Chapter Twenty-three, Part 1
Originally published 9/17/2006.
Here we see how Charlotte tells the Bennet family of her engagement, and also a bit of how Jane pines for Mr. Bingley.
Elizabeth was sitting with her mother and sisters, reflecting on what she had heard, and doubting whether she was authorised to mention it, when Sir William Lucas himself appeared, sent by his daughter,...
...to announce her engagement to the family. With many compliments to them, and much self-gratulation on the prospect of a connection between the houses,...
Was that wise or not? It could be viewed as a compliment to the Bennets. Or, it could be simple self-adulation. What think you?
...he unfolded the matter-- to an audience not merely wondering, but incredulous; for Mrs. Bennet, with more perseverance than politeness, protested he must be entirely mistaken; and Lydia, always unguarded and often uncivil, boisterously exclaimed:
"Good Lord! Sir William, how can you tell such a story? Do not you know that Mr. Collins wants to marry Lizzy?"
Taking the Lord's name in vain, calling Sir William a liar, answering a matter without being in possession of the facts (answering a matter before hearing it), probably interrupting; those are only some of the sins Lydia has just committed.
Nothing less than the complaisance of a courtier could have borne without anger such treatment; but Sir William's good breeding carried him through it all;...
We see that, while he is probably puffed up a bit by his courteousness, it does him good service here by not complicating the matter. Better to let it go. He probably did not particularly enjoy the spectacle, and internally might very well have fumed; I'm not sure Austen says what he's thinking. Certainly there's no outward reaction.
...and though he begged leave to be positive as to the truth of his information, he listened to all their impertinence with the most forbearing courtesy.
Elizabeth, feeling it incumbent on her to relieve him from so unpleasant a situation, now put herself forward to confirm his account, by mentioning her prior knowledge of it from Charlotte herself;...
This is really quite good of her. Who better to second the story than Charlotte's intimate friend, and one who, until recently, was courted by Mr. Collins? It directly contradicts Lydia's statement, at least.
...and endeavoured to put a stop to the exclamations of her mother and sisters by the earnestness of her congratulations to Sir William, in which she was readily joined by Jane,...
I've mentioned it before, but the BBC inserts a wonderful line for Jane: "Well, they may be happy. The heart finds happiness in the strangest places." However, she doesn't say that line while Sir William is present! It's only the family at dinner.
...and by making a variety of remarks on the happiness that might be expected from the match, the excellent character of Mr. Collins,...
I suppose they must mean that, while he is silly, he is at least decent and moral. Or are they "being polite" and dishonest?
...and the convenient distance of Hunsford from London.
This is a bit confusing to me. In Chapter Thirty-two, if you recall, Darcy visits Lizzy at Hunsford, and they are very awkward together. They have the following conversation:
[begin quote, Lizzy starts]
"Yes, indeed, his friends may well rejoice in his having met with one of the very few sensible women who would have accepted him, or have made him happy if they had. My friend has an excellent understanding-- though I am not certain that I consider her marrying Mr. Collins as the wisest thing she ever did. She seems perfectly happy, however, and in a prudential light it is certainly a very good match for her."
"It must be very agreeable for her to be settled within so easy a distance of her own family and friends."
"An easy distance, do you call it? It is nearly fifty miles."
"And what is fifty miles of good road? Little more than half a day's journey. Yes, I call it a very easy distance."
"I should never have considered the distance as one of the advantages of the match," cried Elizabeth. "I should never have said Mrs. Collins was settled near her family."
"It is a proof of your own attachment to Hertfordshire. Anything beyond the very neighbourhood of Longbourn, I suppose, would appear far."
Perhaps the difference is that in the quote they are talking of the distance between Hunsford and Charlotte's family, whereas in this chapter they are talking about the convenient distance between Hunsford and London. And the one sentence Lizzy says, namely, "I should never have considered the distance as one of the advantages of the match...", does have "the distance," as opposed to "distance." Maybe I'm comparing apples and oranges.
Mrs. Bennet was in fact too much overpowered to say a great deal while Sir William remained; but no sooner had he left them than her feelings found a rapid vent...
In the multiplication of many words, transgression abounds.
...In the first place, she persisted in disbelieving the whole of the matter; secondly, she was very sure that Mr. Collins had been taken in; thirdly, she trusted that they would never be happy together;...
That, as my father would (almost gleefully) point out, is envy.
...and fourthly, that the match might be broken off. Two inferences, however, were plainly deduced from the whole: one, that Elizabeth was the real cause of the mischief;...
This is classic post hoc ergo propter hoc: after the fact, therefore because of the fact. It's a logical fallacy, the usual example being, "I brush my teeth every morning, and after I brush my teeth, the sun rises. Therefore brushing my teeth causes the sun to rise." Yes, Lizzy refused Mr. Collins, who would then naturally turn to someone else. But to say that Lizzy caused Mr. Collins to get engaged to Charlotte is quite ludicrous. Lizzy would have vetoed it if she could! And she would have done so for reasons quite beyond her mother to comprehend. Ergo, Mrs. Bennet is off her rocker. But we already knew that.
...and the other that she herself had been barbarously misused by them all; and on these two points she principally dwelt during the rest of the day. Nothing could console and nothing could appease her. Nor did that day wear out her resentment. A week elapsed before she could see Elizabeth without scolding her, a month passed away before she could speak to Sir William or Lady Lucas without being rude, and many months were gone before she could at all forgive her daughter.
Churchill's definition of a fanatic: she can't change her mind, and she won't change the subject. And to be wrong as to the facts of the case. *tsk, tsk*
Mr. Bennet's emotions were much more tranquil on the occasion, and such as he did experience he pronounced to be of a most agreeable sort; for it gratified him, he said, to discover that Charlotte Lucas, whom he had been used to think tolerably sensible, was as foolish as his wife, and more foolish than his daughter!
Way to boost your wife, to build her up especially in front of her children.
Jane confessed herself a little surprised at the match; but she said less of her astonishment than of her earnest desire for their happiness; nor could Elizabeth persuade her to consider it as improbable...
Though she probably tried, for Lizzy herself sees only conflict in the future from so intellectually unequal a match.
...Kitty and Lydia were far from envying Miss Lucas, for Mr. Collins was only a clergyman; and it affected them in no other way than as a piece of news to spread at Meryton.
As difficult as it might appear, Kitty and Lydia actually manage to top their mother's silliness with apathy and unconcern. Not being concerned about their sister's friend shows a bit of callousness, I think.
Lady Lucas could not be insensible of triumph on being able to retort on Mrs. Bennet the comfort of having a daughter well married; and she called at Longbourn rather oftener than usual to say how happy she was, though Mrs. Bennet's sour looks and ill-natured remarks might have been enough to drive happiness away.
Rather uncharitable of Lady Lucas, don't you think? If she had any sense, she could see that her visits were unwelcome, since her daughter had "stolen" Mr. Collins away from Lizzy. This is called "wearing out your welcome."
Between Elizabeth and Charlotte there was a restraint which kept them mutually silent on the subject; and Elizabeth felt persuaded that no real confidence could ever subsist between them again. Her disappointment in Charlotte...
See previous chapter notes about Charlotte's wisdom in choosing Mr. Collins.
...made her turn with fonder regard to her sister, of whose rectitude and delicacy she was sure her opinion could never be shaken, and for whose happiness she grew daily more anxious, as Bingley had now been gone a week and nothing more was heard of his return.
This is a good place to split up the chapter.