Today we have a nice, long chapter that includes parts from Elizabeth and Jane’s stay at Netherfield that were not included in the 1995 adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice.” I believe these scenes add some more depth of understanding in regards to Elizabeth and Darcy’s growing attraction to each other, Charles’ friendships with Darcy and Elizabeth, as well as demonstrating Caroline’s growing awareness of Darcy’s attraction to Elizabeth.
I’m including in this chapter some footnotes I found in Patricia Meyer Spacks’ edition of “Pride and Prejudice,” which is a book I have treasured since its purchase last spring. These footnotes really helped me deepen my own understanding of some of the smaller parts in this chapter and added insights that I found helpful for reading future chapters.
The day passed much as the day before had done. Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley had spent some hours of the morning with the invalid, who continued, though slowly, to mend; and in the evening Elizabeth joined their party in the drawing-room. The loo-table, however, did not appear. Mr. Darcy was writing, and Miss Bingley, seated near him, was watching the progress of his letter and repeatedly calling off his attention by messages to his sister. Mr. Hurst and Mr. Bingley were at piquet, and Mrs. Hurst was observing their game.
Elizabeth took up some needlework, and was sufficiently amused in attending to what passed between Darcy and his companion. The perpetual commendations of the lady, either on his handwriting, or on the evenness of his lines, or on the length of his letter, with the perfect unconcern with which her praises were received, formed a curious dialogue, and was exactly in unison with her opinion of each.
“How delighted Miss Darcy will be to receive such a letter!”
He made no answer.
“You write uncommonly fast.”
“You are mistaken. I write rather slowly.”
“How many letters you must have occasion to write in the course of a year! Letters of business, too! How odious I should think them!”
“It is fortunate, then, that they fall to my lot instead of yours.”
“Pray tell your sister that I long to see her.”
“I have already told her so once, by your desire.”
“I am afraid you do not like your pen. Let me mend it for you. I mend pens remarkably well.”
“Thank you—but I always mend my own.”
“How can you contrive to write so even?”
He was silent.
“Tell your sister I am delighted to hear of her improvement on the harp; and pray let her know that I am quite in raptures with her beautiful little design for a table, and I think it infinitely superior to Miss Grantley’s.”
“Will you give me leave to defer your raptures till I write again? At present I have not room to do them justice.”
“Oh! it is of no consequence. I shall see her in January. But do you always write such charming long letters to her, Mr. Darcy?”
“They are generally long; but whether always charming it is not for me to determine.”
“It is a rule with me, that a person who can write a long letter with ease, cannot write ill.”
“That will not do for a compliment to Darcy, Caroline,” cried her brother, “because he does not write with ease. He studies too much for words of four syllables. Do not you, Darcy?”
“My style of writing is very different from yours.”
“Oh!” cried Miss Bingley, “Charles writes in the most careless way imaginable. He leaves out half his words, and blots the rest.”
“My ideas flow so rapidly that I have not time to express them—by which means my letters sometimes convey no ideas at all to my correspondents.”
“Your humility, Mr. Bingley,” said Elizabeth, “must disarm reproof.”
“Nothing is more deceitful,” said Darcy, “than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.”
“And which of the two do you call my little recent piece of modesty?”
“The indirect boast; for you are really proud of your defects in writing, because you consider them as proceeding from a rapidity of thought and carelessness of execution, which, if not estimable, you think at least highly interesting. The power of doing anything with quickness is always prized much by the possessor, and often without any attention to the imperfection of the performance. When you told Mrs. Bennet this morning that if you ever resolved upon quitting Netherfield you should be gone in five minutes, you meant it to be a sort of panegyric, of compliment to yourself—and yet what is there so very laudable in a precipitance which must leave very necessary business undone, and can be of no real advantage to yourself or anyone else?”
“Nay,” cried Bingley, “this is too much, to remember at night all the foolish things that were said in the morning. And yet, upon my honour, I believe what I said of myself to be true, and I believe it at this moment. At least, therefore, I did not assume the character of needless precipitance merely to show off before the ladies.”
“I dare say you believed it; but I am by no means convinced that you would be gone with such celerity. Your conduct would be quite as dependent on chance as that of any man I know; and if, as you were mounting your horse, a friend were to say, ‘Bingley, you had better stay till next week,’ you would probably do it, you would probably not go—and at another word, might stay a month.”
