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okay i first tried to read this months ago (And it was my first book to read) and i was shocked cause i didn’t know it was classic old english book. my head wasn’t able to handle all that deep vocabs so i stopped lol.

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anyway i really truly enjoyed reading this book. the rollercoaster ride of darcy and elizabeth’s love and life was quite a journey i’ll treasure.

vowing to love without pride and prejudice, abi.
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Pride and Prejudice

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Table of Contents

From the Pages of Pride and Prejudice

Title Page

Copyright Page

Jane Austen

The World of Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice


Volume the First

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Volume the Second

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Volume the Third

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19


Inspired by Pride and Prejudice

Comments & Questions

For Further Reading

From the Pages of

Pride and Prejudice

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. (page 5)

“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least.” (page 7)

“Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves; vanity to what we would have others think of us.” (page 21)

“Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.” (page 24)

“I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love!” (page 45)

“To find a man agreeable whom one is determined to hate! Do not wish me such an evil.” (page 91)

“Those who do not complain are never pitied.” (page 113)

Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object: it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and, however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their;  pleasantest preservative from want. (page 122)

“Stupid men are the only ones worth knowing, after all.” (page 154)

They parted at last with mutual civility, and possibly a mutual desire of never meeting again. (page 229)

She found, what has been sometimes found before, that an event to which she had looked forward with impatient desire, did not, in taking place, bring all the satisfaction she had promised herself. It was consequently necessary to name some other period for the commencement of actual felicity; to have some other point on which her wishes and hopes might be fixed, and by again enjoying the pleasure of anticipation, console herself for the present, and prepare for another disappointment. (page 232)

“How strange this is! And for this we are to be thankful. That they should marry, small as is their chance of happiness, and wretched as is his character, we are forced to rejoice!” (page 294)

She was convinced that she could have been happy with him, when it was no longer likely they should meet. (page 301)

“You must learn some of my philosophy. Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.” (page 356)

“I am the happiest creature in the world. Perhaps other people have said so before, but no one with such justice. I am happier even than Jane; she only smiles, I laugh.” (page 369)

Published by Barnes & Noble Books

122 Fifth Avenue

New York, NY 10011

Pride and Prejudice was first published in 1813.

Originally published in mass market paperback format in 2003 by Barnes &

Noble Classics with new Introduction, Notes, Biography, Chronology,

Inspired By, Comments & Questions, and For Further Reading.

Trade paperback edition published in 2004.

Introduction, Notes, and For Further Reading

Copyright © 2003 by Carol Howard.

Note on Jane Austen, The World of Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice,

Inspired by Pride and Prejudice, and Comments & Questions

Copyright © 2003 by Barnes & Noble, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Barnes & Noble Classics and the Barnes & Noble Classics

colophon are trademarks of Barnes & Noble, Inc.

Pride and Prejudice

ISBN-13: 978-1-59308-201-7 ISBN-10: 1-59308-201-0

eISBN : 978-1-411-43296-3

LC Control Number 2004100759

Produced and published in conjunction with:

Fine Creative Media, Inc.

322 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10001

Michael J. Fine, President and Publisher

Printed in the United States of America

Jane Austen

The English novelist Jane Austen was born December 16, 1775, the seventh of eight children, in the Parsonage House of Steventon, Hampshire, where she spent her first twenty-five years. During her brief lifetime Austen witnessed political unrest, revolution, war, and industrialization, yet these momentous events are not the central subjects of her finely focused novels. Rather, Austen wrote of her immediate experience: the microcosm of the country gentry and its class-conscious insularity. Jane’s father, the Reverend George Austen, was the erudite country rector of Steventon, and her mother, Cassandra (née Leigh), was descended from an aristocratic line of learned clergymen. By no means wealthy, the Austens nonetheless enjoyed a comfortable, socially respectable life, and greatly prized their children’s education.

Jane and her beloved elder (and only) sister, Cassandra, were schooled in Southampton and Reading for a short period, but most of their education took place at home. Private theatrical performances in the barn at Steventon complemented Jane’s studies of French, Italian, history, music, and eighteenth-century fiction. An avid reader from earliest childhood, Jane began writing at age twelve, no doubt encouraged by her cultured and affectionate family. Indeed, family and writing were her great loves; despite a fleeting engagement in 1802, Austen never married. Her first two novels, “Elinor and Marianne” and “First Impressions,” were written while at Steventon but never published in their original form.

Following her father’s retirement, Jane moved in 1801 with her parents and sister to Bath. That popular watering hole, removed from the country life Jane preferred, presented the sociable young novelist with a wealth of observations and experience that would later emerge in her novels. Austen moved to Southampton with her mother and sister after the death of her father in 1805. Several years later the three women settled in Chawton Cottage in Hampshire, where Austen resided until the end of her life. She relished her return to the countryside and, with it, a renewed artistic vigor that led to the revision of her early novels. Sense and Sensibility, a reworking of “Elinor and Marianne,” was published in 1811, followed by Pride and Prejudice, a reworking of “First Impressions,” two years later.

Austen completed four more novels (Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion) in the Chawton sitting room. Productive and discreet, she insisted that her work be kept secret from anyone outside the family. All of her novels were published anonymously, including the posthumous release, thanks to her brother Henry, of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion .

The last years of Austen’s life were relatively quiet and comfortable. Her final, unfinished work, Sanditon, was put aside in the spring of 1817, when her health sharply declined and she was taken to Winchester for medical treatment of what appears to have been Addison’s disease or a form of lymphoma. Jane Austen died there on July 18, 1817, and is buried in Winchester Cathedral.

The World of Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice

1775 The American Revolution begins in April. Jane Austen is born on December 16 in the Parsonage House in Steventon, Hampshire, England, the seventh of eight children (two girls and six boys).

1778 Frances (Fanny) Burney publishes Evelina , a seminal work in the development of the novel of manners.

1781 German philosopher Immanuel Kant publishes his Critique of Pure Reason .

1782 The American Revolution ends. Fanny Burney’s novel Cecilia is published.

1783 Cassandra and Jane Austen begin their formal education in Southampton, followed by study in Reading.

1788 King George III of England suffers his first bout of mental illness, leaving the country in a state of uncertainty and anxiety. George Gordon, Lord Byron, is born.

1789 George III recuperates. The French Revolution begins. William Blake’s Songs of Innocence is published.

1791 American political philosopher Thomas Paine publishes the first part of The Rights of Man .

1792 Percy Bysshe Shelley is born. Mary Wollstonecraft publishes A Vindication of the Rights of Woman .

1793 A shock wave passes though Europe with the execution of King Louis XVI of France and, some months later, his wife, Marie-Antoinette; the Reign of Terror begins. England declares war on France. Two of Austen’s brothers, Francis (1774-1865) and Charles (1779- 1852), serve in the Royal Navy, but life in the countryside of Steventon remains relatively tranquil.

1795 Austen begins her first novel, “Elinor and Marianne,” written as letters (the fragments of this early work are now lost); she will later revise the material to become the novel Sense and Sensibility . John Keats is born.

1796-1797 Austen authors a second novel, “First Impressions,” which was never published; it will later become Pride and Prejudice .

1798 Poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth publish The Lyrical Ballads .

1801 Jane’s father, the Reverend George Austen, retires, and with the Napoleonic Wars looming in the background of British consciousness, he and his wife and two daughters leave the quiet country life of Steventon for the bustling, fashionable town of Bath. Many of the characters and depictions of society in Jane Austen’s subsequent novels are shaped by her experiences in Bath.

1803 Austen receives her first publication offer for her novel “Susan,” but the manuscript is subsequently returned by the publisher; it will later be revised and released as Northanger Abbey . The United States buys Louisiana from France. Ralph Waldo Emerson is born.

1804 Napoleon crowns himself emperor of France. Spain declares war on Britain.

1805 Jane’s father dies. Jane and her mother and sister subsequently move to Southampton. Sir Walter Scott publishes his Lay of the Last Minstrel .

1809 After several years of traveling and short-term stays in various towns, the Austen women settle in Chawton Cottage in Hampshire; in the parlor of this house Austen quietly composes her most famous works. Charles Darwin and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, are born.

1811 Austen begins Mansfield Park in February. In November Sense and Sensibility , the romantic misadventures of two sisters, is published with the notation “By a Lady”; all of Austen’s subsequent novels are also brought out anonymously. George III is declared insane, and the morally corrupt Prince of Wales (the future King George IV) becomes regent.

1812 Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm and the first parts of Lord Byron’s Childe Harold are published. The United States declares war on Great Britain.

1813 Pride and Prejudice is published; it describes the conflict between the high-spirited daughter of a country gentleman and a wealthy landowner. Napoleon is exiled to Elba, and the Bourbons are restored to power.

1814 Mansfield Park is published; it is the story of the difficult though ultimately rewarded life of a poor relation who lives in the house of her wealthy uncle.

1815 Austen’s comic novel Emma is published, centering on the heroine’s misguided attempts at matchmaking. Napoleon is defeated at Waterloo. Charlotte Brontë is born.

1817 Austen begins the satiric novel Sanditon , but abandons it because of declining health. She dies on July 18 in Winchester and is buried in Winchester Cathedral.

1818 Northanger Abbey, a social satire with overtones of (parodied) terror, and Persuasion , about a reawakened love, are published under Austen’s brother Henry’s supervision.


