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Pride & Prejudice: Chapter 46

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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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Comment

Elizabeth had been a good deal disappointed in not finding a letter from Jane on their first arrival at Lambton; and this disappointment had been renewed on each of the mornings that had now been spent there; but on the third her repining was over, and her sister justified, by the receipt of two letters from her at once, on one of which was marked that it had been mis-sent elsewhere. Elizabeth was not surprised at it, as Jane had written the direction remarkably ill.

1
  • It is Caroline’s poking Elizabeth that made the elopement possible.
  • As long as the buoyant happy atmosphere was there, the letters could not reach them.
  • It is a truth of Life, that the atmosphere in one place can determine the acts in another place, not withstanding the sequence in Time.
  • In the last few days, perhaps five days, they visited Pemberley, discovered Darcy’s changed attitude, received Darcy. Miss Darcy, Bingley at the inn dined again at Pemberley. It is worth noting the letter was written five days earlier to the day of elopement. Elizabeth coming close to Darcy made Wickham come close to Lydia
  • “her uncle and aunt set off themselves”. It is significant that the letters are not opened in their presence or Darcy spoken to in their presence. It is through Mr. Gardiner that the misfortune is reversed. Their presence is capable of preventing such a misfortune. So they left. Nor would she feel free to speak of Lydia to Darcy in their presence. Hence their absence

They had just been preparing to walk as the letters came in; and her uncle and aunt, leaving her to enjoy them in quiet, set off by themselves. The one mis-sent must be first attended to; it had been written five days ago. The beginning contained an account of all their little parties and engagements, with such news as the country afforded; but the latter half, which was dated a day later, and written in evident agitation, gave more important intelligence. It was to this effect.

3
  • Aunt and uncle go to Church when the bad news comes.
  • It indicates it can be set right.

"Since writing the above, dearest Lizzy, something has occurred of a most unexpected and serious nature; but I am afraid of alarming you -- be assured that we are all well. What I have to say relates to poor Lydia. An express came at twelve last night, just as we were all gone to bed, from Colonel Forster, to inform us that she was gone off to Scotland with one of his officers; to own the truth, with Wickham! Imagine our surprise. To Kitty, however, it does not seem so wholly unexpected. I am very, very sorry. So imprudent a match on both sides! But I am willing to hope the best, and that his character has been misunderstood. Thoughtless and indiscreet I can easily believe him, but this step -- and let us rejoice over it -- marks nothing bad at heart. His choice is disinterested at least, for he must know my father can give her nothing. Our poor mother is sadly grieved. My father bears it better. How thankful am I that we never let them know what has been said against him! We must forget it ourselves. They were off Saturday night about twelve, as is conjectured, but were not missed till yesterday morning at eight. The express was sent off directly. My dear Lizzy, they must have passed within ten miles of us. Colonel Forster gives us reason to expect him here soon. Lydia left a few lines for his wife, informing her of their intention. I must conclude, for I cannot be long from my poor mother. I am afraid you will not be able to make it out, but I hardly know what I have written."

7
  • Lydia has run away. Jane does not want to alarm her sister.
  • Her foolish QUIET made it possible for Lydia to be married.
  • Lydia’s problem was soled. Jane remains foolish. She is unaware of it.
  • The express came at 12 midnight.
  • It could have come at any time.
  • Life knocks on the darkness of this family.
  • Lydia was off.
  • Jane is surprised, not crushed.
  • In her letter we find more of Jane than news.
  • It never occurs to Jane that Lydia is ruined and the whole family along with her.
  • Mr. Bennet later says these things will pass off.
  • It will not pass away. All girls will remain unmarried.
  • All those who do not act rest on pious wishes.
  • She refuses to see the other side.
  • Instead of condemning themselves for the secret, Jane thanks herself.
  • Self-justification is the rule.
  • Wherever Wickham figures, solicitude to him, shifting the blame to Lydia or keeping silent can be noticed.
  • A handsome false man is irresistible to ladies.
  • No man will condemn a woman even for murder if he likes her.
  • He would say it is the fate of the Victim.
  • No hard word is spoken about Wickham to Darcy or to herself.
  • The heart that once loved, loves to remember that love forever.
  • There is no panic in Jane’s reporting about Lydia’s adventure. Her naiveté can render her insensible. Her not making a great misfortune of it helps life prevent it from becoming one. Nor can Colonel Forster be found fault with for this tragedy. It is a great restraint that takes the responsibility on themselves and totally absolves. Forster from his part. It is again a contributing factor to Lydia coming back

