“There is meanness in all the arts which ladies sometimes condescend to employ for captivation. Whatever bears affinity to cunning is despicable.” Mr. Darcy, Chapter 8
Elizabeth stays at Netherfield to tend to her ailing sister Jane. The Bingley sisters take every opportunity to criticize her manners to the gentlemen though they do not agree. Caroline chides Darcy about Elizabeth’s fine eyes and low connections. Mrs. Bennet arrives to check on Jane. To Elizabeth’s embarrassment, her mother compliments Bingley and insults Darcy. Elizabeth observes Darcy watching her but cares too little about him to seek his approbation. He is bewitched and if not for the inferiority of her family he would be in serious danger of falling in love. Elizabeth tells him his defect is to hate everyone. He tells her that hers is to willfully misunderstand them. Elizabeth and Jane return home and shortly after their pompous cousin Mr. Collins arrives to offer the olive-branch of friendship to heal the family riff over the entailment. His patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh advises him to marry with discretion. Mrs. Bennet thinks him odious until she realizes he is a possible son-in-law.
What a pill Caroline Bingley is. So much of the tone of the conversation in chapters 8-12 is driven by her. As soon as Elizabeth leaves the room she attacks her manners. This happens several times. When she does say something positive it is a back handed compliment. She allows her to be a good walker and then claims her scampering about the muddy countryside to visit her sister is conceited independence. She tries to get Mr. Darcy to agree with her assessment of her bad behavior by mocking his admiration of her fine eyes but he defies her insult by complimenting them. In fact, almost every conversation in which Caroline attempts to insult and disparage Elizabeth to Darcy, he counteracts her. Much of the bad behavior that she accuses Elizabeth of, she is in fact exhibited herself.
“Eliza Bennet,” said Miss Bingley, when the door was closed on her, “is one of those young ladies who seek to recommend themselves to the other sex by undervaluing their own; and with many men, I dare say, it succeeds. But, in my opinion, it is a paltry device, a very mean art.” Caroline Bingley, Chapter 8
The scenes at Netherfield are some of my favorites in the novel. It is all about observations, evaluating personality and actions, and disagreeing with opinions. Caroline and Louisa see only fault with Elizabeth and says so to the gentlemen repeatedly. Charles never agrees and Darcy rarely. Bingley did not notice Elizabeth’s petticoat three inches in mud. He does not agree that her arrival at Netherfield was impertinent. Caroline mockingly accuses Elizabeth of despising cards taking pleasure in nothing because she prefers to read at that moment. Elizabeth disagrees. Bingley defends her by noticing that she takes pleasure in tending to her sister. Charles Bingley thinks all young ladies are accomplished. Caroline disagrees listing what skills an accomplished lady possesses:
“a through knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.” Caroline Bingley, Chapter 8
Elizabeth is surprised at them knowing anyone to fill that list. She has never seen such a woman. Elizabeth thinks poetry drives away love. Darcy thinks poetry is the food of love. Darcy asks Elizabeth if she is inspired by the music to dance a reel. She defiantly replies in a classic put down that she did not respond because if she said yes, he could despise her taste. She prefers to cheat a person out of that satisfaction and dares him to despise her. He does not. Darcy states that when his “good opinion once lost is lost forever.” Elizabeth cannot laugh at him for being implacably resentful. He thinks people have a tendency toward defects which education cannot overcome. She tells him his defect is to hate everybody. He replies that hers is to “willfully misunderstand them.” There are other examples. Every conversation is laced with divergent opinions. It’s like a tennis match. Back and forth. It makes for great dialogue. Austen verbal sparring at its finest.
“He (Mr. Collins) must be an oddity, I think,” said she, “I cannot make him out. There is something very pompous in his style. — And what can he mean by apologizing for being next in the entail? — We cannot suppose he would help it if he could. — Can he be a sensible man, sir?”
“No, my dear; I think not. I have great hopes of finding him (Mr. Collins) quite the reverse. There is a mixture of servility and self-importance in his letter, which promises well. I am impatient to see him.” Elizabeth and Mr. Bennet, Chapter 13
Mr. Collins arrives at Longbourn and through him we will learn a lot about Mr. Bennet. His cousin is to inherit his estate by entail. This fact is distressful to Mrs. Bennet who even after years of explanation does not understand how her home will be given to a male cousin and not her daughters when her husband dies. Even though she has not met Mr. Collins she declares him an odious man until his letter reveals a glimmer of hope. He could be a possible son-in-law and she could stay in her home. His letter to Mr. Bennet offering the olive-branch over the family dispute regarding the entail and inviting himself to stay at Longbourn is one of Austen’s best. His pompous language sends up a red flag to Lizzy, who has admitted to being a keen studier of character, intricate ones being the most amusing. Mr. Collins is definitely intricate, to the point of exhaustion. When he finally arrives, Mr. Bennet cannot resist testing him and goads him into talking about his esteemed patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
“I am happy on every occasion to offer those little delicate compliments which are always acceptable to ladies. I have more than once observed to Lady Catherine, that her charming daughter seemed born to be a duchess, and that the most elevated rank, instead of giving her consequence, would be adorned by her. These are the kind of little things which please her ladyship, and it is a sort of attention which I conceive myself peculiarly bound to pay.” Mr. Collins, Chapter 14
What a toad. Lest we be disappointed, he might also lick her boots. This is just fuel to the fire for Mr. Bennet, who like his daughter Elizabeth, dearly loves to laugh at follies and nonsense. Since she thinks like him, this may be why she is his favorite daughter. They have similar personalities in that respect. The fact that he prompts Mr. Collins into revealing his prepping complements in advance is just too hilarious.
Mr. Bennet’s expectations were fully answered. His cousin was as absurd as he had hoped, and he listened to him with the keenest enjoyment, maintaining at the same time the most resolute composure of countenance, and, except in an occasional glance at Elizabeth, requiring no partner in his pleasure. The Narrator, Chapter 14
- Group reading schedule
- Pride and Prejudice: Reading Resources
- Pride and Prejudice: List of Characters
- Pride and Prejudice: Plot Summary Chapters 8-14
- Pride and Prejudice: Quotes & Quips Chapters 8-14
- Pride and Prejudice without Zombies Event Schedule
‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Day 4 Giveaway
Enter a chance to win one copy of Harper Collins Classics edition Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen by leaving a comment stating which is your favorite scene from Netherfield Park or which is your favorite quote from the novel by midnight, Saturday, July 24th, 2010. Winner will be announced on Sunday, July 25th. Shipment to continental US addresses only. Good luck!
Upcoming Event Posts
Day 5 – June 20 P&P (Naxos Audio) Review
Day 6 – June 21 Fashions at the Netherfield Ball
Day 7 – June 23 Group Read: Chapters 15-21