Pride and Prejudice Commentary

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					                Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Volume I, Chapter 8: A Close Reading by
                                          David L. Ackiss, Professor of English
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          Pride and Prejudice                                                    Commentary
               by Jane Austen                                                     by David L. Ackiss

        VOLUME I, CHAPTER VIII                          Volume 1, Chapter 8
     At five o'clock the two ladies retired to dress,   The two ladies are Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley. Dinner is around six
and at half past six Elizabeth was summoned to          or seven, supper later. People of this class often kept fairly late hours
dinner. To the civil enquiries which then poured        and rose late in the morning - so late that "morning" sometimes means
in, and amongst which she had the pleasure of           "during daylight" or before dusk..
distinguishing the much superior solicitude of Mr.
Bingley's, she could not make a very favourable         Elizabeth is sizing up Bingley's regard for Jane. He evinces real
answer. Jane was by no means better. The sisters,       concern, pleasing Elizabeth.
on hearing this, repeated three or four times how
much they were grieved, how shocking it was to
have a bad cold, and how excessively they               The narrator shows how self-involved these sisters are. Their concern is
disliked being ill themselves, and then thought no      superficial.
more of the matter; and their indifference towards
Jane, when not immediately before them, restored
Elizabeth to the enjoyment of all her original          Elizabeth 'enjoys' disliking them. Elizabeth is acute enough to judge
dislike. Their brother, indeed, was the only one of     these women accurately, but she is also vain enough to glory in her
the party whom she could regard with any                judgement and the superiority that implies.
complacency. His anxiety for Jane was evident,
and his attentions to herself most pleasing, and
they prevented her feeling herself so much an           Elizabeth feels uncomfortable, implying that the courtesy of her hostess
intruder as she believed she was considered by the      is deficient. Perhaps all but Bingley behave somewhat inhospitably.
others. She had very little notice from any but
him. Miss Bingley was engrossed by Mr. Darcy,
her sister scarcely less so; and as for Mr. Hurst,    Austen invents Mr. Hurst mainly to laugh at and to despise -- a shallow,
by whom Elizabeth sat, he was an indolent man,        vain, lazy sensualist -- a gentleman in name only.
who lived only to eat, drink, and play at cards,
who, when he found her prefer a plain dish to a       If Elizabeth is so uncultured as to prefer plain to fancy cooking (a
ragout, had nothing to say to her. When dinner        ragout is a French stew), he can have nothing in common with her.
was over, she returned directly to Jane, and Miss
Bingley began abusing her as soon as she was out      To "abuse" someone is to speak ill of her. Elizabeth 's education and
of the room. Her manners were pronounced to be        country background do put her at a remove from London manners.
very bad indeed, a mixture of pride and               However, Miss Bingley finds Elizabeth deficient because Miss Bingley
impertinence; she had no conversation, no stile,      is unkind, jealous, and critical by habit. Elizabeth is attractive, and
no taste, no beauty. Mrs. Hurst thought the same,     Caroline has already heard Darcy commend her fine eyes.
and added,

    "She has nothing, in short, to recommend her,     Mrs. (Louisa) Hurst. The indolence of these women stands in sharp
but being an excellent walker. I shall never forget   contrast to the Elizabeth 's vitality. Austen has Elizabeth walk these
her appearance this morning. She really looked        three miles as a proof of her energy and her affection for Jane. Austen
almost wild."                                         quietly calls into question her society's implicit ideal: a lady should
                                                      never appear other than a lovely doll. Giving Elizabeth legs, Austen
                                                      gives her a body. "Wild" is the last thing a gentlewoman should be, but
                                                      there is a subtle erotic potentiality in this wildness--she came in hot and
                                                      flushed--that makes Elizabeth's presence threatening to these women,
                                                      unsettling perhaps to the men.

                                                      In Austen, "morning" seems to mean during daylight hours before the
                                                      evening meal.

