Posted on Friday, 7 May 2004
Monday, 23rd September 1811
We are all in uproar, as Mama would say! It appears that Netherfield has been let at last, and by a young man of large fortune. A single young man of large fortune. Naturally, Mama is ecstatic. I believe she is planning to marry one of us to him, and as Jane is by far the prettiest, not to mention the most amiable, I fear the task of ‘capturing’ Mr Bingley (for that is his name) will fall to her!
Papa is being his delightful self, which naturally vexes Mama to distraction. However, it is impossible to blame him for it; Mama is incorrigible when she gets an idea into her head, but he really should not bait her so. Until Papa visits Mr Bingley, it appears that we no peace will be had here at Longbourn, and Papa is most adamant that he will not visit Mr Bingley. I do not mind the lack of the gentleman’s company; in fact, it would be most embarrassing to have to witness Mama’s fawning over him - but Papa really ought to visit him, if only to pacify Mama. Then again, perhaps that is his intention. He does so love to taunt Mama, and my Papa is certainly no fool. If he seeks an introduction to Mr Bingley, then Mama will not rest until the poor man is married, and preferably to our dear Jane. As long as the introductions are delayed, Mama will have to bide her time. It’s just that she is so vocal in her disapproval of Papa’s stance.
I’m beginning to wonder whether there is any point in marriage at all; if one took Mama and Papa for an example, then it would seem not. They do not suit one another, and I often wonder whether there is any real regard between them. It makes me wary of the matrimonial state, and I am glad that Mama would never presume to marry me off to Mr Bingley. I suppose that is the advantage of not being the favoured daughter. My poor dear Jane will have to bear that particular burden. However, she bears Mama’s matchmaking schemes with such equanimity that if I were not her sister and friend, I would suspect that it does not bother her. But the mercenary nature of Mama’s choice of beaus cannot be ignored. She fears the day that Papa dies, and believes we will all be thrown out of our home if one of us does not make a good match. I refuse to believe that our relatives would allow this to happen; Aunt and Uncle Gardiner would no doubt help us if help were needed. And besides, Papa is in very good health; dwelling on his death can only cause us all great sadness, not to mention an excess of anxiety. Mama will worry us all out of our looks if she carries on in this vein. Indeed, it does not bear thinking about. Dear Papa! Although he delights in vexing Mama, and is not the most adept of parents, he is still my very own Papa, and I love him dearly. Longbourn would not be the same without Papa here, and Mama is morbid to even consider his death. He has many years of happy healthy life in him yet!
Friday, 4th October 1811
The servants moved into Netherfield today. This has only vexed Mama even more, for Papa is still adamant that he will not visit Mr Bingley. For myself, I am convinced that he will visit him just as soon as may be, and that he is merely teasing Mama. But Mama will have none of our platitudes, and I have been escaping the house as much as I can for exactly this reason.
The country is truly beautiful at this time of year; all the leaves are just turning to their most glorious shades, and the air is crisp and fresh. I took the path to Netherfield today, which is how I know the servants have moved things in. It looks so very grand, and I own that it will be marvelous to have someone residing there after it has been vacant for so long. It will be strange, though. Mr Jones was such a dear man, and his passing was very sad indeed. He and Papa were in such great spirits when they were together. I fear there are very few people in Meryton who can really match up to Papa’s wit, and he spends much of his time in the study. Mama often laments about our lack of male kin, and though Papa never complains, I am sure that had they had but one son he would be much more agreeable towards Mama. Papa lacks male companionship now and is content to barricade himself away from the world. It is not healthy for him. I would have hoped for him to get on well with our new neighbours, but as Mr Bingley is purported to be a young man, he will hardly fit the bill as a friend for Papa, for I believe he is closer to dear Jane’s age than our father’s. Still, any masculine company will be a welcome respite in Longbourn’s study, and I am sure that like myself, Papa is hopeful that Mr Bingley will be as amiable a neighbour as Mr Jones ever was.
Monday, 7th October 1811
Mama was in a very petulant mood this evening, for Mr Bingley is now installed at Netherfield, and Papa deliberately provoked her. I was trimming a bonnet, and he happened to voice his hope that Mr Bingley would like it. Well, any mention of our neighbour is enough to set Mama off, and she became most fractious. I tried to placate her, for Mrs Long promised to introduce him to us, but Mama insists that Mrs Long will think only of her nieces. She can be very irrational when things do not go her way! Indeed, she even scolded poor Kitty for having a coughing fit, though Kitty cannot help it. And Papa did not help matters, by teasing her further, especially when she realized that Mrs Long would not have a chance to meet Mr Bingley for herself before our next ball. And that is when Papa casually mentioned that Mama would have the honour of conducting introductions. As I had surmised, he was one of the first to visit Mr Bingley. Well, Mama was beside herself again, only this time it was with rapture. She began to plot when Mr Bingley would return the visit, and whether we should invite him to dinner, and all sorts of other little things. She believes that Mr Bingley will stand up with all of us at the upcoming assembly, and that everything will work out for the best. Of course, the best in Mama’s estimation involves the conjoining in the state of holy matrimony one of her daughters and our esteemed neighbour, or rather, his fortune. Her intentions are well enough, though I believe somewhat misguided. Nonetheless, we shall have to continue on as always and hope that she does not allow her nerves to get the better of her.
Thursday, 10th October 1811
Well! Mr Bingley returned Papa’s call today, and once again Papa vexed Mama by keeping the gentleman in the library for the entirety of his visit (which admittedly lasted a mere ten minutes!). Lydia and Kitty could not be kept away from the window, and so we are now in the knowledge that Mr Bingley wears a blue coat and rides a black horse. Quite why we should worry about such things I know not, but blue is a very pleasant colour, and I have no doubt that the horse is an admirable reflection of Mr Bingley’s character. In an effort to rectify Papa’s mistake, Mama took it upon herself to invite Mr Bingley for dinner, but sadly we discovered that he is obliged to return to London on business. This is something of a reprieve, for having seen Mama away from Mr Bingley; I am beginning to dread her actions when he is readily available.
In fact, we know very little of Mr Bingley. Papa has been remarkably close mouthed about him. This is unsurprising, knowing Papa, but it left poor Mama reliant on Lady Lucas for her information. By all accounts, he is young, handsome, and amiable and plans to attend the next assembly. Imagine Mama’s joy, though somewhat tempered by the fact she was reliant on Lady Lucas for information. Lady Lucas of all people! I can never quite fathom the relationship those two have, it is nothing like that of Charlotte and myself. It is insupportable to think that we should ever fall into the fierce competition that so dominates discourse between Mama and Lady Lucas. They have turned the idea of marriage into a sport of sorts, each vying to marry their daughters off first, seeing who can attain the more desirable son-in-law. Mama gloats over Jane’s beauty, and Lydia’s youthful charms, and Lady Lucas gloats over Sir Lucas’ baronetcy and her fortune at having sons. I cannot imagine having the stamina for such affairs!
It was very fortunate that Lady Lucas was aware of Mr Bingley’s circumstances in this case, though. If it were not for her intelligence, Mama would have been insufferable for days. Even so, Mama was most put out that Mr Bingley had returned to London so soon after arriving here, and I fear she began to worry about his commitment to Netherfield and in turn his commitment to matrimony. After all, what good is a young man of good fortune who is neither in attendance nor seeking a wife? It is a truth universally acknowledges that a single man in possession of good fortune much be in want of a wife, after all! Poor Mama! And Jane cannot possible exercise her charm over him if Mr Bingley is not here! Indeed, Mama was very vocal in her disapproval of Mr Bingley’s defection, but fortunately Lady Lucas comforted her with the knowledge that his return to town was only in order to collect a large party for the ball, and we later heard that he was bringing twelve ladies and seven gentlemen. Far too many ladies, of course, for my liking, but that cannot be helped. Indeed, I wonder at our amiable Mr Bingley; where does he find all these young women? Perhaps he is not so suitable for Jane after all. It is probably best not to mention this to Mama, but I shall be on my guard when she starts flapping her wings, as she is so often wont to do. All joking aside, I believe this talk of Jane and Mr Bingley is out of hand, and that Jane is really quite exhausted by all of the speculation. How she can be linked to a man she does not even know I cannot fathom! It is intolerable! I dread to think what life will be like at Longbourn once we’ve met the gentleman, if his mere arrival has caused so much speculation.
