Pride and Prejudice: Group Read – Chapters 57-61: Summary, Musing & Discussion: Day 20 Giveaway

“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 synopsis

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

‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Day 20  Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of the Dover Classics  edition of Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen by leaving a comment stating if you think chapter 60 is overkill gushing 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 21   July 16   Mr. Darcy & Elizabeth Bennet
Day 22   July 24   Swag winners announced

Pride and Prejudice: Group Read Chapters 50 – 56: Summary, Musings & Discussion: Day 17 Giveaway

How Wickham and Lydia were to be supported in tolerable independence, she could not imagine. But how little of permanent happiness could belong to a couple who were only brought together because their passions were stronger than their virtue. The Narrator, Chapter 50

Quick Synopsis

Mrs. Bennet is ecstatic over Lydia and Wickham’s marriage, but Mr. Bennet will not admit them to Longbourn until Elizabeth and Jane convince him otherwise. Lydia lets slip that Mr. Darcy was at her wedding. Elizabeth writes to Mrs. Gardiner who in turn reveals Mr. Darcy’s involvement in securing the wedding. She realizes that he is exactly the man to suit her. After silly theatrics, Lydia and Wickham depart for Newcastle. Bingley and Darcy return to Netherfield and call on the Bennet’s. Bingley proposes to Jane. Lady Catherine arrives at Longbourn determined to make Elizabeth promise not to marry Mr. Darcy. Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted? Elizabeth will not oblige her wishes.

Musings

Lydia and Wickham are married, but what a “patched up business” it is. Mrs. Bennet is ecstatic, Mr. Bennet is peeved, Elizabeth and Jane embarrassed and all of Meryton think they are an unfortunate family. Lydia and Wickham are allowed to visit at Longbourn only after Elizabeth and Jane convince their angry father that more harm would be done socially if he refuses to admit them. This was a wise move by team Bennet. The couple arrive and amazingly act like nothing is amiss. They truly have no scruples. While Elizabeth watches her younger sister and new brother-in-law’s unprincipled behavior, she continues to reflect upon her experience at Pemberley and comes to an important conclusion.

She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her. His understanding and temper, though unlike her own, would have answered all her wishes. It was an union that must have been to the advantage of both; by her ease and liveliness, his mind might have been softened, his manners improved; and from his judgment, information, and knowledge of the world, she must have received benefit of greater importance. The Narrator, Chapter 50

She has come full circle from hate and prejudice to love and respect. Now that she realizes he is the exact man to suit her, he is beyond her reach. She surmises that he would never want to be connected to her family with Mr. Wickham as a brother-in-law and Lydia as a sister-in-law.

Elizabeth was disgusted, and even Miss Bennet was shocked. Lydia was Lydia still — untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless. She turned from sister to sister, demanding their congratulations; and when at length they all sat down, looked eagerly round the room, took notice of some little alteration in it, and observed, with a laugh, that it was a great while since she had been there. The Narrator, Chapter 51

Careless Lydia let’s slip that Mr. Darcy was at her wedding and Elizabeth is stunned by the connection, writing to her aunt Gardiner for all the details. Her aunt complies with a detailed account of Mr. Darcy’s involvement to locate the couple and convince them to marry. She also learns that he has paid for everything but insisted that Mr. Gardiner be given the credit for it. Mrs. Gardiner is convinced that he did it for Elizabeth’s sake, even though Darcy claimed that it was his fault for not making Wickham’s bad reputation known. Honorable man either way.

Prospects for Jane and Elizabeth look grim. Their chances to attract a suitable marriage after thoughtless and wild Lydia’s elopement have ruined the family’s reputation. They have little money for a dowry and few connections outside of Hertfordshire. When news reaches them that Mr. Bingley has returned to Netherfield Jane tries to be unaffected and unmoved. When he calls and brings his friend, Elizabeth does not know what to think.

Her astonishment at his coming — at his coming to Netherfield, to Longbourn, and voluntarily seeking her again, was almost equal to what she had known on first witnessing his altered behaviour in Derbyshire. Chapter 53

And when he is there, neither of them say much to each other nor actively engage in conversation. Our Elizabeth reserved? It must be love.