    "She did indeed, Louisa. I could hardly keep      Miss (Caroline) Bingley. She can hardly keep a straight face. Why
my countenance. Very nonsensical to come at all!      would a lady sacrifice her coiffure for a sister with a cold? The text
Why must she be scampering about the country,         shows rather than tells how shallow these women are. Note that this is a
because her sister had a cold? Her hair so untidy,    woman speaking to her own sister about how little a sister's illness
so blowsy!"                                           weighs against being ladylike and immaculately coifed. Austen again
                                                      explores the tension between lady as bodiless, inert doll and woman as
                                                      potent and active being. Darcy has better sense than to assent wholly
                                                      to this notion of woman, but we will soon see him caught between these
                                                      conflicting images of how a woman ought to conduct herself, especially
                                                      when he thinks of his own sister.
    "Yes, and her petticoat; I hope you saw her       Mrs. Hurst. Gentlewomen must never get dirty, of course. Being able
petticoat, six inches deep in mud, I am absolutely    to afford an idle wife was (and sometimes is) a powerful mark of a
certain; and the gown which had been let down to      man's status. Elizabeth muddying her petticoats risks losing status,
hide it not doing its office."                        risks seeming as though she cannot manage to sustain the pristine
                                                      uselessness of the ideal lady. The elaborate undergarments of the day
                                                      and the burden of keeping them clean served as effective fetters upon
                                                      women's freedom in the simplest, most physical sense.
    "Your picture may be very exact, Louisa,"         Mr. (Charles) Bingley. Charles is a man of feeling, and Austen wants
said Bingley; "but this was all lost upon me. I       us to like him. He is also not so acute an observer as Darcy.
thought Miss Elizabeth Bennet looked remarkably
well, when she came into the room this morning.
Her dirty petticoat quite escaped my notice."
    "You observed it, Mr. Darcy, I am sure," said     Miss Bingley. She is appealing to his weak side - his pride.
Miss Bingley, "and I am inclined to think that you
would not wish to see your sister make such an
    "Certainly not."                                   Mr. (Fitzwilliam) Darcy. Miss Bingley cleverly catches Darcy in a
                                                       dilemma. He wants his sister to uphold the standards of strict decorum
                                                       that Elizabeth has muddied a bit. But Elizabeth 's "exercising" her
                                                       freedom also attracts him. Elizabeth 's physicality and freedom will be
                                                       part of her appeal.
     "To walk three miles, or four miles, or five      Miss Bingley. Alone! The implicit standard, that a lady should never
miles, or whatever it is, above her ankles in dirt,    go out unattended, reveals a world where the woman is always a sexual
and alone, quite alone! What could she mean by         object, always vulnerable prey. This covert but ubiquitous sense of
it? It seems to me to shew an abominable sort of       threat curtails women's freedom, like her petticoats and her
conceited independence, a most country town            gentlewoman's role. Freedom for Elizabeth, it seems, is not freedom
indifference to decorum."                              but "conceited independence." Men go out alone all the time, for they
                                                       are indeed free. Except under the patriarchal protection of her own
                                                       home, a woman of Elizabeth 's class generally ought not go for a walk
                                                       alone. Note that it is not the males who uphold and enforce the
                                                       strictures of decorum that confine women. In this scene, it is the
                                                       females. Both men and women participate in the social construction of
                                                       gender roles (then and now). It is no mere male conspiracy. Under the
                                                       prevailing system of the day, these gentlewomen have a pretty good
                                                       life, especially if they are willing to trade freedom for security. Both
                                                       Bingley and Darcy are less critical of Elizabeth 's walk than these
    "It shews an affection for her sister that is      Mr. Bingley. In defending Elizabeth he defends feeling over propriety.
very pleasing," said Bingley.
