So I’m a little late on the uptake. I mean, I knew that this year marked the 200th anniversary of the publication of “Pride & Prejudice”. What I didn’t realize was that the actual date was the 28th of January. Today, to be precise.
The Austenite in me won’t allow the day pass by without commemorating it in my own small way so here we are. I figured I‘d just post one of my favorite scenes – if not the favorite – from the novel. It offers a tantalizing glimpse of Lizzie’s and Darcy’s life together and confirms all our beliefs that these two do belong with each other.
“Elizabeth’s spirits soon rising to playfulness gain, she wanted Mr. Darcy to account for his having ever fallen in love with her.
‘How could you being?’ she said. “I can comprehend your going on charmingly, when you had once made a beginning; but what could set you off in the first place?’
‘I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.’
‘My beauty you had early withstood, and as for my manners – my behaviour to you was at least always bordering on the uncivil, and I never spoke to you without rather wishing to give you pain than not. Now, be sincere; did you admire me for my impertinence?’
‘For the liveliness of your mind, I did.’
‘You as well call it impertinence at once. It was very little less. The fact, that you were sick of civility, of deference, of officious attention. You were disgusted with the women who were always speaking and looking and thinking for your approbation alone. I roused and interested you, because I was so unlike them. Had you not been really amiable, you would have hated me for it; but, in spite of the pains you took to disguise yourself, your feelings were always noble and just; and, in your heart, you thoroughly despised the persons who so assiduously courted you. There – I have saved you the trouble of accounting for it; and really, all things considered, I begin to think it perfectly reasonable. To be sure, you know no actual good of me – but nobody thinks of that when they fall in love.’
‘Was there no good in your affectionate behaviour to Jane, while she was ill at Netherfield?’
‘Dearest Jane! Who could have done less for her? But make a virtue of it by all means. My good qualities are under your protection, and you are to exaggerate them as much as possible; and, in return, it belongs to me to find occasions for teazing and quarrelling with you as often as may be; and I shall begin directly, by asking you what made you so unwilling to come to the point at last? What made you so shy of me when you first called, and afterwards dined here? Why, especially, when you called, did you look as if you did not care about me?’
‘Because you were grave and silent, and gave me no encouragement.’
‘But I was embarrassed.’
‘And so was I.’
‘You might have talked to me more when you came to dinner.’
‘A man who had felt less, might.’
‘How unlucky that you should have a reasonable answer to give, and that I should be so reasonable as to admit it. But I wonder how long you would have gone on if you had been left to yourself! I wonder when you would have spoken, if I had not asked you! My resolution of thanking you for your kindness to Lydia had certainly great effect – too much, I am afraid; for what becomes of the moral, if our comfort springs from a breach of promise? For I ought not to have mentioned the subject. This will never do.’
‘You need not distress yourself. The moral will be perfectly fair. Lady Catherine’s unjustifiable endeavours to separate us were the means of removing all my doubts. I am not indebted for my present happiness to your eager desire of expressing your gratitude. I was not in a humour to wait for an opening of yours. My aunt’s intelligence had given me hope, and I was determined at once to know every thing.‘
‘Lady Catherine has been of infinite use which ought to make her happy, for she loves to be of use. But tell me, what did you come down to Netherfield for? Was it merely to ride to Longbourn, and be embarrassed – or had you intended any more serious consequences?’
‘My real purpose was to see you, and to judge, if I could, whether I might ever hope to make you love me. My avowed one, or what I avowed to myself, was to see whether your sister was still partial to Bingley, and, if she were, to make the confession to him which I have since made.’
‘Shall you ever have courage to announce to Lady Catherine what is to befall her?’
‘I am more likely to want time than courage, Elizabeth. But it ought to be done; and if you will give me a sheet of paper, it shall be done directly.‘
I love this passage for the ease and familiarity between Darcy and Lizzie that is on display. There is none of that rigidity from their days of hating each other – or I should say of Lizzie hating Darcy. And there’s none of the romantic, ‘dearest, loveliest Elizabeth‘ stuff either – which is all great! I mean, as a “P&P” lover it’s very gratifying to reach that bit and be present for when everything comes into the open. But my preference is for the moments that come after the great declaration has been made.
It puts a sappy smile on my face to read Darcy saying Lizzie’s first name with such normality – after that huge struggle, here they are, teasing and being teased, discussing their past mistakes and just generally enjoying each other‘s company. And it makes me so happy to read it! None of the screen adaptations that I’ve seen include this particular dialogue, but I would love it oh so incredibly much if someone were to capture the warmth, the playfulness, and the the way in which both Darcy and Lizzie are so obviously relishing feeling out each other’s characters in this scene. We’ve watched them struggle throughout most of the novel for each other‘s love, so I say give us more of a chance to see the delicious rewards they’ve earned.
I absolutely love this picture of these two! It captures that playful side to their relationship which I can’t help but find appealing, especially considering that Darcy seems as stiff as the proverbial upper lip to begin with . Lizzie obviously finds something funny and Darcy seems to be verging on the beginnings of a smile (because an actual smile would be too much, wouldn’t it Darce? Am I allowed to call him that? Does that make me as bad as Mrs. Eton?) Ah, my P&P fangirl’s showing and it’s all Jane Austen’s fault.