Monday, August 23, 2010

Useful Transformation

As of this day, I have reversed the order of all the posts by artificially changing the post dates, so that you can start at the top, and work your way down, normal book-fashion. I think the move will make this blog much more useful.

I have preserved all of the original publish dates, in case anyone is interested in knowing when I originally posted something. The original post dates appear in italics in the beginning of each post (except for the last chapter; I didn't change its date).

One of these days, I'll get around, finally, to incorporating all the (useful) comments into the main blog posts.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Chapter One

Originally published 1/12/2006.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Thus it begins, Jane Austen's classic tale of love and romance. Or is her famous story more about morals and manners, and how people interact with others? I do not propose to put forth one proposition over the other. However, I should like to investigate one aspect of the book which I definitely believe is present, and that is the appropriateness of certain speech, and the impropriety of much else. Having known for some time my own deficiencies in this matter, I hope, by God's grace, to learn something of propriety and to learn better what is that “word in season.”

Before I begin, I will make a distinction that is hopefully unnecessary to the reader. I distinguish between Jane Austen's comments on various events, and what her characters themselves say about certain events. Moreover, amongst Jane Austen's comments on various events, we must learn to distinguish between sarcasm or wit, and serious teaching. It is not my impression that Austen makes much use of the latter, whereas the former permeates the book, and gives it so much of its shine.

The book opens with this sarcasm. Austen sets the stage for all that follows, and especially sets up the character of Mrs. Bennet with her opening salvo. The first two paragraphs are most definitely sarcastic, as evidenced by Mr. Bennet's comment, “Is that his design in settling here?” Mr. Bennet is poking fun at the unreasonable idea that any young man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

Are Mrs. Bennet's comments here appropriate? Surely her first few comments are acceptable. She has news she thinks will be of interest to Mr. Bennet. Her motives, we can see, are not pure, since she is thinking seriously of inflicting one of her daughters onto the new tenant. This ulterior motive Austen brings out very subtilely in the beginning by comments such as “This was invitation enough.” However, Mrs. Bennet shows her true colors very little later when she says, “What a fine thing for our girls!” The irony not three lines later is that it is she who is being tiresome in automatically thinking she can foist one of her daughters on Mr. Bingley. Her statement that it is “very likely that he may fall in love with one of them,” shows her to be perhaps overly proud of her daughters, and also focused on externals.

The next few lines engage in the old-fashioned manners of introduction. It was considered proper for the more important or older person to be introduced first to the younger, less important person. Both Mr. and Mrs. Bennet recognize the importance of the covenant head of a family being introduced (or introducing himself) before the rest of the family. Mrs. Bennet evidences this by saying, “for it will be impossible for us to visit him if you do not.” Mr. Bennet evidences this by actually being “among the earliest of those who waited on Mr. Bingley,” as Chapter Two begins. In the meantime, however, Mr. Bennet has a bit of fun at her expense, by the whole interchange concerning Lizzy. Mrs. Bennet, not being terribly clever, does not understand him, as Austen herself points out in a rare candid moment in the last paragraph of Chapter One.

At the end of Chapter One, therefore, what do we know about Mr. and Mrs. Bennet? Mrs. Bennet has already given notice that she will be more or less unable to say anything appropriate. She will be unacceptably forward, even while recognizing certain forms of manners. Mr. Bennet knows what is appropriate, but as is shown later in the book, takes no pains to instruct his wife in these matters, and rather makes fun of her. He is little better with his daughters, though he does see that it would be advantageous to get them married off. He would probably have agreed with Charlotte Lucas, whose thoughts Austen records as follows in Chapter Twenty-Two: “Without thinking highly either of men or matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want.” Mr. Bennet is really rather an abdicating man, and in many ways is not an ideal husband or father.

It will be left to Elizabeth and Jane, Charlotte Lucas, and Aunt and Uncle Gardiner, mostly, to give for us the example of proper speech. Even Mr. Darcy says many things that are inappropriate.

In Christ.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Chapter Two

Originally published 1/14/2006.

The second chapter of Pride and Prejudice is completely concerned with how Mr. Bennet lets his family know that, actually, he did visit Mr. Bingley, so his family will be acquainted with him. Being the kind of person who likes to "put one over" on others, he plays a prank on them.

Mr. Bennet was among the earliest of those who waited on Mr. Bingley. He had always intended to visit him, though to the last always assuring his wife that he should not go; and till the evening after the visit was paid she had no knowledge of it. It was then disclosed in the following manner: --Observing his second daughter employed in trimming a hat, he suddenly addressed her with:

"I hope Mr. Bingley will like it, Lizzy."

Mr. Bennet opens with this perfectly acceptable non-remark.

"We are not in a way to know what Mr. Bingley likes," said her mother resentfully, "since we are not to visit."

And immediately, because Mrs. Bennet is harboring a grudge against Mr. Bennet about the fact that she thinks he's not going to visit Mr. Bingley, she comes right out with a statement that, on the face of it, is innocent enough. The actual words Mrs. Bennet speaks might not be quite so objectionable, had not Austen placed the word "resentfully" in there. You can just imagine the body language here shouting out to the whole world that Mr. Bennet is in hot water. In addition, that fact that she has to keep reminding him that she disagrees with his decision is nagging, not respectfully disagreeing. Arguing with your husband in a respectful way is, of course, fine. I think it would be wise in most instances, perhaps all instances, to do it away from the children, which Mrs. Bennet does not do. She is deliberately nagging Mr. Bennet right in front of the whole family. I say whole family, because it is no very great stretch to suppose that Jane is there. Everyone else in the family says something somewhere in this interchange, so we can assume they are all there. Incidentally, this may be instructive, because Jane does not feel the need to put herself forward in this instance. She is as mild as ever, unlike her mother.

"But you forget, mamma," said Elizabeth, "that we shall meet him at the assemblies, and that Mrs. Long promised to introduce him."

Lizzy defends her father by pointing out an alternative way they might meet Mr. Bingley, thus insinuating that perhaps Mr. Bennet does not need to do what Mrs. Bennet thinks he does. Notice the tactful way Lizzy says this; at least I think it's tactful. Some may disagree with me.

"I do not believe Mrs. Long will do any such thing. She has two nieces of her own. She is a selfish, hypocritical woman, and I have no opinion of her."

Mrs. Bennet shows her colors yet again by blatant gossip about Mrs. Long. (My readers can correct me if I am wrong, but I interpret the phrase, 'I have no opinion of her,' as meaning that Mrs. Bennet has a very low opinion of her, not that she does not have an opinion one way or another.) I really think gossiping is an extremely common sin these days; perhaps it has always been a very common sin. I've caught myself in it on several occasions.

"No more have I," said Mr. Bennet; "and I am glad to find that you do not depend on her serving you."

Now here's a question for my readers: how do you interpret that comment of Mr. Bennet's? Is Mr. Bennet being his usual sarcastic self, or does he actually agree with his wife? Being sarcastic would certainly fit in with his character. Moreover, because the text immediately states that Mrs. Bennet deigned not to make any reply, we might very well infer that if this is indeed the case, then Mrs. Bennet would follow her character, already mapped out for her by Austen in the first chapter with the phrase, "Her mind was less difficult to develop..." If, on the other hand, Mr. Bennet is agreeing with her, then this would simply be a case of Mrs. Bennet deciding the topic is now over.

Mrs. Bennet deigned not to make any reply, but, unable to contain herself, began scolding one of her daughters.