“You have only proved by this,” cried Elizabeth, “that Mr. Bingley did not do justice to his own disposition. You have shown him off now much more than he did himself.”
“I am exceedingly gratified,” said Bingley, “by your converting what my friend says into a compliment on the sweetness of my temper. But I am afraid you are giving it a turn which that gentleman did by no means intend; for he would certainly think better of me, if under such a circumstance I were to give a flat denial, and ride off as fast as I could.”
“Would Mr. Darcy then consider the rashness of your original intentions as atoned for by your obstinacy in adhering to it?” “Upon my word, I cannot exactly explain the matter; Darcy must speak for himself.”
“Upon my word, I cannot exactly explain the matter; Darcy must speak for himself.”
“You expect me to account for opinions which you choose to call mine, but which I have never acknowledged. Allowing the case, however, to stand according to your representation, you must remember, Miss Bennet, that the friend who is supposed to desire his return to the house, and the delay of his plan, has merely desired it, asked it without offering one argument in favour of its propriety.”
“To yield readily—easily—to the persuasion of a friend is no merit with you.”
“To yield without conviction is no compliment to the understanding of either.”
“You appear to me, Mr. Darcy, to allow nothing for the influence of friendship and affection. A regard for the requester would often make one readily yield to a request, without waiting for arguments to reason one into it. I am not particularly speaking of such a case as you have supposed about Mr. Bingley. We may as well wait, perhaps, till the circumstance occurs before we discuss the discretion of his behaviour thereupon. But in general and ordinary cases between friend and friend, where one of them is desired by the other to change a resolution of no very great moment, should you think ill of that person for complying with the desire, without waiting to be argued into it?”
“Will it not be advisable, before we proceed on this subject, to arrange with rather more precision the degree of importance which is to appertain to this request, as well as the degree of intimacy subsisting between the parties?”
“By all means,” cried Bingley; “let us hear all the particulars, not forgetting their
comparative height and size; for that will have more weight in the argument, Miss Bennet, than you may be aware of. I assure you, that if Darcy were not such a great tall fellow, in comparison with myself, I should not pay him half so much deference. I declare I do not know a more awful¹ object than Darcy, on particular occasions, and in particular places; at his own house especially, and of a Sunday evening, when he has nothing to do.”
Mr. Darcy smiled; but Elizabeth thought she could perceive that he was rather offended, and therefore checked her laugh. Miss Bingley warmly resented the indignity he had received, in an expostulation with her brother for talking such nonsense.
“I see your design, Bingley,” said his friend. “You dislike an argument, and want to silence this.”
“Perhaps I do. Arguments are too much like disputes. If you and Miss Bennet will defer yours till I am out of the room, I shall be very thankful; and then you may say whatever you like of me.”
“What you ask,” said Elizabeth, “is no sacrifice on my side; and Mr. Darcy had much better finish his letter.”
Mr. Darcy took her advice, and did finish his letter. When that business was over, he applied to Miss Bingley and Elizabeth for an indulgence of some music. Miss Bingley moved with some alacrity to the pianoforte; and, after a polite request that Elizabeth would lead the way which the other as politely and more earnestly negatived, she seated herself.
Mrs. Hurst sang with her sister, and while they were thus employed, Elizabeth could not help observing, as she turned over some music-books that lay on the instrument, how frequently Mr. Darcy’s eyes were fixed on her. She hardly knew how to suppose that she could be an object of admiration to so great a man; and yet that he should look at her because he disliked her, was still more strange. She could only imagine, however, at last that she drew his notice because there was something more wrong and reprehensible, according to his ideas of right, than in any other person present. The supposition did not pain her. She liked him too little to care for his approbation.
After playing some Italian songs, Miss Bingley varied the charm by a lively Scotch air; and soon afterwards Mr. Darcy, drawing near Elizabeth, said to her:
“Do not you feel a great inclination, Miss Bennet, to seize such an opportunity of dancing a reel?”²
She smiled, but made no answer. He repeated the question, with some surprise at her silence.
“Oh!” said she, “I heard you before, but I could not immediately determine what to say in reply. You wanted me, I know, to say ‘Yes,’ that you might have the pleasure of despising my taste; but I always delight in overthrowing those kind of schemes, and cheating a person of their premeditated contempt. I have, therefore, made up my mind to tell you, that I do not want to dance a reel at all—and now despise me if you dare.”
“Indeed I do not dare.”
