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Pride & Prejudice: Chapter 41

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This commentary was prepared by Karmayogi of The Mother’s Service Society (India). See karmayogi.net or MSS Research. The Comments column is intended for brief insightful remarks on the text. For longer comments or questions use the Talk page of this article or create a new article and add a link in the comments section of this page or under the appropriate heading on P&P project mainpage.



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The first week of their return was soon gone. The second began. It was the last of the regiment's stay in Meryton, and all the young ladies in the neighbourhood were drooping apace. The dejection was almost universal. The elder Miss Bennets alone were still able to eat, drink, and sleep, and pursue the usual course of their employments. Very frequently were they reproached for this insensibility by Kitty and Lydia, whose own misery was extreme, and who could not comprehend such hard-heartedness in any of the family.

  • Members of a community enjoying the benefits of the discipline of it long for the right to break the rules.
  • Hard-heartedness of any family.
  • Most of the inhabitants there are of lower middle class where girls are after grooms of £200 annual income. Obviously, the locality does not have enough such men. The officers are far better than a brewer or butcher husband. No wonder the young ladies are drooping. As Mr. Bennet does not take his girls to London their bridal openings are next to nil

"Good Heaven! What is to become of us? What are we to do?" Would they often exclaim in the bitterness of woe. "How can you be smiling so, Lizzy?"

Their affectionate mother shared all their grief; she remembered what she had herself endured on a similar occasion, five-and-twenty years ago.

  • Mrs. Bennet’s sympathy with the refractory daughters, and her own youthful experience open a gate in the subtle plane for the elopement.
  • Mrs. Bennet shamelessly speaks about her own experience with the officers. Obviously Mr. Bennet was a big fish when she caught him

41 lydia Pride and Prejudice

"I am sure," said she, "I cried for two days together when Colonel Millar's regiment went away. I thought I should have broke my heart."

"I am sure I shall break mine," said Lydia.

"If one could but go to Brighton!" Observed Mrs. Bennet.

  • Mrs. Bennet pleads for sea-bathing.
  • She does get it in the shape of the express message.

"Oh, yes! -- if one could but go to Brighton! But papa is so disagreeable."

"A little sea-bathing would set me up for ever."

"And my aunt Philips is sure it would do me a great deal of good," added Kitty.

  • Mrs. Bennet and Mrs. Philips are like Kitty and Lydia.
  • There are adults who can only be disciplined by the society, not by their own restraint.

Such were the kind of lamentations resounding perpetually through Longbourn House. Elizabeth tried to be diverted by them; but all sense of pleasure was lost in shame. She felt anew the justice of Mr. Darcy's objections; and never had she before been so much disposed to pardon his interference in the views of his friend.

  • Sense of pleasure was lost in the shame.
  • Culture makes shame pleasure by inner self-restraint.
  • Elizabeth had not noticed this behaviour till Darcy pointed it out.
  • Or, Lydia’s FORCE takes wings with Wickham activating inside.
  • Elizabeth now feels the justification of Darcy’s accusations. Note she has not felt so earlier. She was in it, of it, a part of it so far

41 mrs bennet Pride and Prejudice

But the gloom of Lydia's prospect was shortly cleared away; for she received an invitation from Mrs. Forster, the wife of the Colonel of the regiment, to accompany her to Brighton. This invaluable friend was a very young woman, and very lately married. A resemblance in good humour and good spirits had recommended her and Lydia to each other, and out of their three months' acquaintance they had been intimate two.

  • The lamentations are real, forceful enough to evoke Life Response.
  • Invitation from Mrs. Foster arrives.

The rapture of Lydia on this occasion, her adoration of Mrs. Forster, the delight of Mrs. Bennet, and the mortification of Kitty, are scarcely to be described. Wholly inattentive to her sister's feelings, Lydia flew about the house in restless ecstacy, calling for every one's congratulations, and laughing and talking with more violence than ever; whilst the luckless Kitty continued in the parlour repining at her fate in terms as unreasonable as her accent was peevish.

  • Insensibility goes with callous selfishness.
  • Lydia never feels sorry for Kitty.
  • An act appears on the scene as energy earlier while still in the subtle plane.
  • Read the last para in the page with the elopement in mind.
  • ‘Talking with violence’. Achievement or its anticipation does it.
  • Lydia does not care for Kitty. She is obliviously selfish, but Kitty toes her line. Hence Kitty is more vulnerable than Lydia

"I cannot see why Mrs. Forster should not ask me as well as Lydia," said she, "though I am not her particular friend. I have just as much right to be asked as she has, and more too, for I am two years older."