Tuesday, 22nd October 1811
The long awaited ball finally came to pass yesterday, amid much uproar in the Bennet household. Papa would not come - he rarely does; Mama was left to chaperone us. The thought of Mama as a chaperone is quite laughable; she is all too often trying to throw us in the path of rich young men, and I do believe that she is of the opinion that ‘all is fair in love and war’. Having said that, Mama loves us all dearly, and is really only looking after our well-being. It is her manner of doing so that is unfortunate and indeed, quite mortifying.
But I digress. Last night was the assembly ball and we finally got to meet the elusive Mr Bingley. I have to say I was well pleased with him. He is all that the gossips have suggested, and he had the good sense to favour Jane, which I cannot fault. It does seem rather strange that after all Mama’s hints and hopes he should single Jane out, but she is the most beautiful girl in Meryton, and I daresay there are very few women of the ton who can rival her, so perhaps it is not so very surprising after all.
Contrary to rumours, Mr Bingley only brought two women with him: his sisters. I did not think much of them, if I am to be truly honest. They seemed to have far too high an opinion of themselves, and their gowns, although of good material, were also overly flamboyant and more in the style of Mr Brummel 1 than that of a country assembly. It was clear that they had no real desire to be in the company of us mere mortals, and I find that they do not form pleasant impressions. Mr Bingley was also accompanied by two men, a Mr Hurst (the husband of his elder sister) and a Mr Darcy, from Derbyshire, with an estate worth £10000 a year.
I have to ask myself now, why we must value people based on the size of their fortune. Over the course of the evening it became apparent that for all his material wealth, Mr Darcy is not a pleasant man. He kept himself aloof from the company, dancing only with those of his party, and generally hiding in corners, glaring menacingly at the rest of the assembly. One wonders why he joined Mr Bingley at all - it was evident that he was ill at ease with our company. He obviously felt himself above us, and it was displayed for all to see. Arrogance and conceit reared their ugly heads.
I own that I am not disposed towards friendliness with Mr Darcy. As Mr Bingley was very taken with Jane, he was clearly frustrated by his friend’s apparent lack of interest in the proceedings. He tried to coax Mr Darcy into dancing, and I believe that I was to be the bait. Mr Bingley, wonderful man that he is, suggested that I was very pretty, and well worth dancing with (I had been forced to sit out for several sets due to a shortage of men), but Mr Darcy, in that oh-so-perfect voice of his, merely said “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me” and had the gall to suggest that I had been slighted by other men. Well! My vanity has been injured, although I must admit to seeing a certain degree of humour in the situation. It is very unfortunate, though, that Mr Bingley should have such disagreeable friends, and I wonder how it reflects on his person. I suppose he has no choice when it comes to his relatives, and I will admit that I can forgive him for their follies, but Mr Darcy is said to be Mr Bingley’s dearest friend, and his manners do not leave me disposed to like him.
I cannot fathom why my reaction to him is so intense. It is most trying to think that such a man can reduce me to this. In truth, although I am amused by his conceit, I also find my pride wounded by his remarks. I do not understand why this should be so. Perhaps because it would not have been insupportable for him to accede to Mr Bingley’s request, in spite of his protestations to the contrary. After all, the dictates of Hertfordshire are not those of London, and no one would have frowned at him if he had danced with me. Perhaps it was the way he treated me to his disdain, implying that I was inferior to him. He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman’s daughter. Granted, our financial situations differ greatly, but we are both of the gentry. I dislike being judged, and that is precisely what he was doing. I have never been subjected to such manners before. Yet I have never cared for the opinions of others, and so I ponder anew why his attitude disturbs me.
But enough of unpleasant subjects. The recent trend of my writings has been Mr Bingley, and I see no reason to break it now, especially as Mr Darcy and his superior wealth is sadly superseded by his dismal personality. I was pleased by Mr Bingley’s attentions to Jane, I will not pretend otherwise. Not because I wish for Jane to marry for money; indeed, we have often spoken of our desire to marry for love - but because Mr Bingley seems to be a very amiable man, and over the course of the evening, his partiality for Jane was very apparent. He danced with her as often as propriety would allow, and was genuinely interested in her. He was pleasant to me, and our sisters, and I can see no reason to dislike him. Indeed, Jane admires him already, and whilst she loves all people, her praise of Mr Bingley suggests that she is flattered by his attentions and in no way averse to them.
Jane, being the most angelic creature on this earth, also liked Mr Bingley’s sisters. However this does not recommend them to me. She did admit that at first they were disagreeable, but that they became more tolerable on further acquaintance, and she believes that they will make charming neighbours. I did not question her judgement, but Jane does have a tendency to see the best in everyone. For my own part, I am in no way convinced as to the sincerity of the Bingley sisters, and I hope for Jane’s sake that their overtures are indeed genuine. Unfortunately, I fear that they are not. From what I have observed, they pander to Mr Darcy in everything, and if he disapproves of my situation, he must also disapprove of Jane’s. At least he acknowledged her beauty, allowing her to be the only pretty girl in the room. He may be lacking in social grace, but he is not blind. I would be disposed to think much worse of him had he maligned Jane in addition to myself.
The Lucases came to visit today, and I was very pleased to see Charlotte once again. Poor Charlotte is much maligned by Mama for having reached the grand old age of seven-and-twenty without finding herself a husband. Husbands, I think, do not like to be found, and it is hardly Charlotte’s fault if no one has solicited her hand. It is one of the difficulties of being a woman: you may not court a man’s suit, one can only accept or reject what the men of the world offer you. It seems grossly unfair to me, but such is the way of the world. Charlotte is in favour at Longbourn, though, as she brought news about Mr Bingley, who is still Mama’s favourite topic of conversation, as he favoured Jane so much last night. Charlotte told Mama that she had overheard Mr Robinson and Mr Bingley talking about who was the prettiest girl at the assembly, and that Mr Bingley had answered that without a doubt Jane was the most beautiful. How different are his manner from those of his friend. I am still wary, though. Certainly, it appears that Mr Bingley is very taken with Jane, but we do not know the ways of the bon ton2, and I would not wish for her to have her heart broken. He has done no more than favour her as a dance partner; it means nothing at this stage. I am determined not to count my chickens.
Wednesday, 30th October 1811
In return of our visit a few days ago, the Netherfield Ladies called today. Needless to say, it was a most enlightening experience. It was evident that they were not impressed with Longbourn - I daresay it was too simple for their tastes, for they always appear in the London fashions: overdressed, whatever occasion. But perhaps I am too harsh on them; they are ladies of society, and perhaps their choice of attire is perfectly normal in London this season. Here in Hertfordshire though, it appears ridiculous. It was plain that they cared not for the presence of Mama, nor of the girls, but were very solicitous towards Jane and myself, intimating that they would like to further their acquaintance with us. There was so much falsity in their manner, I cannot credit it! Jane is very pleased by their attentions: she perceives them as an illustration of the good characters of our neighbours. I am less convinced. They are supercilious towards everyone; even Jane does not escape their condescension and yet she is so very good as to make disliking her impossible.
Some good does come from their visit, though. I am convinced that Mr Bingley is intrigued by Jane. The manner of his sisters towards her speaks well of his opinion, and he has never been anything other than charming towards her. Clearly he prefers her company to that of anyone else here. I believe that Jane is fast succumbing to his charms and I am very happy for her. Mr Bingley does not seem to be a man who would break her heart, and they are so well suited in temperament that they cannot help but be happy.
Monday, 4th November 1811
I had an interesting visit with Charlotte today. We were talking of Jane and Mr Bingley (who occupy the thoughts of many, it seems), and Charlotte appears concerned that Jane’s happiness with his attentions is not obvious. This is ridiculous, of course, but Charlotte believes that Jane should wear her heart on her sleeve and leave Mr Bingley in no doubt about her feelings. I believe such a course would be folly; it is improper and goes against Jane’s very nature. Charlotte believes that without Jane’s encouragement, Mr Bingley may never do anything more than like her. Well, if that is the case then Mr Bingley does not deserve her affections! He is not a stupid man - I am sure that he will realize that Jane enjoys his company very much; if I can perceive her affection for him then surely he can too!
To be honest, I was quite disturbed by the tone of the conversation. Charlotte made the whole affair sound so business-like and devoid of emotion. But Jane is not acting by design, she truly does feel for Mr Bingley, and she is not so much interested in his material goods as in the man himself. She is in no way certain of her own regard and it would be foolish to try to show feelings she does not have, especially in one so reserved. Jane has danced with Mr Bingley four times, seen him at Netherfield one morning and dined in his company four times: this is hardly enough of an acquaintance to be certain of one’s own heart much less form a lifelong affection. If Mr Bingley is in doubt of Jane’s feelings then she can be in no less doubt of his. They have not had enough opportunity to make out each other’s characters, and I would wish prudence upon them. There is more to marriage than duty, and an ill matched couple will ultimately spend their days in sadness. Dear sweet Jane certainly does not deserve that.
