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A Reading of Pride and Prejudice (abridged) Chapters 1-7

Pride and Prejudice

Abridged by Franz Bradford

Chapter 1

IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that the Netherfield Park Estate has been rent out at last?”

Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.

“But it has,” she said.

Mr. Bennet made no answer.

“Don’t you want to know who is living in it?” cried his wife, impatiently.

“If you want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.”

This was invitation enough.

“Well, my dear, let me tell you, I was told that Netherfield has been rented out by a wealthy young man from the north of England. He arrived on Monday in a fancy carriage to inspect the property and was so pleased that he struck a deal right away. He’s set to move in with his staff 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 pretty as any of them and Mr. Bingley might like you the best.”

“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.”

“But, my dear Mr. Bennet, you must indeed go and see Mr. Bingley when he comes into the neighbourhood.”

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 understand. She was a woman of 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 gossip.

Chapter 2

Mr. Bennet was among the earliest of those who visited Mr. Bingley. He always intended to be, even while continually assuring his wife that he would not go. And she never knew that he went.

“I am sick of Mr. Bingley,” cried his wife.

“I am so sorry to hear that; but why didn’t you tell me this earlier? Had I known, I wouldn’t have visited him. It is very unlucky, because now we cannot escape the friendship.”

Their astonishment and surprised was what he was hoping for, that of Mrs. Bennet perhaps surpassing the rest.

“How good it was of you, my dear Mr. Bennet! But I knew I should persuade you at last. I was sure you loved your girls too well to neglect such an acquaintance. Well, how pleased I am! And it is such a good joke, too, that you should have gone this morning, and never said a word about it till now.”

“What an excellent father you have, girls,” said she, when the door was shut. “I do not know how you will ever make him amends for his kindness; or me either, for that matter. At our time of life, it is not so pleasant, I can tell you, to be making new acquaintances every day; but for your sakes we would do anything. Lydia, my love, though you are the youngest, I dare say Mr. Bingley will dance with you at the next ball.”

Chapter 3

Mrs. Bennet, even with the assistance of her five daughters, couldn’t draw a satisfactory description of Mr. Bingley from her husband. They attacked him in various ways, with barefaced questions, ingenious suppositions, and distant surmises; but he eluded the skill of them all; and they were at last obliged to accept the second-hand intelligence of their neighbor, Lady Lucas. Her report was highly favourable towards Mr. Bingley. He was quite young, wonderfully handsome, extremely agreeable, and, to crown the whole, he meant to be at the next assembly with a large party. Nothing could be more delightful! To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love; and very lively hopes of Mr. Bingley’s heart were entertained.

“If I can but see one of my daughters happily settled at Netherfield,” said Mrs. Bennet to her husband, “and all the others equally well married, I shall have nothing more to wish for.”

In a few days Mr. Bingley returned Mr. Bennet’s visit, and sat about ten minutes with him in his library. He had entertained hopes of being admitted to a sight of the young ladies, of whose beauty he had heard much; but he saw only the father. The ladies were somewhat more fortunate, for they had the advantage of ascertaining, from an upper window, that he wore a blue coat and rode a black horse.

Mrs. Bennet dispatched an invitation for diner, which she had already planned and prepared. But, Mr. Bingley was unable to accept her invitation as he had to be in town the following day. Mrs. Bennet was quite disconcerted. She could not imagine what business he could have in town so soon after his arrival in Hertfordshire; and she began to fear that he might always be flying about from one place to another, and never settled at Netherfield as he ought to be. Lady Lucas quieted her fears a little by starting the idea of his being in London was to bring back a large party for the ball; and a report soon followed that Mr. Bingley was to bring twelve ladies and seven gentlemen with him to the party.

The girls grieved over such a number of ladies; but were comforted the day before the ball by hearing that, instead of twelve, he had brought only six with him from London, his five sisters and a cousin. And when the party entered the assembly-room, it consisted of only five altogether: Mr. Bingley, his two sisters, the husband of the eldest, and another young man.

