Saturday, November 10, 2007

Chapter Eleven, Part 1

Originally published 4/3/2006.

Considering the title of this book, Chapter Eleven has some remarkably important conversations in it, especially at the end between Darcy and Lizzy. So here we go.

When the ladies removed after dinner, Elizabeth ran up to her sister, and seeing her well guarded from cold, attended her into the drawing-room, where she was welcomed by her two friends with many professions of pleasure; and Elizabeth had never seen them so agreeable as they were during the hour which passed before the gentlemen appeared. Their powers of conversation were considerable. They could describe an entertainment with accuracy, relate an anecdote with humour, and laugh at their acquaintance with spirit.

Ah, the hypocrisy. It was said in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, that "Coarse natures have this in common with artless natures, that they have no transitions." - Cosette, III. Fulfillment of the Promise to the Departed, VIII. Inconvenience of Entertaining a Poor Man who is Perhaps Rich.

But when the gentlemen entered, Jane was no longer the first object;...

Austen means no longer the first object of Miss Bingley and probably Mrs. Hurst.

...Miss Bingley's eyes were instantly turned toward Darcy, and she had something to say to him before he had advanced many steps. He addressed himself to Miss Bennet, with a polite congratulation; Mr. Hurst also made her a slight bow, and said he was "very glad"; but diffuseness and warmth remained for Bingley's salutation...

I don't think Austen condemns Darcy and Hurst here. It is perhaps not to be expected that such a slight acquaintance as Darcy with Jane, should require such a welcome as Bingley gives. On the other hand, perhaps they could have been somewhat warmer.

...He was full of joy and attention. The first half-hour was spent in piling up the fire, lest she should suffer from the change of room; and she removed at his desire to the other side of the fireplace, that she might be further from the door. He then sat down by her, and talked scarcely to anyone else...

Sounds like a new husband to me, as I've said before.

...Elizabeth, at work in the opposite corner, saw it all with great delight.

When tea was over, Mr. Hurst reminded his sister-in-law of the card-table-- but in vain. She had obtained private intelligence that Mr. Darcy did not wish for cards; and Mr. Hurst soon found even his open petition rejected. She assured him that no one intended to play, and the silence of the whole party on the subject seemed to justify her. Mr. Hurst had therefore nothing to do, but to stretch himself on one of the sofas and go to sleep....

Recall that Mr. Hurst was "an indolent man, who lived only to eat, drink, and play at cards." Logically speaking, since they had just had tea, and the card-table was not to be had, by process of elimination, sleep was the only option.

...Darcy took up a book; Miss Bingley did the same; and Mrs. Hurst, principally occupied in playing with her bracelets and rings, joined now and then in her brother's conversation with Miss Bennet.

Notice it says "principally occupied." Austen is careful to leave off Mrs. Hurst having any real interest in Jane by assuring us that, as expected, Mrs. Hurst is concerned with what really matters: her bracelets and rings.

Miss Bingley's attention was quite as much engaged in watching Mr. Darcy's progress through his book, as in reading her own; and she was perpetually either making some inquiry, or looking at his page. She could not win him, however, to any conversation; he merely answered her question, and read on...

I have to commend Darcy's patience here. Or perhaps merely unconcern. Come to think of it, Darcy never does seem to get all that riled at any of Miss Bingley's antics. Perhaps it is because she doesn't matter much to him. This same sort of thing happened before when Darcy was writing his letter. Miss Bingley here is trying to show Darcy that she is on an intellectual plane with him, and failing miserably.

At length, quite exhausted by the attempt to be amused with her own book, which she had only chosen because it was the second volume of his, she gave a great yawn and said, "How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library."

O, the sarcasm - I mean, hypocrisy.

No one made any reply...

None is warranted. Austen shows that that of the fairly sensible people in the room (Darcy, Lizzy, Jane, and Mr. Bingley), pretty much all of them recognize what a non-statement this is coming from Miss Bingley. We should also recall that the above-mentioned people, including Miss Bingley, had already canvassed this subject in depth. See Chapter Eight.