46 letter Pride and Prejudice

Without allowing herself time for consideration, and scarcely knowing what she felt, Elizabeth on finishing this letter instantly seized the other, and opening it with the utmost impatience, read as follows -- it had been written a day later than the conclusion of the first.

28

"By this time, my dearest sister, you have received my hurried letter; I wish this may be more intelligible, but though not confined for time, my head is so bewildered that I cannot answer for being coherent. Dearest Lizzy, I hardly know what I would write, but I have bad news for you, and it cannot be delayed. Imprudent as a marriage between Mr. Wickham and our poor Lydia would be, we are now anxious to be assured it has taken place, for there is but too much reason to fear they are not gone to Scotland. Colonel Forster came yesterday, having left Brighton the day before, not many hours after the express. Though Lydia's short letter to Mrs. F. gave them to understand that they were going to Gretna Green, something was dropped by Denny expressing his belief that W. never intended to go there, or to marry Lydia at all, which was repeated to Colonel F., who, instantly taking the alarm, set off from B., intending to trace their route. He did trace them easily to Clapham, but no farther; for on entering that place, they removed into a hackney-coach, and dismissed the chaise that brought them from Epsom. All that is known after this is, that they were seen to continue the London road. I know not what to think. After making every possible enquiry on that side London, Colonel F. came on into Hertfordshire, anxiously renewing them at all the turnpikes, and at the inns in Barnet and Hatfield, but without any success -- no such people had been seen to pass through. With the kindest concern he came on to Longbourn, and broke his apprehensions to us in a manner most creditable to his heart. I am sincerely grieved for him and Mrs. F., but no one can throw any blame on them. Our distress, my dear Lizzy, is very great. My father and mother believe the worst, but I cannot think so ill of him. Many circumstances might make it more eligible for them to be married privately in town than to pursue their first plan; and even if he could form such a design against a young woman of Lydia's connexions, which is not likely, can I suppose her so lost to everything? Impossible! I grieve to find, however, that Colonel F. is not disposed to depend upon their marriage; he shook his head when I expressed my hopes, and said he feared W. was not a man to be trusted. My poor mother is really ill, and keeps her room. Could she exert herself, it would be better; but this is not to be expected. And as to my father, I never in my life saw him so affected. Poor Kitty has anger for having concealed their attachment; but as it was a matter of confidence, one cannot wonder. I am truly glad, dearest Lizzy, that you have been spared something of these distressing scenes; but now, as the first shock is over, shall I own that I long for your return? I am not so selfish, however, as to press for it, if inconvenient. Adieu! I take up my pen again to do what I have just told you I would not; but circumstances are such that I cannot help earnestly begging you all to come here as soon as possible. I know my dear uncle and aunt so well, that I am not afraid of requesting it, though I have still something more to ask of the former. My father is going to London with Colonel Forster instantly, to try to discover her. What he means to do I am sure I know not; but his excessive distress will not allow him to pursue any measure in the best and safest way, and Colonel Forster is obliged to be at Brighton again to-morrow evening. In such an exigence, my uncle's advice and assistance would be everything in the world; he will immediately comprehend what I must feel, and I rely upon his goodness."

