Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chapter Six

Originally published 2/5/2006.

Chapter Six is a very interesting chapter. In this chapter, we see Darcy begin to be very attracted to Lizzy, and Lizzy's prejudice arming her against his advances. Even before that, we have an incredibly profound discourse between Lizzy and Charlotte as to the nature of romantic attachments.

The ladies of Longbourn soon waited on those of Netherfield. The visit was soon returned in due form. Miss Bennet's pleasing manners grew on the goodwill of Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley; and though the mother was found to be intolerable, and the younger sisters not worth speaking to, a wish of being better acquainted with them was expressed towards the two eldest. By Jane, this attention was received with the greatest pleasure, but Elizabeth still saw superciliousness in their treatment of everybody, hardly excepting even her sister, and could not like them; though their kindness to Jane, such as it was, had a value as arising in all probability from the influence of their brother's admiration. It was generally evident whenever they met, that he did admire her and to her it was equally evident that Jane was yielding to the preference which she had begun to entertain for him from the first, and was in a way to be very much in love; but she considered with pleasure that it was not likely to be discovered by the world in general, since Jane united, with great strength of feeling, a composure of temper and a uniform cheerfulness of manner which would guard her from the suspicions of the impertinent. She mentioned this to her friend Miss Lucas.

"It may perhaps be pleasant," replied Charlotte, "to be able to impose on the public in such a case; but it is sometimes a disadvantage to be so very guarded. If a woman conceals her affection with the same skill from the object of it, she may lose the opportunity of fixing him;...

Charlotte here is talking about the fact that if a woman conceals her affection from the young man, she may lose him.

...and it will then be but poor consolation to believe the world equally in the dark...

I can't help wondering if Charlotte would say the same thing today. Perhaps in certain circles (Christian, maybe) she might. But in today's world, women often are so much more forward that perhaps the opposite warning might be more applicable.

...There is so much of gratitude or vanity in almost every attachment, that it is not safe to leave any to itself...

What do you, dear readers, think of this statement? First of all, would you agree that there is so much of gratitute or vanity in almost every attachment? Second, if you accept that as true, would you claim that therefore it is not safe to leave any relationship to itself? As to gratitude, surely there is a great deal, if the actors in the attachment have any virtue at all. How about vanity? As Mary so "eloquently" put it, vanity has to do with how we wish others to think of us. In an attachment, naturally we would wish the other person to think well of us. Is that vanity? Perhaps. Now, suppose for a second that Charlotte is right about the gratitude and vanity. Why should that be a reason not to leave a relationship to itself? Perhaps if we were aware of the problems with gratitude and vanity, then we would hesitate. Thus the needed encouragement.

Incidentally, I do not see much of anything objectionable about this conversation between Charlotte and Lizzy. Remember that Lizzy is certainly intimately connected with Jane (they can talk about anything), as is Charlotte. They are not talking about any weaknesses or faults of Jane and Mr. Bingley.

...We can all begin freely-- a slight preference is natural enough; but there are very few of us who have heart enough to be really in love without encouragement. In nine cases out of ten a woman had better show more affection than she feels. Bingley, likes your sister, undoubtedly; but he may never do more than like her, if she does not help him on."

"But she does help him on, as much as her nature will allow. If I can perceive her regard for him, he must be a simpleton, indeed, not to discover it too."

We know from before (by Austen) and later on (by his actions) that Mr. Bingley relies more on Darcy's judgment than on his own, and that Darcy persuades him that Jane's affection for him is imaginary. It might be that Bingley was not initially convinced, but we know from Darcy's big letter that it was not a big deal to do this. So Lizzy might be prematurely judging Bingley, and thus this comment might be too hasty, as Treebeard might say.

"Remember, Eliza, that he does not know Jane's disposition as you do."

This reply of Charlotte's shows that it is really Charlotte who is seeing things much more clearly than Lizzy. Lizzy is biased in her sister's favor, for which we might pardon her.

"But if a woman is partial to a man, and does not endeavour to conceal it, he must find it out."

I wouldn't be too sure of this comment of Lizzy's... Never underestimate the stupidity of men!