This reminds me of Matthew Henry's commentary on Proverbs 12:23, "1. He that is wise does not affect to proclaim his wisdom, and it is his honor that he does not. He communicates his knowledge when it may turn to the edification of others, but he conceals it when the showing of it would only tend to his own commendation. Knowing men, if they be prudent men, will carefully avoid every thing that savours of ostentation, and not take all occasions to show their learning and reading, but only to use it for good purposes, and then let their own works praise them. Ars est celare artem - the perfection of art is to conceal it. 2. He that is foolish cannot avoid proclaiming his folly, and it is his shame that he cannot: The heart of fools, by their foolish words and actions, proclaims foolishness; either they do not desire to hide it, so little sense have they of good and evil, honor and dishonor, or they know not how to hide it, so little discretion have they in the management of themselves."

"Don't keep coughing so, Kitty, for Heaven's sake! Have a little compassion on my nerves. You tear them to pieces."

This is peevishness, pure and simple. Mrs. Bennet is obviously allowing the fact that the foregoing conversation did not suit her to drive her to be unnecessarily short with Daughter Number Three.

"Kitty has no discretion in her coughs," said her father; "she times them ill."

I think Mr. Bennet is being sarcastic here, for sure. He is pointing out the ludicrousness of scolding someone for coughing if they need to cough. Most people cannot time their coughs, or else they would probably never cough.

"I do not cough for my own amusement," replied Kitty fretfully.

This would be an acceptable comment, perhaps, if Austen did not include the word "fretfully". To me this suggests that Kitty is being defensive, when perhaps the wise thing to do would be to let Mrs. Bennet's comment pass her by. Or perhaps she is even more silly, and thinks she has to defend herself against Mr. Bennet. Either way, it's probably an unnecessary comment.

"When is your next ball to be, Lizzy?"

I have a footnote in my copy of Pride and Prejudice which reads thus, "R. W. Chapman pointed out that this question, hitherto assigned to Kitty, must be Mr. Bennet's." I take it that the reason is because it begins a new paragraph, and the next-to-last (if you want to be fancy, penultimate) speaker was Mr. Bennet. Mr. Bennet, therefore, may be referring back to Lizzy's comment about the assemblies, sort of hinting that maybe he really would like the girls to meet Mr. Bingley, and is thus showing concern about when they might meet him. This seems a bit stretched, but it's possible.

"To-morrow fortnight."

This is obviously Lizzy speaking.

"Aye, so it is," cried her mother, "and Mrs. Long does not come back till the day before; so it will be impossible for her to introduce him, for she will not know him herself."

"Then, my dear, you may have the advantage of your friend, and introduce Mr. Bingley to

"Impossible, Mr. Bennet, impossible, when I am not acquainted with him myself; how can you be so teasing?"

"I honour your circumspection. A fortnight's acquaintance is certainly very little. One cannot know what a man really is by the end of a fortnight. But if
we do not venture somebody else will; and after all, Mrs. Long and her daughters must stand their chance; and, therefore, as she will think it an act of kindness, if you decline the office, I will take it on myself."

The girls stared at their father. Mrs. Bennet said only, "Nonsense, nonsense!"

"What can be the meaning of that emphatic exclamation?" cried he. "Do you consider the forms of introduction, and the stress that is laid on them, as nonsense? I cannot quite agree with you

This interchange is talking about British forms of introduction. It helps to understand this passage if you know that it was a big deal to be introduced to someone. You were expected to keep up with that person, generally. So you did not want to be introduced to just anyone. One passage that might help to clear this up occurs in Chapter LXIII, when Darcy says the following: "There is also one other person in the party," he continued after a pause, "who more particularly wishes to be known to you. Will you allow me, or do I ask too much, to introduce my sister to your acquaintance during your stay at Lambton?" Now if being introduced to someone was a big deal, then presumably you would only want to be introduced to other people if they knew you enough to know whether you would want to be introduced. Incidentally, Mr. Bingley, in Chapter III, while perhaps not flouting the rules of introduction, certainly avails himself of them in order to show that he is an agreeable person: "Mr. Bingley had soon made himself acquainted with all the principal people in the room; he was lively and unreserved, danced every dance, was angry that the ball closed so early, and talked of giving one himself at Netherfield."

What say you, Mary? For you are a young lady of deep reflection, I know, and read great books and make extracts."

If you recall, this is a continuation of what Mr. Bennet is saying. I am not sure quite how to interpret this one. Is Mr. Bennet making fun of Mary, or is he simply trying to make a point?

Mary wished to say something sensible, but knew not how.

Mary, at least in this instance, shows some wisdom by keeping her mouth shut. As the saying goes, it is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

"While Mary is adjusting her ideas," he continued, "let us return to Mr. Bingley."

Here again, Mr. Bennet is showing that he really does care about whether his daughters meet Mr. Bingley.

"I am sick of Mr. Bingley," cried his wife.

Mrs. Bennet shows here that her peevishness can even interfere with her avowed intention of marrying off all her daughters.

"I am sorry to hear that; but why did not you tell me that before? If I had known as much this morning I certainly would not have called on him. It is very unlucky; but as I have actually paid the visit; we cannot escape the acquaintance now."

This is Mr. Bennet speaking, of course. This is the moment the joke comes out. While this is a cute moment in one way, perhaps, it does bring up the question of the ethics of "little white lies." Mr. Bennet certainly engaged in such white lies, because of the statement Austen writes about "though to the last always assuring his wife that he should not go." I'm not sure I've thought the issue through, but I'm inclined to think that "little white lies" are not acceptable. Surely there are other ways to surprise people if you wish. Concealing things for the purposes of revealing them at a "proper" time is different from something that is misleading. It could lead to a break-down of trust.

The astonishment of the ladies was just what he wished; that of Mrs. Bennet perhaps surpassing the rest; though, when the first tumult of joy was over, she began to declare that it was what she had expected all the while.

"How good it was in you, my dear Mr. Bennet! But I knew I should persuade you at last. I was sure you loved your girls too well to neglect such an acquaintance. Well, how pleased I am! and it is such a good joke, too, that you should have gone this morning and never said a word about it till now."

This is very typical of someone who is not an expert in a field. If they find they are wrong, they try to cover up their mistakes and claim that they didn't really make the mistake. The real experts are the ones who honestly admit to making a mistake.

"Now, Kitty, you may cough as much as you choose," said Mr. Bennet; and, as he spoke, he left the room, fatigued with the raptures of his wife.

It does say that something is wrong with the Bennets' marriage, that Mr. Bennet is not able to rejoice when his wife rejoices. In any case, the phrase "fatigued with the raptures of his wife" is still very funny.

"What an excellent father you have, girls!" said she, when the door was shut. "I do not know how you will ever make him amends for his kindness; or me, either, for that matter. At our time of life it is not so pleasant, I can tell you, to be making new acquaintances every day; but for your sakes, we would do anything...

This actually strikes me as an acceptable comment on the face of it, except for all the preceding foolishness that renders it somewhat hypocritical. Now that Mr. Bennet has shown himself to have done what she wanted, she praises him, but not before. A somewhat ironic comment it is that "for your sakes, we would do anything." It is ironic because Mrs. Bennet's "total want of propriety" is the main reason Darcy interferes later on with Bingley and Jane. Jane and Bingley get married in spite of Mrs. Bennet.

...Lydia, my love, though you are the youngest, I dare say Mr. Bingley will dance with you at the next ball."

"Oh!" said Lydia stoutly, "I am not afraid; for though I
am the youngest, I'm the tallest."