She was in no humour for conversation with any one but himself; and to him she had hardly courage to speak. The Narrator, Chapter 53

Elizabeth tries to analyze his behavior. She is baffled that he would not seek her out and talk as openly as they had at Pemberley.

“If he fears me, why come hither? If he no longer cares for me, why silent? teasing, teasing, man! I will think no more about him.” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 54

She rationalizes, as only women can, that she is feeling something he is not. Why would he be interested in her again after she refused him so vehemently the first time? No man could be THAT forgiving and gracious.

“A man who has once been refused! How could I ever be foolish enough to expect a renewal of his love? Is there one among the sex who would not protest against such a weakness as a second proposal to the same woman? There is no indignity so abhorrent to their feelings!” Elizabeth Bennet. Chapter 54

And then he departs for London with no real re-connection between them. Bingley on the other hand remains, continues to court Jane and then proposes! This was a surprise. Jane had not thought he was partial again and she continued to act in her usual and unaffected manner, certainly not encouraging him as much as Charlotte Lucas would have approved of. Elizabeth is truly happy for her sister but of course finds the irony in it.

“And this,” said she, “is the end of all his friend’s anxious circumspection! of all his sister’s falsehood and contrivance! — the happiest, wisest, most reasonable end!” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 55

The family is even more ecstatic and in Mrs. Bennet’s eyes Jane and Bingley have superseded Lydia and Wickham as her favorite daughter and son-in-law.  Of course she thinks of the financial and social benefits. What carriages Jane will have. What pin money. Everything is appearances to Mrs. Bennet. She is off in a flash to tell her sister Mrs. Phillips the good news, who, then proceeds to pass it on to the Meryton grapevine.

The Bennets were speedily pronounced to be the luckiest family in the world, though only a few weeks before, when Lydia had first run away, they had been generally proved to be marked out for misfortune. The Narrator, Chapter 55

Ha! And now in Austen’s usual style she follows good news with bad when Lady Catherine de Bourgh pays an unexpected call on the Bennet family, specifically targeting Elizabeth.

“A report of a most alarming nature reached me two days ago. I was told that not only your sister was on the point of being most advantageously married, but that you, that Miss Elizabeth Bennet, would in all likelihood be soon afterwards united to my nephew — my own nephew — Mr. Darcy.” Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Chapter 56

What transpires is one of the most brilliantly written “battle of wits” in literature. Lady Catherine with all of her arrogance and officious interference is determined to make Elizabeth agree not to enter into an engagement with her nephew. Elizabeth won’t even acknowledge her right to ask such questions.

“I do not pretend to possess equal frankness with your ladyship. You may ask questions which I shall not choose to answer.” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 56

So much dignified impertinence, but totally appropriate. We silently root for our heroine. When Lady Catherine sees that she will not comply to her wishes, she stoops to conquer by attacking Elizabeth’s family.

“Not so hasty, if you please. I have by no means done. To all the objections I have already urged, I have still another to add. I am no stranger to the particulars of your youngest sister’s infamous elopement. I know it all: that the young man’s marrying her was a patched-up business, at the expence of your father and uncle. And is such a girl to be my nephew’s sister? Is her husband, is the son of his late father’s steward, to be his brother? Heaven and earth — of what are you thinking? Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?” Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Chapter 56

The shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted! Ha! One of my favorite lines in the novel. If anyone does not understand the reference, shades are used in this instance in the ancient visage meaning ancestors. Lady Catherine is implying that by Elizabeth marrying her nephew their ancient family line would be tainted by Elizabeth’s bad blood. Snob.

Elizabeth does take the field and the war handling herself with more dignity and aplomb than an aristocrat three times her age and experience. Bravo. This amazing intercourse between them does however, give her renewed hope. A rumor of Mr. Darcy’s intended proposal is encouraging. He is not one to discuss this with anyone lightly, so it could be true. But who could have betrayed her to the great Lady?

‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Day 17 Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of the Penguin Classics Deluxe edition of Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen by leaving a comment stating how Lady Catherine lost the argument with Elizabeth 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!

Further reading

Upcoming event posts

Day 18   July 11   Top Ten P&P editions in print
Day 19   July 12   Music at the Netherfield Ball
Day 20   July 14   Group Read: Chapters 57 – 61

Pride and Prejudice: Group Read – Chapters 43-49: Summary, Musings & Discussion: Day 15 Giveaway

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

Quick Synopsis

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.

