Monday, January 28, 2013

Pride and Prejudice Readathon: Chapters Fifty-eight, Fifty-nine, Sixty, and Sixty-one

I did it!

My hands are kind of numb, and writing coherently is something of an effort, but this has been fun. I think volume three has seen a deterioration in post quality, and there is no chance this last post (it's my 26th today) is going to in any way do justice to the conclusion of the novel. Still, I've come this far, and I should put some effort into this final push. This experience in no way equates that of curling up and reading all day (or night), and I admit stopping to post all the time took some of the joy away from the narrative, but it has been a new kind of reading/blogging experience for me, and I appreciate it as such. I'm curious to go back and see what I actually wrote.
Darcy mentioned his letter. "Did it," said he, "did it soon make you think better of me? Did you, on reading it, give any credit to its contents?"

She explained what its effect on her had been, and how gradually all her former prejudices had been removed.

"I knew," said he, "that what I wrote must give you pain, but it was necessary. I hope you have destroyed the letter. There was one part especially, the opening of it, which I should dread your having the power of reading again. I can remember some expressions which might justly make you hate me."

"The letter shall certainly be burnt, if you believe it essential to the preservation of my regard; but, though we have both reason to think my opinions not entirely unalterable, they are not, I hope, quite so easily changed as that implies."

"When I wrote that letter," replied Darcy, "I believed myself perfectly calm and cool, but I am since convinced that it was written in a dreadful bitterness of spirit."

"The letter, perhaps, began in bitterness, but it did not end so. The adieu is charity itself. But think no more of the letter. The feelings of the person who wrote, and the person who received it, are now so widely different from what they were then, that every unpleasant circumstance attending it ought to be forgotten. You must learn some of my philosophy. Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure."
The last four chapters carry us through the shared wedding day of Darcy, Elizabeth, Bingley, and Jane.  "Happy for all her maternal feelings was the day on which Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters." Most of the time not spent between Darcy and Elizabeth is devoted to telling others of their engagement, managing their reactions, and receiving congratulations. I love Mrs. Bennet's reaction:
"Good gracious! Lord bless me! only think! dear me! Mr. Darcy! Who would have thought it! And is it really true? Oh! my sweetest Lizzy! how rich and how great you will be! What pin-money, what jewels, what carriages you will have! Jane's is nothing to it -- nothing at all. I am so pleased -- so happy. Such a charming man! -- so handsome! so tall! -- Oh, my dear Lizzy! pray apologise for my having disliked him so much before. I hope he will overlook it. Dear, dear Lizzy. A house in town! Every thing that is charming! Three daughters married! Ten thousand a year! Oh, Lord! What will become of me. I shall go distracted."
Mr. Bennet is more serious in his response:
 "Lizzy," said her father, "I have given him my consent. He is the kind of man, indeed, to whom I should never dare refuse any thing, which he condescended to ask. I now give it to you, if you are resolved on having him. But let me advise you to think better of it. I know your disposition, Lizzy. I know that you could be neither happy nor respectable, unless you truly esteemed your husband; unless you looked up to him as a superior. Your lively talents would place you in the greatest danger in an unequal marriage. You could scarcely escape discredit and misery. My child, let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect your partner in life. You know not what you are about."
These remarks provide a conclusion to Austen's exploration, throughout the novel, of what constitutes a happy marriage.

Now finally able to engage in mutual banter, the exchanges between hero and heroine are phenomenal (check out the lovely C.E. Brock portrayal of this scene):
"What made you so shy of me, when you first called, and afterwards dined here? Why, especially, when you called, did you look as if you did not care about me?"

"Because you were grave and silent, and gave me no encouragement."

"But I was embarrassed."

"And so was I."

"You might have talked to me more when you came to dinner."

"A man who had felt less, might."

"How unlucky that you should have a reasonable answer to give, and that I should be so reasonable as to admit it! But I wonder how long you would have gone on, if you had been left to yourself. I wonder when you would have spoken, if I had not asked you! My resolution of thanking you for your kindness to Lydia had certainly great effect. Too much, I am afraid; for what becomes of the moral, if our comfort springs from a breach of promise? for I ought not to have mentioned the subject. This will never do."

"You need not distress yourself. The moral will be perfectly fair. Lady Catherine's unjustifiable endeavours to separate us were the means of removing all my doubts. I am not indebted for my present happiness to your eager desire of expressing your gratitude. I was not in a humour to wait for any opening of your's. My aunt's intelligence had given me hope, and I was determined at once to know every thing."

"Lady Catherine has been of infinite use, which ought to make her happy, for she loves to be of use.
And with that, I think I need my bed. Happy birthday, Elizabeth and Darcy! Sleep well!

Pride and Prejudice Readathon: Chapters Fifty-six and Fifty-seven

Austen could have rushed Darcy and Elizabeth into an understanding, but such a precipitous conclusion would have denied us one of the best scenes in the novel: when Lady Catherine comes to Longbourn. Elizabeth's indignation on this occasion is very reminiscent to the fiery way she responds to Mr. Darcy's first proposal. The back and forth is priceless:
"Miss Bennet," replied her ladyship, in an angry tone, "you ought to know, that I am not to be trifled with. But however insincere you may choose to be, you shall not find me so. My character has ever been celebrated for its sincerity and frankness, and in a cause of such moment as this, I shall certainly not depart from it. A report of a most alarming nature reached me two days ago. I was told that not only your sister was on the point of being most advantageously married, but that you, that Miss Elizabeth Bennet, would, in all likelihood, be soon afterwards united to my nephew, my own nephew, Mr. Darcy. Though I know it must be a scandalous falsehood, though I would not injure him so much as to suppose the truth of it possible, I instantly resolved on setting off for this place, that I might make my sentiments known to you."

"If you believed it impossible to be true," said Elizabeth, colouring with astonishment and disdain, "I wonder you took the trouble of coming so far. What could your ladyship propose by it?"

"At once to insist upon having such a report universally contradicted."

"Your coming to Longbourn, to see me and my family," said Elizabeth coolly, "will be rather a confirmation of it; if, indeed, such a report is in existence."

"If! Do you then pretend to be ignorant of it? Has it not been industriously circulated by yourselves? Do you not know that such a report is spread abroad?"

"I never heard that it was."

"And can you likewise declare, that there is no foundation for it?"

"I do not pretend to possess equal frankness with your ladyship. You may ask questions which I shall not choose to answer."

"This is not to be borne. Miss Bennet, I insist on being satisfied. Has he, has my nephew, made you an offer of marriage?"

"Your ladyship has declared it to be impossible."

"It ought to be so; it must be so, while he retains the use of his reason. But your arts and allurements may, in a moment of infatuation, have made him forget what he owes to himself and to all his family. You may have drawn him in."

"If I have, I shall be the last person to confess it."

"Miss Bennet, do you know who I am? I have not been accustomed to such language as this. I am almost the nearest relation he has in the world, and am entitled to know all his dearest concerns."

"But you are not entitled to know mine; nor will such behaviour as this, ever induce me to be explicit."

"Let me be rightly understood. This match, to which you have the presumption to aspire, can never take place. No, never. Mr. Darcy is engaged to my daughter. Now what have you to say?"

"Only this; that if he is so, you can have no reason to suppose he will make an offer to me."
Couldn't resist the temptation to include such a chunk of the exchange. Chapter fifty-seven provides an encore to this encounter, in the form of a letter from Mr. Collin's, accompanied by Mr. Bennet's ill-timed wit on the subject. I love this line from the letter: "This young gentleman is blessed, in a peculiar way, with every thing the heart of mortal can most desire, -- splendid property, noble kindred, and extensive patronage." 

Between Lady Catherine's demands, Mr. Collins' mixed good wishes, and Mr. Bennet's amusement in the whole, Elizabeth is left even more perplexed by the state of affairs between herself and Mr. Darcy than ever. Best hasten towards felicity ... I'm tired!

Pride and Prejudice Readathon: Chapters Fifty-three, Fifty-four, and Fifty-five

Wave goodbye to the disagreeable Wickhams, and good riddance! Now is the time for far more gratifying topics. Chapters firty-three through fifty-five see the return of Mr. Bingley to Netherfield, and the culmination of his and Jane's long courtship. Generally, Bingley's return ushers in a new wave of good times at Longbourn, and we return to the atmosphere of cheerful domesticity with which the book begins. Even the dialogue of the first chapter is invoked:
"Yet it is hard," she sometimes thought, "that this poor man cannot come to a house which he has legally hired, without raising all this speculation! I will leave him to himself."

In spite of what her sister declared, and really believed to be her feelings in the expectation of his arrival, Elizabeth could easily perceive that her spirits were affected by it. They were more disturbed, more unequal, than she had often seen them.

