Today we are reading what may possibly be my favorite chapter in “Pride and Prejudice,” and yet, it’s a chapter that I struggled to fully appreciate and comprehend until I did quite a bit of close reading of this chapter. This included reading numerous online materials to understand more about Darcy and Elizabeth’s intimate and powerful conversation at Lady Catherine’s piano at Rosings Park. This scene really evoked strong feelings from within me, but I struggled to explain what their conversation fully meant between them and the significance behind their words to each other. I also think this is where I start to fall in love with Darcy myself!
I felt so rewarded when I found a post online where Stephanie Barron, author of the Being A Jane Austen Mystery series, described her thoughts about Darcy and Elizabeth’s conversation in this chapter. Undoubtedly, Darcy wishes he were the one at her side here instead of his cousin, and yet, he finds a way to share with Elizabeth an extremely personal and meaningful exchange. Ms. Barron’s post reveals in such an eloquent manner what Darcy is trying to communicate in this scene and why it’s so pivotal to their relationship.
There will be four fun ways to enter these giveaways, as well as three giveaway prizes for our winners. To enter our giveaways, please do one or more of the following:
- Have your share in the conversation! Tell us your thoughts about this chapter in the comments below.
- Do you have a song that you think sums up what is taking place here between Darcy and Elizabeth in this chapter? Post the title of the song or a link to the song in the comments section. (I’ll even share a Spotify playlist of your selections with the list of giveaway winners, like the one I made a few months ago, Spotify playlist, “The Netherfield Ball,” based on Chapter 14.)
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Each social media/ comment/post and Just Jane 1813 comment/post will enter you for these giveaway prizes. So, if you post and/or comment three times, that’s three chances to win. The deadline for entry comments/posts is midnight ET on Wednesday, August 3rd, and the winners will be announced on this blog on Thursday, August 4, 2016.
Our prizes are as follows:
- Readers’ choice of any Being A Jane Austen Mystery ebook written by Stephanie Barron
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Thank you for reading this chapter with us. I hope you love this post as much as I have loved reading and sharing it too!
Colonel Fitzwilliam’s manners were very much admired at the Parsonage, and the ladies all felt that he must add considerably to the pleasures of their engagements at Rosings. It was some days, however, before they received any invitation thither—for while there were visitors in the house, they could not be necessary; and it was not till Easter-day, almost a week after the gentlemen’s arrival, that they were honoured by such an attention, and then they were merely asked on leaving church to come there in the evening. For the last week they had seen very little of Lady Catherine or her daughter. Colonel Fitzwilliam had called at the Parsonage more than once during the time, but Mr. Darcy they had seen only at church.
The invitation was accepted of course, and at a proper hour they joined the party in Lady Catherine’s drawing-room. Her ladyship received them civilly, but it was plain that their company was by no means so acceptable as when she could get nobody else; and she was, in fact, almost engrossed by her nephews, speaking to them, especially to Darcy, much more than to any other person in the room.
Colonel Fitzwilliam seemed really glad to see them; anything was a welcome relief to him at Rosings; and Mrs. Collins’s pretty friend had moreover caught his fancy very much. He now seated himself by her, and talked so agreeably of Kent and Hertfordshire, of travelling and staying at home, of new books and music, that Elizabeth had never been half so well entertained in that room before; and they conversed with so much spirit and flow, as to draw the attention of Lady Catherine herself, as well as of Mr. Darcy.His eyes had been soon and repeatedly turned towards them with a look of curiosity; and that her ladyship, after a while, shared the feeling, was more openly acknowledged, for she did not scruple to call out:
“What is that you are saying, Fitzwilliam? What is it you are talking of? What are you telling Miss Bennet? Let me hear what it is.”
“We are speaking of music, madam,” said he, when no longer able to avoid a reply.
“Of music! Then pray speak aloud. It is of all subjects my delight. I must have my share in the conversation if you are speaking of music. There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient. And so would Anne, if her health had allowed her to apply. I am confident that she would have performed delightfully. How does Georgiana get on, Darcy?”
Mr. Darcy spoke with affectionate praise of his sister’s proficiency.
“I am very glad to hear such a good account of her,” said Lady Catherine; “and pray tell her from me, that she cannot expect to excel if she does not practice a good deal.”
“I assure you, madam,” he replied, “that she does not need such advice. She practises very constantly.”
