The World's Greatest Books, Vol. I
Part 3 out of 7
During the night the "pitch-mannikin" dug a grave on the spot where Irma
had loved to lie in the sun. She was buried there early next morning.
Hansei and Peter and Dr. Gunther carried the corpse, and Walpurga with
her child formed the procession.
* * * * *
Sense and Sensibility
Jane Austen, daughter of the rector of Steventon, in North
Hampshire, England, was born there on December 16, 1775, and
received her education from her father, a former Fellow of St.
John's College, Oxford. Her life was spent in the country or
in country towns, chiefly at the village of Chawton, near
Winchester. She died, unmarried, at Winchester on July 18,
1817, and was buried in the cathedral. The novels of Jane
Austen may be divided into two groups. The first three--"Sense
and Sensibility," "Pride and Prejudice," and "Northanger
Abbey"--were all written, in first draft, at any rate, between
1792 and 1798. These are the novels composed during the
author's residence at Steventon, which she left in 1801. There
succeeded an interval of practically fourteen years
(1798-1812), during which time the novelist let her mind lie
absolutely fallow. As a natural consequence of the
comparatively secluded life which Jane Austen led, the society
with which she deals in her novels is a rather restricted one.
It is the world of the country gentleman and of the upper
professional class. From a very early age Jane Austen had a
taste for writing tales, and the first draft of "Sense and
Sensibility "--then called "Elinor and Marianne"--was composed
as early as 1792. The book was recast under its present title
between 1797 and 1798, and again revised prior to its
publication in 1811. In addition to the six novels on which
her fame is based--all of which were issued anonymously--Jane
Austen has to her credit some agreeable "Letters," a fragment
of a story called "The Watsons," and a sort of novelette which
bears the name of "Lady Susan."
_I.--The Dashwoods of Norland Park_
Mr. Henry Dashwood, of Norland Park, Sussex, died leaving his widow and
his three daughters, Elinor, Marianne and Margaret, to the generosity of
Mr. John Dashwood, his son by his first wife and the heir to his estate.
Mr. John, who, apart from the family inheritance, had received one
fortune from his mother and another with his wife, was at first disposed
to increase the portions of his sisters by giving them a thousand pounds
apiece; but under the persuasion of his wife he finally resolved that it
would be absolutely unnecessary, if not highly indecorous, to do more
for his father's widow and children than such kind of neighbourly acts
as looking out for a comfortable small house for them, helping them to
remove their things, and sending them presents of fish and game whenever
they were in season.
Taking account of this resolve, as expressed in Mr. John Dashwood's
frequent talk of the increasing expenses of housekeeping, and of the
perpetual demands made upon his purse, and exasperated, too, by the
manifest disapprobation with which Mrs. John Dashwood looked upon the
growing attachment between her own brother, Edward Ferrars, and Elinor,
Mrs. Henry Dashwood and her daughters left their old home with some
abruptness and went to live in Devonshire, where their old friend, Sir
John Middleton, of Barton Park, had provided them with a cottage close
to his own place.
Elinor, the eldest of the daughters, possessed a strength of
understanding and coolness of judgment which qualified her, though only
nineteen, to be the counsellor of her mother, and enabled her frequently
to counteract, to the advantage of them all, that eagerness of mind in
Mrs. Dashwood which must generally have led to imprudence. She had an
excellent heart. Her disposition was affectionate, and her feelings were
strong; but she knew how to govern them. It was a knowledge which her
mother had yet to learn, and which one of her sisters had resolved never
to be taught. Marianne's abilities were, in many respects, quite equal
to Elinor's. She was sensible and clever, but eager in everything; her
sorrows, her joys could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable,
interesting; she was everything but prudent. The resemblance between her
and her mother was strikingly great, and her excess of sensibility,
which Elinor saw with concern, was by Mrs. Dashwood valued and
Margaret, the other sister, was good-humoured; but she had already
imbibed a good deal of Marianne's romance, without having much of her
sense, and, at thirteen, she did not bid fair to equal her sisters at a
more advanced period of life.
But whatever the virtues or failings of the Dashwood ladies, their
society was very welcome at Barton Park. Sir John Middleton was a
good-looking man about forty, thoroughly good-humoured in manner and
countenance, friendly and kind-hearted in disposition, who delighted in
collecting about him more young people than his house would hold.
Lady Middleton was a handsome woman of six-and-twenty, well-bred, and
graceful in address, but deficient in frankness, warmth, or anything to
say for herself. She piqued herself upon the elegance of her table
appointments and of all her domestic arrangements; and this kind of
vanity it was that constituted her greatest enjoyment in any of their
parties. Sir John was a sportsman; Lady Middleton a mother. He hunted
and shot, and she humoured her children; and these were their only
resources. Continual engagements at home and abroad, however, supplied
all the deficiencies of nature and education--supported the good spirits
of Sir John, and gave exercise to the good-breeding of his wife.
Mrs. Jennings, Lady Middleton's mother, who formed one of the party on
the first occasion of the Dashwoods dining at Barton Park, was a
good-humoured, fat, elderly woman, who talked a good deal, and seemed
very happy, and rather vulgar. She was full of jokes and laughter, and
before dinner was over had said many witty things on the subject of
lovers and husbands, hoped they had not left their hearts behind them in
Sussex, and pretended to see them blush whether they did or not. In
fact, this lady was a born match-maker; and she at once proceeded, by
hints here and raillery there, to promote a match between Marianne, aged
seventeen, and Colonel Brandon, a grave but sensible bachelor on the
wrong side of thirty-five. Marianne, however, scorned and laughed at the
idea, being reasonable enough to allow that a man of five-and-thirty
might well have outlived all acuteness of feeling and every exquisite
power of enjoyment; and having met with an accident which led to her
being carried home by a handsome and vivacious young gentleman called
Willoughby, who had a seat called Combe Magna in Somersetshire, she
rapidly developed a liking for his society, and as quickly discovered
that in regard to music, to dancing, and to books, their tastes were
"Well, Marianne," said Elinor, after his first visit, "for one morning I
think you have done pretty well. You have already ascertained Mr.
Willoughby's opinion in almost every matter of importance. You know what
to think of Cowper and Scott; you are aware of his estimating their
beauties as he ought; and you have received every assurance of his
admiring Pope no more than is proper. But how is your acquaintance to be
long supported under such extraordinary dispatch of every subject for
discourse? You will soon have exhausted each favourite topic. Another
meeting will suffice to explain his sentiments on picturesque beauty and
second marriages, and then you can have nothing further to ask."
To this Marianne replied, "Is this fair? Is this just? Are my ideas so
scanty? But I see what you mean. I have been too much at my ease--too
happy, too frank. I have erred against every commonplace notion of
decorum. I have been open and sincere where I ought to have been
reserved, spiritless, dull and deceitful. Had I talked only of the
weather and the roads, and had I spoken only once in ten minutes, this
reproach would have been spared."
From which it will be gathered that Marianne began now to perceive that
that desperation which had seized her at sixteen-and-a-half of ever
seeing a man who could satisfy her ideas of perfection had been somewhat
rash and quite unjustifiable.
_II.--Marianne Dashwood in Love_
Willoughby's society soon became Marianne's most exquisite enjoyment.
The mutual attachment was obvious--amusingly obvious. They read, they
talked, they sang, they danced, they drove together, and they even
agreed in depreciating Colonel Brandon as "the kind of man whom
everybody spoke well of and nobody cared about; whom all were delighted
to see, and nobody remembered to talk to." Then, after cutting off a
lock of Marianne's hair, after offering her a horse, and after showing
her over the house which would eventually be his on the death of Mrs.
Smith, the elderly relative on whom he was partially dependent, the
young lover suddenly took leave of the family, having said not a word to
Mrs. Dashwood of an engagement, and having offered no other explanation
of his hasty departure than the flimsy pretext of being sent by his
relative on business to London.
Willoughby left for London a few days after Colonel Brandon had also
been unexpectedly summoned to the same place, and he expressed no hope
of any rapid return into Devonshire. On such an occasion Marianne would
have thought herself very inexcusable had she not given way to all her
feelings; and for some days she courted misery and indulged in tears, in
solitude, and in sleeplessness. But she was soon set a better example by
Elinor, who did her utmost to remain cheerful under the depression of
heart caused by a visit paid to the family about this same time by
Edward Ferrars. He was obviously uneasy, low-spirited and reserved, said
he had already been a fortnight in Devonshire stopping with some friends
at Plymouth, and, after a week's stay with the Dashwoods, left them, in
spite of their wishes and his own, and without any restraint on his
time. But Elinor and Marianne were not long allowed leisure to be
miserable. Sir John's and Mrs. Jennings' active zeal in the cause of
society soon procured them some other new acquaintance to see and
observe. One of these couples was Lady Middleton's brother-in-law and
younger sister, Mr. and Mrs. Palmer. It was impossible for anyone to be
more thoroughly good-natured or more determined to be happy than Mrs.
Palmer. The studied indifference, insolence, and discontent of her
husband gave her no pain, and when he scolded or abused her, she was
highly diverted. "Mr. Palmer is so droll," she used to say in a whisper
to Elinor; "he is always out of humour." One day, at dinner, his wife
said to him, with her usual laugh, "My love, you contradict everybody.
Do you know that you are quite rude?" To which he replied, "I did not
know I contradicted anybody in calling your mother ill-bred." But the
good-natured old lady was in no wise affronted, "Ay; you may abuse me as
much as you please," she said. "You have taken Charlotte off my hands,
and cannot give her back again. So there I have the whip-hand of you."
The other couple of new friends whom Sir John's reluctance to keep even
a third cousin to himself provided for them were the Misses Steele. In a
morning's excursion to Exeter Sir John and Mrs. Jennings had met with
two young ladies whom Mrs. Jennings had the satisfaction of discovering
to be her relations; and this was enough for Sir John to invite them
directly to the Park as soon as their engagements at Exeter were over.
The result was that Elinor and Marianne were almost forced into an
intercourse with two young women, who, however civil they might be, were
obviously underbred. Miss Steele was a plain girl about thirty, whose
whole conversation was of beaux; while Miss Lucy Steele, a pretty girl
of twenty-three, was, despite her native cleverness, probably common and
Marianne, however, who had never much toleration for anything like
impertinence, vulgarity, inferiority of parts, or even difference of
taste from herself, soon checked every endeavour at intimacy on their
side by the coldness of her behaviour towards them; but Elinor, from
politeness, submitted to the attentions of both, but especially to those
of Lucy, who missed no opportunity of engaging her in conversation, or
of striving to improve their acquaintance by an easy and frank
communication of her sentiments, until one day, as they were walking
together from the Park to the cottage, she asked Elinor if she were
personally acquainted with Mrs. John Dashwood's mother, Mrs. Ferrars,
and, in explanation of her question, proceeded to confound her by
confessing that she knew Mr. Edward Ferrars, who had been at one time
under the care of her uncle, Mr. Pratt, at Longstaple, near Plymouth,
and that she had been engaged to him for the last four years.
Distressed by this news, which she was quite aware that Lucy had
confided to her merely from jealousy and suspicion, indignant at
Edward's duplicity, though convinced of his genuine attachment to
herself, Elinor resolved not to give pain to her mother and sister by
telling them of the engagement. Indeed, her attention was soon withdrawn
from her own to her sister's love affairs by an invitation which Mrs.
