Thank you for joining me again on this journey of “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen/ Project Gutenberg.
Last week was such a great start to our journey… Thank you for your time and all of your comments. It’s remarkable how two rather short chapters can inspire so many divergent ideas and musings about a text. I enjoyed each and every comment and look forward to reading them all again this week.
I was really struck by how many readers mentioned reading the book when he/she were younger and/or as a school assignment. I am so jealous of the opportunity these readers had to experience Austen at a much younger age than I first did because I think there are so many layers of meaning to enjoy here in the book, and if you can read “Pride and Prejudice” as a young man/woman, and even some other of Austen’s work, and then come back to these stories years later, I believe an even richer experience lies ahead for you. Yet, every high school English teacher that I have spoken to in the past year has told me that his/her school does not have students read any books by Austen. I hope if you’re ever in a position to suggest this book to an English teacher, or to a young adult, you relish the opportunity to do so!
For this week, I have posted chapters 3 & 4 because they both discuss the initial meeting between our main characters at the Meryton Assembly, so I felt it would be a more consistent read for us. Here in chapter 3, Austen moves us right into the Meryton Assembly, where we read the infamous snub that was heard around the world, “
“She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt _me_; 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.”
From here, the story takes a sharp turn, allowing “first impressions” to be made that will have a lasting impact upon our characters’ thoughts, feelings and actions. Without further ado, here we go …
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 dispatched; 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, etc. 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 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 altogether–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 everybody 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 hear 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 Mr. 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_; 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 toward him. She told the story, however, with great spirit among her friends; for she had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in anything 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 never to be 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 his wife’s views on the stranger would be disappointed; but he soon found out that he had a 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. Everybody 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 inquired 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”
“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, I am quite delighted with him. He is so excessively handsome! And his sisters are charming women. I never in my life saw anything 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.”
When Jane and Elizabeth were alone, the former, who had been cautious in her praise of Mr. Bingley before, expressed to her sister just 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.”
“Oh! you are a great deal too apt, you know, to like people in general. You never see a fault in anybody. All the world are good and agreeable in your eyes. I never heard you speak ill of a human being in your life.”
“I would not wish to be hasty in censuring anyone; 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! Affectation of candour is common enough–one meets with it everywhere. But to be candid without ostentation or design–to take the good of everybody’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 judgement 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 making themselves agreeable when 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, 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 anxious for his having an estate of his own; but, though he was now only established 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 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 judgement 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 offense.
The manner in which they spoke of the Meryton assembly was sufficiently characteristic. Bingley had never met with more pleasant people or prettier girls in his life; everybody 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 would not object to know more of. Miss Bennet was therefore established as a sweet girl, and their brother felt authorized by such commendation to think of her as he chose.
After reading these chapters again, it so clear for me why I love Austen. First, she cuts right to the chase here. We hear about Bingley’s plans for the assembly, we learn about how “reliable” the gossip is throughout Meryton regarding the party he is bringing and the next thing we know, we’re at the assembly rooms.
Second, she makes us once again, feel like we are standing right next to our characters and hearing them indulge in their most private thoughts. The last point I’ll share here about Austen, for now, is her use of irony. While one character feels a certain way about another, he/she isn’t taking the time to reflect upon his/her own “performance” at the assembly rooms, and what a performance it is!
Yet, why was Darcy so ungracious about Elizabeth at the Meryton Assembly? We know he doesn’t truly want to be there, but that is quite a harsh statement. We also know that Elizabeth is quite pretty in her own way, so why the disregard for her appearance? Do you think Darcy is annoyed that Bingley is the gentleman who caught the attention of the “prettiest” face in the room? There’s been talk for days throughout Meryton about the beautiful Jane Bennet. Did Darcy have some hopes about meeting her? After all, he’s the wealthy landowner from a highly-connected family. How could Bingley get so “close” with her so fast?
Even Darcy’s comment about Jane “smiling too much” is a rather unusual criticism about a woman. Doesn’t everyone, except for Darcy, want to be around someone who is jovial and friendly?
Have we really changed today when we discuss people and women in particular? Is the way we look still the defining criteria when we meet other people? No one would have said Jane was the smarter sister, yet, no one is talking about that factor. Is Darcy so shallow that he still doesn’t know that a person’s character is what should be the defining factor when deciding a person’s character and worth? Yet, is there a part of this bias still rooted in all of us today? Austen obviously felt a certain way about this, especially since Jane is the “prettiest” sister, and I think it’s still a crucial discussion point for us in the modern world. Have our looks become more important or less important as we have “evolved” in our own thinking?
My last question here is a point that author Stan Hurd also brought to my attention yesterday on GR. Does Darcy realize that Elizabeth overheard his remark? In JAFF, this question is explored and various storylines play with this idea, yet Austen herself was rather vague about this point. What are your thoughts about this question?
I found these quotes from Austenprose, where details are listed for each of Austen’s major works. Here are some of the memorable quotes for these chapters shared from their site.
To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love. The Narrator
His character was decided. He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and every body hoped that he would never come there again. The Narrator
“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. Darcy
But that is one great difference between us. Compliments always take you by surprise, and me never. Elizabeth to Jane Bennet
Darcy was clever. He was at the same time haughty, reserved, and fastidious, and his manners, though well-bred, were not inviting. The Narrator
This time around, I was really struck by the quote from Elizabeth, “But that is one great difference between us. Compliments always take you by surprise, and me never.”
I love Elizabeth’s confidence and her boldness, yet I think the most clever part here that I didn’t initially catch was how Austen was showing us how very similar Elizabeth’s character really is to Darcy’s character, even as she’s trying to describe him in the most unflattering ways. It’s a great irony and a bit of foreshadowing used here, as we are able to gather that Austen is trying to show us how closely related in their dispositions Elizabeth and Darcy really are in relation to each other. Yet, their first impressions will not allow them to detect this about each other.
The other quote I really thought about was “To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love.” What would this statement sound like today. How would we fill in this blank?
To be fond of ________________ was a certain step towards falling in love. What would we say today is a certain step to falling in love? Certainly not dancing, but what then? I am really not sure…
Over the past year, I have created a few “Pride and Prejudice” playlists, which contain songs that remind me of certain chapters, characters, and circumstances in the story. I thought it would be fun to post songs here through Spotify, to convey a connection with our chapters. This one pokes some fun at our wealthy gentleman here, as I imagine Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy entering the Meryton Assembly, as “Sharped Dressed Men,” by ZZ Top plays in the background.
Here’s a clever YouTube video showing our favorite men from period pieces:
This is the song track from the 2005 movie of the Meryton Assembly scene. Songs from the 1995 movie couldn’t be found in the same format. I will continue working on that idea.
Now that you’ve enjoyed these next two chapters, please add your comments below based on your thoughts and reflections related to this post. What are your first impressions here? What are your reactions to the quotes I have shared here? Have you thought about them in this way before? Do you agree that Darcy and Elizabeth are really very much alike from the start of the book?