Lady Catherine seemed quite astonished at not receiving a direct answer; and Elizabeth suspected herself to be the first creature who had ever dared to trifle with so much dignified impertinence. The Narrator, Chapter 29
The grandeur of Rosings Park foretold by Mr. Collins is felt by the Hunsford party, though Elizabeth is equal to Lady Catherine’s authoritative air by astonishing her with her decided opinions and impertinent replies. Nothing is beneath the great Lady’s notice by officiating over her community and scolding them into harmony. While Elizabeth plays the pianoforte she teases Darcy about his behavior while in Hertfordshire. He exclaims that neither of them perform to strangers. Darcy visits the Parsonage frequently. Charlotte thinks he is in love with her friend, though Elizabeth disagrees. Elizabeth learns from Col Fitzwilliam that Darcy contrived to divide her sister Jane from Mr. Bingley. Darcy visits Elizabeth alone at Hunsford and proposes despite his objection to her family. She refuses him, explaining that he is the last man in world she would be prevailed upon to marry. The next day Darcy presents her with a letter explaining the offenses against him made by her. He admits to separating Mr. Bingley and Jane. He did however honor his father’s request and paid Wickham for the living in the church he chose not to take. Wickham squanders the money and then plans an elopement with Georgiana, Darcy’s sister for her money and to injure him. He has faithfully revealed all and closes by adding “God bless you.”
So we meet the grand Lady of Rosings Park and she is as conceited and officious as Elizabeth expected. It is evident why she chose toady Mr. Collins as the parson for her parish. She needs the distinction of rank to be upheld and he does enough kowtowing for all of her subjects. When they arrive for dinner Sir William Lucas who has seen the grandeur of St. James (the King’s palace) is in awe, Maria Lucas almost frightened out of her senses and Elizabeth equal to the scene. Lady Catherine quizzes Charlotte on her household management correcting and advising her, then turns her attention to Elizabeth attempting to pick apart her family and upbringing. No governess? All of the five of the daughters are “out”? Elizabeth replies to her interrogations coolly and defiantly. Lady Catherine tells her she gives her opinion very decidedly for being so young and asks her age. Coyly Elizabeth will not own it. Lady Catherine is astonished at anyone not answering her directly. We will later learn during the famous pianoforte scene with Col Fitwilliam and Mr. Darcy that nothing intimidates her.
“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.” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 31
This interaction at Rosings between Elizabeth, Col Fitzwilliam and Mr. Darcy is one of my favorite scenes in the novel. Darcy sees his cousin Col Fitzwilliam paying attention to Elizabeth. He sees Elizabeth enjoying his company and showing him more attention than he has ever drawn. He is jealous and ready to enter closer into the sphere of her affection and joins them at the pianoforte. She immediately puts him in his place in front of his cousin by reminding him of how badly he behaved to the “savages” in Hertfordshire, dancing only with his immediate friends and talking to no one. He attempts to justify his behavior by explaining that he is ill suited to recommend himself to strangers. She is not buying any of it and retorts that she does not play the piano as well as she should because she does not practice (implying that if he does not extend the effort to converse with new people and be civil in a ball room he will never be able to improve). He knows she is right, and that is the turning point of their relationship. Until that moment he had the upper hand in his eyes. By Elizabeth openly defying his aunt and calling out his bad behavior in front of his cousin it is the beginning of him being “duly humbled”. His attraction to Elizabeth has been heightened by her impertinence.
“What can be the meaning of this?” said Charlotte, as soon as he was gone. “My dear Eliza, he must be in love with you, or he would never have called on us in this familiar way.” Charlotte Collins, Chapter 32
Wise and pragmatic Charlotte sees all. Whenever she speaks to Elizabeth throughout the novel (and it is not often) it is like a warning bell, a foreshadowing of what Elizabeth is blind to, and her insights usually come to pass. Mr. Darcy and Col Fitzwilliam visit the Parsonage every day. Mr. Darcy also seeks Elizabeth out during her solitary walks and their conversations are puzzling to her. His train of thought seems distracted and disjointed. His conversations in the past especially at Netherfield were well reasoned and composed. This is much different behavior than what we have seen in the past. For someone who boasts that she is a keen observer of personalities, she is not putting the pieces together. She easily converses with Col Fitzwilliam while Mr. Darcy is silent and observant when they visit the Parsonage together. Charlotte watches Mr. Darcy and concludes that the main reason why he calls is because he is in love with her friend. Elizabeth does not believe her until Mr. Darcy arrives at the Parsonage alone and proposes to her.
