Chapter Eighteen, Part 2
Originally published 5/14/2006.
Continued from last post.
"May I ask to what these questions tend?"
"Merely to the illustration of your character," said she, endeavouring to shake off her gravity. "I am trying to make it out."
"And what is your success?"
She shook her head. "I do not get on at all. I hear such different accounts of you as puzzle me exceedingly."
"I can readily believe," answered he gravely, "that reports may vary greatly with respect to me; and I could wish, Miss Bennet, that you were not to sketch my character at the present moment, as there is reason to fear that the performance would reflect no credit on either."
This is rather interesting, is it not? Darcy, with all his faults, is at least somewhat self-aware. He is at least aware that whatever faults he has tend to be the kind which show themselves to other people, and make them dislike him. That is evidenced also by his statement about Wickham, earlier, in which he described Wickham's happy way of gaining friends.
"But if I do not take your likeness now, I may never have another opportunity."
"I would by no means suspend any pleasure of yours," he coldly replied. She said no more, and they went down the other dance and parted in silence; and on each side dissatisfied, though not to an equal degree, for in Darcy's breast there was a tolerable powerful feeling towards her, which soon procured her pardon, and directed all his anger against another.
I'm sort of assuming that the "to an equal degree" here somewhat implies that Lizzy is still very dissatisfied, while Darcy's knowledge of Wickham causes him to redirect his anger. I do not think Darcy is terribly happy with Lizzy right now.
They had not long separated, when Miss Bingley came towards her, and with an expression of civil disdain accosted her:-- "So, Miss Eliza, I hear you are quite delighted with George Wickham! Your sister has been talking to me about him, and asking me a thousand questions; and I find that the young man quite forgot to tell you, among his other communication, that he was the son of old Wickham, the late Mr. Darcy's steward...
The game of gossip. We know Wickham did tell Lizzy this. But, when you get your information second-hand, or even third-hand, it tends to get corrupted in transit.
...Let me recommend you, however, as a friend, not to give implicit confidence to all his assertions; for as to Mr. Darcy's using him ill, it is perfectly false; for, on the contrary, he has always been remarkably kind to him, though George Wickham has treated Mr. Darcy in a most infamous manner. I do not know the particulars, but I know very well that Mr. Darcy is not in the least to blame, that he cannot bear to hear George Wickham mentioned, and that though my brother thought that he could not well avoid including him in his invitation to the officers, he was excessively glad to find that he had taken himself out of the way. His coming into the country at all is a most insolent thing, indeed, and I wonder how he could presume to do it. I pity you, Miss Eliza, for this discovery of your favourite's guilt; but really, considering his descent, one could not expect much better."
I could probably say loads about this speech of Caroline's. I would say the main motive appears to me to be pride: pride in putting Lizzy down. This is the pleasure of contradicting to show others in a worse light, hoping you will look better in the long run. It often backfires. Miss Bingley has an added motive for wanting to make Lizzy look bad: it will discourage her from seeking Darcy's approval. Miss Bingley, being by now probably insanely jealous of Lizzy, likely sees Lizzy as courting Darcy's approval. My, my. How being that kind of jealous can blind one!
"His guilt and his descent appear by your account to be the same," said Elizabeth angrily; "for I have heard you accuse him of nothing worse than of being the son of Mr. Darcy's steward, and of that, I can assure you, he informed me himself."
Now Lizzy, put off by the admittedly arrogant and rude comments of Miss Bingley, commits her own error. I don't know what you'd call it in logic, maybe "It just ain't so." Lizzy appears to have completely tuned out Miss Bingley when she said, "though George Wickham has treated Mr. Darcy in a most infamous manner." So we can see that even in such admirable characters as Lizzy, if you don't approach someone in a proper way, with gentleness and humility, your audience will be put off, and may quite easily ignore what you have to say. While we shouldn't take this principle to extremes, it does illustrate with how many unnecessary offenses we load ourselves down.
