Austen at Large: Vote for your Favorite Pride and Prejudice Bachelor

The bachelors of Pride and Prejudice

In thinking about Pride and Prejudice for the last couple of weeks, my mind has naturally wondered to the men in this novel, the single men particularly. As a young woman of 20, it is a subject that my mind often turns to. There are more young single men in this novel than any other that I can think of, and some of the best and worst. The men that jump to my mind as the bachelors of Pride and Prejudice are George Wickham, William Collins, Charles Bingley, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Fitzwilliam Darcy and the gang of militia officers that Lydia and Kitty run after. All these men offer the girls in the novel different things. Some offer love, some security, and the very best ones offer both. These 5 different men, I think, show a lot about relationships.

Rupert Friend as George Wickham, Pride & Prejudice (2005)Lt. George Wickham (son of Mr. Darcy’s stewart) is the dashing young man who flatters Elizabeth’s vanity by choosing to pay her attention. Elizabeth is not only flattered by him but she is also manipulated into believing his back story of his life and his history with Darcy. Wickham is dashing, smart and clever yet he has no fortune and does not have a steady work history (though he blames others for this). Wickham is probably the best looking bachelor and uses this to his advantage in the women that he tries to win. He is definitely a player as well in the novel, we see him or hear about him with many women including Georgiana, Elizabeth, Miss King and Lydia. This is not a very good track record for someone yet he still manages to get girls. Wickham is the dashing young officer that every girl dreams of and every mother loves until they find out his true colors.

David Bamber as Rev. Mr. Colins, Pride and Prejudice (1995)Rev. Mr. William Collins (Rector of Hunsford in Kent) thinks he is a big fish in a little pond. He comes to Longbourn for the purpose of choosing a wife. He is not a romantic though he offers his wife security. When he finds out that Jane is almost off the market he simply moves down the line to Lizzy, thus showing just how unromantic he is. (I have always wondered if Bingley was not in the picture if Jane would have married Collins or if Mrs. Bennet would have at least tried to get them together?). Mr. Collins is a buffoon to say the very least of his character. I think he is more in love with Lady Catherine than he is with Charlotte. In my class of 20 year old college students it was of course brought up that there was a “young olive branch” coming to the Collins family. And as my teacher point out, “there is only one way to get an olive branch!”. Life with Mr. Collins might not be grand but if a woman wanted to get out of her parents house it might he might seem like a good catch.

Simon Woods as Charles Bingley, Pride & Prejudice (2005)Mr. Charles Bingley (age 22, heir to £100,000)  is an interesting bachelor because he is so important yet we hear so little of him except through other people. After all he is introduced in the first page of the novel yet we rarely get a conversation with Bingley and his love Jane. I have always wondered what they were talking about at all those dinner parties and dances. Bingley is the “nice guy” though he is a little too easily lead by others I feel like. Bingley is wonderful guy who is rich and yet willing to love Jane and see past her family flaws and her lack of money. Bingley also stays in love with Jane when he is in London and separated. He is a wonderful bachelor but is perhaps there is still something lacking in Bingley, a strong spirit or a passion perhaps. It is hard to pinpoint though because he just seems so nice and caring.

Anthony Calf as Colonel Fitzwilliam, Pride and Prejudice (1995)Colonel Fitzwilliam (younger son of an Earl & cousin of Mr. Darcy) is one of my favorite bachelors. He is charming, an officer (so he is in a red coat) and gentlemanly. He makes good conversation and comes from a good family. Colonel Fitswilliams only down fall is that he is a second son so that he cannot marry merely for love but also for money. I have always thought that he is one of my favorite guys in the novel just because of the openness he has with Elizabeth and how conversational and charming he is. He does not always bring good news to be sure, but he can openly talk with her which I think is important. Though he has good family connections and visits Rosing it does not seem to taint his understanding of the world or his pride or vanity. He is a complete gentleman, if only he was a first son! Plus he is in a red coat, and those look soo good!

