Chapter V

WITHIN A SHORT WALK of Longbourn lived a family with whom the Bennets were particularly intimate. Sir William Lucas had been formerly in trade in Meryton, where he had made a tolerable fortune, and risen to the honor of knighthood by an address to the king during his mayoralty. The distinction had, perhaps, been felt too strongly. It had given him a disgust to his business and to his residence in a small market-town; and quitting them both, he had removed with his family to a house about a mile from Meryton, denominated from that period Lucas Lodge; where he could think with pleasure of his own importance, and, unshackled by business, occupy himself solely in being civil to all the world. For though elated by his rank, it did not render him supercilious; on the contrary, he was all attention to everybody. By nature inoffensive, friendly and obliging, his presentation at St. James' had made him courteous.

Lady Lucas was a very good kind of woman, not too clever to be a valuable neighbor to Mrs. Bennet. They had several children. The eldest of them, a sensible, intelligent young woman, about twenty-seven, was Elizabeth's intimate friend.

That the Miss Lucases and the Miss Bennets should meet to talk over a ball was absolutely necessary, and the morning after the assembly brought the former to Longbourn to hear and to communicate.

“You began the evening well, Charlotte,” said Mrs. Bennet, with civil, self-command, to Miss Lucas. “You were Mr. Bingley's first choice.”

“Yes; but he seemed to like his second better.”

“Oh, you mean Jane, I suppose, because he danced with her twice. To be

sure, that did seem as if he admired her—indeed, I rather believed he did—I heard something about it—but I hardly know what—something about Mr. Robinson.”

“Perhaps you mean what I overheard between him and Mr. Robinson; did not I mention it to you? Mr. Robinson's asking him how he liked our Meryton assemblies, and whether he did not think there were a great many pretty women in the room, and which he thought the prettiest? and his answering immediately to the last question, ‘Oh, the eldest Miss Bennet, beyond a doubt; there cannot be two opinions on that point.’“

“Upon my word! Well, that was very decided, indeed—that does seem as if—but, however, it may all come to nothing, you know.”

“My overhearings were more to the purpose than yours, Eliza,” said Charlotte. “Mr. Darcy is not so well worth listening to as his friend, is he? Poor Eliza! to be only just tolerable.”

“I beg you will not put it into Lizzy's head to be vexed by his ill-treatment, for he is such a disagreeable man that it would be quite a misfortune to be liked by him. Mrs. Long told me last night that he sat close to her for half an hour without once opening his lips.”

“Are you quite sure, ma'am? Is not there a little mistake?” said Jane. “I certainly saw Mr. Darcy speaking to her.”

“Ay, because she asked him at last how he liked Netherfield, and he could not help answering her; but she said he seemed very angry at being spoke to.”

“Miss Bingley told me,” said Jane, “that he never speaks much unless among his intimate acquaintance. With them he is remarkably agreeable.”

“I do not believe a word of it, my dear. If he had been so very agreeable, he would have talked to Mrs. Long. But I can guess how it was; everybody says that he is eat up with pride, and I dare say he had heard somehow that Mrs. Long does not keep a carriage, and had come to the ball in a hack chaise.”

“I do not mind his not talking to Mrs. Long,” said Miss Lucas, “but I wish he had danced with Eliza.”

“Another time, Lizzy,” said her mother, “I would not dance with him, if I were you.”

“I believe, ma'am, I may safely promise you never to dance with him.”

“His pride,” said Miss Lucas, “does not offend me so much as pride often does, because there is an excuse for it. One cannot wonder that so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, everything in his favor, should think highly of himself. If I may so express it, he has a right to be proud.”

“That is very true,” replied Elizabeth, “and I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.”

“Pride,” observed Mary, who piqued herself upon the solidity of her reflections, “is a very common failing, I believe. By all that I have ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed; that human nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the score of some quality or other, real or imaginary. Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves; vanity to what we would have others think of us.”

“If I were as rich as Mr. Darcy,” cried a young Lucas, who came with his sisters, “I should not care how proud I was. I would keep a pack of fox-hounds, and drink a bottle of wine every day.”

“Then you would drink a great deal more than you ought,” said Mrs. Bennet; “and if I were to see you at it, I should take away your bottle directly.”

The boy protested that she should not; she continued to declare that she would; and the argument ended only with the visit.