Musings

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

Further reading

‘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!

Upcoming event posts

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

Pride and Prejudice: Group Read – Chapters 36-42: Summary, Musing & Discussion: Day 13 Giveaway

With a strong prejudice against everything he might say, she began his account of what had happened at Netherfield. She read with an eagerness which hardly left her power of comprehension, and from impatience of knowing what the next sentence might bring, was incapable of attending to the sense of the one before her eyes. The Narrator, Chapter 36

Quick Synopsis

Elizabeth reads Darcy’s letter analyzing every point to discover the truth. She does not agree that her sister Jane was indifferent to Bingley, but after Darcy’s account of his dealings with Wickham admonishers herself for being so blinded by prejudice. Until this moment she never knew herself. She returns to Longbourn to hear that the regiment is leaving for Brighton where Lydia wished to go as guest of Col & Mrs. Forster. Elizabeth strongly warns her father against it. She is “the most determined flirt that ever made herself and her family ridiculous.” Mr. Bennet sees no harm, and Lydia is off to flirt with officers. Elizabeth departs with her aunt & uncle Gardiner for a tour of Derbyshire. They stay at Lambton where Mrs. Gardiner had previously lived. Pemberley is near by and she wished to see it again but Elizabeth is anxious not to see Darcy. She agrees to tour the estate only after learning the family is away, and to Pemberley they go.

Musings

Elizabeth’s reaction to the letter is a journey of discovery as she analyzes Mr. Darcy’s account against her own previous conclusions. At the beginning, she is prejudiced against him. She does not want to believe what he has shared about his assumptions about Jane’s indifference to Bingley or Mr. Wickham’s account of Darcy’s ill treatment of him. Like Elizabeth, I re-read Mr. Darcy’s letter and this chapter several times. There is so much to digest for her, and us, as we witness the process of her mind in weighing both sides of the story. Such strong reactions and disbelief on her part makes us resist – like her – that the information that Darcy has shared might be true. As she goes down every point there is a counterpoint in opposition that she presents. The tide in favor of her believing his explanations begins to turn when Mr. Darcy shares the story of his sister Georgiana’s romance and failed elopement with Mr. Wickham. The story does line up with events that she has learned the previous morning from Col Fitzwilliam.  She then recollects her encounters and conversations with Wickham and sees him in a new light.

She was now struck with the impropriety of such communications to a stranger, and wondered it had escaped her before. She saw the indelicacy of putting himself forward as he (Mr. Wickham) had done, and the inconsistency of his professions with his conduct. The Narrator. Chapter 36

And then she realizes her mistakes, and openly admits them to herself.

“How despicably have I acted!” she cried; “I, who have prided myself on my discernment! I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my sister, and gratified my vanity in useless or blameable distrust. How humiliating is this discovery! yet, how just a humiliation! Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind. But vanity, not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment I never knew myself.” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 36

With that last statement, a heroine of the ages was born. Elizabeth might have been spirited, defiant and impertinent to a fault, but we have now witnessed her greatest asset, the ability to acknowledge her mistakes, admonish herself and see her life in a new light. This is the axis of the novel. The epiphany that Austen wanted us to experience and identify with. A universal truth that we should all know, but is one of the hardest lessons in life to learn. We are all fallible. What we do with our understanding of this is the measure of our life. If you take anything away with you from reading this novel, let it be this.

Wholly inattentive to her sister’s feelings, Lydia flew about the house in restless ecstacy, calling for every one’s congratulations, and laughing and talking with more violence than ever; whilst the luckless Kitty continued in the parlour repining at her fate in terms as unreasonable as her accent was peevish. The Narrator, Chapter 41

As if in complete opposition to Elizabeth having her break-through moment of growth and maturity, Austen changes the focus of the story to silly Lydia, her quest for officers and the Brighton scheme. And what a divergence we are presented with. Unguarded, imprudent and wildly exuberant, Lydia is so out of control that Elizabeth warns her father that at “she will at sixteen, be the most determined flirt that ever made herself and her family ridiculous.” No kidding! Unfortunately, he would prefer not to deal with her and sees the advantage of allowing her to go to Brighton and expose herself in public with as little cost or inconvenience to her family. Despicable parenting. Obviously, the “put blinders on and let them run wild philosophy” was born long before the “me” generation took all the credit for it. I think Lydia was their original poster girl! This passage certainly confirms it.