Jennings gave the two girls to spend a few weeks with her in town at her
house near Portman Square, an invitation which was accepted by Marianne
in the hope of seeing Willoughby, and by Elinor with the intention of
looking after Marianne. Mrs. Jennings' party was three days on the road,
and arrived in Berkeley Street at three o'clock in the afternoon, in
time to allow Marianne to write a brief note to Willoughby. But he
failed to appear that evening; and when a loud knock at the door
resulted in Colonel Brandon being admitted instead, she found the shock
of disappointment too great to be borne with calmness, and left the
As it happened, a full week elapsed before she discovered, by finding
his card on the table, that her lover had arrived in town. Even then she
could not see him. He failed to call the next morning, and though
invited to dine on the following day with the Middletons in Conduit
Street, he neglected to put in an appearance. Which strange conduct
moved Marianne to send another note to him; and Elinor to write to her
mother, entreating her to demand from Marianne an account of her real
situation with respect to him.
A meeting between Marianne Dashwood and John Willoughby at last took
place at a fashionable party, where the latter greeted the two sisters
with great coldness and reluctance; and a third letter from Marianne,
now frantic with grief, elicited a reply from him in which he announced
his engagement to another lady, "reproached himself for not having been
more guarded in his professions of esteem for Marianne, and returned,
with great regret, the lock of her hair which she had so obligingly
bestowed on him."
A day or two later Colonel Brandon called on Elinor to give her certain
information about Willoughby. He told her that his sudden departure from
Devonshire to London, which had surprised his friends so much, had been
due to an affecting letter he had received from his ward, Miss Williams,
the natural daughter of a beloved sister-in-law. Willoughby had met this
lady--a pretty girl of sixteen--at Bath, and, after a guilty intimacy,
had abandoned her. Colonel Brandon had gone to her rescue and to fight a
bloodless duel with her betrayer.
One day Elinor and Marianne were at Gray's, in Sackville Street,
carrying on a negotiation for the exchange of a few old-fashioned jewels
belonging to their mother, when they came upon their half-brother, Mr.
John Dashwood. He paid a visit to Mrs. Jennings the next day, and came
with a pretence of an apology for his wife not coming, too. To his
sisters his manners, though calm, were perfectly kind; to Mrs. Jennings
most attentively civil; and on Colonel Brandon coming in soon after
himself, he eyed him with a curiosity that seemed to say that he only
wanted to know him to be rich to be equally civil to _him_. After
staying with them half an hour, he asked Elinor to walk with him to
Conduit Street, and to introduce him to Sir John and Lady Middleton; and
as soon as they were out of the house he began to make inquiries about
Colonel Brandon. Which inquiries having elicited the satisfactory
information that the gentleman had a good property at Delaford Park, in
Dorsetshire, Mr. Dashwood--indifferent to his sister's disclaimers
--proceeded to congratulate her on the prospect of a very respectable
establishment in life, to insist that the objections to a prior
attachment on her side were not insurmountable, and to inform her
that the object of that attachment--Mr. Edward Ferrars--was likely to be
married to Miss Morton, a peer's daughter, with thirty thousand pounds
of her own.
Mrs. John Dashwood had so much confidence in her husband's judgment that
she waited the very next day on both Mrs. Jennings and her daughter. She
found the former by no means unworthy her notice, and the latter one of
the most charming women in the world. The attraction was mutual, for
Lady Middleton was equally pleased with Mrs. Dashwood.
There was a kind of cold-hearted selfishness on both sides, which
mutually attracted them; and they sympathised with each other in an
insipid propriety of demeanour and a general want of understanding.
Indeed, the Dashwoods were so prodigiously delighted with the Middletons
that, though not much in the habit of giving anything, they determined
to give them a dinner; and soon after their acquaintance began, invited
them to dine at Harley Street, where they had taken a very good house
for three months. Mrs. Jennings and the Misses Dashwood were invited
likewise, and so were Colonel Brandon, as a friend of the young ladies,
and the Misses Steele, as belonging to the Middleton party in Conduit
Street. They were to meet Mrs. Ferrars.
Mrs. Ferrars turned out to be a little, thin woman, upright even to
formality in her figure, and serious even to sourness in her aspect. Her
complexion was sallow, and her features small, without beauty, and
naturally without expression; but a lucky contraction of the brow had
rescued her countenance from the disgrace of insipidity by giving it the
strong characters of pride and ill-nature. She was not a woman of many
words; for, unlike people in general, she proportioned them to the
number of her ideas; of the few syllables which did escape her, not one
fell to the share of Miss Dashwood, whom she eyed with the spirited
determination of disliking her at all events; whereas towards the Misses
Steele--particularly towards Lucy--both mother and daughter were
ostentatiously gracious. On this occasion Marianne created something of
a scene by openly resenting this treatment of her sister; while Mr.
Dashwood, seeking to interest Colonel Brandon in Elinor, showed him a
pretty pair of screens which she had painted for his wife, and informed
him that "a few months ago Marianne _was_ remarkably handsome, quite as
handsome as Elinor."
The next morning Lucy called on Elinor to exult in Mrs. Ferrars'
flattering treatment of her; her joy, however, was somewhat diminished
by the unexpected appearance of Edward Ferrars in Berkeley Street, for
though both Elinor and Lucy were able to keep up their respective poses
towards him, Marianne confused all three by an open demonstration of her
sisterly affection for him. But an invitation from Mrs. John Dashwood to
the Misses Steele to spend some days in Harley Street soon restored
Lucy's equanimity, and almost made Elinor believe that her rival was a
At any rate this was the view taken by foolish Nancy Steele.
"Lord!" thought she to herself, "they are all so fond of Lucy, to be
sure they will make no difficulty about it." And so away she went and
told Mrs. Dashwood all about Lucy's engagement to Edward Ferrars; the
result of which was that the married lady fell into hysterics, while the
Misses Steele were hastily bundled out of the house.
Elinor, on hearing this news from Mrs. Jennings, soon saw the necessity
of preparing Marianne for its discussion. She lost no time, therefore,
in making her acquainted with the real truth, and in endeavouring to
bring her to hear it talked of by others, without betraying that she
felt any uneasiness for her sister or any resentment towards Edward. At
first Marianne wept in grief and amazement; then she began to ascribe
Elinor's long reticence about the engagement to lack of real depth of
feeling; and it was not till the latter had done a deal of protesting
that the younger girl was able to give her sister due credit for
self-sacrifice and generosity. So when Mr. John Dashwood came round to
his sisters to tell them how Edward had refused to break off his
engagement, and how Mrs. Ferrars, on hearing of this, had resolved to
cut him off with a shilling, and to do all in her power to prevent his
advancing in any profession, and had settled on his brother Robert an
estate of a thousand pounds which she had intended to bestow on him,
Marianne let her indignation burst forth only when her brother had
quitted the room. A few days later, Elinor met Nancy Steele in
Kensington Gardens, who gave her a certain information, which
subsequently turned out to have been derived from listening at the
keyhole. This was to the effect that Edward, out of consideration for
Lucy, who would be marrying a man with no prospects and with no means
save two thousand pounds, had offered to give her up; but that Lucy had
protested her affection for him, was determined not to give him up, and
was building hopes on his taking orders and getting a living.
Fortunately, the much desired living came far sooner than Lucy could
have expected, for Colonel Brandon, with characteristic kindness,
offered the presentation of the rectory of Delaford to Edward through
_IV--A Happy Ending to Love's Troubles_
Anxious though the Misses Dashwood were to get back to Barton, they
could not refuse an invitation from the Palmers to spend a few days with
them. But, thanks to the romantic folly of Marianne--who, because she
fancied she could see Combe Magna, Willoughby's place, from Cleveland,
must needs take two evening walks in the grounds just where the grass
was the longest and the wettest--the house-party enjoyed not the
pleasantest of times. Marianne had to take to bed, and became so
feverish and delirious that Colonel Brandon volunteered to fetch Mrs.
The next evening Elinor, who was acting as her sister's most devoted
nurse, and was hourly expecting her mother's arrival, was astounded by a
visit from Willoughby, who, having met Sir John Middleton in the lobby
of Drury Lane Theatre the previous night, and thus heard of Marianne's
serious illness, had set forth post-haste to make inquiries, and was now
delighted to find her out of danger. Attempting an exculpation of
himself, he confessed that at first meeting Marianne he had tried to
engage her regard without a thought of returning it; that afterwards he
grew sincerely fond of her, but put off from day to day paying her his
formal addresses and that just at the moment when he was going to make a
regular proposal to her, Mrs. Smith's discovery of his liaison with Miss
Williams, and his refusal to right matters by marrying the young lady,
dismissed him from his relative's house and favour, prevented him from
declaring his love to Marianne, and, in the embarrassed state of his
finances, seemed to render marriage with a wealthy woman his only chance
of salvation. He repudiated the charge of having deserted Miss Williams,
declaring that he did not know the straits to which she had been
reduced. He also alluded to the violence of her passion, and the
weakness of her understanding, as some excuses for the apparent
heartlessness of his own conduct.
He then went on to explain his treatment of Marianne's letters; how he
had already--previous to the arrival of the Dashwoods in town--become
engaged to Miss Sophia Grey; how, with his head and heart full of
Marianne, he was forced to play the happy lover to Sophia; and how
Sophia, in her jealousy, had opened Marianne's third letter and dictated
"What do you think of my wife's style of letter-writing? Delicate,
tender, fully feminine, was it not?" said he.
"You are very wrong, Mr. Willoughby," said Elinor. "You ought not to
speak in this way either of Mrs. Willoughby or my sister. You have made
your own choice. It was not forced on you. Your wife has a claim to your
politeness--to your respect, at least." She must be attached to you, or
she would not have married you."
"Do not talk to me of my wife," said he, with a heavy sigh. "She does
not deserve your compassion. She knew I had no regard for her when we
married. And now, do you pity me, Miss Dashwood? Have I explained away
any part of my guilt?"
"Yes. You have certainly removed something--a little," said Elinor. "You
have proved yourself, on the whole, less faulty than I had believed
When Mrs. Dashwood arrived at Cleveland, Elinor at once gave her the
joyful news of Marianne's material improvement in health and, after an
affectionate but nearly silent interview had taken place between mother
and sick child, the former proceeded to express to Elinor her admiration
for Colonel Brandon's disposition and manners, and her expectation that
he and Marianne would make a match of it. The Colonel, it seemed, had
told Mrs. Dashwood on the way of his affection for her daughter.
Marianne, however, at first seemed to have other plans. When the family
got back to Barton Cottage, she announced that she had determined to
enter on a course of serious study, and to devote six hours a day to
improving herself by reading. But with such a confederacy against her as
that formed by her mother and Elinor--with a knowledge so intimate of
Colonel Brandon's goodness--what could she do?
