Excerpt from Pride and Prejudice

By Jane Austen

Jane Austen (1775-1817) was an English novelist who is famous for writing works of romantic fction set among
the British upper class. Pride and Prejudice deals with issues of class, marriage, manners, and morality (right
vs. wrong). In the following excerpt, the protagonist, Elizabeth Bennett, is visited by Lady Catherine de Bourgh,
who is furious about a rumor she heard that could threaten the plans she has for her daughter. As you read,
consider the nature of each person’s prejudices and how this afects their characterizations and interactions.

From Chapter 56
One morning, about a week after Bingley’s
engagement with Jane1
had been formed, as he and
the females of the family were sitting together in the
dining-room, their attention was suddenly drawn to
the window, by the sound of a carriage; and they
perceived a chaise and four driving up the lawn. It
was too early in the morning for visitors, and besides,
the equipage2
did not answer to that of any of their
neighbours. The horses were post; and neither the
carriage, nor the livery3
of the servant who preceded
it, were familiar to them. As it was certain, however,
that somebody was coming, Bingley instantly
prevailed on Miss Bennet to avoid the confnement of such an intrusion, and walk away with him into the
shrubbery. They both set of, and the conjectures4
of the remaining three continued, though with little
satisfaction, till the door was thrown open and their visitor entered. It was Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
They were of course all intending to be surprised; but their astonishment was beyond their expectation; and on
the part of Mrs. Bennet and Kitty,5
though she was perfectly unknown to them, even inferior to what Elizabeth
She entered the room with an air more than usually ungracious, made no other reply to Elizabeth’s salutation6
than a slight inclination of the head, and sat down without saying a word. Elizabeth had mentioned her name to
her mother on her ladyship’s entrance, though no request of introduction had been made.

  1. Charles Bingley is the occupant of Netherfeld Park. Jane Bennet is Elizabeth’s older sister.
  2. A horse-drawn carriage with its servants
  3. Distinctive clothing or badge; a sort of uniform
  4. Conjecture (noun) an inference, or guess, from presumptive evidence
  5. Mrs. Bennet is, of course, Elizabeth’s mother and Kitty is one of Elizabeth’s younger sisters.
  6. Salutation (noun) a greeting
    As soon as they entered the copse, Lady Catherine began in the following manner:—
    “You can be at no loss, Miss Bennet, to understand the reason of my journey hither. Your own heart, your own
    conscience, must tell you why I come.”
    Elizabeth looked with unafected astonishment.
    “Indeed, you are mistaken, Madam. I have not been at all able to account for the honour of seeing you here.”
    “Miss Bennet,” replied her ladyship, in an angry tone, “you ought to know, that I am not to be trifed with. But
    however insincere you may choose to be, you shall not fnd me so. My character has ever been celebrated for
    its sincerity and frankness, and in a cause of such moment as this, I shall certainly not depart from it. A report
    of a most alarming nature reached me two days ago. I was told that not only your sister was on the point of
    being most advantageously married, but that you, that Miss Elizabeth Bennet, would, in all likelihood, be soon
    afterwards united to my nephew, my own nephew, Mr. Darcy.7
    Though I know it must be a scandalous
    though I would not injure him so much as to suppose the truth of it possible, I instantly resolved on
    setting of for this place, that I might make my sentiments known to you.”
    “If you believed it impossible to be true,” said Elizabeth, colouring9 with astonishment and disdain, “I wonder
    you took the trouble of coming so far. What could your ladyship propose by it?”
    “At once to insist upon having such a report universally contradicted.”
    “Your coming to Longbourn, to see me and my family,” said Elizabeth coolly, “will be rather a confrmation of it;
    if, indeed, such a report is in existence.”
    “If! Do you then pretend to be ignorant of it? Has it not been industriously10 circulated by yourselves? Do you
    not know that such a report is spread abroad?”
    “I never heard that it was.”
    “And can you likewise declare, that there is no foundation for it?”
    “I do not pretend to possess equal frankness with your ladyship. You may ask questions which I shall not
    choose to answer.”
  7. Lady Catherine’s nephew is Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, whom Elizabeth misjudges early on in the novel.
