History of Literature


Jane Austen


"Pride and Prejudice"


Jane Austen


Jane Austen

English novelist

born Dec. 16, 1775, Steventon, Hampshire, Eng.
died July 18, 1817, Winchester, Hampshire

English writer who first gave the novel its distinctly modern character through her treatment of ordinary people in everyday life. Austen created the comedy of manners of middle-class life in the England of her time in her novels, Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (1815), and Northanger Abbey and Persuasion (published posthumously, 1817).

Jane Austen was born in the Hampshire village of Steventon, where her father, the Reverend George Austen, was rector. She was the second daughter and seventh child in a family of eight: six boys and two girls. Her closest companion throughout her life was her elder sister, Cassandra, who also remained unmarried. Their father was a scholar who encouraged the love of learning in his children. His wife, Cassandra (née Leigh), was a woman of ready wit, famed for her impromptu verses and stories. The great family amusement was acting.

Jane Austen’s lively and affectionate family circle provided a stimulating context for her writing. Moreover, her experience was carried far beyond Steventon rectory by an extensive network of relationships by blood and friendship. It was this world—of the minor landed gentry and the country clergy, in the village, the neighbourhood, and the country town, with occasional visits to Bath and to London—that she was to use in the settings, characters, and subject matter of her novels.

Her earliest-known writings date from about 1787, and between then and 1793 she wrote a large body of material that has survived in three manuscript notebooks: Volume the First, Volume the Second, and Volume the Third. These contain plays, verses, short novels, and other prose and show Austen engaged in the parody of existing literary forms, notably sentimental fiction. Her passage to a more serious view of life from the exuberant high spirits and extravagances of her earliest writings is evident in Lady Susan, a short novel-in-letters written about 1793–94 (and not published until 1871). This portrait of a woman bent on the exercise of her own powerful mind and personality to the point of social self-destruction is, in effect, a study of frustration and of woman’s fate in a society that has no use for woman’s stronger, more “masculine,” talents.

In 1802 it seems likely that Jane agreed to marry Harris Bigg-Wither, the 21-year-old heir of a Hampshire family, but the next morning changed her mind. There are also a number of mutually contradictory stories connecting her with someone with whom she fell in love but who died very soon after. Since Austen’s novels are so deeply concerned with love and marriage, there is some point in attempting to establish the facts of these relationships. Unfortunately, the evidence is unsatisfactory and incomplete. Cassandra was a jealous guardian of her sister’s private life, and after Jane’s death she censored the surviving letters, destroying many and cutting up others. But Jane Austen’s own novels provide indisputable evidence that their author understood the experience of love and of love disappointed.

The earliest of her novels, Sense and Sensibility, was begun about 1795 as a novel-in-letters called “Elinor and Marianne,” after its heroines. Between October 1796 and August 1797 Austen completed the first version of Pride and Prejudice, then called “First Impressions.” In 1797 her father wrote to offer it to a London publisher for publication, but the offer was declined. Northanger Abbey, the last of the early novels, was written about 1798 or 1799, probably under the title “Susan.” In 1803 the manuscript of “Susan” was sold to the publisher Richard Crosby for £10. He took it for immediate publication, but, although it was advertised, unaccountably it never appeared.

Up to this time the tenor of life at Steventon rectory had been propitious for Jane Austen’s growth as a novelist. This stable environment ended in 1801, however, when George Austen, then aged 70, retired to Bath with his wife and daughters. For eight years Jane had to put up with a succession of temporary lodgings or visits to relatives, in Bath, London, Clifton, Warwickshire, and, finally, Southampton, where the three women lived from 1805 to 1809. In 1804 Jane began The Watsons but soon abandoned it. In 1804 her dearest friend, Mrs. Anne Lefroy, died suddenly, and in January 1805 her father died in Bath.

Eventually, in 1809, Jane’s brother Edward was able to provide his mother and sisters with a large cottage in the village of Chawton, within his Hampshire estate, not far from Steventon. The prospect of settling at Chawton had already given Jane Austen a renewed sense of purpose, and she began to prepare Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice for publication. She was encouraged by her brother Henry, who acted as go-between with her publishers. She was probably also prompted by her need for money. Two years later Thomas Egerton agreed to publish Sense and Sensibility, which came out, anonymously, in November 1811. Both of the leading reviews, the Critical Review and the Quarterly Review, welcomed its blend of instruction and amusement. Meanwhile, in 1811 Austen had begun Mansfield Park, which was finished in 1813 and published in 1814. By then she was an established (though anonymous) author; Egerton had published Pride and Prejudice in January 1813, and later that year there were second editions of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. Pride and Prejudice seems to have been the fashionable novel of its season. Between January 1814 and March 1815 she wrote Emma, which appeared in December 1815. In 1816 there was a second edition of Mansfield Park, published, like Emma, by Lord Byron’s publisher, John Murray. Persuasion (written August 1815–August 1816) was published posthumously, with Northanger Abbey, in December 1817.

The years after 1811 seem to have been the most rewarding of her life. She had the satisfaction of seeing her work in print and well reviewed and of knowing that the novels were widely read. They were so much enjoyed by the Prince Regent (later George IV) that he had a set in each of his residences; and Emma, at a discreet royal command, was “respectfully dedicated” to him. The reviewers praised the novels for their morality and entertainment, admired the character drawing, and welcomed the homely realism as a refreshing change from the romantic melodrama then in vogue.

For the last 18 months of her life, she was busy writing. Early in 1816, at the onset of her fatal illness, she set down the burlesque Plan of a Novel, According to Hints from Various Quarters (first published in 1871). Until August 1816 she was occupied with Persuasion, and she looked again at the manuscript of “Susan” (Northanger Abbey).

In January 1817 she began Sanditon, a robust and self-mocking satire on health resorts and invalidism. This novel remained unfinished owing to Austen’s declining health. She supposed that she was suffering from bile, but the symptoms make possible a modern clinical assessment that she was suffering from Addison’s disease. Her condition fluctuated, but in April she made her will, and in May she was taken to Winchester to be under the care of an expert surgeon. She died on July 18, and six days later she was buried in Winchester Cathedral.

Her authorship was announced to the world at large by her brother Henry, who supervised the publication of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. There was no recognition at the time that regency England had lost its keenest observer and sharpest analyst; no understanding that a miniaturist (as she maintained that she was and as she was then seen), a “merely domestic” novelist, could be seriously concerned with the nature of society and the quality of its culture; no grasp of Jane Austen as a historian of the emergence of regency society into the modern world. During her lifetime there had been a solitary response in any way adequate to the nature of her achievement: Sir Walter Scott’s review of Emma in the Quarterly Review for March 1816, where he hailed this “nameless author” as a masterful exponent of “the modern novel” in the new realist tradition. After her death, there was for long only one significant essay, the review of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion in the Quarterly for January 1821 by the theologian Richard Whately. Together, Scott’s and Whately’s essays provided the foundation for serious criticism of Jane Austen: their insights were appropriated by critics throughout the 19th century.

Cassandra Austen (1773-1845). Portrait of Jane Austen (c. 1810).

Jane Austen’s three early novels form a distinct group in which a strong element of literary satire accompanies the comic depiction of character and society.

Sense and Sensibility tells the story of the impoverished Dashwood sisters. Marianne is the heroine of “sensibility”—i.e., of openness and enthusiasm. She becomes infatuated with the attractive John Willoughby, who seems to be a romantic lover but is in reality an unscrupulous fortune hunter. He deserts her for an heiress, leaving her to learn a dose of “sense” in a wholly unromantic marriage with a staid and settled bachelor, Colonel Brandon, who is 20 years her senior. By contrast, Marianne’s older sister, Elinor, is the guiding light of “sense,” or prudence and discretion, whose constancy toward her lover, Edward Ferrars, is rewarded by her marriage to him after some distressing vicissitudes.

