Chapter VIII

AT FIVE O'CLOCK the two ladies retired to dress, and at half past six Elizabeth was summoned to dinner. To the civil inquiries which then poured in, and among which she had the pleasure of distinguishing the much superior solicitude of Mr. Bingley, she could not make a very favorable answer. Jane was by no means better. The sisters, on hearing this, repeated three or four times how much they were grieved, how shocking it was to have a bad cold, and how excessively they disliked being ill themselves, and then thought no more of the matter, and their indifference toward Jane, when not immediately before them, restored Elizabeth to the enjoyment of all her original dislike.

Their brother, indeed, was the only one of the party whom she could regard with any complacency. His anxiety for Jane was evident, and his attentions to herself most pleasing, and they prevented her feeling herself so much an intruder as she believed she was considered by the others. She had very little notice from any but him. Miss Bingley was engrossed by Mr. Darcy, her sister scarcely less so; and as for Mr. Hurst, by whom Elizabeth sat, he was an indolent man, who lived only to eat, drink, and play at cards, who, when he found her prefer a plain dish to a ragout, had nothing to say to her.

When dinner was over she returned directly to Jane, and Miss Bingley began abusing her as soon as she was out of the room. Her manners were pronounced to be very bad indeed—a mixture of pride and impertinence; she had no conversation, no style, no taste, no beauty. Mrs. Hurst thought the same, and added:

“She has nothing, in short, to recommend her but being an excellent walker. I shall never forget her appearance this morning. She really looked almost wild.”

“She did, indeed, Louisa. I could hardly keep my countenance. Very nonsensical to come at all! Why must she be scampering about the country because her sister had a cold? Her hair so untidy, so blowzy!”

“Yes, and her petticoat; I hope you saw her petticoat, six inches deep in mud, I am absolutely certain, and the gown which had been let down to hide it not doing its office.”

“Your picture may be very exact, Louisa,” said Bingley; “but this was all lost upon me. I thought Miss Elizabeth Bennet looked remarkably well when she came into the room this morning. Her dirty petticoat quite escaped my notice.”

“You observed it, Mr. Darcy, I am sure,” said Miss Bingley; “and I am inclined to think that you would not wish to see your sister make such an exhibition.”

“Certainly not.”

“To walk three miles, or four miles, or five miles, or whatever it is, above her ankles in dirt, and alone, quite alone! What could she mean by it? It seems to me to show an abominable sort of conceited independence, a most country-town indifference to decorum.”

“It shows an affection for her sister that is very pleasing,” said Bingley.

“I am afraid, Mr. Darcy,” observed Miss Bingley, in a half whisper, “that this adventure has rather affected your admiration of her fine eyes.”

“Not at all,” he replied; “they were brightened by the exercise.” A short pause followed this speech, and Mrs. Hurst began again:

“I have an excessive regard for Jane Bennet; she is really a very sweet girl, and I wish with all my heart she were well settled. But with such a father and mother, and such low connections, I am afraid there is no chance of it.”

“I think I have heard you say that their uncle is an attorney in Meryton?”

“Yes; and they have another, who lives somewhere near Cheapside.”

“That is capital!” added her sister; and they both laughed heartily.

“If they had uncles enough to fill all Cheapside,” cried Bingley, “it would not make them one jot less agreeable.”

“But it must very materially lessen their chance of marrying men of any consideration in the world,” replied Darcy.

To this speech Bingley made no answer; but his sisters gave it their hearty assent, and indulged their mirth for some time at the expense of their dear friend's vulgar relations.

With a renewal of tenderness, however, they repaired to her room on leaving the dining-parlor, and sat with her till summoned to coffee. She was still very poorly, and Elizabeth would not quit her at all till late in the evening, when she had the comfort of seeing her asleep, and when it appeared to her rather right than pleasant that she should go downstairs herself. On entering the drawing-room she found the whole party at loo, and was immediately invited to join them; but suspecting them to be playing high, she declined it, and making her sister the excuse, said she would amuse herself, for the short time she could stay below, with a book. Mr. Hurst looked at her with astonishment.

“Do you prefer reading to cards?” said he; “that is rather singular.”

“Miss Eliza Bennet,” said Miss Bingley, “despises cards. She is a great reader, and has no pleasure in anything else.”

“I deserve neither such praise nor such censure,” cried Elizabeth; “I am not a great reader, and I have pleasure in many things.”

“In nursing your sister I am sure you have pleasure,” said Bingley; “and I hope it will soon be increased by seeing her quite well.”