“So much the better. It cannot be done too much; and when I next write to her, I shall charge her not to neglect it on any account. I often tell young ladies that no excellence in music is to be acquired without constant practice. I have told Miss Bennet several times, that she will never play really well unless she practises more; and though Mrs. Collins has no instrument, she is very welcome, as I have often told her, to come to Rosings every day, and play on the pianoforte in Mrs. Jenkinson’s room. She would be in nobody’s way, you know, in that part of the house.”
Mr. Darcy looked a little ashamed of his aunt’s ill-breeding, and made no answer.
When coffee was over, Colonel Fitzwilliam reminded Elizabeth of having promised to play to him; and she sat down directly to the instrument. He drew a chair near her. Lady Catherine listened to half a song, and then talked, as before, to her other nephew; till the latter walked away from her, and making with his usual deliberation towards the pianoforte stationed himself so as to command a full view of the fair performer’s countenance. Elizabeth saw what he was doing, and at the first convenient pause, turned to him with an arch smile, and said:
“You mean to frighten me, Mr. Darcy, by coming in all this state to hear me? I will not be alarmed though your sister does play so well. There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”
“I shall not say you are mistaken,” he replied, “because you could not really believe me to entertain any design of alarming you; and I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance long enough to know that you find great enjoyment in occasionally professing opinions which in fact are not your own.”
Elizabeth laughed heartily at this picture of herself, and said to Colonel Fitzwilliam, “Your cousin will give you a very pretty notion of me, and teach you not to believe a word I say. I am particularly unlucky in meeting with a person so able to expose my real character, in a part of the world where I had hoped to pass myself off with some degree of credit. Indeed, Mr. Darcy, it is very ungenerous in you to mention all that you knew to my disadvantage in Hertfordshire—and, give me leave to say, very impolitic too—for it is provoking me to retaliate, and such things may come out as will shock your relations to hear.”
“I am not afraid of you,” said he, smilingly.
“Pray let me hear what you have to accuse him of,” cried Colonel Fitzwilliam. “I should like to know how he behaves among strangers.”
“You shall hear then—but prepare yourself for something very dreadful. The first time of my ever seeing him in Hertfordshire, you must know, was at a ball—and at this ball, what do you think he did? He danced only four dances, though gentlemen were scarce; and, to my certain knowledge, more than one young lady was sitting down in want of a partner. Mr. Darcy, you cannot deny the fact.”
“I had not at that time the honour of knowing any lady in the assembly beyond my own party.”
“True; and nobody can ever be introduced in a ball-room. Well, Colonel Fitzwilliam, what do I play next? My fingers wait your orders.”
“Perhaps,” said Darcy, “I should have judged better, had I sought an introduction; but I am ill-qualified to recommend myself to strangers.”
“Shall we ask your cousin the reason of this?” said Elizabeth, still addressing Colonel Fitzwilliam. “Shall we ask him why a man of sense and education, and who has lived in the world, is ill qualified to recommend himself to strangers?”
“I can answer your question,” said Fitzwilliam, “without applying to him. It is because he will not give himself the trouble.”
“I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,” said Darcy, “of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.”
“My fingers,” said Elizabeth, “do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women’s do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault—because I will not take the trouble of practising. It is not that I do not believe my fingers as capable as any other woman’s of superior execution.”
Darcy smiled and said, “You are perfectly right. You have employed your time much better. No one admitted to the privilege of hearing you can think anything wanting. We neither of us perform to strangers.”
Here they were interrupted by Lady Catherine, who called out to know what they were talking of. Elizabeth immediately began playing again. Lady Catherine approached, and, after listening for a few minutes, said to Darcy:
“Miss Bennet would not play at all amiss if she practised more, and could have the advantage of a London master. She has a very good notion of fingering, though her taste is not equal to Anne’s. Anne would have been a delightful performer, had her health allowed her to learn.”
Elizabeth looked at Darcy to see how cordially he assented to his cousin’s praise; but neither at that moment nor at any other could she discern any symptom of love; and from the whole of his behaviour to Miss de Bourgh she derived this comfort for Miss Bingley, that he might have been just as likely to marry her, had she been his relation.
Lady Catherine continued her remarks on Elizabeth’s performance, mixing with them many instructions on execution and taste. Elizabeth received them with all the forbearance of civility, and, at the request of the gentlemen, remained at the instrument till her ladyship’s carriage was ready to take them all home.
