Headscratchers: Pride and Prejudice
Isn't it weird that Fitzwilliam Darcy's first
name is the same as his cousin's last
- Actually, not at all. One of the ways surnames became first names is by a son being given his mother's maiden name (usually as a middle name, but occasional as a first name). Thus any of his cousins from his maternal uncles would have a last name the same as his first name.
- Thank you for clearing that up!
- Exactly. And the narrative clearly states that Darcy's mother, Lady Anne, was the sister of Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Colonel Fitzwilliam's father, who is an Earl.
- Wait. Fitzwilliam is the Colonel's surname? I always thought the cousins shared the same first name.
The male-entailed Bennet estate can be inherited by someone named Collins, not Bennet. Could Jane's son inherit instead if he's born before Mr. Bennet dies? If so, why does everyone act like the estate's going to Mr. Collins no matter what?
- It's rather complicated, but basically the estate can't descend through the female line (ie. from Mr. Bennet to a son of one of his daughters) unless there is no available heir descended from a male line—so Jane's son would inherit after Mr. Collins and his family, not before. It was also not uncommon in Austen's time for a man to change his surname in order to honor a benefactor, which would explain why Mr. Collins and Mr. Bennet have different names despite sharing a paternal line. See here and here for more detail.
- Specially when you consider that Mr. Collin's father is -necessarily- Mr. Bennet's younger brother; he might even have been a clergyman himself (which was considered a perfectly good option for a gentleman, as seen in [[Mansfield Park]]. He might have taken upon his parish's benefactor surname. I'll bet that given the option, Mr. Collins will name his children Bourgh.
- I thought the terms of the entailment were the property has to go to the father's nearest male relation, at least judging by Mrs. Bennet's mission to get her daughters married and acquire either sons-in-law or grandsons to replace Mr. Collins in this position. It's established, of course, that Mrs. Bennet is an idiot who has no idea how entailments work, and they could really have no hope of keeping their house after the patriarch dies regardless of being married, but I also got the impression from Mr. Bennet's letter to Mr. Collins (about how Mr. Darcy "has more to offer" than his aunt) that he could now name Mr. Darcy the heir of the estate Mr. Collins was planning to inherit.
- I don't think there's much in that letter suggesting Mr. Bennet intends to make Darcy his heir - Longbourn pales in comparison to the wealth Darcy already possessed. Also, why would he name Darcy and not Bingley? Clearly simply acquiring a son-in-law isn't enough for them to retain the house- on his first visit Mr. Collins thought Jane was as good as engaged, but continued behave as if he would eventually inherit the property. He regarded proposing to a Bennet daughter as something of an act of charity, which wouldn't have been necessary if there was a good chance of them keeping the property through some other means. Mrs. Bennet's obsession with marrying off her daughters was out of fear of ending up homeless with five daughters to care for. Every marriage meant one less daughter to worry about, and a potential place to live when Mr. Bennet died.
- 'Mr. Darcy has more to offer' refers to his influence in the church and the fact that he will have more priest jobs to offer Mr Collins than his aunt. For this reason Charlotte thought Mr Darcy was a better match for Lizzy than Colonel Fitzwilliam. (In later Trollope novels the clergy are limited to two positions and couldn't just collect as many as possible as was allowed in Austen's time).
- Possibly an entailed estate could only be passed through male bloodlines (i.e. women would be considered as non-existent when figuring out who would inherit). The purpose of an entailment was to ensure that the land stayed in the family, and women were considered part of their husband's family, not their father's family, and thus passing an estate on to a daughter's son would cause the estate to pass to a different family.
- In light of all this, just how was Anne de Bourgh allowed to inherit her family's estate anyway? Was that another privilege of the rich?
- Entailments aren't mandatory. You can have estates that are entailed to the male line, entailed to the female line, entailed to any descendants, and not entailed at all. (See the relevant article from the other wiki.) Lady Catherine says that the de Bourghs never thought it necessary to entail the estates away from daughters. It depends on how the original grant was worded.
- Entailments weren't generally-applicable laws; each estate had its own rules. Longbourne can not pass to (or through) Mr. Bennet's daughters, but must go either to his son should he have one, or else to the next-closest male descendent of Mr. Bennet's dad. Rosings had no entailment.
- And for anyone who's interested, everyone now holds land in England "Fee Simple," which means it goes to whomever the guy or girl who owns it wants it to go to. Entailments were abolished in 1925, and I can't help but think this novel helped along some MPs...
- But how did this whole Entailment business work in general? One head of the family at one point decided that an estate should be entailed to the male line and then no future head of the family could ever change those rules? Seems very inflexible, illogical even. But I'm probably missing something.