As for Elinor, her self-control was at last rewarded, thanks to a
strange _volte-face_ on the part of Lucy Steele who, finding that
_Robert_ Ferrars had the money, married him and jilted his brother. The
way was thus cleared to Elinor's union with Edward, whose mother was
induced to give the young couple her consent, and a marriage portion of
* * * * *
Pride and Prejudice
This, Jane Austen's best-known novel, was written between 1796
and 1797, and was called "First Impressions." Revised in 1811,
it was published two years later by the same Mr. Egerton, of
the Military Library, Whitehall, who had brought out "Sense
and Sensibility." Like its predecessor, and like "Northanger
Abbey," it was written at Steventon Rectory, and it is
generally regarded not only as its author's most popular but
as her most representative achievement. Wickham, the
all-conquering young lady-killer of the story, is a favourite
character of the novelist He figures as Willoughby in "Sense
and Sensibility," as Crawford in "Mansfield Park," as
Churchill in "Emma," and--to a certain extent--as Wentworth in
"Persuasion." Another characteristic feature of "Pride and
Prejudice" is Wickham's unprepared attachment to Lydia Bennet,
resembling as it does Robert Ferrars' startling engagement to
Lucy Steele in "Sense and Sensibility," Frank Churchill's
secret understanding with Jane Fairfax in "Emma," and Captain
Benwick's sudden and unexpected union with Louisa Musgrove in
_I.--A Society Ball at Longbourn_
All Longbourn was agape with excitement when it became known that
Netherfield Park, the great place of the neighbourhood, was let to a
rich and handsome young bachelor called Bingley, and that Mr. Bingley
and his party were to attend the forthcoming ball at the Assembly Rooms.
Nowhere did the news create more interest and rouse greater hopes than
in the household of the Bennets, the chief inhabitants of Longbourn; for
Mr. Bennet--who 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--was the
father of five unmarried daughters; while Mrs. Bennet--a still handsome
woman, of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain
temper--made the business of her life getting her daughters married, and
its solace visiting and news.
The evening fixed for the ball came round at last; and when the
Netherfield party entered the Assembly Rooms it was found to consist of
five persons altogether--Mr. Bingley, his two sisters, the husband of
the elder, 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. 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 found to be
proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased.
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. What a contrast between him and his friend! Mr.
Darcy danced only once with Mrs. Hurst, and once with Miss Bingley, and
declined being introduced to any other lady.
It so happened that Elizabeth, the second eldest of the Bennet girls,
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.
"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
"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,
"_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 anything ridiculous.
_II--The Bennet Girls and their Lovers_
Despite its rather unpromising commencement the course of a few days
placed the acquaintance of the Bennets with the Bingleys on a footing
approaching friendship; and soon matters began to stand somewhat as
follow. It was obvious that Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet were
mutually attracted, and this despite the latter's outward composure,
which, like her amiability of manner and charity of view, was apt to
mislead the superficial observer. On the other hand, while the Bingley
ladies expressed themselves as willing to know the two elder Miss
Bennets and pronounced Jane "a sweet girl," they found the other females
of the family impossible. Mrs. Bennet was intolerably stupid and
tedious; Mary, who, being the only plain member of her family, piqued
herself on the extent of her reading and the solidity of her
reflections, was a platitudinous moralist; while Lydia and Kitty were
loud, silly, giggling girls, who spent all their time in running after
men. As for Mr. Darcy, the indifference he at first felt to Elizabeth
Bennet was gradually converted into a sort of guarded interest.
Originally he had scarcely allowed her to be pretty, but now he admired
the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded
some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected more than one
failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge
her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that
her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by
their easy playfulness. He began to wish to know more of her, and, as a
step towards conversing with her himself, attended to her conversation
with others, while, since both he and she were of a satirical turn, they
soon began to exchange little rallying, challenging speeches, so that
Caroline Bingley, who was openly angling for Darcy herself, said to him
one night: "How long has Miss Elizabeth Bennet been such a favourite?
And pray when am I to wish you joy?" To which remarks he merely replied:
"That is exactly the question which I expected you to ask. A lady's
imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love
to matrimony, in a moment. I knew you would be wishing me joy."
Meantime, the friendship subsisting between the two families was
advanced by a visit of some days paid by the two Bennet sisters to the
Bingleys, at whose house Jane, thanks to her mother's scheming, was laid
up with a bad cold. On this occasion Jane was coddled and made much of
by her dear friends Caroline and Mrs. Hurst; but Elizabeth was now
reckoned too attractive by one sister, and condemned as too
sharp-tongued by both.
"Eliza Bennet," said Miss Bingley, when the door was closed on her, "is
one of those young 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 opinion it is a very mean art."
"Undoubtedly," replied Darcy, to whom this remark was chiefly addressed,
"there is meanness in _all_ the arts which ladies sometimes condescend
to employ for captivation. Whatever bears affinity to cunning is
Miss Bingley was not so entirely satisfied with this reply as to
continue the subject.
Nevertheless, Darcy's growing attachment to Eliza was little dreamt of
by that young lady. Indeed, her prejudice against him was strengthened
by her pleasant intercourse with a handsome and agreeable young man
called Wickham, an officer of the militia regiment quartered at Meryton,
the nearest town to Longbourn. He told her how he was the son of a
trusted steward of Darcy's father, and had been left by the old
gentleman to his heir's liberality and care, and how Darcy had
absolutely disregarded his father's wishes, and had treated his protege
in cruel and unfeeling fashion.
On the top of this disclosure, and just at it seemed certain that
Bingley was on the point of proposing to Jane, the whole Netherfield
party suddenly abandoned Hertfordshire and returned to town, partly, as
Elizabeth could not help thinking, in consequence of the behaviour of
her family at a ball given at Netherfield Park, where it appeared to her
that, had they made an agreement to expose themselves as much as they
could during the evening, they could not have played their parts with
more spirit or finer success.
_III.--Elizabeth Rejects the Rector_
About this time the Rev. Mr. Collins, heir-presumptive to Longbourn,
came on a visit to the Bennets. He was a tall, heavy-looking young man
of five-and-twenty. His air was grave and stately, and his manners were
very formal. He was a strange mixture of pomposity, servility, and
self-importance, a creature most abjectly, yet most amusingly, devoid of
anything like tact, taste, or humour.
Being ready to make the Bennet girls every possible amends for the
unwilling injury he must eventually do them, he thought first of all of
offering himself to Jane; but hearing that her affections were
pre-engaged, he had only to change from Jane to Elizabeth. It was soon
done--done while Mrs. Bennet was stirring the fire. His proposal he made
to the younger lady in a long, set speech, in which he explained, first
of all, his general reasons for marrying, and then his reasons for
directing his matrimonial views to Longbourn, finally assuring her that
on the subject of the small portion she would bring him no ungenerous
reproach should ever pass his lips when they were married.
It was absolutely necessary to interrupt him then, so Elizabeth told him
he was too hasty, thanked him for his proposals, and declined them.
"I am not now to learn," replied Mr. Collins, with a formal wave of the
hand, "that it is usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of the
man whom they secretly mean to accept, when he first applies for their
favour; and that sometimes the refusal is repeated a second, or even a
third, time. I am, therefore, by no means discouraged by what you have
said, and shall hope to lead you to the altar ere long."
"Upon my word, sir," cried Elizabeth, "your hope is rather an
extraordinary one after my declaration! I do assure you that I am not
one of those young ladies (if such young ladies there are) who are so
daring as to risk their happiness on the chance of being asked a second
time. I am perfectly serious in my refusal. You could not make _me_
happy; and I am convinced that I am the last woman in the world who
would make _you_ so. Nay; were your friend, Lady Catherine, to know me,
I am persuaded she would find me in every respect ill qualified for the
"Were it certain that Lady Catherine would think so----" said Mr.
Collins, very gravely. "But I cannot imagine that her ladyship would at
all disapprove of you. And you may be certain that when I have the
honour of seeing her again, I shall speak in the highest terms of your
modesty, economy, and other amiable qualifications."
Twice more was Mr. Collins refused, and even then he would not take "No"
for an answer.
"You must give me leave to flatter myself, my dear cousin," said he,
"that your refusals of my addresses are merely words, of course. My
reasons for believing it are chiefly these. It does not appear to me
that my hand is unworthy your acceptance, or that the establishment I
can offer would be any other than highly desirable. My situation in
life, my connections with the family of De Bourgh, and my relationship
to your own, are circumstances highly in my favour; and you should take
it into further consideration that, in spite of your manifold
attractions, it is by no means certain that another offer of marriage
may ever be made to you. Your portion is unhappily so small that it
will, in all likelihood, undo the effects of your loveliness and amiable
qualifications. As I must, therefore, conclude that you are not serious
in your rejection of me, I shall choose to attribute it to your wish of
increasing my love by suspense, according to the usual practice of
"I do assure you, sir," said Elizabeth, "that I have no pretensions
whatever to that kind of elegance which consists in tormenting a
respectable man. I would rather be paid the compliment of being believed
sincere. I thank you again and again for the honour you have done me in
your proposals, but to accept them is absolutely impossible. My feelings
in every respect forbid it. Can I speak plainer? Do not consider me now
as an elegant female intending to plague you, but as a rational creature
speaking the truth from her heart."
"You are uniformly charming," said he, with an air of awkward gallantry;
"and I am persuaded that, when sanctioned by the express authority of
both your excellent parents, my proposals will be acceptable."
_IV.--Darcy Loves and Loses_
Rejected by Elizabeth, to the great satisfaction of her father and to
the great indignation of her mother, the rector of Hunsford lost no time
in betaking himself to Elizabeth's dearest friend, Charlotte Lucas, who,
being a girl with unromantic, not to say prosaic, views of marriage,
readily accepted and married him, thereby moving to further disgust and
anger poor Mrs. Bennet, who was already wondering and repining at Mr.
Bingley's returning no more into Hertfordshire. Jane suffered in
silence, and despite Elizabeth's efforts to point out the duplicity of
Caroline Bingley, was inclined to believe the protestations that the
latter made in her letters from London of Bingley's growing attachment
to Darcy's sister Georgiana.
Mr. Bennet treated the matter in his customary ironical way.
"So, Lizzy," said he, one day, "your sister is crossed in love, I find.
I congratulate her. Next to being married, a girl likes to be crossed in
love a little now and then. It is something to think of, and gives her a
sort of distinction among her companions. When is your turn to come? You
will hardly bear to be long outdone by Jane. Now is your time. Here are
officers enough at Meryton to disappoint all the young ladies in the
country. Let Wickham be your man. He is a pleasant fellow, and would
jilt you creditably."
"Thank you, sir, but a less agreeable man would satisfy me. We must not
all expect Jane's good fortune."
"True," said Mr. Bennet; "but it is a comfort to think that, whatever of
that kind may befall you, you have a mother who will always make the
most of it."
As it turned out, Wickham, though he had not arrived at an intimacy
which enabled him to _jilt_ Elizabeth, yet most certainly transferred
his attentions very shortly from her to a Miss King, who, by the death
of her grandfather, had come into L10,000. Elizabeth, however, was quite
heartwhole; and she and her former admirer parted on friendly terms when
she left Longbourn to pay her promised visit to Mr. and Mrs. Collins at
There she found Charlotte, managing her home and her husband with
considerable discretion: and, as the rectory adjoined Rosings Park, the
seat of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, the patroness of the living, she was
introduced to that lady, in whom she could discover nothing but an
insolent aristocratic woman, who dictated to everyone about her, meddled
in everybody's business, aimed at marrying her sickly daughter to Darcy,
and was, needless to say, slavishly adored by Mr. Collins.