Pride and Prejudice describes the clash between Elizabeth Bennet, the daughter of a country gentleman, and Fitzwilliam Darcy, a rich and aristocratic landowner. Although Austen shows them intrigued by each other, she reverses the convention of “first impressions”: “pride” of rank and fortune and “prejudice” against Elizabeth’s inferiority of family hold Darcy aloof; while Elizabeth is equally fired both by the “pride” of self-respect and by “prejudice” against Darcy’s snobbery. Ultimately, they come together in love and self-understanding. The intelligent and high-spirited Elizabeth was Jane Austen’s own favourite among all her heroines and is one of the most engaging in English literature.

Northanger Abbey combines a satire on conventional novels of polite society with one on Gothic tales of terror. Catherine Morland, the unspoiled daughter of a country parson, is the innocent abroad who gains worldly wisdom: first in the fashionable society of Bath and then at Northanger Abbey itself, where she learns not to interpret the world through her reading of Gothic thrillers. Her mentor and guide is the self-assured and gently ironic Henry Tilney, her husband-to-be.

In the three novels of Jane Austen’s maturity, the literary satire, though still present, is more subdued and is subordinated to the comedy of character and society.

In its tone and discussion of religion and religious duty, Mansfield Park is the most serious of Austen’s novels. The heroine, Fanny Price, is a self-effacing and unregarded cousin cared for by the Bertram family in their country house. Fanny emerges as a true heroine whose moral strength eventually wins her complete acceptance in the Bertram family and marriage to Edmund Bertram himself, after that family’s disastrous involvement with the meretricious and loose-living Crawfords.

Of all Austen’s novels, Emma is the most consistently comic in tone. It centres on Emma Woodhouse, a wealthy, pretty, self-satisfied young woman who indulges herself with meddlesome and unsuccessful attempts at matchmaking among her friends and neighbours. After a series of humiliating errors, a chastened Emma finds her destiny in marriage to the mature and protective George Knightley, a neighbouring squire who had been her mentor and friend.

Persuasion tells the story of a second chance, the reawakening of love between Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth, whom seven years earlier she had been persuaded not to marry. Now Wentworth returns from the Napoleonic Wars with prize money and the social acceptability of naval rank; he is an eligible suitor acceptable to Anne’s snobbish father and his circle, and Anne discovers the continuing strength of her love for him.

Jane Auste

Although the birth of the English novel is to be seen in the first half of the 18th century in the work of Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, and Henry Fielding, it is with Jane Austen that the novel takes on its distinctively modern character in the realistic treatment of unremarkable people in the unremarkable situations of everyday life. In her six novels—Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion—Austen created the comedy of manners of middle-class life in the England of her time, revealing the possibilities of “domestic” literature. Her repeated fable of a young woman’s voyage to self-discovery on the passage through love to marriage focuses upon easily recognizable aspects of life. It is this concentration upon character and personality and upon the tensions between her heroines and their society that relates her novels more closely to the modern world than to the traditions of the 18th century. It is this modernity, together with the wit, realism, and timelessness of her prose style; her shrewd, amused sympathy; and the satisfaction to be found in stories so skillfully told, in novels so beautifully constructed, that helps to explain her continuing appeal for readers of all kinds. Modern critics remain fascinated by the commanding structure and organization of the novels, by the triumphs of technique that enable the writer to lay bare the tragicomedy of existence in stories of which the events and settings are apparently so ordinary and so circumscribed.

Brian C. Southam


Sense and Sensibility

Jane Austen


Like her other novels, this is a marriage plot: its principal protagonists are all, eventually, united with the partners they deserve. Important as this resolution is, however, it is not where the principal satisfaction of Austen's narrative lies. Elinor and Marianne, the two sisters at its center, may well correspond to the sense and sensibility of the novel's title, but a simple identification of reason and passion as their enduring qualities would be unwise. The creation of perspective, the transition between apparent extremes, is achieved primarily through language, in the precise placement and patterning of phrase, clause, and sentence to create character. As a result, her prose charts exactly the movement between the distortions and blindness of passion, and the reasonable good sense that always seems to succeed it. Sense and Sensibility was developed from an earlier novel in letters called Elinor and Marianne, but it was only by abandoning the epistolary form of her eighteenth-century precursors that Austen was able to achieve such analytical precision. Her shift in titles is instructive: we no longer move from one viewpoint to another, but remain within a common syntax that propagates the implications created by patterns of ideas. The novelist now writes with one voice, but in doing so she speaks for all the voices she creates.





Mansfield Park

Jane Austen


One of Austen's more sober novels, Mansfield Park deals with her trademark themes—marriage, money, and manners. It tells the familiar story of a young woman, Fanny Price, and her pursuit of the right husband. Fanny is the archetypal poor relative, who is "rescued" from her large and impoverished family to be raised in her aunt's household, the seat of Sir Thomas Bertram, Mansfield Park. Effectively orphaned and an outsider, Fanny is variously tolerated and exploited, and suffers excruciating humiliations at the hands of her other aunt, the mean-spirited Mrs Norris. Her cousins, with the exception of the warm and principled Edmund, are shallow characters who court the attentions of any visiting gentry, such as the rakish Crawfords, with disastrous consequences. Fanny, by contrast, is stronger on virtue than vice, and her sterling qualities are steadily revealed, although readers sometimes find her conventional femininity off-putting.
Typically, Austen mocks the pretensions of the rich and idle—their double standards, their condescension, and indeed their claims to moral legitimacy. Also typical are Austen's allusions to the darker side of the Mansfield Park idyll, made through a few strategically placed details. The Bertram family fortune, it turns out, comes—on the backs of slaves—from plantations in Antigua. Intriguingly, how much attention we must give Jane Austen's attention to these details has recently placed the novel at the center of bitter critical dispute.






Jane Austen


The last book Austen was to complete, Persuasion is about second chances, and the triumph of true love over social obstacles, snobbishness, and other people's selfish concerns. If her earlier novels tended to champion the claims of the social over the individual, her last work redresses the balance a little. Its twenty-seven-year-old heroine, Anne Elliot, seems to have missed out on her opportunity for romantic fulfilment, having at the age of nineteen been persuaded by her mentor, Lady Russell, against marrying Captain Wentworth, on the grounds of his impecunity and poor prospects. Now older and capable of judging for herself, she is thrown once more into his company; and the novel conveys, with great intensity, her heightened consciousness in his presence, and her alert charting of the signs of his reawakening love for her. The course of this love does not run smooth. The now-wealthy and socially-acceptable Wentworth finds himself unwillingly committed to Louisa Musgrove, whose failure to listen even to sensible"persuasions"has cataclysmic consequences, manifested in the novel's best-known scene, in which she jumps and falls from the Cobb at Lyme Regis.
The political sensibility of Persuasion is perhaps more liberal than that of Austen's earlier works, the meritocracy of the Navy and the simple good sense of the maritime characters being championed over the effete indulgences of a delinquent and self-regarding aristocracy. In literary terms, too, the novel charts a liberal middle-way: while Anne sensibly recommends that the melancholy Captain Benwick read more of the work of prose moralists, the novel's own frequent references to the poetry of Scott and Byron declare also its allegiance to the Romantic literary tradition.