    "I am afraid, Mr. Darcy," observed Miss            Miss Bingley. She cannot resist getting in a dig at Elizabeth. The lower
Bingley in a half whisper, "that this adventure has    Elizabeth 's status, the less a threat she is to Caroline's campaign to lure
rather affected your admiration of her fine eyes."     Darcy into marriage. It is worth noting that the "marriage market" of
                                                       the day tended to make not only women into commodities, but men as
                                                       well. Darcy's wealth blinds people to his real character just as much as
                                                       Elizabeth 's relative lack of wealth threatens to make her invisible to
                                                       Darcy. Miss Bingley is not throwing herself at Darcy because of his
                                                       character or his charms or strength of character but because of his
                                                       wealth and social standing. He is being treated as an object.
    "Not at all," he replied; "they were brightened    Mr. Darcy. Though some readers complain that the stiff manners of
by the exercise." -- A short pause followed this       Austen's day make hers a pale, passionless, arid world, they overlook
speech, and Mrs. Hurst began again.                    the direct and almost bruising way Darcy and Elizabeth sometimes
                                                       speak. Darcy's reply shows his willingness to wound Miss Bingley if
                                                       she persists in her teasing. Austen lets us know that Miss Bingley's
                                                       designs upon Darcy are hopeless, though Miss Bingley remains in the
                                                       dark. In this pause, which Austen takes pains to convey, Miss Bingley
                                                       feels her wound.
    "I have an excessive regard for Jane Bennet,       Mrs. Hurst. "Well settled" means well married. What she really means,
she is really a very sweet girl, and I wish with all   with all her heart, is that she does not want her brother to marry Jane.
my heart she were well settled. But with such a        The higher her brother's wife's social standing, the higher her own.
father and mother, and such low connections, I
am afraid there is no chance of it."                   Though it is not entirely clear until later, she is quite right in a way.
                                                       Jane's having "such" a mother and father is a real threat to Jane's well-
                                                       being. Her mother is rude, selfish, materialistic - a boor (though she
                                                       loves her daughters deeply after her own fashion). Her father, though
                                                       sensible and gentlemanly, chooses ease and irony over an active and
                                                       engaged family life. He ought to demand more sense, civility, and
                                                       maturity of his children's mother. He ought to treat her with more
                                                       respect. He ought to exert himself more as a parent, too, especially for
                                                       the younger girls who seem so idle and silly. He says as much later in
                                                        the novel.
     "I think I have heard you say, that their uncle    Miss Bingley. An attorney is employed on other people's business and,
is an attorney in Meryton."                             therefore, possesses a lower status than a gentleman who is concerned
                                                        only with his own. Meryton is a country backwater.
   "Yes; and they have another, who lives               A commercial district in London, Cheapside is not a fashionable
somewhere near Cheapside."                              neighborhood. Though the Bingleys' father was in trade, they are trying
                                                        hard to forget all that. Their rising status depends upon their putting as
                                                        much distance as possible between that past and themselves. No snob
                                                        like the nouveau riche.
    "That is capital," added her sister, and they       Miss Bingley. Aimed at Charles and Darcy, this laugh is meant to put
both laughed heartily.                                  Jane and Elizabeth safely out of reach down the social ladder. Of
                                                        course, Austen wants us to scorn and laugh at their outrageous
    "If they had uncles enough to fill all              Mr. Bingley. While one admires his warm and simple heart, Bingley
Cheapside ," cried Bingley, "it would not make          seems naive, or so Austen wants us to think. The reality is that
them one jot less agreeable."                           economic and social status shapes our lives. Even in our egalitarian age
                                                        when, in theory, love conquers all and Cinderella can marry the prince,
                                                        the reality is that few of us ever marry someone whose parents are a lot
                                                        richer or poorer than our own. Of course, Pride and Prejudice is a
                                                        Cinderella story and militates against this stern limitation on love.
    "But it must very materially lessen their           Mr. Darcy. He is right. This is the way the world is. But not the way
chance of marrying men of any consideration in          Austen thinks it should be.
the world," replied Darcy.
     To this speech Bingley made no answer; but
his sisters gave it their hearty assent, and indulged
their mirth for some time at the expense of their       "Vulgar" means common or ordinary.
dear friend's vulgar relations.