Mr. Bingley was good-looking and gentlemanlike: he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners. His sisters were fine women, with an air of decided fashion. His brother-in-law, Mr. Hurst, merely looked the gentleman; but his friend Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report, which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year. The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.

Mr. Bingley had soon made himself acquainted with all the principal people in the room: he was lively and unreserved, danced every dance, was angry that the ball closed so early, and talked of giving one himself at Netherfield. Such amiable qualities must speak for themselves. What a contrast between him and his friend! Mr. Darcy danced only once with Mrs. Hurst and once with Miss Bingley, declined being introduced to any other lady, and spent the rest of the evening in walking about the room, speaking occasionally to one of his own party. His character was decided. He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and everybody hoped that he would never come there again. Amongst the most violent against him was Mrs. Bennet, whose dislike of his general behaviour was sharpened into particular resentment by his having slighted one of her daughters.

Elizabeth Bennet had been obliged, by the scarcity of gentlemen, to sit down for two dances; and during part of that time, Mr. Darcy had been standing near enough for her to overhear a conversation between him and Mr. Bingley, who came from the dance for a few minutes to encourage his friend to join it.

“Come, Darcy,” he said, “I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this manner.”

“I certainly shall not dance. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. At a party such as this, it would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.”

“I would not be so fastidious as you are,” cried Bingley, “for a kingdom! Upon my honour, I never met with so many pleasant girls in my life as I have this evening; and there are several of them, you see, uncommonly pretty.”

You are dancing with the only pretty girl in the room,” said Mr. Darcy, looking at the eldest Miss Bennet.

“Oh, she is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld!  But there is one of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I dare say very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you.”

“Which do you mean?” and turning round, he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till, catching her eye, he withdrew his own, and coldly said, “She is tolerable: but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.”

Mr. Bingley followed his advice. Mr. Darcy walked off; and Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings towards him. She told the story, however, with great spirit among her friends; for she had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in anything ridiculous.

The evening altogether passed off pleasantly to the whole family. Mrs. Bennet had seen her eldest daughter much admired by the Netherfield party. Mr. Bingley had danced with her twice, and she had been distinguished by his sisters. Jane was as much gratified by this as her mother could be, though in a quieter way. Elizabeth felt Jane’s pleasure. Mary had heard herself mentioned to Miss Bingley as the most accomplished girl in the neighbourhood; and Catherine and Lydia had been fortunate enough to be never without partners, which was all that they had yet learnt to care for at a ball. They returned, therefore, in good spirits to Longbourn, the village where they lived, and of which they were the principal inhabitants. They found Mr. Bennet still up. With a book, he was regardless of time; and on the present occasion he had a good deal of curiosity as to the event of an evening which had raised such splendid expectations. He had rather hoped that all his wife’s views on the stranger would be disappointed; but he soon found that he had a very different story to hear.

“Oh, my dear Mr. Bennet,” as she entered the room, “we have had a most delightful evening, a most excellent ball. I wish you had been there. Jane was so admired, nothing could be like it. Everybody said how well she looked; and Mr. Bingley thought her quite beautiful, and danced with her twice. Only think of that, my dear: he actually danced with her twice; and she was the only creature in the room that he asked a second time. First of all, he asked Miss Lucas. I was so vexed to see him stand up with her; but, however, he did not admire her at all; indeed, nobody can, you know; and he seemed quite struck with Jane as she was going down the dance. So he inquired who she was, and got introduced, and asked her for the two next. Then, the two third he danced with Miss King, and the two fourth with Maria Lucas, and the two fifth with Jane again, and the two sixth with Lizzy, and the Boulanger——”

“If he had had any compassion for me,” cried her husband impatiently, “he would not have danced half so much! For God’s sake, say no more of his partners. O that he had sprained his ankle in the first dance!”

“Oh, my dear,” continued Mrs. Bennet, “I am quite delighted with him. He is so excessively handsome! and his sisters are charming women. I never in my life saw anything more elegant than their dresses. I dare say the lace upon Mrs. Hurst’s gown——”

Here she was interrupted again. Mr. Bennet protested against any description of finery. She was therefore obliged to seek another branch of the subject, and related, with much bitterness of spirit, and some exaggeration, the shocking rudeness of Mr. Darcy.

