“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
Today I share with my readers the final post, in what has been for me, a most rewarding, stimulating, and enjoyable process; this series of posts affectionately named, “We Still Need Her.” What started out for me as a way to share my deep love and develop my own greater understanding of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, became an even more rewarding experience for me as I read each and every one of your comments, collaborated with other Janeites to bring you posts that offered new perspectives and insights into this timeless story and found in so many of you a dear friend that I could count on to also be a faithful correspondent.
With these sentiments in my heart, I have embarked upon a way to share with you one final post in this series that would not only be fitting of the estimable and brilliant Jane Austen herself, but also suited to show my deep gratitude and joy in sharing this experience for the last 16 months with each and every one of you.
As we all recognize, Jane valued nothing more than her own family… She held them dearly in her heart and her days and nights were a stream of interactions with her most cherished family and friends. Her novels, created “on to the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory” on which she worked with so fine a brush, also share the duties and affections, the joys and burdens, along with the celebrations and struggles of familial love and responsibility.
It is these very same people who inspired quite an array of her most enduring and memorable characters; therefore, who is better suited to host this final chapter than Caroline Jane Knight, Jane’s fifth great niece , who is one of the last of the Austen descendants to be raised in the family’s ancestral home in Chawton, where Jane herself lived her last several years and wrote her most famous works?
Caroline is an incredible woman in her own rights, and as an Austen descendant, she stepped out to create another legacy in Jane’s name; the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation. With 125 million children worldwide who aren’t attending school, there is a literacy crisis and Caroline created this foundation to harness the worldwide passion for Jane Austen to raise money to improve global literacy rates. Jane herself was an advocate for education and Caroline feels confident that she would approve of her legacy being used to help teach children to read and write.
It is with great honor that I introduce you to Caroline Jane Knight and welcome her to Just Jane 1813, to offer us some parting words as we read this final chapter together from Pride & Prejudice.
I have known Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet for as long as I can remember, as they were most frequently mentioned of all Jane Austen’s characters by the many visitors that came to our home throughout the summer, for tea in the Great Hall of Chawton House. The Hampshire estate of Chawton, in the South of England, was once owned by Edward Austen Knight, my fourth great grandfather. Jane spent the last eight years of her life living in a cottage in the middle of the village just 400 metres from the ‘Great House’, as she called her brother’s home. Chawton House remained our family home until the 1990s and I had the privilege of growing up surrounded by fifteen generations of my own family history and the legacy of my very great aunt, Jane Austen.
In 2013, the worldwide Jane Austen community celebrated the 200 year anniversary of the publishing of Jane’s second novel, Pride & Prejudice. Now, only four years later, we mark the 200 year anniversary of her death – a stark realisation of how tragically short her professional career was. There is no doubt we were robbed of other characters and novels Jane would have written, but we can take great comfort in the masterpieces we do have, that can be read, heard, or watched again and again, and never tire. I’m sure Jane would be thrilled to know her work is loved and appreciated by millions across the world – a phenomenal achievement for a woman from a Hampshire village in Regency England.
I hope you enjoy the final chapter of great Aunt Jane’s most famous and popular work, Pride & Prejudice, as much as the first time you read it.
Caroline Jane Knight
Founder & Chair of the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation
Happy for all her maternal feelings was the day on which Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters. With what delighted pride she afterwards visited Mrs. Bingley, and talked of Mrs. Darcy, may be guessed. I wish I could say, for the sake of her family, that the accomplishment of her earnest desire in the establishment of so many of her children produced so happy an effect as to make her a sensible, amiable, well-informed woman for the rest of her life; though perhaps it was lucky for her husband, who might not have relished domestic felicity in so unusual a form, that she still was occasionally nervous and invariably silly.
Mr. Bennet missed his second daughter exceedingly; his affection for her drew him oftener from home than anything else could do. He delighted in going to Pemberley, especially when he was least expected.
Mr. Bingley and Jane remained at Netherfield only a twelvemonth. So near a vicinity to her mother and Meryton relations was not desirable even to his easy temper, or her affectionate heart. The darling wish of his sisters was then gratified; he bought an estate in a neighbouring county to Derbyshire, and Jane and Elizabeth, in addition to every other source of happiness, were within thirty miles of each other.
