Friday, November 09, 2007

Chapter Eleven, Part 2

Originally published 4/3/2006.

Continued from last post.

"Oh! shocking!" cried Miss Bingley. "I never heard anything so abominable. How shall we punish him for such a speech?"

"Nothing so easy, if you have but the inclination," said Elizabeth. "We can all plague and punish one another. Tease him-- laugh at him. Intimate as you are, you must know how it is to be done."

Easy for Lizzy to say.

"But upon my honour, I do not. I do assure you that my intimacy has not yet taught me that. Tease calmness of manner and presence of mind! No, no-- feel he may defy us there. And as to laughter, we will not expose ourselves, if you please, by attempting to laugh without a subject. Mr. Darcy may hug himself."

I take that last statement to be Miss Bingley's poor attempt at teasing Darcy. It is what we would call in our family, "an unsuccessful attempt at humor."

"Mr. Darcy is not to be laughed at!" cried Elizabeth. "That is an uncommon advantage, and uncommon I hope it will continue, for it would be a great loss to me to have many such acquaintances. I dearly love a laugh."

"Miss Bingley," said he, "has given me more credit than can be...

I'm not quite sure what Darcy means here. In what way has Miss Bingley flattered him without sufficient grounds? Or at least, what is Darcy's perception of this event? Miss Bingley said he had "calmness of manner and presence of mind." Darcy is the last person in this novel to exhibit false modesty. He will say it like it is. I suppose he is only saying by his next statement that even if he were the best man he could be, he would not be immune from being made to look ridiculous. However, as even Miss Bingley is not one to make him look ridiculous, indeed, no one in the room would venture that far at this point, Darcy may be over-reacting. He is perhaps including more people in his consideration than Miss Bingley was.

...The wisest and the best of men-- nay, the wisest and best of their actions-- may be rendered ridiculous by a person whose first object in life is a joke."

Darcy is no doubt arguing from the greater to the lesser: if the best men may be rendered ridiculous by such a person, then lesser men surely can also be made ridiculous. If it can happen to lesser men, then it can happen to Darcy.

"Certainly," replied Elizabeth-- "there are such people, but I hope I am not one of them. I hope I never ridicule what is wise and good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies, do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can. But these, I suppose, are precisely what you are without."

This is quite a sensible statement, at least until the last sentence. That last bit seems a bit of a jab at Darcy. It might be rather like saying, "So, you think you're so free of whim, eh?"

"Perhaps that is not possible for anyone. But it has been the study of my life to avoid those weaknesses which often expose a strong understanding to ridicule."

Ahh. Here we might have a Darcy fault indeed: caring too much for the good opinion of others. I don't think we should ignore the opinions of others, but neither should we bank our whole lives upon it.

"Such as vanity and pride."

Lizzy here.

"Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed. But pride-- where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation."

What in tarnation does "under good regulation" mean here? Does Darcy mean that superiority of mind is sufficient to curb pride? I note that the BBC movie production does not have this statement as is. Instead, they interpret something like this: "But pride-- where there is a real superiority of mind, perhaps not." I think this statement as it is is a bit misleading. If, in the book, Darcy is acknowledging that pride is a weakness, but that superior minds are not prone to it, then the BBC version is doing his words an injustice, because they would imply that Darcy means pride is ok.

Elizabeth turned away to hide a smile.

Either way, he's wrong. Strong minds are almost more susceptible to pride than weaker ones, and if he means that pride is ok, he's even more wrong.

"Your examination of Mr. Darcy is over, I presume," said Miss Bingley;...

She presumes, eh? She presumes wrong, but she is desperate to get Darcy away from the clutches (as she seems them) of Lizzy. She might even imagine Lizzy as wanting Darcy's attentions, which we know is false. But, as Austen points out later in Chapter Forty-five, "Persuaded as Miss Bingley was that Darcy admired Elizabeth, this was not the best method of recommending herself; but angry people are not always wise..."

..."and pray what is the result?"

"I am perfectly convinced by it that Mr. Darcy has no defect. He owns it himself without disguise."

Lizzy here being more than a little sarcastic.

"No," said Darcy, "I have made no such pretension. I have faults enough, but they are not, I hope, of understanding...

As if faults of understanding were the worst ones. The Bible teaches otherwise. Pride is numero uno.

...My temper I dare not vouch for. It is, I believe, too little yielding-- certainly too little for the convenience of the world. I cannot forget the follies and vices of other so soon as I ought, nor their offenses against myself. My feelings are not puffed about with every attempt to move them...

Spoken, er, like a true penitent...

...My temper would perhaps be called resentful. My good opinion once lost, is lost forever."

That is a failing indeed!" cried Elizabeth. "Implacable resentment is a shade in a character. But you have chosen your fault well...

This is a not-so-subtle hint to Darcy that maybe he doesn't see his own faults so well as he would like to think he does. We don't get to pick our faults.

...I really cannot laugh at it. You are safe from me."

"There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil-- a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome."

Darcy thinks education is the solution to the problem. Sound familiar? It doesn't work!

"And your defect is to hate everybody."

This is a bit much on Lizzy's part. She is perhaps only trying to draw him out.

"And yours, "he replied with a smile, "is willfully to misunderstand them."

"Do let us have a little music," cried Miss Bingley, tired of a conversation in which she had no share...

What else is new?

..."Louisa, you will not mind my waking Mr. Hurst?"

Her sister had not the smallest objection, and the pianoforte was opened; and Darcy, after a few moments' recollection, was not sorry for it. He began to feel the danger of paying Elizabeth too much attention.

What is that danger? Probably some of it is Miss Bingley's noticing his attentions to Lizzy, though that does seem a bit on the unlikely side considering his indifference to her. Or perhaps he thinks he is exposing himself to ridicule. That seems a bit more likely. In which case it is certainly no compliment to Lizzy.