Group Read, Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen's Works

Pride and Prejudice: Group Read – Chapters 57-61: Summary, Musing & Discussion

“But, Lizzy, you look as if you did not enjoy it. You are not going to be missish, I hope, and pretend to be affronted at an idle report. For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?” Mr. Bennet, Chapter 57

QUICK SYNOPOSIS

Elizabeth reflects upon the meaning of Lady Catherine’s visit. A letter arrives from Mr. Collins strongly warning Elizabeth not to enter into an unsanctioned engagement with Lady Catherine’s nephew. Mr. Bennet thinks it highly amusing and absurd that Mr. Darcy is interested in his daughter. Darcy returns and renews his affections. Elizabeth accepts his present assurances with gratitude and pleasure. Darcy admits his pride and Elizabeth humbled him into changing. She tells Jane who is incredulous and thinks she is joking. She tells her father and he is incredulous. The couple confess all to each other. Lizzy teases that he liked her because she was impertinent. Lady Catherine’s actions had removed any of his doubts and gave him hope. Elizabeth writes and informs Mrs. Gardiner. Happy is the day that Mrs. Bennet got rid of two of her daughters.

MUSINGS

It was a rational scheme, to be sure! but from what the report of their engagement could originate, Elizabeth was at a loss to imagine; till she recollected that his being the intimate friend of Bingley, and her being the sister of Jane, was enough, at a time when the expectation of one wedding made everybody eager for another, to supply the idea. That Narrator, Chapter 57

Lady Catherine departs in a cloud of anger after her battle of words with Elizabeth leaving the victor wondering how she had been informed of Mr. Darcy being on the brink of proposing. Being very inquisitive, Elizabeth runs through all the options and decides it is her sister Jane leaking info to her fiancé Mr. Bingley. I think Austen is being so true to human nature through her heroine. After a big blow up, most women need to deconstruct to understand feelings and rationalize  facts. Whom among us has not done the exact thing with their girlfriends? Elizabeth, being the “conceited independent” discusses it with herself like a sleuth sorting out the facts and suspects. When Mr. Collins’ letter arrives warning Mr. Bennet against his daughter entering into an engagement with Lady Catherine’s nephew, the Lucas’ are fingered. Elizabeth will not know the truth until the man himself informs her, and of course Austen supplies a nice ironic twist to it that which I will mention a bit later. Mr. Bennet’s reaction to Mr. Collins’ is classic. He finds only the amusement in it and cannot fathom any truth to the rumor. “Had they fixed on any other man, it would have been nothing; but his perfect indifference, and your pointed dislike, make it so delightfully absurd!” His reaction is just. Elizabeth has not shown or shared with her family her preference for him, only her previous dislike. Elizabeth’s reply softens his resistance to her entering into a match without love. She does love him and that is enough for her father to give his consent.

“You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged; but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.” Mr. Darcy, Chapter 58

Upon his return to Hertfordshire, Darcy soon informs her of his feelings with one of Austen’s most memorable lines (for me). At this moment, both of their lives hang in the balance. We are on pins and needles even though we know the outcome. He has put himself at her mercy. Her decision will decide their fate. He has applied himself in an open and nonthreatening way. All of his pride and arrogance has subsided. What a different man this is before her. Her reaction in the face of an important life decision is quite different than the first time around and in alignment with his tone and openness.

Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances. The happiness which this reply produced was such as he had probably never felt before, and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do. The Narrator, Chapter 58

As with most life altering events, one is numb and unable to speak. “They walked on, without knowing in what direction.” Ha!

Done. Huzzah! Love prevails and we only have the lover’s tête à tête to tie things up neatly. They both make important confessions; Darcy more so. Elizabeth wants him to forget the past, especially the circumstances that prompted him to write the “Be not alarmed, madam” letter.

“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.” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 58

As if Darcy confessing his love and previous faults was not enough, Austen really pushes the contrition and absolution thing farther than we could ever expect from any man. This next line may be the reason why Mr. Darcy is the romantic icon of the ages.

“Such I was, from eight to eight-and-twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You shewed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.” Mr. Darcy, Chapter 58

Swoon. This, I believe, is so appealing to women because what man ‘DO’ we know who would confess his love, bare his soul, and tell you that you have made him a better man? I haven’t met one yet. Do they exist? It seems too much to expect of any one person. Men don’t think that way, at least in my experience. You know – the Venus and Mars thing. I believe that Mr. Darcy is so appealing because he does admit his faults and change for the sake of the love of a woman. He may have been Austen’s fantasy, but she sent him out into the world and he is now everyone’s ideal.

