Welcome to Hunsford. We finally gain a glimpse into Charlotte’s married life, which I think gives Elizabeth a more favorable impression than she had initially imagined for her friend. Today we meet Anne de Bourgh and begin gaining a sense of the role that Anne’s character plays in the story, especially pertaining to Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship.
Chapter 28Every object in the next day’s journey was new and interesting to Elizabeth; and her spirits were in a state of enjoyment; for she had seen her sister looking so well as to banish all fear for her health, and the prospect of her northern tour was a constant source of delight.
When they left the high road for the lane to Hunsford, every eye was in search of the Parsonage, and every turning expected to bring it in view. The palings of Rosings Park was their boundary on one side. Elizabeth smiled at the recollection of all that she had heard of its inhabitants.At length the Parsonage was discernible. The garden sloping to the road, the house standing in it, the green pales, and the laurel hedge, everything declared they were arriving. Mr. Collins and Charlotte appeared at the door, and the carriage stopped at the small gate which led by a short gravel walk to the house, amidst the nods and smiles of the whole party. In a moment they were all out of the chaise, rejoicing at the sight of each other. Mrs. Collins welcomed her friend with the liveliest pleasure, and Elizabeth was more and more satisfied with coming when she found herself so affectionately received. She saw instantly that her cousin’s manners were not altered by his marriage; his formal civility was just what it had been, and he detained her some minutes at the gate to hear and satisfy his inquiries after all her family. They were then, with no other delay than his pointing out the neatness of the entrance, taken into the house; and as soon as they were in the parlour, he welcomed them a second time, with ostentatious formality to his humble abode, and punctually repeated all his wife’s offers of refreshment. Elizabeth was prepared to see him in his glory; and she could not help in fancying that in displaying the good proportion of the room, its aspect and its furniture, he addressed himself particularly to her, as if wishing to make her feel what she had lost in refusing him. But though everything seemed neat and comfortable, she was not able to gratify him by any sigh of repentance, and rather looked with wonder at her friend that she could have so cheerful an air with such a companion. When Mr. Collins said anything of which his wife might reasonably be ashamed, which certainly was not unseldom, she involuntarily turned her eye on Charlotte. Once or twice she could discern a faint blush; but in general Charlotte wisely did not hear. After sitting long enough to admire every article of furniture in the room, from the sideboard to the fender, to give an account of their journey, and of all that had happened in London, Mr. Collins invited them to take a stroll in the garden, which was large and well laid out, and to the cultivation of which he attended himself. To work in this garden was one of his most respectable pleasures; and Elizabeth admired the command of countenance with which Charlotte talked of the healthfulness of the exercise, and owned she encouraged it as much as possible. Here, leading the way through every walk and cross walk, and scarcely allowing them an interval to utter the praises he asked for, every view was pointed out with a minuteness which left beauty entirely behind. He could number the fields in every direction, and could tell how many trees there were in the most distant clump. But of all the views which his garden, or which the country or kingdom could boast, none were to be compared with the prospect of Rosings, afforded by an opening in the trees that bordered the park nearly opposite the front of his house. It was a handsome modern building, well situated on rising ground.
From his garden, Mr. Collins would have led them round his two meadows; but the ladies, not having shoes to encounter the remains of a white frost, turned back; and while Sir William accompanied him, Charlotte took her sister and friend over the house, extremely well pleased, probably, to have the opportunity of showing it without her husband’s help. It was rather small, but well built and convenient; and everything was fitted up and arranged with a neatness and consistency of which Elizabeth gave Charlotte all the credit. When Mr. Collins could be forgotten, there was really an air of great comfort throughout, and by Charlotte’s evident enjoyment of it, Elizabeth supposed he must be often forgotten.
She had already learnt that Lady Catherine was still in the country. It was spoken of again while they were at dinner, when Mr. Collins joining in, observed:
“Yes, Miss Elizabeth, you will have the honour of seeing Lady Catherine de Bourgh on the ensuing Sunday at church, and I need not say you will be delighted with her. She is all affability and condescension, and I doubt not but you will be honoured with some portion of her notice when service is over. I have scarcely any hesitation in saying she will include you and my sister Maria in every invitation with which she honours us during your stay here. Her behaviour to my dear Charlotte is charming. We dine at Rosings twice every week, and are never allowed to walk home. Her ladyship’s carriage is regularly ordered for us. I should say, one of her ladyship’s carriages, for she has several.”
“Lady Catherine is a very respectable, sensible woman indeed,” added Charlotte, “and a most attentive neighbour.”
“Very true, my dear, that is exactly what I say. She is the sort of woman whom one cannot regard with too much deference.”
The evening was spent chiefly in talking over Hertfordshire news, and telling again what had already been written; and when it closed, Elizabeth, in the solitude of her chamber, had to meditate upon Charlotte’s degree of contentment, to understand her address in guiding, and composure in bearing with, her husband, and to acknowledge that it was all done very well. She had also to anticipate how her visit would pass, the quiet tenor of their usual employments, the vexatious interruptions of Mr. Collins, and the gaieties of their intercourse with Rosings. A lively imagination soon settled it all.
