I’ve been thinking a bit of Mr. Bingley lately. When I finished my surgery and the recovery time after, I spent quite a bit of time outlining future stories, and there was one in particular that deals with Mr. Bingley and his character. Let’s take a closer look at him, shall we?
Mr. Bingley is, as we are told, a man of easy temperament, happy in company and at ease in any situation. Jane Austen describes him thus:
Mr. Bingley was good looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners.
That is little enough to go on, other than to note that he is pleasant and handsome, eager to please. I have often seen writers refer to Bingley as a puppy, which is an excellent description for him in my opinion. Further to this, we learn that he is excellent friends with Darcy, and can be rather impulsive, as his conversation with Darcy about his ability to make a decision in minutes can attest.
But Bingley is not perfect. While he’s the life of any party, he is easily influenced and lacks in confidence, to the extent that he relies on Darcy’s opinion more than his own. In short, he is a bit of a jellyfish, and at times, ruled by his shrewish sister and his more forceful friend. But all is not lost, for he attains a bit of a backbone by the end of the book. In the 1995 version, when he meets Jane again, the first thing he does is apologize to her, saying he has been the most “unmitigated and comprehensive ass.” That comment is rather astonishingly self-aware for Bingley!
How does Bingley come into this growth? The specifics are never mentioned explicitly. We are told Darcy confesses his role in separating him from Jane, and the results of that conversation are evident. We are told that Bingley was offended by Darcy’s concealment of Jane’s presence in London, but his offense did not last long in true Bingley fashion. One can assume that his anger with Caroline and Louisa did not last much longer, though we are not told directly.
I have long thought that Jane was the primary reason for Bingley’s reformation. Yes, Darcy’s confession and Bingley learning of Jane’s affection provided encouragement. If it had been anyone other than Jane, would Bingley have acted in such a manner? Perhaps he would have, though I am uncertain. I suppose it would depend in a large part on his attachment to that woman.
Readers often asked me why Bingley did not reform in The Mistress of Longbourn. My reason at the time was because Jane was not present in that novel, and though Bingley paid attention to Kitty, he did not feel enough for her to mend his ways. The only other work of mine in which Bingley did not end up with Jane was Chaos Comes to Kent, and in that one Darcy did not remain in Hertfordshire long enough to influence him, and Caroline pulled him away from Jane the first chance she got. And when Colonel Fitzwilliam showed interest in Jane, well that was the end for Bingley.
Given Bingley’s character, I’ve often thought he could easily go the other way. I like the character and I generally pair him with Jane, but he’s such a squish that it is entirely believable that he would continue to be spineless, and that path in life would lead him away from Jane. It’s fortunate, indeed, that most readers don’t batt an eyelash when Jane is not paired with him. I have two more planned where she’s not!
Those are my thoughts of Mr. Bingley for the present. I wanted to note that Bonds of Friendship, the first in the Bonds of Life duology will be available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited on Thursday next week. My son, Andrew, is doing the cover for me, as I wanted something a little different than my usual covers. Andrew’s pretty good at that sort of thing, so I’m looking forward to what he produces. It should be ready soon; when it is, I’ll do a cover reveal on FB. Once again, remember the first book ends on a rather enormous cliffhanger. Luckily, the second book is plotted and will be ready by summer.