The subject which had been so warmly canvassed between their parents, about a twelvemonth ago, was now brought forward again.

"As soon as ever Mr. Bingley comes, my dear," said Mrs. Bennet, "you will wait on him of course."

"No, no. You forced me into visiting him last year, and promised, if I went to see him, he should marry one of my daughters. But it ended in nothing, and I will not be sent on a fool's errand again."
Mr. Benet remains sarcastic, and Mrs. Bennet a nuisance, but their eccentricities now regain some charm, while over the bulk of this volume, a sinister atmosphere has reigned at Longbourn.

These chapters draw the reader's attention to just how difficult communication was between single men and women in this society. Miss Lucas' early strictures on the importance of a lady making her affection known take on greater resonance as we watch Darcy and Elizabeth struggle to understand one another. Along with this tension, their is still a good deal of mortification for our heroine to endure:
"It is a delightful thing, to be sure, to have a daughter well married," continued her mother, "but at the same time, Mr. Bingley, it is very hard to have her taken such a way from me. They are gone down to Newcastle, a place quite northward, it seems, and there they are to stay I do not know how long. His regiment is there; for I suppose you have heard of his leaving the ----shire, and of his being gone into the regulars. Thank Heaven! he has some friends, though perhaps not so many as he deserves."

Elizabeth, who knew this to be levelled at Mr. Darcy, was in such misery of shame, that she could hardly keep her seat. It drew from her, however, the exertion of speaking, which nothing else had so effectually done before; and she asked Bingley whether he meant to make any stay in the country at present. A few weeks, he believed.

"When you have killed all your own birds, Mr. Bingley," said her mother, "I beg you will come here, and shoot as many as you please on Mr. Bennet's manor. I am sure he will be vastly happy to oblige you, and will save all the best of the covies for you."

Elizabeth's misery increased, at such unnecessary, such officious attention! Were the same fair prospect to arise at present as had flattered them a year ago, every thing, she was persuaded, would be hastening to the same vexatious conclusion. At that instant, she felt that years of happiness could not make Jane or herself amends for moments of such painful confusion.

"The first wish of my heart," said she to herself, "is never more to be in company with either of them. Their society can afford no pleasure that will atone for such wretchedness as this! Let me never see either one or the other again!"
Chapter fifty-four is totally dedicated to illustrating Elizabeth's difficulty in interpreting Mr. Darcy's intentions, and fifty-five sees Mr. Bingley and Jane engaged. The latter utters some of Austen's more memorable quotes in her happiness. Of course, Lizzy is not to be outdone:
"I am certainly the most fortunate creature that ever existed!" cried Jane. "Oh! Lizzy, why am I thus singled from my family, and blessed above them all! If I could but see you as happy! If there were but such another man for you!"

"If you were to give me forty such men, I never could be so happy as you. Till I have your disposition, your goodness, I never can have your happiness. No, no, let me shift for myself; and, perhaps, if I have very good luck, I may meet with another Mr. Collins in time."

Pride and Prejudice Readathon: Chapters Fifty, Fifty-one, and Fifty-two

Chapter fifty

Mr. Bennet sticks to his philosophy:
 He had never before supposed that, could Wickham be prevailed on to marry his daughter, it would be done with so little inconvenience to himself as by the present arrangement. He would scarcely be ten pounds a year the loser, by the hundred that was to be paid them; for, what with her board and pocket allowance, and the continual presents in money which passed to her through her mother's hands, Lydia's expences had been very little within that sum. 

That it would be done with such trifling exertion on his side, too, was another very welcome surprise; for his chief wish at present was to have as little trouble in the business as possible. When the first transports of rage which had produced his activity in seeking her were over, he naturally returned to all his former indolence. 
Friends, neighbors, and gossips prove just as good-natured as ever:
 The good news quickly spread through the house; and with proportionate speed through the neighbourhood. It was borne in the latter with decent philosophy. To be sure, it would have been more for the advantage of conversation, had Miss Lydia Bennet come upon the town; or, as the happiest alternative, been secluded from the world in some distant farm house. But there was much to be talked of in marrying her; and the good-natured wishes for her well-doing, which had proceeded before from all the spiteful old ladies in Meryton, lost but little of their spirit in this change of circumstances, because with such an husband, her misery was considered certain.
And life begins to resume its cstomary patterns. Elizabeth now has leisure to fully repent the loss of Mr. Darcy:
What a triumph for him, as she often thought, could he know that the proposals which she had proudly spurned only four months ago, would now have been gladly and gratefully received! He was as generous, she doubted not, as the most generous of his sex. But while he was mortal, there must be a triumph.

She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her. His understanding and temper, though unlike her own, would have answered all her wishes. It was an union that must have been to the advantage of both; by her ease and liveliness, his mind might have been softened, his manners improved, and from his judgment, information, and knowledge of the world, she must have received benefit of greater importance. But no such happy marriage could now teach the admiring multitude what connubial felicity really was. An union of a different tendency, and precluding the possibility of the other, was soon to be formed in their family.
The new Mrs. Wickham will, following some dispute, be received at Longbourn.

Chapter fifty-one

The happy couple prove themselves just as bad as anyone ever imagined:
Elizabeth was disgusted, and even Miss Bennet was shocked. Lydia was Lydia still; untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless. She turned from sister to sister, demanding their congratulations; and when at length they all sat down, looked eagerly round the room, took notice of some little alteration in it, and observed, with a laugh, that it was a great while since she had been there.

Wickham was not at all more distressed than herself, but his manners were always so pleasing, that had his character and his marriage been exactly what they ought, his smiles and his easy address, while he claimed their relationship, would have delighted them all. Elizabeth had not before believed him quite equal to such assurance; but she sat down, resolving within herself to draw no limits in future to the impudence of an impudent man. She blushed, and Jane blushed; but the cheeks of the two who caused their confusion suffered no variation of colour.
Most important, this chapter begins to reveal the role Mr. Darcy played in bringing about the marriage

Chapter fifty-two

Mr. Darcy's full-blown heroism is revealed in Mrs Gardiner's letter. Elizabeth explores yet more conflicting emotions:
It was painful, exceedingly painful, to know that they were under obligations to a person who could never receive a return. They owed the restoration of Lydia, her character, every thing, to him. Oh! how heartily did she grieve over every ungracious sensation she had ever encouraged, every saucy speech she had ever directed towards him. For herself she was humbled; but she was proud of him. Proud that in a cause of compassion and honour, he had been able to get the better of himself. She read over her aunt's commendation of him again and again. It was hardly enough; but it pleased her. She was even sensible of some pleasure, though mixed with regret, on finding how steadfastly both she and her uncle had been persuaded that affection and confidence subsisted between Mr. Darcy and herself.
Her feelings find some release in being able to give Mr. Wickham a set down.

Nine chapters left. Very tired.

Pride and Prejudice Readathon: Chapters Forty-seven, Forty-eight, and Forty-nine

My brain is starting to get mushy ...

Chapter forty-seven brings Elizabeth back to Longbourn, where we find the residence unchanged by their disgrace. Mary still moralizes, Kitty is even more peevish, Jane is just as self-sacrificing, and Mrs. Bennet, still completely absurd. Even amidst such tragedy, the persistant follies of the family provide moments of black comedy, like in Mary's famous lines:
"This is a most unfortunate affair; and will probably be much talked of. But we must stem the tide of malice, and pour into the wounded bosoms of each other the balm of sisterly consolation."

Then, perceiving in Elizabeth no inclination of replying, she added, "Unhappy as the event must be for Lydia, we may draw from it this useful lesson: that loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable -- that one false step involves her in endless ruin -- that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful, -- and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex."
Lydia's note reflects particularly badly on her character, as it reveals her so selfishly oblivious to the repercussions of her actions, and so lacking in all semblance of proper feeling:
You will laugh when you know where I am gone, and I cannot help laughing myself at your surprise to-morrow morning, as soon as I am missed. I am going to Gretna Green, and if you cannot guess with who, I shall think you a simpleton, for there is but one man in the world I love, and he is an angel. I should never be happy without him, so think it no harm to be off. You need not send them word at Longbourn of my going, if you do not like it, for it will make the surprise the greater when I write to them and sign my name Lydia Wickham. What a good joke it will be! I can hardly write for laughing. Pray make my excuses to Pratt, for not keeping my engagement and dancing with him to night. Tell him I hope he will excuse me when he knows all, and tell him I will dance with him at the next ball we meet, with great pleasure. I shall send for my clothes when I get to Longbourn; but I wish you would tell Sally to mend a great slit in my worked muslin gown before they are packed up. Good bye. Give my love to Colonel Forster. I hope you will drink to our good journey.
Chapter forty-eight returns Mr. Bennet to Longbourn. He too, though temporarily sobered by events is largely unchanged and can already laugh at his predicament. His flippant nature, despite knowing better, perhaps renders him the most blamable of the entire family, including Lydia:
It was not till the afternoon, when he joined them at tea, that Elizabeth ventured to introduce the subject; and then, on her briefly expressing her sorrow for what he must have endured, he replied, 

"Say nothing of that. Who would suffer but myself? It has been my own doing, and I ought to feel it."