Thursday, 7th November 1811
We had the fortune of seeing the Netherfield party once again today, at a soirée at Lucas Lodge. I say fortune, but I am not convinced that it was so very fortunate. Oh, it was undoubtedly so for Jane, for Mr Bingley is still as attentive towards her as ever he was. For myself, I took little pleasure from their attendance. Perhaps I would not be so inclined, were it not for the peculiar actions of Mr Darcy. Having pronounced me to be only ‘tolerable’ - I will admit that my pride was bruised by his comment – he has now taken to listening to my conversations with others, presumably to find more faults in me. Whilst I refused to allow his manners to deter me, it is most frustrating.
I called him out on it, as far as a lady can do so, but his answer was less than satisfactory and any further discourse we may have had was prevented by Charlotte, who took it upon herself to open up the piano, and to call upon me to entertain the company. I had no real desire to illustrate any more of my shortcomings to these people, my pride is bruised enough as it is, but Charlotte would not take no for an answer, and thus I had no choice but to bend to her wishes. I have no doubt that Mr Darcy took great delight in criticizing my performance, but I have decided that I care little for his opinion. After all, he cares little for the opinions of Meryton, so it is only fair!
As for my sisters, Lydia and Kitty were as lively as ever they are, and poor Mary bore the brunt of their enthusiasm. She is always eager to please; for I fear that here at home she is paid very little attention, and took it upon herself to play the longest concerto of her repertoire. I am loath to criticize my own sister, for in truth she executed it very well, but Lydia and Kitty would have none of it and were not satisfied until she obliged them with some airs. They took it upon themselves to dance with some of the officers of the militia who have recently been encamped in the area. They were really very lively, and as usual, it was necessary to rein in their natural enthusiasm. This task usually falls to Jane and myself, for Mama can sometimes be as bad as the girls. My father’s claim that they are the silliest girls in England may not be justified, but neither is he entirely misguided. I only wish that he would take it upon himself to do something about his daughters’ silliness. Public outings often turn into a farce in the face of my sisters’ youthfulness. Although I do not oppose their being out, for they enjoy these assemblies as much as the next person, I do wish that it was not my lot to ensure their behaviour remained within the bounds of propriety. But thus it is, and thus it always has been and in truth, it does not bother me so very much. It was just vexing to think of Mr Darcy watching with those criticizing eyes of his. As Jane was engaged with Mr Bingley, and Mama has no notion of these things, it fell to me to curb Lydia and Kitty’s enthusiasm. Always in high spirits, Lydia began to forget herself. I felt it best to intervene, but as I was moving in that direction I was waylaid by Sir William.
Sir William is a wonderful man and as Charlotte’s father he deserves much praise, but he does have a tendency towards placing one in unwanted situations. He had been in discourse with Mr Darcy, about what I do not know, and he took it upon himself to offer me as an ideal dance partner to Mr Darcy. Well, I can only imagine what Mr Darcy thought of that! Besides, I promised Mama that I would never dance with him, and I certainly had no desire to do so this evening, especially with a man who was not humoured to give consequence to young ladies slighted by other men! If I had wished to dance, I have no doubt that my sisters would have found me an officer, but as things stood, Sir William had placed me in an awkward position. I disengaged myself as best I could, saying that dancing was not my intention, and then Mr Darcy – MR DARCY of all people – said that he would be honoured to dance with me. I’m sure he was just following propriety; after all, Sir William had given him little choice in the matter. I declined his hand as well, for it would only have been a punishment for him to stand up with me.
The evening passed as such evenings always do after that. I was pleased to see Mr Bingley again paying particular attention to Jane; Mama’s hopes may yet be realized. But we do not really know Mr Bingley; perhaps he merely enjoys the company of pretty women. I cannot fault him for that, but I do not blame Jane for her reticence in showing him her feelings, for if he were just entertaining her for his own amusement and without any serious design at least she will not suffer public humiliation should he abandon her for another. I doubt that this will be the case, however. I sincerely hope that it is not.
Tuesday, 12th November 1811
I am very grieved with Mama. In her enthusiasm to marry Jane to Mr Bingley, she insisted that Jane ride to Netherfield, and poor Jane must have been caught in the rain. It was folly on Mama’s part, but Jane is too sweet to put her foot down. Mama wanted Jane to stay the night at Netherfield, in order that she might see Mr Bingley, and she would not allow Papa to give Jane the carriage, although he would not have been able to help her in any case as the horses were all engaged on the farm. The weather is now of the most appalling kind and I have no doubt that Jane must have been soaked through. I sincerely hope that she is well, but I fear for her health. Mama, of course, was delighted that her plan was executed so successfully.
It has been a trying few days at Longbourn generally. The militia is now firmly encamped in Meryton, and Aunt Phillips is well acquainted with all of the officers, on account of my uncle visiting them all and inviting them for tea. This does not surprise me, for Aunt Phillips is as incorrigible a gossip as Mama. It is not hard to believe that they are related! This would not have affected us at Longbourn were it not for my aunt’s determination to introduce the officers to her nieces. Consequently, Kitty and Lydia have been dreaming of redcoats and heroic deeds and being whisked away by knights in shining armour. It is not healthy to obsess so and I am certain that Papa does not approve. His admonishments are in no way successful, however. Mama is most annoyed by Papa’s declarations, and the girls carry on as they always have. Mary, fortunately, is not affected by this sudden love for officers, but then Mary is little affected by anything other than Fordyce and her pianoforte. It is most troublesome. None of Jane’s efforts, or my own, have managed to pry her away from these pursuits. It is worrying, but at least we know that she is not in danger from lascivious redcoats! Oh, I know young ladies are not supposed to think such things, but I am no fool and Papa’s library is a treasure trove of knowledge. It seems that men of the militia are rather partial to a young girl’s virtue, and I worry that my sisters are too innocent to realize this.
It is still raining and very hard. Jane will have to stay at Netherfield, for Miss Bingley mentioned that the men there are dining with the officers so there is no way she can be sent home in their chaise. Poor Jane I could not bear to spend an evening alone with Mr Bingley’s sisters, but I have no doubt that she will bear it remarkably well. I worry for her though. The weather is at its vilest and there can be no doubt that she was out in it. I trust that the ladies at Netherfield will attend to her needs and that no ill will come of this misadventure, but I am uneasy.
1. Beau Brummel was born in London in 1778. In his day, the prince of dandies; he was patronized by the Prince of Wales, afterwards George IV. Brummel began to be regarded in the circles around the Prince as a virtual oracle on matters related to dress and etiquette. He played a major in popularizing trousers as opposed to knee breeches.
2. The term bon ton comes from the French meaning ‘good tone’, and was used in the Regency era to indicate high society and a sophisticated manner or style. It is often reduced to ton.
Posted on Saturday, 22 May 2004
Wednesday, 13th November 1811
Poor Jane! I am so very vexed with Mama for dearest Jane is presently lying ill here at Netherfield, and Mama is pleased about this situation! It is insupportable! We knew that Jane could not return to Longbourn last night because of the weather, but this morning I received a letter from her, attempting to belittle her illness and ease any worry I might have had for her. To me it was obvious that she would appreciate a familiar face, and indeed, I will admit to being concerned about Miss Bingley’s effectiveness as a nurse, given her distaste for life in Hertfordshire. She simply does not seem to be the type of person who would appreciate looking after a patient. I was therefore determined to visit Netherfield and ascertain Jane’s state for myself. Mama was extremely vexed to learn of my intention, and more so following her understanding that I intended to walk the three miles rather than put Papa out by making use of our carriage. I would not be fit to be seen, she said. My only desire was to see Jane, though, and Jane cares little about a spattering of mud on the hem of one’s petticoat. It is a pity that such cannot be said of other ladies of our acquaintance.
On my arrival at Netherfield, I was shown to the breakfast parlour. I will own that I was very aware that muddy did not do justice to the state of my skirts – yesterday’s rainfall had left the fields particularly dirty, but I had no intention of allowing that to deter me from my aim. Mrs Hurst and Miss Bingley were all astonishment at my endeavour, and I feel that I would not be lying if I said that they were unimpressed by my appearance. Mr Bingley, however, was all charm, and exceedingly worried about dear Jane, which naturally recommended him to me. He was very kind, whereas his sisters were polite, but no more so than propriety demanded. As for Mr Darcy… Mr Darcy said very little, but I fear he was more inclined to support the sisters than their amiable brother. As for Mr Hurst, he was more interested in the coddled eggs than my arrival, and said not one thing to me in the entirety of the interview. If Mrs Hurst were not such a disagreeable person, one would almost feel sorry for her. As it is, I doubt that she notices her husband’s inattention, for she is far too busy belittling all those who cross her way.
