I’m so glad you’re back for Chapter 5 of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen/ Project Gutenberg.
This is a fairly short chapter, where we join the ladies of Longbourn as they commiserate with the ladies of Lucas Lodge about their impressions regarding their evening at the Meryton Assembly.
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. 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, in 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 is 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 would 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.”
“Aye—because she asked him at last how he liked Netherfield, and he could not help answering her; but she said he seemed quite angry at being spoke to.”
“Miss Bingley told me,” said Jane, “that he never speaks much, unless among his intimate acquaintances. 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; everybody says that he is eat 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.”
“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, everything 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 a 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.
I love the reminiscing that occurs between the females in these families. A bit of a slight here, a dig there, thrown in just for good measure. Jane’s the jewel of the evening and Lizzy’s been slighted… What an “outrage!” 200 years later and we still enjoy discussing our recollections of an event almost as much as we enjoyed the event itself!
A couple of points struck me here from this chapter. The first is this quote from Elizabeth,” I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.”
I think it’s pretty clear that Elizabeth could have really liked Darcy from the start, but once he made his careless statement, she was immediately turned off to him.
So was it his pride that got in her way of forming an earlier attachment to Mr. Darcy? I had thought it was, but after looking more closely at this chapter, I think it was more about her vanity?
When I read Mary’s quote from this chapter, my thoughts began to change.
“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.” Mary Bennet
So is Elizabeth being more vain or proud here? Personally, I’m not quite sure…I think she’s more insulted by what Darcy thinks of her, which makes me think it was her vanity that was also wounded, and perhaps maybe more than anything else at that moment. What do you think readers?
I also had a good chuckle reading, “Lady Lucas was a very good kind of woman, not too clever to be a valuable neighbour to Mrs. Bennet.” Narrator
Wow, that’s quite an insult, yet who should feel worse about it, Mrs. Lucas or Mrs. Bennet? I love how Austen inserts her humour here when she decides who is intelligent and who really is not, along what this means for her other characters. Do people with similar intellectual abilities usually make the best companions for each other? We see this in some of her pairings, and yet not in others. What do you think she’s about when she makes these decisions?
Another interesting point that connected to something else I read this week was where Longbourn was located in relation to other places, such as Meryton and Lucas Lodge. One of the discussions this week on Facebook also revolved around this topic, which led me to this JASNA article. If you’ve ever wondered about the possible location of Austen’s fictitious town named Meryton, or where Meryton and Longbourn were probably located in regards to London, this is a great article. Once again, it’s fascinating how precise Austen was in regards to most aspects of her book, including her fictitious locations. The article states:
Nevertheless, it is well known that Austen was very particular indeed about many other aspects of her work (for example, in the chronology of her novels, with exactly the right number of weeks passing to allow Pride and Prejudice to progress fifteen months from the autumn of one year to the Christmas of the next), and it therefore seems quite likely that she did indeed have some actual location in mind for the setting of Longbourn, even if this might have been a place with which she herself was relatively unacquainted. (from, “The Probable Location of “Longbourn” in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice” by Kenneth Smith)
If you’re interested in an illustrated version of “Pride and Prejudice” that will be released in weekly installments as well, but with a slightly different pace, Notestream in an app that you can get for free on your smartphone. I downloaded it this week and it’s pretty neat the way they’ve arranged the text, illustrations and added headings that capture the nuances of the text.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, feedback and any suggestions for our group reading that you want to share with us. Please post them below and let me know what you think…