Elizabeth thanked him from her heart, and then walked toward a table where a few books were lying. He immediately offered to fetch her others—all that his library afforded.

“And I wish my collection were larger, for your benefit and my own credit; but I am an idle fellow; and though I have not many, I have more than I ever looked into.”

Elizabeth assured him that she could suit herself perfectly with those in the room.

“I am astonished,” said Miss Bingley, “that my father should have left so small a collection of books. What a delightful library you have at Pemberley, Mr. Darcy!”

“It ought to be good,” he replied; “it has been the work of many generations.”

“And then you have added so much to it yourself—you are always buying books.”

“I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library in such days as these.”

“Neglect! I am sure you neglect nothing that can add to the beauties of that noble place. Charles, when you build your house I wish it may be half as delightful as Pemberley.”

“I wish it may.”

“But I would really advise you to make your purchase in that neighborhood and take Pemberley for a kind of model. There is not a finer county in England than Derbyshire.”

“With all my heart; I will buy Pemberley itself, if Darcy will sell it.”

“I am talking of possibilities, Charles.”

“Upon my word, Caroline, I should think it more possible to get Pemberley by purchase than by imitation.”

Elizabeth was so much caught by what passed as to leave her very little attention for her book; and soon laying it wholly aside, she drew near the card-table and stationed herself between Mr. Bingley and his eldest sister to observe the game.

“Is Miss Darcy much grown since the spring,” said Miss Bingley; “will she be as tall as I am?”

“I think she will. She is now about Miss Elizabeth Bennet's height, or rather taller.”

“How I long to see her again! I never met with anybody who delighted me so much! Such a countenance, such manners, and so extremely accomplished for her age. Her performance on the pianoforte is exquisite.”

“It is amazing to me,” said Bingley, “how young ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished as they all are.”

“All young ladies accomplished? My dear Charles, what do you mean?”

“Yes, all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover screens, and net purses. I scarcely know anyone who cannot do all this; and I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time without being informed that she was very accomplished.”

“Your list of the common extent of accomplishments,” said Darcy, “has too much truth. The word is applied to many a woman who deserves it not otherwise than by netting a purse or covering a screen; but I am very far from agreeing with you in your estimation of ladies in general. I cannot boast of knowing more than half a dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are really accomplished.”

“Nor I, I am sure,” said Miss Bingley.

“Then,” observed Elizabeth, “you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of an accomplished woman.”

“Yes; I do comprehend a great deal in it.”

“Oh, certainly,” cried his faithful assistant; “no one can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half-deserved.”

“All this she must possess,” added Darcy; “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

“I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.”

“Are you so severe upon your own sex as to doubt the possibility of all this?”

“I never saw such a woman. I never saw such capacity, and taste, and application, and elegance, as you describe, united.”

Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley both cried out against the injustice of her implied doubt, and were both protesting that they knew many women who answered this description, when Mr. Hurst called them to order with bitter complaints of their inattention to what was going forward. As all conversation was thereby at an end, Elizabeth soon afterward left the room.

“Eliza Bennet,” said Miss Bingley, when the door was closed on her, “is one of those young ladies who seek to recommend themselves to the other sex by undervaluing their own; and with many men, I dare say, it succeeds; but, in my opinion, it is a paltry device, a very mean art.”

“Undoubtedly,” replied Darcy, to whom this remark was chiefly addressed, “there is a meanness in all the arts which ladies sometimes condescend to employ for captivation. Whatever bears affinity to cunning is despicable.”

Miss Bingley was not so entirely satisfied with this reply as to continue the subject.

Elizabeth joined them again only to say that her sister was worse, and that she could not leave her. Bingley urged Mr. Jones being sent for immediately; while his sisters, convinced that no country advice could be of any service, recommended an express to town for one of the most eminent physicians. This she would not hear of; but she was not so unwilling to comply with their brother's proposal; and it was settled that Mr. Jones should be sent for early in the morning, if Miss Bennet were not decidedly better. Bingley was quite uncomfortable; his sisters declared that they were miserable. They solaced their wretchedness, however, by duets after supper, while he could find no better relief to his feelings than by giving his housekeeper directions that every possible attention might be paid to the sick lady and her sister.


  1. The Bingleyss and Mrs. Hurst start criticizing Elizabeth for being so dirty after walking to Netherfield Park. In the quote, we learn much about how the rich Bingleys truly think of the Bennet family.