Kitty, to her very material advantage, spent the chief of her time with her two elder sisters. In society so superior to what she had generally known, her improvement was great. She was not of so ungovernable a temper as Lydia; and, removed from the influence of Lydia’s example, she became, by proper attention and management, less irritable, less ignorant, and less insipid. From the further disadvantage of Lydia’s society she was of course carefully kept, and though Mrs. Wickham frequently invited her to come and stay with her, with the promise of balls and young men, her father would never consent to her going.
Mary was the only daughter who remained at home; and she was necessarily drawn from the pursuit of accomplishments by Mrs. Bennet’s being quite unable to sit alone. Mary was obliged to mix more with the world, but she could still moralize over every morning visit; and as she was no longer mortified by comparisons between her sisters’ beauty and her own, it was suspected by her father that she submitted to the change without much reluctance.
As for Wickham and Lydia, their characters suffered no revolution from the marriage of her sisters. He bore with philosophy the conviction that Elizabeth must now become acquainted with whatever of his ingratitude and falsehood had before been unknown to her; and in spite of every thing, was not wholly without hope that Darcy might yet be prevailed on to make his fortune. The congratulatory letter which Elizabeth received from Lydia on her marriage, explained to her that, by his wife at least, if not by himself, such a hope was cherished. The letter was to this effect:
“MY DEAR LIZZY,
“I wish you joy. If you love Mr. Darcy half as well as I do my dear Wickham, you must be very happy. It is a great comfort to have you so rich, and when you have nothing else to do, I hope you will think of us. I am sure Wickham would like a place at court very much, and I do not think we shall have quite money enough to live upon without some help. Any place would do, of about three or four hundred a year; but however, do not speak to Mr. Darcy about it, if you had rather not.
As it happened that Elizabeth had much rather not, she endeavoured in her answer to put an end to every entreaty and expectation of the kind. Such relief, however, as it was in her power to afford, by the practice of what might be called economy in her own private expences, she frequently sent them. It had always been evident to her that such an income as theirs, under the direction of two persons so extravagant in their wants, and heedless of the future, must be very insufficient to their support; and whenever they changed their quarters, either Jane or herself were sure of being applied to for some little assistance towards discharging their bills. Their manner of living, even when the restoration of peace dismissed them to a home, was unsettled in the extreme. They were always moving from place to place in quest of a cheap situation, and always spending more than they ought. His affection for her soon sunk into indifference; hers lasted a little longer; and in spite of her youth and her manners, she retained all the claims to reputation which her marriage had given her.
Though Darcy could never receive him at Pemberley, yet, for Elizabeth’s sake, he assisted him further in his profession. Lydia was occasionally a visitor there, when her husband was gone to enjoy himself in London or Bath; and with the Bingleys they both of them frequently staid so long, that even Bingley’s good humour was overcome, and he proceeded so far as to talk of giving them a hint to be gone.
Miss Bingley was very deeply mortified by Darcy’s marriage; but as she thought it advisable to retain the right of visiting at Pemberley, she dropt all her resentment; was fonder than ever of Georgiana, almost as attentive to Darcy as heretofore, and paid off every arrear of civility to Elizabeth.
Pemberley was now Georgiana’s home; and the attachment of the sisters was exactly what Darcy had hoped to see. They were able to love each other even as well as they intended. Georgiana had the highest opinion in the world of Elizabeth; though at first she often listened with an astonishment bordering on alarm at her lively, sportive, manner of talking to her brother. He, who had always inspired in herself a respect which almost overcame her affection, she now saw the object of open pleasantry. Her mind received knowledge which had never before fallen in her way. By Elizabeth’s instructions, she began to comprehend that a woman may take liberties with her husband which a brother will not always allow in a sister more than ten years younger than himself.
Lady Catherine was extremely indignant on the marriage of her nephew; and as she gave way to all the genuine frankness of her character in her reply to the letter which announced its arrangement, she sent him language so very abusive, especially of Elizabeth, that for some time all intercourse was at an end. But at length, by Elizabeth’s persuasion, he was prevailed on to overlook the offence, and seek a reconciliation; and, after a little further resistance on the part of his aunt, her resentment gave way, either to her affection for him, or her curiosity to see how his wife conducted herself; and she condescended to wait on them at Pemberley, in spite of that pollution which its woods had received, not merely from the presence of such a mistress, but the visits of her uncle and aunt from the city.