Northanger Abbey

Jane Austen


Catherine Morland, the heroine of Northanger Abbey, is a plucky tomboy longing for the kind of adventures that she fervently consumes in the popular gothic novels of the day. She is whisked off to Bath with her friends, the Aliens, for her first foray into society. It is a time and place of rigid social decorum, where an ambiguously phrased salutation or a damp afternoon can cause as much seismic anxiety and dread as a blood-stained dagger or an imprisoned governess in one of her favorite books. In Bath she meets Henry Tilney and promptly falls forever in love as, she believes, a proper heroine should. Henry's appeal is immediate: he is an iconoclast, mocking conventions of mannerly conversation and conduct and is therefore a perfect match (though perhaps less for Catherine than for the equally ironic narrator of the book). Catherine is continually thwarted in her desires for dark adventures—by Austen's playful authorial intrusions as much as by a decided lack of dungeons and evil squires. "Remember the country and age in which we live, " Tilney cautions her," does our education prepare us for such atrocities?" Catherine learns some hard lessons. She leaves a world created by her fancy, whose parameters are drawn by romance novels. She must take her place in a world where she learns that real evil is not ill-treated wives locked away in cloisters, or drops of blood in dark secret chambers but rather in the rigid strictures of class and in the small-mindedness of society.
Written first and published last, Northanger Abbey is often likened to Austen's juvenilia. Certainly the wit is less subtle, less honed, than in her later works: here her blade is exposed and gleefully wielded. Northanger Abbey is not just a curiosity for the Austen scholarzit is a delight in itself.






Jane Austen


Austen said of her fourth published novel that it would contain a heroine no one would like but herself—and as if to prove her wrong, generations of readers have warmed to the flawed protagonist of Emma, a young woman used to ruling over the small social world of the village of Highbury.The comedy as well as the psychological interest of the novel lies in seeing what happens when people fail to act as she hopes and ordains. She attempts to pair her protegee Harriet Smith with two unsuitable candidates, and completely fails to read the true direction of the men's affections. She also fails to decipher, until it is almost too late, the nature of her own feelings for Mr Knightley. Some recent readers view the novel as dangerously paternalistic for its moral education, but it should be said that Emma is less concerned to teach a lesson than to explore the mortifying effects of learning one.
Austen's trademark blending of an omniscient and ironic third-person narrative voice with a more indirect style that renders individual points of view here comes into its own. A form suited both to the novel's concerns with individual, solipsistic desires and to its overarching moral commitment to the importance of frankness and mutual intelligibility, it points the way toward later nineteenth-century works of novelistic realism.


Type of work: Novel
Author: Jane Austen (1775-1817)
Type of plot: Social comedy
Time of plot: Early nineteenth century
Locale: Surrey, England
First published: 1816

In this novel about a headstrong, snobbish, intellectually proud young woman, Austen's genius for ironic comedy is displayed at its peak. The plot involves finding the proper husband for the heroine, but behind the deceptively simple and everyday events lies the author's moral vision of a world in which social responsibility and familial obligation are key virtues, and compromise a necessary response to the irreconcilable opposites encountered in life.

Principal Characters

Emma Woodhouse, the younger daughter of the wealthy owner of Hartfield and the most important young woman in the village of Highbury. Good-hearted, intelligent, but spoiled, she takes under her protection Harriet Smith, a seventeen-year-old girl of unknown parentage, who is at school in the village. Given to matchmaking, Emma breaks up the love affair between Harriet and Robert Martin, a worthy farmer, because she thinks Harriet deserves better, and persuades her to fall in love with the vicar, Mr. Elton. To her dismay, Elton proposes to her rather than to Harriet and is indignant when she refuses him. Next, Emma becomes interested in Frank Churchill, an attractive young man who visits his father in Highbury, and thinks him in love with her; but it develops that he is secretly engaged to Jane Fairfax. Emma had never really cared for Churchill, but she thinks him a possible match for Harriet. She becomes really concerned when she discovers that Harriet's new interest is in Mr. Knightley, an old friend of the Woodhouse family, She now realizes that Knightley is the man she has always loved and happily accepts his proposal. Harriet marries her old lover, Martin, and the matrimonial problems are solved.
George Knightley, a landowner of the neighborhood, sixteen years Emma's senior, and an old family friend. Honorable, intelligent, and frank, he has always told Emma the truth about herself. When she thinks that he may marry someone else, she realizes that she has always loved him and accepts his proposal.
John Knightley, George's brother, married to Emma's older sister.
Isabella Knightley, nee Woodhouse, John Knight-ley's wife and Emma's sister, a gentle creature absorbed in her children.
Henry Woodhouse, father of Emma and Isabella, kindly and hospitable but an incurable hypochondriac.
Mr. Weston, a citizen of Highbury who has married Anne Taylor, Emma's former governess.
Anne Weston, nee Taylor, Emma's former governess, a sensible woman whom Emma regards highly.
Frank Churchill, Mr. Weston's son by a former marriage. He has been adopted by and taken the name of his mother's family. His charm attracts Emma briefly, but she is not seriously interested. He is secretly engaged to Jane Fairfax.
Jane Fairfax, a beautiful and accomplished orphan, who visits her family in Highbury. Emma admires but cannot like her, finding her too reserved. The mystery of her personality is solved when it is learned that she is engaged to Churchill.
Mrs. Bates and Miss Bates, grandmother and aunt of Jane Fairfax. Poor but worthy women, they are intolerably loquacious and boring.
Harriet Smith, the illegitimate daughter of a tradesman. Young, pretty, and impressionable, she is taken up by Emma Woodhouse, rather to her disadvantage, for Emma gives her ideas above her station. She is persuaded to refuse the proposal of Robert Martin and to believe that Mr. Elton, the vicar, is in love with her. When Elton proves to be interested in Emma, Harriet is deeply chagrined. After considering the possibility of Harriet as a match for Churchill, Emma finds to her dismay that Harriet is thinking of Knightley. This discovery makes Emma realize how much she has always loved him. After Emma and Knightley are engaged, Harriet is again proposed to by Robert Martin; she happily marries him.
Robert Martin, the honest young farmer who marries Harriet Smith.
The Rev. Philip Elton, vicar of the parish. A conceited, silly man, he proposes to Emma Woodhouse, who has thought him in love with Harriet Smith. Emma's refusal makes him her enemy.
Augusta Elton, nee Hawkins, the woman Elton marries after being refused by Emma. She is vulgar, pretentious, and officious.