29
  • This is the first time Jane faces a problem, and a stupendous one.
  • A true reporting. She is fresh for problems.
  • To Jane, just now, it is necessary she should be fair to the colonel.
  • Jane’s descriptions, outside the news, is only news of what Jane is, not news.
  • The family must be angry at Kitty. How can Kitty be angry, at whom, for what? Unless * Jane means that she is angry for the family now knows of her concealment, it sounds beside the point.
  • Which period, which culture, which family will allow confidence in such matters. Later Jane tells Lydia that if Darcy is a secret she would not ask, neither the girls ask. It is a silly superstition.
  • Jane hesitates at first to call them back.
  • Formality claims precedence over reality of work or responsibility.
  • Jane honours the privacy and secrecy of Kitty who knew this. It is foolish to extend considerations of privacy in such matters. It is an unpardonable treachery to the family worse than Lydia’s action. Jane hesitates to request them to return instead of hastily demanding it. It is a silly consideration of shallow formality. Actually Kitty is angry

46 news Pride and Prejudice

"Oh! Where, where is my uncle?" Cried Elizabeth, darting from her seat as she finished the letter, in eagerness to follow him, without losing a moment of the time so precious; but as she reached the door it was opened by a servant, and Mr. Darcy appeared. Her pale face and impetuous manner made him start, and before he could recover himself enough to speak, she, in whose mind every idea was superseded by Lydia's situation, hastily exclaimed, "I beg your pardon, but I must leave you. I must find Mr. Gardiner this moment, on business that cannot be delayed; I have not an instant to lose."

56
  • It is not her uncle who is going to find Lydia. It is Darcy, so it is he she meets with.
  • He has come, perhaps, to renew his proposal. Now the very idea of the proposal, in the changed circumstances has created an inner upheaval in him exactly as she externally exhibits.
  • Elizabeth breaks down. Darcy appears. In a crisis one seeks the greatest known support as the child rushes to the mother. In negative situations, that support, if it is there, will move away a little earlier. It happened at Waterloo to Napoleon in a slightly modified form. Even here when Elizabeth had the premonition of a crisis, Mr. Bennet readily withdrew it. Darcy is her all NOW and she seeks him with all her being. And he appears instantaneously. His instantaneous appearance implyingly tells us he will offer support
  • No one will disclose such a news to others. She may not have done so if the Gardiners were there. Even if the whole town knows it no one can bring herself to speak this out to one outside the family. Somehow, she is aware that Darcy will help. That awareness makes her share it with him. When all is lost man seeks support by asking for sympathy. She acts in that fashion

46 darcy sits Pride and Prejudice

"Good God! What is the matter?" Cried he, with more feeling than politeness; then recollecting himself, "I will not detain you a minute; but let me, or let the servant, go after Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner. You are not well enough; -- you cannot go yourself."

60
  • Feelings overcome his politeness.
  • What happened up to this point is the permissible communication on either side.

Elizabeth hesitated, but her knees trembled under her, and she felt how little would be gained by her attempting to pursue them. Calling back the servant, therefore, she commissioned him, though in so breathless an accent as made her almost unintelligible, to fetch his master and mistress home instantly.

64

On his quitting the room she sat down, unable to support herself, and looking so miserably ill that it was impossible for Darcy to leave her, or to refrain from saying, in a tone of gentleness and commiseration, "Let me call your maid. Is there nothing you could take to give you present relief? A glass of wine; -- shall I get you one? You are very ill."

66
  • Darcy takes the best possible attitude in offering a glass of wine.

"No, I thank you;" she replied, endeavouring to recover herself. "There is nothing the matter with me. I am quite well; I am only distressed by some dreadful news which I have just received from Longbourn."

69
  • Even her saying dreadful news has come is all right.

She burst into tears as she alluded to it, and for a few minutes could not speak another word. Darcy, in wretched suspense, could only say something indistinctly of his concern, and observe her in compassionate silence. At length she spoke again. "I have just had a letter from Jane, with such dreadful news. It cannot be concealed from any one. My youngest sister has left all her friends -- has eloped; -- has thrown herself into the power of -- of Mr. Wickham. They are gone off together from Brighton. You know him too well to doubt the rest. She has no money, no connexions, nothing that can tempt him to -- she is lost for ever."

72
  • Speaking out makes emotions break level.
  • Now, she voluntarily disclosed the news of elopement.
  • The basis for this is,
    • Darcy has confided in her about Georgiana.
    • That, on opening the door, she instantaneously meets Darcy.
    • He is anxious to come closer to her by serving her family.
    • Darcy has to overcome in his emotions, the reality of her family.