In the third week of her visit Mr. Darcy and his cousin, Colonel
Fitzwilliam, came down to see their aunt, and thus--to Elizabeth's
indifference--an acquaintance was renewed which Darcy soon seemed to
show a real desire to take up again. He sought her society at Rosings
Park, he called familiarly at the rectory, he waylaid her in her
favourite walk; and all the time, in all his intercourse with her, he
revealed such a mixture of interest and constraint as demonstrated only
too clearly that some internal struggle was going on within him.
Mrs. Collins began to hope for her friend; but Elizabeth, who had
received from Colonel Fitzwilliam ample confirmation of her suspicion
that it was Darcy who had persuaded Bingley to give up Jane, was now
only more incensed against the man who had broken her sister's peace of
On the very evening of the day on which she had extracted this piece of
information from his cousin, Darcy, knowing her to be alone, called at
the rectory, and, after a silence of several minutes, came towards her
in an agitated manner.
"In vain have I struggled," he said. "It will not do. My feelings will
not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire
and love you."
Elizabeth's astonishment was beyond expression. She stared, coloured,
doubted, and was silent. This he considered sufficient encouragement;
and the avowal of all that he felt, and had long felt, for her
immediately followed. He spoke well; but there were feelings besides
those of the heart to be detailed. His sense of her inferiority, of
marriage with her being a degradation, of the family obstacles which
judgment had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth
which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, but was very
unlikely to recommend his suit. In truth, it was already lost, for
though Elizabeth could not be insensible to the compliment of such a
man's affection, her intentions did not vary for an instant. Accusing
him of having ruined, perhaps for ever, the happiness of her sister
Jane, and of having blighted the career of his former friend Wickham,
she reproached him with the uncivil style of his declaration, and gave
him her answer in the words:
"You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any possible way
that would have tempted me to accept it."
Soon after, Darcy took his leave; but the next day he accosted Elizabeth
in the park, and handed her a letter, which he begged her to read. She
read it, and had the mortification to discover not only that Darcy made
some scathing but perfectly justifiable comments on the objectionable
members of her family, but that he was able to clear himself of both the
charges she had brought against him. He maintained that in separating
Bingley from Jane he had not the slightest notion that he was doing the
latter any injury, since he never credited her with any strong
attachment to his friend; and he assured Elizabeth that, though Wickham
had always been an idle and dissipated person, he had more than
fulfilled his father's intentions to him, and that Wickham had repaid
him for his generosity by trying to elope with his young sister
Georgiana, a girl of fifteen.
When Elizabeth returned to Longbourn, she found it a relief to tell Jane
of Darcy's proposal, and of his revelation of Wickham's real character;
but she thought it best to suppress every particular of the letter in
which Jane herself was concerned.
Some two months later Elizabeth went on a tour in Derbyshire with her
maternal uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner. The latter had lived for
some years at a town called Lambton, and wished to revisit her old
friends there; and as Pemberley--Mr. Darcy's seat--was only five miles
off, and was a show-place, the Gardiners determined to see it, though
their niece was reluctant to accompany them until she had learned that
its owner was not at home. As they were being shown over the place,
Elizabeth could not help reflecting that she might have been mistress of
it, and she listened with surprise as the old housekeeper told them that
she should never meet with a better master, that she had never had a
cross word from him in her life, that as a child he was always the
sweetest-tempered, most generous-hearted boy in the world, and that
there was not one of his tenants or servants but would testify to his
excellent qualities as a landlord and a master.
As they were walking across the lawn the owner of Pemberley himself
suddenly came forward from the road, and as if to justify the praises of
his housekeeper, and to show that he had taken to heart Elizabeth's
former complaints of his behaviour, proceeded to treat the Gardiner
party with the greatest civility, and even cordiality. He introduced his
sister to them, asked them to dinner, invited Mr. Gardiner to fish at
Pemberley as often as he chose, and, in answer to a spiteful remark of
Miss Bingley's to the effect that he had thought Elizabeth pretty at one
time, made the crushing reply:
"Yes, but that was only when I first knew her; for it is many months
since I have considered her as one of the handsomest women of my
But just when Elizabeth's growing esteem and gratitude might have
deepened into affection for Darcy, circumstances were communicated to
her in a letter from Jane which seemed to render it in the highest
degree improbable that so proud and fastidious a man as he would ever
make any further advances. Lydia, who had got herself invited by some
friends to Brighton in order to be near the militia regiment which had
been transferred there from Meryton, had eloped with Wickham, and the
pair, instead of going to Scotland to be married, appeared--though their
whereabouts could not yet be discovered--to be living together in London
Darcy seemed to be staggered when he heard the news, and instantly
acquiesced in the immediate return of the Gardiner party to Longbourn.
They found on their arrival that Mr. Bennet was searching for his
daughter in London, where Mr. Gardiner agreed to go to consult with him.
"Oh, my dear brother," said Mrs. Bennet, on hearing this, "that is
exactly what I could most wish for! And now do, when you get to town,
find them out wherever they may be; and if they are not married already,
_make_ them marry. And as for wedding clothes, do not let them wait for
that; but tell Lydia she shall have as much money as she chooses to buy
them after they are married. And, above all things, keep Mr. Bennet from
fighting. Tell him what a dreadful state I am in--that I am frightened
out of my wits, and have such tremblings, such flutterings all over me;
such spasms in my side, and pains in my head, and such beatings at my
heart that I can get no rest by day nor by night. And tell my dear Lydia
not to give any directions about her clothes till she has seen me, for
she does not know which are the best warehouses. Oh, brother, how kind
you are! I know you will contrive it all."
Mr. Collins improved the occasion by writing a letter of condolence, in
which he assured the distressed father that the death of Lydia would
have been a blessing in comparison with her elopement. But,
unfortunately, much of this instruction was wasted, the distress of the
Bennets proving less irremediable than their cousin had anticipated or
their neighbours feared--for, thanks, as it seemed, to the
investigations and to the generosity of Mr. Gardiner, the eloping couple
were discovered, and it was made worth Wickham's while to marry Lydia.
Longbourn society bore the good news with decent philosophy, though, to
be sure, it would have been more for the advantage of conversation had
Miss Lydia Bennet come upon the town.
_VI.--Three Bennet Weddings_
After arrangements had been made for Wickham's entering the regulars and
joining a regiment at Newcastle, his marriage with Lydia took place, and
the young couple were received at Longbourn. Their assurance was quite
"Well, mamma," said Lydia, "and what do you think of my husband? Is not
he a charming man? I am sure my sisters must all envy me. I only hope
they may have half my good luck. They must all go to Brighton. That is
the place to get husbands. What a pity it is, mamma, we did not all go!"
"Very true. And if I had my will we should. But, my dear Lydia, I don't
at all like your going such a way off. Must it be so?"
"Oh, Lord, yes! There is nothing in that. I shall like it of all things.
You and papa and my sisters must come down and see us. We shall be at
Newcastle all the winter; and I dare say there will be some balls, and I
will take care to get good partners for them all."
"I should like it beyond anything!" said her mother.
"And then, when you go away, you may leave one or two of my sisters
behind you; and I dare say I shall get husbands for them before the
winter is over."
"I thank you for my share of the favour," said Elizabeth; "but I do not
particularly like your way of getting husbands!"
Indeed, from some remark which Lydia let slip about Darcy being at the
wedding, Elizabeth soon began to think that it was only due to outside
efforts that Mrs. Wickham had succeeded in getting _her own_ husband.
An application for information which she made to her Aunt Gardiner
confirmed this suspicion. Darcy, it seems, had hurried up to London
immediately on hearing of the elopement; and he it was who, thanks to
his knowledge of Wickham's previous history, found out where Lydia and
he were lodging, and by dint of paying his debts to the tune of a
thousand pounds, buying his commission, and settling another thousand
pounds on Lydia, persuaded him to make her an honest woman. That is to
say, thought Elizabeth, Darcy had met, frequently met, reasoned with,
persuaded, and finally bribed the man whom he always most wished to
avoid, and whose very name it was punishment to him to pronounce.
Meantime, Bingley, accompanied by Darcy, made his reappearance at
Netherfield Park and at the Bennets'; and Elizabeth had the
mortification of seeing her mother welcome the former with the greatest
effusiveness, and treat the latter coldly and almost resentfully. "Any
friend of Mr. Bingley's will always be welcome here, to be sure; but
else I must say that I hate the very sight of him," said Mrs. Bennet, as
she watched the two men approaching the house to pay their first visit.
Despite, however, rather than by reason of, this surfeit of amiability
on the part of the mother, the lovers quickly came to an understanding,
and this, strangely enough, in the absence of Darcy, who had gone up to
town. It was in Darcy's absence, also, that Lady Catherine de Bourgh
came over to Longbourn, and helped to bring about what she most ardently
wished to prevent by making an unsuccessful demand on Elizabeth that she
should promise not to accept Darcy for a husband, and by then reporting
to him that Elizabeth had refused to give such a promise. The natural
result followed. Elizabeth mustered up courage one day to thank Darcy
for all he had done for Lydia; and this subject soon led _him_ to affirm
that in that matter he had thought only of Elizabeth, and to renew--and
to renew successfully--his former proposals of marriage. When Mrs.
Bennet first heard the great news she sat quite still, and unable to
utter a syllable; and at first even Jane and her father were almost
incredulous of the engagement, because they had seen practically nothing
of the courtship. But in the end they were all convinced, and Mr.
Bennet's decisive comment was: "I admire all my three sons-in-law
highly. Wickham, perhaps, is my favourite; but I think I shall like
_your_ husband quite as well as Jane's. If any young men come for Mary
or Kitty, send them in, for I am quite at leisure."
* * * * *
"Northanger Abbey" was written in 1798, revised for the press
in 1803, and sold in the same year for L10 to a Bath
bookseller, who held it in such light esteem that, after
allowing it to remain for many years on his shelves, he was
content to sell it back to the novelist's brother, Henry
Austen, for the exact sum which he had paid for it at the
beginning, not knowing that the writer was already the author
of four popular novels. This story--which is, of course, a
skit on the "terror" novel of Mrs. Radcliffe's school--was not
published till after its author's death, when, in 1818, it was
bound up with her last book, "Persuasion."
_I.--A Heroine in the Making_
No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy could have
supposed her born to be a heroine. Her situation in life, the character
of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all
equally against her. Her father was a clergyman, without being neglected
or poor, and a very respectable man, though his name was Richard, and he
had never been handsome. He had a considerable independence, besides two
good livings, and he was not in the least addicted to locking up his
daughters. Her mother was a woman of useful plain sense, with a good
temper, and, what is more remarkable, with a good constitution. She had
three sons before Catherine was born; and, instead of dying in bringing
the latter into the world, as anybody might expect, she still lived
on--lived to have six children more--to see them growing up around her,
and to enjoy excellent health herself. Catherine, for many years of her
life, was as plain as any member of her family. She had a thin, awkward
figure, a sallow skin without colour, dark, lank hair, and strong
features. So much for her person; and not less propitious for heroism
seemed her mind. She was fond of all boys' sports, and greatly preferred
cricket not merely to dolls, but to the more heroic enjoyments of
infancy--nursing a dormouse, feeding a canary-bird, or watering a
rosebush. Indeed, she had no taste for a garden; and if she gathered
flowers at all, it was chiefly for the pleasure of mischief--at least,
so it was conjectured from her habit of always preferring those which
she was strictly forbidden to take.
Such were her propensities; her abilities were quite as extraordinary.