"You must not be too severe upon yourself," replied Elizabeth.

"You may well warn me against such an evil. Human nature is so prone to fall into it! No, Lizzy, let me once in my life feel how much I have been to blame. I am not afraid of being overpowered by the impression. It will pass away soon enough."

"Do you suppose them to be in London?"

"Yes; where else can they be so well concealed?"

"And Lydia used to want to go to London," added Kitty.

"She is happy, then," said her father, drily; "and her residence there will probably be of some duration."

Then, after a short silence, he continued, "Lizzy, I bear you no ill-will for being justified in your advice to me last May, which, considering the event, shews some greatness of mind."

They were interrupted by Miss Bennet, who came to fetch her mother's tea.

"This is a parade," cried he, "which does one good; it gives such an elegance to misfortune! Another day I will do the same; I will sit in my library, in my night cap and powdering gown, and give as much trouble as I can, -- or, perhaps, I may defer it till Kitty runs away."

"I am not going to run away, Papa," said Kitty, fretfully; "if I should ever go to Brighton, I would behave better than Lydia."

"You go to Brighton! -- I would not trust you so near it as East-Bourne, for fifty pounds! No, Kitty, I have at last learnt to be cautious, and you will feel the effects of it. No officer is ever to enter my house again, nor even to pass through the village. Balls will be absolutely prohibited, unless you stand up with one of your sisters. And you are never to stir out of doors till you can prove that you have spent ten minutes of every day in a rational manner."

Kitty, who took all these threats in a serious light, began to cry.

"Well, well," said he, "do not make yourself unhappy. If you are a good girl for the next ten years, I will take you to a review at the end of them."
Some mention must be made of how dreadful Mr. Collins' letter is - perhaps the worst we ever see of him (and there is a good deal of competition for that honor). Most abominable is when he congratulates himself on escaping any share in the Bennet's disgrace.

Chapter forty-nine brings a tempered form of good news. As Elizabeth wisely reflects: "And for this we are to be thankful. That they should marry, small as is their chance of happiness, and wretched as is his character, we are forced to rejoice! Oh, Lydia!" We see Mr. Bennet in a humbler mood: more self-deprecating than he is ever appears elsewhere. But Mrs. Bennet, if possible is proven even more ridiculous than previously supposed, as all her anguish converts to instant glee. It will be hard for any member of the household to ever again pay credence to her nerves.

Pride and Prejudice Readathon: Chapter Forty-six (Lydia)

After building us up over the past three chapters, Austen now sends her readers crashing down. The news goes from bad to worse: Lydia has eloped with Wickham, Wickham has no intention of marrying her, Mr. Darcy seems to withdraw his affections. Poor Elizabeth!
Darcy made no answer. He seemed scarcely to hear her, and was walking up and down the room in earnest meditation; his brow contracted, his air gloomy. Elizabeth soon observed and instantly understood it. Her power was sinking; every thing must sink under such a proof of family weakness, such an assurance of the deepest disgrace. She should neither wonder nor condemn, but the belief of his self-conquest brought nothing consolatory to her bosom, afforded no palliation of her distress. It was, on the contrary, exactly calculated to make her understand her own wishes; and never had she so honestly felt that she could have loved him, as now, when all love must be vain.
The modern reader may not always comprehend the dire consequences for a genteel family of small fortune that behavior like Lydia's denotes. It is rational for Elizabeth to assume that here ends all hope of contracting desirable marriages for herself and her sisters. They may even be shunned by all their former friends. To expect Mr. Darcy to renew his proposal amid such disgrace is nearly preposterous, and such sentiments fuel Elizabeth's regrets and lamentations:

If gratitude and esteem are good foundations of affection, Elizabeth's change of sentiment will be neither improbable nor faulty. But if otherwise, if the regard springing from such sources is unreasonable or unnatural, in comparison of what is so often described as arising on a first interview with its object, and even before two words have been exchanged, nothing can be said in her defence, except that she had given somewhat of a trial to the latter method in her partiality for Wickham, and that its ill-success might perhaps authorise her to seek the other less interesting mode of attachment. Be that as it may, she saw him go with regret; and in this early example of what Lydia's infamy must produce, found additional anguish as she reflected on that wretched business. Never, since reading Jane's second letter, had she entertained a hope of Wickham's meaning to marry her. No one but Jane, she thought, could flatter herself with such an expectation. Surprise was the least of her feelings on this developement. While the contents of the first letter remained on her mind, she was all surprise -- all astonishment that Wickham should marry a girl whom it was impossible he could marry for money; and how Lydia could ever have attached him had appeared incomprehensible. But now it was all too natural. For such an attachment as this, she might have sufficient charms; and though she did not suppose Lydia to be deliberately engaging in an elopement, without the intention of marriage, she had no difficulty in believing that neither her virtue nor her understanding would preserve her from falling an easy prey.
The entire episode is nothing less than disastrous, already teetering on the edge of society.

Pride and Prejudice Readathon: Chapters Forty-four and Forty-five

Theses chapters depict a series of triumphs. One of the great joys in chapter forty-four is witnessing the Gardiners great astonishment at the great Mr. Darcy's obvious affection for their niece, an effect compounded by Bingley's surprise appearance.
To Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner he was scarcely a less interesting personage than to herself. They had long wished to see him. The whole party before them, indeed, excited a lively attention. The suspicions which had just arisen, of Mr. Darcy and their niece, directed their observation towards each with an earnest, though guarded, enquiry; and they soon drew from those enquiries the full conviction that one of them at least knew what it was to love. Of the lady's sensations they remained a little in doubt; but that the gentleman was overflowing with admiration was evident enough.
Following such attention, Elizabeth can no longer avoid analysis of her feelings, and she cautiously begins to allow herself to care for Mr. Darcy:
As for Elizabeth, her thoughts were at Pemberley this evening more than the last; and the evening, though as it passed it seemed long, was not long enough to determine her feelings towards one in that mansion; and she lay awake two whole hours endeavouring to make them out. She certainly did not hate him. No; hatred had vanished long ago, and she had almost as long been ashamed of ever feeling a dislike against him that could be so called. The respect created by the conviction of his valuable qualities, though at first unwillingly admitted, had for some time ceased to be repugnant to her feelings; and it was now heightened into somewhat of a friendlier nature by the testimony so highly in his favour, and bringing forward his disposition in so amiable a light, which yesterday had produced. But above all, above respect and esteem, there was a motive within her of good will which could not be overlooked. It was gratitude. -- Gratitude, not merely for having once loved her, but for loving her still well enough to forgive all the petulance and acrimony of her manner in rejecting him, and all the unjust accusations accompanying her rejection. He who, she had been persuaded, would avoid her as his greatest enemy, seemed, on this accidental meeting, most eager to preserve the acquaintance, and without any indelicate display of regard, or any peculiarity of manner, where their two selves only were concerned, was soliciting the good opinion of her friends, and bent on making her known to his sister. Such a change in a man of so much pride excited not only astonishment but gratitude -- for to love, ardent love, it must be attributed; and as such, its impression on her was of a sort to be encouraged, as by no means unpleasing, though it could not be exactly defined. She respected, she esteemed, she was grateful to him; she felt a real interest in his welfare; and she only wanted to know how far she wished that welfare to depend upon herself, and how far it would be for the happiness of both that she should employ the power, which her fancy told her she still possessed, of bringing on the renewal of his addresses.
Chapter forty-five bears witness to a different kind of triumph, though it is no less complete:
"For my own part," she rejoined, "I must confess that I never could see any beauty in her. Her face is too thin; her complexion has no brilliancy; and her features are not at all handsome. Her nose wants character; there is nothing marked in its lines. Her teeth are tolerable, but not out of the common way; and as for her eyes, which have sometimes been called so fine, I never could perceive any thing extraordinary in them. They have a sharp, shrewish look, which I do not like at all; and in her air altogether, there is a self-sufficiency without fashion which is intolerable."

Persuaded as Miss Bingley was that Darcy admired Elizabeth, this was not the best method of recommending herself; but angry people are not always wise; and in seeing him at last look somewhat nettled, she had all the success she expected. He was resolutely silent however; and, from a determination of making him speak she continued,

"I remember, when we first knew her in Hertfordshire, how amazed we all were to find that she was a reputed beauty; and I particularly recollect your saying one night, after they had been dining at Netherfield, "She a beauty! -- I should as soon call her mother a wit." But afterwards she seemed to improve on you, and I believe you thought her rather pretty at one time."