Long before Austenmania overtook America and England in the mid-1990s, when major films and television miniseries were produced of Jane Austen’s most popular novel, Pride and Prejudice, and three other of the six novels Austen completed as an adult, fans reported a private, proprietary sense of “Jane,” as though the great English novelist were a close acquaintance. Rudyard Kipling exploited this phenomenon in his short story “The Janeites,” which describes several members of a secret Jane Austen society, a group of soldiers in the trenches of World War I, well versed in Austen trivia and gallant defenders of “Jane” and the world she created. Both the jealously guarded private fantasy and the recent popular cultural phenomenon may be attributed in part to the enduring power of Austen’s genius as a writer: her ability to create singular characters who linger in one’s imagination, her unparalleled sense of irony and wit, her brilliant dialogue, and her carefully woven plots. At the same time, Austen delivers a satisfying romance, more so in Pride and Prejudice than in her other novels, and the sheer happiness of her main characters at the novel’s end has its own appeal.

Above all though, and in Pride and Prejudice especially, Austen appeals to modern readers’ nostalgia for a world of social, moral, and economic stability, but one where characters are free to make their own choices and pursue their hearts’ desires. The formal civility, the carefully prescribed manners, and sexual and social restraint, set against a backdrop of village community, stately manor houses, and an English landscape devoid of industrial turmoil and the brisk pace of modern technology—these are a welcome escape for today’s reader. So, too, the heroine Elizabeth Bennet’s bold independence and insistence on placing individual preference above economic motive in marriage satisfies our desire for a plot shaped through the pursuit of personal fulfillment. A convention of morality tales of Austen’s time is that individuals’ personal freedoms and aspirations cannot be easily reconciled with their responsibilities to family and community. Austen overcomes this difficulty by employing the classic comic form: When wedding bells are about to ring at the story’s conclusion, we know that the two sets of main characters have made marriages of affection (Elizabeth’s sister Jane and Mr. Bingley) or even passion (Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy) and that these happy unions actually enhance the stability of society. That it appears to the reader reasonable that Elizabeth follows her heart and ends up fabulously wealthy attests to Austen’s powers of crafting a story in which early hostilities and inappropriate desires are deftly reconciled, and far more realistically so than in comedies by Shakespeare, where happy resolutions must be effected either by wildly improbable coincidences or supernatural forces.

It is sometimes said that Austen’s gift was to be a shrewd observer of her narrow, genteel social circle, that her experience and knowledge of the world were limited and her life sheltered, and that her novels realistically reflect the peaceful late-eighteenth-and early-nineteenth century village community and English countryside she inhabited. That Austen was a careful observer of human motivation and social interaction is certainly true. One should not assume, though, that her choice to write novels of manners means that she was unaware of or unaffected by the political and social upheaval of her day. The idea that she centers her novels on the social classes with which she was most familiar is not entirely the case, although she had occasion to observe members of the gentry and aristocracy whose circumstances resembled those of some of the characters who populate her novels. Whether her own life was perfectly serene is questionable: Most lives, no matter how uneventful in retrospect, have their vicissitudes.

At the very least, Austen and her family must have had concerns over the tumultuous historical events that unsettled the British nation during their lifetime. She was born in 1775, the year that marked the beginning of the American Revolution. Several decades later, she would read newspaper accounts of another British conflict with the new American nation in the War of 1812, which began as she finished revising Pride and Prejudice. What must have played significantly in Austen’s imagination, as in the mind of every Briton, was the ongoing war with Napoleon’s forces, which marked the culmination of a century of conflicts between Britain and France, and which ended, with the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815, six months before her fortieth birthday. The British fear of invasion by Napoleon, which endured until 1805, caused concern even in the towns and villages that seemed safest. Austen would have been aware of the billeting of British militia troops in the English countryside, and she certainly followed the career of her brother Henry, who had joined the Oxford militia in 1793, when Britain’s latest war with France erupted in the aftermath of the French Revolution. She must also have taken a personal interest in the campaigns of the British navy, which counted her brothers Francis and Charles among its officers. To what extent she cared about daily political events is difficult to discern, for her letters are marked by characteristic irony. Of a newspaper report of an 1811 battle of the Peninsular War, when Napoleon invaded Spain and Portugal in an effort to close ports to British commerce, Austen declared, “How horrible it is to have so many people killed!—And what a blessing that one cares for none of them!” (Le Faye, Jane Austen’s Letters, p. 191; see “For Further Reading”).

If history and politics in general, and the war with France in particular, seem far removed from the affairs of Austen’s novels, it is worth remembering that the militia and army provide romantic distraction in the form of dashing young officers for the two youngest Bennet sisters, Kitty and Lydia, in Pride and Prejudice, while her final novel, Persuasion, centers on the romantic interests of British naval officers. A feature of Austen’s comic mode is that the events that produce the greatest instability within the British nation are tamed into the material of harmless social disarray that furthers the romantic plot. We find the same process at work in other of her novels. Several scholars have noted that the Bertram family estate of Mansfield Park must be supported by the West Indian slave economy and that Sir Thomas Bertram’s absence from his home in England in order to protect his interests in Antigua provides the occasion for the Bertram children and their friends to engage in the mildly improper behavior that promotes comic disorder. We are also reminded of local instability when Harriet Smith, of Emma, is accosted by a band of gypsies and must be rescued by Frank Churchill; the incident plays on commonly held fears of the vagrants and highway-men who traveled the roads of England.

Austen’s firsthand experiences of the world and its momentous events seem limited if we consider her life in terms of the travels that might have spurred her writer’s imagination. Unlike many of her contemporaries whose literary work was enriched by journeys to Scotland, Ireland, and the European continent, Austen spent most of her relatively short life—she died in 1817 at age forty-one, possibly of Addison’s disease or of a form of lymphoma—in the small villages and towns and countryside of the county of Hampshire, in the south of England. Despite several visits to London, vacation tours throughout southern England, and several years’ residence in the spa city of Bath and in the port town of Southampton, Austen can hardly be called cosmopolitan, and, in any case, she would have preferred to think of herself as provincial, a description that better suits her sense of her subject matter as a writer. In a letter to her niece Anna Austen, an aspiring novelist, she dispensed the now famous advice that “3 or 4 Families in a Country Village is the very thing to work on” (Letters, p. 275).

Austen’s life appears to have been relatively untroubled, although there must have been painful episodes. The daughter of a respectable Anglican clergyman, she was the seventh of eight children in what appears to have been a happy, stable family. There were, however, financial troubles, and the Reverend George Austen was obliged to add to his income by establishing a boarding school for boys in the Austen home and by borrowing money from his sister and her husband. Further, as Austen’s biographer Claire Tomalin points out, even though the family was close, several of the children spent a considerable amount of time living away from home, which, though not unusual for the gentry and professional classes at this time, was probably disorienting for Austen and her siblings. One of her six brothers, George, was disabled—possibly a deaf-mute—and was sent from home for most of his long life. Jane, too, was sent from home, first to a village nurse and later to two boarding schools that, if they resembled the typical girls’ schools of that era, were characterized by bad food, dull teachers, and an atmosphere ripe for one epidemic or another. Along with her older sister, Cassandra, the seven-year-old Jane spent only two seasons at the first institution, where she nearly died from a contagious fever that spread through the school. At age nine, she was sent to a second school, which, if not damaging, was not beneficial either. Although her parents chose to terminate her formal education when she was ten, her father gave her access to his library of some five hundred volumes, and he encouraged his daughter’s literary interests. It was he, in fact, who first tried, unsuccessfully, in 1797, to have an early version of Pride and Prejudice published.

Austen’s immediate family was solidly professional, unlike that of her heroine Elizabeth Bennet, whose father is a member of the gentry, which is to say that his wealth is inherited and tied to land ownership, rather than earned through work or commerce. Austen’s eldest brother, James, followed his father into the ministry, while Henry, the brother who served for several years in the militia, turned next to banking, and then, when his bank failed, followed his father and elder brother into the ministry. The two naval officers, Francis and Charles, both rose to the rank of admiral. Austen’s father and brothers were hardworking, responsible, family-oriented men, so it makes sense that in Pride and Prejudice Austen satirizes snobbish and frivolous members of those classes above hers, the gentry and the aristocracy, who would have looked down upon her own immediate family, just as she paints an unsympathetic portrait of the haughty social climber Caroline Bingley, who fancies herself a member of the gentry, even though her family’s wealth was made “in trade,” or through commerce. Nor, if we consider Austen’s own unaffected outlook, is it surprising that the most sensible characters in the novel, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, not only make their money in trade but are apparently not embarrassed to live near their warehouse. Elizabeth Bennet herself descends from lower gentry, on her father’s side, while her maternal grandfather was an attorney.

Despite her allegiance to professionals and businessmen, Austen clearly had respect for what she would have regarded as the nobler values of the landed gentry and aristocracy, particularly the sense of social responsibility and decorum that are implicitly endorsed by the narrator and main characters of the novel. Although these values are fostered through the preservation of a strict social hierarchy, they do not happen to thwart the aspirations of the fictional Elizabeth Bennet, and thus modern readers need never confront the injustices of an English society that remained wary of the new democratic values espoused in America and France and among English radicals. Moreover, even if Austen’s own immediate family fell socially and economically a degree below that of her central fictional characters, her family connections made the upper orders not wholly unknown to her. Austen’s mother, Cassandra Leigh Austen, was descended from a distinguished family and was related to the duke of Chandos. Austen’s first cousin, Eliza Hancock, was goddaughter to Warren Hastings, the eminent statesman and governor of British India, and wife to a member of the French nobility, Count Jean François Capot de Feuillide, who was guillotined during the Reign of Terror. Austen’s brother Edward was literally adopted into the British gentry when Thomas and Catherine Knight, second cousins of the Austens, took an interest in him, obtained permission to raise him, and, finding themselves childless, ultimately made him heir to their splendid estate of Godmersham Park in Kent.