The Story

A rich, clever, and beautiful young woman, Emma Woodhouse was no more spoiled and self-satisfied than one would expect under such circumstances. She had just seen her friend, companion, and former governess, Miss Taylor, married to a neighboring widower, Mr. Weston. While the match was suitable in every way, Emma could not help sighing over her loss, for now only she and her father were left at Hartfield, and Mr. Woodhouse was too old and too fond of worrying about trivialities to be a companion for his daughter.
The Woodhouses were the great family in the village of Highbury. In their small circle of friends, there were enough middle-aged ladies to make up card tables for Mr. Woodhouse, but there was no young lady to be a friend and confidante to Emma. Lonely for her beloved Miss Taylor, now Mrs. Weston. Emma took under her wing Harriet Smith, the parlor boarder at a nearby boarding school. Although not in the least brilliant, Harriet was a pretty seventeen-year-old girl with pleasing, unassuming manners and a gratifying habit of looking up to Emma as a paragon.
Harriet was the natural daughter of some mysterious person; Emma, believing that the girl might be of noble family, persuaded her that the society in which she had moved was not good enough for her. She encouraged her to give up her acquaintance with the Martin family, respectable farmers of some substance though of no fashion. Instead of thinking of Robert Martin as a husband for Harriet, Emma influenced the girl to aspire to Mr. Elton, the young rector.
Emma believed from Mr. Elton's manner that he was beginning to fall in love with Harriet, and she flattered herself upon her matchmaking schemes. The brother of a London lawyer married to Emma's older sister and one of the few people who could see Emma's faults, Mr. Knightley was concerned about her intimacy with Harriet. He warned her that no good could come of it for either Harriet or herself, and he was particularly upset when he learned that Emma had influenced Harriet to turn down Robert Martin's proposal of marriage. Emma herself suffered from no such qualms, for she was certain that Mr. Elton was as much in love with Harriet as Harriet—through Emma's instigation—was with him.
Emma suffered a rude awakening when Mr. Elton, finding her alone, asked her to marry him. She suddenly realized that what she had taken for gallantries to Harriet had been meant for herself; he had taken what Emma had intended as encouragement to his suit of her friend as encouragement to aspire for her hand. His presumption was bad enough, but the task of breaking the news to Harriet was much worse.
Another disappointment now occurred in Emma's circle. Frank Churchill, who had promised for months to come to see his father and new stepmother, again put off his visit. Churchill. Mr. Weston's son by a first marriage, had taken the name of his mother's family. Mr. Knightley believed that the young man now felt superior to his father. Emma argued with Mr. Knightley, but found herself secretly agreeing with him.
Although the Hartfield circle was denied Churchill's company, it did acquire an addition in the person of Jane Fairfax, niece of the garrulous Miss Bates. Jane rivaled Emma in beauty and accomplishment; this was one reason why, as Mr. Knightley hinted, Emma had never been friendly with Jane. Emma blamed Jane's reserve for their somewhat cool relationship.
Soon after Jane's arrival, the Westons received a letter from Churchill setting another date for his visit. This time he actually appeared, and Emma found him a handsome, well-bred young man. He frequently called upon the Woodhouses and also upon the Bates family, because of prior acquaintance with Jane Fairfax. Emma rather than Jane was the recipient of his gallantries, however, and Emma could see that Mr. and Mrs. Weston were hoping that the romance would prosper.
About this time, Jane Fairfax received the handsome gift of a pianoforte, anonymously given. It was presumed to have come from some rich friends with whom Jane, an orphan, had lived, but Jane seemed embarrassed with the present and refused to discuss it. Emma wondered if it had come from Mr. Knightley, after Mrs. Weston pointed out to her his seeming preference and concern for Jane. Emma could not bear to think of Mr. Knightley's marrying Jane Fairfax; after observing them together, she concluded to her own satisfaction that he was motivated by friendship, not love.
It was now time for Frank Churchill to end his visit, and he departed with seeming reluctance. During his last call at Hartfield, he appeared desirous of telling Emma something of a serious nature; but she, believing him to be on the verge of a declaration of love, did not encourage him because in her daydreams she always saw herself refusing him and their love ending in quiet friendship.
Mr. Elton returned to the village with a hastily wooed and wedded bride, a lady of small fortune, extremely bad manners, and great pretensions to elegance. Harriet, who had been talked into love by Emma, could not be so easily talked out of it; but what Emma had failed to accomplish, Mr. Elton's marriage had, and Harriet at last began to recover. Her recovery was aided by Mr. Elton's rudeness to her at a ball. When he refused to dance with her, Mr. Knightley, who rarely danced, offered himself as a partner, and Harriet, without Emma's knowledge, began to think of him instead of Mr. Elton.
Emma began to think of Churchill as a husband for Harriet, but she resolved to do nothing to promote the match. Through a series of misinterpretations, Emma thought Harriet was praising Churchill when she was really referring to Mr. Knightley.
The matrimonial entanglement was further complicated because Mrs. Weston continued to believe that Mr. Knightley was becoming attached to Jane Fairfax. In his turn, Mr. Knightley saw signs of some secret agreement between Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill. His suspicions were finally justified when Churchill confessed to Mr. and Mrs. Weston that he and Jane had been secretly engaged since October. The Westons' first thought was for Emma, for they feared that Churchill's attentions to her might have had their effect. Emma assured Mrs. Weston that she had at one time felt some slight attachment to Churchill, but that time was now safely past. Her chief concerns now were that she had said things about Jane to Churchill which she would not have said had she known of their engagement, and also that she had, as she believed, encouraged Harriet in another fruitless attachment.
When she went to break the news gently to Harriet, however, Emma found her quite unperturbed by it; after a few minutes of talking at cross-purposes, Emma learned that it was not Churchill but Mr. Knightley upon whom Harriet had now bestowed her affections. When she told Emma that she had reasons to believe that Mr. Knightley returned her sentiments, Emma suddenly realized the state of her own heart; she herself loved Mr. Knightley. She now wished she had never seen Harriet Smith. Aside from the fact that she wanted to marry Mr. Knightley herself, she knew a match between him and Harriet would be an unequal one, hardly likely to bring happiness.
Emma's worry over this state of affairs was soon ended when Mr. Knightley asked her to marry him. Her complete happiness was marred only by the fact that she knew her marriage would upset her father, who disliked change of any kind; she was also aware that she had unknowingly prepared Harriet for another disappointment. The first problem was solved when Emma and Mr. Knightley decided to reside at Hartfield with Mr. Woodhouse as long as he lived. Harriet's problem, however, still remained; but when Mr. Knightley was paying attention to her, he was really trying to determine the real state of her affections for his young farm tenant. Consequently, Mr. Knightley was able to announce one morning that Robert Martin had again offered himself to Harriet and had been accepted. Emma was overjoyed that Harriet's future was now assured. She could always reflect that all parties concerned had married according to their stations, a prerequisite for their true happiness.

Critical Evaluation

Jane Austen had passed her fortieth year when her fourth published novel, Emma, appeared in 1816, the year before her death. Although Pride and Prejudice has always been her most popular novel, Emma is generally regarded as her greatest. In this work of her maturity, she deals once more with the milieu she preferred: "3 or 4 Families in a Country Village is the very thing to work on." The seventh of eight children of a learned clergyman, she had grown to womanhood in her native Hampshire village of Steventon. She spent the remainder of her life, except for brief intervals in Bath and Southampton, in another Hampshire village, Chawton, and was thoroughly familiar with the world she depicted.
The action of Emma cannot be properly considered apart from the setting of Highbury, a populous village only sixteen miles from London. Its physical attributes are presented in such circumstantial detail that it becomes a real entity. London seems far away, not because of the difficulty of travel but because of the community's limited views. It is a village where a light drizzle keeps its citizens at home, where Frank Churchill's trip to London for the alleged purpose of getting a haircut is foppery and foolishness, where the "inconsiderable Crown Inn" and Ford's "woollen-draper, linen-draper, and haberdasher's shop united" dominate the main street. Emma's view of the busiest part of town, surveyed from the doorway of Ford's, sums up the life of the village:

Mr. Perry walking hastily by, Mr. William Cox letting himself in at the office door, Mr. Cole's carriage horses returning from exercise ... a stray letter boy on an obstinate mule . . . the butcher with his tray, a tidy old woman . . . two curs quarreling over a dirty bone, and a string of dawdling children round the baker's little bow-window.