- This is gonna be a bit over-simplified — as well as a bit of an essay — but there's two key things you have to remember / understand about British society at this point.
Firstly, at the time of the novel Britain operates, and has done so for a while, on a fairly strict basis of class and hereditary income; for the most part a family's wealth, income and possessions are passed down across the generations, meaning that future generations are in many ways dependant on what the older generations have managed to hang on to, since there's nowhere near the kind of career and job opportunities and social mobility we take for granted today and thus little other way for said descendants to earn a living outside of this. An entailment, in theory at least, essentially acted as a guarantee that the property would be 'kept in the family' so that the future generations would have something they could inherit and thus earn a living from; if you were a landowner like Mr. Bennet, then then if you entailed it to a descendent then unless you really crapped out on your fortunes and/or squandered everything, your descendants would be able to earn a living from the land and the rent that was paid to them by the tenants who occupied that land. You wouldn't change it because you'd have no reason to; it was protecting your family's future livelihood (not to mention that these things have often been operating unchanged for generations going back centuries in some cases, and Britain is a very tradition-based society in many ways). Of course, it didn't necessarily work out this way in practice, as we see in the novel — sometimes the family line was cut short with no children, sometimes the intended descendant was a wanton spend-crazy jackass or, as in this case, of the wrong gender; this meant that the entailment would then be passed on to the next likely candidate according to the stipulations of the will (which might, as in this case, be a different family entirely).
The second thing you also have to remember/understand, however, is that Britain at this point is also a very patriarchal society. Women are second-class citizens, have few legal rights (although not necessarily none entirely) and, upon marriage, the woman leaves her birth family and legally becomes part of her husband's family, with no independent standing (unless she or her birth-family stipulated otherwise at the time of the marriage). In practice, she essentially becomes his 'property', and everything she owns to all intents and purposes becomes his property as well — including any inheritances she might be claimant to. Since the purpose of the entailment is to keep the property in the original family and not let it go to someone else, leaving it to a woman under such circumstances would seem to defeat the purpose (although it's not unheard of); therefore, the best way to ensure this is to leave it to a male heir, since the son always remains part of the family, so to speak. Which puts you in a bit of a tricky situation if, like Mr. Bennet, you've bet the farm on some day having a son only to have five daughters instead.
Of course, to us as you say it seems utterly absurd and illogical that things should work like this — but that's because we've gone through 200 years of massive societal shifts since the writing of the novel, among them modern capitalism, which has radically shifted how we think about income and inheritance, and feminism, radically shifting how we view and treat women. The former of which at least the novel (very cleverly IMHO) suggests through characters like the Gardiners and to a lesser extent the Bingleys, who have earned their fortune through trade rather than inheritance — the novel is set at the early days of the Industrial Revolution, when these radical shifts are in their very early days and when the British Empire was really beginning to come into it's golden days as a trade superpower, meaning that there's new ways of earning money that render the old system (as represented by entailments) antiquated and increasingly absurd.
- This book provides an excellent, detailed, quick lesson in what an entail was and how it worked — it cleared up everything that once sounded strange to me about this practice.
- So Darcy's major reason for discouraging Bingley's courtship of Jane is a belief that Jane's affection is not sincere, due to Jane's inveterate shyness. Um, how is this Darcy's business? If he had reason to believe Jane was only chasing Charles for his money, that's reason to break them up. This is obviously not the case, so where does he get off?
- He knew Bingley well enough to realize he was honestly falling in love with Jane, but he had reason to think Jane was just being... polite. He recognized in the letter to Lizzy that Jane had many personal virtues to recommend her, but being open about her affections was not one of them. Add to that the other "disadvantages" of the match: No connections, a "silly" family, (relative) poverty, and poor relations, and Darcy had a point in not wanting his friend to marry Jane when the principal selling point (Love) is in doubt of existing. Honestly, you're right, it wasnt his business except in as much as a concerned friend should warn of a potentially loveless marriage, which he did. It's a Jerk Ass move and Lizzy rightly What the Hell, Hero?'s him on it, but that's the point. It's part of his ungentlemanly pride that he had not realized was a defect and later sets out to correct. That he "OK's" the match to Bingley and owns up to hiding Jane's presence in London isn't just to get in good with Lizzy, but because he realized he had done wrong by his friend.