David Rintoul as Fitzwilliam Darcy, Pride and Prejudice (1980)Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy (age 28, of Pemberley in Derbyshire with £10,000 a year) is the hero of the novel and what a man he is! He is smart, clever yet perhaps a little shy when it comes to meeting new people. He is proud but comes from a good family and has a good upbringing. He is a loving brother and his servants speak very highly of him. He is also giving and forgiving which is very important especially with Elizabeth. One of my favorite aspects of Darcy is that he changes in the end and sees how he was wrong before. At the beginning of the novel he is proud and arrogant but by the end he is more understanding and has changed for the better. Mr. Darcy is also able to keep up with Elizabeth in their banter back and forth with not only shows his wit but also his spirit though it seems a little suppressed she draws it out of him. Mr. Darcy as the hero of the novel is an amazing bachelor and we kind of wonder why he has not married before now (it is of course because he has not met Elizabeth yet!)

David Bark-Jones as Lt. Denny, Pride and Prejudice (1995)Colonel Forster & Co (the _shire Militia) The officers of the militia are Kitty and Lydia’s dream bachelors and we can see why. They are young, fun and wear dashing red coats. Yet they lack the maturity is similar to the girls that are chasing them. If I had to equate them to guys today I would say that they were frat boys who were interested in having a good time but who were not interested in settling down.

So gentle readers, who would you vote for? I think I might have to go for Colonel Fitzwilliam myself because I love red coats and yet I would want someone with a little more substance and conversation than just a normal officer. Bingley is too nice for me and though Darcy is wonderful, I would be happy to settle for his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam.

Until Next week,

Virginia Claire

Virginia Claire, our Austen at Large roving reporter is a college student studying English literature and history who just returned from her time studying abroad in Bath England and working as an intern at the Jane Austen Centre. She is the Regional Coordinator of JASNA North Carolina and a lifelong Janeite. She will be sharing her thoughts on all things Austen this semester and remembering her travels in Austenland.

Pride and Prejudice: “What sort of a girl is Miss Darcy?”

During the course of my merry internet travels, I happened upon this beautiful portrait of a young Regency woman and immediately thought of Miss Georgiana, the younger sister of Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. The peaceful countenance and the shy repose is so gentle and demure, recalling the young Miss Darcy as she is eventually revealed in the novel. The portrait is of Kitty Packe, (nee Hort) painted by Sir William Beechey (1753-1839) circa 1818-1821. She married Charles William Packe of Prestwold Hall, Leicestershire in 1823. The painting now resides at the Oklahoma City Art Museum, though according to their website is unfortunately not on view. It is disturbing to think of Miss Georgian tucked away in some storeroom, not worthy of being on view to the public! This painting deserves a prominent position in a grand room in an English manor house. It saddens me to think that England’s national treasures are sold away from their heritage, and then not displayed. Well, now on to happier thoughts. 

And what sort of girl is Miss Darcy really like? The character of Georgiana Darcy is a bit of a mystery to the heroine of Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth Bennet, and the reader. From the very first volume of the novel Elizabeth hears reports of Miss Georgiana from various sources, favorable and otherwise depending who is telling the tale. When Elizabeth is staying at the Bingley’s residence of Netherfield Park during her sister Jane’s illness, we first learn in chapter eight of Miss Georgiana as she is mentioned in conversation with Mr. Darcy by Caroline Bingley and we given our first hints at her physical description. 

“Is Miss Darcy much grown since the spring?” said Miss Bingley; “will she be as tall as I am?”  

“I think she will. She is now about Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s height, or rather taller.”  

“How I long to see her again! I never met with anybody who delighted me so much. Such a countenance, such manners! and so extremely accomplished for her age! Her performance on the pianoforte is exquisite.” 

This favorable description, mind you, is from a source that Elizabeth finds influenced by a desire to please Mr. Darcy rather than praise its subject. Later we hear a completely different story when Mr. Wickham describes Georgiana to Elizabeth in chapter 16. 