“But I can assure you,” she added, “that Lizzy does not lose much by not suiting his fancy; for he is a most disagreeable, horrid man, not at all worth pleasing. So high and so conceited, that there was no enduring him! He walked here, and he walked there, fancying himself so very great! Not handsome enough to dance with! I wish you had been there, my dear, to have given him one of your set-downs. I quite detest the man.”

Chapter 4

WHEN Jane and Elizabeth were alone, the former, who had been cautious in her praise of Mr. Bingley before, expressed to her sister how very much she admired him.

“He is just what a young-man ought to be,” said she, “sensible, good-humoured, lively; and I never saw such happy manners with so much ease.”

“He is also handsome,” replied Elizabeth, “which means His character is thereby complete.”

“I was very much flattered by his asking me to dance a second time. I did not expect such a compliment.”

“Did you not? I did for you. But that is one great difference between us. Compliments always take you by surprise, and me never. What could be more natural than his asking you again? He could not help seeing that you were about five times as pretty as every other woman in the room. He’s really easy to get along with and look at, and I’m fine with you liking him. He seems perfectly suited for you.”

“Dear Lizzy!”

“Oh, you are so great. You never see a fault in anybody. All the world are good and agreeable in your eyes. I never heard you speak ill of a human being in my life.”


Elizabeth listened in silence, but was not convinced.

Her behavior at the assembly had not been calculated to please in general; and with more quickness of observation and less pliancy of temper than her sister, and with a judgment, too, unassailed by any attention to herself, she was very little disposed to approve of that crowd.

She learned between Mr. Bingley and Darcy there was a very steady friendship, in spite of a great opposition of character. Bingley was endeared to Darcy by the easiness, openness, and flexibility of his temperament, though no disposition could offer a greater contrast to his own, and though with his own he never appeared dissatisfied. On the strength of Darcy’s regard, Bingley had the firmest reliance, and of his judgment the highest opinion. In understanding, Darcy was the superior. Bingley was by no means deficient; but Darcy was clever. He was at the same time haughty, reserved, and fastidious; and his manners, though well bred, were not inviting. In that respect his friend had greatly the advantage. Bingley was sure of being liked wherever he appeared; Darcy was continually giving offence.

Chapter 5

Lady Lucas was a very good kind of woman, not too clever to be a valuable neighbour to Mrs. Bennet. They had several children. The eldest of them, a sensible, intelligent young woman, about twenty-seven, was Elizabeth’s intimate friend, Charlotte.

You began the evening well, Charlotte,” said Mrs. Bennet, with civil self-command, to Miss Lucas. “You were Mr. Bingley’s first choice.”

“Yes; but he seemed to like his second better.”

“Oh, you mean Jane, I suppose, because he danced with her twice.

“But Mr. Darcy is not so well worth listening to as his friend, is he? Poor Eliza! to be only just tolerable.”

“I beg you will not put it into Lizzy’s head to be vexed by his ill-treatment, for he is such a disagreeable man that it would be quite a misfortune to be liked by him. Mrs. Long told me last night that he sat close to her for half an hour without once opening his lips.”

“Are you quite sure, ma’am? You must be mistaken?” said Jane. “I certainly saw Mr. Darcy speaking to her.”

“Yes, because she asked him at last how he liked  Netherfield, and he could not help but answer her; but she said he seemed very angry at being spoke to.”

“Miss Bingley told me,” said Jane, “that he never speaks much unless among his intimate acquaintance. With them he is remarkably agreeable.”

“I do not believe a word of it, my dear. If he had been kind, he would have talked to Mrs. Long. But I can guess how it was; everybody says that he is eaten up with pride.

“I do not mind his not talking to Mrs. Long,” said Miss Lucas, “but I wish he had danced with Eliza.”

“Another time, Lizzy,” said her mother, “I would not dance with him, if I were you.”