About the middle of the next day, as she was in her room getting ready for a walk, a sudden noise below seemed to speak the whole house in confusion; and, after listening a moment, she heard somebody running up stairs in a violent hurry, and calling loudly after her. She opened the door and met Maria in the landing place, who, breathless with agitation, cried out—“Oh, my dear Eliza! pray make haste and come into the dining-room, for there is such a sight to be seen! I will not tell you what it is. Make haste, and come down this moment.”
Elizabeth asked questions in vain; Maria would tell her nothing more, and down they ran into the dining-room, which fronted the lane, in quest of this wonder; It was two ladies stopping in a low phaeton at the garden gate.
“And is this all?” cried Elizabeth. “I expected at least that the pigs were got into the garden, and here is nothing but Lady Catherine and her daughter.”
“La! my dear,” said Maria, quite shocked at the mistake, “it is not Lady Catherine. The old lady is Mrs. Jenkinson, who lives with them; the other is Miss de Bourgh. Only look at her. She is quite a little creature. Who would have thought that she could be so thin and small?”“She is abominably rude to keep Charlotte out of doors in all this wind. Why does she not come in?”
“Oh, Charlotte says she hardly ever does. It is the greatest of favours when Miss de Bourgh comes in.”
“I like her appearance,” said Elizabeth, struck with other ideas. “She looks sickly and cross. Yes, she will do for him very well. She will make him a very proper wife.”Mr. Collins and Charlotte were both standing at the gate in conversation with the ladies; and Sir William, to Elizabeth’s high diversion, was stationed in the doorway, in earnest contemplation of the greatness before him, and constantly bowing whenever Miss de Bourgh looked that way.
At length there was nothing more to be said; the ladies drove on, and the others returned into the house. Mr. Collins no sooner saw the two girls than he began to congratulate them on their good fortune, which Charlotte explained by letting them know that the whole party was asked to dine at Rosings the next day.
Now that we have finally been introduced to Hunsford and the sickly Anne de Bourgh, I thought readers would enjoy this intimate glimpse into the Hunsford Rectory. Here in this two-part series, Austenonly shares some background information about Hunsford titled, “The Hunsford Rectory,” A Two-Part Series.
JASNA has this great article about the role Anne De Bourgh (their spelling) plays in “Pride and Prejudice” and how Anne, Elizabeth and Caroline work together throughout the story as the “Three Sisters.” In this article:
“Ten Harmsel alerts us to look everywhere in Pride and Prejudice for foils to Elizabeth because they are necessary to Austen’s development of the novel’s themes. As their likenesses or mutual relationships draw them to desire the same objects, protagonists and their foils can come to vie with each other in earnest and sometimes vicious competition (Girard 1-52). Such competition does occur in Pride and Prejudice, wherein both our heroine and her sister have seeming rivals for their future spouses’ hands, though not for their affections. In Elizabeth’s case, these rivalries are of different orders: one rival has a claim upon Darcy but no interest in him; the other has a great deal of interest, but no claim . . . and no chance. Ten Harmsel points out, “Even the romances that do not evolve successfully—those of Miss Bingley and Miss De Bourgh—obviously owe their failure to the all-pervasive character and action of the lively heroine” (72). To say that neither of these relationships evolves successfully is an understatement. Darcy downright dislikes Caroline. But Elizabeth is probably also not the cause of the failure of the other potential relationship. Although Anne De Bourgh is the character Austen supplies as the most serious rival to Elizabeth for marriage to Mr. Darcy, Anne does not seem to want him.”
The author asks an important question here about Austen’s purposes for her inclusion of Anne de Bourgh in her story. Ms. Kenney asserts:
“Anne could merely be a narrative placeholder existing only to be the theme of her mother’s boasting and invidious comparisons; Elinor’s rival Miss Morton in Sense and Sensibility is just such a placeholder. While Miss Morton never appears upon the scene in her novel, Anne is not only mentioned: she appears; she speaks (offstage); she interacts with Elizabeth and Maria Lucas, among others. Nevertheless, the very fact that she does very little and never says a word the reader can overhear indicates something significant. This apparent taciturnity differentiates her from her mother, who has the predilection Darcy appears to have inherited from his mother for making impressive statements loudly enough to be heard or overheard. It may be that Austen gives us precious little information about Anne from which to deduce any interiority, but, as Samuel Johnson says in his Life of Cowley, “actions are visible, though motives are secret” (11). The silence itself is a kind of action and may help the reader discern the motivation behind it. Austen seems to be using Anne’s silence to show something—but what? That she feels her prior claim excludes competition, or even that she really has no interest in Darcy? That she is too fatigued and retiring due to her long-standing infirmity to care about her hale and hearty rival, Elizabeth? How can we understand her behavior in her scenes at Rosings?”
What do you think is the role of Anne de Bourgh? What is the meaning behind her character? Does she really believe she is so far above Elizabeth in station that Elizabeth will never really gain any notice by Darcy or does she really not care about a future relationship with Darcy? Is she just a foil for Elizabeth’s character, or does she have merit of her own as a character in the story?
I look forward to reading your thoughts about the mysterious and awkward Miss de Bourgh as we move into the next few chapters here in Kent and at the glorious Rosings Park!