Here's Mrs. Bennet playing her version of favorites. Mr. Bennet played favorites with Lizzy and her intellect; Mrs. Bennet will play favorites with Lydia and Lydia's likeness to herself.

The rest of the evening was spent in conjecturing how soon he would return Mr. Bennet's visit, and determining when they should ask him to dinner.

Presuming that Lizzy and Jane remain in the room, which I think no great stretch, this would be the sort of "girl talk" I can imagine a man like Mr. Bennet disliking, though there is almost certainly no harm in it. Perhaps Mr. Bennet even foresaw this sort of talk coming up, and wanting to be no part of it was another reason, in addition to being fatigued with the raptures of this wife, for him to leave.

In Christ.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Chapter Three

Originally published 1/15/2006.

Before I go on, I should say something about including the actual text of Pride and Prejudice in this blog. I believe it to be perfectly legal. I am using the Project Gutenberg text. As they prefer it if you give the blurb at the beginning, here it is.

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (#8 in our series by Jane Austen)

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this or any other Project Gutenberg eBook.

This header should be the first thing seen when viewing this Project Gutenberg file. Please do not remove it. Do not change or edit the header without written permission.

Please read the "legal small print," and other information about the eBook and Project Gutenberg at the bottom of this file. Included is important information about your specific rights and restrictions in how the file may be used. You can also find out about how to make a donation to Project Gutenberg, and how to get involved.

**Welcome To The World of Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts**

**eBooks Readable By Both Humans and By Computers, Since 1971**

*****These eBooks Were Prepared By Thousands of Volunteers!*****

Title: Pride and Prejudice

Author: Jane Austen

Release Date: Jun, 1998 [EBook #1342]
[Most recently updated: May 18, 2005]

Edition: 12

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII


The third chapter of Pride and Prejudice has to do with the assembly, the dance in which both pride and prejudice are set up as the conflict; Elizabeth with her prejudice, and Darcy with his pride.

Not all that Mrs. Bennet, however, with the assistance of her five daughters, could ask on the subject, was sufficient to draw from her husband any satisfactory description of Mr. Bingley. They attacked him in various way-- with barefaced questions, ingenious suppositions, and distant surmises; but he eluded the skill of them all, and they were at last obliged to accept the second-hand intelligence of their neighbour, Lady Lucas. Her report was highly favourable. Sir William had been delighted with him. He was quite young, wonderfully handsome, extremely agreeable, and, to crown the whole, he meant to be at the next assembly with a large party. Nothing could be more delightful! To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love; and very lively hopes of Mr. Bingley's heart were entertained.

Why does Mr. Bennet refuse to answer questions about Mr. Bingley? One possible reason is that he does not want his daughters to form their opinions about him before they meet him. Perhaps he does not want to prejudice them in any way. If so, that is ironic, for his "favorite" daughter forms a prejudice about Mr. Darcy. Granted, his refusal to answer questions would not have been the cause of this prejudice, as Mr. Darcy did that quite handily himself. It is also interesting that Austen includes all five daughters in the plot to get information about Mr. Bingley. Jane and Lizzy are in on this. I suppose that's only natural.

"If I can but see one of my daughters happily settled at Netherfield," said Mrs. Bennet to her husband, "and all the others equally well married, I shall have nothing to wish for."

This is a non-remark, precisely because of its inherent irony. The modern sarcasm would put it like this, "Yeah, ALL I want is to have my daughters well married." The fact that this is a rather enormous task does not appear to occur to Mrs. Bennet.

In a few days Mr. Bingley returned Mr. Bennet's visit, and sat about ten minutes with him in his library. He had entertained hopes of being admitted to a sight of the young ladies, of whose beauty he had heard much; but he saw only the father. The ladies were somewhat more fortunate, for they had the advantage of ascertaining from an upper window that he wore a blue coat, and rode a black horse.

An invitation to dinner was soon afterwards dispatched; and already had Mrs. Bennet planned the courses that were to do credit to her housekeeping, when an answer arrived which deferred it all. Mr. Bingley was obliged to be in town the following day, and, consequently, unable to accept the honour of their invitation, etc. Mrs. Bennet was quite disconcerted. She could not imagine what business he could have in town so soon after his arrival in Hertfordshire; and she began to fear that he might be always flying about from one place to another, and never settled at Netherfield as he ought to be. Lady Lucas quieted her fears a little by starting the idea of his being gone to London only to get a large party for the ball; and a report soon followed, that Mr. Bingley was to bring twelve ladies and seven gentlemen with him to the assembly. The girls grieved over such a number of ladies, but were comforted the day before the ball by hearing, that instead of twelve he brought only six with him from London-- his five sisters and a cousin. And when the party entered the assembly room it consisted of only five altogether-- Mr. Bingley, his two sisters, the husband of the eldest, and another young man.

I have little to say on this passage, except that it was rather foolish of Mrs. Bennet not to be able to imagine what business Mr. Bingley could have in town. Also, ladies still do not often relish the idea of stiff competition for the gents. Rest assured it works the other way as well, though perhaps the natural competitiveness of men renders this a bit less of a problem.

Mr. Bingley was good-looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners. His sisters were fine women, with an air of decided fashion. His brother-in-law, Mr. Hurst, merely looked the gentleman; but his friend Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year. The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud; to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.

What I find interesting in this passage is that on the face of things, Austen appears to be condemning the fickleness of opinions on appearance. However, she may not be doing so. She may just be narrating the usual nature of things without comment. I know for a fact that my knowledge of a woman's character unavoidably affects how I think they look.

Mr. Bingley had soon made himself acquainted with all the principal people in the room; he was lively and unreserved, danced every dance, was angry that the ball closed so early, and talked of giving one himself at Netherfield. Such amiable qualities must speak for themselves. What a contrast between him and his friend! Mr. Darcy danced only once with Mrs. Hurst and once with Miss Bingley, declined being introduced to any other lady, and spent the rest of the evening in walking about the room, speaking occasionally to one of his own party. His character was decided. He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and everybody hoped that he would never come there again. Amongst the most violent against him was Mrs. Bennet, whose dislike of his general behaviour was sharpened into particular resentment by his having slighted one of her daughters.

Mr. Darcy really is at fault here. Indeed, I do not think we find that Darcy's pride is ever really condoned by Austen. Wickham, it is true, at first exclaims that Darcy's pride "has often led him to be liberal and generous, to give his money freely, to display hospitality, to assist his tenants, and relieve the poor." However, right after this, Wickham shows he really doesn't like the pride, either, by saying that Georgiana Darcy is too much like her brother - very, very proud. Also, when the book is over, we are hardly expected to look to Wickham as the model of virtue.

It is here that Austen particularly sets up the great conflict.

Elizabeth Bennet had been obliged, by the scarcity of gentlemen, to sit down for two dances; and during part of that time, Mr. Darcy had been standing near enough for her to hear a conversation between him and Mr. Bingley, who came from the dance for a few minutes, to press his friend to join it.

"Come, Darcy," said he, "I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance."

"I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this it would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with."

"I would not be so fastidious as you are," cried Mr. Bingley, "for a kingdom! Upon my honour, I never met with so many pleasant girls in my life as I have this evening; and there are several of them you see uncommonly pretty."

You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room," said Mr. Darcy, looking at the eldest Miss Bennet.

"Oh! She is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld! But there is one of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I dare say very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you."

"Which do you mean?" and turning round he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said: "She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt
me; I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me."

Mr. Bingley followed his advice. Mr. Darcy walked off; and Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings toward him...