When I was finally shown to Jane, I was most concerned, for, in truth, she is really quite poorly. It was clear that she had hoped for my visit, and I was glad that I had ignored Mama’s warnings and made the effort to come. Poor Jane was too ill to converse much though, and beyond expressing her gratitude towards Mr Bingley and his sister for their kindness in hosting her, she said very little. There was very little I could say in response to her praise, and we were perfectly content to remain in silence; Jane desired my company and I wished only to see her well - there was no real need for conversation.
After breakfast, the Bingley sisters joined us and I own that I was impressed by their kindness and caring towards Jane. They were very generous towards her and I was grateful for their solicitude. More particularly, I was grateful for their decision to send for the apothecary. Mr Jones reported that Jane had a violent cold, which is unsurprising given her recent exposure to the elements, and recommended that she remain in bed. He also promised to prescribe some draughts for her. Poor Jane did not object, for she was beginning to feel feverish again, and a headache had been troubling her for much of my visit. Naturally, I could not leave her.
It was with great reluctance that I prepared to return home when the clock struck three, for Jane was too ill for my comfort. Miss Bingley most graciously offered the use of the carriage, but Jane was so unsettled by the prospect of my leaving that she instead invited me to stay at Netherfield. As this allowed me to oversee Jane’s recovery, I accepted and a servant was dispatched to Longbourn for my things.
Jane is sleeping now, thankfully, although she is still quite flushed. I suppose I shall have to attend dinner with the entire party this evening and leave her to her own devices, much as it will pain me to do so. It would be rude not to dine in their company though I would much rather attend to dear Jane.
Thursday, 14th November 1811
With great reluctance, I left Jane for dinner with our hosts at six o’clock last night. I will admit that it was not merely the worry of leaving Jane that left me so reticent, but also the prospect of an entire evening in the company of Mr Darcy as I know that he dislikes me. Mr Bingley’s sisters had improved in my estimation, so it was only he who could have such an effect on me. I wish I knew why that was, for I have never cared for any man’s opinion before now. Indeed, I wonder that I care for Mr Darcy’s. It is most confusing.
Everyone enquired after Jane’s health when I arrived at the drawing room, although Mr Bingley was by far the most concerned. It grieved me that I could not give them a more satisfactory answer, for his face fell when I announced that she was no better. Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst were most sorry to hear of this and several times spoke of how they disliked being ill, and then thought no more of Jane for the rest of the evening. It was with mixed pleasure that I returned to regarding them with my former dislike, for in this instance I would have liked nothing more than to be proven wrong in my estimation of them. But it was not to be.
Throughout the course of the evening, I would have felt very much the intruder were it not for Mr Bingley’s attentiveness and genial nature. He was quite clearly worried about my sister and made every effort to ensure my own comfort. No one else was at all interested in me. Miss Bingley was far too busy fawning over Mr Darcy to be interested in conversation, and Mrs Hurst was hardly any better. I was seated next to Mr Hurst, and once he discovered that I preferred plain food to a ragout, he did not see fit to speak to me. I was, of course, cut to the quick to be judged solely on my estimation of food, but it does appear that Mr Hurst’s pleasures in life come in either the liquid or edible form.
In spite of this lack of attention, I found dinner to be quite revealing. It is clear that Miss Bingley fancies herself partial to Mr Darcy, and it is equally clear that Mr Darcy thinks otherwise. Oh, I do not say that he is rude to her; she is, after all, his friend’s sister, and he always answered her remarks with complete civility, but he never invited anything more. Indeed, he appeared quite uncomfortable, at least in my estimation. It is true that it is very difficult to establish what he is feeling beneath that cold façade of his, but the difference in his attitude to Miss Bingley and his friendly conversation with Mr Bingley could not suggest anything other than frustration at her continuing attentions, surely? I was also amused at Mrs Hurst’s simpering towards the great man himself. I do hope that I never fall so low as to make a fool of myself over a man. It is almost painful to watch, and yet, I found it to be rather addictive. Miss Bingley would fawn, Mrs Hurst would simper and Mr Darcy would ignore them both and sip his wine. But then, I suppose he is used to such attention. He is rumoured to be the wealthiest man in Derbyshire, and I am sure that there are plenty of women who find his material assets very attractive. I have no intention of flattering him though, material assets or no. He believes himself above my company and I have no desire for his. And if escaping from Mr Darcy means escaping from Mr Bingley’s sisters, so much the better. Consequently, I excused myself from the dining room immediately after dinner and returned to Jane.
The respite was not for long though, as Mrs Hurst and Miss Bingley came to sit with us immediately after they had left the dining room, some half an hour after I had adjourned myself. I am amazed by their dual natures; they are all concern when in Jane’s presence, but away from her they spare her condition not a thought. They were soon summoned for coffee, thankfully, which I refused. Jane was still feverish and in truth I was worried about her. It was not until she was sleeping, late in the evening, that I returned to the assembled company, more out of duty than desire.
I discovered the whole party at loo on my arrival. They were obliged to invite me to join them, of course, but I have no doubt that the stakes were too high for my purse, and further, I had no real desire to entertain their company. I did not wish to leave Jane alone for too long, so instead I sat down to read a book. This astonished Mr Hurst, whom I discovered likes gambling almost as much as he does food and drink. He felt it was quite singular of me to ‘prefer reading to cards’, and Miss Bingley suggested that I enjoyed little other than reading. This is quite clearly a falsehood; whilst I enjoy a good book as much as the next person, I enjoy many things. I told her as much, for her remark was clearly a challenge to me. I fear she is one of those women who have to exert her superiority by belittling those she perceives as beneath her. The attention of the party turned away from me once I had located a book, and instead focused on Mr Bingley, who admitted that his own library was sadly lacking, leading his sister to compare his habits with those of Mr Darcy, and consequently Netherfield to Pemberley, which I understand is the name of Mr Darcy’s estate. From Pemberley, we moved to a discussion of Miss Darcy, Mr Darcy’s younger sister, who is apparently very accomplished, particularly on the pianoforte. How much of this is true, and how much of this is a result of Miss Bingley’s embellishment I do not know. What interested me more was the resulting conversation on the values incumbent in an accomplished lady.
Dear Mr Bingley, in his exuberant way, explained how he believed all young ladies to be accomplished. Whilst I am beholden to suggest that this is a slight exaggeration, it is true that there are many young women who are proficient in some art of society or another. Mr Darcy, though, appears to be more discerning in his use of the label and, assisted by Miss Bingley, he asserted that such a woman must have a thorough knowledge of music and singing – how unfortunate for the tone deaf amongst us! – be proficient at drawing and dancing – there is no hope for those with two left feet, then – and also have a good command of foreign languages, which suggests that accomplishments are in direct proportion to wealth, for there are many who could not afford to have their daughters educated in foreign tongues. In addition to this they must possess a certain je ne sais quois – does my ability to speak French make me accomplished, do you think? – in their “air and manner of walking”, to quote Miss Bingley. To this, Mr Darcy added ‘something more substantial in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading’. I am not surprised that he only knows half a dozen such women, for I am sure that I do not know any who possess all of these talents and I aired this view. Miss Bingley naturally had to retaliate suggesting that I am too severe on my sex. I would suggest that she is the severe one, if she requires all this to make an accomplished woman. Both she and Mrs Hurst assert that there are many such women in their acquaintance, but I refuse to believe that they are so superlative in all of these areas. That they are able to execute them effectively, I do not doubt, but to be exceptional in all areas…that is a rare thing indeed. Soon after this discourse, I left their company, and only returned very briefly as Jane had taken a turn for the worse. Mr Bingley offered to send for Mr Jones, and I agreed that if Jane had not recovered by this morning then he would be sent for. Fortunately, she was improved by the time Mr Bingley inquired after her, and we are now awaiting a call from Mama to establish whether it would be possible to return to Longbourn
I have never in my life been so embarrassed! Mama was truly unbelievable in her behaviour towards Mr Darcy, and scarcely less vulgar in her attentions to Mr Bingley, though it pains me to say so. She believes that Jane is far too ill to be moved – and indeed, that is probably correct – and made much of the fact that we would have to trespass on Mr Bingley’s kindness for a while longer, and then continued to wax lyrical about how very ill Jane was. I do not disagree with her assessment, but it was unnecessary for her to make so much of it, especially when the whole company is well aware of Jane’s situation. And then, to compound my embarrassment, she informed Mr Bingley that neither Kitty, Mary, Lydia nor me were anything in comparison to Jane. This may be true, but it is not the thing to say in polite company. I fear that she spends too long gossiping with my aunt to realize just how her actions can be interpreted. She chastised me for trying to salvage the situation – helped out by Mr Bingley, who is growing daily in my estimation – and then railed at Mr Darcy when he commented that country society was limited. For once, I believe he was actually trying to be of use; no doubt he was embarrassed by Mama’s speeches, but she would insist on refuting his assertions and announced to all and sundry that we dine with four-and-twenty families. I saw Miss Bingley’s reaction, and it was mortifying. I did my best to divert Mama, but all my mention of Charlotte did was allow Mama to ramble on about how plain Charlotte was and how unfortunate Lady Lucas was that Charlotte was not married and how her daughters did not have to work in the kitchens, for we have servants, and she then compounded the problem by comparing poor Charlotte’s looks with Jane’s. It was painfully obvious that she was attempting to match Mr Bingley with my sister - I do not believe that there can be any doubt of that.
