Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something! The Narrator, Chapter 43
Elizabeth and the Gardiner’s travel to Pemberley by carriage and are awed by its splendor. “of this place, I might have been mistress.” The housekeeper’s account of Mr. Darcy’s character counters Elizabeth previous conclusions. Mr. Darcy’s surprise arrival and attentive manner changes the course of their relationship. Elizabeth is grateful that he is not bitter over the past and her feelings toward him change. News from Longbourn of Lydia’s elopement shocks Elizabeth into tears and Darcy into retreat. Elizabeth and the Gardiner’s return home in pursuit of finding Lydia. Wickham’s bad debts and reputation are discovered by others. Mr. Collins writes to console the family but actually insults them. Mr. Bennet receives news from London that the couple will marry on very easy financial terms. He is suspicious, Mrs. Bennet ecstatic and the Bennet daughters relieved.
Elizabeth begins another journey of discovery when she and the Gardiner’s visit Pemberley, Mr. Darcy’s Derbyshire estate. Never had she seen a place where “nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste.” They are awed by its splendor and Elizabeth reflects, “and of this place I might have been mistress.” I think this chapter is one of the rare instances in which Austen describes a residence and grounds in such detail. I believe it is a build up to what Elizabeth will experience when they apply to the housekeeper Mrs. Reynolds for a tour of Pemberley House. Not only is his home furnished according to his wealth, but its style is elegant, not gaudy or ostentatious like Rosings. This is a reflection of Darcy’s personality that Elizabeth had not realized before, coupled with the praise of his character by his faithful servant and Elizabeth is astonished and the Gardiner’s puzzled over her previous account of his proud and arrogant nature. As she gazes upon his portrait in the family gallery her feelings for him begin to change and respect and admiration take over her former prejudices. When they meet by surprise in the garden both of their reactions are classic as they blush and stammer for conversation. I love this scene. Here is Lizzy who is never at a loss for words or self-confidence frozen in silence. Ha! And Darcy the well-educated and eloquent man who she previously accused of having a taciturn nature only ready to speak if he can amaze the room, unable to do so. Their next scenes as they come together and walk through the grounds of Pemberley are one of Austen’s finest. There were so many passages to quote but I narrowed it down to one of my favorites.
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 goodwill 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. The Narrator, Chapter 44
Elizabeth’s transformation from pride and prejudice is almost complete. Gratitude for kindness and understanding is a form of admiration and esteem and a solid basis for a relationship. It is almost the opposite of the conceited independence that Miss Bingley accused her of earlier in the novel. She is sincerely puzzled by his change in manner. His civility and marked attentions could only mean that he is still in love with her and wants to earn her favor.
[F]or 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. The Narrator, Chapter 44
Austen often throws us from a poignant and moving scene of realization or enlightenment for her heroine right into the hornets’ nest of opposition. In this instance it is the re-introduction of acerbic and spiteful Caroline Bingley. She sees Darcy’s interest in Elizabeth as more than admiration of her fine eyes and decides to remind him of her family’s deficiencies with her cutting remark about the loss to her family by the removal of the militia from Meryton. Interestingly, her attempts to disparage Elizabeth in his eyes backfire, when the thought of the regiment also includes the association of Wickham hurting tender Georgiana who is still sensitive to the Ramsgate elopement debacle. Clueless that she has offended Darcy and Georgiana she continues to bad mouth Elizabeth after she departs by listing her physical defects like she is disqualifying a horse at auction.
“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 anything 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.” Caroline Bingley, Chapter 45
It was gratifying to see Caroline fail at enticing neither Georgiana or Darcy to join in in her criticism and to hear him come to Elizabeth’s defense, “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.” Ouch!
Things are going well for our lovers then the other shoe drops. Darcy arrives at her lodgings at Lambton to find a disturbing scene.
She burst into tears as she alluded to it, and for a few minutes could not speak another word. Darcy, in wretched suspense, could only say something indistinctly of his concern, and observe her in compassionate silence. At length she spoke again. “I have just had a letter from Jane, with such dreadful news. It cannot be concealed from any one. My youngest sister has left all her friends — has eloped; — has thrown herself into the power of — of Mr. Wickham. They are gone off together from Brighton. You know him too well to doubt the rest. She has no money, no connexions, nothing that can tempt him to — she is lost for ever.” The Narrator, Chapter 46
All of Darcy’s former grievances of the deficiencies of Elizabeth’s family come true. Lydia’s elopement will taint their family’s reputation and severely lessen what slim chance the Bennet daughters had to attract suitable husbands. The shame and grief is so great for Elizabeth she is overcome with emotion. Darcy departs and Elizabeth feels that her chance with him is lost.
Be that as it may, she saw him (Mr. Darcy) go with regret; and in this early example of what Lydia’s infamy must produce, found additional anguish as she (Elizabeth) reflected on that wretched business. The Narrator, Chapter 46
She and the Gardiner’s return to Longbourn and Mr. Gardiner continues on to London where Mr. Bennet is in pursuit of the couple. The household is in shock and Mrs. Bennet despondent, sequestered in her bedroom in a nervous fit of flutterings and spasms. Right. After all of this tragic news and wretched angst Austen gives us moral humor.
“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.” Mary Bennet, Chapter 47
And then of course Mr. Collins must put in his oar.
“They agree with me in apprehending that this false step in one daughter will be injurious to the fortunes of all the others; for who, as Lady Catherine herself condescendingly says, will connect themselves with such a family? And this consideration leads me moreover to reflect, with augmented satisfaction, on a certain event of last November; for had it been otherwise, I must have been involved in all your sorrow and disgrace. Let me advise you then, my dear sir, to console yourself as much as possible, to throw off your unworthy child from your affection for ever, and leave her to reap the fruits of her own heinous offence.” Mr. Collins, Chapter 48
Doom and gloom for the Bennet family until a letter arrives from Mr. Gardiner with the good news that the couple has been found and agrees to marry. Mr. Bennet is rather pensive about it while Lizzy and Jane think it is excellent news. Their father sees the truth between the lines. No one would want Lydia for such a small sum.
“Yes, yes, they must marry. There is nothing else to be done. But there are two things that I want very much to know: one is, how much money your uncle has laid down, to bring it about; and the other, how I am ever to pay him.” Mr. Bennet, Chapter 49
- Group reading schedule
- Pride and Prejudice: Reading Resources
- Pride and Prejudice: List of Characters
- Pride and Prejudice: Quotes & Quips Chapters 43-49
- Pride and Prejudice without Zombies Event Schedule
‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Day 15 Giveaway
Enter a chance to win one copy of the Modern Library edition of Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen by leaving a comment stating why you think Mr. Darcy has had a change of heart and is so civil to Elizabeth when they meet again at Pemberley or which your favorite quote is 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!
Day 16 July 09 William Gilpin and Jane Austen
Day 17 July 10 Group Read: Chapters 50 – 56
Day 18 July 11 Top Ten P&P editions in print