Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice Mr. Darcy Quotes
"I certainly have not the talent which some people possess," said Darcy, "of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done."
"My fingers," said Elizabeth, "do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women's do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault—because I will not take the trouble of practising. It is not that I do not believe my fingers as capable as any other woman's of superior execution."
Darcy smiled and said, "You are perfectly right. You have employed your time much better. No one admitted to the privilege of hearing you can think anything wanting. We neither of us perform to strangers." (32.24-26)
Here is another one of these philosophical conundrums. How much effort should a person make to be pleasant to strangers? Shouldn't it just be enough (like Darcy thinks) to do lots of good things and not worry too much about outward appearances and being a polite human?
"Your sister I also watched. Her look and manners were open, cheerful, and engaging as ever, but without any symptom of peculiar regard, and I remained convinced from the evening's scrutiny, that though she received his attentions with pleasure, she did not invite them by any participation of sentiment. If you have not been mistaken here, I must have been in error. Your superior knowledge of your sister must make the latter probable. If it be so, if I have been misled by such error to inflict pain on her, your resentment has not been unreasonable. But I shall not scruple to assert, that the serenity of your sister's countenance and air was such as might have given the most acute observer a conviction that, however amiable her temper, her heart was not likely to be easily touched." (35.3)
Uh oh. It looks like Charlotte was right, after all: Jane didn't give Bingley enough encouragement. This is tricky. On the one hand, you can't wear your heart on your sleeve—or your bosom—like Lydia; on the other hand, you need to flirt a little. No wonder half of these people stay single, if the rules are so complicated. What happened to passing someone a note saying "Will you go out with me? Check 'yes' or 'no.'"
"All this she must possess," added Darcy, "and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading." (8.51-52)
Mr. Darcy agrees with the superficial "accomplishments" that women should have, but his standards are even higher: she should also "improve" her mind through "extensive reading." But not, we suspect, so she can actually have ideas of her own—just so she can actually know what she's agreeing with, when she agrees with all of Mr. Darcy's opinions. (At least until Lizzy teaches him better, that is.)