When Mama had quite finished with her rampage of ill-thought remarks, it was Lydia’s turn to disgrace me, and this she achieved by demanding a ball of Mr Bingley! A ball, while Jane was lying upstairs ill! Mr Bingley responded well, even going so far as allowing Lydia to specify the date once Jane was well, but the damage was done.
Friday, 15th November 1811
After the events of Mama’s visit yesterday, we spent our time much as we had on Wednesday. Jane continued to improve, and Mr Bingley’s sisters once again spent some time with her. In the evening, I joined the party in the drawing room once more. The loo table did not appear though. Mr Darcy appeared to be writing a letter to his sister, and Miss Bingley was distracting him as often as possible. He bore her interjections with an equanimity that surprised me, although as she is his hostess, I suppose politeness demanded that he remain civil. Mr Hurst and Mr Bingley were playing piquet, and surprisingly, Mrs Hurst was watching them. Perhaps she was not so interested in Mr Darcy’s fine even hand as Miss Bingley appeared to be.
Once again, Mr Darcy and I engaged in a verbal duel, this time over the nature of Mr Bingley’s character. Mr Darcy, you see, believes that his friend’s humility with regard to his own handwriting – which is apparently unintelligible – is, in fact, an indirect form of boasting. Whilst their argument was intriguing, I felt compelled to rise to Mr Bingley’s defense, which led to a standoff between Mr Darcy and myself. Eventually, Mr Bingley intervened, and the argument concluded without any bloodshed.
Mr Bingley then took it upon himself to request that his sisters and I provide the company with some musical entertainment. Following the usual dance of courtesies, Miss Bingley offered the opportunity to play first to me; I deferred, she acceded. The fact that she was already halfway to the pianoforte meant that any other decision on my part would have been ill-bred is irrelevant. So, whilst Miss Bingley played, and Mrs Hurst sang, I considered the scores available. I had located Mozart’s Viennese Sonatas, and was considering those, when I felt a prickling on the back of my neck. Covertly, I made an effort to see what was causing this, and there was Mr Darcy, staring at me with an almost frightening intensity. Quite what it was that caused him to stare so, I do not know. I could not possibly be an object for his admiration, he had been perfectly clear on that score, but to have him looking at me because he disliked me seemed strange, to say the least. I must conclude that I was the most reprehensible person in the room in his eyes, hence his preoccupation with my appearance. I was not terribly concerned by this, for I care nothing for his opinion.
However, then he surprised me. Miss Bingley had been playing some Italian love songs – unsurprising, given her obsession with ‘dear Mr Darcy’, but she had selected a Scottish Air to break the monotony. She had not been playing for long when Mr Darcy approached me and offered to dance a reel with me! I would not allow his actions to disconcert me, though; he was clearly trying to despise my taste if I said yes, so I declined. He was very gallant in response to my refusal, which surprised me as I had expected him to be affronted. But then, Mr Darcy is supposed to be a gentleman, so perhaps it is not so surprising after all.
Saturday, 16th November
Jane left her chamber yesterday evening, to my great delight, and I am now entertaining the hope that she will be well enough to return home today. After dinner, Jane came to the drawing room and I have never seen Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst so agreeable. Undoubtedly they were pleased because her recovery meant that our departure was imminent, for I cannot credit that they would have any real joy in Jane’s recovery given their indifference to her when they are not with her. Even so, it was easy for me to appreciate how they could gain friends in the ton, they are certainly charming women when they have a mind to be. Then the gentlemen appeared, and the amiability of the company was reduced, as Mr Bingley’s sisters were far more interested in Mr Darcy than in Jane. Mr Bingley made up for this, I believe, for he was full of very genuine joy at her recovery, and spent quite half an hour ascertaining Jane’s comfort.
It was some time later that Miss Bingley surprised me in asking me to take a turn around the room with her. She was quite clearly bored with the situation; I believe she was only attempting to read because Mr Darcy was – and no doubt because of Mr Darcy’s words on the importance of reading in an accomplished woman – and she gave up in favour of walking. Not that her movement attracted Mr Darcy’s attention, which was undoubtedly her aim given the covert glances she aimed at him through her eyelashes. No doubt she thought it was sweet, but to my mind, it was repulsive. Why must women throw themselves in the path of men of fortune? I am sure they prefer a woman’s natural manner to those she affects in an effort to catch them. Besides, it is misleading to allow a man to assume that you are one thing when in fact you are quite another. But I digress; Mr Darcy did not notice Miss Bingley’s machinations, or at least, he did not acknowledge them, and so she invited me to join her. There was nothing for me to do other than to agree; one simply does not refuse one’s hostess in these matters. Strangely, my admittance to her company drew Mr Darcy’s attention – he was probably well aware of her dislike of me, and consequently surprised by our apparent intimacy – and Miss Bingley invited him to join our party. He declined. Apparently our behaviour suggested either that we were engaged in exchanging confidences – Miss Bingley and me, exchanging confidences? – or that we were trying to display our figures to their best possible advantage! Well, Miss Bingley affected her false incredulity, and suggested that we punish him. In my experience, our best solution would be to laugh at him, but Miss Bingley declared that such an action was impossible for Mr Darcy is a “man without fault”. He refuted such a claim, but stated that he did his utmost to avoid weaknesses of the human character. Such as pride and vanity, I suggested. He said that vanity was indeed a weakness, but that pride was acceptable if kept in regulation. From this, I believe he thinks he is in control of his pride, which is, in my opinion, not the case. He did own that he has a resentful temper, and that his friendship once lost is lost forever. But that is not a fault that can be laughed at. He suggested that everybody has some defect that education cannot overcome, and that mine was to willfully misunderstand everyone. This in response to my suggestion that he has a propensity to hate everyone! I believe Miss Bingley was quite unnerved by our conversation, for she had no part in it, which was her aim in gaining his attention after all, and with that in mind, she proposed that her sister entertain us with some music.
I have written to Mama to request that they send a carriage from Longbourn, but it is not forthcoming. Apparently it cannot be spared, but if I know Mama it is much more likely that she does not want Jane to leave Netherfield before Tuesday – she has allowed that we can have the carriage then – and is merely creating an excuse to effect such an occurrence. Jane and I therefore agreed to request that we might borrow Mr Bingley’s carriage with the intention of leaving today. Mr Bingley pressed us to remain until tomorrow though, and Jane felt it best that we accept. I shall be here for only one more day, and then we shall return to Longbourn. Nothing could make me happier. The same cannot be said for Mr Bingley, who is very concerned about Jane and wants her to stay longer, but we refuse to inconvenience them for any longer than is strictly necessary. No doubt Mama will be vexed at our decision to take matters into our own hands, but then it is her own fault, for while she may wish to throw Jane in Mr Bingley’s path, Jane wishes only to return home and be with our family again. I confess that my feelings coincide with hers.
Sunday, 17th November 1811
We are finally home! Papa is extremely pleased that we have returned and I fear he has secluded himself in the library for the majority of our absence. I do not blame him as Lydia and Kitty are still speaking only of redcoats, and Mary is bent on sermonizing, not to mention Mama’s nerves. If Papa is pleased to see us, there is no doubt that we are pleased to have returned. Is it really only four days that we were away? It seems like an eternity. I was relieved to be free of most of the Netherfield party – Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst and their condescension, Mr Hurst and his port, Mr Darcy and his pride – indeed, I feel sorry for Mr Bingley who has to live with them all! I could not be so charitable as he! In that, and many other regards, he is the perfect match for my dear Jane.