Austen’s own situation in a family of well-connected professionals was somewhat precarious, for she remained unmarried in an age when women depended largely on male relatives for support. Her father and brothers, however, with their strong sense of family responsibility, must have made her feel more secure than the typical “spinster” would have felt. She and her sister Cassandra, who also remained unmarried and was Jane’s closest friend and confidante, were initially dependent on their father, and then, after his death in 1805, on a small annuity and on the generosity of their brothers. Jane Austen had always lived in her father’s house; upon his death, she, her sister, and their mother took up lodgings and visited extensively with relatives and friends for three years. The women eventually settled in the Hampshire village of Chawton, in a house made available to them by Edward. Austen spent the final eight years of her life at Chawton, and it was from this house that she published her novels.

Given how centered her novels are on the marriage plot and how family-oriented her immediate society was, it is worth commenting on Austen’s choice to remain single. In 1802, she received and accepted a proposal from Harris Bigg-Wither, a pleasant young man, Oxford educated and heir to the impressive Manydown estate in Hampshire, close to Austen’s family home at Steventon. She quickly changed her mind, however, and rejected the proposal the day after having accepted it. It seems that while Jane liked Harris, she was not in love with him, and this was enough to give her pause. Her decision was remarkable, for even though romantic love had increasingly become an acceptable incentive for marriage, Austen was a dutiful daughter who lived in an age when friendship, economic motive, family ties, and religious duty were at least as compelling as personal choice. In declining Harris Bigg-Wither’s proposal, Austen made a choice not nearly so dramatic in its disregard for economic considerations as that of her fictional heroine Elizabeth Bennet in declining Mr. Darcy, but one that was similarly impractical. It is hard to say whether Austen simply flew in the face of convention and unwisely put her economic future at risk, or whether she knew that with so many successful and dutiful brothers someone would maintain her somehow.

Claire Tomalin suggests that Austen compared Harris Bigg-Wither unfavorably to Tom Lefroy, to whom she had had a romantic attachment several years earlier, one severed by his relatives, who were concerned about the imprudence of such a match—Austen was, after all, no heiress. Now that she was heading into her late twenties and had grown accustomed to life as a spinster aunt, it is also possible that Austen took a long, hard look at motherhood and decided that its joys were not worth the grief. Throughout the eighteenth century and long afterward, the mortality rates for newborns and women during childbirth was high. The trend in British society to encourage frequent and numerous pregnancies put women at even greater risk. In 1808 Austen’s brother Edward’s wife, Elizabeth, died giving birth to her eleventh child. Her brother Charles’s wife, Fanny, died during childbirth in 1814, at age twenty-four, with her fourth child, who also died several weeks later. In 1823, a few years after Austen’s own death, her brother Francis’s wife, Mary, died giving birth to her eleventh child. Understandably, Austen’s letters demonstrate a mixed attitude toward marriage and motherhood. To her niece Fanny Knight, Austen wrote shortly before her own death that “Single Women have a dreadful propensity for being poor—which is one very strong argument in favour of Matrimony.” On the other hand, she continued with sage advice, “Do not be in a hurry; depend upon it, the right Man will come at last. . . . And then, by not beginning the business of Mothering quite so early in life, you will be young in Constitution, spirits, figure & countenance.” Earlier she had cautioned Fanny against entering into a marriage of convenience by remarking, “When I consider . . . how capable you are . . . of being really in love . . . I cannot wish you to be fettered” (Letters, pp. 332, 286).

While it was not unheard of for a woman to have both a family and a writing career in the eighteenth century, it was undoubtedly the case that Austen’s marital status made her writing life much easier. There is, however, no evidence to suggest that she deliberately chose to forsake marriage in order to write books about it. In fact, the extent to which Austen actually saw herself as a writer, as someone whose identity was shaped through her writing and who might have been interested in earning money or fame by doing so, is a matter of debate. She may have described herself, with alternating irony and seriousness, as someone who took up the pen in her idle hours, the way one might take up fancy needlework or china painting. Yet she clearly had a lifelong passion for writing—she authored an impressive collection of juvenilia as well as mature novels—and it seems difficult to believe that she regarded her art as a mere hobby, even if she did not flaunt her gifts publicly. If she did not claim the kind of psychological and material entitlement, the room of one’s own that in the early twentieth century Virginia Woolf would identify as essential for women writers, she did come to depend on the money her novels earned. She became, whether she wished it or not, a professional writer in an age when the market in novels by women and for women was already well established. Pride and Prejudice was published anonymously, as were the works of many women writers to whom publicity seemed indelicate, and while Austen did not court fame, she nevertheless created a stir with her first publication, Sense and Sensibility (1811).

Austen’s second published novel, Pride and Prejudice, appeared at the beginning of 1813, after having been revised the previous year. A first version of the novel, the manuscript of which is now lost, had been written many years earlier, between October 1796 and August 1797. Austen called that early version “First Impressions,” a suggestive title that draws upon stock associations with conduct books to point a moral lesson: One’s first impressions of character should be mistrusted or at least managed with caution; opinion and judgment must be formed through careful reflection and consultation. Although rooted in a didactic message about first impressions, Austen’s exploration of the subsequent themes of pride and prejudice is far more textured than any superficial association with conduct manuals would suggest. The phrase “pride and prejudice” held currency in eighteenth-century literature, but, as the editor R. W. Chapman has shown, Austen appears to have borrowed it most immediately from the closing pages of Frances Burney’s novel Cecilia. (In addition to reading the Bible and Shakespeare, Austen inherited a formidable tradition of eighteenth-century works, and the novels of Burney and Samuel Richardson appear to have influenced her considerably; she also turned to popular didactic tales and moral essays for her subject matter and was especially fond of the writings of Dr. Johnson.)

With good reason, scholars have typically viewed pride and prejudice in Austen’s novel as distinctly unfavorable qualities, for when the narrator and principal characters evoke “pride” and “prejudice,” the terms have primarily unfavorable connotations, as they do in the world at large. To be sure, Austen assails family pride and social prejudice through the merciless portraits of self-centered individuals. By exposing Mrs. Bennet’s tribalism and Lady Catherine’s snobbery, she offers an amusing indictment of polite society. It should give us pause, however, that Elizabeth Bennet’s overly bookish sister, Mary, pontificates against pride by imitating the trite morality of conduct manuals. (What a shame that Mr. Collins hadn’t thought to marry her.) That is, if Austen calls undue pride and prejudice into question, she also regards shallow pieties about those qualities with irony.

Moreover, for an author whose comic closure depends upon an affirmation of the values of the gentry and aristocracy, pride is not simply arrogance. Rather, it marks a legitimate sense that one’s exalted position in society makes one accountable to uphold those values and to behave in a manner worthy of one’s rank. Under a gentleman’s code of honor, the vestiges of which still existed in Austen’s day, pride is closely affiliated with valor and strength of character. Prejudice, too, does not always signify a tendency to make careless, hasty, or harmful judgments. Writing in 1790 on the revolution in France he so deplored, Edmund Burke regarded prejudice as a protection of time-honored custom and the consensus of generations of wise and noble minds, while the revolutionary individual’s so-called reason, by contrast, is prone to error and narrow self-interest. “Prejudice,” Burke wrote, “renders a man’s virtue his habit. . . . Through just prejudice, his duty becomes part of his nature” (Reflections on the Revolution in France, p. 76). Burke’s appeal to virtue, duty, and tradition would have resonated with Austen’s society in the early nineteenth century, when the revolutionary language of Britain’s radical thinkers of the previous generation, considered seditious in the 1790s, was still regarded with suspicion. The notion of affirming pride and prejudice, even in moderation, may be difficult for today’s readers to accept, but Austen did not live in a democratic society, where pride and prejudice surely thrive but where they are not usually regarded as necessary components of political and social organization. In Austen’s world, these qualities of discrimination helped to preserve the correct social alliances and were integral to the stability of the order of things, even when exhilarating—or menacing—new possibilities for social mobility began to impinge upon the consciousness and writings of English provincials such as Austen.

The exploration of pride and prejudice through Austen’s principal characters, Elizabeth and Darcy, is instructional but also multifaceted. The heroine’s early prejudices against Darcy and in favor of Wickham—an inappropriate set of judgments formed by Elizabeth’s having put too much weight on first impressions and circumstantial evidence—are made possible by an excess of pride in her own ability to read character. Darcy’s pride of place, his disdain for social inferiors who lack a proper sense of their own provincialism, leads to a blanket prejudice against nearly every local at the assembly room ball. And yet there is something defensible in these weaknesses: Elizabeth proves herself a thoughtful judge of character in most instances, while Darcy is not entirely amiss in his estimation of a party of lower gentry who are eager to ape the manners of the great but who lack the true social refinement that he himself possesses. In this novel of emotional growth, pride and prejudice are not flaws for Elizabeth and Darcy to overcome but character traits that require minor adjustments before the couple can recognize each other’s merits and live happily together.

Even when pride and prejudice impair judgment, Elizabeth and Darcy remain principled, perceptive, and admirably strong-minded. As Darcy puts it, in a critique of his friend Mr. Bingley’s complaisance, “To yield without conviction is no compliment to [one’s] understanding” (p. 50), while Elizabeth declares of herself that “There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me” (p. 173). This strength of personality—she calls it her “impertinence” and he “the liveliness of your mind” (p. 367)—draws an initially unimpressed Darcy to Elizabeth. Further, when evidence presents itself, Elizabeth is able to turn her keen powers of perception inward. Through Darcy’s letter to her, she quickly recognizes her errors, which ability sets her apart from someone like her own undiscerning mother. Although the scene of humiliation and painful self-recognition—“Till this moment, I never knew myself” (p. 205)—that follows Elizabeth’s reading of the letter is more the stuff of Greek tragedy than of the novel of manners, its presence in the narrative demonstrates that Elizabeth has the capacity for introspection.

