“He (Mr. Darcy) likes to have his own way very well,” replied Colonel Fitzwilliam. “But so we all do. It is only that he has better means of having it than many others, because he is rich, and many others are poor. I speak feelingly. A younger son, you know, must be inured to self-denial and dependence.” Colonel Fitzwilliam, Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 33
As Elizabeth Bennet and Colonel Fitzwilliam walk in Rosings Park, their conversation turns to from travel to a very serious matter, – – money and marriage. We learn from this conversation the importance and power that fortune affords the lucky individuals that are born to it. In Colonel Fitzwilliam’s case, he is the second son of an Earl, and as such will not inherit his father’s estates, and must earn his living or marry into it.
It is interesting to ponder what life would have been like in Regency England if property was not inherited solely by the eldest son. Jane Austen certainly understood male primogeniture, but one is mystified by the sheer number of people that were inured by it’s outcome. It’s power drove the culture of a nation.
Learn more about understanding the cultural nuances of Regency gentry in this great study guide by Jane Austen stage director and adaptation writer Pamela Whalen, from the Jane Austen Society of Australia.