Yesterday saw more odd behaviour from Mr Darcy. I have now become so loathsome that he cannot bear to even look at me. We were alone together for half an hour in the library, and he barely acknowledged me. I was not upset by his lack of discourse – after the common courtesies were observed, he studiously ignored me. I wonder what I have done to cause this sudden change in behaviour, not that it concerns me overly much. Men of great fortune can, after all, afford to give offence wherever they go. Then again, I am but a country girl, and clearly below his notice. But he is definitely an enigma, one day staring, the next day not. I do not think that my behaviour has changed in any way, so the problem must lie with him. Fortunately, his lack of conversation suited me, as I wished to enjoy Milton uninterrupted. Still, I was quite relieved when Jane came and took me from his presence.
We sat with the Netherfield party at church this morning, as it seemed only polite. I was amused by the varying levels of devotion that they displayed. Mr Darcy seemed to be devout; he scarcely needed his prayer book, and sang very well. Mr Bingley treated the service as he treats everything; that is to say, he enjoyed it, although I suspect he was more interested in taking in my sister’s looks than listening to the vicar’s sermon. Mr Hurst appeared to fall asleep after the Gospel, and Mrs Hurst spent most of the service elbowing him to ensure he stood up at the appropriate times. As for Miss Bingley, well, she spent most of the service complaining about the cold, the hardness of the seats, and the dullness of the sermon. I was very tempted to stuff my handkerchief into her mouth, as we used to do to poor Mary when we were younger and did not know better, but I am aware that such behaviour now would be reprehensible. Not that Miss Bingley would not have deserved it; it is clear that she views the church as a way of keeping up appearances and allowing the masses to feast on the benevolence of the gentry. And she certainly looked the part, with her feathers and her ridiculously adorned dress, nose up in the air. It was almost comical. I pray that I shall never look like that, not that it is likely. There are precious few beacons of society who would marry someone with a mere fifty pounds for a dowry, and I am sure that most of those would not respect me, nor would I love them. I will probably die an old maid. I would rather that than marry for anything other than love.
Posted on Wednesday, 7 July 2004
Monday, 18th November 1811
At breakfast today Papa announced that we were to expect a visitor, none other than our cousin, Mr Collins, unto whom Longbourn is entailed. Imagine Mama’s anguish! She does not – or will not – comprehend the nature of an entail. It is not Mr Collins’ fault that my parents were not blessed with a son. However, I will admit that it was somewhat confusing to learn that a man whom my father had never even met had invited himself to our home. Perhaps Mama was not wholly incorrect in her assumption that he is interested in surveying his future estate. But I shall not dwell on such things; it is too morbid!
Mr Collins, I fear, is not a sensible man. It did not take much time for me to ascertain that his primary objective in coming here is to find a wife. And he has set his sights on Jane, it would seem! Poor Jane! He truly is rather odious; obsessed with his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourg. Lady Catherine features in every other sentence that leaves his lips! Indeed, I am surprised that he is not propositioning her! It is quite painful to listen to him wax lyrical about the beauties of Rosings Park.
After dinner Mr Collins took it upon himself to read to us. Well, in fairness Papa invited him to do so. Mr Collins refused to read a novel – perish the thought! – and instead decided upon Fordyce’s Sermons! Nothing could be more certain of losing the attention of his audience and it did not take Lydia long to interrupt him. Needless to say, Mr Collins was very offended and refused to read another word. Although Jane and I were obliged to chastise Lydia for the sake of propriety, I have to admit that secretly I thanked her for her indiscretion. Fordyce is not amongst my favourite authors!
It could be an interesting few weeks, I think. Mr Collins is amusing to study, if somewhat disconcerting on occasion. I have to admit that I would not choose him to accompany me in company although I fear that decision is not in my hands. With the entail over our heads, I fear Mama will do everything she can to encourage him to settle upon one of us. I simply hope that she does not believe it should be me!
Tuesday, 19th November 1811
We went to Meryton today. Nothing out of the ordinary, I know, but something occurred that has me intrigued. On our arrival in Meryton, Kitty and Lydia were naturally more interested in the redcoats than our cousin. In truth I do not blame them, for his solicitous nature can be somewhat wearing. I confess, though, that my own attention soon wandered from him on spying a strange gentleman with Mr Denny. This gentleman turned out to be a Mr Wickham and I could see Lydia’s brain turning when it was announced that he had purchased a commission in the militia. But the real surprise was when we encountered Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy, who were apparently on their way to Longbourn to inquire after Jane. Mr Darcy was his usual self until he spied Mr Wickham. Then he behaved most strangely indeed. First, he lost his colour and then he barely acknowledged Mr Wickham’s greeting. I am sure I will not settle until I know the truth behind their relationship, for I am sure there is more to their acquaintance than meets the eye.
Thursday, 21st November 1811
Last night was most enlightening. I was fortunate enough to secure an audience with Mr Wickham and, with no prompting on my part, he related the entirety of his history with Mr Darcy. He has been used very ill indeed! Mr Darcy is truly not worthy of the title of gentleman! He has tricked Mr Wickham out of his inheritance through nothing more than jealousy and spite. I do not know how Mr Wickham bears it! He is all that is charming and good and so different to Mr Darcy. Jane believes that there must be some misunderstanding; for if Mr Darcy were as bad as Mr Wickham makes out then surely Mr Bingley would not be his friend. But Wickham has told me that Mr Darcy can please where he chooses and no doubt Mr Bingley has been deceived by him. I had never imagined that Mr Darcy’s pride could go as far as this! It is insupportable! Insufferable! I can scarce believe it, yet I know it to be true. Why would Mr Wickham lie? His account is too detailed and matches too well with the Mr Darcy that I know to be false. The poor, poor man!
Monday, 25th November 1811
It has been raining all weekend and I am miserable cooped up in the house. I long to walk for miles, to take solace in nature. Instead I have to deal with Mama and her exclamations about the upcoming ball at Netherfield, the silliness of Lydia and Kitty, and the preaching of Mr Collins. If it were not for Jane, I do believe that I would go mad! Papa is hiding in his library for the most part, not that I blame him. I wish the rain would stop, if only for an hour, to allow me to get away from the house. Mama is convinced that the ball is being held for Jane and that Mr Bingley will propose very soon and we can scarcely keep her contained. Poor Jane is dealing with her very well but I have no doubt she too longs for a time when we are no longer confined.
I need to get away from Longbourn, to have time alone with my thoughts. Mr Wickham’s story remains foremost in my mind, to think that Mr Darcy is well respected in his own circles and yet has been responsible for so much misfortune. I am angry and, for some reason, confused. I know Mr Wickham’s story is true and yet Jane is adamant that Mr Darcy cannot be so very bad. He is a friend of Mr Bingley, who is goodness itself. I know that I believe Mr Bingley to be deceived. But thinking on it, it seems an injustice to Mr Bingley that I believe such, for surely he is intelligent enough to choose his friends well. But Mr Wickham’s account is too detailed to be doubted and his story matches up with the proud Mr Darcy that we know here in Hertfordshire. Nobody likes him, excepting his party of course, and I am loathe to take the recommendation of Miss Bingley to heart. But Mr Bingley is a different matter. How can Mr Darcy deceive him so?
And on top of this, there is the spectre of Mr Collins. He is amusing in many respects and certainly not sensible but I fear that Mama has decided that he ought to court me. I have no wish for such a relationship; I truly cannot imagine loving a man such as he. But Mama thinks only of security and the entail. It is true that if one of us were to marry Mr Collins then the security of the rest would be guaranteed but I must be very selfish, for I do not wish to be the sacrificial lamb. Nor do I believe any of my sisters wish to be the ‘olive branch’ that our cousin spoke of so eloquently in his letter. Certainly I would not be suited to life as the pastor’s wife and the same holds true for Mary, Kitty and Lydia. Jane is the only one of us with patience enough to bear such a life and I would not wish Mr Collins on her, particularly not when she is so taken with Mr Bingley. Mama is calling; Mr Collins is probably once more in need of an attentive audience. I must go and hope for sun tomorrow.