  8. Falsehood (noun) a lie
  9. In this case, “colouring” or “coloring” refers to the changing of complexion, such as blushing.
  10. Industriously (adverb) hard-workingly, steadily, or untiringly (in this context, this word holds a double
    meaning, as Lady Catherine may also be suggesting this rumor of engagement between Darcy and
    Elizabeth will also be a proftable one, at least for Miss Bennet)
    “This is not to be borne.11 Miss Bennet, I insist on being satisfed. Has he, has my nephew, made you an ofer of
    “Your ladyship has declared it to be impossible.”
    “It ought to be so; it must be so, while he retains the use of his reason. But your arts and allurements may, in a
    moment of infatuation, have made him forget what he owes to himself and to all his family. You may have
    drawn him in.”
    “If I have, I shall be the last person to confess it.”
    “Miss Bennet, do you know who I am? I have not been accustomed to such language as this. I am almost the
    nearest relation he has in the world, and am entitled to know all his dearest concerns.”
    “But you are not entitled to know mine; nor will such behaviour as this, ever induce me to be explicit.”12
    “Let me be rightly understood. This match, to which you have the presumption to aspire,13 can never take
    place. No, never. Mr. Darcy is engaged to my daughter. Now what have you to say?”
    “Only this; that if he is so, you can have no reason to suppose he will make an ofer to me.”
    Lady Catherine hesitated for a moment, and then replied:
    “The engagement between them is of a peculiar kind. From their infancy, they have been intended for each
    other. It was the favourite wish of his mother, as well as of hers. While in their cradles, we planned the union:
    and now, at the moment when the wishes of both sisters would be accomplished in their marriage, to be
    prevented by a young woman of inferior birth, of no importance in the world, and wholly unallied to the family!
    Do you pay no regard to the wishes of his friends? To his tacit14 engagement with Miss de Bourgh? Are you lost
    to every feeling of propriety and delicacy? Have you not heard me say that from his earliest hours he was
    destined for his cousin?”
    “Yes, and I had heard it before. But what is that to me? If there is no other objection to my marrying your
    nephew, I shall certainly not be kept from it by knowing that his mother and aunt wished him to marry Miss de
    Bourgh. You both did as much as you could in planning the marriage. Its completion depended on others. If Mr.
    Darcy is neither by honour nor inclination confned to his cousin, why is not he to make another choice? And if I
    am that choice, why may not I accept him?”
    “Because honour, decorum, prudence, nay, interest, forbid it. Yes, Miss Bennet, interest; for do not expect to be
    noticed by his family or friends, if you wilfully act against the inclinations of all. You will be censured,15 slighted,
  11. “Borne” is the past participle of “bear,” as in to accept or endure something.
  12. Explicit (adjective) clear or without ambiguity, leaving no question as to meaning or intent
  13. Aspire (verb) to hope to achieve something
  14. Tacit (adjective) implied or indicated but not actually expressed
  15. Censure (verb) to condemn
    and despised, by everyone connected with him. Your alliance will be a disgrace; your name will never even be
    mentioned by any of us.”
    “These are heavy misfortunes,” replied Elizabeth. “But the wife of Mr. Darcy must have such extraordinary
    sources of happiness necessarily attached to her situation, that she could, upon the whole, have no cause to
    “Obstinate,17 headstrong girl! I am ashamed of you! Is this your gratitude for my attentions to you last spring? Is
    nothing due to me on that score? Let us sit down. You are to understand, Miss Bennet, that I came here with
    the determined resolution of carrying my purpose; nor will I be dissuaded18 from it. I have not been used to
    submit to any person’s whims. I have not been in the habit of brooking disappointment.”
    “That will make your ladyship’s situation at present more pitiable; but it will have no efect on me.”
    “I will not be interrupted. Hear me in silence. My daughter and my nephew are formed for each other. They are
    descended, on the maternal side, from the same noble line; and, on the father’s, from respectable, honourable,
    and ancient—though untitled—families. Their fortune on both sides is splendid. They are destined for each
    other by the voice of every member of their respective houses; and what is to divide them? The upstart
    pretensions of a young woman without family, connections, or fortune. Is this to be endured! But it must not,
    shall not be. If you were sensible of your own good, you would not wish to quit the sphere in which you have
    been brought up.”
    “In marrying your nephew, I should not consider myself as quitting that sphere. He is a gentleman; I am a
    gentleman’s daughter; so far we are equal.”
    “True. You are a gentleman’s daughter. But who was your mother? Who are your uncles and aunts? Do not
    imagine me ignorant of their condition.”
    “Whatever my connections may be,” said Elizabeth, “if your nephew does not object to them, they can be
    nothing to you.”
