Authors: Emma Tennant
IN ONE VOLUME.
A SEQUEL TO
“PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.”
For my mother
Pride and Prejudice
is the most popular of Jane Austen's novels and Elizabeth Bennet was Jane Austen's favourite heroine.
As with all her novels,
Pride and Prejudice
ends in marriage: of the five daughters Mr and Mrs Bennet must marry off, three are wed, in order of precedence, as Mrs Bennet would have it, as follows: Elizabeth, the second daughter, to Mr Darcy, master of Pemberley House in Derbyshire and ten thousand a year; Jane, the eldest, to Mr Bingley, with five or six thousand a year; and Lydia, who elopes with the charming but feckless Mr Wickham. (Kitty and Mary, respectively empty-headed and bookish, remain at the end of the book in need of a husband.)
That Jane Austen continued to think of her characters after the book closed is shown in a letter â amongst many in which she used to joke about the personalities of Jane and Elizabeth Bennet â to her sister, from London in May 1813. Here she pretends she has been searching for likenesses of the Bennet sisters in the art exhibitions of the time. âHenry and I went to the exhibition in Spring Gardens,' she wrote. âI was very well pleased â¦ with a small portrait of Mrs Bingley, excessively like her â¦ She is dressed in a white gown, with green ornaments, which convinces me of what I had always supposed, that green was a favourite colour with her. I dare say Mrs D. will be in yellow.' But she records later that she was disappointed in her quest. At an exhibition of Sir Joshua Reynolds's paintings, âthere was nothing like Mrs Dâ¦. I can only imagine that Mr D. prizes any picture of her too much to like it should be exposed to the public eye. I can imagine he would have that sort of feeling â that mixture of love, pride and delicacy.' Jane Austen's characters lived on in her mind
long after they had married and were, supposedly, living happily ever after.
starts after the marriage of Elizabeth to Mr Darcy, and Jane to Mr Bingley, Elizabeth lives with her husband at Pemberley; and Jane and her husband have bought in a neighbouring county â which is to say, Yorkshire.
Mrs Bennet, recently widowed, has left her home, Longbourn, in Hertfordshire, but has not moved far: she is in a smaller house near Meryton, the local town she has visited with her daughters over the past quarter of a century.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh lives still at Rosings with her unmarried daughter.
Lydia, the youngest Bennet daughter to marry, leads a rootless existence with her husband and family: the Wickhams are frequently in debt, and known to sponge off Lydia's richer sisters.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a married man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a son and heir.
So at least are the sentiments of all those related on both sides of the family; and there are others, besides, who might do better to keep their tongues from wagging on the fecundity or otherwise of a match.
âMy dear Mrs Bennet,' said Mrs Long one day to her friend, who was newly removed from Longbourn since the death of her husband, âdo not you have a happy event to look forward to? I expect daily to hear news of your daughter Elizabeth and the charming Mr Darcy. I am most surprised to have heard nothing yet.'
Mrs Bennet replied that she was not accustomed to hear from her daughter every day of the week.
âThe news of an impending arrival in the family need only be communicated once,' said Mrs Long. âUnless,' she added after some reflection, âa girl is born first, and then there will need to be further communications, to be sure.'
âMy dear Mrs Long,' said Mrs Bennet, who was accustomed to these taunts but was still unable to bear them, âI have enough to do, settling into this small house with only Mary to keep me company; and
is always in the library, as poor Mr Bennet was, when we were at Longbourn. I have no time for such speculations.'
âYou show all the courage in the world,' replied Mrs Long; âand this is well known at Meryton. To have your home taken from you when you have many years to live yet â¦'
âAnd two daughters still unmarried,' said Mrs Bennet, glad to find herself in a conversation more agreeable to her. âFor even if Kitty does stay with my dear Jane at Barlow, and with Lizzy at Pemberley, the girl is unmarried and may return here any day now, to eat me out of house and home.'
Mrs Long remarked that the entail of Longbourn to a distant male cousin, Mr Collins, had been a great misfortune to the Bennet family; and she remarked again that Mrs Bennet's fortitude and bravery in removing from her home was noted by the whole neighbourhood.
âI am very well provided for here,' said Mrs Bennet, who did not care for the excessive sympathy of the neighbourhood. âMr Darcy has been most generous, as you know, and has enabled me to buy this house. Mr Bennet, I am sorry to say, made no provision for his wife and daughters.'