“You are joking, Lizzy. This cannot be! — engaged to Mr. Darcy! — No, no, you shall not deceive me. I know it to be impossible.” Jane Bennet, Chapter 59

Elizabeth shares her news with Jane, her dearest friend who knows her best in the world, and she thinks she is joking with her. “And do you really love him quite well enough? Oh, Lizzy! do anything rather than marry without affection.” (Shades of Jane Austen advising her niece Fanny Austen Knight on her own love and romance in the future.) And in proper Austen style of following a character revelation, she supplies us with a joke.

“It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 59

Much has been discussed about this line. Was Elizabeth mercenary or so moved by seeing how un-prideful and un-ostentatious Pemberley was that she fell in love with its owner? This is a toss-up for me. I am inclined to say both, leaning on the later. When she arrived at Pemberley her feeling for him had softened since their last tumultuous first proposal scene and his subsequent letter. Seeing his home and listening to his servants praise him changes her even more. When he arrived and his civility matched his surroundings, she was amazed. So yes, she was swayed by seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley, but not entirely for financial reasons. Now she must convince her sister who she has shared almost all of her secrets with that she does love him.

And, then the same incredulous reaction from her father!

“Lizzy,” said he, “what are you doing? Are you out of your senses, to be accepting this man? Have not you always hated him?” Mr. Bennet

“I do, I do like him,” she replied, with tears in her eyes; “I love him. Indeed he has no improper pride. He is perfectly amiable. You do not know what he really is; then pray do not pain me by speaking of him in such terms.” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 59

He offers his consent, with this poignant caveat. “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.” One wonders at this line the full extent of the back story of why Mr. and Mrs. Bennet married. We are never told, but if Lydia’s personality and impulsiveness are similar to her mother’s, one can project the outcome.

Ok, so chapter 60 does seem like overkill to me, but I still read it and weep. Best line for me.

“I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.” Mr. Darcy, Chapter 60

And the mystery of how Lady Catherine was informed of her nephew’s serious interest and possible proposal to Elizabeth are revealed by a primary source, Mr. Darcy himself. The irony of it is that if Lady Catherine had not been officious and superior, they may not of had the means of re-uniting. So, her trip to visit Elizabeth and exact her promise not to marry her nephew had the exact opposite effect of her initial motive. Another Austen reproof checked off the list.

“Lady Catherine’s unjustifiable endeavours to separate us were the means of removing all my doubts.” Mr. Darcy, Chapter 60

Elizabeth writes to her aunt Gardiner to tell her the news of their engagement. She is such a tease she cannot just flatly state the facts. Ha!

“But now suppose as much as you (Mrs. Gardiner) chuse; give a loose to your fancy, indulge your imagination in every possible flight which the subject will afford, and unless you believe me actually married, you cannot greatly err. You must write again very soon, and praise him a great deal more than you did in your last.” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 60

And we come to the final denouement where Austen wraps up all the loose ribbons with bits of irony and amusement. The novel opened with Mrs. Bennet fretting over her five unmarried daughters and by the last chapter she has seen three of them married. The business of her life is almost complete.

Happy for all her maternal feelings was the day on which Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters. The Narrator, Chapter 61

Austen adds a closing passage for most of the minor characters. Georgiana is happy with her new sister, Kitty’s situation and deportment improves with the influence of her two elder sisters social standings and connections, Lydia and Wickham out spend their income and his “affection for her soon sunk into indifference: her’s lasted a little longer; and in spite of her youth and her manners, she retained all the claims to reputation which her marriage had given her.” I have often wondered if Austen was slyly implying that Lydia would cuckold him. ;-)

Ah, and Miss Bingley. She cannot be forgotten and is given her reprove as well.

Miss Bingley was very deeply mortified by Darcy’s marriage; but as she thought it advisable to retain the right of visiting at Pemberley, she dropt all her resentment; was fonder than ever of Georgiana, almost as attentive to Darcy as heretofore, and paid off every arrear of civility to Elizabeth. The Narrator, Chapter 61

And ending on a happy note of gratitude and regard “towards the persons (Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner)who, by bringing her into Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting them” Elizabeth and Darcy ride off into the sunset. (in a barouche-landau of course)

Finis

20 thoughts on “Pride and Prejudice: Group Read – Chapters 57-61: Summary, Musing & Discussion”

  1. I think chapter 60 shows the youth of Jane Austen as a writer. She felt the need to handily tie up the loose ends and make sure that everything was handled to her satisfaction. But I say overly sentimental it may be, but it has to be one of the most satisfying endings to any novel I have ever read. To be given a short, wonderful glimpse into the unfolding of a relationship once the wooing and winning is said and done…lovely!