The novel concerns the interrelationship between such an inconsequential place and Emma Woodhouse, a pretty and clever young lady almost twenty-one years old, who is rich and has few problems to vex her. Ironically, her world is no bigger than the village of Highbury and a few surrounding estates, including her father's Hartfield; nevertheless, in that small world, the Woodhouse family is the most important one. As the author states, the real dangers for Emma are "the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself."
Moreover, these dangers are unperceived by Emma. Thus, in the blind exercise of her power over Highbury, she involves herself in a series of ridiculous errors, mistakenly judging that Mr. Elton cares for Harriet rather than for herself; Frank Churchill for herself rather than for Jane Fairfax; Harriet for Frank rather than for Mr. Knightley; and Mr. Knightley for Harriet rather than for herself. It is the triumph of Austen's art that however absurd or obvious Emma's miscalculations, they are convincingly a part of Emma's charming egotism. The reader finally agrees with Mr. Knightley that there is always "an anxiety, a curiosity in what one feels for Emma."
Emma's vulnerability to error can in part be attributed to inexperience, her life circumscribed by the boundaries of Highbury and its environs. Although Emma's only sister lives in London, no mention is made of visits there. She has never been to the seacoast, nor even to Box Hill, a famous scenic attraction nearby. She is further restricted by her valetudinarian father's gentle selfishness, which resists any kind of change and permits a social life limited to his own small circle, exclusive to the degree of admitting only four people as his closest acquaintances and only three to the second group.
Nevertheless, Emma's own snobbery binds her to the conclusion that she has no equals in Highbury. Mr. Knightley well understands the underlying assumption of superiority in Emma's friendship for Harriet Smith: "How can Emma imagine she has anything to learn herself, while Harriet is presenting such a delightful inferiority?" Emma fears superiority in others as a threat. Of the capable farmer Robert Martin, Harriet's wooer, she observes: "But a farmer can need none of my help, and is therefore in one sense as much above my notice as in every other way he is below it." Her resolution to like Jane Fairfax is repeatedly shattered by the praise everybody else gives Jane's superior attractions.
While Emma behaves in accordance with her theory that social rank is too important to be ignored, she fails to perceive that she is nearly alone in her exclusiveness. Indeed, the Eltons openly assume airs of superiority, and Jane Fairfax snubs Emma. Emma's increasing isolation from Highbury is epitomized in her resistance to the Cole family, good people of low rank who have nevertheless come to be regarded socially as second only to the Wood-house family. Snobbishly sure that the Coles will not dare to invite the best families to an affair, she finds only herself uninvited. Therefore, ironically, she images her power in Highbury to be flourishing even as it is already severely diminished.
Emma's task is to become undeceived and to break free of the limitations imposed by her pride, by her father's flattering tyranny, and by the limited views of Highbury. She must accomplish all this without abandoning her self-esteem and intelligence, her father, or society. The author prepares for the possibility of a resolution from the beginning, especially by establishing Mr. Knightley as the person who represents the standard of maturity that Emma must assume. Emma is always half aware of his significance, often putting her folly to the test of his judgment.
There are brief, important occasions when the two, united by instinctive understanding, work together to create or restore social harmony; however, it is not until Harriet presumes to think of herself as worthy of his love that Emma is shocked into recognition that Mr. Knightley is superior to herself as well as to Harriet.
Highbury itself, which seems so confined, also serves to enlarge Emma's views simply by proving to be less fixed than it appears. As John Knightley observes: "Your neighbourhood is increasing, and you mix more with it." Without losing her desire for social success, Emma increasingly suffers from it. She is basically deficient in human sympathy, categorizing people as second or third rank in Highbury or analyzing them to display her own wit. She begins to develop in sensitivity, however, as she experiences her own humiliations. While still disliking Jane, she is capable of "entering into her feelings" and granting a moment of privacy. Her rudeness to Miss Bates is regretted, not only because Mr. Knightley is displeased but also because she perceives that she has been brutal, even cruel to Miss Bates.
Despite her love of small schemes, Emma shares an important trait with Mr. Knightley, one which he considers requisite for a prospective wife—an "open temper," the one quality lacking in the admirable Jane. Emma's disposition is open, her responsiveness to life counteracting the conditions in herself and her circumstances, which tend to be constricting. Her reaction to news of Harriet's engagement to Robert Martin is characteristic: she is "in dancing, singing, exclaiming spirits; and till she had moved about, and talked to herself, and laughed and reflected, she could be fit for nothing rational." Too ready to laugh at others, she can as readily laugh at herself. Impulsive in her follies, she is quick to make amends. She represents herself truthfully as she says, in farewell to Jane, "Oh! if you knew how much I love everything that is decided and open!"
A fully realized character who develops during the course of the action, Emma is never forced by the author to be other than herself, despite her new awareness. Once Harriet is safely bestowed upon Robert Martin, she complacently allows their friendship to diminish. The conniving to keep her father reasonably contented is a way of life. If he wishes to marry her, Mr. Knightley is required to move into Hartfield. Serious reflection upon her past follies is inevitably lightened by her ability to laugh at them—and herself. The novel is complete in every sense, yet Emma is so dynamic a characterization that one shares Mr. Knightley's pleasure in speculation: "I wonder what will become of her!"

Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen


Pride and Prejudice is the second of four novels that Jane Austen published during her lifetime. As widely read now as it was then, Austen's romance is indisputably one of the most enduringly popular classics of English literature. Written with incisive wit and superb character delineation, Pride and Prejudice tells the story of the Bennett family, its ignorant mother, negligent father, and five very different daughters, all of whom Mrs. Bennett is anxious to see married off. Set in rural England in the early nineteenth century, its major plot line focuses on the second eldest daughter, Elizabeth, and her turbulent relationship with the handsome, rich, but abominably proud Mr. Darcy. Slighted by him when they first meet, Elizabeth develops an instant dislike of Darcy, who, however, proceeds to fall in love with her, despite his own better judgement. Subsequent to a disastrous and rejected marriage proposal, both Elizabeth and Darcy eventually learn to overcome their respective pride and prejudice.
Although the novel has been criticized for its lack of historical context, the existence of its characters in a social bubble that is rarely penetrated by events beyond it is an accurate portrayal of the enclosed social world in which Austen lived. Austen depicts that world, in all its own narrow pride and prejudice, with unswerving accuracy and satire. At the same time, she places at its center, as both its prime actor and most perceptive critic, a character so well conceived and rendered that the reader cannot but be gripped by her story and wish for its happy denouement. In the end, Austen's novel remains so popular because of Elizabeth, and because of the enduring appeal to men and women alike of a well-told and potentially happily-ending love story.


Type of work: Novel
Author: Jane Austen (1775-1817)
Type of plot: Comedy of manners
Time of plot: Early nineteenth century
Locale: Rural England
First Published: 1813

In this masterpiece, Austen follows an empty-headed mother's scheming to find suitable husbands for her five daughters. With gentle irony, the author re-creates in meticulous, artistic detail the manners and morals of the country gentry in a small English village, focusing on the intelligent, irrepressible heroine Elizabeth. Major and minor characters are superbly drawn, the plot is beautifully symmetrical, and the dazzling perfection of style shows Austen at her best.