Elizabeth, having rather expected to affront him, was amazed at his gallantry; but there was a mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner which made it difficult for her to affront anybody; and Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her. He really believed, that were it not for the inferiority of her connections, he should be in some danger.
Miss Bingley saw, or suspected enough to be jealous; and her great anxiety for the recovery of her dear friend Jane received some assistance from her desire of getting rid of Elizabeth.
She often tried to provoke Darcy into disliking her guest, by talking of their supposed marriage, and planning his happiness in such an alliance.
“I hope,” said she, as they were walking together in the shrubbery the next day, “you will give your mother-in-law a few hints, when this desirable event takes place, as to the advantage of holding her tongue; and if you can compass it, do cure the younger girls of running after officers. And, if I may mention so delicate a subject, endeavour to check that little something, bordering on conceit and impertinence, which your lady possesses.”
“Have you anything else to propose for my domestic felicity?”
“Oh! yes. Do let the portraits of your uncle and aunt Phillips be placed in the gallery at Pemberley. Put them next to your great-uncle the judge. They are in the same profession, you know, only in different lines. As for your Elizabeth’s picture, you must not have it taken, for what painter could do justice to those beautiful eyes?”
“It would not be easy, indeed, to catch their expression, but their colour and shape, and the eyelashes, so remarkably fine, might be copied.”
At that moment they were met from another walk by Mrs. Hurst and Elizabeth herself.
“I did not know that you intended to walk,” said Miss Bingley, in some confusion, lest they had been overheard.”You used us abominably ill,” answered Mrs. Hurst, “running away without telling us that you were coming out.”
Then taking the disengaged arm of Mr. Darcy, she left Elizabeth to walk by herself. The path just admitted three. Mr. Darcy felt their rudeness, and immediately said,-“This walk is not wide enough for our party. We had better go into the avenue.”
But Elizabeth, who had not the least inclination to remain with them, laughingly
answered:”No, no; stay where you are. You are charmingly grouped, and appear to uncommon advantage. The picturesque would be spoilt by admitting a fourth.³ Good-bye.”
She then ran gaily off, rejoicing as she rambled about, in the hope of being at home again in a day or two. Jane was already so much recovered as to intend leaving her room for a couple of hours that evening.
- The reel, a lively and popular dance, could be thought of as low social status. Elizabeth may be remembering Darcy’s scorn of the dancing at Sir Lucas’s gathering when Mary played Scotch and Irish airs so that her younger sisters and “some of the Lucases” could dance with the officers. It was this spectacle that caused Darcy to remark that “Every savage can dance.”
- The picturesque had become a popular aesthetic category, largely in part to Gilpin’s observations published in “Observations on Several Parts of England.” He felt three made a good group – either united- or when one is a little removed from the other two. If you increase the group beyond three, one or more, in proportion, must be a little detached. By comparing the residents of Netherfield to cattle, as Elizabeth does, is hardly flattering. But she does include herself here and is happy to be “a little detached.” This is a wonderful blog post, from Austenonly, goes into great detail about Gilpin’s work and relates it back to “Pride and Prejudice.”
I have to admit this is one of my favorite chapters because we learn so much about Darcy and Elizabeth here and the tension between them is palpable while the only other person even aware of Darcy’s growing attraction for Elizabeth is Caroline. As she is unable to reflect upon the effects of her own behaviors and how they typically move Darcy away from her, she does show here her ability to discern Darcy’s shifting feelings for Elizabeth.
I believe the discussion regarding Bingley here lends itself to further examination:
(Darcy to Bingley) “I dare say you believed it; but I am by no means convinced that you would be gone with such celerity. Your conduct would be quite as dependent on chance as that of any man I know; and if, as you were mounting your horse, a friend were to say, ‘Bingley, you had better stay till next week,’ you would probably do it, you would probably not go—and at another word, might stay a month.”
What are your thoughts regarding Bingley’s character here in this chapter? Who do you believe seems to understand him best, Darcy or Elizabeth? What does this say about Darcy, since we know that he is willing to ridicule Charles for his ability to be easily influenced and/or persuaded by a friend when we know that Darcy is going to be planning alongside with Caroline to persuade Charles to leave Netherfield, and eventually, put aside a future with Jane Bennet.