"Perhaps he must, if he sees enough of her. But, though Bingley and Jane meet tolerably often, it is never for many hours together; and, as they always see each other in large mixed parties, it is impossible that every moment should be employed in conversing together. Jane should therefore make the most of every half-hour in which she can command his attention. When she is secure of him, there will be more leisure for falling in love as much as she chooses."

This is simply a continuation of Charlotte's earlier ideas.

"Your plan is a good one," replied Elizabeth, "where nothing is in question but the desire of being well married, and if I were determined to get a rich husband, or any husband, I dare say I should adopt it. But these are not Jane's feelings; she is not acting by design. As yet, she cannot even be certain of the degree of her own regard nor of its reasonableness. She has known him only a fortnight. She danced four dances with him at Meryton; she saw him one morning at his own house, and has since dined with him in company four times. This is not quite enough to make her understand his character."

Lizzy claims here that Jane is not acting by design. I take that to mean Jane is not pretending one thing while really being something else. She is acting naturally. So Lizzy is saying that Jane is not acting out what Charlotte would recommend. This becomes important later on when Lizzy accuses Darcy of separating Jane from Bingley. After Darcy writes his letter, Lizzy remembers this conversation, I think.

These statements seem true, so I see no impropriety in them.

"Not as you represent it. Had she merely dined with him, she might only have discovered whether he had a good appetite; but you must remember that four evenings have also been spent together-- and four evenings may do a great deal."

Charlotte here.

"Yes; these four evenings have enabled them to ascertain that they both like Vingt-un better than Commerce; but with respect to any other leading characteristic, I do not imagine that much has been unfolded."

Lizzy here. I think Lizzy is being a trifle naive. I would agree with Charlotte in general. On the other hand, no doubt Lizzy knows Jane better than we the readers do, and thus she might be in a much better position to discern whether or not Jane and Bingley can get to know a lot about each other in only four evenings. Incidentally, I think Vingt-un is a French card game, and perhaps Commerce is a different card game, possibly English. So Lizzy's statement, "with respect to any other leading characteristic" would then be seen as quite sarcastic and teasing.

"Well," said Charlotte, "I wish Jane success with all my heart; and if she were married to him to-morrow, I should think she had as good a chance of happiness as if she were to be studying his character for a twelvemonth. Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance...

That happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance is an extremely biblical concept. Remember that chance is simply a human way of describing something that we can't describe in any other way (such as causes, etc.) So from a merely human standpoint, I would agree that happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. Now if you throw God's perspective into the mixture, things look very different. Proverbs 31 says, "A good wife, who can find?" Other passages state that a good wife is from the Lord. One clear implication, I think, is that you cannot coerce yourself into a good marriage. God makes good marriages.

...If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life."

I do think Charlotte has gone a little overboard here. I would want to know the defects of my future wife, if for no other reason than I would want to know if I can help her with her sanctification.

"You make me laugh, Charlotte; but it is not sound. You know it is not sound, and that you would never act in this way yourself."

Lizzy here speaks quite rightly, though how little does she know that Charlotte will act in precisely that way later on with Mr. Collins.

Occupied in observing Mr. Bingley's attentions to her sister, Elizabeth was far from suspecting that she was herself becoming an object of some interest in the eyes of his friend. Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticise. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she hardly had a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness. Of this she was perfectly unaware; to her he was only the man who made himself agreeable nowhere, and who had not thought her handsome enough to dance with.

Austen is quite laying Lizzy's prejudice out to lunch. There's no hiding it here: Lizzy has missed the boat, and it's going to cause her quite a headache (literally) to get herself out of it.

He began to wish to know more of her, and as a step towards conversing with her himself, attended to her conversation with others. His doing so drew her notice. It was at Sir William Lucas's, where a large party were assembled.

What think you, dear readers? Is Darcy being rude by dropping eaves, as Sam would say? I would actually think not, at least not in a public setting. Evidently, Darcy is merely listening to her, not interrupting her conversations as a boor would do.

"What does Mr. Darcy mean," said she to Charlotte, "by listening to my conversation with Colonel Forster?"

"That is a question which Mr. Darcy only can answer."

Surely Lizzy must have known this was really the only logical answer, and Charlotte gives it.