"Yes," replied Darcy, who could contain himself no longer, "but that was only when I first knew her, for it is many months since I have considered her as one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance."

He then went away, and Miss Bingley was left to all the satisfaction of having forced him to say what gave no one any pain but herself.
Is that not just perfect? Such unalloyed joy cannot reign unchecked, and the next chapter puts an end to this spree.

Pride and Prejudice Readathon: Chapter Forty-three (Pemberley!)

They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!
There are few chapters in all as literature as gratifying as this one. We might argue to what degree mercenary influence has upon Elizabeth's rapidly altering opinion of Mr. Darcy, but I'd rather just bask in the glory of the moment. Besides, what human wouldn't be influenced by such a display? Compounded with Mrs. Reynolds praise and the true change in his manners, Elizabeth has every right to feel "flattered and pleased."

She has not allowed herself to reconsider the wisdom of rejecting Mr. Darcy's proposal until this moment, for her spirits will not allow her to dwell with sorrow on the immaterial. At the beginning of the chapter, she continues to delude herself with the notion of Mr. Darcy's general disagreeableness, using it as protection against "something like regret," but soon Mrs. Reynolds deprives her of this security:
"I say no more than the truth, and what every body will say that knows him," replied the other. Elizabeth thought this was going pretty far; and she listened with increasing astonishment as the housekeeper added, "I have never had a cross word from him in my life, and I have known him ever since he was four years old."

This was praise, of all others most extraordinary, most opposite to her ideas. That he was not a good tempered man had been her firmest opinion. Her keenest attention was awakened; she longed to hear more, and was grateful to her uncle for saying,

"There are very few people of whom so much can be said. You are lucky in having such a master."

"Yes, Sir, I know I am. If I was to go through the world, I could not meet with a better. But I have always observed that they who are good-natured when children are good-natured when they grow up; and he was always the sweetest-tempered, most generous-hearted, boy in the world."

Elizabeth almost stared at her. -- "Can this be Mr. Darcy!" thought she.
By the time they bump into the man himself (a surprise so sudden that to this day, every time I read it, I have to backtrack and make sure it really happened), Elizabeth is ready to be receptive to his renewed overtures, though still not daring to imagine its possibility. It's so charming how the blush and mumble to each other in greeting. We have never before seen Mr. Darcy so disarmed, or nearly so attractive. The first time I read the novel, a couple decades ago, I'm pretty sure I remember literally jumping for joy with each confirmation of his continued affection. The awkwardness and excitement of this moment is surprisingly romantic, and I've seen grown men (my husband) swoon like a teenage girl (maybe not quite), so triumphant is this moment in the book. That we are only at the very beginning of volume one is the immediate tip off that something must go wrong, but these first few chapters at Pemberley are some of the most gratifying in the book. 

Pride and Prejudice Readathon: Chapters Forty, Forty-one, and Forty-two

Whoops! Power nap lasted a bit longer than I had intended. I feel revived, but crunched for time. I'm going to explore these chapters only quickly, in hopes of getting back on schedule.

Chapter forty begins with Elizabeth confessing to Jane Mr. Darcy's proposal and the truth of Wickham's character. The most important point coming out of the exchange is the decision to not tell anyone else of the latter's perfidy. We are then treated to some customary, but nevertheless entertaining, nonsense from Mrs. Bennet:
"Well, Lizzy," said Mrs. Bennet one day, "what is your opinion now of this sad business of Jane's? For my part, I am determined never to speak of it again to anybody. I told my sister Philips so the other day. But I cannot find out that Jane saw any thing of him in London. Well, he is a very undeserving young man -- and I do not suppose there is the least chance in the world of her ever getting him now. There is no talk of his coming to Netherfield again in the summer; and I have enquired of every body, too, who is likely to know."

"I do not believe that he will ever live at Netherfield any more."

"Oh, well! it is just as he chooses. Nobody wants him to come. Though I shall always say that he used my daughter extremely ill; and if I was her, I would not have put up with it. Well, my comfort is, I am sure Jane will die of a broken heart, and then he will be sorry for what he has done."
Chapter forty-one shift attention to Mr. Bennet's foolishness. Lydia receives an invitayion from Mrs. Firster to join the regiment in  Brighton, and Mr. Bennet refuses to heed Elizabteh's warnings against letting her go:
"Do not make yourself uneasy, my love. Wherever you and Jane are known, you must be respected and valued; and you will not appear to less advantage for having a couple of -- or I may say, three -- very silly sisters. We shall have no peace at Longbourn if Lydia does not go to Brighton. Let her go then. Colonel Forster is a sensible man, and will keep her out of any real mischief; and she is luckily too poor to be an object of prey to any body. At Brighton she will be of less importance, even as a common flirt, than she has been here. The officers will find women better worth their notice. Let us hope, therefore, that her being there may teach her her own insignificance. At any rate, she cannot grow many degrees worse without authorizing us to lock her up for the rest of her life."
His words prove far too close to the reality.

Chapter forty-two begins with reflections on the problems in the Bennets marriage (which I really would like to dwell on more, but there just isn't enough time), the first time any explanation is attempted of tehir ill-suited union, and takes Elizabeth away from this scene of unhappy domesticity, as she heads withe Gardiners north in their curtailed travel plans, now bent on Derbyshire rather than the Lakes. Elziabeth is complacent reagrding this change in plans, until the notion unfolds to visit Pemeberley:
Elizabeth said no more -- but her mind could not acquiesce. The possibility of meeting Mr. Darcy, while viewing the place, instantly occurred. It would be dreadful! She blushed at the very idea; and thought it would be better to speak openly to her aunt than to run such a risk. But against this there were objections; and she finally resolved that it could be the last resource, if her private enquiries as to the absence of the family were unfavourably answered.

Accordingly, when she retired at night, she asked the chambermaid whether Pemberley were not a very fine place, what was the name of its proprietor, and, with no little alarm, whether the family were down for the summer. A most welcome negative followed the last question -- and her alarms being now removed, she was at leisure to feel a great deal of curiosity to see the house herself; and when the subject was revived the next morning, and she was again applied to, could readily answer, and with a proper air of indifference, that she had not really any dislike to the scheme.

To Pemberley, therefore, they were to go.
And with that, volume two concludes.

Pride and Prejudice Readathon: Chapters Thirty-seven, Thirty-eight, and Thirty-nine

Here are more transitional chapters. Chapter thirty-seven covers Elizabeth's final weeks in Kent. I already mentioned in one of my earlier posts how noticeable Lady Catherine's interest in Elizabeth is portrayed. She definitely considers her a values companion, especially following the departure of her nephews.

Chapter thirty-eight waves goodbye to Kent, with only one obnoxious, hypocritical, and inappropriate diatribe from Mr. Collins:
"You may, in fact, carry a very favourable report of us into Hertfordshire, my dear cousin. I flatter myself, at least, that you will be able to do so. Lady Catherine's great attentions to Mrs. Collins you have been a daily witness of; and altogether I trust it does not appear that your friend has drawn an unfortunate --; but on this point it will be as well to be silent. Only let me assure you, my dear Miss Elizabeth, that I can from my heart most cordially wish you equal felicity in marriage. My dear Charlotte and I have but one mind and one way of thinking. There is in every thing a most remarkable resemblance of character and ideas between us. We seem to have been designed for each other."
Elizabeth expresses some sympathy for her friend, but it is largely tempered by a keen sense that Charlotte must lie in the bed which she made:
Poor Charlotte! -- it was melancholy to leave her to such society! -- But she had chosen it with her eyes open; and though evidently regretting that her visitors were to go, she did not seem to ask for compassion. Her home and her housekeeping, her parish and her poultry, and all their dependent concerns, had not yet lost their charms.
In all, it is a happy departure, as Elizabeth anticipates her reunion with Jane, but even before they arrive at Longbourn, the absurdity that their reigns encapsulates them. Lydia and Kitty meet them along their route, at the posting inn where they meet Mr. Bennet's carriage, and the increased forwardness and frivolity of the former, particularly, is immediately apparent. We here more from Lydia in chapter thirty-nine than at practically any point in the book, and her words all presage the coming turmoil, from an expressed wish to be married before her sisters, to an account of gross impropriety (by the standards of the day) involving the dressing of an officer in her aunt Phillip's gown. If Elizabeth is newly awakened to her family's full fault, it must also be noted that the situation, during the most worthy Bennet's absence, has gotten immeasurably worse.

I think I need to try and sneak in a quick power nap. Brain not working good.