âTo have Mr Darcy as a son-in-law must be wonderful indeed,' said Mrs Long. âYou must feel truly indebted to him, for none of us can see that you would have had a roof over your head if your Elizabeth had not married a man with a generous nature and ten thousand a year.'
âOn the contrary,' cried Mrs Bennet, who again disliked the way in which Mrs Long turned the conversation, âit is Mr Darcy who must be indebted to me.'
âAnd why is that?'
âI am the mother of Elizabeth. She could not have come into the world without me.'
âTrue indeed,' said Mrs Long, who had seen out of the window that a letter had been brought into the house by the groom and was carried in to Mrs Bennet by the maid. âWithout you, Mrs Bennet' â and here Mrs Long waited, as Mrs Bennet was obliged to open the letter in her presence â âwithout you I believe there must never be an heir to Pemberley at all.'
There was silence as Mrs Bennet read the letter and then tucked it away in her writing-box.
âI hope the letter contains news that you have been hoping for,' said Mrs Long when Mrs Bennet offered no information.
âIndeed it does,' said Mrs Bennet, who went to the door and called up the stairs for Mary.
âI am glad of that,' said Mrs Long, who showed no intention of moving from her chair.
Mrs Bennet brought Mary into the room and took her book from her hand as she did so. âMary, we are invited to Pemberley for Christmas. You must have some new clothes. We shall go into Meryton. I shall order the carriage.'
âI am so very glad your mother and yourself are invited to Pemberley at last,' cried Mrs Long. âI hear it is a splendid house, with beautiful woods, and ten miles' walk to go round the park.'
âI would rather stay here,' said Mary. âMy cousin Mr Collins at Longbourn has a new theological treatise for us to discuss when I next go there.'
Mrs Bennet came back into the room and soon the three ladies found themselves in the hall and preparing to go to Meryton.
âMark my words,' said Mrs Long to Mrs Bennet once they were all three embarked on an expedition to dressmaker and milliner, âyou are asked there, as befits your rank as the mother of Mrs Fitzwilliam Darcy, in order that you shall hear some very important news.'
âAnd what might that be?' cried Mrs Bennet in exasperation.
Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy had been married nearly a year when the invitation came for Mrs Bennet and Elizabeth's younger sister Mary to spend Christmas at Pemberley House.
The reason for the delay in inviting her mother and sister lay with Elizabeth: she had much to learn, or so she argued to herself, when it came to being mistress of Pemberley; and obligations to estate workers and tenants, as well as the setting up of a model dairy and the reconstruction of a fruit and kitchen garden long neglected, had left her little time to consider her family.
She had, of course, been much grieved by the death of her father, and with Mr Darcy and attended the funeral and stayed at Longbourn while legalities due on the making of the entail to Mr Collins were completed. She had thanked her husband wholeheartedly for his kindness and generosity in buying Meryton Lodge, on the outskirts of the little town, for her mother and two unmarried sisters. But she disliked, if the truth were to be told, to be beholden to anyone, especially Mr Darcy, for he had already given her so much that she was embarrassed to thank him further. Just as Mrs Bennet had predicted, Eliza received jewels and fine horses and carriages in far greater abundance than her sister Jane Bingley, who lived in wedded bliss with Mr Bingley at Barlow, not thirty miles away. There was nothing Elizabeth Darcy wanted that would ever be refused to her, and this sometimes made her fear that her fortune was too great to last. Mr Darcy was generous in his love as well as in his gifts; and the more he showered on his wife, the less she felt able to ask for further kindnesses.
Elizabeth knew very well that to mention a visit from her mother would prompt Mr Darcy to ever greater feats of imaginative
munificence. Mrs Bennet would be encouraged, as Kitty had been until Jane had insisted she leave Pemberley and go to the Bingleys at Barlow, to stay indefinitely as his guest. A tutor or music master would in all probability be found for Mary, to help train her voice and keep her from the boredom she would feel away from her books. Mrs Bennet would have the run of the place; and be encouraged, too, to invite those of her acquaintance who lived in the vicinity. Elizabeth feared they would be many.
These were not the only reasons for Mrs Bennet's long wait for the letter which would summon her to her daughter and son-in-law's house. Elizabeth had also begun to fear that she was not able to conceive a child. However many times her sister Jane, who was the happy mother of a daughter of one year and expected another child in the near future, told her sister Lizzy that a space of a year without conception meant nothing, Elizabeth secretly fretted and grieved over the matter. She did not hope to hear her mother on the subject; and said as much to Jane, on the occasion of a visit to Barlow.