Jane Austen.

Pride and Prejudice online

. (page 1 of 29)
Online LibraryJane AustenPride and Prejudice → online text (page 1 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


PRIDE AND PREJUDICE***


E-text prepared by Greg Weeks, Jon Hurst, Mary Meehan, and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team (http://www.pgdp.net) from page images
generously made available by Internet Archive (https://archive.org)







Transcriber's note:

Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).

A carat character is used to denote superscription. Multiple
superscripted characters are enclosed by curly brackets
(example: M^{rs}).





PRIDE AND PREJUDICE:

A Novel.

In Three Volumes.

By the Author of "Sense and Sensibility."

VOL. I.







London:
Printed for T. Egerton,
Military Library, Whitehall.
1813.




[Illustration: Morning Dress.

_Invented by M^{rs} Bell 26 Charlotte Street Bedford Square._

_Engraved for No. 72 of La Belle Assemblee 1^{st} July 1815_]




PRIDE & PREJUDICE.




CHAPTER I.


It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession
of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his
first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds
of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful
property of some one or other of their daughters.

"My dear Mr. Bennet," said his lady to him one day, "have you heard that
Netherfield Park is let at last?"

Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.

"But it is," returned she; "for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she
told me all about it."

Mr. Bennet made no answer.

"Do not you want to know who has taken it?" cried his wife impatiently.

"_You_ want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it."

This was invitation enough.

"Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken
by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came
down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much
delighted with it that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is
to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be
in the house by the end of next week."

"What is his name?"

"Bingley."

"Is he married or single?"

"Oh! single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four
or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!"

"How so? how can it affect them?"

"My dear Mr. Bennet," replied his wife, "how can you be so tiresome! You
must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them."

"Is that his design in settling here?"

"Design! nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he
_may_ fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit him as
soon as he comes."

"I see no occasion for that. You and the girls may go, or you may send
them by themselves, which perhaps will be still better, for as you are
as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley might like you the best of the
party."

"My dear, you flatter me. I certainly _have_ had my share of beauty, but
I do not pretend to be any thing extraordinary now. When a woman has
five grown up daughters, she ought to give over thinking of her own
beauty."

"In such cases, a woman has not often much beauty to think of."

"But, my dear, you must indeed go and see Mr. Bingley when he comes into
the neighbourhood."

"It is more than I engage for, I assure you."

"But consider your daughters. Only think what an establishment it would
be for one of them. Sir William and Lady Lucas are determined to go,
merely on that account, for in general you know they visit no new
comers. Indeed you must go, for it will be impossible for _us_ to visit
him, if you do not."

"You are over scrupulous surely. I dare say Mr. Bingley will be very
glad to see you; and I will send a few lines by you to assure him of my
hearty consent to his marrying which ever he chuses of the girls; though
I must throw in a good word for my little Lizzy."

"I desire you will do no such thing. Lizzy is not a bit better than the
others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so
good humoured as Lydia. But you are always giving _her_ the
preference."

"They have none of them much to recommend them," replied he; "they are
all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has something more of
quickness than her sisters."

"Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such a way? You take
delight in vexing me. You have no compassion on my poor nerves."

"You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They
are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration
these twenty years at least."

"Ah! you do not know what I suffer."

"But I hope you will get over it, and live to see many young men of four
thousand a year come into the neighbourhood."

"It will be no use to us, if twenty such should come since you will not
visit them."

"Depend upon it, my dear, that when there are twenty, I will visit them
all."

Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour,
reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three and twenty years had
been insufficient to make his wife understand his character. _Her_ mind
was less difficult to develope. She was a woman of mean understanding,
little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented she
fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her
daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.




CHAPTER II.


Mr. Bennet was among the earliest of those who waited on Mr. Bingley. He
had always intended to visit him, though to the last always assuring his
wife that he should not go; and till the evening after the visit was
paid, she had no knowledge of it. It was then disclosed in the following
manner. Observing his second daughter employed in trimming a hat, he
suddenly addressed her with,

"I hope Mr. Bingley will like it Lizzy."

"We are not in a way to know _what_ Mr. Bingley likes," said her mother
resentfully, "since we are not to visit."

"But you forget, mama," said Elizabeth, "that we shall meet him at the
assemblies, and that Mrs. Long has promised to introduce him."

"I do not believe Mrs. Long will do any such thing. She has two nieces
of her own. She is a selfish, hypocritical woman, and I have no opinion
of her."

"No more have I," said Mr. Bennet; "and I am glad to find that you do
not depend on her serving you."

Mrs. Bennet deigned not to make any reply; but unable to contain
herself, began scolding one of her daughters.

"Don't keep coughing so, Kitty, for heaven's sake! Have a little
compassion on my nerves. You tear them to pieces."

"Kitty has no discretion in her coughs," said her father; "she times
them ill."