Footnotes

  1. In Austen’s time, owning a carriage was a direct indication of wealth. A family would have needed an income of at least 800–1,000 pounds a year (between $35,000–$45,000 in today’s dollars) to afford one. Mrs. Long’s hiring of a carriage for the assembly reveals that the Longs are not comfortably well-off. The Bennets’ ability to afford a carriage implies that they are respectable, or at least respectable enough to be worthy of Mr. Bingley.

    — Sarah St. Albin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Mrs. Long can’t afford her own carriage, so she had to hire one for the assembly. (A “hack chaise” is a hired carriage.) Mrs. Bennet mentions this for two reasons. First, she reinforces her negative judgment of Mr. Darcy, whom she implies is so arrogant that he refuses to associate with someone who can’t afford a carriage. Second, she subtly one-ups Mrs. Long; unlike the Longs, the Bennets can afford their own carriage.

    — Sarah St. Albin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Jane, who is quick to see the good in everyone, suggests that Mr. Darcy may actually be shy rather than prideful. Though his refusal to socialize outside his group of friends might seem like snobbishness, it could just as well be nervousness. Jane implies that first impressions are not reliable.

    — Sarah St. Albin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Mr. Darcy is so wealthy that it is difficult to imagine any woman finding it “a misfortune to be liked by him.” He would be Mrs. Bennet’s ideal son-in-law—even more so than Mr. Bingley, who is only half as wealthy as Mr. Darcy and has no noble blood. Mrs. Bennet’s dislike of Mr. Darcy, while understandable given his rudeness, reveals how prideful she. Since her primary goal is to secure wealthy marriages for her daughters, who will be destitute if they do not marry well, judging Mr. Darcy is a matter of pride.

    — Sarah St. Albin, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Mrs. Bennet’s civility is as transparently artificial as Sir Lucas’s. She wants Lady Lucas to compliment her, and Lady Lucas quickly falls for it. Mrs. Bennet clearly believes that Jane has won Mr. Bingley’s admiration.

    — Sarah St. Albin, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. A woman’s marriage prospects would have diminished significantly by the age of 27. Charlotte may be having difficulty finding a husband because her father cannot afford a sizable dowry. If she cannot marry, she will be dependent on her father for the rest of her life—which makes her a liability to her family. Mrs. Bennet’s preoccupation with finding husbands for her daughters is therefore well-founded.

    — Sarah St. Albin, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. Austen contrasts Sir Lucas’s artificial civility, which is nothing more than pretending to be genteel, with Mr. Bingley’s “easy, unaffected manners.” While Mr. Bingley is genuine, both men emulate the aristocracy in their own ways: Mr. Bingley is wealthy but not noble, and Sir Lucas is noble but not really wealthy—or at least not wealthy enough to stop working.

    — Sarah St. Albin, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. Sir Lucas’s ego is so large that he actually named his house after himself. Lucas Lodge is not an estate, however; it is merely a small house attached to the gates of a larger country house. By naming his house after himself, Lucas further demonstrates how artificial his pretensions are: families like the Bingleys or the Darcys don’t have estates named after themselves.

    — Sarah St. Albin, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. Upper-class families (aristocratic or not) exhibited their wealth in part by living lives of indulgence. Men like Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy are so rich that they don’t have to work. Sir Lucas, however, is not quite as wealthy. He refuses to work because working indicates that he is not as superior as he pretends; in reality, he is yet another character obsessed with class-emulation.

    — Sarah St. Albin, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. Sir William Lucas’s wealth originated in trade, just as the Bingley family’s did. Once he was knighted, however, Sir Lucas became a member of the aristocracy—he is not merely wealthy, like the Bingleys. He is obsessed with achieving his ideal of what it means to be genteel, and his “occupation” of being civil to everyone is clearly artificial. Instead of remaining in business to continue building his wealth, he has retired to an expensive lifestyle that will very likely deplete his children’s future inheritance.

    — Sarah St. Albin, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. Vanity and pride are also gendered terms, meaning that they are associated with either femininity or masculinity. In Austen’s time, vanity was associated with women and generally involved being absorbed in one’s own beauty and frivolous accomplishments (such as stitching or painting). Pride was associated with men and often related to wealth and “meaningful” accomplishments like entrepreneurial success. Pride could also involve being overly boastful of one’s ancestry.

    — Stephen Holliday