Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice: Ch. 4

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

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

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

The manner in which they spoke of the Meryton assembly was sufficiently characteristic. Bingley had never met with more pleasant people or prettier girls in his life; everybody had been most kind and attentive to him; there had been no formality, no stiffness; he had soon felt acquainted with all the room; and, as to Miss Bennet, he could not conceive an angel more beautifuld. Darcy, on the contrary, had seen a collection of people in whom there was little beauty and no fashion, for none of whom he had felt the smallest interest, and from none received either attention or pleasure. Miss Bennet he acknowledged to be pretty, but she smiled too much.d

Mrs. Hurst and her sister allowed it to be so—but still they admired her and liked her, and pronounced her to be a sweet girl, and one whom they would not object to know more of. Miss Bennet was therefore established as a sweet girl, and their brother felt authorized by such commendation to think of her as he chose.

X [h] Mr. Bingley inherited property


Or some $9,000,000. The elder Bingley and the two or three generations before him have been brilliantly successful. Though we don't learn the sources, generally only a brewery, mines, or invention and manufacture could yield such wealth so quickly. Given his worth, the elder Bingley would naturally have "purchase[d] an estate" so as to become gentry but dies before he can effect that intention. …

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X [w] liberty of a manor

Custom & Law

The "liberty" refers to hunting, an essential part of most gentlemen's lives, though Austen's best gentlemen spend their time in managing their estates rather than harrying game. A manor is a house and accompanying tract of land farmed by tenants. Bingley has leased with the house the rights to its game.  …

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X [d] half-an-hour

Suggesting that Bingley is "easy" and spontaneous.

X [w] ductility

Flexibility, pliability; he is easily led.

He's in this the opposite of Darcy. Are we to assume Darcy likes him in part because he can control him and believes he needs to be protected from himself? 

X [w] fastidious

Precisely observant of manners and conventions; punctilious.

X [d] he could not conceive an angel more beautiful

Writing & Reading

This is a subtle instance of what is called free indirect discourse, a feature of narration Austen helped develop and perfect. The sentiment and diction are not hers but Bingley's and encapsulate what he's said to Darcy or his sisters. Austen herself would not be guilty of describing someone as "an angel more beautiful." That is Bingley's cliché.

X [d] pretty, but she smiled too much.

Writing & Reading

Jane's smiling too much may signify to Darcy a light mind that is too eager to ingratiate itself. 

Once again we recall that the novel's original title was First Impressions. Not only the characters' but the reader's first impressions must undergo revision. It is difficult in a highly mannered society to read quickly the character and personality beneath the surface. For Austen our capacity to revise our first impressions is as important as our initial perceptiveness.