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Chapter 1

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in
possession of a large 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 someone or other of their
daughters.

"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 week."

"What is his name?"

"Bingley."

"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
girls!"

"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 of them."

"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."

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.





Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Category:
General Fiction

Social life and customs - 19th century
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