Here is typical Austen understatement at work. Probably Lizzy quite detested Darcy for thus summarily rejecting her. Lizzy is well aware she is not quite as attractive as Jane, and is used to being compared with her. Lizzy is probably also dependent on others attempting to make out her character (as she herself does with everyone) in order to form their opinions of her. Thus, when Darcy does not do this, she feels all the injustice of it.

Mr. Bingley's words are quite natural and appropriate; even his assessment of Darcy's manner as stupid is fine. He and Darcy are "very thick", to use the British expression. Austen later recounts why they are so. This is probably gentle ribbing. We can also see that Bingley is very much interested in girls. So perhaps this single man in possession of a large fortune is in want of a wife. He does the gallant thing in attempting to get Darcy introduced to Lizzy.

...She told the story, however, with great spirit among her friends; for she had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in anything ridiculous.

Pride may be ridiculous, but it is also the root sin of all other sins.

The evening altogether passed off pleasantly to the whole family. Mrs. Bennet had seen her eldest daughter much admired by the Netherfield party. Mr. Bingley had danced with her twice, and she had been distinguished by his sisters. Jane was as much gratified by this as her mother could be, though in a quieter way. Elizabeth felt Jane's pleasure. Mary had heard herself mentioned to Miss Bingley as the most accomplished girl in the neighbourhood; and Catherine and Lydia had been fortunate enough never to be without partners, which was all that they had yet learnt to care for at a ball. They returned, therefore, in good spirits to Longbourn, the village where they lived, and of which they were the principal inhabitants...

Austen begins this catalog of pleasures with somewhat more substantial, and moves to the ridiculous.

...They found Mr. Bennet still up. With a book he was regardless of time; and on the present occasion he had a good deal of curiosity as to the events of an evening which had raised such splendid expectations. He had rather hoped that his wife's views on the stranger would be disappointed; but he soon found out that he had a different story to hear.

This is rather interesting. Mr. Bennet has shown, I believe, in the past that he was acting in the girls' best interests when it came to marriage. He does go and visit Mr. Bingley. Now he seems to backtrack on this, at least to the point of hoping that his wife would be disappointed. Perhaps we can take this down to a simple desire to be entertained with his wife's foibles. Perhaps he would like his daughters to be well married in spite of his wife, as indeed happens.

"Oh! my dear Mr. Bennet," as she entered the room, "we have had a most delightful evening, a most excellent ball. I wish you had been there. Jane was so admired, nothing could be like it. Everybody said how well she looked; and Mr. Bingley thought her quite beautiful, and danced with her twice! Only think of that, my dear; he actually danced with her twice! and she was the only creature in the room that he asked a second time. First of all, he asked Miss Lucas. I was so vexed to see him stand up with her! But, however, he did not admire her at all; indeed, nobody can, you know; and he seemed quite struck with Jane as she was going down the dance. So he inquired who she was, and got introduced, and asked her for the two next. Then the two third he danced with Miss King, and the two fourth with Maria Lucas, and the two fifth with Jane again, and the two sixth with Lizzy, and the Boulanger--"

I will interrupt here to point out that Mrs. Bennet does seem to have an extraordinary talent for picking out the mundane details guaranteed not to interest Mr. Bennet. This is a not-so-subtle diatribe of Austen's against those people who go on and on about things that don't interest their listeners. An application: make your words edifying. Many people say it this way: know your audience.

"If he had had any compassion for me," cried her husband impatiently, "he would not have danced half so much! For God's sake, say no more of his partners. O that he had sprained his ankle in the first place!"

"Oh! my dear, I am quite delighted with him. He is so excessively handsome! And his sisters are charming women. I never in my life saw anything more elegant than their dresses. I dare say the lace upon Mrs. Hurst's gown--"

Here she was interrupted again...

Here is Mrs. Bennet again completely ignoring her husband's comment, or not understanding it, or both. Mr. Bennet, I think, is not attacking the fact that Bingley danced a great deal, he is attacking the method of presentation. The clue there is the word "impatiently." With a typical male reaction, Mr. Bennet is simply not interested in clothes.

...Mr. Bennet protested against any description of finery. She was therefore obliged to seek another branch of the subject, and related, with much bitterness of spirit and some exaggeration, the shocking rudeness of Mr. Darcy.

"But I can assure you," she added, "that Lizzy does not lose much by not suiting
his fancy; for he is a most disagreeable, horrid man, not at all worth pleasing. So high and so conceited that there was no enduring him! He walked here, and he walked there, fancying himself so very great! Not handsome enough to dance with! I wish you had been there, my dear, to have given him one of your set-downs. I quite detest the man."

There is merit to discussing this subject, no doubt. Mr. Darcy's pride was quite visible to everyone around him, save perhaps those in his own party; even then Mr. Bingley, I think, might have recognized it a bit. So the public nature of the sin can merit a public discussion of it, within reason of course. Naturally, Mrs. Bennet should not have exaggerated anything, though it is perhaps understandable that she would. However, to wish Mr. Bennet could have given him a set down, which I presume to be some sort of public insult, is simply not the Christian thing to do. I seem to recall a verse talking about turning the other cheek. Please see my recent blog entry on Offenses.

In Christ.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Chapter Four

Originally published 1/22/2006.

Chapter Four is half a discussion between Jane and Lizzy about Mr. Bingley, and half an analysis of the friendship between Darcy and Bingley.

When Jane and Elizabeth were alone, the former, who had been cautious in her praise of Mr. Bingley before, expressed to her sister just how very much she admired him.

"He is just what a young man ought to be," said she, "sensible, good-humoured, lively; and I never saw such happy manners!-- so much ease, with such perfect good breeding!"

We should be careful not to read modern sentiments into this statement. The idea of "good breeding" would not, perhaps, appeal to the modern reader, probably on account of it sounding rather like animals. My dictionary has what I think is definition used here: training in or observance of the proprieties. - Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition.

Notice that since Jane is shortly to be praised for her honesty and good sense, we may take her reaction to Mr. Bingley to reflect his character fairly well, especially since Austen uses the word "cautious" to describe Jane.

"He is also handsome," replied Elizabeth, "which a young man ought likewise to be, if he possibly can. His character is thereby complete."

This is a rather interesting observation. Many, I suppose, would consider a person's looks as immaterial. Perhaps reacting to the postmodern idea that "image is everything," some might indeed take this extreme approach. However, it might be that Lizzy has in view the completing of the idea of "good breeding." Being handsome implies among other things that most people enjoy looking at you. Thus it is a matter of comfortableness with others, and therefore enhances your good manners. Christians are not Gnostics, and the physical world that God has created is good.

"I was very much flattered by his asking me to dance a second time. I did not expect such a compliment."

Modesty here, or false modesty on the part of Jane? I'm not quite sure, but perhaps it is modesty.

"Did not you? I did for you. But that is one great difference between us. Compliments always take you by surprise, and me never. What could be more natural than his asking you again? He could not help seeing that you were about five times as pretty as every other woman in the room. No thanks to his gallantry for that. Well, he certainly is very agreeable, and I give you leave to like him. You have liked many a stupider person."

I love the wit here. It's rather remarkable. But Lizzy really is complimenting Jane, because she's saying that of course Jane deserves all this praise. Lizzy may also be praising herself indirectly by indicating that she can observe all this, and the power of observing must give great satisfaction to the observer, however imperfect the result.

"Dear Lizzy!"

That's Jane speaking.

"Oh! you are a great deal too apt, you know, to like people in general. You never see a fault in anybody. All the world are good and agreeable in your eyes. I never heard you speak ill of a human being in your life."