    — Vianney Verzola
  2. The Bingley sisters want to send for a physician to show off their wealth. The apothecary, Mr. Jones, is cheaper but perfectly qualified to care for someone with a cold. The Bingley sisters, who don’t think “country advice could be of any service,” only want to hire a physician out of snobbery.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Mr. Bingley is uncomfortable because he is anxious about Jane’s health. His sisters, however, are clearly pretending to care; if they were truly upset, they would not be easily comforted by singing duets after supper.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Miss Bingley is being incredibly hypocritical and clearly does not understand Elizabeth at all. Elizabeth doesn’t care what men think of her, and she certainly doesn’t worry about whether Mr. Darcy approves of her or not. Miss Bingley, however, seems willing to do or say whatever will ingratiate her most with Mr. Darcy because she wants him to marry her.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Miss Bingley is being incredibly hypocritical and clearly does not understand Elizabeth at all. Elizabeth doesn’t care what men think of her, and she certainly doesn’t worry about whether Mr. Darcy approves of her or not. Miss Bingley, however, seems willing to do or say whatever will ingratiate her most with Mr. Darcy because she wants him to marry her.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Miss Bingley is so eager to agree with everything Mr. Darcy says that she has contradicted herself. She initially agreed with him that she only knew half a dozen truly accomplished women, but she is so insistent on disagreeing with Elizabeth that she immediately changes positions. Mr. Darcy doesn’t seem to notice her, however; he is more intrigued by Elizabeth because she challenges his arguments.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. Mr. Darcy thinks that an accomplished woman must be well-read. Women were not generally encouraged to read in Austen’s time, and female education was hotly contested. Critics opposed to women’s reading argued that the minds of susceptible young ladies could be filled with improper and potentially dangerous ideas—especially if they read novels.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. Mr. Darcy has openly challenged society’s definition of an accomplished woman—women who paint and net purses are not really impressive. Elizabeth suggests that his idea of an accomplished woman is perhaps more of an ideal than a reality.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. Painting tables, covering screens, and netting (finely knitting) purses are all particularly frivolous and unfulfilling feminine accomplishments. Upper-class ladies (who did not run the household like their mothers typically did) were often bored with these superficial tasks.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. Miss Bingley saw Miss Darcy during the London Season in the spring. Miss Bingley is showing off both her personal relationship with the Darcys and her fashionability because only the polite classes attended the London Season.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. Female accomplishments are often debated in Pride and Prejudice. Genteel young ladies were supposed to be charming and entertaining so they could attract a husband. However, their accomplishments were not particularly productive or stimulating. It was considered improper for a woman to play a masculine instrument like the violin or the cello. Ladies were not supposed to create in general: they used watercolours and pastels to copy pictures, but they did not usually paint or sculpt like male artists. Elizabeth, who enjoys reading and engaging in rigorous physical activities like walking for three miles, is not the typical accomplished woman.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. Mr. Bingley seems to recognize that his family can’t possibly acquire the prestige of the Darcys by imitation. However, the Bingleys wouldn’t be any more aristocratic if they bought Pemberley because they have only recently become wealthy. In Austen’s time, people argued about whether wealth was synonymous with nobility; it is clear that Austen herself doesn’t think the two are equal.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. The Bingleys aspire to Mr. Darcy’s wealth and status because he is the only genuinely aristocratic member of the group. The Bingleys are newly rich, so they don’t have any of the prestige that the Darcys do—like generations-old libraries. Their only option is imitation.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. Books were very expensive in Austen’s time, so private libraries suggested great wealth. Mr. Darcy’s old library—”the work of many generations’”—underscores how old and noble his family is. He emphasizes, intentionally or not, the difference in status between the Darcys and the Bingleys.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  15. Miss Bingley is being rude. Using the name “Eliza” for Elizabeth is overly familiar and disrespectful; only close friends and family members could use nicknames. Miss Bingley is very likely trying to disrespect Elizabeth in front of the others.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  16. The Bingley sisters’ “renewal of tenderness” is clearly artificial; they return to Jane’s bedside because they have nothing else to do while the gentlemen are drinking in the dining room. They do not care about her.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  17. Loo was a popular card game in Austen’s time. It involved gambling with money, which is what the Bingleys and Hursts and Mr. Darcy are doing. Elizabeth does not want to participate, either because she disapproves or gambling or simply does not have the money to join in.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  18. Cheapside is a street in London and, both today and in Austen’s time, the financial center of the city. It was considered unfashionable to live anywhere near Cheapside because of its association with trade. The Bingley sisters’ snobbery is hypocritical because their family’s wealth originated in trade.