Pride and Prejduice Readathon: Chapters Thirty-five and Thirty-six (The Letter)

These chapters must be compared side by side, as thirty-five contains Mr. Darcy's letter, and thirty-six is all Elizabeth's response to it. Though my head is starting to feel enough of the effects of exhaustion that I cannot provide the depth of analysis this moment in the book deserves, I will at least attempt to capture the highlights.

Darcy's letter begins in much more anger than it ends. His tone noticeably changes when he begins to write of Georgiana, somewhere around here: " I must now mention a circumstance which I would wish to forget myself, and which no obligation less than the present should induce me to unfold to any human being. Having said thus much, I feel no doubt of your secrecy." Gone is all his defensive posture, and he treats Elizabeth as a most trusted confidant. It is this part of the letter that turns her anger, too, as she comes to comprehend the truth of Wickham's character.

As packed with plot development and emotional intensity as these two chapters are, the most important points emphasized throughout both, and two of the most persistent themes in Austen, are the dangers of judging others based on appearance and prejudice, and the importance of being honest to yourself. Elizabeth asks herself what made her trust Wickham, even when his actions and words proved inconsistent:
As to his real character, had information been in her power, she had never felt a wish of enquiring. His countenance, voice, and manner had established him at once in the possession of every virtue. She tried to recollect some instance of goodness, some distinguished trait of integrity or benevolence, that might rescue him from the attacks of Mr. Darcy; or at least, by the predominance of virtue, atone for those casual errors, under which she would endeavour to class what Mr. Darcy had described as the idleness and vice of many years continuance. But no such recollection befriended her. She could see him instantly before her, in every charm of air and address; but she could remember no more substantial good than the general approbation of the neighbourhood, and the regard which his social powers had gained him in the mess.
She turns to self-rebuke, and rightly deserved, too, but every Austen heroine must go through such a moment of painful mortification, and Elizabeth, once her eyes are opened, is quicker than some to learn from her own folly:

She grew absolutely ashamed of herself. -- Of neither Darcy nor Wickham could she think, without feeling that she had been blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd.
"How despicably have I acted!" she cried. -- "I, who have prided myself on my discernment! -- I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my sister, and gratified my vanity, in useless or blameable distrust. -- How humiliating is this discovery! -- Yet, how just a humiliation! -- Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind. But vanity, not love, has been my folly. -- Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment, I never knew myself."
This is the great turning point in the book, after which Elizabeth begins to judge Darcy and Wickham properly. It is also here that Darcy begins a similar process of self-evaluation, but we know nothing of it until later in the plot. The letter itself demonstrates little change in his feelings but an abatement of resentment. He is not yet able to acknowledge the justice in some of Elizabeth's criticisms, only addressing her grand accusations. That he already shows remorse for being mistaken in Jane's affections, and for keeping her presence in London from Bingley, indicates his ability for further reform.

This moment in the book seems particularly difficult to translate onto screen. I like Andrew Davies attempt best.

Pride and Prejudice Readathon: Chapter Thirty-four (The Proposal)

I often wonder if those who claim Austen's work lacks passion can have paid proper heed to lines like the following, but I suppose that some require bolts of lightening and cracking branches in order to know the depths of a hero's affection: "In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you." And in spite of her disgust with this man, even Elizabeth must credit the intensity of his feelings:
In spite of her deeply-rooted dislike, she could not be insensible to the compliment of such a man's affection, and though her intentions did not vary for an instant, she was at first sorry for the pain he was to receive; till, roused to resentment by his subsequent language, she lost all compassion in anger.
And though there are no fires or rainstorms (in the book) to punctuate her words, to a man dreadfully in love, what could more violent than Elizabeth's reply rejection:
 "In such cases as this, it is, I believe, the established mode to express a sense of obligation for the sentiments avowed, however unequally they may be returned. It is natural that obligation should be felt, and if I could feel gratitude, I would now thank you. But I cannot -- I have never desired your good opinion, and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly. I am sorry to have occasioned pain to any one. It has been most unconsciously done, however, and I hope will be of short duration. The feelings which, you tell me, have long prevented the acknowledgment of your regard, can have little difficulty in overcoming it after this explanation."
Mr. Darcy's mortification leaps from the page. The entire chapter buries the reader in an avalanche of the passion. I cannot read it without my heart racing in a most alarming fashion. "The pause was to Elizabeth's feelings dreadful." And the chapter is just getting starting.

I suppose I should resist the urge to go through, paragraph by paragraph, and indulge my feelings on this scene, but I must at least share some of the highlights:
"I might as well enquire," replied she, "why, with so evident a design of offending and insulting me, you chose to tell me that you liked me against your will, against your reason, and even against your character?  
With assumed tranquillity he then replied, "I have no wish of denying that I did every thing in my power to separate my friend from your sister, or that I rejoice in my success. Towards him I have been kinder than towards myself."
"Your character was unfolded in the recital which I received many months ago from Mr. Wickham. On this subject, what can you have to say? In what imaginary act of friendship can you here defend yourself? or under what misrepresentation, can you here impose upon others?"
"And this," cried Darcy, as he walked with quick steps across the room, "is your opinion of me! This is the estimation in which you hold me! I thank you for explaining it so fully. My faults, according to this calculation, are heavy indeed! But perhaps," added he, stopping in his walk, and turning towards her, "these offences might have been overlooked, had not your pride been hurt by my honest confession of the scruples that had long prevented my forming any serious design. These bitter accusations might have been suppressed, had I with greater policy concealed my struggles, and flattered you into the belief of my being impelled by unqualified, unalloyed inclination -- by reason, by reflection, by every thing. But disguise of every sort is my abhorrence. Nor am I ashamed of the feelings I related. They were natural and just. Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections? To congratulate myself on the hope of relations, whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?"
 "From the very beginning, from the first moment I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that ground-work of disapprobation, on which succeeding events have built so immoveable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry."
I find it rather amazing that Austen can maintain the intensity of this chapter into the next, let alone further heighten it, as she does. Excuse me, but even though I know what happens, I must read on. The letter calls.

Pride and Prejudice Readathon: Chapter Thirty-Three

This is where the first half of the book begins to reach its crescendo. People have argued enough about whether or not the book should, properly, be composed of two volumes rather than three to leave me little to say on the subject, except that it seems an appropriate time to slow down and proceed one chapter at a time, because there is so much going on. Something could also be said of Austen's unusual choice in creating a climax smack in the middle of her plot line, but as time is short, this sentence will have to suffice.

Austenesque novels are born out of chapters like thirty-three, for one might endlessly conjecture on what is during this series of events. What is Darcy thinking as he purposefully throws himself in Elizabeth's path?
More than once did Elizabeth in her ramble within the Park, unexpectedly meet Mr. Darcy. -- She felt all the perverseness of the mischance that should bring him where no one else was brought; and to prevent its ever happening again, took care to inform him at first that it was a favourite haunt of hers. -- How it could occur a second time, therefore, was very odd! -- Yet it did, and even a third. It seemed like wilful ill-nature, or a voluntary penance, for on these occasions it was not merely a few formal enquiries and an awkward pause and then away, but he actually thought it necessary to turn back and walk with her. He never said a great deal, nor did she give herself the trouble of talking or of listening much; but it struck her in the course of their third rencontre that he was asking some odd unconnected questions -- about her pleasure in being at Hunsford, her love of solitary walks, and her opinion of Mr. and Mrs. Collins's happiness; and that in speaking of Rosings, and her not perfectly understanding the house, he seemed to expect that whenever she came into Kent again she would be staying there too. His words seemed to imply it. Could he have Colonel Fitzwilliam in his thoughts? She supposed, if he meant any thing, he must mean an allusion to what might arise in that quarter. It distressed her a little, and she was quite glad to find herself at the gate in the pales opposite the Parsonage.
Conjecture regarding Colonel Fitzwilliam's intentions during this chapter abounds. Does he purposely set out to meet Elizabeth? If so, has Darcy sent him? Is he really so innocent regarding who was the unacceptable lady? He knows Darcy met the Bennets in Hertforshire, and he can  probably surmise that it was there the ill-fated love affair took place: does he fail to consider that she could know the people of whom he speaks? Or is this all some flustered attempt at redirection, following Elizabeth's inquiry into Miss Darcy's behavior. Austen leaves us with endless questions: an appropriate state of confusion to help us sympathize with our heroine's emotional state.