- Meddling in others' lives for the better is an older-sibling instinct (as I sadly know from experience), and Bingley would have and should have come to the same conclusion about Jane (everyone besides the Bennets apparently did) if he wasn't so naive. In a way, Bingley's and Darcy's beliefs about Jane's feelings parallel Jane's and Elizabeth's chosen views of the world. That aside, like the above troper said, Darcy was concerned for his friend and didn't want to see him get his heart broken. If that doesn't suit you, there is the more interesting motivation that I half-not-seriously thought of when I first read the novel...
- Her mother's loud pushiness on the issue and nakedly transparent desire for the marriage to take place (to the extent that she's pretty much acting like it's a done deal even after the two have only just met) probably didn't help either; if you don't really know her (and even if you do, kind of), Mrs. Bennet just gives the impression of being a total Gold Digger-By-Proxy, and Jane's just mild enough to be swept up along with her. It's not entirely impossible that someone who didn't know her well might jump to this conclusion.
- It is mentioned towards the end of the book that, although he would never admit it, Darcy hoped that Bingley would marry his (Darcy's) younger sister. Just one more added reason to get him away from Jane Bennet.
- Also, once Mr. Bennet dies (assuming he predeceases his wife), responsibility for supporting Mrs. Bennet would fall on Jane (and thus Mr. Bingley) as the eldest child. So there's a certain element of "You may love Jane, but do you love her enough to put up with her mother?"
- This JBM actually comes out of a "discussion question" in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but it stuck in my head. Does she have any redeeming or positive qualities? She's "illiberal", meaning she's bad at managing the expenses of a household, so their family has negligible savings it can use as a dowry, and that is due solely to Mr. Bennet not being a very extravagant man. She's not just ignorant, but lacks common sense, and worse she's loud about it in front of people she has every reason not to want to think poorly of her. Her parenting skills are non-existent: she's an indulgent mother to Lydia and Kitty, doesn't help Mary come out of her shell, can't connect at all with Elizabeth and doesn't know how to promote Jane's interests. These defects combine when Lydia runs off with Wickham, all she can see is a wedding dress with no idea what a horrifying loss of face for the entire family it represents if it gets out. Even Lady Catherine, her "rich" counterpart, has a great deal more common sense, and she's successful at being pushy about her views, whereas everyone pretty much ignores Mrs. Bennet. (Not saying that being pushy is a good thing, but Lady Catherine is good at it, at least with anyone who isn't Lizzy or Darcy.) Lastly, she's not even pleasant to be around. I mean, she probably does love (most of) her children... but is there anything beyond that?
- No, she doesn't have any redeeming qualities, but this is intentional and supposed to be a criticism of Regency England society. Jane Austen's culture wanted women to be Brainless Beauties who didn't worry about cultivating their mind, just being beautiful and content with "lady-like" activities like balls, gossip, and marriages. As Mr. Bennet can testify, this benefits no one (including the men), only creating a miserable marriage.
- Just RE: Lady Catherine, however, one of the reasons that Lady Catherine de Bourgh is more successfully pushy than Mrs. Bennet is that she's, well, Lady Catherine de Bourgh; she's hereditary aristocracy and old money, and because of it people are a lot more willing to put up with her crap and a lot less willing to do the Regency equivalent of telling her to shut up and piss off than they would be from Mrs. Bennet, who by comparison is just some foolish little woman married to a mildly prosperous middle-class country landowner who can be safely ignored. Common sense-wise they're probably not that far apart, it's just that people are more frightened of / willing to humour Lady Catherine.
- The problem with Mrs. Bennet having NO redeemable qualities is that it's so unbelievable for Mr. Bennet to have married her. She could have been the most attractive creature that ever lived in her youth but if she had the same complete and utter lack of even basic manners that she does now, how would Mr. Bennet have been able to stand being around her long enough to propose?
- I think Elizabeth asks herself the same question sometimes, judging by some of what we see of her inner monologue. There is a notation about him being deceived by the appearance of youth, beauty, and good humor, which suggests that Mrs. Bennet may have been more likeable (or at least better at pretending to be) when she was younger than she is during the time of the story.
- I seem to remember there being a conversation between Elizabeth and Mr. Bennet about his marrying for looks instead of real love, and that he didn't want Elizabeth to fall into a similar trap.
- Never underestimate superficiality; plenty of people have gotten married for superficial reasons such as looks and wealth and have gone on to regret it. Really, in a modern day work Mr. and Mrs. Bennet would have probably been the type of couple who'd have ended up getting divorced way before the events of the novel; it's just that divorce wasn't possible for the vast, vast majority of the population.
- It's also wasn't that uncommon for couples to get married after knowing each other for a short time (remember, you couldn't pursue a sexual relationship without being married). So it's very conceivable that Mr. Bennet found Mrs. Bennet REALLY, REALLY, REALLY hot and convinced himself that she was smarter than she was. Mrs. Bennet, while silly, is over all good hearted (if incredibly selfish) and very friendly. Most likely, Mr. Bennet followed his other head into the match.