     With a renewal of tenderness, however, they        To Jane's room.
repaired to her room on leaving the dining-
parlour, and sat with her till summoned to coffee.      Elizabeth does not want their company.
She was still very poorly, and Elizabeth would not
quit her at all till late in the evening, when she      A drawing-room is what Americans today might call a living room.
had the comfort of seeing her asleep, and when it       Loo is a card game. "Playing high” means that they are gambling at
appeared to her rather right than pleasant that she     what might seem quite low stakes to them but might seem
should go down stairs herself. On entering the          uncomfortably high stakes to Elizabeth.
drawing-room she found the whole party at loo,
and was immediately invited to join them; but
suspecting them to be playing high she declined
it, and making her sister the excuse, said she          He is always astonished by Elizabeth, poor dolt.
would amuse herself for the short time she could
stay below with a book. Mr. Hurst looked at her
with astonishment.
    "Do you prefer reading to cards?" said he;          Mr. Hurst. He says "rather singular" while today one might say "really
"that is rather singular."                              weird."
    "Miss Eliza Bennet," said Miss Bingley,             Miss Bingley. This is a surprisingly sharp, unfounded attack, though
"despises cards. She is a great reader and has no       superficially it sounds like praise of Elizabeth 's seriousness. Because
pleasure in anything else."                             everything Caroline herself does is a pose, Caroline interprets
                                                        Elizabeth's taking up a book to be a pose meant to impress the men with
                                                        her intellect.
    "I deserve neither such praise nor such           Elizabeth . Notice that Elizabeth easily identifies the censure implied in
censure," cried Elizabeth ; "I am not a great         the praise. She sees through Miss Bingley here and throughout the
reader, and I have pleasure in many things."          novel. And she seems never to feel Miss Bingley a direct threat, though
                                                      Elizabeth feels her a threat to Jane's relationship to Bingley.
    "In nursing your sister I am sure you have        Mr. Bingley. Presumably Charles does not like his sister's manners and
pleasure," said Bingley; "and I hope it will soon     seeks to make amends for her rudeness.
be increased by seeing her quite well."
    Elizabeth thanked him from her heart, and         Elizabeth is sensitive to Charles' kind effort to make up for his sister's
then walked towards a table where a few books         sarcasm.
were lying. He immediately offered to fetch her
others; all that his library afforded.
     "And I wish my collection were larger for        Mr. Bingley. The ensuing conversation about books is meant to offer
your benefit and my own credit; but I am an idle      insight into Darcy's character and status, partly in contrast to Bingley's.
fellow, and though I have not many, I have more
than I ever look into."
    Elizabeth assured him that she could suit
herself perfectly with those in the room.
   "I am astonished," said Miss Bingley, "that        Miss Bingley. Her father was a businessman, not a scholar. Pemberley
my father should have left so small a collection of   is Darcy's family estate. It serves almost as a character in the novel, so
books. -- What a delightful library you have at       Austen here begins to develop this "character."
Pemberley, Mr. Darcy!"
    "It ought to be good," he replied, "it has been   Mr. Darcy. Darcy is not among the newly rich. Old money bestows
the work of many generations."                        higher status than new money. Though most of this regard for old
                                                      money or property is a mere construction of status markers, there is a
                                                      basis for it in experience: it is alarmingly easy for old money to become
                                                      no money, for inherited wealth to be squandered, for an estate to be
                                                      ruined by the vice, greed, laziness, or stupidity of its owners. That
                                                      generations of Darcys have managed Pemberley well is powerful
                                                      evidence of their good sense, moral soundness, and dutifulness.
   "And then you have added so much to it             Miss Bingley. I wonder when the contemporary phrase "brown nosing"
yourself, you are always buying books."               first gained currency?
     "I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family     Mr. Darcy. Part of noblesse oblige, Darcy's responsibility to his estate
library in such days as these,"                       is not merely to enjoy its great wealth but to serve as its caretaker,
                                                      handing it on to the next generation improved for his having owned it.