Sisterly feeling is one of the strongest forces motivating Elizabeth's actions. She is already inclined to think the worst of Mr. Darcy, but to hear of him boasting of his triumph over Jane whips her into no small state of passion:
That he had been concerned in the measures taken to separate Mr. Bingley and Jane, she had never doubted; but she had always attributed to Miss Bingley the principal design and arrangement of them. If his own vanity, however, did not mislead him, he was the cause, his pride and caprice were the cause, of all that Jane had suffered, and still continued to suffer. He had ruined for a while every hope of happiness for the most affectionate, generous heart in the world; and no one could say how lasting an evil he might have inflicted.
Already prejudiced, Elizabeth's review of the information at hand not only extremely biased, but also of a nature to further flame her indignation:
"To Jane herself," she exclaimed, "there could be no possibility of objection. All loveliness and goodness as she is! Her understanding excellent, her mind improved, and her manners captivating. Neither could any thing be urged against my father, who, though with some peculiarities, has abilities which Mr. Darcy himself need not disdain, and respectability which he will probably never reach." When she thought of her mother, indeed, her confidence gave way a little, but she would not allow that any objections there had material weight with Mr. Darcy, whose pride, she was convinced, would receive a deeper wound from the want of importance in his friend's connections, than from their want of sense; and she was quite decided at last, that he had been partly governed by this worst kind of pride, and partly by the wish of retaining Mr. Bingley for his sister. 
The agitation and tears which the subject occasioned brought on a headache; and it grew so much worse towards the evening that, added to her unwillingness to see Mr. Darcy, it determined her not to attend her cousins to Rosings, where they were engaged to drink tea.
And this is the state in which Mr. Darcy comes upon her.

Pride and Prejudice Readathon: Chapters Thirty, Thirty-one, and Thirty-two

Half way through and sticking to my schedule, so far. We'll see how I manage once exhaustion starts to kick in. I haven't had time to edit these post at all. I'm sure they are riddled with mistakes, and my spelling is sure to only get worse.

Chapter thirty sees Sir William's departure, and Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam's arrival. Charlotte immediately begins to see those same signs of interest in Mr. Darcy for her friend as she noted in Hertfordshire. Interestingly, while Elizabeth still tells herself how little she wants to see him, she obviously anticipates his coming:
Elizabeth had heard, soon after her arrival, that Mr. Darcy was expected there in the course of a few weeks, and though there were not many of her acquaintance whom she did not prefer, his coming would furnish one comparatively new to look at in their Rosings parties, and she might be amused in seeing how hopeless Miss Bingley's designs on him were, by his behaviour to his cousin, for whom he was evidently destined by Lady Catherine; who talked of his coming with the greatest satisfaction, spoke of him in terms of the highest admiration, and seemed almost angry to find that he had already been frequently seen by Miss Lucas and herself.
Chapter thirty-one brings the parsonage party to dine at Rosings for the first time since the arrival of the gentlemen. While Mr. Darcy begins the evening giving his attention entirely to his aunt, he is soon drawn to Elizabeth's side, unable to allow Fitzwilliam to monopolize her company. The scene is prettily captured H.M. Brock (again, the image comes from, a fabulous resource for Janeites).
"You mean to frighten me, Mr. Darcy, by coming in all this state to hear me? But I will not be alarmed though your sister does play so well. There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me."

"I shall not say that you are mistaken," he replied, "because you could not really believe me to entertain any design of alarming you; and I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance long enough to know, that you find great enjoyment in occasionally professing opinions which in fact are not your own."
This exchange is remarkably similar to that conducted between them at Netherfield in chapter eleven, Mr. Darcy echoing his previous observation that Elizabeth's playfulness leads her to say things she doesn't really mean. She must take his comment as continued criticism, and as her own flirtatiousness  continues to elude her, she remains absolutely blind to his true interest. Even when Charlotte declares he must be in love with her, following his private visit with Elizabeth in chapter thirty-two, she still refuses to give the notion any credence.

I love the tete-a-tete that takes place between Darcy and Elizabeth, because it so beautifully reveals how much they are proceeding at cross-purpose. Elizabeth is surprising frank and confidential in her opinions of the Collins' marriage, a familiarity which seems to open the door for his decreased formality when he declares: "You cannot have a right to such very strong local attachment. You cannot have been always at Longbourn." Such an outburst is totally uncharacteristic of the man, and foreshadows his upcoming declaration.

Interestingly enough, and though Elizabeth can give no response, Mr. Darcy is absolutely correct. Elizabeth has obviously spent a great deal of time in town with her Aunt and Uncle, who have had great influence in forming her mind.

Some last thoughts on the closing of chapter thirty-two, in which we see Charlotte making the same mistake as Elizabeth before her: assuming her own sentiments are shared by her friend. She also reveals her her mercenary nature, as she clearly calculates in what ways her friend's marriage might benefit herself:
She had once or twice suggested to Elizabeth the possibility of his being partial to her, but Elizabeth always laughed at the idea; and Mrs. Collins did not think it right to press the subject, from the danger of raising expectations which might only end in disappointment; for in her opinion it admitted not of a doubt, that all her friend's dislike would vanish, if she could suppose him to be in her power.

In her kind schemes for Elizabeth, she sometimes planned her marrying Colonel Fitzwilliam. He was beyond comparison the pleasantest man; he certainly admired her, and his situation in life was most eligible; but, to counterbalance these advantages, Mr. Darcy had considerable patronage in the church, and his cousin could have none at all.
 Regardless of what the reader might think of Mrs. Collins' morality,  we must credit her with a great deal of insight, for generally she proves the most apt judge of character of anyone in the book.

Pride and Prejudice Readathon: Chapters Twenty-seven, Twenty-eight, and Twenty-nine

Chapter Twenty-seven shows us the Gardiner home, informs us Jane's spirits are still depressed, though her health is strong, and prepares the way for Elizabeth's travels in the spring with the Gardiners. It is am mostly a transitional chapter, taking us from Hertfordshire to Kent, but there are some very fine moments between Elizabeth and Mr.s Gardiner, who engage in polite dispute over Wiskham's conduct to Mrs. King, Elizabeth continuing to maintain a partiality towards him that denies censure. I believe it is this exchange, and its illustration of Elizabeth's current mood, that prompts Mrs. Gardiner to invite her on the trip to the Lakes:
"Thank Heaven! I am going to-morrow where I shall find a man who has not one agreeable quality, who has neither manner nor sense to recommend him. Stupid men are the only ones worth knowing, after all."

"Take care, Lizzy; that speech savours strongly of disappointment."
The applied remedy has instant effect: "Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains?"

Chapter twenty-eight introduces a far more cheerful Elizabeth to Hunsford. Most notable is Mr. Collins gloating manner towards Elizabeth, so unshaken is he in his conviction of his own superiority. Though Mrs. Collins bears with him well, such a display cannot be pleasant for a wife to endure, and surely renders him even worse than usual. Her pride in her house has, so far, provided comfort to her marriage. One has to wonder how long such succor can last, and it has been the subject of many Pride & Prejudice sequels.

The best comic moment in these chapters comes with the introduction of Miss De Bourgh:
About the middle of the next day, as she was in her room getting ready for a walk, a sudden noise below seemed to speak the whole house in confusion; and after listening a moment, she heard somebody running up stairs in a violent hurry, and calling loudly after her. She opened the door, and 
met Maria in the landing place, who, breathless with agitation, cried out, "Oh, my dear Eliza! pray make haste and come into the dining-room, for there is such a sight to be seen! I will not tell you what it is. Make haste, and come down this moment."

Elizabeth asked questions in vain; Maria would tell her nothing more, and down they ran into the dining-room, which fronted the lane, in quest of this wonder; it was two ladies stopping in a low phaeton at the garden gate.

"And is this all?" cried Elizabeth. "I expected at least that the pigs were got into the garden, and here is nothing but Lady Catherine and her daughter!"

"La! my dear," said Maria quite shocked at the mistake, "it is not Lady Catherine. The old lady is Mrs. Jenkinson, who lives with them. The other is Miss De Bourgh. Only look at her. She is quite a little creature. Who would have thought she could be so thin and small!"

"She is abominably rude to keep Charlotte out of doors in all this wind. Why does she not come in?"

"Oh! Charlotte says, she hardly ever does. It is the greatest of favours when Miss De Bourgh comes in."

"I like her appearance," said Elizabeth, struck with other ideas. "She looks sickly and cross. -- Yes, she will do for him very well. She will make him a very proper wife."
Telling that even now, Mr. Darcy is on her mind.

Chapter twenty-nine finally takes us to Rosings Hall, and Mr. Collins proves just how intolerable he can be as they prepare to leave:
When the ladies were separating for the toilette, he said to Elizabeth,
"Do not make yourself uneasy, my dear cousin, about your apparel. Lady Catherine is far from requiring that elegance of dress in us, which becomes herself and daughter. I would advise you merely to put on whatever of your clothes is superior to the rest, there is no occasion for any thing more. Lady Catherine will not think the worse of you for being simply dressed. She likes to have the distinction of rank preserved."