She saw herself the object of attention to tens and to scores of them at present unknown. She saw all the glories of the camp — its tents stretched forth in beauteous uniformity of lines, crowded with the young and the gay, and dazzling with scarlet; and, to complete the view, she saw herself seated beneath a tent, tenderly flirting with at least six officers at once. The Narrator, Chapter 41

La! So Lydia departs for Brighton with Col and Mrs. Forster. Out of sight, out of mind. Elizabeth deals with the gloom, misery and lamentations in her household of Kitty and Mrs. Bennet’s grief over the regiment moving to Brighton by looking forward to her trip to the Lakes with her aunt and uncle Gardiner. Their plans change and their travel is redirected to Derbyshire where Mrs. Gardiner formerly lived. She wished to see the beauties of Matlock, Chatsworth, Dovedale, or the Peak once again. Apprehensive about entering the same county as Mr. Darcy’s main residence, Elizabeth and the Gardiners depart on their journey north in pursuit of novelty and amusement. They bend their steps toward Lambton, Mrs. Gardiner’s former residence, and her aunt informs her that Pemberley is only five miles away. She has an inclination to see it again. Elizabeth does not. The possibility of meeting Mr. Darcy while viewing his home would be dreadful. Getting the low down on the Darcy family from the people in the know (the chambermaid) she is assured that the family is away and sees no harm in viewing a grand estate that she has heard so much about. With all of her alarms removed – “To Pemberley, therefore, they were to go.

Further reading

‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Day 13 Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of Longman’s Cultural edition of Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen by leaving a comment stating what Elizabeth’s announcement “Till this moment I never knew myself.” means to you 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 14  July 05     Food at the Netherfield Ball
Day 15  July 07     Group Read: Chapters 43 – 49
Day 16  July 09     William Gilpin and Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice: Group Read – Chapters 15-21: Summary, Musings & Discussion: Day 7 Giveaway

Elizabeth, happening to see the countenance of both as they looked at each other, was all astonishment at the effect of the meeting. Both changed colour; one looked white, the other red. Mr. Wickham, after a few moments, touched his hat — a salutation which Mr. Darcy just deigned to return. What could be the meaning of it? The Narrator, Chapter 15

Quick Synopsis

Mr. Collins has designs on marrying one of the Bennet daughters. The ladies walk to Meryton and are introduced to Mr. Wickham. Bingley and Darcy arrive to join the group. Elizabeth notices Darcy and Wickham’s reaction when they meet. At a card party at the Phillips’, Wickham reveals his history with Mr. Darcy who has treated him badly, ruining his future. This confirms Elizabeth’s dislike of him. The Bennet’s and Mr. Collins attend the Netherfield Ball. Elizabeth dances with Mr. Darcy and she tries to analyses his character which puzzles her exceedingly. Jane and Bingley’s romance progresses. Elizabeth is embarrassed by her family’s inappropriate behavior in front of Darcy and the Bingley sisters. Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth. She refuses, much to Mrs. Bennet’s displeasure. A letter arrives from Caroline Bingley. The Netherfield party has departed for London with no immediate plans to return. Elizabeth blames the snooty Bingley sisters for parting them. Jane is heartbroken. Mrs. Bennet is despondent.

Musings

Even though Mr. Collins is not a sensible man, Mrs. Bennet’s ill opinion of him changes to favorable once she realizes he is wife hunting at Longbourn. He fancies Jane, but she redirects his attention to Elizabeth, her most ill-suited daughter for his needs. This is a great example of her ineptitude in reading personalities. Her daughter Elizabeth who claims to be a student on the subject observes Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham’s reaction when they first meet on the street in Meryton. One turns white and the other red. Which turns what color has long been a favorite Janeite debate. My bet is on Darcy turning white with horror and Wickham red with embarrassment. You can throw your theory into the ring! We learn a bit more about the Bennet’s aunt Phillips and how the grape vine worked so efficiently in Regency times.