Lizzy again. Is Lizzy censuring Jane for not being a good enough judge of character, or is she praising Jane for seeing, and thus perhaps encouraging, the good in people? I think perhaps the first a little bit, but also the second. There: I've firmly straddled the fence.

"I would not wish to be hasty in censuring anyone; but I always speak what I think."

This seems exactly right on Jane's part. We must not be hasty to judge. This is a rather interesting comment, because Lizzy has already prejudiced herself, i.e., been hasty in censuring Darcy. The statement does not seem to strike home, however. This may even be Jane trying to alert Lizzy to the idea that she may have summarily dismissed Darcy for an insufficient reason.

"I know you do; and it is that which makes the wonder. With your good sense, to be so honestly blind to the follies and nonsense of others! Affectation of candour is common enough - one meets with it everywhere. But to be candid without ostentation or design - to take the good of everybody's character and make it still better, and say nothing of the bad - belongs to you alone. And so you like this man's sisters, too, do you? Their manners are not equal to his."

This statement of Lizzy's would seem to indicate that above, Lizzy was more praising Jane for the good than rebuking her for the wrong of not judging well. Now Lizzy asking Jane for her opinion on Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst could be construed as gossip, were it not understood, I think, from the context, that Jane and Lizzy will both be quite discreet about this event.

"Certainly not - at first. But they are very pleasing women when you converse with them. Miss Bingley is to live with her brother, and keep his house; and I am much mistaken if we shall not find a very charming neighbour in her."

Here is Jane doing the Jane thing. Miss Bingley, as is explained later, is snobbish. But Jane is willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Here is grace, for sure. Later in the book, Lizzy is happy that Jane is no longer duped by the sister as she was by the brother.

Elizabeth listened in silence, but was not convinced; their behaviour at the assembly had not been calculated to please in general; and with more quickness of observation and less pliancy of temper than her sister, and with a judgement too unassailed by any attention to herself, she was very little disposed to approve them.

It's interesting that Austen uses the phrase "judgement too unassailed by any attention to herself." This seems rather rare these days.

They were in fact very fine ladies; not deficient in good humour when they were pleased, nor in the power of making themselves agreeable when they chose it, but proud and conceited. They were rather handsome, had been educated in one of the first private seminaries in town, had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, were in the habit of spending more than they ought, and of associating with people of rank, and were therefore in every respect entitled to think well of themselves, and meanly of others. They were of a respectable family in the north of England; a circumstance more deeply impressed on their memories than that their brother's fortune and their own had been acquired by trade.

This quite establishes Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst as snobs, while simultaneously removing the justification for it.

Mr. Bingley inherited property to the amount of nearly a hundred thousand pounds from his father, who had intended to purchase an estate, but did not live to do it. Mr. Bingley intended it likewise, and sometimes made choice of his county; but as he was now provided with a good house and the liberty of a manor, it was doubtful to many of those who best knew the easiness of his temper, whether he might not spend the remainder of his days at Netherfield, and leave the next generation to purchase.

His sisters were anxious for his having an estate of his own; but, though he was now only established as a tenant, Miss Bingley was by no means unwilling to preside at his table - nor was Mrs. Hurst, who had married a man of more fashion than fortune, less disposed to consider his house as her home when it suited her. Mr. Bingley had not been or age two years, when he was tempted by an accidental recommendation to look at Netherfield House. He did look at it, and into it for half-an-hour-- was pleased with the situation and the principal rooms, satisfied with what the owner said in its praise, and took it immediately.

This passage illustrates what Bingley will himself voice in a later chapter when he is speaking to Lizzy at Netherfield, and Mrs. Bennet is visiting.

Between him and Darcy there was a very steady friendship, in spite of great opposition of character. Bingley was endeared to Darcy by the easiness, openness, and ductility of his temper, though no disposition could offer a greater contrast to his own, and though with his own he never appeared dissatisfied. On the strength of Darcy's regard, Bingley had the firmest reliance, and of his judgement the highest opinion. In understanding, Darcy was the superior. Bingley was by no means deficient, but Darcy was clever. He was at the same time haughty, reserved, and fastidious, and his manners, though well-bred, were not inviting. In that respect his friend had greatly the advantage. Bingley was sure of being liked wherever he appeared, Darcy was continually giving offense.

Interesting that Austen claims Bingley has greatly the advantage. We can see that it is in Austen's ethics that you should not offend people all the time, but should have good manners. We're not told here whether Darcy intends to give offense or not. I rather think not; we're told by the Pemberly housekeeper that Darcy is very good-natured. He is proud, and aware of it; that is his failing though he thinks it his strength. But he is not mean-spirited. So Darcy is being unloving to those around him by not taking the trouble to make himself agreeable in society. This would be a sin of omission.

The manner in which they spoke of the Meryton assembly was sufficiently characteristic. Bingley had never met with more pleasant people or prettier girls in his life; everybody had been most kind and attentive to him; there had been no formality, no stiffness; he had soon felt acquainted with all the room; and, as to Miss Bennet, he could not conceive an angel more beautiful. Darcy, on the contrary, had seen a collection of people in whom there was little beauty and no fashion, for none of whom he had felt the smallest interest, and from none received either attention or pleasure. Miss Bennet he acknowledged to be pretty, but she smiled too much.

Mrs. Hurst and her sister allowed it to be so-- but still they admired her and liked her, and pronounced her to be a sweet girl, and one whom they would not object to know more of. Miss Bennet was therefore established as a sweet girl, and their brother felt authorized by such commendation to think of her as he chose.

I have little to say about this passage; it speaks for itself.

In Christ.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Chapter Five

Originally published 1/29/2006.

In Chapter Four, we had a discussion of the assembly between Jane and Lizzy. Chapter Five is the discussion of the assembly between the Bennet family, less Mr. Bennet of course; and the Lucas family, probably less Sir William Lucas.

Within a short walk of Longbourn lived a family with whom the Bennets were particularly intimate. Sir William Lucas had been formerly in trade in Meryton, where he had made a tolerable fortune, and risen to the honour of knighthood by an address to the king during his mayoralty. The distinction had perhaps been felt too strongly. It had given him a disgust to his business, and to his residence in a small market town; and, in quitting them both, he had removed with his family to a house about a mile from Meryton, denominated from that period Lucas Lodge, where he could think with pleasure of his own importance, and, unshackled by business, occupy himself solely in being civil to all the world. For, though elated by his rank, it did not render him supercilious; on the contrary, he was all attention to everybody. By nature inoffensive, friendly, and obliging, his presentation at St. James's had made him courteous.

About the only thing that comes to mind here is 2 Thessalonians 3:10: "For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat." Austen sums it up nicely with the statement, "The distinction had perhaps been felt too strongly."

Lady Lucas was a very good kind of woman, not too clever to be a valuable neighbour to Mrs. Bennet...

This rather says something both about Mrs. Bennet's smarts and about her pride; she will not be a close companion to someone who is much smarter than she is.

...They had several children. The eldest of them, a sensible, intelligent young woman, about twenty-seven, was Elizabeth's intimate friend.

That the Miss Lucases and the Miss Bennets should meet to talk over a ball was absolutely necessary; and the morning after the assembly brought the former to Longbourn to hear and to communicate.

Isn't that always the way with ladies? As Dave Barry once said (paraphrase), "Women are quite capable of discussing, for three days, an event that took eight seconds to actually happen."

You began the evening well, Charlotte," said Mrs. Bennet with civil self-command to Miss Lucas. "You were Mr. Bingley's first choice."