- Mr. Bennet was probably the same retiring and indolent bookworm as a youth he is in the novel, and might not have taken many opportunities to meet girls. Mrs. Bennet (or Miss Gardner as she was at the time) decided to pursue him, as he was of a higher social class than herself. She dazzled him with his beauty, and as he couldn't be bothered to play the field anyway, decided "what the heck, might as well marry this gorgeous woman!" Only too late did he discover his mistake.
- Her main redeeming feature is that she is actually trying to look out for her daughters (and probably herself) by seeing them married off, however ineffective her meddling seems. When Mr Bennett dies, the family will be homeless (and likely destitute) or dependent on the charity of Mr Collins (a decidedly unattractive prospect) which is why it is important to get the daughters safely married off. In this respect, it's Mr Bennett who is letting the family down by not looking out for his daughters.
- It should possibly be noted that from what we see, Mrs. Bennet seems far more concerned about what effect her husband's death will have on her rather than her daughters; most of her discussion of this issue is less concern for what will happen to her daughters as much as it is self-involved whining about what will happen to her, and she tends to use her daughters more as props to secure a husband (and thus a comfortable lifestyle for her) rather than concern over their welfare. Remember, she's so desperate to get Jane married to Bingley that she has her ride through a rainstorm to his house (and not surprisingly, Jane catches a cold — which, in the days before penicillin, wasn't necessarily a small thing either) and her response to her youngest daughter marrying a man known to be incredibly disreputable at best is to just focus on silly-headed giggling about how she's finally got a daughter married off. If anything, she actually seems just as disinterested in the welfare of her daughters as Mr. Bennet is when it gets down to it.
- It should also be noted that while Mr. Bennet is initially quite disinterested in parenting, unlike Mrs. Bennet by the end of the novel he acknowledges his own failings in this area and the harm it's caused, and takes steps to temper the damage by being a better parent to his still-unmarried daughters. Compare Mrs. Bennet, who's typical reaction to being proved wrong is to retroactively adjust her own memory of events so that she can convince herself she was right all along.
I realise values were very different back then. It still really bugs me that when the Bennets' fifteen-year-old daughter runs off with a grown man, they're oh-so-relieved when she and he get married. In fact, Darcy, The Hero
, makes sure the grown man marries the teenage girl. I'm not sure how my mother would react if I had ran away with a grown man when I was a teenager, but I know for sure she wouldn't have said, 'Oh God, if he doesn't marry her...' I've known some conservative families, who I'd be willing to bet if their teenage daughter ran away with a grown man, their reaction would be to track the man down, forcibly reclaim their daughter, and threaten police intervention if said man went anywhere near said daughter. Granted, they would be furious with the daughter and embarrassed as hell by her actions, but pushing marriage would be not even an option.
- True, but context is everything here. Lydia wasn't a teenaged girl in her society; she was a woman of marrying age. Wickham didn't rape her, he didn't kidnap her, they both willingly ran away together, and there was no legal age of consent. It wasn't the equivalent of a girl running off with a grown man to us; it was the equivalent of two people eloping to us. The elopement didn't throw the family into panic because their daughter was kidnapped (she wasn't); it was a disaster because it was a threat to their honor. The problem was that Lydia was too stupid to realize Wickham was using her and had no intention of marrying her, and when word got out that she had premarital sex (whether completely true or not), she would be a societal outcast, her family would be disgraced, and her sisters would have little to no chance of ever getting a respectable husband themselves. Keep in mind that in context, this would not be the equivalent of parents only being embarrassed and not caring about Lydia; the only threat in their mindset was to her honor, not her safety or her psychological health, and the only way to save Lydia was to save her honor, by making her marry him.
- Also, if you recall, Jane and Elizabeth were both very concerned about Lydia marrying Wickham and worried that she wouldn't be happy with him, but they realised it was the only possible course of action at that point. And Darcy - when he first tracked them down in London - initially tried to extract Lydia from Wickham altogether and send her back to her family, but Lydia blankly refused and insisted on marrying Wickham. All in all, it was her own decision to marry him more than anyone else's.
When Jane is invited to Netherfield to dine with Miss Bingley, she asks her father for the coach, which he seems inclined to do. Her mother, though, insists that she ride a horse so that when it rains she has to stay the night and presumably spend some time with Mr. Bingley. At this point, Elizabeth pipes in to encourage the horse-riding plan. This ends up help her mother's plans, which in the rest of the book Elizabeth despises, and she does so completely ignoring Jane's feelings and preferences. What the Hell, Hero?