Wednesday 27th November 1811
I have never been so embarrassed in all my life as I was at the ball yesterday! It all started well enough; Mr Bingley made his pleasantries to Jane and was his usual charming self, even if his sisters exuded false charm. But from the moment the band began the first dance things began to go downhill. Mr Collins had claimed the first two dances with me. I could hardly have refused him, although I cursed myself for asking if it would be proper for him to dance, as he is a clergyman; that is what prompted his solicitation, I am sure. How I regretted that innocent comment last night when it became apparent that Mr Collins was not the proficient dancer he claimed to be. He spent the whole set apologizing for his inattention but never paid any mind to the movement of the dance and by the end of it I was thoroughly mortified. No doubt Mr Darcy took great delight in laughing at my misfortune. I do wish he would not stare so – it is most discomfiting.
There was a brief respite when I danced with an officer, Lieutenant Jameson, who was happy to talk of Mr Wickham. He is universally liked by the regiment, which does not surprise me in the least as he is so very charming. Mr Wickham was not in attendance at the ball; Mr Denny suggested that he viewed it better to avoid Mr Darcy. It seems a gross injustice to me that a man so wronged should have to avoid his nemesis, but Mr Darcy is a powerful man and Mr Bingley’s friend besides, and as he is Mr Bingley’s guest, his right of attendance is greater than Mr Wickham’s.
Imagine my surprise when during a conversation with dear Charlotte, Mr Darcy applied for my hand! I was so disconcerted by this request that I accepted him! How I wish I had not but there was no way of backing out. It was very vexing for I promised myself that I would never dance with him after his infamous comment at the assembly. If I am ‘not handsome enough to tempt him’, then I have no wish to be his partner. Unfortunately I accepted his invitation to be just that. Charlotte believes that Mr Darcy may be an agreeable man and that I am a fool if I slight him in favour of Mr Wickham. But Charlotte does not understand that I could never like a man who had been such an agent of misfortune! It is intolerable to even contemplate it.
Our dance was awkward, as I had expected it to be. Mr Darcy stood in silence and I was at a loss as to what to say, especially as he was undoubtedly studying me for faults. It was most uncomfortable! In the end I could not bear it and made some trifling comment about the dance, hoping to at least converse with him. He was not a willing accomplice though and I had to drag any speech from his lips with prompting. His countenance soon changed when I made reference to Mr Wickham. He was very disparaging about him and his air of hauteur became even more pronounced, if such a thing is possible. The dance progressed in much the same manner; Mr Darcy was not forthcoming about his relationship with Mr Wickham, and I remained uncomfortable throughout.
No sooner had Mr Darcy relinquished my hand when my senses were attacked by a vision of lace and silk. Miss Bingley looked quite well in her ball gown and I am sure that she was aware of it. She swooped down on me and talked to me in that irritating way of hers, as if we were intimate. ‘So, Miss Eliza,’ says she – oh how I hate that she calls me that! I have never been fond of that particular diminutive and I do not recall ever giving her permission to call me anything other than my given name. ‘I hear you are quite taken with George Wickham.’ Where she gets her information from I do not know. And I am not taken with Mr Wickham. I am sympathetic to his situation, certainly, and I find him to be an agreeable man but I have no such designs on him. Miss Bingley informed me that Mr Wickham was the son of Mr Darcy’s steward. Mr Darcy, according to Miss Bingley, has been all that is good to Mr Wickham though Mr Wickham has treated him in a ‘most infamous manner’. Infamous! Well that is true, I suppose, although I would say that Mr Darcy is the man in the wrong in this instance. She went on to pity me for learning of my ‘favourite’s guilt’. What guilt, may I ask? To her his guilt and his descent are one and the same and I told her as much. Jane later told me that Mr Bingley knew of problems between Mr Darcy and Mr Wickham but none of the particulars, something Miss Bingley had insinuated. So I am no further to discovering the truth of the matter than ever I was, although Mr Wickham’s readiness to discuss it, coupled with the tight-lipped manners of Mr Darcy, suggests that Mr Darcy has something to hide. I am still inclined to believe Mr Wickham, for nothing has challenged his story.
The embarrassment did not end there, though. Mr Collins, having learnt that Mr Darcy was none other than the nephew of his esteemed patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourg, took it upon himself to talk to that gentleman. Without an introduction! If only the floor had opened up and swallowed me then and there – such behaviour is not condoned by polite society, even in clergymen. Then my mother was waxing lyrical about Jane and Mr Bingley, talking as though they were already engaged and all about how we would be thrown into the path of other rich men. My efforts to shush her were in vain, although Mr Darcy was sitting opposite us and was no doubt treated to a wonderful rendition of what my mother thinks of him. Mama really must learn to modulate her voice!
The final insult came when Mr Bingley called for entertainment and Mary made for the piano as though her life depended on it. Poor Mary; she tries too hard and if she had not decided to sing, I am sure that there would not have been a problem but sing she did and it was painful to watch. I am sure that the whole neighbourhood was laughing at her efforts and she does not deserve that. Mr Bingley’s sisters were making gestures to each other, illustrating their derision, and Mr Darcy looked very imposing. I was vexed with the sisters; Mary may not be particularly gifted but I was taught that polite ladies are not so rude as to discuss another’s shortcomings in public, whether it be vocally or otherwise. I looked to Papa for help and he stopped Mary after her second song with some patter about letting other ladies exhibit. If the Netherfield party thought us beneath them before, their opinion must now be cemented.
The final injustice came when Mama insisted on remaining at Netherfield until the rest of the company had departed. We were quite the last to leave and how I wished that we had been the first.
Thurdsay 28th November 1811
Finally! A chance to catch my breath! Yesterday was a living nightmare for Mr Collins took it upon himself to propose marriage to me. To me, of all people! I have said it before but it bears reiterating: I am not cut from the right cloth to be the wife of a clergyman, especially when said clergyman is an obsequious fool. I’m sure I should not think such things, especially of a relative, but in truth I cannot help it. Mr Collins may be amusing but he is also embarrassing. And his proposal! There was no way out of it; Mama saw to that! Of course she wanted the union so that is not surprising. Even so, I had hoped that there might be some way out, for it was apparent early on that the real reason for my cousin’s visit to Hertfordshire was wife hunting.
I could never have accepted him though. His proposal was a farce and one that I do not think I will ever forget – although I suspect one does not generally forget one’s first offer of marriage. He waffled inanely about his reasons for wanting a wife and when I refused him, he put it down to feminine modesty. No matter how often I tried to explain that ‘no’ means no, he remained insistent that I would marry him. After all, he will not reproach me for my lack of fortune as he is clearly an ideal match!
I suppose that financially the marriage would have been a good one but there is more to life than riches and my own parents’ marriage has taught me the importance of respect in such a partnership. I could never respect Mr Collins as a husband and he would never understand me as a wife, so we were destined to failure from the start.
Mama was distraught, of course, and talked of forcing me to marry Mr Collins. I know she only wants what is best for us, and I love her for it, but it saddens me that she cannot see that marriage to Mr Collins would not benefit me in any way. She even tried to bring Papa in on the act but fortunately he knows me well enough to understand that marriage to Mr Collins would be the death of me. I believe that Papa does not wish for Mr Collins as a son-in-law either! So when Mama announced that she would never speak to me again if I refused Mr Collins, Papa said that he would never speak to me again if I married my cousin. Mama was, of course, disconsolate but no doubt she will recover in time. Thankfully dear Charlotte took Mr Collins off for dinner at Lucas Lodge before I could be made to see the error of my ways!
I have to admit that this is not the kind of proposal I had been dreaming of! I suppose it is an amusing situation, although it would be more so if I had not been subject to Mr Collins’ professions of affection, or rather, the lack thereof. It was nothing like the pretty proposals one reads in novels but then I have a suspicion that situations in novels are grossly exaggerated. Nonetheless, I defy anyone to receive a more unorthodox offer of marriage than that which I was offered this morning!
Speaking of marriage, Jane received a letter from Caroline Bingley this morning announcing that the Netherfield party has left for London and that they have no intention of ever returning to Hertfordshire. Of course the message was couched in flowery sentiments professing friendship towards Jane but it was so insincere! Miss Bingley perceives us to be beneath her and in spite of her talk of painful separations, I know that she will not miss Jane even half so much as Jane shall miss her. Jane does not have a deceitful bone in her body and she truly believes that Miss Bingley is her friend.
I am remaining positive though, for Miss Bingley’s letter only stated her views on the party’s actions and I remain firm in the belief that Mr Bingley holds Jane is a very high esteem and will return to Netherfield to seek her hand. I do not wish this for monetary reasons – I am no fortune hunter – but rather because I believe that such an action will result in the greatest of happiness both for my dear sister and for Mr Bingley himself. Truly I have never seen a couple so well matched. No one who has seen them together could possibly doubt their affection. Miss Bingley wishes for her brother to marry Miss Darcy, who is quite ten times richer and grander than us, but she cannot dictate the ways of the heart.