“What sort of a girl is Miss Darcy?” He shook his head. “I wish I could call her amiable. It gives me pain to speak ill of a Darcy. But she is too much like her brother — very, very proud. As a child, she was affectionate and pleasing, and extremely fond of me; and I have devoted hours and hours to her amusement. But she is nothing to me now. She is a handsome girl, about fifteen or sixteen, and I understand, highly accomplished. Since her father’s death, her home has been London, where a lady lives with her, and superintends her education.” 

Disparity of opinion is a theme that runs throughout the novel. Elizabeth is given two accounts of one event or person from two different sources. Which one will she believe? Is Miss Darcy as extremely accomplished as Miss Bingley touts her to be, or is she the very, very proud and forgetful childhood friend that Wickham wishes Elizabeth to find fault with, — as he does? 

So Miss Darcy remains in Elizabeth’s mind as proud and arrogant as her brother until a surprising dialogue with the Pemberley housekeeper Mrs. Reynolds in chapter 43, who shows Elizabeth a very different side to Mr. Darcy and his sister.  

“And is Miss Darcy as handsome as her brother?” said Mr. Gardiner.  

“Oh! yes — the handsomest young lady that ever was seen; and so accomplished! She plays and sings all day long. In the next room is a new instrument just come down for her — a present from my master; she comes here to-morrow with him.”  

Another opinion is presented that Georgiana is accomplished. Well, Elizabeth has heard this all before, holding her doubts in suspense for a bit longer until she has the pleasure of being introduced to Georgiana by her brother at the Inn at Lambton in chapter 44. She can now judge for herself and know the value of the two diverse opinions that she has been presented. 

Miss Darcy was tall, and on a larger scale than Elizabeth; and, though little more than sixteen, her figure was formed, and her appearance womanly and graceful. She was less handsome than her brother; but there was sense and good-humour in her face, and her manners were perfectly unassuming and gentle. Elizabeth, who had expected to find in her as acute and unembarrassed an observer as ever Mr. Darcy had been, was much relieved by discerning such different feelings. The Narrator, Chapter 44 

As Austen turns the table of belief and disbelief for our heroine one more time, part of the mystery surrounding the true nature of Miss Georgiana is dispelled. Elizabeth who has been making judgments on people throughout the novel based on others accounts and opinions is now faced with the truth in her own eyes, and believes it. Georgina is not an acute and unembarrassed observer (proud and arrogant) as she supposed. Much to her (and our) astonishment, it is quite the contrary.

Further reading

Deigned to return

Image of Pride & Prejudice book cover, Purnell Books, Maidenhead, (1976)DEIGNED 

when they were suddenly arrested by the sight of the stranger, and 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? — It was impossible to imagine; it was impossible not to long to know. The Narrator on Mr. Wickham & Mr. Darcy, Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 15

I have often thought that this scene is like a fast Quadrille dance with couples swirling in and out, changing partners, then the music stops, everyone is dizzy and no one ends up with who they were originally partnered with. My head is spinning!

We see three parties meeting by accident on the streets of Meryton; Elizabeth and her sisters with Mr. Collins, meet Mr. Denny who introduces them to Mr. Whickham, and then Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy on horseback. Mr. Darcy sees Whickham, and in an instant, the shock of recognition turns one white, the other red. Jane Austen orchestrates it all so smoothly, but it is an important scene that introduces a new character, and a mystery. Just the fact that Elizabeth’s curiosity is peeked by the interchange significantly raises the interest for the reader.

Jane Austen does not indicate which of the gentlemen turns white or red. To reveal it outright, would tell too much and she knows it. It has often been debated by Janeites, and if you think you know the answer based on human emotions, then you might be right!

I had to comment on the book cover illustration that I included with this post because it is just so darn corny. Not only are the characters in obvious Victorian era attire, but the artistic style reminds me of the less expenive, dare I say, CHEAP romance novels from the 1970’s. My only conclusion was that the publisher Purnell Books of Maidenhead, England was attempting to appeal to a wider audience. Jane has made many happy, or rich.

*Image of the book cover illustration of Pride & Prejudice, Purnell Books, Maidenhead, (1976)