Darcy was fixed in astonishment. "When I consider," she added, in a yet more agitated voice, "that I might have prevented it! I, who knew what he was. Had I but explained some part of it only -- some part of what I learnt, to my own family! Had his character been known, this could not have happened. But it is all -- all too late now."

81
  • She explains how it was all her fault.
  • He later converts the whole as his fault.
  • Even then she could not bring herself to condemn him or Lydia. She realises her error. She owns her defect, a positive attitude as her father’s. Darcy questions the truth of it indicating a positive outcome. She finds fault again only with herself. In a trice, she sees all is lost for the whole family

46 elizabeth cries Pride and Prejudice

"I am grieved, indeed," cried Darcy; "grieved -- shocked. But is it certain -- absolutely certain?"

87
  • With utter disbelief, he asks if it is absolutely certain.
  • It keeps the door open.

"Oh yes! They left Brighton together on Sunday night, and were traced almost to London, but not beyond: they are certainly not gone to Scotland."

89

"And what has been done, what has been attempted, to recover her?"

91

"My father is gone to London, and Jane has written to beg my uncle's immediate assistance; and we shall be off, I hope, in half an hour. But nothing can be done -- I know very well that nothing can be done. How is such a man to be worked on? How are they even to be discovered? I have not the smallest hope. It is every way horrible!"

92

Darcy shook his head in silent acquiesence.

96

"When my eyes were opened to his real character -- Oh! Had I known what I ought, what I dared to do! But I knew not -- I was afraid of doing too much. Wretched, wretched, mistake!"

97

Darcy made no answer. He seemed scarcely to hear her, and was walking up and down the room in earnest meditation, his brow contracted, his air gloomy. Elizabeth soon observed, and instantly understood it. Her power was sinking; everything must sink under such a proof of family weakness, such an assurance of the deepest disgrace. She could neither wonder nor condemn, but the belief of his self-conquest brought nothing consolatory to her bosom, afforded no palliation of her distress. It was, on the contrary, exactly calculated to make her understand her own wishes; and never had she so honestly felt that she could have loved him, as now, when all love must be vain.

100
  • Even during the most painful hour of her life, she does not have one hard word to the man who caused it.

But self, though it would intrude, could not engross her. Lydia -- the humiliation, the misery she was bringing on them all, soon swallowed up every private care; and covering her face with her handkerchief, Elizabeth was soon lost to everything else; and, after a pause of several minutes, was only recalled to a sense of her situation by the voice of her companion, who, in a manner which, though it spoke compassion, spoke likewise restraint, said, "I am afraid you have been long desiring my absence, nor have I anything to plead in excuse of my stay, but real, though unavailing, concern. Would to Heaven that anything could be either said or done on my part that might offer consolation to such distress! -- But I will not torment you with vain wishes, which may seem purposely to ask for your thanks. This unfortunate affair will, I fear, prevent my sister's having the pleasure of seeing you at Pemberley to-day."

106
  • She sees she lost him totally in the deepest family disgrace.
  • The value of a thing is seen in its absence.
  • Also she does not condemn Lydia sufficiently.
  • Not condemning keeps the door open to solution.
  • Condemnation confines the act, make the solution less feasible.
  • Darcy’s emotions to leave her alone are magnificent.
  • He has the embarrassment of deserting her at this critical hour.
  • At this point Darcy has decided to find Lydia. The rule is he who makes such a promise will not do it. As he indicated nothing of his own mind to her, it becomes possible to find them. One thought that is unbecoming of him is he is sorry for the cancellation of Elizabeth’s visit to Pemberley. It is certainly a pronounced SELFISH idea to speak out at this moment about his loss when tragedy has struck her. That is his basic character, selfishness. It also expresses meanness

46 darcy leaves Pride and Prejudice

"Oh yes. Be so kind as to apologize for us to Miss Darcy. Say that urgent business calls us home immediately. Conceal the unhappy truth as long as it is possible. -- I know it cannot be long."