"I do not cough for my own amusement," replied Kitty fretfully.

"When is your next ball to be, Lizzy?"

"To-morrow fortnight."

"Aye, so it is," cried her mother, "and Mrs. Long does not come back
till the day before; so, it will be impossible for her to introduce him,
for she will not know him herself."

"Then, my dear, you may have the advantage of your friend, and introduce
Mr. Bingley to _her_."

"Impossible, Mr. Bennet, impossible, when I am not acquainted with him
myself; how can you be so teazing?"

"I honour your circumspection. A fortnight's acquaintance is certainly
very little. One cannot know what a man really is by the end of a
fortnight. But if _we_ do not venture, somebody else will; and after
all, Mrs. Long and her nieces must stand their chance; and therefore, as
she will think it an act of kindness, if you decline the office, I will
take it on myself."

The girls stared at their father. Mrs. Bennet said only, "Nonsense,
nonsense!"

"What can be the meaning of that emphatic exclamation?" cried he. "Do
you consider the forms of introduction, and the stress that is laid on
them, as nonsense? I cannot quite agree with you _there_. What say you,
Mary? for you are a young lady of deep reflection I know, and read great
books, and make extracts."

Mary wished to say something very sensible, but knew not how.

"While Mary is adjusting her ideas," he continued, "let us return to Mr.
Bingley."

"I am sick of Mr. Bingley," cried his wife.

"I am sorry to hear _that_; but why did not you tell me so before? If I
had known as much this morning, I certainly would not have called on
him. It is very unlucky; but as I have actually paid the visit, we
cannot escape the acquaintance now."

The astonishment of the ladies was just what he wished; that of Mrs.
Bennet perhaps surpassing the rest; though when the first tumult of joy
was over, she began to declare that it was what she had expected all the
while.

"How good it was in you, my dear Mr. Bennet! But I knew I should
persuade you at last. I was sure you loved your girls too well to
neglect such an acquaintance. Well, how pleased I am! and it is such a
good joke, too, that you should have gone this morning, and never said
a word about it till now."

"Now, Kitty, you may cough as much as you chuse," said Mr. Bennet; and,
as he spoke, he left the room, fatigued with the raptures of his wife.

"What an excellent father you have, girls," said she, when the door was
shut. "I do not know how you will ever make him amends for his kindness;
or me either, for that matter. At our time of life, it is not so
pleasant I can tell you, to be making new acquaintance every day; but
for your sakes, we would do any thing. Lydia, my love, though you _are_
the youngest, I dare say Mr. Bingley will dance with you at the next
ball."

"Oh!" said Lydia stoutly, "I am not afraid; for though I _am_ the
youngest, I'm the tallest."

The rest of the evening was spent in conjecturing how soon he would
return Mr. Bennet's visit, and determining when they should ask him to
dinner.




CHAPTER III.


Not all that Mrs. Bennet, however, with the assistance of her five
daughters, could ask on the subject was sufficient to draw from her
husband any satisfactory description of Mr. Bingley. They attacked him
in various ways; with barefaced questions, ingenious suppositions, and
distant surmises; but he eluded the skill of them all; and they were at
last obliged to accept the second-hand intelligence of their neighbour
Lady Lucas. Her report was highly favourable. Sir William had been
delighted with him. He was quite young, wonderfully handsome, extremely
agreeable, and to crown the whole, he meant to be at the next assembly
with a large party. Nothing could be more delightful! To be fond of
dancing was a certain step towards falling in love; and very lively
hopes of Mr. Bingley's heart were entertained.

"If I can but see one of my daughters happily settled at Netherfield,"
said Mrs. Bennet to her husband, "and all the others equally well
married, I shall have nothing to wish for."

In a few days Mr. Bingley returned Mr. Bennet's visit, and sat about ten
minutes with him in his library. He had entertained hopes of being
admitted to a sight of the young ladies, of whose beauty he had heard
much; but he saw only the father. The ladies were somewhat more
fortunate, for they had the advantage of ascertaining from an upper
window, that he wore a blue coat and rode a black horse.

An invitation to dinner was soon afterwards dispatched; and already had
Mrs. Bennet planned the courses that were to do credit to her
housekeeping, when an answer arrived which deferred it all. Mr. Bingley
was obliged to be in town the following day, and consequently unable to
accept the honour of their invitation, &c. Mrs. Bennet was quite
disconcerted. She could not imagine what business he could have in town
so soon after his arrival in Hertfordshire; and she began to fear that
he might be always flying about from one place to another, and never
settled at Netherfield as he ought to be. Lady Lucas quieted her fears a
little by starting the idea of his being gone to London only to get a
large party for the ball; and a report soon followed that Mr. Bingley
was to bring twelve ladies and seven gentlemen with him to the assembly.
The girls grieved over such a number of ladies; but were comforted the
day before the ball by hearing, that instead of twelve, he had brought
only six with him from London, his five sisters and a cousin. And when
the party entered the assembly room, it consisted of only five
altogether; Mr. Bingley, his two sisters, the husband of the eldest, and
another young man.