Principal Characters

Elizabeth Bennet, a spirited and intelligent girl who represents "prejudice" in her attitude toward Fitzwilliam Darcy, whom she dislikes because of his pride. She is also prejudiced against him by Mr. Wickham, whose false reports of Darcy she believes, and hence rejects Darcy's haughty first proposal of marriage. But Wick-ham's elopement with her sister Lydia brings Elizabeth and Darcy together, for it is Darcy who facilitates the legal marriage of the runaways. Acknowledging her mistake in her estimation of Darcy, she gladly accepts his second proposal.
Fitzwilliam Darcy, the wealthy and aristocratic landowner who represents "pride" in the story. Attracted to Elizabeth Bennet in spite of her inferior social position, he proposes marriage but in so high-handed a manner that she instantly refuses. The two meet again while Elizabeth is viewing the grounds of his estate in Derbyshire; she finds him less haughty in his manner. When Lydia Bennet and Mr. Wickham elope, Darcy feels partly responsible and straightens out the unfortunate affair. Because Elizabeth now realizes his true character, he is accepted when he proposes again.
Jane Bennet, the oldest and most beautiful of the five Bennet sisters. She falls in love with Mr. Bingley, a wealthy bachelor. Their romance is frustrated, however, by his sisters with the help of Mr. Darcy, for the Bennets are considered socially undesirable. As a result of the change in the feelings of Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet toward each other, Jane and Bingley are finally married.
Mr. Bingley, a rich, good-natured bachelor from the north of England. He falls in love with Jane Bennet but is easily turned against her by his sisters and his friend, Mr. Darcy, who consider the Bennets vulgar and socially beneath them. When Darcy changes his attitude toward Elizabeth Bennet, Bingley follows suit and resumes his courtship of Jane. They are married at the end of the story.
Mr. Bennet, an eccentric and mildly sarcastic small landowner. Rather indifferent to the rest of his family, he loves and admires his daughter Elizabeth.
Mrs. Bennet, his wife, a silly, brainless woman interested only in getting her daughters married.
Lydia Bennet, the youngest daughter, a flighty and uncontrolled girl. At the age of fifteen she elopes with the worthless Mr. Wickham. Their marriage is finally made possible by Mr. Darcy, who pays Wickham's debts, but the two are never very happy.
Mary Bennet and Catherine (Kitty) Bennet, younger daughters of the family.
Mr. Wickham, the villain of the story, an officer in the militia. He has been brought up by the Darcy family and, having a certain charm, attracts Elizabeth Bennet, whom he prejudices against Mr. Darcy by misrepresenting the latter's treatment of him. Quite unexpectedly, he elopes with fifteen-year-old, flirtatious Lydia Bennet. Darcy, who has tried to expose Wickham to Elizabeth, feels responsible for the elopement and provides the money for the marriage by paying Wickham's debts. Wickham and Lydia soon tire of each other.
William Collins, a pompous, sycophantic clergyman, distantly related to Mr. Bennet and the heir to his estate, since the Bennets have no son. He proposed to Elizabeth. After her refusal he marries her friend, Charlotte Lucas.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. Darcy's aunt and the patron of Mr. Collins. An insufferably haughty and domineering woman, she wants Darcy to marry her only daughter and bitterly resents his interest in Elizabeth Bennet. She tries to break up their love affair but fails.
Anne de Bourgh, Lady Catherine's spiritless daughter. Her mother has planned to marry her to Mr. Darcy in order to combine two great family fortunes.
Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth Bennet's closest friend. Knowing that she will have few chances of marriage, she accepts the pompous and boring Mr. Collins shortly after Elizabeth has refused him.
Caroline Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, Mr. Bingley's cold and worldly sisters. They succeed for a time in turning him against Jane Bennet.
Mr. Gardiner, Mrs. Bennet's brother, a London merchant. Mrs. Gardiner, his sensible and kind wife.