"I beg your pardon," replied Miss Bingley, turning away with a sneer. "Excuse my interference: it was kindly meant."
Now it is Miss Bingley's turn to be obnoxious. She would better have smiled, bowed, and walked away.
"Insolent girl!" said Elizabeth to herself. "You are much mistaken if you expect to influence me by such a paltry attack as this. I see nothing in it but your own wilful ignorance and the malice of Mr. Darcy." She then sought her eldest sister, who has undertaken to make inquiries on the same subject of Bingley. Jane met her with a smile of such sweet complacency, a glow of such happy expression, as sufficiently marked how well she was satisfied with the occurrences of the evening. Elizabeth instantly read her feelings, and at that moment solicitude for Wickham, resentment against his enemies, and everything else, gave way before the hope of Jane's being in the fairest way for happiness.
Still, Lizzy's heart is more or less in the right place with regards to Jane.
"I want to know," said she, with a countenance no less smiling than her sister's, "what you have learnt about Mr. Wickham. But perhaps you have been too pleasantly engaged to think of any third person; in which case you may be sure of my pardon."
"No," replied Jane, "I have not forgotten him; but I have nothing satisfactory to tell you. Mr. Bingley does not know the whole of his history, and is quite ignorant of the circumstances which have principally offended Mr. Darcy; but he will vouch for the good conduct, the probity, and honour of his friend, and is perfectly convinced that Mr. Wickham has deserved much less attention from Mr. Darcy than he has received; and I am sorry to say by his account as well as his sister's, Mr. Wickham is by no means a respectable young man. I am afraid he has been very imprudent, and has deserved to lose Mr. Darcy's regard."
"Mr. Bingley does not know Mr. Wickham himself?"
"No; he never saw him till the other morning at Meryton."
"This account then is what he has received from Mr. Darcy. I am satisfied. But what does he say of the living?"
With regard to these sentiments of Lizzy, I find it difficult to condemn them. Lizzy is being cautious in accepting evidence, and requires good standards to prove any point.
"He does not exactly recollect the circumstances, though he has heard them from Mr. Darcy more than once, but he believes that it was left to him conditionally only."
"I have not a doubt of Mr. Bingley's sincerity," said Elizabeth warmly; "but you must excuse my not being convinced by assurances only. Mr. Bingley's defense of his friend was a very able one, I dare say; but since he is unacquainted with several parts of the story, and has learnt the rest from that friend himself, I shall venture to still think of both gentlemen as I did before."
This is only to be expected, and I dare say is not rude of Lizzy. She would, of course, be polite to Jane. Who could not be? It would be like being rude to Princess Diana or Laura Bush. It simply isn't (or wasn't) done.
She then changed the discourse to one more gratifying to each, and on which there could be no difference of sentiment...
This is politic of Lizzy. Disagreements are by no means necessarily altercations, but I think they probably always have some unpleasantness to them. Lizzy does not want her conversation with Jane to end on a sour note.
...Elizabeth listened with delight to the happy, though modest hopes which Jane entertained of Mr. Bingley's regard, and said all in her power to heighten her confidence in it...
Knowing as we do that Bingley really loves Jane, I see nothing wrong with Lizzy doing this. Lizzy sees correctly, and could not foresee what Miss Bingley and Darcy would conspire to do to Bingley.
...On their being joined by Mr. Bingley himself, Elizabeth withdrew to Miss Lucas; to whose inquiry after the pleasantness of her last partner she had scarcely replied,...
Alas, Austen doesn't tell us what that is. It would be interesting to know.
...before Mr. Collins came up to them, and told her with great exultation that he had just been so fortunate as to make a most important discovery.
"I have found out," said he, "by a singular accident, that there is now in the room a near relation of my patroness. I happened to overhear the gentleman himself mentioning to the young lady who does the honours of the house the names of his cousin Miss de Bourgh, and of her mother Lady Catherine. How wonderfully these sort of things occur! Who would have thought of my meeting with, perhaps, a nephew of Lady Catherine de Bourgh in his assembly! I am most thankful that the discovery is made in time for me to pay my respects to him, which I am now going to do, and trust he will excuse my not having done it before. My total ignorance of the connection must plead my apology."