Mr. Bingley was good looking and gentleman-like; he had a pleasant
countenance, and easy, unaffected manners. His sisters were fine women,
with an air of decided fashion. His brother-in-law, Mr. Hurst, merely
looked the gentleman; but his friend Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention
of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien; and
the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after
his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year. The gentlemen
pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was
much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great
admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust
which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be
proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his
large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most
forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared
with his friend.

Mr. Bingley had soon made himself acquainted with all the principal
people in the room; he was lively and unreserved, danced every dance,
was angry that the ball closed so early, and talked of giving one
himself at Netherfield. Such amiable qualities must speak for
themselves. What a contrast between him and his friend! Mr. Darcy danced
only once with Mrs. Hurst and once with Miss Bingley, declined being
introduced to any other lady, and spent the rest of the evening in
walking about the room, speaking occasionally to one of his own party.
His character was decided. He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in
the world, and every body hoped that he would never come there again.
Amongst the most violent against him was Mrs. Bennet, whose dislike of
his general behaviour, was sharpened into particular resentment, by his
having slighted one of her daughters.

Elizabeth Bennet had been obliged, by the scarcity of gentlemen, to sit
down for two dances; and during part of that time, Mr. Darcy had been
standing near enough for her to overhear a conversation between him and
Mr. Bingley, who came from the dance for a few minutes, to press his
friend to join it.

"Come, Darcy," said he, "I must have you dance. I hate to see you
standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better
dance."

"I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am
particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this, it
would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there is not
another woman in the room, whom it would not be a punishment to me to
stand up with."

"I would not be so fastidious as you are," cried Bingley, "for a
kingdom! Upon my honour, I never met with so many pleasant girls in my
life, as I have this evening; and there are several of them you see
uncommonly pretty."

"_You_ are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room," said Mr.
Darcy, looking at the eldest Miss Bennet.

"Oh! she is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld! But there is one
of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I
dare say, very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you."

"Which do you mean?" and turning round, he looked for a moment at
Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said,
"She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt _me_; and I am in no
humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted
by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her
smiles, for you are wasting your time with me."

Mr. Bingley followed his advice. Mr. Darcy walked off; and Elizabeth
remained with no very cordial feelings towards him. She told the story
however with great spirit among her friends; for she had a lively,
playful disposition, which delighted in any thing ridiculous.

The evening altogether passed off pleasantly to the whole family. Mrs.
Bennet had seen her eldest daughter much admired by the Netherfield
party. Mr. Bingley had danced with her twice, and she had been
distinguished by his sisters. Jane was as much gratified by this, as her
mother could be, though in a quieter way. Elizabeth felt Jane's
pleasure. Mary had heard herself mentioned to Miss Bingley as the most
accomplished girl in the neighbourhood; and Catherine and Lydia had been
fortunate enough to be never without partners, which was all that they
had yet learnt to care for at a ball. They returned therefore in good
spirits to Longbourn, the village where they lived, and of which they
were the principal inhabitants. They found Mr. Bennet still up. With a
book he was regardless of time; and on the present occasion he had a
good deal of curiosity as to the event of an evening which had raised
such splendid expectations. He had rather hoped that all his wife's
views on the stranger would be disappointed; but he soon found that he
had a very different story to hear.

"Oh! my dear Mr. Bennet," as she entered the room, "we have had a most
delightful evening, a most excellent ball. I wish you had been there.
Jane was so admired, nothing could be like it. Every body said how well
she looked; and Mr. Bingley thought her quite beautiful, and danced with
her twice. Only think of _that_ my dear; he actually danced with her
twice; and she was the only creature in the room that he asked a second
time. First of all, he asked Miss Lucas. I was so vexed to see him stand
up with her; but, however, he did not admire her at all: indeed, nobody
can, you know; and he seemed quite struck with Jane as she was going
down the dance. So, he enquired who she was, and got introduced, and
asked her for the two next. Then, the two third he danced with Miss
King, and the two fourth with Maria Lucas, and the two fifth with Jane
again, and the two sixth with Lizzy, and the Boulanger - - "

"If he had had any compassion for _me_," cried her husband impatiently,
"he would not have danced half so much! For God's sake, say no more of
his partners. Oh! that he had sprained his ancle in the first dance!"

"Oh! my dear," continued Mrs. Bennet, "I am quite delighted with him. He
is so excessively handsome! and his sisters are charming women. I never
in my life saw any thing more elegant than their dresses. I dare say the
lace upon Mrs. Hurst's gown - - "

Here she was interrupted again. Mr. Bennet protested against any
description of finery. She was therefore obliged to seek another branch
of the subject, and related, with much bitterness of spirit and some
exaggeration, the shocking rudeness of Mr. Darcy.