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  2. My Texas writing is as far from London as could be, but what I noticed in this quote is the funny word “missish,” which immediately reminded me of Alice Walker’s use of the word “womanish” in the African-American community to indicate a headstrong woman!

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  3. Elizabeth’s comment about Pemberley show she is as reclusive about her inner thoughts as Darcy OR shows her humour as she did in the remark to Jane about the possibility of finding another Mr Collins (heaven forfend!) when there is an inevitability about Jane and Charles. Is there coming a discussion or has there been such a one, about the character of Mrs Bennet? Ok so the mothers of that time had focus on marrying off their children but BUT she is so irritating then the forgiving side of my Gemini character says that we can see her behaviour as over the top and seems pretentious but does the lady herself, she must believe she has uncontrollable nerves.

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  4. Yes, there is danger of seeing Chapter 60 as an overkill, but I’ve always liked this chapter because it finally showed a different side to Mr. Darcy… playful and a witty sense of humor that is actually funny (not just biting or sarcastic)… truly a match for Elizabeth’s lively impertinence. I agree with Melissa Lynn that it gives us a glimpse of what private moments will be between these two… =)

    My favorite moment in this chapter:
    ‘You might have talked to me more when you came to dinner.’
    ‘A man who had felt less might.’

    Puts me in mind of Mr. Knightley’s: ‘I cannot make speeches, Emma… If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more…’ *swoon*

    I think by just reading this chapter, my imagination tempers the ‘overkill’ of this chapter, but if it is acted out in an adaptation, Mr Darcy will become more unreal, for as you say Laurel Ann, what real man talks this way, even in private moments? ;-) If memory serves me right, all adaptations have steered clear of quoting directly from this chapter, perhaps for such reasons.

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  5. I love the quote about loving him upon seeing Pemberley, but only because I believe it was totally a joke. Elizabeth turned down Mr. Darcy with his 10,000 a year. She knew him to be a propertied man and I’m sure the income would have given her some idea of the richness of it. But, to see it was to see the Darcy she had only begun to suspect could exist. Then, to hear Mrs. Reynolds speak so endearingly of him, she has it confirmed that he is indeed different from the man she had thought him to be. Elizabeth has shown us before that she is not mercenary by refusing first Mr. Collins, and then Darcy. She knew what her prospects were. I have no doubt whatsoever that she was being funny in a genteel way.

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  6. I liked Regency Romance’s comment. I’m not sure I had tied the likeness of responses in Emma and P&P before now. I thought it was great.
    And since my husband talks little I hope it fits something important in my life…smiles.

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  7. I appreciated the humor of chapter 60, particularly Mr. Bennet’s letter to Mr. Collins and the latter’s subsequent exodus from the wrath of Lady Catherine. I think that it was an effective chapter in that it set the tone for Elizabeth’s and Mr. Darcy’s future — love and respect for each other with some good-natured teasing and tolerance and forbearance of others — whereas the next chapter spelled out the actual details of their life together.

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  8. I can think of fewer novels with such a satisfactory ending. Some critics accuse Jane’s novels of lacking action. For me, the internal actions and changes are so satisfying that I feel that I have been put through the wringer by the time Darcy declares that his affections have remained unchanged.

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  9. I want to second Regency Romance’s nice little connection to “Emma” – as that’s one of my favorite quotes from Mr. Knightley, I like seeing it come, in a different form, from Mr. Darcy as well.

    I always found it interesting that readers get every word of the disastrous first proposal, but far fewer words of the second successful proposal. It’s almost as if Austen knows we know that they’re going to end up together, so it doesn’t matter so much what they say. That’s why I actually enjoy Chapter 60. We don’t get to hear what Lizzie and Darcy say to each other when the finally reach an understanding, but we do get that little glimpse into their relationship now that it has been established.

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  10. oh! What would we do without ch 60, since I have read so many sequels to P&P based on this chapter alone. I love to read mushy romantic scenes between the hero and the heroine, so I am glad Jane left it in. It is so endearing that Darcy can reveal his feeling to Lizzy and be so unlike the aloof and proud Mr. Darcy from ch. 1. Who doesn’t love a man who accepts his mistakes and would change himself for his beloved? I agree with all others that it gives a taste of what is to come between Lizzy and Darcy.

