From Pride and Prejudice. During the years Austen was writing her now much loved novels, she lived in her clergyman father’s house in Steventon, where she received one marriage proposal. She accepted it on a winter evening; she canceled it with the rising of the next day’s sun. The only favorable notice of her books during her lifetime was a review written by Sir Walter Scott.
“He is rich, to be sure, and you may have more fine clothes and fine carriages than Jane. But will they make you happy?”
“Have you any other objection,” said Elizabeth, “than your belief of my indifference?”
“None at all. We all know him to be a proud, unpleasant sort of man; but this would be nothing if you really liked him.”
“I do; I do like him,” she replied, with tears in her eyes. “I love him. Indeed he has no improper pride. He is perfectly amiable. You do not know what he really is; then pray do not pain me by speaking of him in such terms.”
“Lizzy,” said her father, “I have given him my consent. He is the kind of man, indeed, to whom I should never dare refuse anything which he condescended to ask. I now give it to you, if you are resolved on having him. But let me advise you to think better of it. My child, let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect your partner in life. You know not what you are about.”
Elizabeth, still more affected, was earnest and solemn in her reply; and at length, by repeated assurances that Mr. Darcy was really the object of her choice, by explaining the gradual change which her estimation of him had undergone, relating her absolute certainty that his affection was not the work of a day, but had stood the test of many months’ suspense, and enumerating with energy all his good qualities, she did conquer her father’s incredulity and reconcile him to the match.
Allegory on Tax Office in Siena in Time of Peace and War, by Benvenuto di Giovanni, 1468. State Archives of Siena, Museum of the Biccherna Tablets, Siena, Italy.
“Well, my dear,” said he, when she ceased speaking, “I have no more to say. If this be the case, he deserves you. I could not have parted with you, my Lizzy, to anyone less worthy.”
To complete the favorable impression, she then told him what Mr. Darcy had voluntarily done for Lydia. He heard her with astonishment.
“This is an evening of wonders, indeed! And so Darcy did everything; made up the match, gave the money, paid the fellow’s debts, and got him his commission! So much the better. It will save me a world of trouble and economy. Had it been your uncle’s doing, I must and would have paid him; but these violent young lovers carry everything their own way. I shall offer to pay him tomorrow; he will rant and storm about his love for you, and there will be an end of the matter.”
When her mother went up to her dressing-room at night, she followed her and made the important communication. Its effect was most extraordinary, for on first hearing it, Mrs. Bennet sat quite still and unable to utter a syllable. Nor was it under many, many minutes that she could comprehend what she heard, though not in general backward to credit what was for the advantage of her family or that came in the shape of a lover to any of them. She began at length to recover, to fidget about in her chair, get up, sit down again, wonder, and bless herself.
“Good gracious! Lord bless me! Only think! Dear me! Mr. Darcy! Who would have thought it? And is it really true? Oh, my sweetest Lizzy! How rich and how great you will be! What pin-money, what jewels, what carriages you will have! I am so pleased, so happy. Such a charming man! So handsome, so tall!—oh, my dear Lizzy! Pray apologize for my having disliked him so much before. I hope he will overlook it. Dear, dear Lizzy! A house in town! Everything that is charming! Three daughters married! Ten thousand a year! Oh, Lord! What will become of me? I shall go distracted.”
“My dearest child,” she cried, “I can think of nothing else. Ten thousand a year, and very likely more. ’Tis as good as a lord! And a special license—you must and shall be married by a special license. But, my dearest love, tell me what dish Mr. Darcy is particularly fond of, that I may have it tomorrow.”