Mrs. Philips a very attentive listener, whose opinion of his consequence increased with what she heard, and who was resolving to retail it all among her neighbours as soon as she could. The Narrator, Chapter 16

Since communication is by word of mouth or by written letter, visiting their aunt in Meryton for news would be the big event of the day for the Bennet ladies. Mrs. Phillips seems to be the hub of information gathering bits from friends, servants and townsfolk and passing it on. Her party is swimming with news and information. Everyone is enamored with Wickham’s gentlemanlike appearance and all the ladies are eager for his attention, but Elizabeth is the lucky lady. I wonder why he selected her to confide his ill-treatment by Darcy? Because she quickly reveals her dislike of him? On first acquaintance he reveals way too much information for my comfort, but Elizabeth is all ears and eager to side with him against Darcy. We know that Elizabeth is clever and observant, but gullible too? In her defense, his story is so believable. Every question she raises that might challenge the validity is met with a plausible explanation. Why not expose Darcy’s bad behavior to others?He does not want to sully the memory of old Mr. Darcy’s fondness for him. Why can’t he seek legal recourse? There is just such an impediment in the will to prevent it. His story makes him out to be an honorable gentleman and Darcy proud and spiteful. Elizabeth leaves the party satisfied with more information to confirm her beliefs about Darcy and her head full of Mr. Wickham.

“To find a man agreeable whom one is determined to hate! Do not wish me such an evil.” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 18

The Netherfield Ball sees a confident Elizabeth sparing with Mr. Darcy for her own gratification and then the tables turning on her when her family’s inappropriate behavior embarrasses her in front of him and the Bingley sisters. I have long admired chapter 18 as one of the best that Austen has written. Everything about it just shines. The set-up, the dialogue and the outcome are one of three important axis’ of the novel. The conversation of Elizabeth and Darcy while they dance is eye popping. You can just see the sparks fly. She has gone way beyond playful and is duly impertinent.

“I have always seen a great similarity in the turn of our minds. We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the éclat of a proverb.” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 18

She and the community have called Mr. Darcy proud and arrogant, but she has sunk to that precipice in her indignant goading of Mr. Darcy. She is mocking him. She cannot make out his character. It puzzles her exceedingly. What? She knows exactly what his character is and it has been confirmed by Wickham’s story. She is pleased with herself and above her company until the tide turns with Sir William Lucas’ comment to Darcy about Jane and Bingley’s impending marriage. Now her family’s inappropriate behavior will embarrass her into reality. Her mother brags too loudly about the benefits of Jane and Bingley’s marriage throwing other rich men in the path of her other daughters, Mary plays and sings so badly that her father asks her to stop to let other young ladies exhibit, Lydia and Kitty are chasing after officers and Mr. Collins decides to introduce himself to Mr. Darcy even though they have not been formally introduced. Horrors, mortification and shame.

That his two sisters and Mr. Darcy, however, should have such an opportunity of ridiculing her relations, was bad enough, and she could not determine whether the silent contempt of the gentleman, or the insolent smiles of the ladies, were more intolerable. The Narrator, Chapter 18

Much has been written about Mr. Collins’ proposal to Elizabeth and I will be brief. His pompous reasons for marrying and his lack of feelings for Elizabeth are evident. Her turn down is a warm up to what we all know is coming. (No spoilers for first timers, I promise) The effusive language that Austen chooses to use for him is just so perfect. He talks just to hear his own voice. No less than five times he is not dissuaded by her refusal. Is he listening? No, and that is the beauty of his conceit for our enjoyment and Elizabeth’s exasperation. He and Mrs. Bennet have a lot in common in that respect. They both talk for their own gratification, certain that their way is the best. Mr. Bennet seems to pick this up and is amused by their absurd behavior. When his wife insists that he convince Elizabeth to marry Mr. Collins, and then the opposite happens, he gets the last say. It is one of the best examples of Austen’s brilliant use of irony.

“An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.” Mr. Bennet, Chapter 20

And then the other shoe drops. All of Elizabeth’s fears about her family’s crass behavior come to fruition. The Netherfield party departs for London and with them, Jane’s romance and Mrs. Bennet’s hopes of a daughter happily married. Ugh.