- Elizabeth's 2 lines of contribution to the conversation were clearly sarcastic (transcript from novel):
Jane: Can I have the carriage?
Mrs. Bennet: No, my dear, you had better go on horseback, because it seems likely to rain; and then you must stay all night.
Elizabeth: That would be a good scheme if you were sure that they would not offer to send her home.
Mrs. Bennet: Oh! but the gentlemen will have Mr. Bingley's chaise to go to Meryton, and the Hursts have no horses to theirs.
Jane: I had much rather go in the coach.
Mrs. Bennet: But, my dear, your father cannot spare the horses, I am sure. They are wanted in the farm, Mr. Bennet, are they not?
Mr. Bennet: They are wanted in the farm much oftener than I can get them.
Elizabeth: But if you have got them to-day, my mother's purpose will be answered.
- I always read that as Lizzy being sarcastic, and Mr. Bennet is forced to own that, yes, he can't spare the horses.
Income from WHERE?
They keep emphasizing how Bingley and Darcy are so rich and "make 5000-10,000 a year", but where are they getting it from? Is their job ever mentioned?
- The same place as Mr. Bennet's income, the same place as any landed gentry's income — from their land. That's why they're landed gentry.
- To elaborate briefly, basically they're landlords; they own quite a lot of land and either employ people to work it for them and/or rent it out to tenants and then collect rent from them.
- Ahh, that explains. Guess that mystery is solved. Still, it was fun to imagine that Darcy might secretly be a pirate.
- And investments.
Mrs. Bennet's reaction to Lydia's marriage
If Mrs. Bennet's primary motivation is to make sure that her daughters marry well enough that them and herself won't have financial problems after Mr. Bennet's death, then why is she so ecstatic about Lydia marrying a man so poor that *her family* has to pay off his debts? I know everybody is supposed to be relieved because she is saved from being a "fallen woman" and Mrs. Bennet probably wants to defend her favorite child against the negative feelings of the other family members, but shouldn't her positive reaction have been mixed with some ambiguity at least? In fact in the 1995 miniseries, she's as upset as anyone when she first hears about Lydia's "elopement" (i.e. before they figured out Wickham didn't intend to marry her) but she's positively joyous later when they actually do get married.
- It's one more indication of just how changeable — and unreasonable — Mrs. Bennet is. Both qualities are on full display when Mr. Bennet reads Mr. Collins's letter to tell them of his first stay with them: she thinks reasonably well after the letter is read, when before she had thought him... unpleasant because he happened to be next in line for the entail (though entails were fairly common back then)
- It's also an illustration of how utterly single-minded yet careless and foolish she is in her quest to get her daughters married; she's ultimately not that bothered by who they marry, just that they marry someone, even if that someone is clearly inappropriate. Essentially, rather than viewing the objective as "get my daughters married to a suitable, respectable man who will secure their safe, happy and prosperous future", she's just viewing it as "get my daughters married, and the rest will sort itself out".
All the "Miss Bennet"s
Why is Elizabeth addressed as "Miss Bennet" many times in the novel? Isn't only the oldest unmarried daughter supposed to be "Miss Bennet", and all the rest "Miss [first name]"?
- When they're together, yes — Jane would be "Miss Bennet," Elizabeth "Miss Elizabeth," Mary "Miss Mary," etc. When the eldest isn't around, though, it's allowed to address the only Miss Bennet present as "Miss Bennet." Note the scene in Mansfield Park when Mary Crawford says she's glad Tom Bertram has gone on a trip so his younger brother Edmund can be "Mr. Bertram again" (she hates thinking of and speaking to him as "Mr. Edmund" because it reminds her that he's a younger son and not an heir).
Ok, so Lydia is a silly fool. But why does Wickham run off with her? At least in the 1995 miniseries, he's not portrayed as particularly in love with her, or even capable of such emotion. His attempt to seduce Miss Darcy made sense because she had money and as revenge on Darcy. Lydia had no money, and if he was after what little her family could come up with for a blackmail dowry, then hiding from them while the scandal grows makes no sense either. He's portrayed as calculating, not stupid, so what was his plan?
- He doesn't love her at all. The main reason Wickham fled to London was to escape the many people he owed money he couldn't pay back to, and he basically dragged Lydia along because she was easily seduced, not very bright, unattached and quite attractive. Basically, he's just using her for sex. The plan was, once the heat had died down and he'd grown bored with Lydia, to dump her and go somewhere far away from anyone who might know him or have a grudge against him.