One of my favorite scenes in Pride and Prejudice, and quite possibly in all literature, is the confrontation by Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Elizabeth Bennet in the prettyish kind of little wilderness at Longbourn. Lady Catherine has just heard an alarming report that her nephew, Mr. Darcy, was shortly to be engaged to Miss Bennet. The conversation, cat and mouse to be sure, is one of the most amazing dialogues in print. I will leave it to the reader to decide who is the cat, and who the mouse!
Each of the movie adaptations has made their attempt to capture Jane Austen’s incredibly civil, uncivil conversation between two opposing forces. Here are film clips for comparison created by Lelablue on Youtube for your enjoyment. Watch each of the versions and vote for your favorite.
P&P 1940: staring Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennet and Edna May Oliver as Lady Catherine
P&P 1980: staring Elizabeth Garvie as Elizabeth Bennet and Judy Parfitt as Lady Catherine
P&P 1995: Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet and Barbara Leigh-Hunt as Lady Catherine
Gentle Readers: in celebration of the ‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’ event over the next month, I have asked several of my fellow Jane Austen bloggers to share their knowledge and interest in Austen’s most popular novel. Today, please welcome guest blogger Mags from AustenBlog who shares with us her extensive knowledge of Regency history. Today she explores who drives what in P&P and why. Elizabeth may object to traveling fifty miles from Kent to Hertfordshire, but what is fifty miles of good road if you have a fine carriage? (or Henry Tilney to drive you)
An author—especially a talented and clever one like Jane Austen—subtly imparts information about her characters with details such as their occupation, their mode of conversation, and even something seemingly so minor as their carriage. In Pride and Prejudice, the alert reader can pick up information not only about the characters but about the plot itself from the type of carriage used by a character in a particular situation.
In Jane Austen’s day, a carriage was definitely a luxury item. They were expensive to purchase, naturally, and there were ongoing expenses in repair, storage, coachmen to care for and operate them, and the ongoing expenses of maintaining or renting horses to pull them; so it was a matter of interest to the impertinently nosy whether a person kept a carriage, and what kind. It was almost a method of broadcasting one’s wealth to the world.
“I do not believe a word of it, my dear. If he had been so very agreeable, he would have talked to Mrs. Long. But I can guess how it was; every body says that he is ate up with pride, and I dare say he had heard somehow that Mrs. Long does not keep a carriage, and had come to the ball in a hack chaise.”
Not that he isn’t capable of snobbery, but one suspects Mr. Darcy doesn’t particularly care about Mrs. Long and her carriage or lack thereof, and had plenty of other reasons not to talk to that lady at the Meryton assembly. Mrs. Bennet is here perhaps passing off her own personal snobbery onto Darcy.
She had even condescended to advise him to marry as soon as he could, provided he chose with discretion; and had once paid him a visit in his humble parsonage; where she had perfectly approved all the alterations he had been making, and had even vouchsafed to suggest some herself, — some shelves in the closets up stairs.The Narrator on Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Pride & Prejudice Chapter 14
Group sigh – – roll eyes upward! Shelves in the closet? Really Lady Catherine. Talk about micro-managing!!!
Jane Austen has created one the most memorable antagonist to ever make herself officious. Is Austen making a statement through the character of Lady Catherine de Bourgh about the importance of social strata in Regency England, or is she mocking the declining aristocracy and their projected self importance?
Lady Catherine’s attention to every trifiling detail of her parishioners is both humourous and alarming. Shall we intervene, and sallie her forth into therapy and vouchsafed her treatment?