Let’s get ready to RUUUUUMMMMBBBBBLLLLEEEE!
Lady Catherine is on the hunt for a husband (for her daughter … though the way she’s behaving, you might wonder), and our dear Lizzy finds herself squarely in the old snoot’s crosshairs. Or as close to crosshair-y as it gets in genteel society.
We’re talking Pride and Prejudice again today — this time it’s volume 2, chapters 1 – 9. If you’re new to WLAG, be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our Pride and Prejudice series to catch up. I’ll still be here when you’re done. Promise.
Note: This post may contain spoilers. If you don’t want to know, now is the time to stop.
Caroline confirms she and Bingley are in London for winter. Lizzy is convinced Caroline and Darcy have toxically influenced Bingley against pursuing Jane. Jane goes to visit with Aunt and Uncle Gardiner (also in London) to get over Bingley. While there, Bingley never calls and Jane begins to see that Lizzy was right about Caroline.
Meanwhile, Wickham’s attentions to Lizzy fade — he begins pursuing a girl who recently inherited 10,000 pounds. Lizzy doesn’t hold a grudge. Charlotte and Collins marry, and they invite her to visit them. During the visit, Collins is still super annoying — but Charlotte seems happy and manages him well.
While there, Lizzy also meets Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Collins’ patroness/Darcy’s aunt) and Anne (Darcy’s cousin/”betrothed”). Anne is super sickly and grim looking. Lady C is bossy and opinionated — everyone cow tows to her except Lizzy. Lady C is caught off guard and gets defensive (and even offensive) quickly.
This escalates when Lady C’s nephews — Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam — come to visit for Easter. Lady C is alarmed by Darcy and Lizzy’s prior connection — and makes it her mission to keep Lizzy in her place and focus Darcy on Anne. This again escalates when Darcy (and Colonel Fitz, too!) starts paying an inordinate amount of attention to Lizzy — even calling on her, gazing at her as she plays piano, and verbally sparring with her (which Darcy particularly seems to enjoy). Charlotte notices and thinks Darcy may have fallen in love with Lizzy. But Lizzy laughs it off.
- “There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well.” — Lizzy (Ch. 1)
- “We must not be so ready to fancy ourselves intentionally injured. We must not expect a lively young man to be always so guarded and circumspect. It is very often nothing but our own vanity that deceives us. Women fancy admiration means more than it does.” — Jane (Ch. 1)
- “So, Lizzy … your sister is crossed in love I find. I congratulate her. Next to being married, a girl likes to be crossed in love a little now and then. It is something to think of, and gives her a sort of distinction among her companions. When is your turn come? … Let Wickham be your man. He is a pleasant fellow, and would jilt you creditably.” — Mr. Bennet (Ch. 1)
- “But that expression of ‘violently in love’ is so hackneyed, so doubtful, so indefinite, that it gives me very little idea. It is as often applied to feelings which arise from an half-hour’s acquaintance, as to a real, strong attachment. Pray, how violent was Mr. Bingley’s love?” — Mrs. Gardiner (Ch. 2)
- “When Mr. Collins could be forgotten, there was really a great air of comfort throughout, and by Charlotte’s evident enjoyment of it, Elizabeth supposed he must often be forgotten.” — Narrator (Ch. 5)
- “I have told Miss Bennet several times … 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.” — Lady Catherine (Ch. 8)
- “I certainly have not the talent which some people possess … 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.” — Mr. Darcy (Ch. 8)
The Measure of a Lady
I’m fascinated by the theme throughout this novel of what makes an accomplished lady. It was discussed a bit by Caroline, Lizzy, Bingley, and Darcy soon after Lizzy arrives at Netherfield to care for Jane in Volume I, Chapter 8. In that scene, Bingley believes all young women to be accomplished, as that is how he hears every young woman described upon first introduction. Darcy thinks the word is applied too liberally, saying he knows maybe six women who are truly accomplished. Caroline — sucking up to Darcy — agrees and offers a list of requirements like singing, painting, languages, and a poised air/manner. Darcy adds reading to the list. And Lizzy is like, Really? I’m shocked you know anyone who fits that description.
A similar conversation occurs in this section between Lizzy and Lady C. Upon Lizzy’s first visit to Rosings, Lady C basically plays 20 questions — asking “how many sisters [Lizzy] had, whether they were older or younger than herself, whether any of them were likely to be married, whether they were handsome, whether they had been educated, what carriage her father kept, and what had been her mother’s maiden name?” It’s not long before Lady C moves on to questions about Lizzy’s accomplishments — whether she and her sisters play instruments, sing, draw, had a governess, etc. Lizzy “felt all the impertinence of her questions” — as clearly the implication was without all these trappings and skills a girl isn’t proper or genteel enough for society.
I love that Jane Austen expresses — through her protagonist Lizzy — that this isn’t the case. A girl with no training or education can present herself as “a very genteel, pretty kind of girl” — as Lady C believed Lizzy to be before having her questions answered. And a lady with all the education, talents, and connections in the world can come across as common — as in a later, similar interaction Darcy “looked a little ashamed of his aunt’s ill breeding.”
As Lizzy herself points out, it’s not about what a girl has — education, connections, talents, etc. — but how she chooses to utilize her assets: “… such of us as wished to learn, never wanted the means. We were always encouraged to read, and had all the masters that were necessary. Those who chose to be idle, certainly might.”
Ten Random Thoughts While Reading
- I love that Jane is a “glass-half-full” kind of girl, but there is a fine line between optimism and naivety — and Jane should get frequent flyer miles for how often she crosses over it.
- Mrs. Gardiner is clearly the cool aunt. And wise to boot!
- Finally — Jane put two and two together and got FOUR. Hate to say it, but Lizzy told you so.
- Oh, you are good, Mrs. Gardiner. Way to zero in on the recent inheritance of Wickham’s latest
- I love Lizzy’s excitement for traveling and actually getting to know the place you’re going. Apparently ugly tourists were common in Lizzy’s day, too.
- Oh, I’d “involuntarily turn [my] eye on Charlotte” too — probably side-eye to be specific. Really, Char? Did you hear your clumsy, awkward husband? Gotta reign that in, girl.
- For some reason, I picture Collins as very short and scrawny. He’s got a major Napoleon complex — very preoccupied with size and in need of constant validation.
- Lizzy ROCKS. She is fearless — and crazy confident. Lady C is just a person in her mind — no better or worse than herself.
- Haha — I’ve said before that I always picture Judi Dench from the movie version when I read this stuff. I think this scene from Gilmore Girls pretty accurately explains why. (You can skip to about 2:15 for the relevant part of the convo.)
- Poor Darcy. Must be hard to watch his cousin Colonel Fitz make a better impression on his lady love than he is. Perhaps this would be a good time to start taking notes … (JK. #TeamDarcy.)