Pride and prejudice seem an almost indispensable set of character traits, or qualities worth cultivating, when we detect the effects of their virtual absence from the personalities of Jane and Mr. Bingley, both of whose easy manners and thorough failures to discriminate put a nearly permanent end to their relationship. Early in the novel, Elizabeth finds Jane too self-effacing, too good-natured, and not critical enough: “You are a great deal too apt, you know, to like people in general. You never see a fault in any body. All the world are good and agreeable in your eyes. I never heard you speak ill of a human being in my life” (p. 16). This assessment may say as much about Elizabeth’s own forcefulness of personality as it does about Jane’s easygoing manners, but Elizabeth has a point. In this instance, Elizabeth is teasing, but she also means what she says, especially when it becomes apparent that Jane wrongly considers the Bingley sisters as agreeable as she does their brother. It is this particular fault that nearly undoes Jane’s romance with Bingley, for the Bingley sisters, her professed friends, have snubbed her long before she realizes it; once she does, her mild manners prevent her from asserting her own interests with their brother. Bingley, too, shows a “want of resolution” (p. 136) to protect his own affairs of the heart. When Darcy misconstrues Jane’s quiet amiability as lack of sufficient interest in Bingley, he easily manipulates his friend into leaving Netherfield and Jane’s presence.

One could argue that the presence of professional and commercial men and women in the novel should militate against the easy acceptance not only of pride and prejudice but of other characteristics of the gentry. Even though members of professional and commercial society appear in the novel, however, they aspire to the lifestyle of the gentry and adopt its values and habits. We do not find Austen’s characters embracing those qualities that were well established as virtues and self-consciously adopted among middle-class reformers in her day—efficiency, frugality, punctuality, self-reliance, and the work ethic—and that she herself may have prized. In fact, when we look at the world of the novel, we see hardly any work being done or business being transacted. Certainly, when a team of horses is unavailable to be harnessed to the carriage that might convey Jane Bennet to Netherfield, we become vaguely aware that Mr. Bennet is a gentleman farmer who oversees a working farm. But Austen chooses not to introduce us to farmhands at work, as novelists of social realism would do a generation after hers. We are also very much aware of the presence of soldiers who presumably engage in training exercises if not in actual warfare, but we see them only as dancers at the ball and as romantic distractions for idle young ladies. We become acquainted with the man of commerce Mr. Gardiner only when he is on a holiday tour, and we never actually behold Mr. Collins ministering to his parishioners. In fact, Mr. Collins’s identity as a clergyman is construed solely in terms of the house and property the living brings him. Nor do we hear of commerce in action, except for the occasional ironic reference, as when Lydia Bennet, living out the absurd logic of England’s relatively new consumer culture, buys a hat she knows is ugly simply for the sake of spending money.

What Austen foregrounds throughout the novel is a culture of leisure. In an age when the values of the gentry and aristocracy still prevailed, leisure was understood not only as a respite from labor, as it would have been for those who had to work for a living, but as a way of life that had its own virtues and failings. As in the worlds of classical Greece and Rome so admired by the eighteenth-century society into which Austen was born, a life of leisure at one’s country seat—construed as “retirement” from the daily concerns of commerce and petty political and financial intrigue in London—was considered essential for any gentleman who would take on the responsibilities of disinterested participation in politics and the administration of empire. Especially in the early eighteenth-century of Austen’s grandparents, known in poetry as the Augustan Age for its neoclassical values, those who depended on income from sources other than land—that is, commercial or professional interests—would have seemed compromised in their ability to rise above the concern for personal gain to serve the public good. The country gentry, however, whose values were articulated by Lord Bolingbroke and Augustan poets such as Alexander Pope, regarded themselves as being at leisure for virtuous study and reflection, and as having the power to rise above the corruption, favoritism, and factional-ism that dominated London politics.

In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy provides the model for the virtuous country gentleman, even though he keeps a house and has acquaintances in London. While we never see Mr. Darcy in his role as keeper of the public interest, or managing his estate, we feel assured that he is the kind of man who inhabits his country estate responsibly. When Darcy negotiates the Lydia-Wickham elopement crisis with authority and competence, we sense that he manages all his life’s affairs with similar capability. That he husbands his estate well becomes clear when the touring party of Elizabeth Bennet and the Gardiners arrives at Pemberley to find grounds that, in accordance with the standards for eighteenth-century British taste in landscape design, seem natural and unpretentious. Such simple elegance was understood to reflect the values and temperament of the owner, as Pope had made clear in his poem on house and grounds aesthetics, the “Epistle to Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington,” in which he argued against frivolous and impractical estates but applauded the taste in design and architecture of men of sense. It is also quickly apparent that Darcy is a good estate manager because he commands the allegiance and respect of his servants, as Elizabeth and the Gardiners soon learn during their interview with the housekeeper. When, in response to her sister Jane’s question concerning when she first started to love Darcy, Elizabeth quips that “I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley” (p. 361), she is being ironic, but there is a part of her that surely must have been swayed by seeing property that is not only magnificent but graceful. If, in Darcy’s presence, she cannot see past what she takes to be his inexcusable pride, she must recognize during her visit to his well-ordered estate that he is a man of principles and generosity.

While country retirement may have been essential to the life of the worthy gentleman, Austen also offers us a glimpse of the corrupt side of leisure and its symptoms of moral dissolution—luxury and indolence. Despite his good nature, Sir William Lucas demonstrates the affectation of the newly titled in part by abandoning his commercial interests, the success of which had resulted in his public prominence and his knighthood. He is raising a young heir who promises to become as debauched as his father’s fortune will allow, dreaming, as he does already at this tender age, of keeping foxhounds and drinking a daily bottle of wine, should he ever find himself as wealthy as Mr. Darcy. Austen turns her gentle wit on the pretensions of parvenu gentry, but she frowns somewhat more severely upon the shortcomings of the aristocratic matron. Although well established in her rank, Lady Catherine is too easily flattered by Mr. Collins, and her behavior makes it clear that she lacks the genuine good breeding and strength of character of her nephew, Mr. Darcy. Unlike the understated elegance of Darcy’s Pemberley, Lady Catherine’s solemn residence is designed to inspire a discomfiting sense of awe among her visitors. That one of the drawing rooms boasts a “chimney-piece [that] alone had cost eight hundred pounds” (p. 76) serves both to exemplify the ostentation of Rosings Park and to make Mr. Collins’s behavior seem all the more preposterous, for it is he who basks in the reflected glory of his patron’s estate by savoring its every sumptuous detail, including this one.

If leisured society can be extravagant, it can also be lazy. For example, Mr. Bingley’s brother-in-law, Mr. Hurst, “a man of more fashion than fortune” (p. 18), seems entirely incapable of any exertion except eating and playing cards, a fact that Austen humorously establishes as evidence of his perfect lethargy. At Netherfield, when Elizabeth Bennet chooses reading over a game of loo, he is nonplussed. Lacking any interior life himself, Mr. Hurst cannot imagine how one could take pleasure in an activity that is solitary and that might require reflection. Austen’s character sketch reaches its ironic limit when, upon finding the rest of his party unwilling to play cards, Mr. Hurst “had, therefore, nothing to do, but to stretch himself on one of the sofas and go to sleep” (p. 54). In fact, the sorts of leisure activities characters engage in—card playing, dancing, singing, piano playing, walking, conversation, letter writing, reading—may be taken in particular instances to indicate their moral fiber and social inclinations. Generally speaking, the exemplary character is one whose leisure activities imply a willingness to balance private reflection against community-minded sociability. At fault are such characters as Mr. Hurst, whose leisure suggests he lacks a capacity for autonomous thought or action, but also Mary, whose excessive attention to books and piano playing marks an untoward self-absorption.

In contrast, Elizabeth and Darcy are both introspective and fully socialized, even if Darcy refuses to be pleasant to those whom he considers his social inferiors. Both are adept conversationalists, and their verbal sallies display their intelligence, wit, and powers of perception. Elizabeth is also a competent pianist—good enough to entertain company but not so exceptional as to take herself seriously as an artist. Both Elizabeth and Darcy enjoy reading, which should predispose Austen’s audience to like them. But Elizabeth is quick to disown any pretension to being an intellectual, which is the flaw of her sister Mary. By contrast, the unsympathetic Caroline Bingley seems incapable of focusing on a book, and she pretends to enjoy reading only when she believes it will help to impress Mr. Darcy. Mr. Bingley, for whom we feel a measure of affection, does not read either, and we may take this fact as a sign that he lacks the depth of his friend Darcy. Or course, Bingley must be worthy of the heroine’s kind sister and cannot, therefore, be laughable or insipid, like Mr. Hurst; rather, Bingley lacks substance in an amiable, happy-go-lucky way. The characters’ discussion of inclinations toward reading also leads the Netherfield set to render opinions on libraries. Mr. Darcy sees it as an obligation to augment his family’s library collection “in such days as these” (p. 39), an allusion, presumably, to the cultural decay of Britain wrought by the rise of a philistine commercial society that forsakes the liberal arts in favor of market culture. Caroline Bingley, by contrast, sees family libraries as so much grand furniture. No doubt finding the book cover more valuable than the book, she esteems Mr. Darcy’s library for its enhancement of the prestige of the household.

