“Yes, I did. But that was only when I first knew her. For it has been many months now since I've considered her one of the handsomest women in my acquaintance.”
In which Lydia runs away, Lizzy comes home, everyone is distressed, and Darcy mysteriously pops up in London. Contains spoilers.
My favorite part of this episode (and the reason I begged ChrisB to let me do this one) is the conclusion of Lizzy’s trip to Pemberley. It contains some of the loveliest, loviest moments between Lizzy and Darcy. Sensing the connection between the two, Miss Bingley lashes out and attempts to divide them with snide comments. Brava, madam. Brilliant plan. Darcy’s reaction to her snark is to openly contradict her (as he does in the lead-in quote) or to get away from her. Darcy’s reactions border on rudeness; only something as strong as his love for Elizabeth could get the irrepressibly formal Mr. Darcy to behave so to his best friend’s sister.
We finally meet Georgiana Darcy, and isn’t she adorable? Georgiana provides great insight into her brother’s character. He virtually raised her and she is the picture of sweetness and kindness. It speaks well for big brother, don’t you think? She also reveals how glowingly Darcy speaks of his love interest. Her comment about his never exaggerating indicate he is not frequently seen exulting in the charms of others, making his comments about Elizabeth strong evidence of his love. Elizabeth does not play flawlessly, to be sure. In comparison to the highly accomplished women Darcy associates with, Lizzy’s musical skills are probably quite minimal indeed. Still, Darcy tells his sister that “he rarely heard anything that gave him more pleasure.” This is perfectly in line with Darcy’s character. He’s not lying or exaggerating by praising her music to the rooftops, but he is admitting that he loves to listen to her.
Unfortunately for Lizzy, she is soon dragged back to reality by Lydia’s elopement. Lydia’s running away makes Episode 5, by far, the most (melo)dramatic episode of the series. It and the events it sets in motion are, it could feasibly be argued, very close to being over the top. Jane Austen typically disdained melodrama and frequently satirized novels that used it. The situation with Lydia is saved from being labeled ridiculous by its importance in the novel. While the elopement itself is not the most important thing in the book, it does serve to conclude certain plot points and bring characters together.
This is the only version of Pride and Prejudice I’ve seen that includes scenes of Wickham and Lydia in London. They are not in the book. While it might be a tad jarring to see new scenes added to one’s favorite book, it serves the plot beautifully. Lydia’s role in the elopement is solidified. She didn’t run off with Wickham to live in sin, she ran off to be married to him and still expects that to occur. She is not so much of a ‘scarlet woman’ as an idiot. It also sets up Darcy’s heroism which will be fully realized in episode 6. By setting it up this way, Darcy’s rescue of the Bennet family’s reputation does not come from out of the blue, as it does in the book, but it does lessen the drama of finding out Darcy is the one to whom the Bennets owe their thanks. I also like these scenes because we see that Wickham is already annoyed with Lydia. It’s going to be a long life, Wickham, and it serves you right. The punishment fits the crime.
From a character standpoint, it’s interesting to watch the different members of the Bennet family react to Lydia’s elopement. Mary uses the opportunity to be tiresome and severe, Kitty doesn’t understand the consequences of Lydia’s behavior, Mr. Bennet feels guilty (as he should), Mrs. Bennet is ridiculous, and Jane is optimistic. As for Elizabeth, although she is worried for everyone involved, Darcy is ever-present in her thoughts. She worries what Lydia’s running away has made him think of her and her family and realizes that she has no hope of him now. Why would he want to connect himself in marriage to a family containing the man who nearly ruined his sister?
Mrs. Bennet really has her shining hour in this episode. Her ridiculousness has never been more obvious. Her worries over Lydia’s predicament include: Mr. Bennet will be killed in a duel with Wickham, resulting in the entire family being turned out of their home penniless, Mr. Bennet will not fight a duel with Wickham, resulting in the complete loss of Lydia’s character, and that Lydia does not know the proper places to buy wedding clothes. Ridiculous, indeed. She blames both her husband for not letting the entire family go to Brighton and the Forsters for not looking after Lydia (who is not the kind of girl to do this sort of thing when properly looked after). Conveniently let out of the blame is she, herself. She is the one who had the largest role in shaping Lydia’s character, the one who indulged her in her silliness and boy craziness, and the one who helped pressure Mr. Bennet into letting her go in to Brighton. Still, in Mrs. Bennet’s mind, she never trusted Wickham and bemoans that people didn’t believe her when she protested that Wickham was not to be trusted. Oh, Mrs. Bennet.
Because Lydia is under 21, there are only two ways she can marry Wickham without the consent of her parents. She can go to Scotland, or marry with the use of the banns. A couple published a public notice of their intention to marry three successive Sundays in the church with the expectation that if the couple did not fulfill the legal requirements for matrimony (i.e. age), someone would come forward to prevent the marriage. Because London parishes were so large, a couple with no relations in London could easily marry without detection in this way.
While everyone’s reactions to Lydia’s elopement may seem over the top to modern audiences, her actions really would have a devastating effect on the family’s reputation. Mr. Collins tells Jane, Elizabeth, and Mary that Lydia’s death would have been preferable. This was actually a frequently given sentiment at the time.
While not common, duels still occurred at this time. People very rarely died and often both parties escaped without injury.
Bits & Pieces:
In the scene where they meet, Lizzy and Georgiana’s dresses are strikingly similar.
We get to see how quickly gossip moves. Mrs. Lucas finds out about the situation and tells her daughter who tells her husband who tells his “esteemed patroness,” who, it can easily be imagined, tells everybody.
The way Darcy looks at Elizabeth when she plays at Pemberley.
Elizabeth rushing to Georgiana’s aide after Miss Bingley brings up Wickham and the subsequent look of love shared by Elizabeth and Darcy.
Darcy’s concern for Elizabeth after she hears the news about Lydia.
Darcy storming out when Miss Bingley starts to criticize Lizzy yet again.
Kitty hiding from Mr. Collins.
Elizabeth cleverly manipulating Mr. Collins into leaving them by insinuating that he should have nothing to do with them, for propriety’s sake.
Darcy: man of action.