Finally! Mrs. Bennet says something that does not make her look foolish. But, true to Mrs. Bennet's character, Austen inserts the words, "with civil self-command," indicating that this statement is a struggle for Mrs. Bennet. She'd much rather lay into Miss Lucas (Charlotte). Incidentally, one thing I should like to explain in the unlikely event that you, the reader, are unaware of it: "Miss Smith," for the English, always refers to the eldest Miss Smith present. If you wish to refer to a younger sister, you must include her first name thus: "Miss Violet Smith."

"Yes; but he seemed to like his second better."

This is Charlotte Lucas speaking. Notice how free of self-pity this statement is. At least, thus I infer from Charlotte's next statement where she freely talks about what Mr. Robinson said.

"Oh! you mean Jane, I suppose, because he danced with her twice. To be sure that
did seem as if he admired her-- indeed I rather believe he did-- I heard something about it-- but I hardly know what-- something about Mr. Robinson."

Here is Mrs. Bennet attempting to be nonchalant, and failing miserably. She knows it it would be unkind to triumph over Charlotte because Jane is so pretty, but her desire to get her daughters married off overpowers her anyway.

"Perhaps you mean what I overheard between him and Mr. Robinson; did not I mention it to you? Mr. Robinson's asking him how he liked our Meryton assemblies, and whether he did not think there were a great many pretty women in the room, and
which he thought the prettiest? and his answering immediately to the last question: 'Oh! the eldest Miss Bennet, beyond a doubt; there cannot be two opinions on that point.'"

This really is unselfish of Charlotte, to praise Jane indirectly whilst knowing herself to be unjustly ignored by the young men. Notice that Austen introduces Charlotte as "a sensible, intelligent young woman," well before it comes out that everyone (trumpeted by Mrs. Bennet of course) thinks her rather plain. Mr. Bingley, to his credit, later on calls her "a very pleasant young woman." Because Austen introduces Charlotte in this fashion, it occurs to me that perhaps Austen is critiquing the habit of men to judge women by their appearance.

"Upon my word! Well, that is very decided indeed-- that does seem as if-- but, however, it may all come to nothing, you know."

Hold your breath; Mrs. Bennet may have actually managed to say something here that is completely sensible and unoffensive to anyone. It is still possible that her thoughts may have been something like, "Well, I know I have to hedge my bets, but I'm so happy; we've won already!"

My overhearings were more to the purpose than yours, Eliza," said Charlotte. "Mr. Darcy is not so well worth listening to as his friend, is he?-- poor Eliza!-- to be only just tolerable."

Charlotte here pities Lizzy, and I think does so in a way that is not condescending. Modern people tend to dislike pity, especially Americans, because they want to think they can make it on their own. But that is hardly the case with any of us.

"I beg you would not put it into Lizzy's head to be vexed by his ill-treatment, for he is such a disagreeable man, that it would be quite a misfortune to be liked by him. Mrs. Long told me last night that he sat close to her for half-an-hour without once opening his lips."

Mrs. Bennet here. This is an interesting comment. We know from later on that Darcy has many excellent qualities, even now. Mrs. Bennet here is assuming that not speaking to someone is a sign of being disagreeable. The Bible says otherwise, and has many Proverbs about the advisability of holding your tongue in many situations. If Darcy had nothing good to say, then he was smart not to say anything; it was not necessarily being disagreeable. It might have been disagreeable, but not necessarily. This is difficult for me to determine, because Austen's culture was different from ours. The things people were expected to say and do are different. It is my impression that in Austen's day, people were expected to say more than we do now. We also know that, statistically anyway, men tend to say fewer words in a day than do women. There is no reason to suppose men and women were all that different in Austen's day.

"Are you quite sure, ma'am?-- is not there a little mistake?" said Jane. "I certainly saw Mr. Darcy speaking to her."

Regardless of whether it was disagreeable on the part of Darcy, Jane comes to the rescue again. Interestingly, Jane defends Darcy on nearly every occasion. Well, she defends just about everyone on every occasion, except finally Wickham. But even then, Wickham and Lydia are able to visit Jane and Mr. Bingley. Grace rules in Jane's heart.

"Aye-- because she asked him at last how he liked Netherfield, and he could not help answering her; but she said he seemed quite angry at being spoke to."

Mrs. Bennet is determined to attribute the strongest degree of malice to Darcy.

"Miss Bingley told me," said Jane, "that he never speaks much, unless among his intimate acquaintances. With
them he is remarkably agreeable."

This does seem to indicate that the English, at this time, thought that to be agreeable, you needed to talk. Perhaps Darcy is wise, and everyone around him silly.

"I do not believe a word of it, my dear. If he had been so very agreeable, he would have talked to Mrs. Long. But I can guess how it was; everybody says that he is eat up with pride, and I dare say he had heard somehow that Mrs. Long does not keep a carriage, and had come to the ball in a hack chaise."

This is uncharitable of Mrs. Bennet. She refuses to believe the testimony of Jane (whom Austen clearly regards as sensible), and clings to her own notion that Darcy should have spoken to Mrs. Long. Well, it's quite possible that Darcy had no interest in speaking with Mrs. Long, because Mrs. Long may not have been much worth speaking to. There are such people as boors today and yesterday. I merely point it out as a possibility; I don't think we know whether Mrs. Long was a boor or not.

"I do not mind his not talking to Mrs. Long," said Miss Lucas, "but I wish he had danced with Eliza."

This is interesting. Charlotte, perhaps, shows her sense here, at least in the first phrase; perhaps in the second as well. Charlotte may already be having ideas about Darcy and Lizzy, thinking they would be a good match. It's too early to really tell, but according to the "marriage rules" of the times, it certainly would have been a good match for Lizzy financially.

"Another time, Lizzy," said her mother, "I would not dance with
him, if I were you."

"I believe, ma'am, I may safely promise you
never to dance with him."

Both Mrs. Bennet and Lizzy here show a propensity to aggravate their prejudice as much as possible. As to Lizzy's statement, they are famous last words.

"His pride," said Miss Lucas, "does not offend
me so much as pride often does, because there is an excuse for it. One cannot wonder that so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, everything in his favour, should think highly of himself. If I
may so express it, he has a
right to be proud."

In which case it might not even be pride. Humility is accuracy in judgement, both of yourself, and of your relation to God. Humility is not having a world-class pianist claim he is no good at piano. That is false humility. Humility does, however, mean not looking down upon others. Comparison with other people is usually dangerous unless you're comparing yourself to someone better than you for the purposes of imitation. Other than that, it's probably wise to avoid comparisons.

"That is very true," replied Elizabeth, "and I could easily forgive
his pride, if he had not mortified mine."

I'm not sure whether Lizzy is being serious here or not. My hunch is that she is being serious. If so, I do not think her saying this is objectionable. It shows the state of her mind, and is not terribly related to the people around her. Moreover, the people around her probably want to know what she is thinking.

"Pride," observed Mary, who piqued herself upon the solidity of her reflections, "is a very common failing, I believe. By all that I have ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed; that human nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the score of some quality or other, real or imaginary. Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us."

This is a classic example of speaking the truth without love. Mary is being highly pedantic here. This statement is absolutely correct, and not really to the point, because people are not really talking about the nature of pride, so much as they are talking about people.

"If I were as rich as Mr. Darcy," cried a young Lucas, who came with his sisters, "I should not care how proud I was. I would keep a pack of foxhounds, and drink a bottle of wine a day."

