“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
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.
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)