"But I can assure you," she added, "that Lizzy does not lose much by not
suiting _his_ fancy; for he is a most disagreeable, horrid man, not at
all worth pleasing. So high and so conceited that there was no enduring
him! He walked here, and he walked there, fancying himself so very
great! Not handsome enough to dance with! I wish you had been there, my
dear, to have given him one of your set downs. I quite detest the man."




CHAPTER IV.


When Jane and Elizabeth were alone, the former, who had been cautious in
her praise of Mr. Bingley before, expressed to her sister how very much
she admired him.

"He is just what a young man ought to be," said she, "sensible, good
humoured, lively; and I never saw such happy manners! - so much ease,
with such perfect good breeding!"

"He is also handsome," replied Elizabeth, "which a young man ought
likewise to be, if he possibly can. His character is thereby complete."

"I was very much flattered by his asking me to dance a second time. I
did not expect such a compliment."

"Did not you? _I_ did for you. But that is one great difference between
us. Compliments always take _you_ by surprise, and _me_ never. What
could be more natural than his asking you again? He could not help
seeing that you were about five times as pretty as every other woman in
the room. No thanks to his gallantry for that. Well, he certainly is
very agreeable, and I give you leave to like him. You have liked many a
stupider person."

"Dear Lizzy!"

"Oh! you are a great deal too apt you know, to like people in general.
You never see a fault in any body. All the world are good and agreeable
in your eyes. I never heard you speak ill of a human being in my life."

"I would wish not to be hasty in censuring any one; but I always speak
what I think."

"I know you do; and it is _that_ which makes the wonder. With _your_
good sense, to be so honestly blind to the follies and nonsense of
others! Affectation of candour is common enough; - one meets it every
where. But to be candid without ostentation or design - to take the good
of every body's character and make it still better, and say nothing of
the bad - belongs to you alone. And so, you like this man's sisters too,
do you? Their manners are not equal to his."

"Certainly not; at first. But they are very pleasing women when you
converse with them. Miss Bingley is to live with her brother and keep
his house; and I am much mistaken if we shall not find a very charming
neighbour in her."

Elizabeth listened in silence, but was not convinced; their behaviour at
the assembly had not been calculated to please in general; and with more
quickness of observation and less pliancy of temper than her sister, and
with a judgment too unassailed by any attention to herself, she was very
little disposed to approve them. They were in fact very fine ladies; not
deficient in good humour when they were pleased, nor in the power of
being agreeable where they chose it; but proud and conceited. They were
rather handsome, had been educated in one of the first private
seminaries in town, had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, were in the
habit of spending more than they ought, and of associating with people
of rank; and were therefore in every respect entitled to think well of
themselves, and meanly of others. They were of a respectable family in
the north of England; a circumstance more deeply impressed on their
memories than that their brother's fortune and their own had been
acquired by trade.

Mr. Bingley inherited property to the amount of nearly an hundred
thousand pounds from his father, who had intended to purchase an estate,
but did not live to do it. - Mr. Bingley intended it likewise, and
sometimes made choice of his county; but as he was now provided with a
good house and the liberty of a manor, it was doubtful to many of those
who best knew the easiness of his temper, whether he might not spend the
remainder of his days at Netherfield, and leave the next generation to
purchase.

His sisters were very anxious for his having an estate of his own; but
though he was now established only as a tenant, Miss Bingley was by no
means unwilling to preside at his table, nor was Mrs. Hurst, who had
married a man of more fashion than fortune, less disposed to consider
his house as her home when it suited her. Mr. Bingley had not been of
age two years, when he was tempted by an accidental recommendation to
look at Netherfield House. He did look at it and into it for half an
hour, was pleased with the situation and the principal rooms, satisfied
with what the owner said in its praise, and took it immediately.

Between him and Darcy there was a very steady friendship, in spite of a
great opposition of character. - Bingley was endeared to Darcy by the
easiness, openness, ductility of his temper, though no disposition could
offer a greater contrast to his own, and though with his own he never
appeared dissatisfied. On the strength of Darcy's regard Bingley had the
firmest reliance, and of his judgment the highest opinion. In
understanding Darcy was the superior. Bingley was by no means deficient,
but Darcy was clever. He was at the same time haughty, reserved, and
fastidious, and his manners, though well bred, were not inviting. In
that respect his friend had greatly the advantage. Bingley was sure of
being liked wherever he appeared, Darcy was continually giving offence.

The manner in which they spoke of the Meryton assembly was sufficiently
characteristic. Bingley had never met with pleasanter people or prettier
girls in his life; every body had been most kind and attentive to him,
there had been no formality, no stiffness, he had soon felt acquainted



Online LibraryJane AustenPride and Prejudice → online text (page 1 of 29)