“I believe, ma’am, I may safely promise you never to dance with him.”

“His pride,” said Miss Lucas, “does not offend me so much as pride often does, because there is an excuse for it. One cannot wonder that so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, everything in his favour, should think highly of himself. If I may so express it, he has a right to be proud.”

“That is very true,” replied Elizabeth, “and I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.”

“Pride,” observed Mary, who piqued herself upon the solidity of her reflections, “is a very common failing, I believe. By all that I have ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed; that human nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the score of some quality or other, real or imaginary. Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves; vanity to what we would have others think of us.”

Chapter 6

Miss Bennet’s pleasing manners grew on the good-will of Miss Bingley; and though the mother Bennett was found to be intolerable, and the younger sisters not worth speaking to, a wish of being better acquainted with them was expressed towards the two oldest, Jane and Elizabeth. By Jane this attention was received with the greatest pleasure; but Elizabeth still saw superficiality in their treatment of everybody, including Jane, and could not like them; though their kindness to Jane, such as it was, had a value, as arising, in all probability, from the influence of their brother’s admiration. It was generally evident, whenever they met, that he did admire her. Jane too was yielding to his preference, and was in a way very much in love; but she considered with pleasure that it was not likely to be discovered by the world in general, since Jane united with great strength of feeling, a composure of temper and a uniform cheerfulness of manner, which would guard her from the suspicions of the impertinent.

“It is sometimes a disadvantage to be so very guarded.” Said Charlotte Lucas to Elizabeth. “there are very few of us who have heart enough to be really in love without encouragement. In nine cases out of ten, a woman had better show more affection than she feels. Bingley likes your sister undoubtedly; but he may never do more than like her, if she does not help him on.”

But she does help him on, as much as her nature will allow. If I can perceive her regard for him, he must be a simpleton indeed not to discover it too.”

“Remember, Eliza, that he does not know Jane’s disposition as you do.”

“But if a woman is partial to a man, and does not endeavor to conceal it, he must find it out.”

“Perhaps he must, if he sees enough of her. But though Bingley and Jane meet tolerably often, it is never for many hours together; and as they always see each other in large mixed parties, it is impossible that every moment should be employed in conversing together. Jane should therefore make the most of every half hour in which she can command his attention. When she is secure of him, there will be leisure for falling in love as much as she chooses.”

“Your plan is a good one,” replied Elizabeth, “where nothing is in question but the desire of being well married; and if I were determined to get a rich husband, or any husband, I dare say I should adopt it. But these are not Jane’s feelings; she is not acting by design. As yet she cannot even be certain of the degree of her own regard, nor of its reasonableness. She has known him only a fortnight. She danced four dances with him; she saw him one morning at his own house, and has since dined in company with him four times. This is not quite enough to make her understand his character.”

“Well,” said Charlotte, “I wish Jane success with all my heart; and if she were married to him to-morrow, I should think she had as good a chance of happiness as if she were to be studying his character for a twelvemonth. Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.”

‘It is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.”

“You make me laugh, Charlotte; but it is not sound. You know it is not sound, and that you would never act in this way yourself.”

Occupied in observing Mr. Bingley’s attention to her sister, Elizabeth was far from suspecting that she was herself becoming an object of some interest in the eyes of his friend. Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty: he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticise. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness. Of this she was perfectly unaware: to her he was only the man was miserably proud, and who had thought she was not pretty enough to dance with.

He began to wish to know more of her.

Amidst the lively gathering, Sir William Lucas, a well-regarded figure, graced the party with his presence. With his congenial manner, he effortlessly engaged in conversations, spreading warmth and cheer among the guests. As the evening progressed, Sir William’s amiable presence set the stage for the unfolding interactions, including his well-intentioned attempt to play matchmaker between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth.