"But if he does it any more I shall certainly let him know that I see what he is about. He has a very satirical eye, and if I do not begin by being impertinent myself, I shall soon grow afraid of him."

This is rather puzzling. First Lizzy asks Charlotte what Darcy is doing, and now Lizzy claims she knows what he is doing. Or perhaps she knows that he is eavesdropping, but maybe she doesn't know the reason. I imagine Charlotte might know, but refrains from telling Lizzy because, I think, Charlotte has wanted Lizzy to marry Darcy from very early on. So she wants Lizzy to get to know Darcy. This is speculation.

On his approaching them soon afterwards, though without seeming to have any intention of speaking, Miss Lucas defied her friend to mention such a subject to him; which immediately provoking Elizabeth to do it, she turned to him and said:

"Did you not think, Mr. Darcy, that I expressed myself uncommonly well just now, when I was teasing Colonel Forster to give us a ball at Meryton?"

"With great energy; but it is always a subject which makes a lady energetic."

I could easily imagine someone saying this in a teasing tone, but I doubt Darcy is doing so. Remember that Darcy is really rather intelligent, and not used to pleasantry, so I kind of doubt it. He's used to being taken seriously, and probably takes everyone else (of reasonable sagacity) seriously.

"You are severe on us."

This really is teasing, as evidenced by Charlotte's comment:

"It will be her turn soon to be teased," said Miss Lucas. "I am going to open the instrument, Eliza, and you know what follows."

"You are a very strange creature by way of a friend!-- always wanting me to play and sing before anybody and everybody! If my vanity had taken a musical turn, you would have been invaluable; but as it is, I would really rather not sit down before those who must be in the habit of hearing the very best performers." On Miss Lucas's persevering, however, she added, "Very well, if it must be so, it must." And gravely glancing at Mr. Darcy, "There is a fine old saying, which everybody here is of course familiar with: 'Keep your breath to cool your porridge'; and I shall keep mine to swell my song."

Ah, here is one of those fine old sayings that really are fine and old. And since it is a saying, the name appears rather apt. Similar sayings today might be, "It is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

Now Lizzy here might be being impertinent, as she threatened to do earlier. Darcy is older than she, I am certain. So it is not usual at this point in history for people to correct their elders, though perhaps the age difference is not so great as to be prohibitive. In any case, this certainly is a reproof, possibly as direct a reproof as Lizzy ever gives.

Her performance was pleasing, though by no means capital. After a song or two, and before she could reply to the entreaties of several that she would sing again, she was eagerly succeeded at the instrument by her sister Mary, who having, in consequence of being the only plain one in the family, worked hard for knowledge and accomplishments, was always impatient for display.

Mary had neither genius nor taste; and though vanity had given her application, it had given her likewise a pedantic air and conceited manner, which would have injured a higher degree of excellence than she had reached...

Like speech like music.

...Elizabeth, easy and unaffected, had been listened to with much more pleasure, though not playing half so well; and Mary, at the end of a long concerto, was glad to purchase praise and gratitude by Scotch and Irish airs, at the request of her younger sisters, who, with some of the Lucases, and two or three officers, joined eagerly in dancing at one end of the room.

Mr. Darcy stood near them in silent indignation at such a mode of passing the evening, to the exclusion of all conversation, and was too much engrossed by his thoughts to perceive that Sir William Lucas was his neighbour, till Sir William thus began:

"What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy! There is nothing like dancing after all. I consider it as one of the first refinements of polished society."

"Certainly, sir; and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world. Every savage can dance."


Sir William only smiled. "Your friend performs delightfully," he continued after a pause, on seeing Bingley join the group; "and I doubt not that you are an adept in the science yourself, Mr. Darcy."

We know from earlier that Sir William is "courteous." Part of that, no doubt, is a somewhat thick skin, proof against insult and poor behavior. So it is noble of Sir William to overlook this slight.

"You saw me dance at Meryton, I believe, sir."

"Yes, indeed, and received no inconsiderable pleasure from the sight. Do you often dance at St. James's?"

While Sir William Lucas may be courteous, he is as worn out as his information. He keeps harping on his presentation, which is understandable even if it is not right.

"Never, sir."

I could imagine Darcy here being rather impatient with Sir William's fixation on St. James.