While they were dressing, he came two or three times to their different doors, to recommend their being quick, as Lady Catherine very much objected to be kept waiting for her dinner.
Lady Catherine, as I have said before, is one of my favorite characters in the book. I can't help it: she's just irresistible in her tyranny. The evening at Rosings is insipid in the extreme, and only Elizabeth's appreciation for the ridiculousness of her companions renders it tolerable. We are left with excellent moments like this: "After sitting a few minutes, they were all sent to one of the windows to admire the view, Mr. Collins attending them to point out its beauties, and Lady Catherine kindly informing them that it was much better worth looking at in the summer."

Lady Catherine takes an active interest in Elizabeth, probably because she intuitively senses that she is the most interesting person amongst the guests. As little as Elizabeth cares for her condescension, Lady Catherine truly does show surprising favor towards her throughout the stay in Kent, even expressing a good deal of disappointment when she leaves. It is this unappreciated notice that fuels her indignation when the ladies meet again at the end of the novel.

Pride and Prejudice Readathon: Chapters Twety-four, Twenty-five, and Twenty-six

As I said in my last post, the end of volume one is depressing. Volume two begins with a very negative Elizabeth, and Jane scold her into better feelings. It is a scene which I have often found inspirational, when my sentiments have corresponded to those Elizabeth expresses: 
"Nay," said Elizabeth, "this is not fair. You wish to think all the world respectable, and are hurt if I speak ill of any body. I only want to think you perfect, and you set yourself against it. Do not be afraid of my running into any excess, of my encroaching on your privilege of universal good will. You need not. There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of either merit or sense. I have met with two instances lately; one I will not mention; the other is Charlotte's marriage. It is unaccountable! in every view it is unaccountable!"

"My dear Lizzy, do not give way to such feelings as these. They will ruin your happiness. You do not make allowance enough for difference of situation and temper. Consider Mr. Collins's respectability, and Charlotte's prudent, steady character. Remember that she is one of a large family; that as to fortune, it is a most eligible match; and be ready to believe, for every body's sake, that she may feel something like regard and esteem for our cousin."

"To oblige you, I would try to believe almost any thing, but no one else could be benefited by such a belief as this; for were I persuaded that Charlotte had any regard for him, I should only think worse of her understanding, than I now do of her heart. My dear Jane, Mr. Collins is a conceited, pompous, narrow-minded, silly man; you know he is, as well as I do; and you must feel, as well as I do, that the woman who marries him, cannot have a proper way of thinking. You shall not defend her, though it is Charlotte Lucas. You shall not, for the sake of one individual, change the meaning of principle and integrity, nor endeavour to persuade yourself or me that selfishness is prudence, and insensibility of danger, security for happiness."

"I must think your language too strong in speaking of both," replied Jane, "and I hope you will be convinced of it, by seeing them happy together."
One of the reasons why Austen's novels are so enduring is because of the guidance they provide the receptive reader, and these chapters are full of lessons in coping with dissapointment. Elizabeth is greatly assisted by the arrival of the Gardiners. In her aunt's example, we finally see where Jane and Elizabeth acquired their superior manners, and it is very apropos that Mr. Wickham's unsuitability should become her focus. In contrast to Mrs. Gardiner's pragmatic reasoning (which echoes Charlotte's more than what we have thus far seen from Elizabeth), the teasing advise Mr. Bennet gives Elizabeth regarding being jilted by Mr. Wickham at the end of chapter twenty-four appears almost sinister. Elizabeth acknowledges the wisdom of Mrs. Gardiner's counsel over her father's when she write of Wickham's defection in favor of Mary King: "My watchfulness has been effectual; and though I should certainly be a more interesting object to all my acquaintance, were I distractedly in love with him, I cannot say that I regret my comparative insignificance." Her tone echoes his playfulness, but the sentiments are her aunts.
These first chapters of volume two establish this new faze of the book, where a great dela of the action will occur away from Hertfordshire. Jane is already dispatched to London and disabused of Miss  Bingley's affection, Elizabeth has promised to visit Hunsford. As the Gardiners play an essential role in facilitating the ladies' ability to travel throughout the book, it is fitting that they are introduced at this juncture.

Pride and Prejudice Readathon: Chapters Twenty, Twenty-one, Twenty-two, and Twenty-three

Two themes run through the last four chapters of volume one. Chapters twenty and twenty-two focus on Mr. Collins' rapid courtship with Charlotte Lucas, while chapters twenty-one and twenty-three are primarily concerned with the abandonment of Mr. Bingley. I've already dwelt a great deal on Mr. Collins, who I truly enjoy, and as time is short, I will write only briefly on his successful proposal, for it precipitates some of the most famous quotes from the novel: "I am not romantic, you know. I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins's character, connections, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state." Pragmatic Charlotte! As such stolid notions of romance culminate in success, Jane and Elizabeth's far more fanciful ideas seem to be stagnating. I was struck anew the cruelty of Miss Bingley in her letter to Jane:
Mr. Darcy is impatient to see his sister, and to confess the truth, we are scarcely less eager to meet her again. I really do not think Georgiana Darcy has her equal for beauty, elegance, and accomplishments; and the affection she inspires in Louisa and myself is heightened into something still more interesting, from the hope we dare to entertain of her being hereafter our sister. I do not know whether I ever before mentioned to you my feelings on this subject, but I will not leave the country without confiding them, and I trust you will not esteem them unreasonable. My brother admires her greatly already, he will have frequent opportunity now of seeing her on the most intimate footing, her relations all wish the connection as much as his own, and a sister's partiality is not misleading me, I think, when I call Charles most capable of engaging any woman's heart.
So needlessly mean. The conclusion to this volume is one of the more depressing parts of the book. What saves it are the antics of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Of course, Mr. Bennet's manner of refusingl to make Elizabeth marry Mr. Collins is a moment of great triumph for the reader, but I actually prefer this speech from the disaffected Mrs. Bennet:
"Aye, there she comes," continued Mrs. Bennet, "looking as unconcerned as may be, and caring no more for us than if we were at York, provided she can have her own way. -- But I tell you what, Miss Lizzy, if you take it into your head to go on refusing every offer of marriage in this way, you will never get a husband at all -- and I am sure I do not know who is to maintain you when your father is dead. -- I shall not be able to keep you -- and so I warn you. -- I have done with you from this very day. -- I told you in the library, you know, that I should never speak to you again, and you will find me as good as my word. I have no pleasure in talking to undutiful children, -- Not that I have much pleasure indeed in talking to any body. People who suffer as I do from nervous complaints can have no great inclination for talking. Nobody can tell what I suffer! -- But it is always so. Those who do not complain are never pitied."
I also love the very end of the volume, as it parallels the way the book begins, creating a very nice symmetry out of the Bennets' dysfunction:
"Indeed, Mr. Bennet," said she, "it is very hard to think that Charlotte Lucas should ever be mistress of this house, that I should be forced to make way for her, and live to see her take my place in it!"

"My dear, do not give way to such gloomy thoughts. Let us hope for better things. Let us flatter ourselves that I may be the survivor."
This was not very consoling to Mrs. Bennet, and, therefore, instead of making any answer, she went on as before,

"I cannot bear to think that they should have all this estate, If it was not for the entail I should not mind it."

"What should not you mind?"

"I should not mind any thing at all."

"Let us be thankful that you are preserved from a state of such insensibility."

"I never can be thankful, Mr. Bennet, for any thing about the entail. How any one could have the conscience to entail away an estate from one's own daughters I cannot understand; and all for the sake of Mr. Collins too! -- Why should he have it more than anybody else?"

"I leave it to yourself to determine," said Mr. Bennet.
Must press on!

Pride and Prejudice Readathon: Chapters Eighteen and Nineteen

Chapter eighteen is the Netherfield Ball, and chapter nineteen is Mr. Collins' proposal to Elizabeth. There is far to much going on for me to even begin to do justice to it all, but I iwll do my best to summarize some highlights.

The Bennets could not look worse than they do at the ball. It's like watching an embarrassing movie, where everything most humiliating happens. One cannot really blame Miss Bingley for wanting her brother removed from an attachment to this family, for they are horrendous. As bad as Mary's sonata is, Mr. Collins speech is the most spectacular:
"If I," said Mr. Collins, "were so fortunate as to be able to sing, I should have great pleasure, I am sure, in obliging the company with an air; for I consider music as a very innocent diversion, and perfectly compatible with the profession of a clergyman. -- I do not mean however to assert that we can be justified in devoting too much of our time to music, for there are certainly other things to be attended to. The rector of a parish has much to do. -- In the first place, he must make such an agreement for tithes as may be beneficial to himself and not offensive to his patron. He must write his own sermons; and the time that remains will not be too much for his parish duties, and the care and improvement of his dwelling, which he cannot be excused from making as comfortable as possible. And I do not think it of light importance that he should have attentive and conciliatory manners towards every body, especially towards those to whom he owes his preferment. I cannot acquit him of that duty; nor could I think well of the man who should omit an occasion of testifying his respect towards any body connected with the family." And with a bow to Mr. Darcy, he concluded his speech, which had been spoken so loud as to be heard by half the room. -- Many stared. -- Many smiled; but no one looked more amused than Mr. Bennet himself, while his wife seriously commended Mr. Collins for having spoken so sensibly, and observed in a half-whisper to Lady Lucas, that he was a remarkably clever, good kind of young man.
Absolutely painful. Who details the duties of their job, especially when they are obvious, to an entire party of people? Rick Moranis' character in Ghostbusters, and Mr. Collins. It is actually a great introduction to the even more ridiculous speech he makes in the next chapter. 

