works in netscape and explorerPride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in
possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may
be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well
fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is
considered the rightful property of someone or other of their
"My dear Mr. Bennet," said his lady to him one day, "have you
heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?"
Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.
"But it is, returned she; "for Mrs. Long has just been here, and
she told me all about it.
Mr. Bennet made no answer.
"Do you not want to know who has taken it?" cried his wife
"YOU want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it."
This was invitation enough.
"Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that
Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the
north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise
and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it,
that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take
possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to
be in the house by the end of next week."
"What is his name?"
"Is he married or single?"
"Oh! Single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large
fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our
"How so? How can it affect them?"
"My dear Mr. Bennet," replied his wife, "how can you be so
tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying
one of them."
"Is that his design in settling here?"
"Design! Nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely
that he MAY fall in love with one of them, and therefore you
must visit him as soon as he comes."
"I see no occasion for that. You and the girls may go, or you
may send them by themselves, which perhaps will be still
better, for as you are as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley
may like you the best of the party."
"My dear, you flatter me. I certainly HAVE had my share of
beauty, but I do not pretend to be anything extraordinary now.
When a woman has five grown-up daughters, she ought to give
over thinking of her own beauty."
"In such cases, a woman has not often much beauty to think
"But, my dear, you must indeed go and see Mr. Bingley when
he comes into the neighbourhood."
"It is more than I engage for, I assure you."
"But consider your daughters. Only think what an
establishment it would be for one of them. Sir William and
Lady Lucas are determined to go, merely on that account, for
in general, you know, they visit no newcomers. Indeed you
must go, for it will be impossible for US to visit him if you do
"You are over-scrupulous, surely. I dare say Mr. Bingley will
be very glad to see you; and I will send a few lines by you to
assure him of my hearty consent to his marrying whichever he
chooses of the girls; though I must throw in a good word for
my little Lizzy."
"I desire you will do no such thing. Lizzy is not a bit better
than the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as
Jane, nor half so good-humoured as Lydia. But you are always
giving HER the preference."
"They have none of them much to recommend them," replied
he; "they are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has
something more of quickness than her sisters."
"Mr. Bennet, how CAN you abuse your own children in such a
way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion
for my poor nerves."
"You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your
nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention
them with consideration these last twenty years at least."
Mr. Bennet 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. HER mind was less difficult to develop. She was
a woman of mean understanding, little information, and
uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied
herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her
daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.
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 hat, 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 assemblies, and that Mrs. Long promised to introduce
"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?"
"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 him 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 myself."
The girls stared at their father. Mrs. Bennet said only,
"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, Mary? For you are a young lady of
deep reflection, I know, and read great books and make
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 ladies 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
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 youngest, 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 tallest."
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.
Not all that Mrs. Bennet, however, with the assistance of her
five daughters, could ask on the subject, was sufficient to draw
from her husband any satisfactory description of Mr. Bingley.
They attacked him in various way-- with barefaced questions,
ingenious suppositions, and distant surmises; but he eluded the
skill of them all, and they were at last obliged to accept the
second-hand intelligence of their neighbour, Lady Lucas. Her
report was highly favourable. Sir William had been delighted
with him. He was quite young, wonderfully handsome,
extremely agreeable, and, to crown the whole, he meant to be
at the next assembly with a large party. Nothing could be more
delightful! To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards
falling in love; and very lively hopes of Mr. Bingley's heart
"If I can but see one of my daughters happily settled at
Netherfield," said Mrs. Bennet to her husband, "and all the
others equally well married, I shall have nothing to wish for."
In a few days Mr. Bingley returned Mr. Bennet's visit, and sat
about ten minutes with him in his library. He had entertained
hopes of being admitted to a sight of the young ladies, of
whose beauty he had heard much; but he saw only the father.
The ladies were somewhat more fortunate, for they had the
advantage of ascertaining from an upper window that he wore
a blue coat, and rode a black horse.
An invitation to dinner was soon afterwards dispatched; and
already had Mrs. Bennet planned the courses that were to do
credit to her housekeeping, when an answer arrived which
deferred it all. Mr. Bingley was obliged to be in town the
following day, and, consequently, unable to accept the honour
of their invitation, etc. Mrs. Bennet was quite disconcerted.