111
  • His mentioning her Pemberley visit is a crude expression of selfishness.
  • He refrains from telling her of his intention only to avoid her mistaking it for his desire to serve her. It is magnanimous. Here he acts as a true gentleman which she questioned.

He readily assured her of his secrecy, again expressed his sorrow for her distress, wished it a happier conclusion than there was at present reason to hope, and leaving his compliments for her relations, with only one serious, parting look, went away.

115

As he quitted the room, Elizabeth felt how improbable it was that they should ever see each other again on such terms of cordiality as had marked their several meetings in Derbyshire; and as she threw a retrospective glance over the whole of their acquaintance, so full of contradictions and varieties, sighed at the perverseness of those feelings which would now have promoted its continuance, and would formerly have rejoiced in its termination.

116
  • To Elizabeth, Lydia’s elopement is the end of any possible relationship with Darcy
  • The repugnance she felt in reversing her attitude, towards him is being worked out in the physical plane as Lydia’s elopement. Elizabeth knew Wickham was unwilling to marry her without money. The first letter made her wonder how Wickham who could not marry her (Elizabeth) without money would marry Lydia. The second letter made it clear that it was not marriage, but dissipation

46 after darcy leaves Pride and Prejudice

If gratitude and esteem are good foundations of affection, Elizabeth's change of sentiment will be neither improbable nor faulty. But if otherwise -- if the regard springing from such sources is unreasonable or unnatural, in comparison of what is so often described as arising on a first interview with its object, and even before two words have been exchanged -- nothing can be said in her defence, except that she had given somewhat of a trial to the latter method in her partiality for Wickham, and that its ill success might, perhaps, authorise her to seek the other less interesting mode of attachment. Be that as it may, she saw him go with regret; and in this early example of what Lydia's infamy must produce, found additional anguish as she reflected on that wretched business. Never, since reading Jane's second letter, had she entertained a hope of Wickham's meaning to marry her. No one but Jane, she thought, could flatter herself with such an expectation. Surprise was the least of her feelings on this development. While the contents of the first letter remained on her mind, she was all surprise -- all astonishment that Wickham should marry a girl whom it was impossible he could marry for money; and how Lydia could ever have attached him, had appeared incomprehensible. But now it was all too natural. For such an attachment as this she might have sufficient charms; and though she did not suppose Lydia to be deliberately engaging in an elopement, without the intention of marriage, she had no difficulty in believing that neither her virtue nor her understanding would preserve her from falling an easy prey.

117
  • Elopement cannot be concealed. Therefore it cannot be spread.
  • His serious parting look means he has overcome the shame for her sake.
  • Elizabeth’s thoughts are common sense, but he was uncommon.
  • Their relationship was full of contradictions and varieties.
  • A true reflection of life as they lived.
  • She longs for the termination of the perverseness of those feelings.
  • Gratitude is the foundation in substance and is lasting.
  • Still, it is not love. It can help generate love.
  • True, her sentiments do change, of course, when it is useless.
  • One way of falling in love is to know the other in crucial moments.
  • The other is love at first sight. She did so with Wickham.
  • It is not enough assurance for her for his love.
  • Lydia, as she is placed, may not marry at all.
  • Apart from Darcy’s marrying Elizabeth, his deep compassionate attitude is enough for Lydia to marry.

She had never perceived, while the regiment was in Hertfordshire, that Lydia had any partiality for him; but she was convinced that Lydia had wanted only encouragement to attach herself to anybody. Sometimes one officer, sometimes another, had been her favourite, as their attentions raised them in her opinion. Her affections had been continually fluctuating, but never without an object. The mischief of neglect and mistaken indulgence towards such a girl -- oh! How acutely did she now feel it!

125
  • It was incomprehensible for her to see Lydia attached to him.
  • As a sister, she is unable to think of that level of depravity in her or in him.
  • She thinks of Lydia being a prey. To Lydia, it is an adventurous pursuit of pleasure.