Walking is the other leisure activity that clearly distinguishes Elizabeth Bennet from Caroline Bingley, whose idea of exercise is to gossip as she takes a turn about the drawing room or the shrubbery, and whose exertion is entirely motivated by her romantic interest in Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth enjoys solitary rambles that allow her time for reflection, so it is no hardship when she takes a brisk three-mile walk through fields and over puddles to visit her sister Jane at Netherfield during the latter’s illness. Elizabeth’s fortitude in walking, a consequence of her concern for her sister’s health, has the unintended effect of invigorating the torpid company at Netherfield, if only because her activity seems so brazen to them. Her animation captivates Mr. Darcy and rankles Caroline Bingley, who takes Elizabeth’s brief adventure “to show an abominable sort of conceited independence, a most country-town indifference to decorum” (p. 37). Still, Elizabeth is no romantic heroine of the sort who would be fashioned by Charlotte Brontë several decades later. The sphere of action in Austen’s novel of manners is circumscribed enough so that it would be shocking indeed were Elizabeth, like Brontë’s Jane Eyre, to wander despondently about the English countryside, exhausted and starving. Elizabeth’s own burst of romantic enthusiasm—“What are men to rocks and mountains?” (p. 154)—subsides quickly enough.

If Austen’s attention to the culture of leisure serves to call into question the values of the landed elite even as it reinforces them, the marriage plot complicates the outlook of the novel further still. With respect to social class, the hero and heroine are worlds apart—or so they appear in Darcy’s estimation. At Netherfield, Darcy finds that Elizabeth has “attracted him more than he liked” (p. 60), and he thus resolves to regulate his feelings toward her. Elizabeth’s station in life and the “total want of propriety” (p. 196) among her family members make the match ill-advised, if not untenable, as Darcy callously points out in proposing marriage to her against his better judgment. He is astounded not only that Elizabeth rejects him—in that respect he is no better than Mr. Collins, whose earlier proposal is made with equal confidence in her acceptance—but that his explanation of his initial reluctance has caused offense. That Darcy fails to consider that Elizabeth might actually be offended by a proposal that opens with the suitor’s expression of his disdain for her inferior social connections and his efforts to overcome his love for her suggests that the insuperable gulf he perceives between them seems to him perfectly natural. For her part, Elizabeth knows full well the subtle distinctions that define rank in her society, and it is more his tactlessness than his pointing out an obvious fact of social hierarchy that infuriates her.

It is also the case that Elizabeth has a healthy sense of her own entitlement. As she proudly remarks to Lady Catherine, Mr. Darcy “is a gentleman; I am a gentleman’s daughter; so far we are equal” (p. 331). At Rosings, when Sir William Lucas and his daughter Maria are daunted by the prospect of their encounter with the redoubtable Lady Catherine, we find that Elizabeth, by contrast, “had heard nothing of Lady Catherine that spoke her awful from any extraordinary talents or miraculous virtue, and the mere stateliness of money and rank she thought she could witness without trepidation” (p. 161). In the society of this novel, talent and manners—that is, truly good breeding, rather than affectation—ultimately trump birth and social connections. Even Mr. Darcy endorses this view, as Elizabeth observes. Indeed, when the lovers finally reconcile their differences, Elizabeth teases Darcy that her “impertinence” appeals to him because he is “sick of civility, of deference, of officious attention” (p. 367). Darcy’s ennui, however, should be taken not as a tacit authorization of a new democratic outlook but rather of a meritocratic one. That is, the values of the gentry and the aristocracy are reinforced even as their membership becomes infused with the blood of the professional classes, which would seem to undermine the restrictive claims upon which the upper classes predicate their existence. The possibility that Mr. Darcy might marry his frail cousin, Miss Anne de Bourgh, in order to consolidate their estates is presented as an outmoded aristocratic notion, not to be taken seriously by the new generation.

What makes the lovers’ attitudes possible is that the real consequences of social rank are diminished by the conventions of romantic comedy. A typical feature of the comic novel is that powerful social distinctions upheld in everyday life tend to be suspended in an effort to further the plot. Within the safe space of the novel, such comic upheavals create exciting possibilities for minor social transgressions; at the same time, in the novel’s conclusion, the existing order becomes reaffirmed. In this case, the reaffirmation happens as Elizabeth becomes absorbed into Darcy’s world. It is standard comic fare that the potentially formidable member of the ruling class who might prevent the budding romance— here, Lady Catherine—turns out to be a relatively powerless busybody who depends on weak-minded followers to reinforce her sense of her own importance. Lady Catherine, in fact, resembles the stock type of aging woman tenaciously clinging to her diminished power, a familiar character found in Restoration comic drama, as well as in the mid-eighteenth-century novels of Henry Fielding and Samuel Richardson.

Whatever its social and comic implications, the marriage plot is the chief concern throughout the novel, and there is a sense of urgency about forging the right unions that motivates the action of the entire book. The ironic opening gambit—“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife”—rehearses the epigrammatic wisdom of a gossip-driven community comprising women like Mrs. Bennet, who is herself eager to enhance the prestige of her family by marrying her daughters well. Prestige and social connection, however, are not the only motivating forces in this neighborhood or within the Bennet household. In the idealistic world of the romantic comedy, Mrs. Bennet’s ambition to see her daughters nicely settled appears a simple matter of crude one-upmanship with Lady Lucas. Thus, when Mr. Bennet teases his wife rather unkindly over her preoccupation with finding eligible suitors, the reader is amused. We forget, though, that Mr. Bennet’s own first question about the newly arrived Mr. Bingley concerns his marital status, which suggests either that Mr. Bennet is baiting his wife or that his apparent indifference on the matter is feigned. Mr. Bennet, of course, should be concerned about the marriage question. As the narrator informs us later, he regrets having spent all his disposable income, instead of reserving a portion of it to protect his daughters’ financial future. It hardly excuses him that he had assumed he would have a son whose coming-of-age would nullify the “entail”—that is, the legal document that places restrictions on who may inherit his estate. (In the absence of male heirs, women could typically inherit an estate but not if an entail existed barring them from doing so.) As endearing a character as Mr. Bennet is, he has not behaved responsibly as a father, a fact that becomes all the more apparent when Lydia, who has had very little in the way of sensible parental guidance, elopes with Wickham, thereby, as Lady Catherine observes, jeopardizing the marriage prospects of her four sisters in a world that still cares about the taint of family reputation: “Not Lydia only, but all were concerned in it” (p. 272).

Mrs. Bennet does not seem such a buffoon when we consider that her daughters really will be in dire straits should they not marry. The entail of the Bennet estate to Mr. Collins guarantees not only that the house and grounds will no longer be available to the Bennet women but that their yearly income will be considerably reduced. In fact, without one sister well established in marriage before the death of Mr. Bennet, it would be difficult for any of the five to maintain the condition of a gentlewoman at all. Having one sister comfortably married, however, could create a measure of financial security for the others and might help, through the social connections established, to ensure a succession of respectable marriages in the family. The possibility that, in lieu of marriage, these young women might become governesses and thereby preserve a tenuous connection to the gentry is simply not a viable option in this novel, where working for a living, even in relatively genteel circumstances, is a fate worse than marriage to Mr. Collins. If we put aside the romantic ideal of the novel and look at the material reality, Mrs. Bennet’s frustration with Elizabeth for declining Mr. Collins’s proposal is entirely reasonable: Had Elizabeth accepted her distant cousin’s hand, she could have preserved her father’s estate for herself and for her unmarried sisters.

Nor, for that matter, does the other ostensibly foolish character of the novel, Mr. Collins himself, seem so oblivious in refusing to acknowledge Elizabeth’s rejection of his proposal. He may be pompous, but he is also practical, and he knows minutely the details of Elizabeth’s meager future inheritance. The idea that she might turn him down is simply inconceivable to him, for, as he rightly points out, given her family circumstances, she may never receive another offer. That she declines Mr. Darcy’s first proposal, is, in practical terms, even more astonishing. Remaining single after her parents’ deaths might mean an annual income of £40 (4 percent annual interest, as Mr. Collins estimates it, on a £1,000 share of her mother’s legacy), a portion of which would go toward renting a room somewhere in the village. Marriage to Mr. Darcy, by stark contrast, would mean having at her disposal a reputed £10,000 annually, plus the amenities of Pemberley, the house in London, the carriages, the servants, and so forth. It is difficult to convert these sums into the modern British pound or American dollar, in part thanks to inflation but mostly because the nineteenth-century economy and culture are so very different from ours, but suffice it to say that Elizabeth, in declining Mr. Darcy, has rejected fantastic wealth for the likelihood of a quite modest existence, far beneath that to which she has become accustomed.

The conventions of romantic comedy, however, do not allow us to focus on the folly of Elizabeth’s decision to follow her heart and her principles or to dwell for very long on the grim financial future of these five unwed women. The narrator, in fact, offers no sustained commentary on how limited the options are for women in this society. The only real defenses of women’s moral and legal entitlement to inherit property fall from the lips of the two caricatural aging women: Mrs. Bennet, who refuses to recognize the legality of the entail that will disinherit herself and her daughters, and Lady Catherine, who opines, “I see no occasion for entailing estates from the female line” (p. 164). The romantic narrative would also lead us to believe that Elizabeth should indeed be true to herself, for there is something terribly dull about the financially “prudent” marriage, and something disgraceful about the “mercenary” one, although the two motives amount to the same thing, as Elizabeth explains to Mrs. Gardiner (p. 153). The prospect of repudiating the desire for romance and settling for “a comfortable home,” as Charlotte Lucas has done (p. 125), is represented to be a fairly dismal choice, which is one reason why the novel looks so very different from the conservative morality tales that were popular in this period. Austen’s narrator tends to see the world from Elizabeth Bennet’s perspective, and so, therefore, do we, and the plot reconciliation confirms the legitimacy of this view. When the two elder Bennet sisters finally become engaged, we know that Elizabeth’s match is better than Jane’s, not because Darcy is the master of Pemberley and has twice the annual income of Bingley, but because, as Elizabeth compares the two sisters’ relative happiness, “she only smiles, I laugh” (p. 369).