“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.” Mr. Darcy, Chapter 34
His abrupt declaration astonishes Elizabeth. He then proceeds to insult her by telling her that he loves her against his better judgment, against reason and decorum. She was just learned from Col. Fitzwilliam that Mr. Darcy used his influence to divide his friend Mr. Bingley from her sister Jane. She is angry with him even before he insults her with his blundering proposal. The scene may be one of the most riveting in Austen’s canon. The dialogue is so sharp, so abrasive that even after many re-readings it never fails to give me goose bumps. Her last retort is so cutting and so incisive that I feel the wound to Mr. Darcy’s pride much more keenly than I do to Elizabeth’s.
“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 groundwork 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.” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 34
And then, the next day he presents the letter to her. He cares enough about Elizabeth’s good opinion to try to clear his name and apologize for one of the two offences she has lain against him. I love his opening line as he tries to disarm reproof.
“Be not alarmed, madam, on receiving this letter, by the apprehension of its containing any repetition of those sentiments or renewal of those offers which were last night so disgusting to you. I write without any intention of paining you, or humbling myself, by dwelling on wishes which, for the happiness of both, cannot be too soon forgotten;” Mr. Darcy, Chapter 35
So he does not want to renew his proposal, but he feels compelled by pride to explain and defend himself. Interesting. I would say that both of them like to have the last word. Elizabeth definitely won the first round by turning down a wealthy man on principle with her last cutting remark, now we shall see if Mr. Darcy can top it. As he explains his involvement in dividing Jane from Mr. Bingley he slowly builds his case. He did notice Mr. Bingley’s preference for Jane, but she did not appear to return it. The general expectation of their marriage was alarming to him and Mr. Bingley’s sisters and he freely admits to saving his friend from a most unhappy connection by encouraging him to leaving for London and further influencing him not to return to Netherfield. He also admits to concealing his knowledge of Jane being in London from Mr. Bingley. Being an honorable gentleman he apologizes for causing any pain to her sister Jane. Regarding ruining Mr. Wickham’s prospects, he offers no apologies, only the detailed truth. He honored his father’s recommendation in his will to provide Wickham with the church living, but Wickham declined to take orders and took the cash instead. Wickham then goes off and lives a life of dissipation and vice returning to Mr. Darcy after three years expecting him to instate him in the living that he previously declined and was compensated for. When Mr. Darcy refuses, he turns his attentions upon his younger sister Georgiana romancing her into an elopement. His chief object was unquestionably her 30,000 pound fortune as revenge on Mr. Darcy. This was his faithful narrative of every event between them.
After both the heated proposal and the emotional letter, Darcy concludes with a salutation to Elizabeth that befits his position and gentlemanlike behavior: wishing her health and happiness and finally “God bless you.”
Ok Jane Austen. You really know how to make us weep.
- Group reading schedule
- Pride and Prejudice: Reading Resources
- Pride and Prejudice: List of Characters
- Pride and Prejudice: Plot Summary Chapters 29-35
- Pride and Prejudice: Quotes & Quips Chapters 29-35
- Pride and Prejudice without Zombies Event Schedule
‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Day 11 Giveaway
Enter a chance to win one copy of the Oxford’s Worlds Classic edition of Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen by leaving a comment stating if you think you think Elizabeth was too harsh in her rejection of Mr. Darcy’s proposal 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!
Upcoming event posts
Day 12 July 02 Carriages in Pride and Prejudice
Day 13 July 03 Group Read: Chapters 36 – 42
Day 14 July 05 Music at the Netherfield Ball