Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I first read Pride and Prejudice many years ago when the romance of the story truly left a tingle in my soul. It was written by Jane Austen who was born in Stevenage, England, UK on 16 December 1775 and dies early in the 19th century in Winchester on 18 July 1817.  Pride and Prejudice is basically a book of manners, first published in 1813.

It begins with the news that a wealthy young gentleman named Charles Bingley has rented the manor of Netherfieldjane Park causes a great stir in the nearby village of Longbourn, especially in the Bennet household. The Bennets have five unmarried daughters, Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia. Their mother, Mrs. Bennet, is desperate to see them all married so after Mr. Bennet pays a social visit to Mr. Bingley, the Bennets attend a ball. Mr. Bingley is present. He is taken with Jane and spends much of the evening dancing with her. His friend, Mr. Darcy, refuses to dance with Elizabeth, which makes everyone view him as arrogant and obnoxious. At social functions over subsequent weeks, Mr. Darcy is increasingly attracted to Elizabeth’s charm and intelligence. Jane’s friendship with Mr. Bingley also continues to burgeon, and Jane pays a visit to the Bingley mansion but is caught in a downpour and becomes ill, forcing her to stay at Netherfield for several days. Elizabeth hikes through muddy fields to tends to Elizabeth. She arrives with a spattered dress, much to the disdain of Charles Bingley’s sister. Miss Bingley’s spite increases when she notices that Darcy pays quite a bit of attention to Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth and Jane return home, they find Mr. Collins visiting their household. Mr. Collins is a young clergyman who stands to inherit Mr. Bennet’s property. It can only be passed down to male heirs. Mr. Collins is a pompous fool, but is quite enthralled by the Bennet girls. Shortly after his arrival, he makes a proposal of marriage to Elizabeth. She turns him down. Meanwhile, the Bennet girls have become friendly with militia officers stationed in a nearby town. Among them is Wickham, a handsome young soldier who is friendly toward Elizabeth and tells her how Darcy cruelly cheated him out of an inheritance.

At the beginning of winter, the Bingleys and Darcy leave Netherfield and return to London, much to Jane’s dismay. A further shock arrives with the news that Mr. Collins has become engaged to Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth’s best friend. Charlotte explains to Elizabeth that she is getting older and needs the match for financial reasons. Charlotte and Mr. Collins get married and Elizabeth promises to visit them at their new home. As winter progresses, marriage prospects for the Bennet girls appear bleak.

That spring, Elizabeth visits Charlotte, who now lives near the home of Mr. Collins’s patron, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who is also Darcy’s aunt. Darcy calls on Lady Catherine and encounters Elizabeth. He makes a number of visits to the Collins’s home, where she is staying. One day, he makes proposal of marriage, which Elizabeth refuses. She tells Darcy that she considers him arrogant and unpleasant, then scolds him for steering Bingley away from Jane prideand disinheriting Wickham. Darcy leaves her but shortly thereafter delivers a letter to her. In this he admits that he urged Bingley to distance himself from Jane, but did so only as he thought their romance was not serious. He also informs Elizabeth that Wickham is a liar and that the real cause of their disagreement was Wickham’s attempt to elope with his young sister, Georgiana Darcy. The letter causes Elizabeth to reevaluate her feelings about Darcy. She returns home and acts coldly toward Wickham.

Later when Elizabeth goes on another journey the trip takes her to the North and eventually to the neighborhood of Pemberley, Darcy’s estate. She visits Pemberley, after making sure that Darcy is away, and delights in the building and grounds, while hearing from Darcy’s servants that he is a wonderful, generous master. Suddenly, Darcy arrives and behaves cordially toward her. Making no mention of his proposal, he entertains the Gardiners and invites Elizabeth to meet his sister. However, soon after this a letter arrives from home, telling Elizabeth that Lydia has eloped with Wickham and that the couple may be living together out of wedlock. Fearful of the shame such a situation would bring on her family, Elizabeth goes home. Wickham subsequently agreed to marry Lydia in exchange for an annual income.Elizabeth learns that the source of the money was Darcy.

Now married, Wickham and Lydia return to Longbourn briefly, where Mr. Bennet treats them coldly. They then depart for Wickham’s new assignment in the North of England. Shortly thereafter, Bingley returns to Netherfield and resumes his courtship of Jane. He proposes to Jane, to the delight of everyone but Bingley’s haughty sister. While the family celebrates, Lady Catherine de Bourgh pays a visit to Longbourn. She corners Elizabeth and says that she has heard that Darcy, her nephew, is planning to marry her. She considers a Bennet an unsuitable match for a Darcy, and demands that Elizabeth promise to refuse him. Elizabeth spiritedly refuses, saying she is not engaged to Darcy, but she will not promise anything against her own happiness. Later, Elizabeth and Darcy go out walking together and he tells her that his feelings have not altered since the spring. She accepts his proposal, and both Jane and Elizabeth are married.

A book of its time and an eternal story. If you have never read Pride and Prejudice, you have missed out: If you read it before, read it again! You will find different nuances and delights every time. I highly recommend this novel.

Valerie Penny

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