That this resolution glosses over Elizabeth’s early attraction to Wickham, who is now married to her thoughtless sister Lydia, and her prior antipathy toward Darcy—a dislike so pronounced that Jane can hardly accept her sister’s subsequent avowal of love for him—is not altogether justified by Elizabeth’s recent maturity or by the evidence that comes to light about Wickham’s and Darcy’s respective characters. At the very least, Elizabeth’s change of heart suggests that she is far more rational in romantic matters than one might think the passionate and idealistic side of her nature would allow. But it is the role of the comic ending to obscure inappropriate desires and inconvenient hostilities in order to establish the alliances that will secure a stable and joyous future. What distinguishes the conclusion of Austen’s great novel from that of lesser comic fare is that, as we turn the final pages, the new community established at Pemberley and at the nearby Bingley estate, by the characters we have come to know so well, seems to us both plausible and reassuring.

Carol Howard has published essays on early British and contemporary African-American women writers and has coedited two books on British writers (1996, 1997). Chair of the English Department at Warren Wilson College, her current book project traces the tension between the desire for freedom and for stability in British women’s writings about slavery and empire, from 1688 to 1805. She was educated at SUNY Purchase and Columbia University, where she received her Ph.D. in 1999, and she now lives in Black Mountain, North Carolina, with her husband and two daughters.

Volume the First

Chapter 1

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?”

Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.

“But it is,” returned she; “for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it.”

Mr. Bennet made no answer.

“Do not you want to know who has taken it?” cried his wife, impatiently.

“You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.”

This was invitation enough.

“Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and foura to see the place, and was so much delighted with it that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas,b and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week.”

“What is his name?”


“Is he married or single?”

“Oh, single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year.1 What a fine thing for our girls!”

“How so? how can it affect them?”

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” replied his wife, “how can you be so tiresome? You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them.”

“Is that his design in settling here?”

“Design! nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he may fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes.”

“I see no occasion for that. You and the girls may go, or you may send them by themselves, which perhaps will be still better, for as you are as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley might like you the best of the party.”

“My dear, you flatter me. I certainly have my share of beauty, but I do not pretend to be any thing extraordinary now. When a woman has five grown up daughters, she ought to give over thinking of her own beauty.”

“In such cases, a woman has not often much beauty to think of.”

“But, my dear, you must indeed go and see Mr. Bingley when he comes into the neighbourhood.”

“It is more than I engage for, I assure you.”

“But consider your daughters. Only think what an establishment it would be for one of them. Sir William and Lady Lucas are determined to go, merely on that account; for in general, you know, they visit no new comers. Indeed you must go, for it will be impossible for us to visit him, if you do not.”

“You are over scrupulous, surely. I dare say Mr. Bingley will be very glad to see you; and I will send a few lines by you to assure him of my hearty consent to his marrying whichever he chooses of the girls; though I must throw in a good word for my little Lizzy.”

“I desire you will do no such thing. Lizzy is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good-humoured as Lydia. But you are always giving her the preference.”

“They have none of them much to recommend them,” replied he: “they are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters.”

“Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such a way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion on my poor nerves.”

“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least.”

“Ah, you do not know what I suffer.”

“But I hope you will get over it, and live to see many young men of four thousand a year come into the neighbourhood.”

“It will be no use to us, if twenty such should come, since you will not visit them.”

“Depend upon it, my dear, that when there are twenty, I will visit them all.”

Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts,c sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character. Her mind was less difficult to develope. She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.

Chapter 2

Mr. Bennet was among the earliest of those who waited on Mr. Bingley. He had always intended to visit him, though to the last always assuring his wife that he should not go; and till the evening after the visit was paid she had no knowledge of it. It was then disclosed in the following manner. Observing his second daughter employed in trimming a hat, he suddenly addressed her with,—

“I hope Mr. Bingley will like it, Lizzy.”

“We are not in a way to know what Mr. Bingley likes,” said her mother, resentfully, “since we are not to visit.”

“But you forget, mamma,” said Elizabeth, “that we shall meet him at the assemblies, and that Mrs. Long has promised to introduce him.”

“I do not believe Mrs. Long will do any such thing. She has two nieces of her own. She is a selfish, hypocritical woman, and I have no opinion of her.”

“No more have I,” said Mr. Bennet; “and I am glad to find that you do not depend on her serving you.”

Mrs. Bennet deigned not to make any reply; but, unable to contain herself, began scolding one of her daughters.

“Don’t keep coughing so, Kitty, for heaven’s sake! Have a little compassion on my nerves. You tear them to pieces.”

“Kitty has no discretion in her coughs,” said her father; “she times them ill.”

“I do not cough for my own amusement,” replied Kitty, fretfully. “When is your next ball to be, Lizzy?”2 “To-morrow fortnight.”

“Ay, so it is,” cried her mother, “and Mrs. Long does not come back till the day before; so, it will be impossible for her to introduce him, for she will not know him herself.”

“Then, my dear, you may have the advantage of your friend, and introduce Mr. Bingley to her.”

“Impossible, Mr. Bennet, impossible, when I am not acquainted with him myself; how can you be so teasing?”

“I honour your circumspection. A fortnight’s acquaintance is certainly very little. One cannot know what a man really is by the end of a fortnight. But if we do not venture, somebody else will; and after all, Mrs. Long and her nieces must stand their chance; and, therefore, as she will think it an act of kindness, if you decline the office, I will take it on myself.”

The girls stared at their father. Mrs. Bennet said only, “Nonsense, nonsense!”

“What can be the meaning of that emphatic exclamation?” cried he. “Do you consider the forms of introduction, and the stress that is laid on them, as nonsense? I cannot quite agree with you there. What say you, Mary? for you are a young lady of deep reflection, I know and read great books, and make extracts.”d

Mary wished to say something very sensible, but knew not how.

“While Mary is adjusting her ideas,” he continued, “let us return to Mr. Bingley.”

“I am sick of Mr. Bingley,” cried his wife.

“I am sorry to hear that; but why did not you tell me so before? If I had known as much this morning, I certainly would not have called on him. It is very unlucky; but as I have actually paid the visit, we cannot escape the acquaintance now.”

The astonishment of the ladies was just what he wished; that of Mrs. Bennet perhaps surpassing the rest; though when the first tumult of joy was over, she began to declare that it was what she had expected all the while.

“How good it was in you, my dear Mr. Bennet. But I knew I should persuade you at last. I was sure you loved your girls too well to neglect such an acquaintance. Well, how pleased I am! and it is such a good joke, too, that you should have gone this morning, and never said a word about it till now.”

“Now, Kitty, you may cough as much as you choose,” said Mr. Bennet; and, as he spoke, he left the room, fatigued with the raptures of his wife.

“What an excellent father you have, girls,” said she, when the door was shut. “I do not know how you will ever make him amends for his kindness; or me either, for that matter. At our time of life, it is not so pleasant, I can tell you, to be making new acquaintance every day; but for your sakes, we would do any thing. Lydia, my love, though you are the youngest, I dare say Mr. Bingley will dance with you at the next ball.”

“Oh,” said Lydia, stoutly, “I am not afraid; for though I am the youngest, I’m the tallest.”

The rest of the evening was spent in conjecturing how soon he would return Mr. Bennet’s visit, and determining when they should ask him to dinner.

Chapter 3

Not all that Mrs. Bennet, however, with the assistance of her five daughters, could ask on the subject, was sufficient to draw from her husband any satisfactory description of Mr. Bingley. They attacked him in various ways; with barefaced questions, ingenious suppositions, and distant surmises; but he eluded the skill of them all; and they were at last obliged to accept the second-hand intelligence of their neighbour, Lady Lucas. Her report was highly favourable. Sir William had been delighted with him. He was quite young, wonderfully handsome, extremely agreeable, and, to crown the whole, he meant to be at the next assembly with a large party. Nothing could be more delightful! To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love; and very lively hopes of Mr. Bingley’s heart were entertained.

“If I can but see one of my daughters happily settled at Netherfield,” said Mrs. Bennet to her husband, “and all the others equally well married, I shall have nothing to wish for.”

In a few days Mr. Bingley returned Mr. Bennet’s visit, and sat about ten minutes with him in his library. He had entertained hopes of being admitted to a sight of the young ladies, of whose beauty he had heard much; but he saw only the father. The ladies were somewhat more fortunate, for they had the advantage of ascertaining, from an upper window, that he wore a blue coat and rode a black horse.

An invitation to dinner was soon afterwards despatched; and already had Mrs. Bennet planned the courses that were to do credit to her housekeeping, when an answer arrived which deferred it all. Mr. Bingley was obliged to be in town the following day, and consequently unable to accept the honour of their invitation, &c. Mrs. Bennet was quite disconcerted. She could not imagine what business he could have in town so soon after his arrival in Hertfordshire; and she began to fear that he might be always flying about from one place to another, and never settled at Netherfield as he ought to be. Lady Lucas quieted her fears a little by starting the idea of his being gone to London only to get a large party for the ball; and a report soon followed that Mr. Bingley was to bring twelve ladies and seven gentlemen with him to the assembly. The girls grieved over such a number of ladies; but were comforted the day before the ball by hearing, that instead of twelve, he had brought only six with him from London, his five sisters and a cousin. And when the party entered the assembly-room, it consisted of only five all together; Mr. Bingley, his two sisters, the husband of the eldest, and another young man.