                                                      While this may seem a strange notion, it has contemporary parallels.
                                                      For instance, nowadays many employees feel this loyalty and
                                                      responsibility to the corporation or institution for which they work. An
                                                      estate like Darcy's is an institution influencing the lives of hundreds of
                                                      people for generations. Darcy may feel about his estate somewhat as
                                                      the CEO of a large corporation feels about his or her company. With his
                                                      enormous power, it seems at first glance that the boss can do anything
                                                      he chooses . . . in theory. But his choices are ever dictated by the good
                                                      of his company. His company controls him about as much as he
                                                      controls his company. Many are the powerful executives who are
                                                      effectively slaves to their corporations. The cost of power is usually
                                                      some sort of bondage.

                                                      When Darcy mentions "such days as these," Austen signals that she
                                                      shares the conviction, common in the Romantic age, that theirs were
                                                      extraordinary times blessed with a wealth of important, groundbreaking
    "Neglect! I am sure you neglect nothing that        Miss Bingley. Austen has her kissing up so shamelessly for our sakes,
can add to the beauties of that noble place.            hoping to make us laugh. Thanks, Miss Austen.
Charles, when you build your house, I wish it may
be half as delightful as Pemberley."
    "I wish it may."                                    Mr. Bingley. He probably understands that he lacks the energy,
                                                        understanding, and capital to develop an estate that rivals Darcy's
    "But I would really advise you to make your         Miss Bingley. She will even flatter Darcy for his county in north central
purchase in that neighbourhood, and take                England. Ironically enough, Miss Bingley is right in judging Pemberley
Pemberley for a kind of model. There is not a           a kind of model. Though interpreting this remark as sheer flattery,
finer county in England than Derbyshire."               Elizabeth herself later comes to a similar judgement of Darcy's estate.
     "With all my heart; I will buy Pemberley           Mr. Bingley.
itself if Darcy will sell it."
    "I am talking of possibilities, Charles."           Miss Bingley.
    "Upon my word, Caroline, I should think it          Mr. Bingley. Charles knows that there is something about Pemberley
more possible to get Pemberley by purchase than         that his money cannot buy. Now Elizabeth knows it too.
by imitation."
    Elizabeth was so much caught by what                Why does Elizabeth lay aside her book? Austen just might laugh
passed, as to leave her very little attention for her   quietly at Elizabeth for showing great interest when the talk reveals that
book; and soon laying it wholly aside, she drew         Darcy has a large, important estate. A man (or woman) is almost
near the card-table, and stationed herself between      always a little better looking when discovered to be rich. Why does she
Mr. Bingley and his eldest sister to observe the        stand between Mrs. Hurst and Mr. Bingley? "Body language" existed
game.                                                   long before modern psychologists began to study it. I cannot quite
                                                        imagine the text's saying she "stationed herself between Mr. Bingley
                                                        and Mr. Darcy to observe the game." Though a deceptively trivial-
                                                        looking detail, this slight bit of choreography reveals a lot. Bingley is
                                                        no threat to Elizabeth, nor she to him. I cannot imagine the text's saying
                                                        she "stationed herself opposite Mr. Darcy so as to get a better look at
                                                        him." But that is what she does, unconsciously I think.
    "Is Miss Darcy much grown since the                 Miss Bingley. She seeks to show off her intimacy with the Darcy
spring?" said Miss Bingley; "will she be as tall as     family. It is in this chapter that we first learn that Darcy has a younger
I am?"                                                  sister. She turns out to be about Lydia or Catherine's age. Note that
                                                        Caroline uses herself as the yardstick of Miss Darcy's height.
    "I think she will. She is now about Miss            Mr. Darcy. Note Darcy's yardstick! He is so conscious of Elizabeth that
Elizabeth Bennet's height, or rather taller."           he uses her for comparison. His mind is not entirely on cards, and
                                                        Elizabeth 's presence, as she stands opposite him, has a telling effect
                                                        upon him.