The Story

The chief business of Mrs. Bennet's life was to find suitable husbands for her five daughters. Consequently, she was elated when she heard that Netherfield Park, one of the area's great houses, had been let to Mr. Bingley, a gentleman from the north of England. Gossip such as Mrs. Bennet loved reported him a rich and eligible young bachelor. Mr. Bennet heard the news with his usual dry calmness, suggesting in his mild way that perhaps Bingley was not moving into the country for the single purpose of marrying one of the Bennet daughters.
Mr. Bingley's first public appearance in the neighborhood was at a ball. With him were his two sisters, the husband of the older, and Mr. Darcy, Bingley's friend. Bingley was an immediate success in local society, and he and Jane, the oldest Bennet daughter—a pretty girl of sweet and gentle disposition—were attracted to each other at once. His friend, Darcy, however, seemed cold and extremely proud and created a bad impression. In particular, he insulted Elizabeth Bennet, a girl of spirit and intelligence and her father's favorite. He refused to dance with her when she was sitting down for lack of a partner; Elizabeth also overheard him say that he was in no mood to prefer young ladies slighted by other men. On future occasions, however, he began to admire Elizabeth in spite of himself. At a later ball, she had the satisfaction of refusing him a dance.
Jane's romance with Bingley flourished quietly, aided by family calls, dinners, and balls. His sisters pretended great fondness for Jane, who believed them completely sincere. Elizabeth was more critical and discerning; she suspected them of hypocrisy, and quite rightly, for they made great fun of Jane's relations, especially her vulgar, garrulous mother and her two illbred, officer-mad younger sisters. Miss Caroline Bingley, who was eager to marry Darcy and shrewdly aware of his growing admiration for Elizabeth, was especially loud in her ridicule of the Bennet family. Elizabeth herself became Caroline's particular target when she walked three muddy miles to visit Jane, who was sick with a cold at Netherfield Park after a ride through the rain to accept an invitation from the Bingley sisters. Until Jane was able to be moved home, Elizabeth stayed to nurse her. During her visit, Elizabeth received enough attention from Darcy to make Caroline Bingley long sincerely for Jane's recovery. Her fears were not ill-founded. Darcy admitted to himself that he would be in some danger from the charm of Elizabeth, if it were not for her inferior family connections.
Elizabeth now acquired a new admirer in Mr. Collins, a ridiculously pompous clergyman and a distant cousin of the Bennets, who would someday inherit Mr. Bennet's property because that gentleman had no male heir. Mr. Collins' patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, had urged him to marry, and he, always obsequiously obedient to her wishes, hastened to comply. Thinking to alleviate the hardship caused the Bennet sisters by the entail which gave their father's property to him, Mr. Collins first proposed to Elizabeth. Much to her mother's displeasure and her father's joy, she firmly and promptly rejected him. He almost immediately transferred his affections to Elizabeth's best friend, Charlotte Lucas, who, twenty-seven years old and somewhat homely, accepted at once his offer of marriage.
During Mr. Collins' visit and on one of their many walks to Meryton, the younger Bennet sisters, Kitty and Lydia, met a fascinating new officer, Mr. Wickham, stationed with the regiment there. Outwardly charming, he became a favorite among the ladies, even with Elizabeth. She was willing to believe the story that he had been cheated out of an inheritance left to him by his godfather, Darcy's father. Her suspicions of Darcy's arrogant and grasping nature deepened when Wickham did not come to a ball given by the Bingleys, a dance at which Darcy was present.
Soon after the ball, the entire Bingley party suddenly left Netherfield Park. They departed with no intention of returning, as Caroline wrote Jane in a short farewell note which hinted that Bingley might soon become engaged to Darcy's sister. Jane accepted this news at face value and believed that her friend Caroline was telling her gently that her brother loved someone else and that she must cease to hope. Elizabeth, however, was sure of a plot by Darcy and Bingley's sisters to separate him and Jane. She persuaded Jane that Bingley did love her and that he would return to Hertfordshire before the winter was over. Jane almost believed her until she received a letter from Caroline assuring her that they were all settled in London for the winter. Even after Jane told her this news, Elizabeth remained convinced of Bingley's affection for her sister and deplored the lack of resolution that made him putty in the hands of his scheming friend.
About that time, Mrs. Bennet's sister, Mrs. Gardiner, an amiable and intelligent woman with a great deal of affection for her two oldest nieces, arrived for a Christmas visit. She suggested to the Bennets that Jane return to London with her for a rest and change of scene and— so it was understood between Mrs. Gardiner and Elizabeth—to renew her acquaintance with Bingley. Elizabeth was not hopeful for the success of the plan and pointed out that proud Darcy would never let his friend call on Jane in the unfashionable London street on which the Gardiners lived. Jane accepted the invitation, however, and she and Mrs. Gardiner set out for London.
The time drew near for the wedding of Elizabeth's friend, Charlotte Lucas, to the obnoxious Mr. Collins. Charlotte asked Elizabeth to visit her in Kent. In spite of her feeling that there could be little pleasure in such a visit, Elizabeth promised to do so. She felt that in taking such a husband Charlotte was marrying simply for the sake of an establishment, as was indeed the case. Since she herself could not sympathize with her friend's action, Elizabeth thought their days of real intimacy were over. As March approached, however, she found herself eager to see her friend, and she sent out with pleasure on the journey with Charlotte's father and sister. On their way, the party stopped in London to see the Gardiners and Jane. Elizabeth found her sister well and outwardly happy, although she had not seen Bingley and his sisters had paid only one call. Elizabeth was sure Bingley had not been told of Jane's presence in London and blamed Darcy for keeping it from him.
Soon after arriving at the Collins' home, the whole party was honored, as Mr. Collins repeatedly assured them, by a dinner invitation from Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Darcy's aunt and Mr. Collins' patroness. Elizabeth found Lady Catherine a haughty, ill-mannered woman and her daughter thin, sickly, and shy. Lady Catherine was extremely fond of inquiring into the affairs of others and giving them unasked advice. Elizabeth circumvented the meddling old woman's questions with cool indirectness and saw from the effect that she was probably the first who had dared to do so.
Soon after Elizabeth's arrival, Darcy came to visit his aunt and cousin. He called frequently at the parsonage, and he and Elizabeth resumed their conversational fencing matches. His rather stilted attentions were suddenly climaxed by a proposal of marriage; the proposal, however, was couched in such proud and condescending terms that Elizabeth indignantly refused him. When he requested her reason for such an emphatic rejection, she mentioned his part in separating Bingley and Jane and also his mistreatment of Wickham. He was angry and left abruptly; the next day, however, he brought a letter answering her charges. He did not deny his part in separating Jane and Bingley, but he gave as his reasons the improprieties of Mrs. Bennet and her younger daughters and also his sincere belief that Jane did not love Bingley. As for his alleged mistreatment of Wickham, he proved that he had in reality acted most generously toward the unprincipled Wickham, who had repaid his kindness by attempting to elope with Darcy's young sister. At first incensed at the proud tones in which he wrote, Elizabeth was at length forced to acknowledge the justice of all he said, and her prejudice against him began to weaken. Without seeing him again, she returned home.
She found her younger sisters clamoring to go to Brighton, where the regiment formerly stationed at Meryton had been ordered. When an invitation came to Lydia from a young officer's wife, Lydia was allowed to accept it over Elizabeth's protests. Elizabeth was asked by the Gardiners to go with them on a tour, which would take them into Derbyshire, Darcy's home county. She accepted, reasoning that she was not very likely to meet Darcy merely by going into the same county with him. While they were there, however, Mrs. Gardiner decided they should visit Pemberly, Darcy's home. Elizabeth made several excuses, but her aunt was insistent. Then, learning that the Darcy family was not at home, Elizabeth consented to go.
At Pemberly, an unexpected and embarrassing meeting took place between Elizabeth and Darcy. He was more polite than Elizabeth had ever known him to be, and he asked permission for his sister to call upon her. The call was duly paid and returned, but the pleasant intercourse between the Darcys and Elizabeth's party was suddenly cut short when a letter came from Jane telling Elizabeth that Lydia had run away with Wickham. Elizabeth told Darcy what had happened, and she and the Gardiners left for home at once. After several days, the runaway couple was located and a marriage arranged between them. When Lydia came home as heedless as ever, she told Elizabeth that Darcy had attended her wedding. Suspecting the truth, Elizabeth learned from Mrs. Gardiner that it was indeed Darcy who brought about the marriage by giving Wickham money.
Soon after Lydia and Wickham left, Bingley came back to Netherfield Park. Darcy came with him. Elizabeth, now more favorably inclined to him than ever before, hoped his coming meant that he still loved her, but he gave no sign. Bingley and Jane, on the other hand, were still obviously in love with each other, and they became engaged, to the great satisfaction of Mrs. Bennet. Soon afterward, Lady Catherine paid the Bennets an unexpected call. She had heard it rumored that Darcy was engaged to Elizabeth. Hoping to marry her own daughter to Darcy, she had charged down the stairs with characteristic bad manners to order Elizabeth not to accept his proposal. The spirited girl was not to be intimidated by the bullying Lady Catherine and coolly refused to promise not to marry Darcy. She was far from certain she would have another chance, but she had not long to wonder. Lady Catherine, unluckily for her own purpose, repeated to Darcy the substance of her conversation with Elizabeth, and he knew Elizabeth well enough to surmise that her feelings toward him had greatly changed. He returned to Netherfield Park, and he and Elizabeth became engaged. Pride had been humbled and prejudice dissolved.

Critical Evaluation

In 1813, her thirty-eighth year, Jane Austen became a published novelist for the second time with Pride and Prejudice. She had begun this work in 1796, her twenty-first year, calling it First Impressions. It had so delighted her family that her father had tried, without success, to have it published. Eventually putting it aside, she returned to it probably at about the time that her first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, appeared in 1811. No longer extant, First Impressions must have been radically altered; for Pride and Prejudice is not an apprenticeship novel, but a mature work, and it continues to be the author's most popular novel, perhaps because readers share Darcy's admiration for the "liveliness" of Elizabeth Bennet's mind.
The original title, First Impressions, focuses upon the initial errors of judgment from which the story develops, whereas the title Pride and Prejudice, besides suggesting the kind of antithetical topic that delighted rationalistic eighteenth century readers, indicates the central conflict involving the kinds of pride and prejudice that bar the marriages of Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy and Jane Ben-net and Bingley but bring about the marriages of Charlotte Lucas and Collins and Lydia Bennet and Wickham.
As in all of Austen's novels, individual conflicts are defined and resolved within a rigidly delimiting social context, in which human relationships are determined by wealth and rank. Therefore, the much-admired opening sentence establishes the societal values that underlie the main conflict: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." Mr. and Mrs. Bennet's opening dialogue concerning the eligible Bingley explores this truth. Devoid of individuality, Mrs. Bennet is nevertheless well attuned to society's edicts and therefore regards Bingley only in the light of society's "truth." Mr. Bennet, an individualist to the point of eccentricity, represents neither personal conviction nor social conviction. He views with equal indifference both Bingley's right to his own reason for settling there and society's right to see him primarily as a potential husband. Having repudiated society, Mr. Bennet cannot take seriously either the claims of the individual or the social order.
As the central character, Elizabeth, her father's favorite child and her mother's least favorite, must come to terms with the conflicting values implicit in her parents' antithetical characters. She is like her father in her scorn of society's conventional judgments, but she champions the concept of individual merit independent of money and rank. She is, indeed, prejudiced against the prejudices of society. From this premise, she attacks Darcy's pride, assuming that it derives from the causes that Charlotte Lucas identifies: "with family, fortune, every thing in his favour ... he has a right to be proud."
Flaunting her contempt for money, Elizabeth indignantly spurns as mere strategy to get a rich husband or any husband Charlotte's advice that Jane ought to make a calculated play for Bingley's affections. She loftily argues, while under the spell of Wickham's charm, that young people who are truly in love are unconcerned about each other's financial standing.
As a champion of the individual, Elizabeth prides herself on her discriminating judgment, boasting that she is a student of character. Significantly, it is Darcy who warns her against prejudiced conclusions, reminding her that her experience is quite limited. Darcy is not simply the representative of a society that primarily values wealth and consequence—as Elizabeth initially views him—but he is also a citizen of a larger society than the village to which Elizabeth is confined by circumstance. Consequently, it is only when she begins to move into Darcy's world that she can judge with true discrimination both individual merit and the dictates of the society that she has rejected. Fundamentally honest, she revises her conclusions as new experiences warrant, in the case of Darcy and Wickham radically altering her opinion.
More significant than the obviously ironic reversals, however, is the growing revelation of Elizabeth's unconscious commitment to society. For example, her original condemnation of Darcy's pride coincides with the verdict of Meryton society. Moreover, she always shares society's regard for wealth. Even while denying the importance of Wickham's poverty, she countenances his pursuit of the ugly Miss King's fortune, discerning her own inconsistency only after she learns of his bad character. Most revealing, when Lydia Bennet runs off with Wickham, Elizabeth instinctively pronounces the judgment of society when she states that Wickham would never marry a woman without money.
Almost unconsciously, Elizabeth acknowledges a connection between wealth and human values at the crucial moment when she first looks upon Pemberley, the Darcy estate:

She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!

She is not entirely joking when she tells Jane that her love for Darcy began when she first saw his beautiful estate.
Elizabeth's experiences, especially her discoveries of the well-ordered Pemberley and Darcy's tactful generosity to Lydia and Wickham, lead her to differentiate between Charlotte's theory that family and fortune bestow a "right to be proud" and Darcy's position that the intelligent person does not indulge in false pride. Darcy's pride is real, but it is regulated by responsibility. Unlike his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who relishes the distinction of rank, he disapproves less of the Bennets' undistinguished family and fortune than he does of the lack of propriety displayed by most of the family. Therefore, Elizabeth scarcely overstates her case when, at the end, she assures her father that Darcy has no improper pride.
Elizabeth begins by rejecting the values and restraints of society as represented by such people as her mother, the Lucases, Miss Bingley, and Lady Catherine, upholding instead the claims of the individual, represented only by her whimsical father. By the end of the novel, the heart of her conflict appears in the contrast between her father and Darcy. She loves her father and has tried to overlook his lack of decorum in conjugal matters, but she has been forced to see that his freedom is really irresponsibility, the essential cause of Jane's misery as well as Lydia's amorality. The implicit comparison between Mr. Bennet's and Darcy's approach to matrimony illustrates their different methods of dealing with society's restraints. Unrestrained by society, having been captivated by the inferior Mrs. Bennet's youth and beauty, Mr. Bennet consulted only his personal desires and made a disastrous marriage. Darcy, in contrast, defies society only when he has made certain that Elizabeth is a woman worthy of his love and lifetime devotion.
When Elizabeth confronts Lady Catherine, her words are declarative, not of absolute defiance of society but of the selective freedom which is her compromise, and very similar to Darcy's: "I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reverence to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me." Austen does not falsify the compromise. If Elizabeth dares with impunity to defy the society of Rosings, Longbourne, and Meryton, she does so only because Darcy is exactly the man for her and, further, because she can anticipate "with delight . . . the time when they should be removed from society so little pleasing to either, to all the comfort and elegance ... at Pemberly." In a sense, her marriage to Darcy is a triumph of the individual over society; but, paradoxically, Elizabeth achieves her most genuine conquest of pride and prejudice only after she has accepted the full social value of her judgment that "to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!"
Granting the full force of the snobbery, the exploitation, the inhumanity of all the evils which diminish the human spirit and which are inherent in a materialistic society, the novel clearly confirms the cynical "truth" of the opening sentence. Nevertheless, at the same time, without evading the degree of Elizabeth's capitulation to society, it affirms the vitality, the independent life that is possible at least to an Elizabeth Bennet. Pride and Prejudice, like its title, offers deceptively simple antitheses that yield up the complexity of life itself.



Chapter 1

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of someone or other of their daughters.

"My dear Mr. Bennet," said his lady to him one day, "have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?"

Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.

"But it is, returned she; "for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it.

Mr. Bennet made no answer.

"Do you not want to know who has taken it?" cried his wife impatiently.

"YOU want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it."

This was invitation enough.

"Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it, that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week."

"What is his name?"


"Is he married or single?"

"Oh! Single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!"

"How so? How can it affect them?"

"My dear Mr. Bennet," replied his wife, "how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them."

"Is that his design in settling here?"

"Design! Nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he MAY fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes."

"I see no occasion for that. You and the girls may go, or you may send them by themselves, which perhaps will be still better, for as you are as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley may like you the best of the party."

"My dear, you flatter me. I certainly HAVE had my share of beauty, but I do not pretend to be anything extraordinary now. When a woman has five grown-up daughters, she ought to give over thinking of her own beauty."

"In such cases, a woman has not often much beauty to think of."

"But, my dear, you must indeed go and see Mr. Bingley when he comes into the neighbourhood."

"It is more than I engage for, I assure you."

"But consider your daughters. Only think what an establishment it would be for one of them. Sir William and Lady Lucas are determined to go, merely on that account, for in general, you know, they visit no newcomers. Indeed you must go, for it will be impossible for US to visit him if you do not."

"You are over-scrupulous, surely. I dare say Mr. Bingley will be very glad to see you; and I will send a few lines by you to assure him of my hearty consent to his marrying whichever he chooses of the girls; though I must throw in a good word for my little Lizzy."

"I desire you will do no such thing. Lizzy is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good-humoured as Lydia. But you are always giving HER the preference."

"They have none of them much to recommend them," replied he; "they are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters."

"Mr. Bennet, how CAN you abuse your own children in such a way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion for my poor nerves."

"You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these last twenty years at least."

Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and- twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character. HER mind was less difficult to develop. She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.


Chapter 2


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."

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

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

"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."

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

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

"Don`t keep coughing so, Kitty, for Heaven`s sake! Have a little compassion on my nerves. You tear them to pieces."

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

"I do not cough for my own amusement," replied Kitty fretfully. "When is your next ball to be, Lizzy?"

"To-morrow fortnight."

"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 HER."

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

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

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

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

"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."

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."

"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.

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. 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."

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.


Chapter 3


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.

"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."

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.

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.

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.

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

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. 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.

"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--"

"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. 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."



Chapter 4


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!"

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

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

"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."

"Dear Lizzy!"

"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."

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

"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."

"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."

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. 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.

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.

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.

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.


Chapter 5


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.

Lady Lucas was a very good kind of woman, not too clever to be a valuable neighbour to Mrs. Bennet. 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. "YOU began the evening well, Charlotte," said Mrs. Bennet with civil self-command to Miss Lucas. "YOU were Mr. Bingley`s first choice."

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

"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."

"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.` "

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

"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."

"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."

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

"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."

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

"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."

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

"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."

"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."

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

"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 a 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."

"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."

"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."

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


Chapter 6


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; and it will then be but poor consolation to believe the world equally in the dark. There is so much of gratitude or vanity in almost every attachment, that it is not safe to leave any to itself. 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 women 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."

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

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

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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. 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."

"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."

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.

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 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."

"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."

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."

"You are severe on us."

"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."

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. 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."

"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?"

"Never, sir."

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

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

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

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." 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."

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.

"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."

"I should imagine not."

"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!"

"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."

"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?"

"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."

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.


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