  • Kitty’s disappointment then qualified herself to enter the superior society of Bingley and Darcy next year.
  • She cries to be included, does not say “Why am I not invited instead of Lydia?” Inherently, her mind is more than fair. That is why she escaped the invitation.
  • Kitty asks why she too was not invited. She does not say why she was not invited instead of Lydia. She is less selfish than Lydia
  • Elizabeth is reasonable, Jane resigns herself to events.
  • Each advises Kitty from her own temperament.

In vain did Elizabeth attempt to make her reasonable, and Jane to make her resigned. As for Elizabeth herself, this invitation was so far from exciting in her the same feelings as in her mother and Lydia, that she considered it as the death-warrant of all possibility of common sense for the latter; and detestable as such a step must make her, were it known, she could not help secretly advising her father not to let her go. She represented to him all the improprieties of Lydia's general behaviour, the little advantage she could derive from the friendship of such a woman as Mrs. Forster, and the probability of her being yet more imprudent with such a companion at Brighton, where the temptations must be greater than at home. He heard her attentively, and then said --

  • The feeling that the invitation is death warrant is not enough in her to speak a warning of Wickham.
  • Mr. Bennet does not want to cross his wife till the tragedy precipitates.
  • He has allowed her to spend £2000 a year not only on the seven of them but even when they were alone. He would not allow her to borrow. That is the limit. He practiced self-restraint up to the point of his choice which brought two great marriages. Had he exercised his domestic authority, the girls would have married army officers. Non-interference with the wife demands greater restraint.
  • Elizabeth tells him what he should speak to her.
  • Mr. Bennet does not want to confront his wife and allows Lydia to go. In defence of it, he abuses the squeamish youth who frown on Lydia’s behaviour. They are not squeamish youth. Any youth will disapprove of it. The truth is he is a weak husband before the dynamo of Mrs. Bennet. She obeys him always though she is insistent. He put her down after Lydia ran away. Clearly he took the line of least resistance and the whole family unpardonably paid for it
  • At this point, 1) Elizabeth refuses to expose Wickham; 2) Mr. Bennet refuses to stop Lydia; 3) Mrs. Bennet fully instigates Lydia. Kitty breaks down which forewarns the tragedy. Every event positive as well as negative can be fully traced beforehand. Its footprints will be there invariably

41 mr bennet Pride and Prejudice

"Lydia will never be easy till she has exposed herself in some public place or other, and we can never expect her to do it with so little expense or inconvenience to her family as under the present circumstances."

"If you were aware," said Elizabeth, "of the very great disadvantage to us all which must arise from the public notice of Lydia's unguarded and imprudent manner -- nay, which has already arisen from it, I am sure you would judge differently in the affair."

"Already arisen?" Repeated Mr. Bennet. "What, has she frightened away some of your lovers? Poor little Lizzy! But do not be cast down. Such squeamish youths as cannot bear to be connected with a little absurdity are not worth a regret. Come, let me see the list of the pitiful fellows who have been kept aloof by Lydia's folly."

"Indeed, you are mistaken. I have no such injuries to resent. It is not of peculiar, but of general evils, which I am now complaining. Our importance, our respectability in the world, must be affected by the wild volatility, the assurance and disdain of all restraint which mark Lydia's character. Excuse me -- for I must speak plainly. If you, my dear father, will not take the trouble of checking her exuberant spirits, and of teaching her that her present pursuits are not to be the business of her life, she will soon be beyond the reach of amendment. Her character will be fixed, and she will, at sixteen, be the most determined flirt that ever made herself and her family ridiculous; -- a flirt, too, in the worst and meanest degree of flirtation: without any attraction beyond youth and a tolerable person; and, from the ignorance and emptiness of her mind, wholly unable to ward off any portion of that universal contempt which her rage for admiration will excite. In this danger Kitty is also comprehended. She will follow wherever Lydia leads. Vain, ignorant, idle, and absolutely uncontrouled! Oh! My dear father, can you suppose it possible that they will not be censured and despised wherever they are known, and that their sisters will not be often involved in the disgrace?"

  • Mr. Bennet feels Lydia’s behaviour is not impermissible. He calls the growing youth squeamish. That is his mind. No wonder she ran away.
  • To him it is a little absurdity.
  • Wisdom lies not so much in the cure as in prevention.
  • Mr. Bennet raises the dangerous portion of the issue – scaring away men – still Elizabeth avoids the warning. The other side of scaring away men is luring away Wickham.
  • Her warning is blunt but in general.
  • She refused to say Wickham has a bad past.
  • As he refused to act, she refuses to expose Wickham.

