“You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
In which we meet Lady Catherine de Bourgh, the Gardiners and both Charlotte and Elizabeth receive marriage proposals.
This episode is all about marriage; the offers, the lack of offers and the consequences of either acceptance or declination of such offers.
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are an interesting pair. Having to witness these two people and their marriage every day would affect anyone. While we do not know what led them to marry originally, they now bring out the worst in each other. This enmity spills over into the relationships with their daughters. Mrs. Bennet (as several people commented on in the previous episode) obviously favors Lydia and Jane, and cannot understand Elizabeth at all. Mr. Bennet obviously favors Elizabeth and cannot stand his three youngest. He goes so far as to insult all three of them in public.
Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Bennet sees their daughters for who they are or what they may be experiencing. Jane, in love with Bingley, has been patiently waiting for him to propose. Instead, she receives a letter from Caroline that leaves no one in any doubt that a proposal is not forthcoming. Elizabeth is infatuated with Wickham and wants her parents to like him. As the soldiers leave after tea, both parents make comments that prove just how oblivious they are to anything but themselves. Mrs. Bennet flutters on about Bingley leaving and the huge mistake Elizabeth made by rejecting Mr. Collins. Mr. Bennet makes a series of rather sarcastic remarks about how young women want to be thwarted in love that force his eldest to leave the room, cause Elizabeth to literally sit up to defend her new friend and leave his wife in tears.
Jane and Elizabeth both long for a marriage as unlike their parents as possible. Having seen what marrying for money or security can do to one’s soul, they want to at least be able to like and respect their future spouse. Which is why, I believe, Elizabeth is so upset by Charlotte’s news.
Very quickly after he is rejected by Elizabeth, Mr. Collins proposes to and is accepted by Charlotte. She is a wonderful example of the purely pragmatic side of matrimony. She is older and she is plainer than the other girls, so when she is given a chance to marry a man who has a good living and will one day have an estate, she takes it. Charlotte is not a fool; she understands the type of man she is marrying. As she says, however, she is not romantic. She wants a good home and a secure future and, now, she will have both.
As Elizabeth visits Charlotte, it is very clear that her worst fears have been confirmed. Charlotte is lonely and bored; going out of her way to ensure that she spends as little time as possible with her husband. While she tells Elizabeth that she is “quite content,” the way she greets Elizabeth when she arrives and her description of her daily life put that remark in doubt.
In direct contrast to her reaction to Charlotte’s marrying for security, Elizabeth is able to understand why Wickham is to marry Mary King and to accept it graciously. I get the impression that, at least on some level, Elizabeth knew from the start that she and Wickham would not be able to marry and so did not allow herself to fall in love with him. By doing so, she has also saved herself a broken heart.
Clearly, Elizabeth is just fine while she is in Kent. Refusing to be intimidated by Lady Catherine, she is polite and gracious enough to not embarrass either her cousin or her friend. The situation improves immensely when Darcy and Fitzwilliam turn up. As quickly as Elizabeth had decided she didn’t like Darcy, she decides that she does like Fitzwilliam and the two become friends. Of course, Fitzwilliam is charming and friendly; hardly the proud, aloof man that his friend was and is.
The friendship with Fitzwilliam helps Elizabeth begin to see the man behind the facade and Darcy, in turn, approaches her much more gently than he ever has in the past. The whole conversation over the piano at Rosings is flirty and fun and, for the first time, they smile at each other. They are still going at each other; but, now they are laughing while they do so.
The call the next day is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. They are both so used to disliking each other that they struggle to find something to say, but the thaw from the night before is now between them. Uncomfortable and awkward, the silences are long and the conversation is stilted. Until it becomes personal. Elizabeth hints that she wouldn’t mind living a great distance away from her family and Darcy instantly picks up on it. This intimacy, however slight, scares them both and he scurries off.
The next time they are alone together, things become intimate indeed. Darcy’s proposal and Elizabeth’s refusal is a tour de force and I love watching it. It is hard to imagine a less romantic declaration of love. I don’t want to love you; I don’t like your family; I fought this as long as I could, but I really do want to marry you.
While it is often said that the pride in the title refers to Darcy and the prejudice Elizabeth, this young woman has enough pride of her own and it comes out in a very real way here. Already upset with Darcy because of his interference with Bingley and Jane, her anger takes over and she snaps at him.
What is clear as we watch this exchange, however, is the level of emotion they are both feeling. Darcy can’t stop pacing; Elizabeth is close to tears. As Elizabeth throws one accusation after another at Darcy, he gets angry as well and snaps back, especially around Wickham. Jealousy can make us say awful things.
At no time during the entire conversation does the subject of money come up. Unlike the Collins’ marriage which is based solely on the pecuniary need that each has for the other, this proposal is all about love and respect. Although he is saying the words, Elizabeth does not feel love or respect and so, she turns down one of the richest men in England. I’m not sure the thought of his money ever entered her head.
Darcy’s parting shot is that he believes Elizabeth would have accepted him if he had not told her the truth; it he had courted her in the traditional fashion. I believe he’s right. There is a great deal of feeling between these two and, although it started out as contempt, it was already changing. I don’t think it would have taken much time or effort for Darcy to persuade Elizabeth to marry him.
But, for now, they are on the outs. Both have said things in the heat of the moment, but the key word is heat. There is a great deal of it, too much for it to ignored for long.
Sermons to Young Women, more commonly known as Fordyce’s Sermons, were a series of sermons compiled by James Fordyce on how young women should behave. My favorite? “The Folly of Unlawful Pleasures.”
Lady Catherine’s shock that all five Bennet girls are out at once would have been a typical response at the time. To “come out” meant that a young woman could attend social events and was at a marriageable age. Traditionally, girls came out when they were sixteen or seventeen, but some were older. It was customary to marry off the elder girls before allowing the younger girls to come out. The Bennets, therefore, are quite unusual in that they not only have five girls out at once, but Lydia (only fifteen) is very young to be in society.
Bits & Pieces:
There is something soothing in the thought that we still sing the same Christmas hymns two centuries later.
Jane’s first letter to Elizabeth is dated January the 12th. In it, she talks about the fact that she visited Caroline three weeks ago. As the Gardiners were at Longbourne for Christmas, it didn’t take Jane long to renew the acquaintance.
When Elizabeth is “playing the piano” at Rosings, the camera pans across the instrument to the others in the room. Unfortunately, none of the hammers are moving so the piano must be magically making that bad music.
The clock, throughout the engagement scene, always shows the time at 6:17.
Darcy’s obvious discomfort when he sees Elizabeth again, but especially his spin in the parlor when he hears Elizabeth quoting the words he spoke to her to Fitzwilliam.
The first time Darcy smiles at Elizabeth, my heart beats faster and I get a huge grin on my face.
The whole scene when Darcy comes calling for the first time.
The proposal and refusal. I have watched this scene I couldn’t tell you how many times and each time I come away from it having noticed something new. Wonderful acting from both parties.
ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.