they walked, "is not quite consistent with his behaviour to our poor friend."
"Perhaps we might be deceived."
"That is not very likely; our authority was too good."
Mrs. Gardiner, meaning Wickham, I think, for the authority. This is probably genuine, not sarcastic. Mrs. Gardiner, as mentioned above, does not yet know how things stand between Darcy and Wickham.
On reaching the spacious lobby above they were shown into a very pretty sitting-room, lately fitted up with greater elegance and lightness than the apartments below; and were informed that it was but just done to give pleasure to Miss Darcy, who had taken a liking to the room when last at Pemberley.
"He is certainly a good brother," said Elizabeth, as she walked towards one of the windows.
Mrs. Reynolds anticipated Miss Darcy's delight, when she should enter the room...
I puzzled a bit over this sentence. I think it probably refers to the first time Georgiana entered the room: Mrs. Reynolds anticipated, meaning predicted, her delight when she entered the room for the first time. If there is another interpretation out there, I'd be glad to hear it.
..."And this is always the way with him," she added. "Whatever can give his sister any pleasure is sure to be done in a moment. There is nothing he would not do for her."
Nothing honorable, of course.
The picture-gallery, and two or three of the principal bedrooms, were all that remained to be shown. In the former were many good paintings; but Elizabeth knew nothing of the art; and from such as had been already visible below, she had willingly turned to look at some drawings of Miss Darcy's, in crayons,...
Interesting that crayons were in existence already. I wonder when they were first invented. Certainly Crayola didn't invent them.
...whose subjects were usually more interesting, and also more intelligible.
This could be a snide comment regarding the "modern art" of the day. Surely it wasn't as unintelligible as the modern art of our day, but compared with the probably everyday drawings of Georgiana (which would also tell Lizzy something about Georgiana), the art in the gallery is probably more complex. I don't think Lizzy would ignore the art in the gallery, especially after she married Darcy. However, recognizing that she probably shouldn't take forever looking at the finer art, she goes for the somewhat simpler and easier to grasp drawings.
In the gallery there were many family portraits, but they could have little to fix the attention of a stranger. Elizabeth walked in quest of the only face whose features would be known to her. At last it arrested her-- and she beheld a striking resemblance to Mr. Darcy, with such a smile over the face as she remembered to have sometimes seen when he looked at her. She stood several minutes before the picture, in earnest contemplation, and returned to it again before they quitted the gallery. Mrs. Reynolds informed them that it had been taken in his father's lifetime.
There was certainly at this moment, in Elizabeth's mind, a more gentle sensation towards the original...
A clever way of referring to Darcy himself.
...than she had ever felt at the height of their acquaintance. The commendation bestowed on him by Mrs. Reynolds was of no trifling nature. What praise is more valuable than the praise of an intelligent servant?...
The intelligence has been proven by Mrs. Reynolds' conversation.
...As a brother, a landlord, a master, she considered how many people's happiness were in his guardianship!-- how much of pleasure or pain was it in his power to bestow!-- how much of good or evil must be done by him! Every idea that had been brought forward by the housekeeper was favourable to his character, and as she stood before the canvas on which he was represented, and fixed his eyes upon herself, she thought of his regard with a deeper sentiment of gratitude than it had ever raised before; she remembered its warmth, and softened its impropriety of expression.
Meaning, I suppose, that the picture still has some of the Darcy pride in it, but in her mind she is editing out the harshness of it.
When all of the house that was open to general inspection had been seen, they returned downstairs, and, taking leave of the housekeeper, were consigned over to the gardener, who met them at the hall-door.
As they walked across the hall towards the river, Elizabeth turned back to look again; her uncle and aunt stopped also, and while the former was conjecturing as to the date of the building, the owner of it himself suddenly came forward from the road, which led behind it to the stables.
And with that cliff-hanger, I shall move on to the next natural division in the text.