With the Gardiners, they were always on the most intimate terms. Darcy, as well as Elizabeth, really loved them; and they were both ever sensible of the warmest gratitude towards the persons who, by bringing her into Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting them.
To close this chapter and reflect upon Austen’s ending, I can think of no other more fitting words than the ones below from Patricia Meyer Spacks’ interview on Five Books,
“In all of the novels except Pride and Prejudice, at the end Austen gives you some suggestion of difficulties coming in the marriage.”
“Pride and Prejudice is the only one – at the end of Pride and Prejudice the author really thinks that her central characters are going to live happily ever after. It’s a wonderful ending. Everybody knows that famous first sentence: ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.’ There are many, many things that can be said about that sentence, but the view of marriage that it implies is what I might call the commercial view of marriage. This is the view that Mrs Bennet has, and that Charlotte has – that a woman has her attractiveness, variously defined, and the man has his money, and the woman exchanges her attractiveness for his money. But the last sentence of Pride and Prejudice is about the various people who come to visit at Pemberley, and how they are welcomed. It implies a view of marriage as the centre of a community, of marriage being a community and making a larger community.
It’s a much larger and more romantic but also, in my view, a more moral view of marriage. It’s a view of marriage as a centre expanding outwards that is totally absent at the beginning of the book. It doesn’t recur in any of the other novels. At the end of Persuasion, which I was talking about as a love story, there is a happy marriage. But there is a reminder of the quick alarms of a sailor’s life that are before Anne, because she is married to a sailor. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with marrying a sailor, or the particular sailor she’s married to, but it is a reminder that she isn’t going to be nothing but happy. But at the end of Pride and Prejudice you can believe that they aren’t going to be anything but happy.
For readers who would like to imagine Elizabeth’ Darcy’s homecoming to Pemberley, I recommend this JASNA article that delves into the diaries penned by two women known to the Austens, neighbor Eliza Chute and her niece Emma Smith. The article is titled “Pemberley’s Welcome, or An Historical Conjecture Upon Elizabeth Darcy’s Wedding Journey” by Kelly M. McDonald.
Here’s a list of all of the wonderful Spotify playlists recommended by my Just Jane 1813 readers throughout the various chapters of Pride & Prejudice.
I also want to thank the following authors who collaborated on posts with me. Their generosity and their insights into Austen helped to create such memorable posts throughout this series. I can’t thank them enough for their participation!
It’s Giveaway Time!
To thank my readers for joining me throughout this reading journey, I am offering a special giveaway prize to one Just Jane 1813 reader. One winner will receive a prize that will include a $50.00 donation made in the winner’s name to the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation, which will provide four children each with a school bag filled with pencils, pens and notebooks and which will include a Jane Austen Literacy Foundation bookplate, personalised with the winner’s name and a unique serial number, a Pride & Prejudice mug from Penguin Publishers, a Pride & Prejudice notebook, a Pride & Prejudice Blu-Ray DVD Keepsake Edition with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, a Pride & Prejudice CD soundtrack of the music from the 1995 BBC movie and a Pride & Prejudice adult coloring book. To enter this giveaway, please enter the Rafflecopter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The winner will be announced on this blog on May 8, 2017. This giveaway is open to international readers too.
I also ask my readers to consider donating to the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation to support the foundation’s efforts in supporting reputable charitable organisations, such as UNICEF and The Australian Literacy & Numeracy Foundation, to help assist them in funding basic materials, like colouring pencils, pens, paper, children’s books, and novels for communities in need.
Thank you, my wonderful readers, for being my faithful companions throughout this journey, and thank you to the amazing Caroline Jane Knight, who is such an inspiration throughout the world for her work with the Jane Austen Foundation and for being willing to share her family’s legacy with all of Jane’s fans! I have no doubt that 200 years from now, people all over the world will continue to read Jane Austen stories and connect with her unforgettable characters, as I also have no doubt that women through the ages will continue to still need the witty and charming Elizabeth Bennet.
Please feel free to share your comments and thoughts in the post below. Your feedback has been a tremendous source of inspiration throughout this process!