Mr. Bennet saw that her whole heart was in the subject, and affectionately taking her hand, said in reply --

"Do not make yourself uneasy, my love. Wherever you and Jane are known you must be respected and valued; and you will not appear to less advantage for having a couple of -- or I may say, three very silly sisters. We shall have no peace at Longbourn if Lydia does not go to Brighton. Let her go, then. Colonel Forster is a sensible man, and will keep her out of any real mischief; and she is luckily too poor to be an object of prey to anybody. At Brighton she will be of less importance even as a common flirt than she has been here. The officers will find women better worth their notice. Let us hope, therefore, that her being there may teach her her own insignificance. At any rate, she cannot grow many degrees worse, without authorizing us to lock her up for the rest of her life."

  • Mr. Bennet takes the line of least resistance, he suffers.
  • In that village, his not restraining the wife is to be ideal, grant her ideal freedom. In spite of suffering, his restraint later brought rewards.
  • The line between tragedy that ruins the entire family and domestic peace is so thin.
  • All the advice Mr. Bennet gave about Mr. Forster being a sensible man, etc. proved futile. Lydia disappeared. The family has come to a turning point. Luck in the shape of Bingley and Darcy is around the corner. It cannot come in without an inner effort at progress. So Lydia ran away

With this answer Elizabeth was forced to be content; but her own opinion continued the same, and she left him disappointed and sorry. It was not in her nature, however, to increase her vexations by dwelling on them. She was confident of having performed her duty, and to fret over unavoidable evils, or augment them by anxiety, was no part of her disposition.

65
  • Mr. Bennet’s authority is great. Elizabeth does not protest.
  • Elizabeth accepts his refusal as she has her own arrears

Had Lydia and her mother known the substance of her conference with her father, their indignation would hardly have found expression in their united volubility. In Lydia's imagination, a visit to Brighton comprised every possibility of earthly happiness. She saw, with the creative eye of fancy, the streets of that gay bathing place covered with officers. She saw herself the object of attention to tens and to scores of them at present unknown. She saw all the glories of the camp -- its tents stretched forth in beauteous uniformity of lines, crowded with the young and the gay, and dazzling with scarlet; and, to complete the view, she saw herself seated beneath a tent, tenderly flirting with at least six officers at once.

68
  • The well-formed idea of elopement was not in Lydia’s mind, but the energy, motive, imagination, urge to enjoy are there.
  • No one at home is combative or is capable of stirring up domestic discord.
  • Mrs. Bennet moved up socially but now is trying to pull her family down instead of raising it. Lydia is a miniature of Mrs. Bennet. So, she indulges her daughter. Whether the family is going to maintain its status or will move up or slide down is given to the human choice. As she was determined to dissipate, Mr. Bennet rose to the occasion and through Jane and Elizabeth raised the family sky high. In a positive atmosphere a determined negative initiative has its opposite effect

41 elizabeth Pride and Prejudice

Had she known that her sister sought to tear her from such prospects and such realities as these, what would have been her sensations? They could have been understood only by her mother, who might have felt nearly the same. Lydia's going to Brighton was all that consoled her for the melancholy conviction of her husband's never intending to go there himself.

But they were entirely ignorant of what had passed; and their raptures continued, with little intermission, to the very day of Lydia's leaving home.

Elizabeth was now to see Mr. Wickham for the last time. Having been frequently in company with him since her return, agitation was pretty well over; the agitations of former partiality entirely so. She had even learnt to detect, in the very gentleness which had first delighted her, an affectation and a sameness to disgust and weary. In his present behaviour to herself, moreover, she had a fresh source of displeasure, for the inclination he soon testified of renewing those attentions which had marked the early part of their acquaintance could only serve, after what had since passed, to provoke her. She lost all concern for him in finding herself thus selected as the object of such idle and frivolous gallantry; and while she steadily repressed it, could not but feel the reproof contained in his believing, that, however long, and for whatever cause, his attentions had been withdrawn, her vanity would be gratified, and her preference secured at any time by their renewal.

  • Agitation in the company of Wickham is still there after Darcy’s letter.
  • It is an enjoyment of low falsehood.
  • ‘Idle frivolous gallantry’ is now blatant and flat. Still her agitation is there a little. She could not bring herself to let him know that he was exposed to her fully. She maintains the old level of politeness. She does not seem in her behaviour displeased with him
  • Affectation to sameness and disgust too do not subside the agitation.
  • His idle frivolous gallantry reveals itself now.