This is a merely cute comment, and we must forgive the high spirits here. What might be the funny aspect is one possible interpretation of Mrs. Bennet's reaction, which is:

"Then you would drink a great deal more than you ought," said Mrs. Bennet; "and if I were to see you at it, I should take away your bottle directly."

Is Mrs. Bennet being serious here, or is she "responding in kind?" You know how adults talk "baby talk." If that is happening here, then surely this is not objectionable. But, based one what we know about Mrs. Bennet's wisdom, one might be inclined to think Mrs. Bennet is being serious, especially since:

The boy protested that she should not; she continued to declare that she would, and the argument ended only with the visit.

This seems quite silly. I distinctly get the impression that Mrs. Bennet is humiliating herself, yet again, by seriously and really acting the boy's age.

This chapter might be an interesting study in gossip, or not. What think you, my readers? Is there any gossip here? The mitigating circumstance is that everything being discussed happened in a public setting. If all events in question are public, then can conversation about such events qualify as gossip? I'm thinking not, actually. My Miriam Webster's Tenth Collegiate Dictionary defines gossip as a "rumor or report of an intimate nature." Surely public events are not intimate. So everyone is off the hook for that charge. But there seems to be plenty of prejudice and uncharitable comments floating around to make up for it.

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.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Chapter Seven, Part 1

Originally published 2/12/2006.

My brother has asked that I break up these chapters into smaller segments so as to make it easier to comment. So I will experiment this week with this idea.

Chapter 7 has a theme which I will only summarize by the words "more silliness." Interestingly, it's not only Kitty and Lydia who are subject to this charge, but Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, and Mr. Hurst.

Mr. Bennet's property consisted almost entirely in an estate of two thousand a year, which, unfortunately for his daughters, was entailed, in default of heirs male, on a distant relation; and their mother's fortune, though ample for her situation in life, could but ill supply the deficiency of his. Her father had been an attorney in Meryton, and had left her four thousand pounds.

She had a sister married to a Mr. Phillips, who had been a clerk to their father and succeeded him in the business, and a brother settled in London in a respectable line of trade.

The village of Longbourn was only one mile from Meryton; a most convenient distance for the young ladies, who were usually tempted thither three or four times a week, to pay their duty to their aunt and to a milliner's shop just over the way. The two youngest of the family, Catherine and Lydia, were particularly frequent in these attentions; their minds were more vacant than their sisters', and when nothing better offered, a walk to Meryton was necessary to amuse their morning hours and furnish conversation for the evening; and however bare of news the country in general might be, they always contrived to learn some from their aunt. At present, indeed, they were well supplied both with news and happiness by the recent arrival of a militia regiment in the neighbourhood; it was to remain the whole winter, and Meryton was the headquarters.

Their visits to Mrs. Phillips were now productive of the most interesting intelligence. Every day added something to their knowledge of the officers' names and connections. Their lodgings were not long a secret, and at length they began to know the officers themselves. Mr. Phillips visited them all, and this opened to his nieces a store of felicity unknown before. They could talk of nothing but officers; and Mr. Bingley's large fortune, the mention of which gave animation to their mother, was worthless in their eyes when opposed to the regimentals of an ensign.

After listening one morning to their effusions on this subject, Mr. Bennet coolly observed:

"From all that I can collect by your manner of talking, you must be two of the silliest girls in the country. I have suspected it some time, but I am now convinced."

This rather direct rebuke is probably warranted; however, the father's previous lack of control make it more likely that he is to blame somewhat for the "vacantness of their heads."

Catherine was disconcerted, and made no answer; but Lydia, with perfect indifference, continued to express her admiration of Captain Carter, and her hope of seeing him in the course of the day, as he was going the next morning to London.

This passage prefigures a passage late in the book where it talks about the "improvement of Kitty." We can see even now that she can listen to reason.

"I am astonished, my dear," said Mrs. Bennet, "that you should be so ready to think your own children silly. If I wished to think slightingly of anybody's children, it should not be of my own, however."

This is a classic statement of the "Little League Mom" mentality. You've probably seen them: parents whose children absolutely can do no wrong. Whatever you think of Harry Potter, certain it is that Rowling doesn't think much of this, since the Dursleys do precisely this.

"If my children are silly, I must hope to be always sensible of it."

This is truly a sensible statement of Mr. Bennet's. It does show, I think, that he takes some responsibility for his bringing up of the children.

"Yes-- but as it happens, they are all of them very clever."

Mrs. Bennet here.

"This is the only point, I flatter myself, on which we do not agree. I had hoped that our sentiments coincided in every particular, but I must so far differ from you as to think our two youngest daughters uncommonly foolish."

O, the sarcasm. Mr. Bennet manages to ridicule his wife's lack of perception and his two daughters' foolishness all in one breath. I am not sure of the appropriateness of this statement.

"My dear Mr. Bennet, you must not expect such girls to have the sense of their father and mother. When they get to our age, I dare say they will not think about officers any more than we do. I remember the time when I liked a red coat myself very well-- and, indeed, so I do still at my heart; and if a smart young colonel, with five or six thousand a year, should want one of my girls I shall not say nay to him; and I thought Colonel Forster looked very becoming the other night at Sir William's in his regimentals."

Taken out of context, I don't suppose there is anything wrong with this statement. However, we should all know by now the breath-taking sagacity of Mrs. Bennet. So for her to say "sense of their ... mother" is rather amusing.

"Mamma," cried Lydia, "my aunt says that Colonel Forster and Captain Carter do not go so often to Miss Watson's as they did when they first came; she sees them now very often standing in Clarke's library."

This is a non-statement, devoid of meaning, and utterly silly. It is a non sequitur, meaning it does not follow from anything that preceded it; not only that, but it leads to nothing, because of what comes after. Not that Lydia could have foreseen that. I will now continue this discussion in the next post.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Chapter Seven, Part 2

Originally published 2/12/2006.

Continued from last post.

Mrs. Bennet was prevented replying by the entrance of the footman with a note for Miss Bennet; it came from Netherfield, and the servant waited for an answer. Mrs. Bennet's eyes sparkled with pleasure, and she was eagerly calling out, while her daughter read:

"Well, Jane, who is it from? What is it about? What does he say? Well, Jane, make haste and tell us; make haste, my love."

I suppose we can forgive Mrs. Bennet this over-eagerness; to get her daughters married off is hardly the most hateful motive in the world.

"It is from Miss Bingley," said Jane, and then read it aloud.


"If you are not so compassionate as to dine to-day with Louisa and me, we shall be in danger of hating each other for the rest of our lives, for a whole day's tete-a-tete between two women can never end without a quarrel. Come as soon as you can on receipt of this. My brother and the gentlemen are to dine with the officers.-- Yours ever,

This letter puzzles me exceedingly. Any help here would be appreciated. I guess one thing that puzzles me is this: when is the "tete-a-tete" Miss Bingley speaks of? Has it already happened, and if so, when? Or is it a tete-a-tete to which she is inviting Jane? Second question: why must the tete-a-tete not end without a quarrel? Is Miss Bingley being sarcastic or ironic? Finally, is there any indiscretion here? I would initially say there was not.

"With the officers!" cried Lydia. "I wonder my aunt did not tell us of that."

"Dining out," said Mrs. Bennet, "that is very unlucky."

Here we see Mrs. Bennet's imbalance: all propriety must bend before her desire to get her daughters married off.

"Can I have the carriage?" said Jane.

"No, my dear, you had better go on horseback, because it seems likely to rain; and then you must stay all night."

"That would be a good scheme," said Elizabeth, "if you were sure that they would not offer to send her home."