She could not imagine what business he could have in town so
soon after his arrival in Hertfordshire; and she began to fear
that he might be always flying about from one place to another,
and never settled at Netherfield as he ought to be. Lady Lucas
quieted her fears a little by starting the idea of his being gone
to London only to get a large party for the ball; and a report
soon followed, that Mr. Bingley was to bring twelve ladies and
seven gentlemen with him to the assembly. The girls grieved
over such a number of ladies, but were comforted the day
before the ball by hearing, that instead of twelve he brought
only six with him from London-- his five sisters and a cousin.
And when the party entered the assembly room it consisted of
only five altogether-- Mr. Bingley, his two sisters, the husband
of the eldest, and another young man.
Mr. Bingley was good-looking and gentlemanlike; 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. The
gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the
ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and
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 discovered to be proud; to be above
his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large
estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most
forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to
be compared with his friend.
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. Such amiable
qualities must speak for themselves. What a contrast between
him and his friend! Mr. Darcy danced only once with Mrs.
Hurst and once with Miss Bingley, declined being introduced
to any other lady, and spent the rest of the evening in walking
about the room, speaking occasionally to one of his own party.
His character was decided. He was the proudest, most
disagreeable man in the world, and everybody hoped that he
would never come there again. Amongst the most violent
against him was Mrs. Bennet, whose dislike of his general
behaviour was sharpened into particular resentment by his
having slighted one of her daughters.
Elizabeth Bennet 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 hear
a conversation between him and Mr. Bingley, who came from
the dance for a few minutes, to press his friend to join it.
"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 dance."
"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 Mr. 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 uncommonly pretty."
"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; 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 toward him.
She told the story, however, with great spirit among her
friends; for she had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted
in anything ridiculous.
The evening altogether passed off pleasantly to the whole
family. Mrs. Bennet had seen her eldest daughter much
admired by the Netherfield party. Mr. Bingley had danced with
her twice, and she had been distinguished by his sisters. Jane
was as much gratified by this as her mother could be, though in
a quieter way. Elizabeth felt Jane's pleasure. Mary had heard
herself mentioned to Miss Bingley as the most accomplished
girl in the neighbourhood; and Catherine and Lydia had been
fortunate enough never to be without partners, which was all
that they had yet learnt to care for at a ball. They returned,
therefore, in good spirits to Longbourn, the village where they
lived, and of which they were the principal inhabitants. They
found Mr. Bennet still up. With a book he was regardless of
time; and on the present occasion he had a good deal of
curiosity as to the events of an evening which had raised such
splendid expectations. He had rather hoped that his wife's
views on the stranger would be disappointed; but he soon
found out that he had a different story to hear.
"Oh! my dear Mr. Bennet," as she entered the room, "we have
had a most delightful evening, a most excellent ball. I wish you
had been there. Jane was so admired, nothing could be like it.
Everybody said how well she looked; and Mr. Bingley thought
her quite beautiful, and danced with her twice! Only think of
THAT, my dear; he actually danced with her twice! and she was
the only creature in the room that he asked a second time.
First of all, he asked Miss Lucas. I was so vexed to see him
stand up with her! But, however, he did not admire her at all;
indeed, nobody can, you know; and he seemed quite struck with
Jane as she was going down the dance. So he inquired who she
was, and got introduced, and asked her for the two next. Then
the two third he danced with Miss King, and the two fourth with
Maria Lucas, and the two fifth with Jane again, and the two
sixth with Lizzy, and the BOULANGER--"
"If he had had any compassion for ME," cried her husband
impatiently, "he would not have danced half so much! For God's
sake, say no more of his partners. O that he had
sprained his ankle in the first place!"
"Oh! my dear, I am quite delighted with him. He is so
excessively handsome! And his sisters are charming women. I
never in my life saw anything more elegant than their dresses. I
dare say the lace upon Mrs. Hurst's gown--"
Here she was interrupted again. Mr. Bennet protested against
any description of finery. She was therefore obliged to seek
another branch of the subject, and related, with much bitterness
of spirit and some exaggeration, the shocking rudeness of Mr.
"But I can assure you," she added, "that Lizzy does not lose
much by not suiting HIS fancy; for he is a most disagreeable,
horrid man, not at all worth pleasing. So high and so conceited
that there was no enduring him! He walked here, and he
walked there, fancying himself so very great! Not handsome
enough to dance with! I wish you had been there, my dear, to
have given him one of your set-downs. I quite detest the man."