"You are not going to introduce yourself to Mr. Darcy!"
Lizzy. Lizzy is quite correct here in her understanding of the rules of introduction. To be introduced to someone was a serious undertaking. You were required to keep the acquaintance up, generally. Therefore, it would be impolite for the lesser to foist themselves upon the greater, as Darcy certainly is, though Collins is about to argue otherwise. I think some of this tradition lingers on.
"Indeed I am. I shall entreat his pardon for not having done it earlier. I believe him to be Lady Catherine's nephew. It will be in my power to assure him that her ladyship was quite well yesterday se'nnight."
We all deem how Darcy is dying to discover this data.
Elizabeth tried hard to dissuade him from such a scheme, assuring him that Mr. Darcy would consider his addressing him without introduction as an impertinent freedom, rather than a compliment to his aunt; that it was not in the least necessary there should be any notice on either side; and that if it were, it must belong to Mr. Darcy, the superior in consequence, to begin the acquaintance. Mr. Collins listened to her with the determined air of following his own inclination, and, when she ceased speaking, replied thus:-- "My dear Miss Elizabeth, I have the highest opinion in the world in your excellent judgement in all matters within the scope of your understanding; but permit me to say, that there must be a wide difference between the established forms of ceremony amongst the laity, and those which regulate the clergy; for, give me leave to observe that I consider the clerical office as equal in point of dignity with the highest rank in the kingdom-- provided that a proper humility of behaviour is at the same time maintained...
Which Mr. Collins is about to trash.
...You must therefore allow me to follow the dictates of my conscience on this occasion, which leads me to perform what I look on as a point of duty. Pardon me for neglecting to profit by your advice, which on every other subject shall be my constant guide, though in the case before us I consider myself more fitted by education and habitual study to decide on what is right than a young lady like yourself." And with a low bow he left her to attack Mr. Darcy, whose reception of his advances she eagerly watched, and whose astonishment at being so addressed was very evident. Her cousin prefaced his speech with a solemn bow and though she could not hear a word of it, she felt as if hearing it all, and saw in the motion of his lips the words "apology," "Hunsford," and "Lady Catherine de Bourgh." It vexed her to see him expose himself to such a man...
Ah, the generosity of Lizzy's character! Even someone so silly as Mr. Collins, she would not feign to see make a fool of himself to another. Lizzy in this case has no improper pride. Someone might object to my point by arguing that Mr. Collins is family, and therefore Lizzy is concerned about the familial image. I think not. I would guess that Lizzy has given up on Mr. Collins in terms of ever being able to think really well of him, and thus only views him, really, as just another guy. I view the family tie as unimportant.
...Mr. Darcy was eyeing him with unrestrained wonder, and when at last Mr. Collins allowed him time to speak, replied with an air of distant civility. Mr. Collins, however, was not discouraged from speaking again,...
Thus violating a rule of etiquette: do not bore your audience with details about which they obviously have no interest.
...and Mr. Darcy's contempt seemed abundantly increasing with the length of his second speech, and at the end of it he only made him a slight bow, and moved another way...
That is final. We know Darcy did not receive him so well as Collins thinks he did, but Darcy's good manners are at least enough not to ridicule him. This Collins mistakes for a warm reception.
...Mr. Collins then returned to Elizabeth.
"I have no reason, I assure you," said he, "to be dissatisfied with my reception. Mr. Darcy seemed much pleased with the attention. He answered me with the utmost civility, and even paid me the compliment of saying that he was so well convinced of Lady Catherine's discernment as to be certain she could never bestow a favour unworthily. It was really a very handsome thought. Upon the whole, I am much pleased with him."
Again, a break, I think.