I think Lizzy is being sarcastic with the word "good" here. She is staying aloof, I think, from Mrs. Bennet's ignoring proprieties, and perhaps merely to be funny is ostensibly entering into the spirit.

"Oh! but the gentlemen will have Mr. Bingley's chaise to go to Meryton, and the Hursts have no horses to theirs."

Mrs. Bennet here, explaining why the Bingleys will not be able to send Jane home.

"I had much rather go in the coach."

Jane here.

"But, my dear, your father cannot spare the horses, I am sure. They are wanted in the farm, Mr. Bennet, are they not?

Mrs. Bennet tries to enlist the aid of other reasons why Jane cannot have the carriage; perhaps they are a bit desparate. I am not sure.

"They are wanted in the farm much oftener than I can get them."

Mr. Bennet here.

"But if you have got them to-day," said Elizabeth, "my mother's purpose will be answered."

This one, after thinking about it, puzzles me, too. According to Mrs. Bennet, what would serve her purpose is for precisely one horse to be available. So why does Lizzy say "them?"

She did at last extort from her father an acknowledgment that the horses were engaged;...

The "she" here is Lizzy, though for a long time I thought it was Mrs. Bennet. Rather silly of me, considering it says "her father."

...Jane was therefore obliged to go on horseback, and her mother attended her to the door with many cheerful prognostics of a bad day. Her hopes were answered; Jane had not been gone long before it rained hard. Her sisters were uneasy for her, but her mother was delighted. The rain continued the whole evening without intermission; Jane certainly could not some back.

"This was a lucky idea of mine, indeed!" said Mrs. Bennet more than once, as if the credit of making it rain were all her own...

Austen says it all.

...Till the next morning, however, she was not aware of all the felicity of her contrivance. Breakfast was scarcely over when a servant from Netherfield brought the following note for Elizabeth:


"I find myself very unwell this morning, which, I suppose, is to be imputed to my getting wet through yesterday. My kind friends will not hear of my returning till I am better. They insist also on my seeing Mr. Jones-- therefore do not be alarmed if you should hear of his having been to me-- and, excepting a sore throat and headache, there is not much the matter with me.-- Yours, etc."

"Well, my dear," said Mr. Bennet, when Elizabeth had read the note aloud, "if your daughter should have a dangerous fit of illness-- if she should die, it would be a comfort to know that it was all in pursuit of Mr. Bingley, and under your orders."

Always interesting how "problem children" end up being the progeny of your spouse, and not you, isn't it? Thus it's "your daughter" for Mrs. Bennet.

"Oh! I am not afraid of her dying. People do not die of little trifling colds. She will be taken good care of. As long as she stays there, it is all very well. I would go and see her if I could have the carriage."

Supreme hypocrisy. Mrs. Bennet will send Jane to go for a pleasure trip on horseback in the hopes she will get wet and have to stay the night, whereas she will not stir her foot in a much more morally engaging visit unless she can have the carriage. Now, perhaps there is a health reason interfering here.

Elizabeth, feeling really anxious, was determined to go to her, though the carriage was not to be had; and as she was no horsewoman, walking was her only alternative. She declared her resolution.

Goody-goody two-shoes? Maybe, maybe not.

"How can you be so silly," cried her mother, "as to think of such a thing, in all this dirt! You will not be fit to be seen when you get there."

The mistake of Mrs. Bennet, Miss Bingley, Mrs. Hurst, and a little of Darcy even: to take a perfectly good principle like good manners (looking well and good to put others at their ease) and blow it out of proportion.

"I shall be very fit to see Jane-- which is all I want."

"Is this a hint to me, Lizzy," said her father, "to send for the horses?"

"No, indeed, I do not wish to avoid the walk. The distance is nothing when one has a motive; only three miles. I shall be back by dinner."

A fair statement by Lizzy to mitigate, perhaps, the effort to which she is putting herself. Or perhaps it is to chastise the others for their laziness. Take your pick.

"I admire the activity of your benevolence," observed Mary, "but every impulse of feeling should be guided by reason; and, in my opinion, exertion should always be in proportion to what is required."

Another brilliant observation of Mary's. It is practically a self-evident tautology if you think about it for half a second. Her statement, while true, does not really apply here. What is in question is "how much is required?" To determine that is the real question.

"We will go as far as Meryton with you," said Catherine and Lydia. Elizabeth accepted their company, and the three young ladies set off together.

This chapter to be continued one last time...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Chapter Seven, Part 3

Originally published 2/12/2006.

Continued from the last post.

"If we make haste," said Lydia, as they walked along, "perhaps we may see something of Captain Carter before he goes."

Just leave it to Lydia to turn what might have been an interesting outing to a silly one just to flirt.

"In Meryton they parted; the two youngest repaired to the lodgings of one of the officers' wives, and Elizabeth continued her walk alone, crossing field after field at a quick pace, jumping over stiles and springing over puddles with impatient activity, and finding herself at last within view of the house, with weary ankles, dirty stockings, and a face glowing with the warmth of exercise.

She was shown into the breakfast-parlour, where all but Jane were assembled, and where her appearance created a great deal of surprise. That she should have walked three miles so early in the day, in such dirty weather, and by herself, was almost incredible to Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley; and Elizabeth was convinced that they held her in contempt for it. She was received, however, very politely by them; and in their brother's manners there was something better than politeness; there was good humour and kindness. Mr. Darcy said very little, and Mr. Hurst nothing at all. The former was divided between admiration of the brilliancy which exercise had given to her complexion, and doubt as to the occasion's justifying her coming so far alone. The latter was thinking only of his breakfast.

Austen's timing is absolutely perfect here. That Mr. Hurst should only think of breakfast when something quite a bit more important and interesting, though still not important on the grand scale of things shows a remarkable lack of perception. Mr. Bingley really shines here, though. I really think Mr. Bingley has the right idea, and the others don't allow for circumstances.

Her inquiries after her sister were not very favourably answered. Miss Bennet had slept ill, and though up, was very feverish, and not well enough to leave her room. Elizabeth was glad to be taken to her immediately; and Jane, who had only been withheld by the fear of giving alarm or inconvenience from expressing in her note how much she longed for such a visit, was delighted at her entrance...

Jane being prudent here, as usual in her nature. Though, as evidenced, all of her sisters were uneasy for her. It didn't quite do the trick.

...She was not equal, however, to much conversation, and when Miss Bingley left them together, could attempt little besides expressions of gratitude for the extraordinary kindness she was treated with. Elizabeth silently attended her.

When breakfast was over they were joined by the sisters; and Elizabeth began to like them herself, when she saw how much affection and solicitude they showed for Jane. The apothecary came, and having examined his patient, said, as might be supposed, that she had caught a violent cold, and that they must endeavour to get the better of it; advised her to return to bed, and promised her some draughts. The advice was followed readily, for the feverish symptoms increased, and her head ached acutely. Elizabeth did not quit her room for a moment; nor were the other ladies often absent; the gentlemen being out, they had, in fact, nothing to do elsewhere.

When the clock struck three, Elizabeth felt that she must go, and very unwillingly said so. Miss Bingley offered her the carriage, and she only wanted a little pressing to accept it, when Jane testified such concern in parting with her, that Miss Bingley was obliged to convert the offer of the chaise to an invitation to remain at Netherfield for the present...

This is good manners.

...Elizabeth most thankfully consented, and a servant was dispatched to Longbourn to acquaint the family with her stay and bring back a supply of clothes.

Thus sets the stage for quite an interesting series of conversations, upon which I predict I shall have many words. Whether my words mean anything is not for me to decide.