Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice: Ch. 4

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Chapter 4

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

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

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

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

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

"Dear Lizzy!"

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

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

"I know you do; and it is that which makes the wonder. With your good sensed, to be so honestly blind to the follies and nonsense of others! Affectation of candourd is common enough—one meets with it everywhere. But to be candid without ostentationw or design—to take the good of everybody's character and make it still better, and say nothing of the bad—belongs to you alone. And so you like this man's sisters, too, do you? Their manners are not equal to his."

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

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

X [d] Jane and Elizabeth were alone,

Writing & Reading

As the title's polarity suggests, P&P relies upon parallels to dramatize its points about character, intelligence, wit, and conduct. Lizzy and Jane are the only two sisters who are intimately friendly (as Austen was with Cassandra) but are as different as are Darcy and Bingley.…

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X [w] sensible

Mind

As we know from Sense and Sensibility an important word in Austen. Its being couched here with "good-humoured, lively...happy manners" indicates the word's emotional dimension. 

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary defines "sensible" as "having quick intellectual feeling," as in being not just aware of but emotionally alive or alert to. The noun "sensibility" in Sense and Sensibility, emphasizes the emotional more than it does the intellectual and is closer to our "sensitive."

X [h] happy manners

Manners & Morals

Happy in the sense of both cheerful and determined to please, and so the antithesis of Darcy. While the society's manners are codified and prescriptive, Austen praises manners that function naturally within the forms.

A rigid system of manners can be deployed to insure a frigid separation between people. Austen believes that good, happy manners will put other people at ease. Manner…

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X [d] His character is thereby complete

Mind

The attention so far in the novel has been confined to the apparent—looks and manners. Lizzy's comment is ironic, for missing has been the element she puns on, "character," which in Austen is one's moral depth and quality of understanding. (See also "character" in ch. 6.)

X [d] good sense

Mind

Lizzy is complimenting her sister's general intelligence, which, though, is compromised by her blind insistence on universal goodness. This is strong enough to constitute a prejudice or prejudgment.

Sweetly benevolent and optimistic, Saint Jane lacks or is reluctant to exercise critical judgment, first upon one's own ideas. This is one of Austen's highest attributes and the antithe…

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X [d] Affectation of candour

Manners & Morals

Lizzy is trying to explain something to the guileless Jane and to make a point about an inverse law of their culture. The more it prizes "candour,"  the more people will affect candor.

The high value the culture places upon candor means it becomes a desirable attribute and "common enough." But real candor, which is not a matter either of "ostentation [display] or design," is what Jane possesses. She's genuine in both her kindness and blindness ("honestly blind").

X [w] ostentation

Showing off; display of a pretentious sort.

X [d] Certainly not—at first

Manners & Morals

On the initial appearance, "at first," their manners are not equal to his. But as Jane gets to know the sisters better she finds their manners improve. There has been no change in the sisters, only in Jane's familiarity with them.

The more she knows of someone the more she's predisposed to like him or her. In fact, their manners are not equal to his, for the two sisters are manipulative, arrogant, and cold. But Jane is incapable of making such a judgment.

X [d] in general

They made Jane the prime target of their agreeableness.

X [d] judgement too unassailed by any attention to …

Lizzy remains unimpeachably disinterested. Personal considerations based on Jane's and Bingley's mutual attraction and a potential marriage do not influence Lizzy's "judgment." She finds the two sisters wanting and will in general insist upon an objective appraisal untainted by her self-interest. 

X [d] when they were pleased

The qualifying clause is definitive. 

X [w] first private seminaries

Education

A "seminary" here is a school for girls and young women, and it is "First" in the sense of finest. It is further exalted by being in London.

Nevertheless, Austen has generally harsh comments about the formal education of girls, which in the main teaches a pretentious, hollow learning designed for the marriage market (a finishing school) and not for the moral and intellectual improvement of the student.

X [h] twenty thousand pounds

Apiece, and, multiplied by 90, approaching $1.8 million. At the minimum, 3%, would yield £600 or $54,000 per year.

X [h] by trade

Class

The two sisters are proud of their current status and silent regarding the origins of the family's wealth in "trade." Money accumulated through trade (which involves the actual handling of merchandise and the direct acceptance of payment) is regarded as inferior to that acquired through ownership of land. "Trade" means making one's money by selling something the consumer pays the provider directly for, from cabbages to muslin to medicine to a land survey or a will.…

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