She was wild to be at home -- to hear, to see, to be upon the spot to share with Jane in the cares that must now fall wholly upon her, in a family so deranged, a father absent, a mother incapable of exertion, and requiring constant attendance; and though almost persuaded that nothing could be done for Lydia, her uncle's interference seemed of the utmost importance, and till he entered the room the misery of her impatience was severe. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner had hurried back in alarm, supposing by the servant's account that their niece was taken suddenly ill; -- but satisfying them instantly on that head, she eagerly communicated the cause of their summons, reading the two letters aloud, and dwelling on the postscript of the last with trembling energy, though Lydia had never been a favourite with them. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner could not but be deeply affected. Not Lydia only, but all were concerned in it; and after the first exclamations of surprise and horror, Mr. Gardiner readily promised every assistance in his power. Elizabeth, though expecting no less, thanked him with tears of gratitude; and all three being actuated by one spirit, everything relating to their journey was speedily settled. They were to be off as soon as possible. "But what is to be done about Pemberley?" Cried Mrs. Gardiner. "John told us Mr. Darcy was here when you sent for us; -- was it so?"

130
  • Lydia’s partiality is not for Wickham, but for an officer. On her part the causes may be
    • Elizabeth once loved him. It is a cause for an urge.
    • Wickham is won from £10,000 of Miss King.
    • She continues the initiative of her mother.
    • We see when Mrs. Bennet’s efforts are thwarted with Bingley, Lydia begins.
  • Elizabeth’s sense of responsibility is commendable. She longed to be at home to shoulder the burden.
  • Lydia runs away, the mother collapses, Elizabeth takes over even in the absence of her father.
  • ‘Nothing could be done for Lydia’ – It is a negative cooperation with Life.
  • Her aunt suspected she was ill. The weight of her suspicion was not to aggravate the problem.
  • His ready promise of assistance worked itself to produce the result.
  • It brought the picture of total ruin of the family. For her Jane is the centre of her family. Her health was her concern. The Gardiners suspected a serious illness in Elizabeth. They found out it was not illness, but only misfortune. The tragedy is not in the physical plane, but only in the vital plane which is less difficult to set right. When the mind is cleared of the impossible danger, Mrs. Gardiner’s first thought was Pemberley. Here she is culturally superior to Darcy who expresses an awkward selfish propensity. “…that is all settled” of Elizabeth startles and shocks Mrs. Gardiner. She could not know that such an intimacy existed between Darcy and Elizabeth. The tone of Elizabeth’s confidence made her assume a greater closeness between them than existed. Mrs. Gardiner did not know that such intimacy did not exist between them but her niece ardently wished for it

46 gardiners Pride and Prejudice

"Yes; and I told him we should not be able to keep our engagement. That is all settled."

139

"What is all settled?" Repeated the other, as she ran into her room to prepare. "And are they upon such terms as for her to disclose the real truth? Oh, that I knew how it was!"

141
  • It is something for Mrs. Gardiner to think of Pemberley at this moment.
  • It is a sign Pemberley is still alive.

But wishes were vain, or at best could serve only to amuse her in the hurry and confusion of the following hour. Had Elizabeth been at leisure to be idle, she would have remained certain that all employment was impossible to one so wretched as herself; but she had her share of business as well as her aunt, and amongst the rest there were notes to be written to all their friends in Lambton, with false excuses for their sudden departure. An hour, however, saw the whole completed; and Mr. Gardiner meanwhile having settled his account at the inn, nothing remained to be done but to go; and Elizabeth, after all the misery of the morning, found herself, in a shorter space of time than she could have supposed, seated in the carriage, and on the road to Longbourn.

145
  • That was all settled – Mrs. Gardiner got her message.
  • Mrs. Gardiner supposed more than true, but it helps Elizabeth to marry.
  • In an hour of distress and confusion Mrs. Gardiner is a little assured.
  • Another sign of joy being alive.
  • In the worst hour of tragedies, work in all details must be attended to.
  • Falsehood is justified at this hour in life.
  • Elizabeth did not break down, she is functional.
  • With commendable alacrity, they leave the inn.

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