    "How I long to see her again! I never met           Miss Bingley. Ugh.
with anybody who delighted me so much. Such a
countenance, such manners, and so extremely             A "piano-forte" is what we call today a piano.
accomplished for her age! Her performance on the
piano-forte is exquisite."
    "It is amazing to me," said Bingley, "how           Mr. Bingley. The "accomplishments" discussed in this passage were
young ladies can have patience to be so very            pursued in part for their own sakes but also in part for making women
accomplished as they all are."                          more attractive in the marriage market. Women's accomplishments
                                                        were, in general, cultivated to enable her to bring style, refinement, and
                                                        decoration to her future husband's home, which is nothing to sneer at.
                                                        On the other hand, Austen seems to sneer a little at them in comparison
                                                        to the accomplishments Darcy hopes for in a woman.
   "All young ladies accomplished! My dear           Miss Bingley. Since she has been educated in a fine private seminary
Charles, what do you mean?"                          for girls, Miss Bingley's accomplishments are considerable. She
                                                     therefore has a lot invested in the notion that accomplishments
                                                     distinguish a woman, giving her greater value in the marriage game,
                                                     greater attractions as a wife. To think all women accomplished is to
                                                     devalue the distinctions Caroline is banking on.
     "Yes all of them, I think. They all paint       Mr. Bingley. They all tat, paint, embroider, and crochet. By these
tables, cover screens, and net purses. I scarcely    measures, all girls are spoken of as accomplished. One supposes that
know any one who cannot do all this, and I am        Austen is airing one of her pet peeves here, that her society sometimes
sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the    calls a woman "accomplished" who possesses a few such skills. It
first time, without being informed that she was      implies a paltry notion of what women could achieve.
very accomplished."
    "Your list of the common extent of               Mr. Darcy. Darcy's ideas on real accomplishments reveal how
accomplishments," said Darcy, "has too much          seriously he takes women and their potential. Though he may strike
truth. The word is applied too many a woman          the reader as a snob here, we should also notice that his sermon on real
who deserves it no otherwise than by netting a       accomplishments a few paragraphs later implies that he expects more
purse, or covering a screen. But I am very far       from his future wife than ornamentation. He wants equality,
from agreeing with you in your estimation of         companionship, intellect. Paradoxically, Charles and his sisters betray
ladies in general. I cannot boast of knowing more    their relatively middling standard of the ideal woman.
than half a dozen, in the whole range of my
acquaintance, that are really accomplished."
    "Nor I, I am sure," said Miss Bingley.           Miss Bingley.
    "Then," observed Elizabeth , "you must           Elizabeth. To "comprehend" is to include. Elizabeth probably hopes to
comprehend a great deal in your idea of an           coax Darcy into voicing shallow, pretentious ideas about women so she
accomplished women."                                 can despise him. He lets her down.
    "Yes; I do comprehend a great deal in it."       Mr. Darcy. Though we can't know this until much later, Darcy's
                                                     upbringing has trapped him in a lonely egotism. His expecting so much
                                                     of an accomplished woman signals his fear that, though "suitable
                                                     matches" abound in the likes of Miss Bingley and Miss de Bourgh, he
                                                     will never find a woman whose mind and character will rescue him
                                                     from loneliness.
    "Oh! certainly," cried his faithful assistant,   Miss Bingley. Picking up on Darcy's line of argument, Miss Bingley
"no one can be really esteemed accomplished,         catalogues the desirable. While certainly estimable, the characteristics
who does not greatly surpass what is usually met     she mentions tend toward producing a refined style, not serious
with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge         principles. One assumes Bingley’s sisters are accomplished according
of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the         to the measures here voiced.
modern languages, to deserve the word; and
besides all this, she must possess a certain
something in her air and manner of walking, the
tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or
the word will be but half deserved."