She never could learn or understand anything before she was taught, and
sometimes not even then, for she was often inattentive, and occasionally
stupid. Her mother wished her to learn music; and Catherine was sure she
should like it, for she was very fond of tinkling the keys of the old
forlorn spinet; so at eight years old she began. She learnt a year, and
could not bear it; and Mrs. Morland, who did not insist on her daughters
being accomplished in spite of incapacity or distaste, allowed her to
leave off. The day which dismissed the music-master was one of the
happiest of Catherine's life. Her taste for drawing was not superior;
though, whenever she could obtain the outside of a letter from her
mother, or seize upon any other odd piece of paper, she did what she
could in that way by drawing houses and trees, hens and chickens, all
very much like one another. Writing and accounts she was taught by her
father; French by her mother. Her proficiency in either was not
remarkable, and she shirked her lessons in both whenever she could.
What a strange, unaccountable character! For with all these symptoms of
profligacy at ten years old, she had neither a bad heart nor a bad
temper, was seldom stubborn, scarcely ever quarrelsome, and very kind to
the little ones, with few interruptions of tyranny. She was noisy and
wild, hated confinement and cleanliness, and loved nothing so well in
the world as rolling down the green slope at the back of the house.
Such was Catherine Morland at ten. At fifteen, appearances were mending:
she began to curl her hair and long for balls, her complexion improved,
her features were softened by plumpness and colour, her eyes gained more
animation, and her figure more consequence. Her love of dirt gave way to
an inclination for finery; she grew clean and she grew smart; and she
had now the pleasure of sometimes hearing her father and mother remark
on her personal improvement. From fifteen, indeed, to seventeen, she was
in training for a heroine; she read all such works as heroines must read
to supply their memories with those quotations which are so serviceable
and so soothing in the vicissitudes of their eventful lives.
So far her improvement was sufficient; and in many other points she came
on exceedingly well, for though she could not write sonnets, she brought
herself to read them; and though there seemed no chance of her throwing
a whole party into raptures by a prelude on the pianoforte of her own
composition, she could listen to other people's performances with very
Her greatest deficiency was in the pencil. She had no notion of drawing,
not enough even to attempt a sketch of her lover's profile, that she
might be detected in the design. There she fell miserably short of the
true heroic height. At present she did not know her own poverty, for she
had no lover to portray. There was not one lord in the neighbourhood;
no, not even a baronet! There was not one family among their
acquaintance who had reared and supported a boy accidentally found at
their door; no, not one young man whose origin was unknown. Her father
had no ward, and the squire of the parish no children. But when a young
lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of forty surrounding families
cannot prevent her. Something must and will happen to throw a hero in
Mr. Allen, who owned the chief of the property about Fullerton, the
village in Wiltshire where the Morland family lived, was ordered to Bath
for the benefit of a gouty constitution; and his lady, a good-humoured
woman, fond of Miss Morland, and probably aware that if adventures will
not befall a young lady in her own village she must seek them abroad,
invited her to go with them. Mr. and Mrs. Morland were all compliance,
and Catherine all happiness.
_II.--In the Gay City of Bath_
When the hour for departure drew nigh, the maternal anxiety of Mrs.
Morland will be naturally supposed to have been most severe. But she
knew so little of lords and baronets that she entertained no notion of
their general mischievousness, and was wholly unsuspicious of danger to
her daughter from their machinations. Her cautions were confined to
advising her to wrap up well when she came from the rooms at night, and
to try to keep some account of the money she spent.
Sally, or rather Sarah, must, from situation, be at this time the
intimate friend and confidante of her sister. It is remarkable, however,
that she neither insisted on Catherine's writing by every post, nor
exacted her promise of transmitting the character of every new
acquaintance nor a detail of every interesting conversation that Bath
might produce. Everything, indeed, relative to this important journey
was done on the part of the Morlands with a strange degree of moderation
and composure. Catherine's father, instead of giving her an unlimited
order on his banker, or even putting a hundred pounds bankbill into her
hands, gave her only ten guineas, and promised her more when she wanted
it. The journey was performed with suitable quietness and uneventful
safety. They arrived at Bath, and were soon settled in comfortable
lodgings in Pulteney Street.
Mrs. Allen had not beauty, genius, accomplishment, or manner. The air of
a gentlewoman, a great deal of quiet, inactive good temper, and a
trifling turn of mind, were all that could account for her being the
choice of a sensible, intelligent man like Mr. Allen. In one respect she
was admirably fitted to introduce a young lady into public, being as
fond of going everywhere and seeing everything herself as any young lady
could be. Dress was her passion; and our heroine's entree into life
could not take place till after three or four days had been spent in
providing her chaperon with a dress of the newest fashion. Catherine,
too, made some purchases herself; and when all those matters were
arranged, the important evening came which was to usher her into the
upper rooms. But nothing happened that evening. Mrs. Allen knew nobody
there, and so Catherine was unable to dance.
A day or two later, when they made their appearance in the lower rooms,
fortune was more favourable to our heroine. The master of the ceremonies
introduced to her a very gentleman-like young man as a partner. His name
was Tilney. He was a clergyman, seemed to be about four or five and
twenty, was rather tall, had a pleasing countenance, a very intelligent
and lively eye, and, if not quite handsome, was very near it. His
address was good, he talked with fluency and spirit, and there was an
archness and pleasantry in his manner which interested, though it was
hardly understood by, her. Catherine felt herself in high luck; and they
parted, on the lady's side at least, with a strong inclination for
continuing the acquaintance.
But when Catherine hastened to the pump-room the next day, there was no
Mr. Tilney to be seen. Instead, Mrs. Allen had the good fortune to meet
an acquaintance at last in the person of a Mrs. Thorpe, a former
schoolfellow whom she had seen only once since their respective
marriages. Their joy on this meeting was very great, as well it might
be, since they had been contented to know nothing of each other for the
last fifteen years. Mrs. Thorpe had one great advantage as a talker over
Mrs. Allen, in a family of children; and when she had expatiated on the
talents of her sons and the beauty of her daughters, Mrs. Allen had no
similar information to give, no similar triumphs to press on the
unwilling and unbelieving ear of her friend. She was forced to sit and
to appear to listen to all these maternal effusions, and to be
introduced, along with Catherine, to the three Miss Thorpes, who proved
to be sisters of a young man who was at the same college as Catherine's
brother James. James, indeed, had actually spent the last week of the
Christmas vacation with the family near London.
The progress of the friendship thus entered into by Catherine and
Isabella, the eldest of the Miss Thorpes, was quick as its beginning was
warm; and they passed so rapidly through every gradation of increasing
tenderness that there was shortly no fresh proof of it to be given to
their friends and themselves. They called each other by their Christian
name, were always arm in arm when they walked, pinned up each other's
train for the dance, and were not to be divided in the set; and if a
rainy morning deprived them of other enjoyments, they were still
resolute in meeting in defiance of wet and dirt, and shut themselves up
to read novels together. One day, after they had been talking of
"Udolpho," of other "horrid" books and of their favourite complexion in
a man, they met Catherine's brother James and Isabella's brother John in
a gig. On introduction, the latter proved to be a smart young man of
middle height, who, with a plain face and ungraceful form, seemed
fearful of being too handsome unless he wore the dress of a groom, and
too much like a gentleman unless he were easy where he ought to be
civil, and impudent where he might be allowed to be easy. James, of
course, was attached to Isabella. "She has so much good sense," he said,
"and is so thoroughly unaffected and amiable."
At the dance at the upper rooms which took place on the evening of the
same day, Mr. Tilney made his reappearance, and introduced his sister to
Catherine. Miss Tilney had a good figure, a pretty face, and a very
agreeable countenance. Her air, though it had not all the decided
pretension, the resolute stylishness, of Miss Thorpe's, had more real
elegance; and her manners showed better sense and better breeding. She
seemed capable of being young and attractive at a ball, without wanting
to fix the attention of every man near her.
_III.--Catherine Morland Among Her Friends_
Unfixed as Catherine's general notions were of a what a man ought to be,
she could not entirely repress a doubt of Mr. John Thorpe's being
altogether completely agreeable. A tattler and a swaggerer, having
elicited, as he thought, from Catherine that she was the destined
heiress of Mr. Allen, he twice endeavoured to detach her, by a glaring
lie, from keeping engagements with the Tilneys; and when he did succeed
in persuading her to go with him in his gig, she found that the whole of
his talk ended with himself and his own concerns. He told her of horses
which he had bought for a trifle and sold for incredible sums; of racing
matches in which his judgment had infallibly foretold the winner; of
shooting-parties in which he had killed more birds (though without
having one good shot) than all his companions together; and described to
her some famous days spent with the foxhounds, in which his foresight
and skill in directing the dogs had repaired the mistakes of the most
experienced huntsman, and in which the boldness of his riding, though it
had never endangered his own life for a single moment, had been
constantly leading others into difficulties which, he calmly concluded,
had broken the necks of more than one person.
All this rather wearied Catherine; and not even his relating to her that
Mr. Tilney's father, General Tilney--whom he was talking to one night at
the theatre--had declared her the finest girl in Bath could reconcile
her to the idea that Mr. John Thorpe had the faculty of giving universal
pleasure. It was a visit which she paid to Miss Tilney to apologise for
not keeping an engagement which Mr. John had caused her to break that
first introduced her to the general. A handsome, stately, well-bred man,
with a temper that made him a martinet to his own children, he received
her with a politeness, and even a deference, that delighted and
surprised her. But whereas Catherine's simplicity of character made her
growing attachment to Mr. Tilney obvious to that gentleman and to his
sister, it was not so clear that he reciprocated her feelings. Generally
he amused himself by talking down to her or making fun of her in a
good-natured way. One day they were speaking of Mrs. Radcliffe's works,
and more particularly of the "Mysteries of Udolpho."
"I have read all of Mrs. Radcliffe's works," said he, "and most of them
with great pleasure."
"I am very glad to hear it, indeed," replied Catherine, "and now I shall
never be ashamed of liking 'Udolpho' myself. But I really thought that
young men despised novels amazingly."
"It is _amazingly_; it may well suggest _amazement_ if they do, for they
read nearly as many as women," was Mr. Tilney's answer. "I myself have
read hundreds and hundreds. Do not imagine that you can cope with me in
a knowledge of Julias and Louisas. Consider how many years I have had
the start of you. I had entered on my studies at Oxford while you were
probably a good little girl working your sampler at home!"
"Not very good, I am afraid. But now, really, do you not think 'Udolpho'
the nicest book in the world?"
"The nicest; by which I suppose you mean the neatest. That must depend
on the binding," said he.
"I am sure," cried Catherine hastily, "I did not mean to say anything
wrong; but it is a nice book, and why should I not call it so?"
"Very true," said Henry, "and this is a very nice day; and we are taking
a very nice walk; and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh, it is a
very nice word indeed--it does for everything! Originally perhaps, it
was applied only to express neatness, propriety, delicacy, or
refinement; people were nice in their dress, in their sentiments, or in
their choice. But now every commendation on every subject is comprised
in that one word."