Mr. Bingley was good-looking and gentlemanlike: he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners. His sisters were fine women, with an air of decided fashion. His brother-in-law, Mr. Hurst, merely looked the gentleman; but his friend, Mr. Darcy, soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report, which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a-year. The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.

Mr. Bingley had soon made himself acquainted with all the principal people in the room: he was lively and unreserved, danced every dance, was angry that the ball closed so early, and talked of giving one himself at Netherfield. Such amiable qualities must speak for themselves. What a contrast between him and his friend! Mr. Darcy danced only once with Mrs. Hurst and once with Miss Bingley, declined being introduced to any other lady, and spent the rest of the evening in walking about the room, speaking occasionally to one of his own party. 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. Amongst the most violent against him was Mrs. Bennet, whose dislike of his general behaviour was sharpened into particular resentment, by his having slighted one of her daughters.

Elizabeth Bennet had been obliged, by the scarcity of gentlemen, to sit down for two dances; and during part of that time, Mr. Darcy had been standing near enough for her to overhear a conversation between him and Mr. Bingley, who came from the dance for a few minutes to press his friend to join it.

“Come, Darcy,” said he, “I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance.”

“I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this, it would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.”

“I would not be so fastidious as you are,” cried Bingley, “for a kingdom! Upon my honour, I never met with so many pleasant girls in my life as I have this evening; and there are several of them, you see, uncommonly pretty.”

“You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room,” said Mr. Darcy, looking at the eldest Miss Bennet.

“Oh, she is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld! But there is one of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I dare say very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you.”

“Which do you mean?” and turning round, he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till, catching her eye, he withdrew his own, and coldly said, “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.”

Mr. Bingley followed his advice. Mr. Darcy walked off; and Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings towards him. She told the story, however, with great spirit among her friends; for she had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in any thing ridiculous.

The evening altogether passed off pleasantly to the whole family. Mrs. Bennet had seen her eldest daughter much admired by the Netherfield party. Mr. Bingley had danced with her twice, and she had been distinguished by his sisters. Jane was as much gratified by this as her mother could be, though in a quieter way. Elizabeth felt Jane’s pleasure. Mary had heard herself mentioned to Miss Bingley as the most accomplished girl in the neighbourhood; and Catherine and Lydia had been fortunate enough to be never without partners, which was all that they had yet learnt to care for at a ball. They returned, therefore, in good spirits to Longbourn, the village where they lived, and of which they were the principal inhabitants. They found Mr. Bennet still up. With a book, he was regardless of time; and on the present occasion he had a good deal of curiosity as to the event of an evening which had raised such splendid expectations. He had rather hoped that all his wife’s views on the stranger would be disappointed; but he soon found that he had a very different story to hear.

“Oh, my dear Mr. Bennet,” as she entered the room, “we have had a most delightful evening, a most excellent ball. I wish you had been there. Jane was so admired, nothing could be like it. Every body said how well she looked; and Mr. Bingley thought her quite beautiful, and danced with her twice. Only think of that, my dear: he actually danced with her twice; and she was the only creature in the room that he asked a second time. First of all, he asked Miss Lucas. I was so vexed to see him stand up with her; but, however, he did not admire her at all; indeed, nobody can, you know; and he seemed quite struck with Jane as she was going down the dance. So he enquired who she was, and got introduced, and asked her for the two next. Then, the two third he danced with Miss King, and the two fourth with Maria Lucas, and the two fifth with Jane again, and the two sixth with Lizzy, and the Boulanger e—”

“If he had had any compassion for me,” cried her husband, impatiently, “he would not have danced half so much! For God’s sake, say no more of his partners. Oh that he had sprained his ankle in the first dance!”

“Oh, my dear,” continued Mrs. Bennet, “I am quite delighted with him. He is so excessively handsome! and his sisters are charming women. I never in my life saw any thing more elegant than their dresses. I dare say the lace upon Mrs. Hurst’s gown—”

Here she was interrupted again. Mr. Bennet protested against any description of finery. She was therefore obliged to seek another branch of the subject, and related, with much bitterness of spirit and some exaggeration, the shocking rudeness of Mr. Darcy.

“But I can assure you,” she added, “that Lizzy does not lose much by not suiting his fancy; for he is a most disagreeable, horrid man, not at all worth pleasing. So high and so conceited, that there was no enduring him! He walked here, and he walked there, fancying himself so very great! Not handsome enough to dance with! I wish you had been there, my dear, to have given him one of your set-downs. I quite detest the man.”

Chapter 4

When Jane and Elizabeth were alone, the former, who had been cautious in her praise of Mr. Bingley before, expressed to her sister how very much she admired him.

“He is just what a young man ought to be,” said she, “sensible, good-humoured, lively; and I never saw such happy manners! so much ease, with such perfect good breeding!”

“He is also handsome,” replied Elizabeth, “which a young man ought likewise to be if he possibly can. His character is thereby complete.”

“I was very much flattered by his asking me to dance a second time. I did not expect such a compliment.”

“Did not you? I did for you. But that is one great difference between us. Compliments always take you by surprise, and me never. What could be more natural than his asking you again? He could not help seeing that you were about five times as pretty as every other woman in the room. No thanks to his gallantry for that. Well, he certainly is very agreeable, and I give you leave to like him. You have liked many a stupider person.”

“Dear Lizzy!”

“Oh, you are a great deal too apt, you know, to like people in general. You never see a fault in any body. All the world are good and agreeable in your eyes. I never heard you speak ill of a human being in my life.”

“I would wish not to be hasty in censuring any one; but I always speak what I think.”

“I know you do; and it is that which makes the wonder. With your good sense, to be so honestly blind to the follies and nonsense of others! Affection of candour is common enough; one meets with it every where. But, to be candid without ostentation or design,—to take the good of every body’s character and make it still better, and say nothing of the bad,—belongs to you alone. And so, you like this man’s sisters, too, do you? Their manners are not equal to his.”

“Certainly not, at first; but they are very pleasing women when you converse with them. Miss Bingley is to live with her brother and keep his house; and I am much mistaken if we shall not find a very charming neighbour in her.”

Elizabeth listened in silence, but was not convinced: their behaviour at the assembly had not been calculated to please in general; and with more quickness of observation and less pliancy of temper than her sister, and with a judgment, too, unassailed by any attention to herself, she was very little disposed to approve them. They were, in fact, very fine ladies; not deficient in good-humour when they were pleased, nor in the power of being agreeable where they chose it; but proud and conceited. They were rather handsome; had been educated in one of the first private seminaries in town; had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds; were in the habit of spending more than they ought, and of associating with people of rank; and were, therefore, in every respect entitled to think well of themselves, and meanly of others. They were of a respectable family in the north of England; a circumstance more deeply impressed on their memories than that their brother’s fortune and their own had been acquired by trade.

Mr. Bingley inherited property to the amount of nearly a hundred thousand pounds from his father, who had intended to purchase an estate, but did not live to do it. Mr. Bingley intended it likewise, and sometimes made choice of his county; but, as he was now provided with a good house and the liberty of a manor,f it was doubtful to many of those who best knew the easiness of his temper, whether he might not spend the remainder of his days at Netherfield, and leave the next generation to purchase.

His sisters were very anxious for his having an estate of his own; but though he was now established only as a tenant, Miss Bingley was by no means unwilling to preside at his table; nor was Mrs. Hurst, who had married a man of more fashion than fortune, less disposed to consider his house as her home when it suited her. Mr. Bingley had not been of age two years when he was tempted, by an accidental recommendation, to look at Netherfield House. He did look at it, and into it, for half an hour; was pleased with the situation and the principal rooms, satisfied with what the owner said in its praise, and took it immediately.

Between him and Darcy there was a very steady friendship, in spite of a great opposition of character. Bingley was endeared to Darcy by the easiness, openness, and ductility of his temper, though no disposition could offer a greater contrast to his own, and though with his own he never appeared dissatisfied. On the strength of Darcy’s regard, Bingley had the firmest reliance, and of his judgment the highest opinion. In understanding, Darcy was the superior. Bingley was by no means deficient; but Darcy was clever. He was at the same time haughty, reserved, and fastidious; and his manners, though well bred, were not inviting. In that respect his friend had greatly the advantage. Bingley was sure of being liked wherever he appeared; Darcy was continually giving offence.

The manner in which they spoke of the Meryton assembly was sufficiently characteristic. Bingley had never met with pleasanter people or prettier girls in his life; every body had been most kind and attentive to him; there had been no formality, no stiffness; he had soon felt acquainted with all the room; and as to Miss Bennet, he could not conceive an angel more beautiful. Darcy, on the contrary, had seen a collection of people in whom there was little beauty and no fashion, for none of whom he had felt the smallest interest, and from none received either attention or pleasure. Miss Bennet he acknowledged to be pretty; but she smiled too much.

Mrs. Hurst and her sister allowed it to be so; but still they admired her and liked her, and pronounced her to be a sweet girl, and one whom they should not object to know more of. Miss Bennet was therefore established as a sweet girl; and their brother felt authorised by such commendation to think of her as he chose.

Chapter 5

Within a short walk of Longbourn lived a family with whom the Bennets were particularly intimate. Sir William Lucas had been formerly in trade in Meryton, where he had made a tolerable fortune, and risen to the honour of knighthood by an address to the king during his mayoralty.3 The distinction had, perhaps, been felt too strongly. It had given him a disgust to his business and to his residence in a small market town; and, quitting them both, he had removed with his family to a house about a mile from Meryton, denominated from that period Lucas Lodge; where he could think with pleasure of his own importance, and, unshackled by business, occupy himself solely in being civil to all the world. For though elated by his rank, it did not render him supercilious; on the contrary, he was all attention to everybody. By nature inoffensive, friendly, and obliging, his presentation at St. James’s had made him courteous.