She then yawned again, threw aside her book, and cast her eyes round the room in quest for some amusement; when hearing her brother mentioning a ball to Miss Bennet, she turned suddenly towards him and said:

"By the bye, Charles, are you really serious in meditating a dance at Netherfield? I would advise you, before you determine on it, to consult the wishes of the present party; I am much mistaken if there are not some among us to whom a ball would be rather a punishment than a pleasure."

Miss Bingley is over-generalizing here. Or perhaps she is trying to get Darcy's goat. In any case, we already know that, given the right inducement (Lizzy), Darcy is certainly not averse to dancing. Perhaps Miss Bingley is trying to "force" Darcy into not liking dancing so he won't dance with Lizzy.

"If you mean Darcy," cried her brother, "he may go to bed, if he chooses, before it begins-- but as for the ball, it is quite a settled thing; and as soon as Nicholls has made white soup enough, I shall send round my cards."

Quite sensible as regards Mr. Darcy, I think. And quite true.

"I should like balls infinitely better," she replied, "if they were carried on in a different manner; but there is something insufferably tedious in the usual process of such a meeting. It would surely be much more rational if conversation instead of dancing were made the order of the day."

"Much more rational, my dear Caroline, I dare say, but it would not be near so much like a ball."

This is a wonderful statement of Mr. Bingley's. He's appealing to the definition of "ball," including the colloquial connotations of the concept. I have seen this statement referred to by more than one author. If I come up with the references, I will pass them along.

Miss Bingley made no answer,...

Like Cypher in the Matrix, "What do you say to something like that?" Nothing.

...and soon afterwards she got up and walked about the room. Her figure was elegant, and she walked well; but Darcy, at whom it was all aimed, was still inflexibly studious...

Like most men, Darcy is quite capable of being single-minded. On the other hand, the words "inflexibly studious" almost imply, to me, that Darcy is seeing it all, but intentionally ignoring it, rather like a parent who ignores a child who is trying to get attention in a bad way. We get another hint that this may be what's going on later when he immediately notices that Lizzy is walking with Miss Bingley.

...In the desperation of her feelings, she resolved on one effort more, and, turning to Elizabeth, said:

"Miss Eliza Bennet, let me persuade you to follow my example, and take a turn about the room. I assure you it is very refreshing after sitting so long in one attitude."

Elizabeth was surprised, but agreed to it immediately...

No reason not to, I suppose.

...Miss Bingley succeeded no less in the real object of her civility; Mr. Darcy looked up. He was as much awake to the novelty of attention in that quarter as Elizabeth herself could be, and unconsciously closed his book...

See? Not so studious.

...He was directly invited to join their party, but he declined it, observing that he could imagine but two motives for their choosing to walk up and down the room together, with either of which motives his joining them would interfere. "What could he mean? She was dying to know what could be his meaning?"-- and asked Elizabeth whether she could at all understand him?

"Not at all," was her answer; "but depend upon it, he means to be severe on us, and our surest way of disappointing him will be to ask nothing about it."

This is no doubt Lizzy being her teasing self.

Miss Bingley, however, was incapable of disappointing Mr. Darcy in anything, and persevered therefore in requiring an explanation of his two motives.

Oddly enough, it is Lizzy, who does not always go in with Darcy's wishes, who captures his heart, not the servile obsequiousness of Miss Bingley.

"I have not the smallest objection to explaining them," said he, as soon as she allowed him to speak...

I like that. It says yet more about Miss Bingley: she's not really interested in Darcy for Darcy's sake. She's really interested in him for her own. Otherwise she would value his opinion and allow him to speak.

..."You either choose this method of passing the evening because you are in each other's confidence, and have secret affairs to discuss, or because you are conscious that your figures appear to the greatest advantage in walking; if the first, I would be completely in your way, and if the second, I can admire you much better as I sit by the fire."

On this delightful note, which I trust cannot fail to amuse the readers, I shall divide the chapter.

To be continued.