Meanwhile, Catherine was required to interest herself in her friend's
love affairs. Isabella surprised her one day with the news that she was
engaged to her brother James; and, obviously under the impression that
her lover was the heir of a wealthy man, seemed to wonder whether his
parents would acquiesce in the engagement. But despite her affection for
James, she danced with Mr. Tilney's elder brother, Captain Tilney, at a
ball which was given while her betrothed was absent on the necessary
visit to his parents; and when letters were received from him,
announcing their consent to the match and the agreement of Mr. Morland
to resign a living of four hundred pounds to his son and to bequeath to
him by will an estate of the same value, Isabella looked grave first at
the smallness of the income, and then at the fact that it would be
nearly three years before James would be old enough to take it.
Meantime, she continued to flirt rather openly with Captain Tilney, much
to James' uneasiness and to his sister's distress. But Catherine was to
some extent reassured as to the captain's conduct by his brother Henry,
and she was so overjoyed by receiving an invitation from General Tilney
to pay a visit to Northanger Abbey, his beautiful country seat, that a
parting interview with Isabella and James, at which he was in excellent
spirits and she most engagingly placid, left her blissfully convinced
that the behaviour of the lovers was a model of judicious affection.
_IV.--Romance at Northanger Abbey_
The Tilney party set out for the Abbey in great state, the ladies in the
general's chaise and four, with postilions and numerous outriders, and
the general and Henry in the latter's curricle. But at the first stage
the general proposed that Catherine should take his place in the
curricle that she might "see as much of the country as possible;" and,
for the rest of the journey she was tete-a-tete with Henry, who amused
himself by rallying her upon the sliding panels, ghastly tapestry,
funereal beds, vaulted chambers, and kindred uncanny apparatus which,
judging from her favourite kind of fiction, she must be expecting to
find at the Abbey.
As a matter of fact, Northanger, though it comprised some parts of the
old Abbey, turned out to be a building thoroughly modernized and
improved. Notwithstanding, Catherine could not restrain her imagination
from running riot just a little. A large cedar chest, curiously inlaid
and provided with silver handles, first attracted her attention. But
this was soon found to contain merely a white cotton counterpane. A high
old-fashioned ebony cabinet, which she noticed in her bedroom just
before stepping into bed, struck her as offering more promise of
romantic interest. Even this, after a most thrilling search, in the
midst of which her candle went out, yielded nothing better than an
inventory of linen.
Still, Catherine's passion for romance was not easily to be
disappointed. Hearing from Eleanor Tilney that her mother's fatal
illness had been sudden and short, and had taken place in her absence
from home, Catherine's blood ran cold with the horrid suggestions that
naturally sprang from these words. Could it be possible? Could Henry's
father----? And yet how many were the examples to justify even the
blackest suspicions? And when she saw him in the evening, while she
worked with her friend, slowly pacing the drawing-room for an hour
together in silent thoughtfulness, with downcast eye and contracted
brow, she felt secure from all possibility of wronging him. It was
indeed the air and attitude of a Montoni! What could more plainly speak
the gloomy workings of a mind not wholly dead to every sense of
humanity, in its fearful review of past scenes of guilt?
Full, then, of the idea that the general had ill-treated his wife, ready
even to believe that she might still be living and a prisoner, our
heroine set out one day to explore a certain set of rooms into which the
general, in showing her over the house, had not taken her. But she was
caught in the act by Henry Tilney, who revealed, with customary
openness, what had been in her mind, and received only a very gentle
Most grievously was she humbled. Her folly, which now seemed even
criminal, was all exposed to him; and he must surely despise her for
ever. But he did nothing of the kind. His astonishing generosity and
nobleness of conduct were such that the only difference he made in his
behaviour to her was to pay her somewhat more attention than usual.
But the anxieties of common life began soon to succeed to the alarms of
romance. Catherine's desire of hearing from Isabella grew every day
greater. For nine successive mornings she wondered over the repetition
of disappointment; and then, on the tenth, she got a letter--not from
Isabella, but from James, announcing the breaking off of the engagement
by mutual consent. At first she was much upset by the news, and burst
into tears. But in the end she saw it in a more philosophic light, so
that before long Henry was able to rally her on her former bosom
friendship with Miss Thorpe without offending her. And when a day or two
later a letter arrived from Isabella containing the amazing sentences,
"I am quite uneasy about your dear brother, not having heard from him
since he went to Oxford, and am fearful of some misunderstanding. Your
kind offices will set all right: he is the only man I ever did or could
love, and I trust you will convince him of it----" Catherine resolved:
"No; whatever would happen, James should never hear Isabella's name
mentioned by her again."
Soon afterwards, a bolt fell from the blue. General Tilney, who had paid
Catherine the most embarrassing attentions, suddenly and unexpectedly
returned from town, where he had gone for a day or two on business, and
packed Catherine off home immediately, with hardly an apology, and at
scarcely a moment's notice. He had met young Thorpe in town, it seemed;
and John had this time under-estimated the wealth and consequence of the
Morlands as much as he had over-stated them before when he talked to the
general in the theatre at Bath.
The rudeness of the general, however, proved not so very great a
disaster to Catherine. The interest and liking which Henry had first
felt for her had gradually grown into a warmer feeling, and, roused to a
sense of this by his father's tyrannical behaviour, he presented himself
to Catherine at Fullerton, proposed to her, and was accepted. It was not
long before the general gave his consent. Getting at last to a right
understanding of Mr. Morland's circumstances--which, he found, would
allow Catherine to have three thousand pounds--and delighted by the
recent marriage of his daughter Eleanor to a viscount, he agreed to the
union; and so Henry and Catherine were married within a twelvemonth from
the first day of their meeting.
* * * * *
And then, between 1812 and 1814. "Mansfield Park" was written
at Chawton Cottage, and published in July of the latter year
by the Mr. Egerton who had given to the world its two
predecessors. When the novel reached a second edition, its
publication was taken over by John Murray, who was also
responsible for bringing out its successor, "Emma." As bearing
on the introduction of naval officers into the story, in this
novel and in "Persuasion," it must be remembered that Jane
Austen's two youngest brothers, Francis and Charles, both
served in the Navy during the French wars, and both rose to
the rank of admiral; Jane herself lived at Southampton from
1805 to 1809, and was, therefore, in a position to visit
Portsmouth, and to see the sailor's life ashore.
_I.--Sir Thomas Bertram's Family Connections_
Miss Maria Ward, of Huntingdon, with only seven thousand pounds, had the
good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, of Mansfield Park, in the
county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised to the rank of a
baronet's lady, with all the comforts and consequences of a handsome
house and large income. She had two sisters to be benefited by her
elevation; and such of their acquaintances as thought Miss Ward and Miss
Frances quite as handsome as Miss Maria did not scruple to predict their
marrying with almost equal advantage. But there certainly are not so
many men of large fortune in the world as there are pretty women to
deserve them. Miss Ward, at the end of half a dozen years, found herself
obliged to be attached to the Rev. Mr. Norris, a friend of her
brother-in-law's, with scarcely any private fortune; and Miss Frances
fared yet worse.
Miss Ward's match, indeed, when it came to the point, was not
contemptible, Sir Thomas being happily able to give his friend, in the
living of Mansfield, an income of very little less than a thousand a
year. But Miss Frances married, in the common phrase, to disoblige her
family, and by fixing on a lieutenant of marines, named Price, without
education, fortune, or connections, did it very thoroughly. To escape
remonstrance, she never wrote to her family on the subject till actually
Lady Bertram, who was a woman of very tranquil feelings, and a temper
remarkably easy and indolent, would have contented herself with merely
giving up her sister, and thinking no more of the matter; but Mrs.
Norris had a spirit of activity which could not be satisfied till she
had written a long and angry letter to Fanny. Mrs. Price, in her turn,
was injured and angry; and an answer, which comprehended both sisters in
its bitterness, and bestowed such very disrespectful reflections on the
pride of Sir Thomas, as Mrs. Norris could not possibly keep to herself,
put an end to all intercourse between them for a considerable period.
By the end of eleven years, however, Mrs. Price could no longer afford
to cherish pride or resentment, or to lose one connection that might
possibly assist her. A very small income, a large and still increasing
family, a husband disabled for active service, but not the less equal to
company and good liquor, made her eager to regain the friends she had so
carelessly sacrificed; and she addressed Lady Bertram a letter which
spoke so much contrition and despondence as could not but dispose them
all to a reconciliation. The letter re-established peace and kindness.
Sir Thomas sent friendly advice and professions, Lady Bertram dispatched
money and baby-linen for the expected child, and Mrs. Norris wrote the
Within a twelvemonth a more important advantage to Mrs. Price resulted
from her letter. Mrs. Norris, who was often observing to the others that
she seemed to be wanting to do more for her poor sister, proposed that
the latter should be entirely relieved from the charge and expense of
her eldest daughter, Fanny, a girl of ten; and Sir Thomas, after
debating the question, assented. The division of gratifying sensations
in the consideration of so benevolent a scheme ought not, in strict
justice, to have been equal; for, while Sir Thomas was fully resolved to
be the real and consistent patron of the selected child, Mrs. Norris had
not the least intention of being at any expense whatever in her
maintenance. As far as walking, talking and contriving reached, she was
thoroughly benevolent, and nobody knows better how to dictate liberality
to others; but her love of money was equal to her love of directing, and
she knew quite as well how to save her own as to spend that of her
Fanny Price proved to be small for her age, with no glow of complexion
or any other striking beauty; exceedingly timid and shy, and shrinking
from notice; but her air, though awkward, was not vulgar, her voice was
sweet, and when she spoke her countenance was pretty. Sir Thomas and
Lady Bertram received her very kindly; and Sir Thomas, seeing how much
she needed encouragement, tried to be all that was conciliating. But he
had to work against a most untoward gravity of deportment; and Lady
Bertram, without taking half so much trouble, by the mere aid of a
good-humoured smile, became immediately the less awful character of the
The young people were all at home, and sustained their share in the
introduction very well, with much good humour and little embarrassment.
They were a remarkably fine family; the sons, Tom and Edmund, boys of
seventeen and sixteen, very well looking; the daughters, Maria, aged
thirteen, and Julia, twelve, decidedly handsome.
But it took a long time to reconcile Fanny to the novelty of Mansfield
Park, and to the separation from everybody she had been used to. Nobody
meant to be unkind, but nobody put himself out of the way to secure her
comfort. She was disheartened by Lady Bertram's silence, awed by Sir
Thomas's grave looks, and quite overcome by Mrs. Norris's admonitions.
Her elder cousins mortified her by reflections on her size, and abashed
her by noticing her shyness; Miss Lee, the governess, wondered at her
ignorance; and the maidservants sneered at her clothes. It was not till
Edmund found her crying one morning on the attic stairs, and comforted
her, that things began to mend for her. He was ever afterwards her true
friend, and next to her dear brother William, first in her affections;
and from that day she grew more comfortable.
_II.--Cupid at Mansfield Park_
The first event of any importance in the family's affairs was the death
of Mr. Norris, which happened when Fanny was about fifteen, and
necessarily introduced alterations and novelties. Mrs. Norris, on
quitting the parsonage, removed first to the Park, and then arranged to
take a small dwelling in the village belonging to Sir Thomas and called
the White House. The living had been destined for Edmund, and in
ordinary circumstances would have been duly given to some friend to hold
till he were old enough to take orders. But Tom's extravagances had been
so great as to render a different disposal of the next presentation
necessary, and so the reversion was sold to a Dr. Grant, a hearty man of
forty-five, fond of good eating, married to a wife about fifteen years
his junior, and unprovided with children.