    “Tell me once for all, are you engaged to him?”
    Though Elizabeth would not, for the mere purpose of obliging Lady Catherine, have answered this question, she
    could not but say, after a moment’s deliberation:
    “I am not.”
    Lady Catherine seemed pleased.
    “And will you promise me, never to enter into such an engagement?”
  16. Repine (verb) to express dejection or discontent; to complain
  17. Obstinate (adjective) stubborn; not easily swayed from opinion or purpose
  18. Dissuade (verb) to persuade one NOT to do something; to turn from something by persuasion
    “I will make no promise of the kind.”
    “Miss Bennet, I am shocked and astonished. I expected to fnd a more reasonable young woman. But do not
    deceive yourself into a belief that I will ever recede.19 I shall not go away till you have given me the assurance I
    “And I certainly never shall give it. I am not to be intimidated into anything so wholly unreasonable. Your
    ladyship wants Mr. Darcy to marry your daughter; but would my giving you the wished-for promise make their
    marriage at all more probable? Supposing him to be attached to me, would my refusing to accept his hand
    make him wish to bestow it on his cousin? Allow me to say, Lady Catherine, that the arguments with which you
    have supported this extraordinary application have been as frivolous20 as the application was ill-judged. You
    have widely mistaken my character, if you think I can be worked on by such persuasions as these. How far your
    nephew might approve of your interference in his afairs, I cannot tell; but you have certainly no right to
    concern yourself in mine. I must beg, therefore, to be importuned no farther on the subject.”
    “Not so hasty, if you please. I have by no means done. To all the objections I have already urged, I have still
    another to add. I am no stranger to the particulars of your youngest sister’s infamous elopement. I know it all;
    that the young man’s marrying her was a patched-up business, at the expence of your father and uncles. And is
    such a girl to be my nephew’s sister? Is her husband, is the son of his late father’s steward, to be his brother?
    Heaven and earth!—of what are you thinking? Are the shades of Pemberley21 to be thus polluted?”
    “You can now have nothing further to say,” she resentfully answered. “You have insulted me in every possible
    method. I must beg to return to the house.”
    And she rose as she spoke. Lady Catherine rose also, and they turned back. Her ladyship was highly incensed.22
    “You have no regard, then, for the honour and credit of my nephew! Unfeeling, selfsh girl! Do you not consider
    that a connection with you must disgrace him in the eyes of everybody?”
    “Lady Catherine, I have nothing further to say. You know my sentiments.”
    “You are then resolved to have him?”
    “I have said no such thing. I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my
    happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.”
    “It is well. You refuse, then, to oblige me. You refuse to obey the claims of duty, honour, and gratitude. You are
    determined to ruin him in the opinion of all his friends, and make him the contempt of the world.”
    “Neither duty, nor honour, nor gratitude,” replied Elizabeth, “have any possible claim on me, in the present
  19. Recede (verb) to withdraw or back away
  20. Frivolous (adjective) lacking in seriousness
  21. Pemberley is the name of Mr. Darcy’s expansive estate.
  22. Incensed (adjective) very angry
    instance. No principle of either would be violated by my marriage with Mr. Darcy. And with regard to the
    resentment of his family, or the indignation of the world, if the former were excited by his marrying me, it
    would not give me one moment’s concern—and the world in general would have too much sense to join in the
    “And this is your real opinion! This is your fnal resolve! Very well. I shall now know how to act. Do not imagine,
    Miss Bennet, that your ambition will ever be gratifed. I came to try you. I hoped to fnd you reasonable; but,
    depend upon it, I will carry my point.”
    In this manner Lady Catherine talked on, till they were at the door of the carriage, when, turning hastily round,
    she added, “I take no leave of you, Miss Bennet. I send no compliments to your mother. You deserve no such
    attention. I am most seriously displeased.”
    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813) is in the public domain.
    Unless otherwise noted, this content is licensed under the CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license
    Discussion Questions
    Directions: Brainstorm your answers to the following questions in the space provided. Be prepared to share
    your original ideas in a class discussion.
  23. Many of Jane Austen’s works, including Pride and Prejudice, explore themes of social status and
    economic class, and the social problems that arise from exclusion and a strict adherence to these
    systems. Do you believe that this is a problem in today’s world? Explain your answer.
  24. In the context of this excerpt, how does prejudice emerge? Cite evidence from this text, your own
    experience, and other art or literature to answer this question.