    As for the comment Lizzy makes about falling in love with Darcy only after seeing Pemberley, I think she is joking, but only partly. Everything about who Mr Darcy really is/was came together during her visit to Pemberley. Anybody which such a fine home with good taste, loyal servants and changed behavior would be a attraction naturally. If Lizzy didn’t feel love, I am sure she would not have gone any further than friendship with Darcy inspite of Pemberley. Nothing wrong in liking a man for what has, but one should NOT love him only for that. Gotta love Jane for delivering her pragmatism with gentle humor.

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  11. Would our (swooning) thoughts and love of D&E’s relationship be the same without chapter 60? This chapter is a bit overkill in the language and reality of it all, but without it’s not quite the same book and love story. We see and feel Darcy’s true feelings and that’s what we all love and what makes the rest of P&P come alive again and again after each reading!

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  12. I feel terribly that I commented on the very first section and now the very last, as I was so looking forward to this event. The comments I have skimmed through have been wonderful and I mourn not having “my share of the conversation”. How dare life interfere with my Austen obsession!

    I must echo and elaborate on Vidya’s comments regarding Elizabeth’s jest about loving Mr. Darcy after visiting Pemberley. Certainly this is Elizabeth’s attempt at lightening the mood, teasing her sister just as she always has. But I also think it demonstrates how much Elizabeth has changed since the beginning of the novel. While we applaud Elizabeth for rejecting both Mr. Collins’ and Mr. Darcy’s proposals, her actions are supremely arrogant. The truest thing Mr. Collin’s says in the entire novel is probably “it is by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made you”, though it is loathsome for him to say it aloud. Is it possible that, beneath this witticism about Pemberley’s beautiful grounds, Elizabeth is acknowledging that Charlotte Lucas’ pragmatic approach to marriage has some validity? Yes, the taste with which Pemberley is laid out reflects the nature of the man, but it also represents the stability of the marriage she is making: stability she has never had and which was particularly lacking during those uncertain weeks when Lydia was missing. I think one of the most appealing attributes of Darcy is the security he provides, and I do not mean merely monetarily. He is, after all, the one who rescued Lydia when Elizabeth’s male relatives could not. After a life of neglect from her mother and indulgent lethargy from her father, the care Darcy offers is magnificent – just like Prince Charming lifting Cinderella up from the ashes. Sigh.

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  13. Thanks to all who participated in the group read. I love seeing others views of the same scene. I learn so much and value the novel and characters even more. This is my ‘upteenth’ reading of this novel and it always makes me laugh and value Austen’s genius.

    Adieu Lizzy & Darcy till next time. LA

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  14. I had always thought that Elizabeth’s comment about the grounds at Pemberley was a way to try and avoid answering. Several times before she has used slightly joking or witty comments to avoid questions and I always felt that her engagement with Mr. Darcy is still too new for her at this point to want to talk about it much.

    As for chapter 60, it is a bit over the top gushing, but I love it anyhow!

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    1. Hi Kristin, I like ch 60 too. It is just more flowery than any other of Austen’s writing that I have encountered. Is this part of why P&P is so well loved? If she had put in more lover’s tête-à-tête would her other novels be in competition with the popularity of P&P?

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  15. I like to fancy that in writing so ambiguously, “The happiness which this reply produced was such as he had probably never felt before, and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do,” Austen was alluding to Darcy kissing Elizabeth. Because this was considered very innapropriate to write about, she lets us interpret and imagine what we want here. They do have some privacy at this moment. (There is a place in Charlotte Bronte’s Villette that is similar in ambiguous passion in which I like to insert my own interpretation of a kiss.) I hope that instead of being shocked, Austen would be pleased that her writing so delicately could be understood at such an emotional moment in the story.

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    1. I am tickled by your insight about Austen alluding to Darcy kissing Elizabeth. Of course. She does not show or mention kissing any any of the novels (that I know of) and this would be the closest whisper of it. Thanks for sharing. You made my day.

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  16. We readers had so much emotion invested in Lizzie and Mr. Darcy getting together that our dear author Jane had to let us relish in their private relationship just a chapter longer. Just as Robin above pointed out, author Jane could not include a love scene, so Ch. 60 had to fill this bill for us.

    I chuckle, too, that when I’m enjoying Brit flicks (Masterpiece Mystery or other British mystery series) I always think the ending wraps up too quickly. Happily, Jane didn’t start this tradition.

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