Lady Lucas was a very good kind of woman, not too clever to be a valuable neighbour to Mrs. Bennet. They had several children. The eldest of them, a sensible, intelligent young woman, about twenty-seven, was Elizabeth’s intimate friend.

That the Miss Lucases and the Miss Bennets should meet to talk over a ball was absolutely necessary; and the morning after the assembly brought the former to Longbourn to hear and to communicate.

“You began the evening well, Charlotte,” said Mrs. Bennet, with civil self-command, to Miss Lucas. “You were Mr. Bingley’s first choice.”

“Yes; but he seemed to like his second better.”

“Oh, you mean Jane, I suppose, because he danced with her twice. To be sure that did seem as if he admired her— indeed, I rather believe he did—I heard something about it—but I hardly know what—something about Mr. Robinson.”

“Perhaps you mean what I overheard between him and Mr. Robinson: did not I mention it to you? Mr. Robinson’s asking him how he liked our Meryton assemblies, and whether he did not think there were a great many pretty women in the room, and which he thought the prettiest? and his answering immediately to the last question, Oh, the eldest Miss Bennet, beyond a doubt: there cannot be two opinions on that point.”

“Upon my word! Well, that was very decided, indeed—that does seem as if—but, however, it may all come to nothing, you know.”

“My overhearings were more to the purpose than yours, Eliza,” said Charlotte. “Mr. Darcy is not so well worth listening to as his friend, is he? Poor Eliza! to be only just tolerable.”

“I beg you will not put it into Lizzy’s head to be vexed by his ill-treatment, for he is such a disagreeable man that it would be quite a misfortune to be liked by him. Mrs. Long told me last night that he sat close to her for half an hour without once opening his lips.”

“Are you quite sure, ma’am? Is not there a little mistake?” said Jane. “I certainly saw Mr. Darcy speaking to her.”

“Ay, because she asked him at last how he liked Netherfield, and he could not help answering her; but she said he seemed very angry at being spoke to.”

“Miss Bingley told me,” said Jane, “that he never speaks much unless among his intimate acquaintance. With them he is remarkably agreeable.”

“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.”g

“I do not mind his not talking to Mrs. Long,” said Miss Lucas, “but I wish he had danced with Eliza.”

“Another time, Lizzy,” said her mother, “I would not dance with him, if I were you.”

“I believe, ma’am, I may safely promise you never to dance with him.”

“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, every thing 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.”

“Pride,” observed Mary, who piqued herself upon the solidity of her reflections, “is a very common failing, I believe. By all that I have ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed, that human nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the score of some quality or other, real or imaginary. Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves; vanity to what we would have others think of us.”

“If I were as rich as Mr. Darcy,” cried a young Lucas, who came with his sisters, “I should not care how proud I was. I would keep a pack of foxhounds, and drink a bottle of wine every day.”

“Then you would drink a great deal more than you ought,” said Mrs. Bennet; “and if I were to see you at it, I should take away your bottle directly.”

The boy protested that she should not; she continued to declare that she would, and the argument ended only with the visit.

Chapter 6

The ladies of Longbourn soon waited on those of Netherfield. The visit was returned in due form. Miss Bennet’s pleasing manners grew on the good-will of Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley; and though the mother was found to be intolerable, and the younger sisters not worth speaking to, a wish of being better acquainted with them was expressed towards the two eldest. By Jane this attention was received with the greatest pleasure; but Elizabeth still saw superciliousness in their treatment of every body, hardly excepting even her sister, and could not like them; though their kindness to Jane, such as it was, had a value, as arising, in all probability, from the influence of their brother’s admiration. It was generally evident, whenever they met, that he did admire her; and to her it was equally evident that Jane was yielding to the preference which she had begun to entertain for him from the first, and was in a way to be very much in love; but she considered with pleasure that it was not likely to be discovered by the world in general, since Jane united with great strength of feeling, a composure of temper and an uniform cheerfulness of manner, which would guard her from the suspicions of the impertinent. She mentioned this to her friend, Miss Lucas.

“It may, perhaps, be pleasant,” replied Charlotte, “to be able to impose on the public in such a case; but it is sometimes a disadvantage to be so very guarded. If a woman conceals her affection with the same skill from the object of it, she may lose the opportunity of fixing him; and it will then be but poor consolation to believe the world equally in the dark. There is so much of gratitude or vanity in almost every attachment, that it is not safe to leave any to itself. We can all begin freely—a slight preference is natural enough; but there are very few of us who have heart enough to be really in love without encouragement. In nine cases out of ten, a woman had better show more affection than she feels. Bingley likes your sister undoubtedly; but he may never do more than like her, if she does not help him on.”

“But she does help him on, as much as her nature will allow. If I can perceive her regard for him, he must be a simpleton, indeed, not to discover it too.”

“Remember, Eliza, that he does not know Jane’s disposition as you do.”

“But if a woman is partial to a man, and does not endeavour to conceal it, he must find it out.”

“Perhaps he must, if he sees enough of her. But though Bingley and Jane meet tolerably often, it is never for many hours together; and as they always see each other in large mixed parties, it is impossible that every moment should be employed in conversing together. Jane should therefore make the most of every half hour in which she can command his attention. When she is secure of him, there will be leisure for falling in love as much as she chooses.”

“Your plan is a good one,” replied Elizabeth, “where nothing is in question but the desire of being well married; and if I were determined to get a rich husband, or any husband, I dare say I should adopt it. But these are not Jane’s feelings; she is not acting by design. As yet she cannot even be certain of the degree of her own regard, nor of its reasonableness. She has known him only a fortnight. She danced four dances with him at Meryton; she saw him one morning at his own house, and has since dined in company with him four times. This is not quite enough to make her understand his character.”

“Not as you represent it. Had she merely dined with him, she might only have discovered whether he had a good appetite; but you must remember that four evenings have been also spent together—and four evenings may do a great deal.”

“Yes: these four evenings have enabled them to ascertain that they both like Vingt-un better than Commerce;h but with respect to any other leading characteristic, I do not imagine that much has been unfolded.”

“Well,” said Charlotte, “I wish Jane success with all my heart; and if she were married to him to-morrow, I should think she had as good a chance of happiness as if she were to be studying his character for a twelvemonth. Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other, or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.”

“You make me laugh, Charlotte; but it is not sound. You know it is not sound, and that you would never act in this way yourself.”

Occupied in observing Mr. Bingley’s attentions to her sister, Elizabeth was far from suspecting that she was herself becoming an object of some interest in the eyes of his friend. 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. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness. Of this she was perfectly unaware: to her he was only the man who made himself agreeable nowhere, and who had not thought her handsome enough to dance with.

He began to wish to know more of her; and, as a step towards conversing with her himself, attended to her conversation with others. His doing so drew her notice. It was at Sir William Lucas’s, where a large party were assembled.

“What does Mr. Darcy mean,” said she to Charlotte, “by listening to my conversation with Colonel Forster?”

“That is a question which Mr. Darcy only can answer.”

“But if he does it any more, I shall certainly let him know that I see what he is about. He has a very satirical eye, and if I do not begin by being impertinent myself, I shall soon grow afraid of him.”

On his approaching them soon afterwards, though without seeming to have any intention of speaking, Miss Lucas defied her friend to mention such a subject to him, which immediately provoking Elizabeth to do it, she turned to him and said,—

“Did not you think, Mr. Darcy, that I expressed myself uncommonly well just now, when I was teasing Colonel Forster to give us a ball at Meryton?”

“With great energy; but it is a subject which always makes a lady energetic.”

“You are severe on us.”

“It will be her turn soon to be teased,” said Miss Lucas. “I am going to open the instrument, Eliza, and you know what follows.”

“You are a very strange creature by way of a friend!—always wanting me to play and sing before any body and every body! If my vanity had taken a musical turn, you would have been invaluable; but as it is, I would really rather not sit down before those who must be in the habit of hearing the very best performers.” On Miss Lucas’s persevering, however, she added, “Very well; if it must be so, it must.” And gravely glancing at Mr. Darcy, “There is a very fine old saying, which every body here is of course familiar with—‘Keep your breath to cool your porridge,’—and I shall keep mine to swell my song.”

Her performance was pleasing, though by no means capital. After a song or two, and before she could reply to the entreaties of several that she would sing again, she was eagerly succeeded at the instrument by her sister Mary, who having, in consequence of being the only plain one in the family, worked hard for knowledge and accomplishments, was always impatient for display.

Mary had neither genius nor taste; and though vanity had given her application, it had given her likewise a pedantic air and conceited manner, which would have injured a higher degree of excellence than she had reached. Elizabeth, easy and unaffected, had been listened to with much more pleasure, though not playing half so well; and Mary, at the end of a long concerto, was glad to purchase praise and gratitude by Scotch and Irish airs, at the request of her younger sisters, who, with some of the Lucases, and two or three officers, joined eagerly in dancing at one end of the room.

Mr. Darcy stood near them in silent indignation at such a mode of passing the evening, to the exclusion of all conversation, and was too much engrossed by his own thoughts to perceive that Sir William Lucas was his neighbour, till Sir William thus began:—

“What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy! There is nothing like dancing, after all. I consider it as one of the first refinements of polished societies.”

“Certainly, sir; and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world: every savage can dance.”

Sir William only smiled. “Your friend performs delightfully,” he continued, after a pause, on seeing Bingley join the group; “and I doubt not that you are an adept in the science yourself, Mr. Darcy.”

“You saw me danc