    "All this she must possess," added Darcy,        Mr. Darcy. Darcy's expecting so much of women is threatening for all
"and to all this she must yet add something more     the women present, of course. Darcy himself is presumably an
substantial, in the improvement of her mind by       accomplished man - well educated and adept at masculine pursuits in
extensive reading."                                  the field. His preferring substance over style explains his being bored
                                                     by Caroline Bingley. His expecting a woman to have mind explains his
                                                     eventual choice of mates. What is more, his mention of reading
                                                     conveys his approval of Elizabeth 's having earlier taken up a book. A
                                                     few evenings later, in one of the funniest little episodes in Volume 1,
                                                     Caroline dutifully tries to impress him by reading but, amusingly
                                                     enough, can't keep her mind on her book (see chapter 11).
    "I am no longer surprised at your knowing           Elizabeth. Think about who hears Elizabeth ’s remark.
only six accomplished women. I rather wonder
now at your knowing any."
   "Are you so severe upon your own sex, as to          Mr. Darcy. Darcy is the real feminist in the room, thinking women
doubt the possibility of all this?"                     capable of great seriousness.
    "I never saw such a woman, I never saw such         Elizabeth. Oops. Elizabeth implies that Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley
capacity, and taste, and application, and elegance,     don't measure up to these standards, which is a trifle rude. Elizabeth 's
as you describe, united."                               humility, however, is disarming. She does not pretend for a second to
                                                        be such a paragon . . .
    Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley both cried out          . . . but these women do.
against the injustice of her implied doubt, and
were both protesting that they knew many women          Mr. Hurst wants the card game to go forward. What a guy! I wish for
who answered this description, when Mr. Hurst           his sake he had been born in the age of cable TV, a remote in his hand
called them to order, with bitter complaints of         and dozens of channels at his command. I think he would particularly
their inattention to what was going forward. As all     like having several sports channels.
conversation was thereby at an end, Elizabeth
soon afterwards left the room.
    "Eliza Bennet," said Miss Bingley, when the         Miss Bingley. She cannot resist another dig at Elizabeth. Austen is also
door was closed on her, "is one of those young          using this speech to set up Darcy's famous reply.
ladies who seek to recommend themselves to the
other sex by undervaluing their own, and with
many men, I dare say, it succeeds. But, in my           A “mean art” is a “small-minded or ignoble artifice,” or a low-down
opinion, it is a paltry device, a very mean art."       trick.
    "Undoubtedly," replied Darcy, to whom this          Mr. Darcy. Hee hee! It is gratifying to see her get what she deserves.
remark was chiefly addressed, "there is meanness        Austen knows this will furnish the reader great pleasure, and it is
in all the arts which ladies sometimes condescend       important we like Darcy. Miss Bingley's wiles are transparent (and
to employ for captivation. Whatever bears affinity      tiresome) to Darcy. Once again, some careless readers miss the keen
to cunning is despicable."                              edge of some of Austen's dialogue. Though ever so polite on the
                                                        surface, Darcy's remark is brutal.
    Miss Bingley was not so entirely satisfied          Austen often uses understatement to great effect.
with this reply as to continue the subject.
     Elizabeth joined them again only to say that
her sister was worse, and that she could not leave      Mr. Jones is an apothecary, combining the functions of today's
her. Bingley urged Mr. Jones's being sent for           physician and pharmacist. He was trained through an apprenticeship.
immediately; while his sisters, convinced that no       Someone called Dr. Whatever would be a university-trained physician,
country advice could be of any service,                 a relative rarity in those days, especially in the country.
recommended an express to town for one of the
most eminent physicians. This she would not hear
of, but she was not so unwilling to comply with
their brother's proposal; and it was settled that Mr.
Jones should be sent for early in the morning if
Miss Bennet were not decidedly better. Bingley          The high diction and overstatement of "solaced their wretchedness"
was quite uncomfortable; his sisters declared that      signals Austen's irony. The ladies don't care a bit. Charles does though
they were miserable. They solaced their                 and seems to act the lover.
wretchedness, however, by duets after supper,
while he could find no better relief to his feelings
than by giving his housekeeper directions that
every possible attention might be paid to the sick
lady and her sister.