The Grants had scarcely been settled in Mansfield a year, when, for the
better settlement of his property in the West Indies, Sir Thomas had
found it expedient to go to Antigua, and he took his elder son with him,
in the hope of detaching him from some bad connections at home. Neither
person was missed.
Lady Bertram did not at all like to have her husband leave her; but she
was not disturbed by any alarm for his safety or solicitude for his
comfort, being one of those persons who think nothing can be dangerous
or difficult or fatiguing to anybody but themselves. Before very long
she found that Edmund could quite sufficiently supply his father's
place. On this occasion the Miss Bertrams, who were now fully
established among the belles of the neighbourhood, were much to be
pitied, not for their sorrow, but for their want of it. Their father was
no object of love to them; he had never seemed the friend of their
pleasures, and his absence was unhappily most welcome.
Fanny's relief, and her consciousness of it, were quite equal to her
cousins'; but a more tender nature suggested that her feelings were
ungrateful, and she really grieved because she could not grieve.
Meantime, taking advantage of her sister's indolence, Mrs. Norris acted
as chaperon to Maria and Julia in their public engagements, and very
thoroughly relished the means this afforded her of mixing in society
without having horses to hire.
Fanny had no share in the festivities of the season; but she enjoyed
being avowedly useful as her aunt's companion, and talked to Lady
Bertram, listened to her and read to her with never a thought of envying
her cousins their gaieties. About this time Maria, who was now in her
twenty-first year, got engaged to a rich but heavy country gentleman
called Rushworth, merely because he had an income larger than her
father's and could give her a house in town; while Tom returned safely
from the West Indies, bringing an excellent account of his father's
health, but telling the family that Sir Thomas would be detained in
Antigua for several months longer.
Such was the state of affairs in the month of July; and Fanny had just
reached her eighteenth year when the society of the village received an
addition in the brother and sister of Mrs. Grant, a Mr. and Miss
Crawford, the children of her mother by a second marriage. They were
young people of fortune, the son having a good estate in Norfolk, the
daughter twenty thousand pounds. They had been brought up by their
father's brother and his wife, Admiral and Mrs. Crawford; and it was
Mrs. Crawford's death, and the consequent installation of the admiral's
mistress in the house, that had forced them to find another home. Mary
Crawford was remarkably pretty; Henry, though not handsome, had air and
countenance; the manners of both were lively and pleasant; and Mrs.
Grant gave them credit for everything else.
The young people were pleased with each other from the first. Miss
Crawford was most allowably a sweet, pretty girl, while the Miss
Bertrams were the finest young women in the country. Mr. Crawford was
the most agreeable young man Julia and Maria had ever known. Before he
had been at Mansfield a week the former lady was quite ready to be
fallen in love with; while as for the latter she did not want to see or
to understand. "There could be no harm in her liking an agreeable
man--everybody knew her situation--Mr. Crawford must take care of
A young woman, pretty, lively, witty, playing on a harp as elegant as
herself, was enough to catch any man's heart. Without studying the
business, however, or knowing what he was about, Edmund was beginning,
at the end of a week of such intercourse, to be a good deal in love with
Mary Crawford; and, to the credit of the lady, it may be added that,
without his being a man of the world or an elder brother, without any of
the arts of flattery or the gaieties of small-talk, he began to be
agreeable to her. He taught her to ride on a horse which he had given to
Fanny; he was always going round to see her at the parsonage; and,
although he disapproved of the flippancy with which she talked of her
relations, of religion, and of his future profession of clergyman, he
was never weary of discussing her and of confessing his admiration of
her to Fanny.
Harry Crawford was not so constant as his sister. On an expedition to
Sotherton Court (Mr. Rushworth's place) he flirted with Julia on the way
down, and with Maria when Sotherton was reached, leaving poor Mr.
Rushworth no resource but to declare to Fanny his surprise at anyone
calling so undersized a man as his rival handsome.
Some rehearsals of a play called "Lovers' Vows," in which Harry left
Maria happy and expectant and Julia furious by assigning the parts of
the lovers to the elder sister and to himself, made Mr. Rushworth even
jealous. But this theatrical scheme, to which even Edmund had been
forced to lend a reluctant co-operation--merely with a view of
preventing outside actors being introduced--happily came to nothing,
thanks to the unexpected arrival of Sir Thomas.
_III.--Fanny in Society_
Maria was now expecting the man she loved to declare himself; but
instead of making such a declaration of attachment, Harry Crawford left
the neighbourhood almost immediately on the plea of having to meet his
uncle at Bath. Maria, wounded and indignant, resolved that, though he
had destroyed her happiness, he should not know that he had done so. So
when her father, having, in an evening spent at Sotherton, discovered
what a very inferior young man Mr. Rushworth was, and having noticed
Maria's complete indifference to him, offered to give up the connection
if she felt herself unhappy in the prospect of it, she merely thanked
him, and said she had not the smallest desire of breaking through her
engagement, and was not sensible of any change of opinion or inclination
since her forming it. In a few weeks' time she was married to Mr.
Rushworth; and after a day or two spent at Sotherton, the wedded pair
went off to Brighton, where they were joined by Julia Bertram.
Meantime, Fanny, as the only young lady left at the Park, became of
importance. Sir Thomas decided that she was pretty; Miss Crawford
cultivated her society; and Mrs. Grant asked her to dinner. This
last-mentioned attention disturbed Lady Bertram.
"So strange!" she said. "For Mrs. Grant never used to ask her."
"But it is very natural," observed Edmund, "that Mrs. Grant should wish
to procure so agreeable a visitor for her sister."
"Nothing can be more natural," said Sir Thomas, after a short
deliberation; "nor, were there no sister in the case, could anything, in
my opinion, be more natural. Mrs. Grant's showing civility to Miss
Price, to Lady Bertram's niece, could never want explanation. The only
surprise I can feel is that this should be the first time of its being
paid. Fanny was right in giving only a conditional answer. She appears
to feel as she ought. But, as I conclude that she wishes to go, since
all young people like to be together, I can see no reason why she should
be denied this indulgence."
"Upon my word, Fanny," said Mrs. Norris, "you are in high luck to meet
with such attention and indulgence. You ought to be very much obliged to
Mrs. Grant for thinking of you, and to your aunt for letting you go, and
you ought to look upon it as something extraordinary; for I hope you are
aware that there is no real occasion for your going into company in this
sort of way, or ever dining out at all; and it is what you must not
depend upon ever being repeated. Nor must you be fancying that the
invitation is meant as a compliment to you; the compliment is intended
to your uncle and aunt and me. Mrs. Grant thinks it a civility due to
_us_ to take a little notice of you, or else it would never have come
into her head, and you may be certain that if your cousin Julia had been
at home you would not have been asked."
Mrs. Norris fetched breath, and went on.
"I think it right to give you a hint, Fanny, now that you are going into
company without any of us; and I do beseech and entreat you not to be
putting yourself forward, and talking and giving your opinion as if you
were one of your cousins--as if you were dear Mrs. Rushworth or Julia.
That will never do, believe me. Remember, wherever you are, you must be
the lowest and last; and though Miss Crawford is in a manner at home at
the Parsonage, you are not to be taking place of her. And as to coming
away at night, you are to stay just as long as Edmund chooses."
"Yes, ma'am. I should not think of anything else."
"And if it should rain--which I think likely, for I never saw it more
threatening for a wet evening in my life--you must manage as well as you
can, and not be expecting the carriage to be sent for you."
"Walk!" said Sir Thomas, in a tone of unanswerable dignity, and, coming
further into the room: "My niece walk to an engagement at this time of
the year! Fanny, will twenty minutes after four suit you?"
A few weeks later Fanny was made happy by a visit from her brother
William, now, through Sir Thomas's influence, a midshipman; and soon the
former intercourse between the families at the Park and at the Parsonage
was revived, Sir Thomas perceiving, in a careless way, that Mr.
Crawford, who was back again at Mansfield, was somewhat distinguishing
Harry, indeed, was beginning to be rather piqued by Fanny's
"I do not quite know what to make of Miss Fanny," he said to his sister.
"Is she solemn? Is she queer? Is she prudish? I can hardly get her to
speak. I never was so long in company with a girl in my life, trying to
entertain her, and succeeded so ill! Never met with a girl who looked so
grave on me."
"Foolish fellow!" said Mary. "And so this is her attraction after all!
This it is--her not caring for you--which gives her such a soft skin and
makes her so much taller, and produces all these charms and graces! I do
desire that you will not be making her really unhappy. A little love,
perhaps, may animate and do her good; but I will not have you plunge her
deep, for she is as good a little creature as ever lived, and has a
great deal of feeling."
"It can be but for a fortnight," said Harry, "and if a fortnight can
kill her she must have a constitution which nothing could save! No, I
will not do her any harm. I only want her to look kindly on me, to give
me smiles as well as blushes, to keep a chair for me by herself wherever
we are, and be all animation when I take it and talk to her; to think as
I think, to be interested in all my possessions and pleasures, try to
keep me longer at Mansfield, and feel when I go away that she shall
never be happy again. I want nothing more."
"Moderation itself!" replied Mary. "I can have no scruples now. Well,
you will have opportunities enough of endeavouring to recommend
yourself, for we are a great deal together."
Harry was unable to make any impression on Fanny; and though he fell
deeply in love with her, got her brother William made lieutenant, and,
after a ball given in her honour by Sir Thomas, proposed to her, he was
unable to win her favour. She was in love with Edmund; and Edmund was
torn between love for Mary, despair of winning her, and disapproval of
_IV.--Wedding Bells at Mansfield_
Mr. William Price, second lieutenant of H.M.S. Thrush, having obtained a
ten days' leave of absence, again went down to see his sister; and Sir
Thomas, as a kind of medicinal project on his niece's understanding,
just to enable her to contrast with her father's shabby dwelling an
abode of wealth and plenty like Mansfield Park, arranged that she should
accompany her brother back to Portsmouth, and spend a little time with
her own family. Within four days from their arrival William had to sail;
and Fanny could not conceal it from herself that the home he had left
her in was, in almost every respect, the very reverse of what she could
have wished. It was the abode of noise, disorder and impropriety. Nobody
was in his right place; nothing was done as it ought to be. She could
not respect her parents as she had hoped. Her father was more negligent
of his family, worse in his habits, coarser in his manners, than she had
been prepared for. He did not want abilities; but he had no curiosity,
and no information beyond his profession. He read only the newspaper and
the Navy List. He talked only of the dockyard, the harbour, Spithead,
and the Motherbank. He swore and he drank; he was dirty and gross.
She had never been able to recall anything approaching to tenderness in
his former treatment of herself. There had remained only a general
impression of roughness, and now he scarcely ever noticed her but to
make her the object of a coarse joke.
Her disappointment in her mother was greater. There she had hoped much,
and found almost nothing. She discovered, indeed, that her mother was a
partial, ill-judging parent, a dawdle, a slattern, who neither taught
nor restrained her children, whose house was the scene of mismanagement
and discomfort from beginning to end, and who had no talent, no
conversation, no affection towards herself; no curiosity to know her
better, no desire of her friendship, and no inclination for her company
that could lessen her sense of such knowledge.