Backtracking a bit, I am always reminded when I read of Elizabeth having to endure Mr. Collins as a dance partner of Mr. Tilney's comments in Northanger Abbey regarding the relationship between a dance partner and a mate: "I consider a country-dance as an emblem of marriage. Fidelity and complaisance are the principal duties of both; and those men who do not chuse to dance or marry themselves, have no business with the partners or wives of their neighbours." Austen had, in all probability, already written this line when Pride and Prejudice was composed, and the idea resonates between these two chapters. It's notable that Mr. Darcy causes no mortification as a partner, though Elizabeth is too concerned with finding him disagreeable to notice.

On to more ridiculous speeches. I love how Mr. Collins organises his proposal:
  1. It's a right thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances
  2. It will add greatly to his happiness
  3. (and perhaps most importantly) "... it is the particular advice and recommendation of the very noble lady whom I have the honour of calling patroness."
Only after elaborating on the last in some detail does he say, "And now nothing remains for me but to assure you in the most animated language of the violence of my affection." Ha! I can see Elizabeth's eyes roll. He then adds the coup de grace by assuring Elizabeth how very small her portion is, and how he will never reprove her for it. When rejected, he presses his point by further reminders of how bleak Elizabeth's prospects are. The sad things is that it is in this paragraph that we here him speak the most sensibly he does throughout the entire book:
"You must give me leave to flatter myself, my dear cousin, that your refusal of my addresses is merely words of course. My reasons for believing it are briefly these: -- It does not appear to me that my hand is unworthy your acceptance, or that the establishment I can offer would be any other than highly desirable. My situation in life, my connections with the family of De Bourgh, and my relationship to your own, are circumstances highly in its favor; and you should take it into farther consideration that in spite of your manifold attractions, it is by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made you. Your portion is unhappily so small that it will in all likelihood undo the effects of your loveliness and amiable qualifications. As I must therefore conclude that you are not serious in your rejection of me, I shall chuse to attribute it to your wish of increasing my love by suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant females."

Elizabeth response, while in no way as suited to societal norms as Mr. Collins arguements, has stood the test of time as a feminist rallying cry: "Do not consider me now as an elegant female intending to plague you, but as a rational creature speaking the truth from her heart." Such sentiments were truly revolutionary in their time.

Pride and Prejudice Readathon: Chapters Sixteen and Seventeen

If I have highlighted the hypocrisy of Mrs. Bennet and Miss Bingley in earlier posts, neither holds a candle to what Mr. Wickham unleashes upon Elizabeth in chapter sixteen. He is a far more successful hypocrite, too, rendering him far more dangerous. Of course, none of this is apparent on a first read, and I should take a moment now to say what I have failed to mention before - this readathon is full of spoilers, people! Proceed at your own risk.
"I have no right to give my opinion," said Wickham, "as to his being agreeable or otherwise. I am not qualified to form one. I have known him too long and to well to be a fair judge. It is impossible for me to be impartial. But I believe your opinion of him would in general astonish -- and perhaps you would not express it quite so strongly anywhere else. -- Here you are in your own family."

"Upon my word I say no more here than I might say in any house in the neighbourhood, except Netherfield. He is not at all liked in Hertfordshire. Every body is disgusted with his pride. You will not find him more favourably spoken of by any one."

"I cannot pretend to be sorry," said Wickham, after a short interruption, "that he or that any man should not be estimated beyond their deserts; but with him I believe it does not often happen. The world is blinded by his fortune and consequence, or frightened by his high and imposing manners, and sees him only as he chuses to be seen."

"I should take him, even on my slight acquaintance, to be an ill-tempered man." Wickham only shook his head.

"I wonder," said he, at the next opportunity of speaking, "whether he is likely to be in this country much longer."

"I do not at all know; but I heard nothing of his going away when I was at Netherfield. I hope your plans in favour of the ----shire will not be affected by his being in the neighbourhood."

"Oh! no -- it is not for me to be driven away by Mr. Darcy. If he wishes to avoid seeing me, he must go. We are not on friendly terms, and it always gives me pain to meet him, but I have no reason for avoiding him but what I might proclaim to all the world; a sense of very great ill-usage, and most painful regrets at his being what he is."

Right there! Elizabeth, if she were not blinded by his charm and interest in his tale, should have alarm bells going off in her head. Did he just declare himself incapable to judge Mr. Darcy? He does it again:
"Society, I own, is necessary to me. I have been a disappointed man, and my spirits will not bear solitude. I must have employment and society. A military life is not what I was intended for, but circumstances have now made it eligible. The church ought to have been my profession -- I was brought up for the church, and I should at this time have been in possession of a most valuable living, had it pleased the gentleman we were speaking of just now."


"Yes -- the late Mr. Darcy bequeathed me the next presentation of the best living in his gift. He was my godfather, and excessively attached to me. I cannot do justice to his kindness. He meant to provide for me amply, and thought he had done it; but when the living fell, it was given elsewhere."

"Good heavens!" cried Elizabeth; "but how could that be? -- How could his will be disregarded? -- Why did not you seek legal redress?"

"There was just such an informality in the terms of the bequest as to give me no hope from law. A man of honour could not have doubted the intention, but Mr. Darcy chose to doubt it -- or to treat it as a merely conditional recommendation, and to assert that I had forfeited all claim to it by extravagance, imprudence, in short any thing or nothing. Certain it is, that the living became vacant two years ago, exactly as I was of an age to hold it, and that it was given to another man; and no less certain is it, that I cannot accuse myself of having really done any thing to deserve to lose it. I have a warm, unguarded temper, and I may perhaps have sometimes spoken my opinion of him, and to him, too freely. I can recall nothing worse. But the fact is, that we are very different sort of men, and that he hates me."

"This is quite shocking! -- He deserves to be publicly disgraced."

"Some time or other he will be -- but it shall not be by me. Till I can forget his father, I can never defy or expose him."

Elizabeth honoured him for such feelings, and thought him handsomer than ever as he expressed them.
This chapter almost reads like a cautionary tale. Elizabeth, with all her intelligence, listens to him say he can never do what he just did, and honors him for it. And he does it yet again:
After a few minutes reflection, however, she continued, "I do remember his boasting one day, at Netherfield, of the implacability of his resentments, of his having an unforgiving temper. His disposition must be dreadful."

"I will not trust myself on the subject," replied Wickham, "I can hardly be just to him."
Under Elizabeth's encouragement, he develops further and further slanders against Mr. Darcy, impugning his affection for Georgiana, and attributing an obligation to his father from the late Mr. Darcy, instead of the other way around. In all of her novels, Austen dwells on the differences between a persons actions and statement, demanding the former support the latter, but perhaps no more so that in Pride and Prejudice, and particularly in this chapter and the next.

Chapter seventeen opens with Elizabeth conveying Mr. Wickham's account of Mr. Darcy to Jane. Jane might be overly unwilling to judge anyone harshly, but she shows far more sense and less prejudice than Elizabeth in this scene:
"Laugh as much as you chuse, but you will not laugh me out of my opinion. My dearest Lizzy, do but consider in what a disgraceful light it places Mr. Darcy, to be treating his father's favourite in such a manner, -- one, whom his father had promised to provide for. -- It is impossible. No man of common humanity, no man who had any value for his character, could be capable of it. Can his most intimate friends be so excessively deceived in him? oh! no."

"I can much more easily believe Mr. Bingley's being imposed on, than that Mr. Wickham should invent such a history of himself as he gave me last night; names, facts, every thing mentioned without ceremony. -- If it be not so, let Mr. Darcy contradict it. Besides, there was truth in his looks."
Truth in his looks! Oh, no. That certainly hold in Austen. This moment is detrimental in the development of Jane's worth, and it has been unfortunately overlooked in the film adaptations. It is best captured in the 1980 version, and if I did this right, the clip should be queued to the correct starting point. If not, and it begins in the middle of the Phillip's party, forward to 3:00.