Further reading

‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Day 7 Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of the Insight Edition of Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen by leaving a comment stating what is your favorite scene at the Netherfield Ball 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 08  June 25     Tourism in Jane Austen’s Era
Day 09  June 26     Group Read: Chapters 22 – 28
Day 10  June 28     Dancing at the Netherfield Ball

Pride and Prejudice: Group Read – Chapters 1-7: Summary, Musings & Discussion: Day 2 Giveaway

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. The Narrator, Chapter 1

Quick Synopsis

Charles Bingley, a single man of good fortune lets the estate of Netherfield Park, bringing his two fashionable sisters and rich friend Mr. Darcy into the social sphere of the Bennet family of Longbourn, local gentry who have five daughters to marry off with little dowry. Bingley is immediately attracted to eldest sister Jane, but Mr. Darcy finds no beauty in anyone and snubs second daughter Elizabeth by refusing to dance with her. His proud airs and arrogant manners give offense to all. The ladies of Longbourn visit the supercilious Bingley sisters at Netherfield. Elizabeth and Darcy cross paths. He is intrigued by her spirit and fine eyes. She thinks him disagreeable and proud. Mrs. Bennet brags about Jane and Bingley’s romance, convinced they will marry. Charlotte Lucas is not so certain. Jane is invited to Netherfield arriving on horseback in the rain, catching a cold. Elizabeth visits her having walked 3 miles in the mud. The Bingley sisters are appalled by her appearance, but ask her to stay to tend to her sister.

Musings

For as many times as I have seen the often over-quoted first line of Pride and Prejudice it still makes me laugh. Its verbal irony just sets the tone of the novel and makes me value Austen’s skill as a storyteller all the more. Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy, two wealthy and eligible bachelors, do not enter the neighborhood in want of a wife. Quite the contrary. That they should be the rightful property of one of the local daughters is the truth universally acknowledged. It is the ladies of the community who are in need of a husband. A good match was what was expected of a young lady, and Mrs. Bennet with her five daughters, little dowry and an entailed estate is determined that it will happen. The fact that two such eligible gentlemen land unannounced in a neighborhood with few other local prospects is a gold mine to her, and every other mother in the county. No wonder she is in frenzy and determined to beat the other local families to his door. Mr. Bennet is nonplused. He would rather stay in his library than do his duty to his family, keeping them in suspense with the news that he has already introduced himself to his new neighbor. When Mr. Bingley and his party do appear at the Meryton Assembly, only one of the two gentlemen makes the cut. Bingley is amiable and agreeable, dancing and socializing. A true good catch. But his friend Mr. Darcy, though handsome, and richer, gives immediate offense to all with his arrogance and pride.

His character was decided. He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and every body hoped that he would never come there again. The Narrator, Chapter 3

When he snubs our heroine Elizabeth Bennet by calling her only tolerable and not handsome enough to tempt him to dance, we know that this black mark will not be easy to erase. I have always been puzzled that the community would be so quick to condemn him just based on his haughty demeanor. Money and social standing can be a strong equalizer of any shortfall. It is easy to forgive a rich man his offenses because, he has all the power. Wise Charlotte Lucas sees this and tells her friend Lizzy so, though in a round-about-way.

“His pride,” said Miss Lucas, “does not offend me so much as pride often does, because there is an excuse for it. One cannot wonder that so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, everything in his favour, should think highly of himself. If I may so express it, he has a right to be proud.”

“That is very true,” replied Elizabeth, “and I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.” Charlotte Lucas and Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 5

That Mrs. Bennet is so quick to disqualify Darcy as a prospect for one of her daughters is amusing. Both Bingley and Darcy are rich and socially connected, yet she is vehemently opposed to Darcy because of his arrogant manners. In the Regency world, that is not prudent. Austen is showing us that Mrs. Bennet is not a clever woman, or she would be scheming to win his favor for one of her girls. Charlotte Lucas on the other hand reveals to Elizabeth how the world really works. Elizabeth who has declared she will only marry for love is quick to disqualify Darcy for her own personal reasons. He has wounded her pride by calling her only tolerable. She instantly agrees with her mother on her assessment of him. “I believe, ma’am, I may safely promise you never to dance with him.” Austen is showing us Elizabeth’s rash judgment in siding with her mother. We know from Mrs. Bennet’s previous conversations that she is not the best judge of character or the sharpest knife in the drawer. Elizabeth is clever. For her to succumb to her mother’s level is a red flag.

Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticise. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. The Narrator, Chapter 6

Hmm? Darcy is changing his tact? Why? What intrigues him about Elizabeth enough to admit his interest in a young lady of no wealth and little consequence to his friends? That opens himself up for attack. Elizabeth notices him watching her and is puzzled. Her reaction is to harden her line of defense. “He has a very satirical eye, and if I do not begin by being impertinent myself, I shall soon grow afraid of him.” Then in an act of total defiance she refuses to dance with him when he finally asks her, walking away in triumph. Nice psychological interchange here. Unknowingly, Elizabeth has just given him the strongest reasons to want her. Her indifference and rejection. It’s as old as the ages and works every time. Men cannot stand to lose. They love the chase. We know how much this has affected him when of all people, he admits to Caroline Bingley that he admires her fine eyes. Bold strategy to derail Caroline’s interest in him, or the impulse of smitten man? Caroline’s reaction is classic female counteract. Deride your opponent. “I am all astonishment. How long has she been such a favourite? — and pray, when am I to wish you joy?”  Ouch.

“I admire the activity of your benevolence,” observed Mary, “but every impulse of feeling should be guided by reason; and, in my opinion, exertion should always be in proportion to what is required.” Mary Bennet, Chapter 7

Just a brief word on Mary Bennet. A minor character, she only has eight passages of lines in the novel. This is one of her best. On the few occasions that she does speak, they are gems of ironic subjection. A giant punctuation point of out-of-sync advice that never fails to roll my eyes. Hear, hear for the clueless, the inept, and the oblivious! Thanks for the laughs Mary.

Further reading

‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Day 2 Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of Barnes & Noble Classics edition Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about Mr. Darcy’s change of heart toward Elizabeth, 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 3 – June 18 P&P Publishing History
Day 4 – June 19 Group Read: Chapters 8-14
Day 5 – June 20 P&P (Naxos Audio) Review

‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Event & Novel Introduction: Day 1 Giveaway

Welcome

Over the next month we will be delving into Jane Austen’s most popular work, Pride and Prejudice by celebrating our origins, the novel, without any paranormal or mythical creatures mashed into it. Included with the event will be a group read, guest blogs on history, culture, plot, characterization, movie and book reviews and its burgeoning legacy, the sequels. Be sure to check out the complete event schedule and mark your calendars.

Novel Introduction

Considered a masterpiece of world literature by scholars and critics, Pride and Prejudice is equally appreciated by the general reading public often topping international polls of the “the most loved” or “favorite books” of all time. Numerous stage and screen adaptations continue to remind us of its incredible draw to the modern audience and reaffirm its value financially and culturally. Its hero and heroine Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet may be the most famous romantic couple short of Romeo and Juliet. Its plot, characters and style have been widely admired, often emulated but rarely equaled. High praise indeed for a novel written almost two hundred years ago by a clergyman’s daughter raised in the English countryside of Hampshire, home schooled by her father and unexalted in her lifetime. If Pride and Prejudice is the long shot of literature, then we are the lucky owners in the winner’s circle.

First published in 1813, Pride and Prejudice was Jane Austen’s second novel after Sense and Sensibility in 1811. Written between 1796 and 1797, when Jane was not one and twenty, the edition we see today was not her first concept. Originally called First Impressions it was written in the epistolary format popular with contemporary novels such as Fanny Burney’s Evelina. Jane’s father Rev. George Austen was so confident in his daughter’s work that he pursued publication contacting one of the leading publishers Cadell & Davies in London only to have the manuscript returned by post unopened. After the success of Sense and Sensibility, Austen would make extensive revisions “lopping and cropping” the manuscript, retitling it and presenting it to her current publisher Thomas Egerton. He paid her £110 for the copyright. That was the only money she would ever earn from her most popular work. It is estimated that 20 million copies of it have been sold world-wide to date.

