One of my all-time favourite scenes in Pride and Prejudice is the conversation between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth about pride and vanity.
“Mr. Darcy is not to be laughed at!” cried Elizabeth. “That is an uncommon advantage, and uncommon I hope it will continue, for it would be a great loss to me to have many such acquaintances. I dearly love a laugh.”
“Miss Bingley,” said he, “has given me more credit than can be. The wisest and the best of men—nay, the wisest and best of their actions— may be rendered ridiculous by a person whose first object in life is a joke.”
“Certainly,” replied Elizabeth—“there are such people, but I hope I am not one of them. I hope I never ridicule what is wise and good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies, do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can. But these, I suppose, are precisely what you are without.”
“Perhaps that is not possible for anyone. But it has been the study of my life to avoid those weaknesses which often expose a strong understanding to ridicule.”
“Such as vanity and pride.”
“Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed. But pride—where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation.”
I think this scene is simply brilliant. What I love about it is that Darcy and Lizzy are openly sparring with each other. Of course, their intentions are very different; Darcy is flirting with her, completely unaware that Elizabeth is laughing at him. We also get to see their characters emerge in the way they argue. Lizzy is more passionate and direct, accusing Darcy of being vain and proud. Darcy, on the other hand, is more steady. He speaks with conviction and composure and I really love his answers to Lizzy. I think it is obvious that he is more mature and although I understand Elizabeth’s point, I think Darcy definitely wins this argument. It is obvious from the way they argue that these two have so much chemistry and would, when they are ready to acknowledge it, make an excellent match. Lizzy will always be the one to challenge Darcy’s convictions and Darcy will have the wisdom to listen, and when necessary, change his ways. What do you think?
Today, I share an excerpt from my second novel, To Love and Cherish, where Mr. and Mrs. Darcy and their guests discuss war, politics and fashion. Lord Barton, who has come to Pemberley with the intention to meet and secure the hand of Georgiana Darcy, seeing Lord Paisley as his competition, tries to belittle that gentleman by attacking his intelligence. Lord Paisley, using his usual blend of sarcasm and boredom, demonstrates his superior intelligence. I hope you enjoy the banter.
After dinner, the ladies left the gentlemen to their customary cigars. Colonel Fitzwilliam and Lord Barton soon fell into a heated conversation about the war. The viscount, having had too much of his cousin’s fine port, leaned back in his chair and dozed.
“All I am saying, my lord, is that I have been on the battlefield. I have seen what happens to men, often mere boys, who join the army with dreams of grandeur, only to have their dreams crushed by the reality of war,” Colonel Fitzwilliam said passionately.
“And there is great honor in what they do for their country,” said Lord Barton.
“You do not understand.” Colonel Fitzwilliam shook his head. “You have never had to write to their families, telling them that their son will never return.”
“There are always casualties in war.”
“That is easily said, if you are not one of the casualties,” Colonel Fitzwilliam said.
“I am not a soldier,” Lord Barton said. “I have neither the aptitude nor the inclination for such a career as yours. And you are not a politician, my dear Colonel. Permit me to say that you shall never be one.”
“And I thank the heavens for that, for I do not have the callousness it requires.”
“Shall we rejoin the ladies, gentlemen?” Mr. Darcy stood from his seat, rousing his cousin from his stupor.
Colonel Fitzwilliam and Lord Paisley followed the other gentlemen to the drawing room.
“Take care, Colonel,” Lord Paisley said quietly, “His Lordship may be easily offended. It will not do for you to make an enemy of the man.”
“He speaks of what he does not understand, my lord,” Colonel Fitzwilliam said.
“And he never shall understand what you speak of. Lord Barton is not unintelligent, but he is still young and has neither your experience nor your understanding. However, he is to become your family soon. Why allow yourself to be riled by him?”
“Oh, you have come at last!” Lady Sophia said as the gentlemen entered. “It is unkind of you to neglect us for so long. What, pray, has been keeping you in the dining room for so long?”
“We have been talking of war and politics.” Lord Barton smiled as he sat beside Georgiana on the settee. “Nothing that would interest you ladies.”
Georgiana opened her mouth, as if to protest, but thought better of it. Her eyes, however, met Lord Paisley’s knowing look of amusement.
Elizabeth said, “By all means, let us discuss ribbons and balls. That, I believe, is what women are most interested in.”
Darcy shook his head, amused by his wife’s impertinence.
“I did not mean any disrespect, Mrs. Darcy.” Lord Barton assured her. “But there are certainly many other topics that are more suitable for drawing room conversation.”
“I do so detest talk of war and politics,” Lady Sophia said with feeling. “I think ladies of great sensibility should avoid such topics.”
“Ladies of great sense, however, should feel no such compunction,” Lord Paisley said with a wicked smile.
“The same is true for men, I believe,” Lord Barton said, demanding Georgiana’s attention. “Men of sense and rank have an obligation to show interest in all matters concerning their country.”
Lady Sophia smiled. “How true! That is what I admire most in you, Brother. Your efforts in the House of Lords is always praised.”
“I only do what I must,” Lord Barton said.
“And we are all eternally grateful to you for your efforts.” Lord Paisley bowed.
Colonel Fitzwilliam chuckled, utterly amused by Lord Paisley’s wordplay with Lord Barton.
“It is a pity, however, that many of our noblemen fail to perform their duty.” Lord Barton retaliated. “So many of them are dandified gentlemen who understand only the cut of their coat and care for nothing but their own consequence.” Although Lord Barton’s speech was delivered with great amiability, no one missed his reference to Lord Paisley.
Lord Paisley’s gray eyes rested on Lord Barton’s face before his face changed into one of indifference. “But consider how difficult it would be for a man of fashion to also engage himself in issues of war and politics. Think how trying it would be to concern oneself”—glancing at Viscount Fitzwilliam—”with policy making in addition to the consuming task of setting the latest fashion. You will have to concede, sir, that that is simply too much responsibility for any man.” Georgiana snickered, enjoying the banter—and Lord Paisley’s wit.
“Appearances can often be deceiving, Lord Barton,” Darcy said. “A man of fashion can also be a man of remarkable sense and understanding. One does not negate the other.”
Understanding his host’s meaning, Lord Barton conceded. “You are absolutely right, Mr. Darcy. I must bow to your superior knowledge.”
“I hear you are proficient on the pianoforte, Miss Darcy,” Lady Sophia said. “May we persuade you to entertain us this evening?”
Lord Barton stood, offering his arm to Georgiana. “Allow me to turn the pages for you, Miss Darcy.”
“Correct me if I am mistaken, my lord,” Colonel Fitzwilliam whispered to Lord Paisley when Georgiana began to play, “but did you not advise me against setting Lord Barton’s back?”
Lord Paisley smiled. “I did, indeed, Colonel. But you see, one can always offer advice without the least intention of following it himself.”