41 party Pride and Prejudice

On the very last day of the regiment's remaining at Meryton he dined, with others of the officers, at Longbourn; and so little was Elizabeth disposed to part from him in good-humour that, on his making some enquiry as to the manner in which her time had passed at Hunsford, she mentioned Colonel Fitzwilliam's and Mr. Darcy's having both spent three weeks at Rosings, and asked him if he were acquainted with the former.

  • She sees through his belief, how she is a mere thing for his ruse.

He looked surprised, displeased, alarmed; but with a moment's recollection and a returning smile, replied that he had formerly seen him often; and, after observing that he was a very gentlemanlike man, asked her how she had liked him. Her answer was warmly in his favour. With an air of indifference he soon afterwards added --

  • Elizabeth’s acquaintance with the colonel raises a fright in him.
  • Sensing no harm from her, he quickly smiles.
  • Now that she has seen the colonel, he is truthful in the description.
  • Her formal behaviour which is not unpleasant is her sanction to elopement.

"How long did you say that he was at Rosings?"

"Nearly three weeks."

"And you saw him frequently?"

"Yes, almost every day."

"His manners are very different from his cousin's."

"Yes, very different. But I think Mr. Darcy improves on acquaintance."

"Indeed!" Cried Wickham with a look which did not escape her. "And pray, may I ask -- ?" But checking himself, he added, in a gayer tone, "Is it in address that he improves? Has he deigned to add ought of civility to his ordinary style! -- for I dare not hope," he continued in a lower and more serious tone, "that he is improved in essentials."

  • Elizabeth takes the trouble to soften her new understanding of Darcy. It is not as if Darcy is changed as in Pemberley. When the letter was given, his air was haughty.
  • Wickham does not spare a shade of his understanding to be turned to his advantage. She is soft to him.

"Oh no!" Said Elizabeth. "In essentials, I believe, he is very much what he ever was."

While she spoke, Wickham looked as if scarcely knowing whether to rejoice over her words, or to distrust their meaning. There was a something in her countenance which made him listen with an apprehensive and anxious attention while she added --

"When I said that he improved on acquaintance, I did not mean that either his mind or manners were in a state of improvement, but that, from knowing him better, his disposition was better understood."

Wickham's alarm now appeared in a heightened complexion and agitated look; for a few minutes he was silent, till, shaking off his embarrassment, he turned to her again, and said in the gentlest of accents --

"You, who so well know my feelings towards Mr. Darcy, will readily comprehend how sincerely I must rejoice that he is wise enough to assume even the appearance of what is right. His pride, in that direction, may be of service, if not to himself, to many others, for it must deter him from such foul misconduct as I have suffered by. I only fear that the sort of cautiousness, to which you, I imagine, have been alluding, is merely adopted on his visits to his aunt, of whose good opinion and judgment he stands much in awe. His fear of her has always operated, I know, when they were together; and a good deal is to be imputed to his wish of forwarding the match with Miss De Bourgh, which I am certain he has very much at heart."

  • She allows him to talk of the foul misconduct of Darcy in spite of her fresh knowledge.
  • He further fouls Darcy about his ‘foul conduct’. She listens patiently. This is the attitude of Romance. Knowing the evil of the man, she disregards it in the hope of seeking Romance in a life with him. Done superstitiously, she is wiped out. Taken to it idealistically, the strength of her ideal makes him turn around. Romance begins to flower. Darcy does it. Elizabeth turns around. To some extent Darcy does it to Wickham. The story ends there. It does not seek eternal Romance or even Romance in life. Only Darcy seeks it in Elizabeth

41 wickham Pride and Prejudice

Elizabeth could not repress a smile at this, but she answered only by a slight inclination of the head. She saw that he wanted to engage her on the old subject of his grievances, and she was in no humour to indulge him. The rest of the evening passed with the appearance, on his side, of usual cheerfulness, but with no farther attempt to distinguish Elizabeth; and they parted at last with mutual civility, and possibly a mutual desire of never meeting again.

When the party broke up, Lydia returned with Mrs. Forster to Meryton, from whence they were to set out early the next morning. The separation between her and her family was rather noisy than pathetic. Kitty was the only one who shed tears; but she did weep from vexation and envy. Mrs. Bennet was diffuse in her good wishes for the felicity of her daughter, and impressive in her injunctions that she would not miss the opportunity of enjoying herself as much as possible -- advice which there was every reason to believe would be attended to; and in the clamorous happiness of Lydia herself in bidding farewell, the more gentle adieus of her sisters were uttered without being heard.

  • Mrs. Bennet is shameless.

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