"Do you not think it would be a proper compliment to the place?"

"It is a compliment which I never pay to any place if I can avoid it."

Boor again.

"You have a house in town, I conclude?"

Sir William here.

Mr. Darcy bowed.

"I had once had some thought of fixing in town myself-- for I am fond of superior society; but I did not feel quite certain that the air of London would agree with Lady Lucas."

He paused in hopes of an answer; but his companion was not disposed to make any; and Elizabeth at that instant moving towards them, he was struck with the action of doing a very gallant thing, and called out to her:

"My dear Miss Eliza, why are you not dancing? Mr. Darcy, you must allow me to present this young lady to you as a very desirable partner. You cannot refuse to dance, I am sure when so much beauty is before you."...

Matchmaking will always be some kind of fascination with the elderly. As Emma Thompson says (in the character of Elinor in Sense and Sensibility), "She's a woman with a married daughter, and has nothing to do but marry off everyone else's."

...And, taking her hand, he would have given it to Mr. Darcy who, though extremely surprised, was not unwilling to receive it, when she instantly drew back, and said with some discomposure to Sir William:

"Indeed, sir, I have not the least intention of dancing. I entreat you not to suppose that I moved this way in order to beg for a partner."

Vanity, we might suppose? Lizzy here does not want to be thought a flirt, and understandably so. But surely, someone as clever as Darcy could already see that by the way she answered him before. Also keep in mind that Lizzy does not think well of Darcy yet.

Mr. Darcy, with grave propriety, requested to be allowed the honour of her hand, but in vain. Elizabeth was determined; nor did Sir William at all shake her purpose by his attempt at persuasion.

"You excel so much in the dance, Miss Eliza, that it is cruel to deny me the happiness of seeing you; and though this gentleman dislikes the amusement in general, he can have no objection, I am sure, to oblige us for one half-hour."

"Mr. Darcy is all politeness," said Elizabeth, smiling.

A diplomatic method of letting other people have your own way.

"He is, indeed; but, considering the inducement, my dear Miss Eliza, we cannot wonder at his complaisance-- for who would object to such a partner?"

Elizabeth looked archly, and turned away. Her resistance had not injured her with the gentleman, and he was thinking of her with some complacency, when thus accosted by Miss Bingley:

"I can guess the subject of your reverie."

Isn't it annoying when other people assume they know what you are thinking? After all, God knows the heart, but man looks on the outward things.

"I should imagine not."

Darcy may or may not be irritated by Miss Bingley's statement. I'm inclined to think he is not irritated, but coolly speaks the truth.

"You are considering how insupportable it would be to pass many evenings in this manner-- in such society; and indeed I am quite of you opinion. I was never more annoyed! The insipidity, and yet the noise-- the nothingness, and yet the self-importance of all those people! What would I give to hear your strictures on them!"

Miss Bingley has just engaged in royal uncharitableness. She is a complete snob. Darcy is almost one, but as we see, can be won over by intelligence.

"You conjecture is totally wrong, I assure you. My mind was more agreeably engaged. I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow."

Miss Bingley immediately fixed her eyes on his face, a desired he would tell her what lady had the credit of inspiring such reflections. Mr. Darcy replied with great intrepidity:

"Miss Elizabeth Bennet."

I love the word "intrepidity" there. Darcy, while clever and possessing some of the British habit of hiding emotions, is yet not at all averse to opening himself and speaking the absolute truth about himself, even when, as happens here, it opens him up to teasing.

"Miss Elizabeth Bennet!" repeated Miss Bingley. "I am all astonishment. How long has she been such a favourite?-- and pray, when am I to wish you joy?"

I think Miss Bingley is teasing here, but from Darcy's reply, he takes her seriously. The hallmark of a geek.

"That is exactly the question which I expected you to ask. A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment. I knew you would be wishing me joy."

"Nay, if you are serious about it, I shall consider the matter is absolutely settled. You will be having a charming mother-in-law, indeed; and, of course, she will always be at Pemberley with you."

Oh, the sarcasm.

He listened to her with perfect indifference while she chose to entertain herself in this manner; and as his composure convinced her that all was safe, her wit flowed long.