As Elizabeth approached, he seized the opportunity to perform a gallant act and addressed her, “My dear Miss Eliza, why are you not dancing? Mr. Darcy, allow me to introduce this young lady to you as a desirable partner. He paused, hoping for a response, but his companion remained silent  You cannot refuse to dance when such beauty is before you.” With this, he attempted to give her hand to Mr. Darcy, who, though surprised, was willing to accept. However, Elizabeth withdrew her hand abruptly, stating to Sir William with some unease, “Indeed, sir, I have no intention of dancing. Please do not assume I moved this way to seek a partner.” Despite Mr. Darcy’s polite request, Elizabeth remained firm in her decision, unaffected by Sir William’s persuasion.

Meanwhile, Miss Bingley approached Mr. Darcy and remarked, “I can guess what occupies your thoughts.”

“I doubt it,” he replied.

“You must be contemplating how unbearable it would be to spend many evenings in such society. I share your sentiments. I have never been more annoyed! The emptiness and noise, the self-importance of these people! I long to hear your criticisms of them!”

“You are mistaken,” replied Mr. Darcy. “I have been contemplating the pleasure that a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bring.”

Immediately, Miss Bingley focused on his face and inquired about the lady who inspired such thoughts. With confidence, Mr. Darcy answered, “Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”

“Miss Elizabeth Bennet!” exclaimed Miss Bingley. “I am astonished. How long has she been your favorite? And when should I offer my congratulations?”

“That is precisely the question I anticipated,” replied Mr. Darcy. “A woman’s imagination is swift; it leaps from admiration to love, from love to marriage in an instant. I knew you would assume I am to be congratulated.”

“Well, if you are serious about it, I shall consider it settled. You will have a delightful mother-in-law, and she will surely be a frequent visitor at Pemberley with you.”

Mr. Darcy listened to her jests with indifference, confirming to her that all was well, as she continued to amuse herself with her wit.

Chapter 7

A footman bearing a note for Jane Bennet from Netherfield, arrived at the door. Excitement gleamed in Mrs. Bennet’s eyes as she eagerly urged her daughter to read aloud. “Well, Jane, who is it from? What does it say?” she implored. With anticipation, Jane revealed, “It is from Miss Bingley,” before proceeding to read the contents of the note.

I implore your compassionate heart to join me for dinner today. Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy will be out and I would appreciate your presence.

Signed, Caroline Bingley.

Jane was compelled to embark on horseback, accompanied by her mother to the door, who bestowed upon her many cheerful predictions of inclement weather. Her anticipations were swiftly confirmed; shortly after Jane’s departure, heavy rain poured down. While her sisters fretted over Jane’s journey, their mother reveled in the downpour. The rain persisted throughout the evening without respite, ensuring Jane’s prolonged absence.

“This truly was a stroke of luck on my part!” exclaimed Mrs. Bennet repeatedly, as if claiming credit for orchestrating the rain. However, it was not until the following morning that she fully appreciated the success of her scheme. Breakfast had barely concluded when a servant from Netherfield arrived, bearing the following note for

Elizabeth:—

“My dearest Lizzie,

“I find myself very unwell this morning, which, I suppose, is to be imputed to my getting wet through yesterday. My kind friends will not hear of my returning home till I am better. Excepting a sore throat and a headache, there is not much the matter with me.

“Yours, etc.”

“Well, my dear,” said Mr. Bennet, when Elizabeth had read the note aloud, “if your daughter should have a dangerous fit of illness—if she should die—it would be a comfort to know that it was all in pursuit of Mr. Bingley, and under your orders.”

“Oh, I am not at all afraid of her dying. People do not die of little trifling colds. She will be taken good care of. As long as she stays there, it is all very well. I would go and see her if I could have the carriage.”

Elizabeth, feeling really anxious, determined to go to her, though the carriage was not to be had: and as she was no horsewoman, walking was her only alternative.

“How can you be so silly,” cried her mother, “as to think of such a thing, in all this dirt! You will not be fit to be seen when you get there.”

“I shall be very fit to see Jane—which is all I want.”

“Is this a hint to me, Lizzy,” said her father, “to send for the horses?”

“No, indeed. I do not wish to avoid the walk. The distance is nothing, when one has a motive; only three miles. I shall be back by dinner.”