Saturday, 30th November 1811
At last! We are free of Mr Collins; he has returned to Hunsford and Lady Catherine. She is very welcome to him for he has only caused problems here at Longbourn. Mama refuses to speak to me and is generally fractious, always talking of her nerves. I believe Papa finds it amusing, but he does not have to deal with it. He can lock himself away in his study, whereas poor Jane has to pander to Mama’s every wish for naturally she does not want to have me in her presence!
I had to go and speak with Papa about my refusal of Mr Collins’ offer when Mama’s attitude became rather upsetting. Papa remains firm that he should not wish such a marriage on me and that my mother will come around in time. I sincerely hope so. Mr Collins voiced his wish to return soon so perhaps she will plan to marry him to Mary, who is by far the best suited of us to a life such as his. Mind you, I do not wish Mr Collins on any of my sisters. If Mary entertains hopes for him that is one thing but if Mama tries to force his attentions on her then I am sure that Papa will put his foot down once again. In the meantime, though, Mama is happy to plot the rescue of Longbourn and I am pleased to be out of it.
Sunday, 1st December 1811
I cannot believe it! Charlotte has announced that she is engaged. Engaged to Mr Collins, of all people. I thought she was being uncommonly generous; she has kept him out of our hair as much as possible ever since his proposal to me. I never imagined this, though! I am thankful that Papa did not force me into a marriage with the man if his affections can so easily switch alliances.
Charlotte insists that she is not a romantic, that she only wants security and that she is too old to be fussy. Even so, I had thought better of her than to accept my cousin. She believes that she will be happy with him, that they will live a comfortable life. I wish that I could be so sure. Of course I wish her every happiness imaginable; she deserves it. But I wonder at her ready acceptance of being second best. Third, in truth, for I am sure that Mr Collins had set his cap at Jane before it became apparent that her interest lies with Mr Bingley.
I do not know what to make of this affair. It seems that ever since Mr Collins arrived at Longbourn we have been living in some kind of madness, of a sort that is usually engendered only in French novels. Is this what I have to look forward to, I wonder, a life of desperation, a wish to be ‘rescued’ by a man – any man? I do not think so. I would rather not marry than be in Charlotte’s situation. I would rather die a pauper than sell myself for the sake of security. Perhaps I am a romantic, as Charlotte says, but I have my pride and I will not allow anyone to turn me into a commodity to be bartered for. Not even myself.
Tuesday, 3rd December 1811
I have been musing on the theme of love a lot lately, for obvious reasons, and yet I can come to no conclusions about it. The Bible talks of love as patient and kind, but the love that I witness around me is not that at all – at least not the love that I witness between the couples I am acquainted with. And yet, love is one of the prerequisites of the marriage service. One promises to ‘love and cherish’ or ‘love, honour and obey’. The priest does not stand up at the front of the church and ask if the bride respects her husband nor if the husband can perceive the good qualities of his wife, although no doubt these are things that contribute to the relationship. When one marries, one promises to love.
Are all the marriages in our society farces, then? For I can think of precious few couples that love each other in the manner that Corinthians1 would have them do so. Or perhaps it is not so much the Biblical equation of love that I wish for – although I find the concept offered by St Paul to be most gratifying – but rather the romance of Shakespeare.
But then there are so many types of love illustrated even there. There is the love of Romeo and Juliet2 , all-consuming – perhaps too much so. There is the unrequited love of Orsino for Olivia3 , the jealous love of Othello for Desdemona4, and the trusting love she has for him. Is love truly as explosive as this? I do not know for I have never been in love.
Why must we marry for convenience’s sake? Why can we not allow our hearts to dictate our choice? Why is society so confined? Why must Charlotte settle for Mr Collins because she has little fortune and, at seven-and-twenty, has been relegated to being an old maid? How can Mr Bingley love Jane but have that loved frowned upon because Jane does not have social connections and because we are poor in comparison to the ladies of London? More to the point, why are there so many mistresses in the upper ranks of society. Oh, young ladies are not supposed to know of such things but I am no fool. The aristocracy marry for fortune and then find solace in the arms of another. Surely that is not Christian behaviour and surely they would be better off marrying the person who can bring them comfort and peace rather than gold and silver? Why are pieces of metal more important that what individuals feel for each other?
I don’t know the answers to any of my questions and I don’t know where to look for them. I am sure that, if I were to voice my confusion, I would become the laughing stock of society for everyone knows that nothing is more important than fortune! But money cannot but happiness and that something that the poorest of the poor can enjoy simply by virtue of being able to follow their heart.
Saturday, 7th December 1811
Mr Bingley has not yet returned from London, and I must own that I am beginning to worry. Not that Mr Bingley was playing Jane for a fool, for the admiration and affection he had for her were so obvious that even the village fool could have noticed them, but that his sisters and friend will be successful in keeping him away from Hertfordshire and my sister. It does not do him credit for me to think so, I know, but Mr Bingley is human and the combined attractions of Miss Darcy and London, together with the strictures of his family and friends, may conspire to keep him away from us. I sincerely hope that my fears are unjustified for Jane is so desperately unhappy that my heart breaks to see her. Mama is not helping for daily she prattles on about Mr Bingley and how he must return for he is ‘so in love with Jane’. I do not dispute the latter but talk of Mr Bingley only pierces Jane’s heart even more than ever. I shall hope for the best, though, and that Mr Bingley’s business has taken longer than expected and that he will return and make my sister’s heart whole once again.
Monday, 16th December 1811
Mr Collins has returned. That simple statement says so much! Hopefully, though, he will be spending much of his time with the Lucases for Mama is in no humour to entertain him at Longbourn after he abandoned her daughters in favour of Charlotte. Not that Mama’s ill humour has any effect on my cousin, he is far too busy professing his undying love for his fiancée, never mind that only days before asking for her hand he was courting mine!
Tuesday, 17th December 1811
Today Jane received another letter from Caroline Bingley. I hesitate to call that woman a lady after her efforts in the missive. Poor Jane’s hopes have been completely dashed; Mr Bingley is settled in London for the whole winter and his only regret is that he did not pay his respects to his friends in Hertfordshire. Mr Bingley, it seems, is staying with Mr Darcy – who undoubtedly disapproved of his attentions towards Jane and has taken steps to prevent it – and much of Miss Bingley’s letter was describing her rapture at her brother’s relationship with the Darcys and singing the praises of Miss Darcy. I do not believe Miss Bingley’s assertion that Mr Bingley is partial to Miss Darcy. However, if he is, then Mr Darcy would be a fool to allow it for any man whose affections are so changeable cannot be a desirable suitor. I am most irritated with Mr Bingley, though, for being so willing to allow others to change the course of his actions. I could have dealt with his departure were it not for the fact that poor dear Jane is really suffering as a result of it. It really is too bad of him to raise her hopes and then dash them so effectively. I blame his sisters more than Mr Bingley himself but he is a man of independent means and no doubt if he was more forceful in his opinions, then those of his sisters would be irrelevant.
How I wish that Netherfield had never been let, that we had all continued to live as we always have, and that Jane remained heart whole and fancy free. Ever since Mr Bingley arrived there has been nothing but trouble in the area. I wonder if I shall ever forgive him for hurting my sister so.
1 This is a reference to St Paul’s letters to the Corinthians in the New Testament, which contains a complete chapter dedicated to the nature of love.
2 Romeo and Juliet, one of the most famous couples in history, are the protagonists of Shakespeare’s play of the same name. They come from families who are sworn to feud with each other, and against all odds fall in love and marry. Ultimately, their families’ interference leads to both of them committing suicide, Romeo because he believes that Juliet is dead and Juliet because she cannot live without Romeo.
3 Orsino and Olivia are two of the four main protagonists in the Shakespearean comedy Twelfth Night. Orsino believes himself to be in love with Olivia, who has sworn not to allow any man to woo her after the deaths of her father and brother. The play opens with Orsino lamenting this very fact.
4 This is a reference to Othello by William Shakespeare. Othello is a Moor (black man), who moves in the upper echelons of Venetian society, due to his status as a General. Like most of Shakespeare’s tragedies, Othello is focused on a particular vice, in this case jealousy. Othello’s adjutant, Iago, leads Othello to believe that his wife is cheating on him with his former second in command. In a fit of jealousy, Othello kills Desdemona, and when he learns of his mistake, commits suicide.