I loved the part where Darcy asks Elizabeth to dance a reel, twice actually, because she ignores his initial request, and she says no because she believes he is doing so with the ultimate purpose of demeaning her. I never understood that the reel was considered a dance preferred by the lower social classes and that he may be thinking of her sisters when he made this request. Again, he shows his growing attraction for her and she is so blind to it. He even gives her a polite response, which he typically does, by saying her won’t hate her for this decision. Why do you believe he asked her to dance a reel and do you think he was also thinking of her sisters when he made this request?
In reviewing the book titled, “Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism, Vol. 207,” I found this interesting theory about why Elizabeth’s eyes probably played a large part in Darcy’s growing attraction to her. The book states that ” While poetry may call the eyes the windows to the soul, evolutionary psychology, as we noted, postulates that men are attracted to women who appear healthy and able to bear and nurture children. Evolutionary theorists remind us that in early ancestral environments, cloudy or dull eyes may have been a signal of disease or bad genes.”
This chapter, where Caroline brings attention, once again, to Elizabeth’s eyes, may serve to reinforce not only Elizabeth’s beauty but also her robust health, which probably makes her as equally, if not, maybe even more attractive as a potential spouse, especially when compared with Anne de Bourgh:
(Caroline to Darcy) “They are in the same profession, you know, only in different lines. As for your Elizabeth’s picture, you must not have it taken, for what painter could do justice to those beautiful eyes?”
(Darcy’s response) “It would not be easy, indeed, to catch their expression, but their colour and shape, and the eyelashes, so remarkably fine, might be copied.”
In this last scene of this chapter, where Elizabeth decides not to join their grouping, the scene follows as below:
Then taking the disengaged arm of Mr. Darcy (Mrs. Hurst), she left Elizabeth to walk by herself. The path just admitted three. Mr. Darcy felt their rudeness, and immediately said,-“This walk is not wide enough for our party. We had better go into the avenue.”
“But Elizabeth, who had not the least inclination to remain with them, laughingly answered:”No, no; stay where you are. You are charmingly grouped, and appear to uncommon advantage. The picturesque would be spoilt by admitting a fourth.³ Good-bye.”
In this Austenonly blog post, referenced above as well, it is expressed that Austen relied on Gilpin’s book, “In his Observations on the Mountains and Lakes of Cumberland and Westmoreland” to use for her own descriptions of Derbyshire and possibly even Pemberley, as it’s believed Austen never actually visited Derbyshire.
Also from this Austenonly post, the author writes:
Here we have Jane Austen her allowing her heroine an opportunity for getting her revenge on the Bingley sisters for their continued rudeness to her. Elizabeth is quite clearly referring to a passage from Gilpin’s Observations on Cumberland and Westmorland. In Volume II Section XXXI he waxes lyrical on the picturesque qualities of the domesticated animals normally to be found in the English countryside; that is, horses, sheep and cows. This is what he has to say about the grouping of cows:
Cattle are so large that when they ornament a foreground, a few are sufficient. Two cows will hardly combine Three make a good group- either united- or when one is a little removed from the other two. If you increase the group beyond three; one of more in proportion must necessarily be a little detached. This detachment prevents heaviness and adds variety…
By allowing Elizabeth to make this one little, seemingly innocent remark (and escape from Darcy and the Bingley sisters in the process) Jane Austen demonstrates that despite the efforts of Mrs. Bennet to hinder her education, Elizabeth has, by the advantage of her extensive reading, more awareness of the principles of the picturesque than of the expensively educated ladies before her. As a man of taste and education, Darcy is most probably aware of the source for her reference and cannot but be impressed by it. He also knew that she was referring to them as a group of three….cows.
Game set and match to Elizabeth Bennet walking swiftly in the opposite direction…..
I loved finding this post and being able to share these brilliant ideas in regards to this chapter. Isn’t this just a great joke here on Caroline? Once again, that extensive reading done by Elizabeth has paid off, bringing Darcy’s attention to her quick and well-read mind and allowing her to enjoy a little humor at Caroline’s expense.
I hope you found this chapter filled with as much to savor and reflect upon as I did when I reread these pages. I love Austen’s ability in revealing to us these tiny little fragments about her characters and then leaving us with as many questions as answers, once we’ve closed the chapter in this book.
I look forward to reading your thoughts and reflections below this post after you view this post and hopefully, the additional links, especially the links to Austenonly. I hope to include more analysis of the decisions made by Austen to have Elizabeth refuse Darcy’s offers to dance in future posts, as I continue to dip in and out of various literary texts that offer further clarity and considerations about “Pride and Prejudice.”