Set in the country village of Longbourn in Hertfordshire, the story revolves around the Bennet family and their five unmarried daughters. They are the first family of consequence in the village, unfortunately the Longbourn estate is entailed by default to a male heir, their cousin Mr. William Collins. This is distressful to Mrs. Bennet who knows that she must find husbands for her daughters or they shall all be destitute if her husband should die. Mr. Bennet is not as concerned and spends his time in his library away from his wife’s idle chatter and social maneuvering. The second eldest daughter Elizabeth is spirited and confident, wanting only to marry for love. She teases her eldest sister Jane that she must catch a wealthy husband with her beauty and good nature and support them. The three younger sisters Mary, Catherine and Lydia hinder their sister’s chances for a good match by inappropriate and unguarded behavior.

When Mr. Bingley, a single man of large fortune, moves into the neighborhood with his fashionable sisters he attends the local Meryton assembly ball and is immediately taken with beautiful Jane Bennet. His friend Mr. Darcy is even richer with a great estate in Derbyshire, but is proud and arrogant giving offense to all including Elizabeth by refusing to dance with her. She overhears him tell Bingley that she was only tolerable and not handsome enough to tempt him. This amuses and annoys her enough to repeat it to her friends and family. The whole community declares him the most disagreeable man, eaten up with pride.

Elizabeth and Darcy continue to cross paths and she challenges his contempt with impertinence. He is intrigued. She is indifferent. When the militia regiment arrives at Meryton, Elizabeth is introduced to the handsome Lieutenant Wickham who quickly reveals Mr. Darcy’s ill treatment of him, ruining his future. This only confirms Elizabeth’s prejudices against him. Jane and Bingley’s blossoming relationship seems to be a certain match in Mrs. Bennet’s view. As she brags about it to her neighbors, Elizabeth’s friend Charlotte Lucas is not so sure, advising her that Jane should show more affection than she feels. The Bennet’s cousin Rev. Collins arrives with the design of marrying one of the Bennet daughters. He is an odious, pompous man who extols upon the condescension of his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh and his comfortable arrangement as her pastor on her estate in Kent. He proposes to Elizabeth and she is appalled, refusing him. Mrs. Bennet will never speak to Lizzy if she does not marry Mr. Collins. Ironically, her father will not speak to her if she does, winning the argument and saving Elizabeth from certain misery.

Then, as abruptly as Mr. Bingley arrived in the county, he and his party depart for London with no immediate plans to return. Jane is heartbroken, Elizabeth puzzled and Mrs. Bennet despondent. Elizabeth is pleased that Mr. Darcy is gone, but saddened for her sisters loss of Bingley. What could it all mean? Elizabeth suspects Mr. Darcy and Bingley’s snobbish sisters have influenced his decision. The Bennet’s are not refined or rich enough for their society and they have separated them. Surprisingly, Charlotte Lucas reveals that she and Mr. Collins are to be married. Impossible declares Elizabeth who is told by her friend that she is not romantic like her. Elizabeth now realizes that marrying only for love might mean not marrying at all.

List of Characters

Reading Resources

We hope that you can join us during ‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’ as we discover the delights of one of Jane Austen’s most witty and romantic novels. We can guarantee absolutely a whole month of P&P madness sans zombies, vampires, werewolves, sea monsters, mummies, androids, trolls, angels, demons and any other paranormal or mythical creatures that are even thinking about appearing in a Jane Austen mash-up, prequel, retelling or sequel.

If you would like to join in the group read it’s time to read (or recite from memory) the first seven chapters. Be prepared to express your opinions decidedly. You can check out the event schedule and join in the group read of the novel which begins tomorrow, June 16th. Laurel Ann is also in a spring cleaning frenzy and culling her overflowing Austen bookshelves, so swag will run amuck.

We promise that no natural beauty will be counteracted by an awkward taste. ;-) Cross our heart and swear upon our Old Manor House edition of The Novels of Jane Austen, edited by R. Brimley Johnson (1906).

Laurel Ann

‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’ Day 1 Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of Penguin Classics edition Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about the novel, or which is your favorite quote 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 2 – June 16 Group Read: Chapters 1-7
Day 3 – June 18 P&P Publishing History
Day 4 – June 19 Group Read: Chapter 8-14