“WE NEITHER OF US PERFORM TO STRANGERS”
By Stephanie Barron
Every reader who loves the work of Jane Austen can quote phrases from her novels that are particularly memorable. This is usually a personal choice—some lines are hilarious, some are poignant, and some are intimately revealing. My favorite quotation from Pride and Prejudice comes squarely in the middle of Chapter 31. I love it so much I commissioned a wine glass charm with the words on it from Etsy. It’s a line of Darcy’s: “We neither of us perform to strangers.”
I call this the Introvert’s Top Pick-up Line.
I’m an introvert myself on the Myers-Briggs Personality Index, and I’ve long recognized that both Darcy and Elizabeth are introverts, too. Elizabeth is what’s known as a highly-adapted introvert, meaning she can conduct herself engagingly in public, even if she would rather be walking in solitude or sitting down with a book; but Darcy is not. He retreats into himself in crowds, speaks only to those he knows intimately, and his shyness is often rightly perceived as disdain. Part of the eventual bond between Darcy and Elizabeth is their common reliance on internal resources and self-sufficiency: there’s a reason they keep running into each other while wandering separately around Rosings.
But back to Chapter 31. Darcy crosses Lady Catherine’s drawing room to listen to Elizabeth play the pianoforte. Immediately, she serves up one of her arch and clever remarks—as Elizabeth always does when she wants to hold a person at bay.
“You mean to frighten me, Mr. Darcy, by coming in all this state to hear me? But I will not be alarmed though your sister does play so well. There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me.”
There are echoes of their first meeting at the Assembly in Meryton here. Darcy dismissed Elizabeth, who was then a stranger to him, as “tolerable” but “not handsome enough to tempt” him to dance; her response was to ridicule him among her friends, and thenceforth to keep him at arm’s-length unless common civility required otherwise. Accustomed to having his attention sought by every woman in the room, Darcy finds Elizabeth’s indifference and verbal combativeness intriguing, particularly during her protracted stay at Netherfield as she nurses the sick Jane. By the time he has encountered her repeatedly at Rosings, he has come to feel that he understands her character.
And so, as he looms over her at the pianoforte, he answers her playful warning. “I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance long enough to know that you find great enjoyment in occasionally professing opinions which in fact are not your own.”
Elizabeth laughs at this, tells Colonel Fitzwilliam that his cousin would expose her real character in a part of the world where she’d hoped to “pass herself off with credit,” and retaliates by relating “such things…as will shock your relations to hear.”
“I am not afraid of you,” Darcy replies; and Elizabeth immediately launches into a description of their first meeting—at the Assembly in Meryton. Without explicitly revealing that she overheard Darcy’s snub of her on that occasion, she mocks his social awkwardness. When Darcy protests that “I had not at that time the honour of knowing any lady in the assembly beyond my own party…I am ill qualified to recommend myself to strangers, (emphasis mine), and adds that he “cannot appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done,” Elizabeth delivers her final salvo.
“My fingers…do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women’s do….But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault—because I would not take the trouble of practising.”
Darcy smiles and capitulates entirely—with one of the most pivotal lines of their relationship:
“No one admitted to the privilege of hearing you can think anything wanting. We neither of us perform to strangers.”
One of Austen’s greatest gifts to posterity is her ability to pack dialogue with multiple and complex levels of meaning. Darcy may be aloof in crowds, but in conversation—as well as long, intimate and confessional letters—he is articulate, self-revelatory, and compelling. In these two sentences above, he offers Eliza profoundly important truths: She has revealed herself to him, which he recognizes is a privilege. He understands her well–and finds her perfect; her “performance” wants for nothing in his eyes. Because she is no longer a stranger to him, he wants her to know him just as intimately. Indeed, he wants to “perform” for Elizabeth in a privileged way, which is something he accords very few people. And finally, he is offering her a heartfelt apology for his disdain at Meryton, when she was nothing more than a stranger.
Darcy’s words are an important bridge to his abrupt proposal of marriage later in the novel. Unaware of Elizabeth’s dislike and resentment—because ignorant of Wickham’s lies—he is convinced that she must feel as he does. His shock, dismay, and mortification at her refusal are thus completely comprehensible. It is only because Darcy truly does understand Elizabeth—because he is privileged to read her true character—that he is able to stifle his own pain and write his revelatory letter. He knows that his words must speak to her intimately—and that Elizabeth will find nothing wanting in his performance.
Isn’t her post just lovely? Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing this illuminating post with my readers. I’ll have to check out that wine glass charm, it sounds like a great way to live with Austen’s most memorable words.
Dear readers, please don’t forget to enter below for our generous giveaways and thank you so much for joining us this week!