It is a truth universally acknowledged,
that a single man in possession of a good fortune,
must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings
or views of such a man may be on his first entering
a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the
minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered
the rightful property of some one or other of their
“My dear Mr. Bennet,”
said his lady to him one day, “have you heard
that Netherfield Park is let at last?”
Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.
“But it is,” returned
she; “for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she
told me all about it.”
Mr. Bennet made no answer.
“Do you not want to know who has taken it?”
cried his wife impatiently.
“You want to tell me,
and I have no objection to hearing it.”
This was invitation enough.
“Why, my dear, you must know,
Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young
man of large fortune from the north of England; that
he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see
the place, and was so much delighted with it, that
he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is
to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his
servants are to be in the house by the end of next
“What is his name?”
“Is he married or single?”
“Oh! Single, my dear, to
be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or
five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our
“How so? How can it affect them?”
“My dear Mr. Bennet,”
replied his wife, “how can you be so tiresome!
You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one
“Is that his design in settling here?”
“Design! Nonsense, how
can you talk so! But it is very likely that he
may fall in love with one of them, and therefore
you must visit him as soon as he comes.”
“I see no occasion for that.
You and the girls may go, or you may send them by
themselves, which perhaps will be still better, for
as you are as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley
may like you the best of the party.”
“My dear, you flatter me.
I certainly have had my share of beauty, but
I do not pretend to be anything extraordinary now.
When a woman has five grown-up daughters, she ought
to give over thinking of her own beauty.”
“In such cases, a woman has
not often much beauty to think of.”
“But, my dear, you must indeed
go and see Mr. Bingley when he comes into the neighbourhood.”
“It is more than I engage for, I assure you.”
“But consider your daughters.
Only think what an establishment it would be for one
of them. Sir William and Lady Lucas are determined
to go, merely on that account, for in general, you
know, they visit no newcomers. Indeed you must
go, for it will be impossible for us to visit
him if you do not.”
“You are over-scrupulous, surely.
I dare say Mr. Bingley will be very glad to see you;
and I will send a few lines by you to assure him of
my hearty consent to his marrying whichever he chooses
of the girls; though I must throw in a good word for
my little Lizzy.”
“I desire you will do no such
thing. Lizzy is not a bit better than the others;
and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane,
nor half so good-humoured as Lydia. But you are
always giving her the preference.”
“They have none of them much
to recommend them,” replied he; “they are
all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy
has something more of quickness than her sisters.”
“Mr. Bennet, how can
you abuse your own children in such a way? You
take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion
for my poor nerves.”
“You mistake me, my dear.
I have a high respect for your nerves. They are
my old friends. I have heard you mention them
with consideration these last twenty years at least.”
“Ah, you do not know what I suffer.”
“But I hope you will get over
it, and live to see many young men of four thousand
a year come into the neighbourhood.”
“It will be no use to us, if
twenty such should come, since you will not visit
“Depend upon it, my dear, that
when there are twenty, I will visit them all.”
Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of
quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice,
that the experience of three-and-twenty years had
been insufficient to make his wife understand his character.
Her mind was less difficult to develop.
She was a woman of mean understanding, little information,
and uncertain temper. When she was discontented,
she fancied herself nervous. The business of her
life was to get her daughters married; its solace
was visiting and news.