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  19. The Bingley sisters have been pretending to like Jane by inviting her to Netherfield and acting concerned about her health. They clearly believe, however, that she is an improper match for their brother—they have essentially been leading her on.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  20. Mr. Darcy shocks Miss Bingley by revealing that he isn’t offended by Elizabeth’s long walk to Netherfield. He is acting out of character—we could easily imagine Mr. Darcy being very critical if it was anyone else. His surprising response strongly suggests that he is quite smitten with Elizabeth.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  21. The Bingley sisters seem to misunderstand Elizabeth’s reasons for visiting Netherfield. They think walking three miles in the mud and showing up at their house in the middle of breakfast is rude and defiant (a display of “conceited independence”). Neither of the Bingley sisters consider the possibility that Elizabeth made the arduous journey because she is concerned about Jane.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  22. Miss Bingley is apprehensive that Mr. Darcy is falling in love with Elizabeth, so she hopes that Elizabeth’s improper appearance during their breakfast has extinguished his feelings. Miss Bingley wants to marry Mr. Darcy and clearly thinks Elizabeth would be a poor match for him.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  23. Miss Bingley counts on Mr. Darcy to join her in criticizing Elizabeth because she knows her brother won’t participate. Mr. Bingley is either too polite or too oblivious to social customs and expectations to feel strongly about Elizabeth’s appearance.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  24. “Blowzy” means disheveled. Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley continue to criticize Elizabeth because her hair is wind-swept and her complexion is flushed; she does not appear orderly, proper, or ladylike.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  25. Miss Bingley believes she is the best match for Mr. Darcy. She is probably becoming more anxious about her prospects because Mr. Darcy is clearly attracted to Elizabeth. Though the Bingleys are wealthy, they are not (like the Bennets) members of the landed gentry; Miss Bingley is no more suitable a match for Mr. Darcy than Elizabeth.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  26. Mr. Hurst, who lives only for the luxuries in life, epitomizes the stereotypical man of society. He is lazy, shallow, and obsessed with eating, drinking, and gambling. Though he is essentially worthless, society considers him fashionable because his easy life indicates wealth and status. His character, especially when contrasted with the graciousness of Mr. Bingley, is a criticism of upper-class values.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  27. The Bingley sisters imply that Elizabeth is ill-bred. Her disheveled appearance—her windswept hair and flushed cheeks—not only suggests that she is of an inferior class, but also that she is sexually audacious. Mr. Darcy, however, is not bothered by Elizabeth’s presentation. Given that he is the highest-ranking of the party, and that he is otherwise easily offended, his lack of disapproval suggests that the Bingley sisters are overreacting.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  28. Mr. Bingley’s genuine concern for Jane starkly contrasts with his sisters’ falseness. The Bingley sisters pretend to care about Jane’s condition when they are bored or otherwise motivated to appear interested. Mr. Bingley is a true gentleman; he does not have to perform the way his sisters do because he actually feels empathy and regard for Jane Bennet.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  29. Elizabeth’s initial prejudice against the Bingley sisters was correct. They pretended to care about Jane’s health, probably because they were bored (the gentlemen were out socializing) and wished to appear well-mannered.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  30. This is another example of free, indirect discourse. The narrator is giving us the Bingley sisters’ speech as though they are speaking themselves. Given that they promptly “thought no more of the matter,” it’s clear that the Bingley sisters are being far from genuine. They do not care about Jane’s health.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  31. “Dinner” here is actually lunch. The Bingleys have their dinner fashionably late, as they did in London. Instead of eating at 1 p.m., for example, they are eating at 6:30 p.m. Meals were eaten later during the London Social Season because people stayed out until two or three in the morning.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  32. The pianoforte was a fashionable and controversial instrument during the time of Pride and Prejudice. Most middle- and upper-class families owned pianofortes, which were heavily advertised by famous pianists (also called virtuosos). Wealthy people would attend concerts and, later on, purchase the same piano that the pianist played. People were uncomfortable with how machine-like the pianoforte became, however; it was outfitted, for example, with iron in order to support an expanded keyboard. Major critics of the pianoforte referred to it as the “musical steam engine” and argued that modern pianists were more like mechanics or technicians instead of musicians.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  33. Mr. Darcy is deeply conservative and views his library as a symbol of wealth and status. Respectable landowners always kept libraries, so maintaining one’s library was a reflection of personal values. Mr. Darcy seems to think that neglecting the family library indicates an erosion of traditional values.

    — Jamie Wheeler
  34. Accomplished ladies often learned popular music on the piano so they could reproduce the same performances that their families attended during the London Season. Music for the piano became increasingly technical and complicated as the expanded, iron-clad pianoforte gained in popularity. Miss Darcy’s playing is probably quite impressive.

    — Jamie Wheeler