Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice: Ch. 2

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Chapter 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I do not cough for my own amusement," replied Kitty fretfully. "When is your next ball to be, Lizzy?"

"To-morrow fortnighth."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

X [h] trimming a hat

Daily Life

Only wealthy young women had numbers of gowns, dresses, hats, and shoes. The rest, such as Austen (her letters catalogue the various trimmings) would renovate hats and dresses by removing and exchanging ribbons. Gowns and dresses were made to order; fabric was expensive.

X [w] assemblies


Dances; balls.

Throughout the 18th century marriage among the gentry evolved from a principally pragmatic arrangement determined by money and class advancement, the children following their parents' wishes, to a decision made by the children and based increasingly on affectionate feelings and the prospect of a happy intimacy, the so-called companionate marriage.…

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X [h] fortnight

Fourteen nights or two weeks.

X [h] know him

Have been formally introduced to him. Mrs. Bennet, as her husband notes, is thinking strategically if obviously.

X [h] I will take it on myself

But Mr. Bennet is even more strategic in his baiting of his wife. He means he'll introduce Mrs. Long to Bingley, thus allowing his wife's rival equal access.

X [d] What say you, Mary

He's merciless in looking to Mary to adjudicate a dispute. Mary, we soon discover, is a tiresome pedant, a feature Mr. Bennet encourages in order to amuse himself with her foibles. 

X [h] make extracts

Writing & Reading

Young women culled from their reading and copied into a book they ornamented their favorite passages from literature. Mr. Bennet's irony—"you are a young lady of deep reflection...and read great books"—has been at the very least trying for his daughters.

Elegant Abstracts is a published anthology that introduces readers to the choice passages of popular and instructive authors. Austen refers to it in Emma.

X [d] The astonishment of the ladies

Living in the country as a gentleman, which means in his case with no occupation (he's not actively involved in managing such property as his house sits upon) and possessed of a good mind, Mr. Bennet has little to amuse him except tormenting his wife and making fun of four of his daughters. They are scarcely fair game.

X [h] the youngest

Kitty, we'll learn shortly, is an over-developed fifteen-year old. Jane is twenty-two, Lizzy twenty.

X [w] tallest


Indicating that height in a young woman counted in her favor. Her speaking "stoutly" means bravely or firmly and also intimates her vigor and strength. Mrs. Bennet earlier identified Lydia as the most beautiful and the one most like her. Lydia is Junoesque in figure, perhaps voluptuous.