At the end of the fourth week of her visit Harry Crawford came to see
Fanny, made himself very agreeable to her and her family, and then went
back to town to see his sister, and to meet such friends as Edmund
Bertram and the Rushworths. Fanny heard from Mary of Maria's fine house
in Wimpole Street, of the splendours of the first party, and of the
attentions paid to Julia by that would-be amateur actor, the Honourable
John Yates; while from Edmund she gathered that his hopes of securing
Mary were weaker than those he had cherished when he had left Mansfield,
and that he was more satisfied with all that he saw and heard of Harry
"I cannot give her up, Fanny," Edmund wrote of Mary. "She is the only
woman in the world whom I could ever think of as a wife." Mary, on her
part, hearing of a serious illness which had prostrated Tom Bertram,
could not forbear saying to the same correspondent: "Poor young man! If
he is to die, there will be two poor young men less in the world. I put
it to your conscience whether 'Sir' Edmund would not do more good with
all the Bertram property than any other possible 'sir.'" She also told
Fanny that Mrs. Rushworth, in the absence of her husband on a visit to
his mother at Bath, had been spending the Easter with some friends at
Twickenham, and that her brother Harry had also been passing a few days
The interval of a few days afforded a commentary on this last piece of
news. It turned out that Mrs. Rushworth, having succumbed once more to
the protestations of Harry Crawford, had left her house in Wimpole
Street to live with him, and that her sister Julia had eloped to
Scotland to be married to Mr. Yates. On the occurrence of this
distressing news, Fanny was summoned back to Mansfield Park, and was
escorted down there by Edmund, who described to her his final interview
with Mary. It seemed that Mary's distress at her brother's folly was so
much more keenly expressed than any sorrow for his sin that Edmund's
conscience left him no alternative but to make an end of their
Indeed, before many weeks had passed, he ceased to care about Miss
Crawford, and became as anxious to marry Fanny as Fanny herself could
desire; and before many months had gone, the cousins were united. Nor
was this the only happy event that occurred at Mansfield. Harry Crawford
and Mrs. Rushworth having quarrelled and parted, and Sir Thomas having
refused to allow his elder daughter to come home, Mrs. Norris cast off
the dust of Mansfield from her feet, and went to live with her niece in
an establishment arranged for them in another county. While as for Tom,
he gradually regained his health, without regaining the thoughtlessness
and selfishness of his previous habits, and was, in fact, improved
forever by his illness.
* * * * *
"Emma," one of the author's later novels, had been finished,
when, in the autumn of 1815, Jane Austen came to London to
nurse her brother Henry, who was a clergyman, at his house in
Hans Place, in Chelsea. He was being attended by one of the
Prince Regent's physicians, who seems to have learned in this
way the secret of the authorship of "Mansfield Park" and its
predecessors. The result was that the Prince, who is said to
have been a great admirer of these then anonymous novels, was
graciously pleased to notify Miss Austen, through his
chaplain, Mr. Clarke, that if she had any new novel in hand,
she was at liberty to dedicate it to his Royal Highness.
"Emma" was accordingly dedicated to the Prince. It was
reviewed, along with its author's other novels, in the
"Quarterly," and the anonymous reviewer, who took no notice of
"Mansfield Park," turns out to have been none other than Sir
Walter Scott. In his Diary for March 14, 1826, Sir Walter
further praised Miss Austen's exquisite touch and her gift for
true description and sentiment.
_I.--The Social Amenities of Highbury_
Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and
happy disposition, was the younger of the two daughters of a most
affectionate and indulgent father, and had, in consequence of her
sister's marriage, been mistress of his house from a very early period.
Her mother had died too long ago for her to have more than an indistinct
remembrance of her caresses, and her place had been supplied by Miss
Taylor, who for sixteen years had been in Mr. Woodhouse's family, less
as governess than friend, very fond of both daughters, but particularly
of Emma. For years the two ladies had been living together, mutely
attached, Emma doing just what she liked, highly esteeming Miss Taylor's
judgment, but chiefly directed by her own.
The real evils, indeed, of Emma's situation were the power of having
rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too
well of herself. The danger, however, was at present unperceived, and
did not by any means rank as a misfortune with her.
Sorrow came--a gentle sorrow. Miss Taylor married. It was Miss Taylor's
loss which first brought grief. It was on the wedding-day of this
beloved friend, with the wedding over and the bride-people gone, that
Emma first sat in mournful thought of any continuance. The event had
every promise of happiness for her friend. Mr. Weston was a man of
unexceptionable character, easy fortune, suitable age, and pleasant
manners; and there was some satisfaction in considering with what
self-denying, generous friendship she had always wished and promoted the
match. But it was a black morning's work for her. The want of Miss
Taylor would be felt every hour of every day. She had been a friend and
companion such as few possessed: intelligent, well-informed, useful,
gentle; knowing all the ways of the family, interested in all its
concerns, and peculiarly interested in herself, in every pleasure, every
scheme of hers--one to whom she could speak every thought, and who had
such an affection for her as could never find fault.
How was Emma to bear the change? She was now in great danger of
suffering from intellectual solitude. She dearly loved her father, but
he was no companion for her. He could not meet her in conversation,
rational or playful. The evil of the actual disparity in their ages (as
Mr. Woodhouse had not married early) was much increased by his
constitution and habits; for, having been a valetudinarian all his life,
without activity of mind or body, he was a much older man in ways than
in years; and though everywhere beloved for the friendliness of his
heart and his amiable temper, his talents could not have recommended him
at any time.
Emma's sister, though comparatively but little removed by matrimony,
being settled in London, only sixteen miles off, was much beyond her
daily reach; and it was quite three months before Christmas, that would
bring the next visit from Isabella, her husband, and children.
Highbury, the large and populous village to which her house, Hartfield,
really belonged, afforded her no equals. The Woodhouses were first in
consequence there. All looked up to them; but there was not one of her
acquaintances among them who could be accepted in lieu of Miss Taylor
for even half a day. It was a melancholy change; and Emma could not but
sigh over it, and wish for impossible things, till her father awoke from
his usual after-dinner sleep, and made it necessary to be cheerful. His
spirits required support. He was a nervous man, easily depressed; fond
of everybody he was used to, and hating to part with them; hating change
of every kind. Matrimony, as the origin of change, was always
disagreeable to him; and he was not yet reconciled to his own daughter
marrying, nor could ever speak of her but with compassion, though it had
been entirely a match of affection, when he was now obliged to part with
Miss Taylor, too.
He was pitying "poor Miss Taylor," and magnifying the half-mile's
distance that separated Hartfield from Mr. Weston's place, Randalls,
when a visitor walked in. This was Mr. George Knightley, the elder
brother of Isabella's husband, and the owner of Donwell Abbey, the large
estate of the district. He was a sensible man, about seven or eight and
thirty, a very old and intimate friend of the family, and a frequent and
always welcome visitor. He had returned to a late dinner after some
days' absence in London, and had walked up to Hartfield to say that all
was well with their relatives in Brunswick Square. They talked of the
wedding. Emma congratulated herself on having made the match. Mr.
Knightley demurred to this, remarking: "A straightforward, open-hearted
man, like Weston, and a rational, unaffected woman, like Miss Taylor,
may be safely left to manage their own concerns." And when Emma, in
reply to entreaties from her father to make no more matches, answered,
"Only one more, papa; only for Mr. Elton--you like Mr. Elton, papa; I
must look about for a wife for him"--her old friend gave her the
salutary advice: "Invite him to dinner, Emma, and help him to the best
of the fish and the chicken; but leave him to choose his own wife.
Depend upon it, a man of six or seven and twenty can take care of
_II.--Emma as a Matchmaker_
Emma lost no time in developing her schemes for the happiness of Mr.
Elton. Through Mrs. Goddard, the mistress of the local boarding-school
for girls, she struck up an acquaintance, which she contrived rapidly to
develop into intimacy, with a Miss Harriet Smith--a plump, fair-haired,
blue-eyed little beauty of seventeen, whose prettiness, docility,
good-temper and simplicity might be allowed to balance her lack of
intelligence and information.
Harriet was the natural daughter of somebody. Somebody had placed her
several years back at Mrs. Goddard's school, and somebody had lately
raised her from the condition of scholar to that of parlour-boarder.
This was all that was generally known of her history. She had no visible
friends but what had been acquired at Highbury, and was now just
returned from a long visit in the country to some young ladies--the
Misses Martin--who had been at school there with her.
The first step which Emma took in the education of Harriet was to cool
her interest in the Martins. She pointed out that Mr. Robert Martin, who
held a large farm from Mr. Knightley in Donwell parish, was too young to
marry at twenty-four, that he had, besides, an awkward look, an abrupt
manner, and an uncouth voice; and that, moreover, he was quite plain-
looking and wholly ungenteel; whereas Mr. Elton, who was good-humoured,
cheerful, obliging and gentle, was a pattern of good manners and good
looks, and seemed to be taking quite an interest in Harriet. So indeed
it appeared. Mr. Elton seemed delighted with being in the society of
Emma and Harriet. He praised Harriet as a beautiful girl, congratulated
Emma on the improvement she had wrought in her, contributed a charade to
Harriet's riddle-book, and took a most animated interest in a portrait
which Emma began to paint of her.
But Mr. Knightley was not so complacent. "I think Harriet," he said to
Mrs. Weston, "the very worst sort of a companion that Emma could
possibly have. She knows nothing herself, and looks upon Emma as knowing
everything. Her ignorance is hourly flattery. How can Emma imagine she
has anything to learn herself while Harriet is presenting such a
delightful inferiority? And as for Harriet, Hartfield will only put her
out of conceit with all the other places she belongs to. She will grow
just refined enough to be uncomfortable with those among whom birth and
circumstances have placed her."
This was in the early stages of the intimacy. Later in the day, when he
learned that Emma had taken so decided a hand in the affairs of Harriet
as to persuade her to decline a formal offer of marriage from Mr.
Martin, he told her plainly:
"I have always thought it a very foolish intimacy, though I have kept my
thoughts to myself; but now I perceive that it will be a very
unfortunate one for Harriet. You will puff her up with such ideas of her
own beauty, and what she has claim to, that, in a little while, nobody
within her reach will be good enough for her. Robert Martin has no great
loss if he can but think so; and I hope it will not be long before he
does. Your views for Harriet are best known to yourself; but, as you
make no secret of your love of match-making, I shall just hint to you as
a friend that, if Elton is the man, I think it will be all labour in
Emma laughed and disclaimed. "Depend upon it," he continued, "Elton will
not do. Elton is a very good sort of a man, and a very respectable vicar
of Highbury, but not at all likely to make an imprudent match. He is as
well acquainted with his own claims as you can be with Harriet's; and I
am convinced that he does not mean to throw himself away."
But despite this warning from Mr. George Knightley, despite a hint
dropped by Mr. John Knightley, when he and his wife and children came to
stop with the Woodhouses for Christmas--a hint to the effect that his
sister-in-law would do well to consider whether Mr. Elton was not in
love with _her_--Emma continued quite as ardent in her new friendship
and in her hopes.
As to herself, she told Harriet that she was not going to be married at
present, and had very little intention of ever marrying at all; though
when Harriet reminded her of Miss Bates, who was the daughter of a
former vicar of Highbury and lived in a very small way with her mother,
a very old lady almost past everything but tea and quadrille, she
confessed that if she thought she would ever be like Miss Bates, "so
silly, so satisfied, so smiling, so prosing, so undistinguishing, so
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