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Pride and Prejudice

Reviews and Criticism

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Jane Austen is recognized as "the most perfect artist among women."
(Literature Network, #5)

"We had occasion to speak favorably of the former production of this author or authoress, *** and we readily do the same of the present. It is very far superior to almost all the publications of the kind which have lately come before us. It has a very unexceptioniable tendency, the story is well told, the characters remarkably well drawn and supported, and written with great spirit as well as vigour. The story has no great variety, it is simply this. The hero is a young man of large fortune and fashionable manners, whose distinguishing characteristic is personal pride. The heroine, on the first introduction, conceives a most violent prejudice against Darcy, which a variety of circumstances well imagined and happily represented, tend to strengthen and confirm. The under plot is an attachment between the friend of Darcy and the elder sister of the principal female character; other personages, of greater or less interest and importance, complete the dramatis personae, some of whose characters are exceedingly well drawn. Explanations of the different perplexities and seeming contrarieties, are gradually unfolded, and the two principal performers are happily united.
Of the characters, Elizabeth Bennet, the heroine, is supported with great spirit and consistency throughout; there seems no defect in the portrait; this is not precisely the case with Darcy her lover; his early unconcern and fashionable indifference, somewhat abruptly changes to the ardent lover. The character of Mr. Collins, the obsequious rector, is excellent. Fancy presents us with many such, who consider the patron of exalted rank as the model of all that is excellent on earth, and the patron's smiles and condescension as the sum of human happiness. Mr. Bennet, the father of Elizabeth, presents us with some novelty of character; a reserved, acute, and satirical, but indolent personage, who sees and laughs at the follies and indiscretions of his dependents, without making any exertions to correct them. The picture of the younger Miss Bennets, their perpetual visits to the market town where officers are quartered, and the result, is perhaps exemplified in every provincial town in the kingdom.
It is unnecessary to add, that we have perused these volumes with much satisfaction and amusement, and entertain very little doubt that their successful circulation will induce the author to similar exertions."
(Gnay, #3)
"Instead of the whole interest of the tale hanging upon one of two characters, as is generally the case in novels, the fair author of the present introduces us, at once, to a whole family, every individual of which excites the interest, and very agreeably divides the attention of the reader.
Mr. Bennet, the father of this family, is represented as a man of abilities, but of a sarcastic humour, and combining a good deal of caprice and reserve in his composition. He possesses an estate of about two thousand a year, and lives at Longbourne, in Hertfordshire, a pleasant walk from the market town of Meryton. This gentleman's estate is made to descend, in default of male issue, to a distant relation. Mr. Bennet, captivated by a handsome face and the appearance of good temper, had married early in life the daughter oof a country attorney,
'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.'
At a very early period of his marriage, Mr. Bennet finds, that a pretty face is but sorry compensationfor the absence of common sense; and that youth and the appearance of good nature, with the want of other good qualities, will not make a rational companion or an estimable wife. The consequence of this discovery of the ill effects of an unequal marriage, is the defalcation of all real affection, confidence, and respect on the side of Mr. Bennet towards his wife. His views of domestic comfort being overthrown, he seeks consolation for a disappointment, which he had brought upon himself, by indulging his fondness for a country life and his love for study. Being, as we said, a man of abilities and sense, though with some peculiarities and eccentricities, he contrives not to be out of temper with the follies which his wife discovers, and is contented to laugh and be amused with her want of decorum and propriety.
'This', as our sensible author remarks, 'is not the sort of happiness which a man would, in general, wish to owe to his wife; but where other powers of entertainment are wanting, the true philosopher will derive benefit from such as are given.'
However this may be, though Mr. Bennet finds amusement in absurdity, it is by no means of advantage to his five daughters, who, with the help of their silly mother, are looking out for husbands. Jane, the eldest daughter, is very beautiful, and possesses great feeling, good sense, equanimity, cheerfulness, and elegance of manners. Elizabeth, the second, is represented as combining quickness of perception and strength of mind, with a playful vivacity something like that of her father, joined with a handsome person. Mary is a female pedant, affecting great wisdom, though saturated with stupidity. 'She is a lady,' (as Mr. Bennet says); 'of deep reflection, who reads great books and makes extracts.' Kitty is weak-spirited and fretful; but Miss Lydia, the youngest,
'is a stout, well-grown girl of fifteen, with a fine complexion and good humoured countenance; a favourite with her mother, whose affection had brought her into public at an early age. She had high animal spirits, and a sort of self-consequence.'
This young lady is mad after the officers who are quartered at Meryton; and from the attentions of the beaux garcons, Miss Lydia becomes a most decided flirt.
Although these young ladies claim a great share of the reader's interest and attention, none calls forth our admiration so much as Elizabeth, whose archness and sweetness of manner render her a very attractive object in the familypiece. She is in fact the Beatrice of the tale; and falls in love on much the same principles of contrariety.
On the character of Elizabeth, the main interest of the novel depends; and the fair author has shewn considerable ingenuity in the mode of bringing about the final eclaircissment between her and Darcy. Elizabeth's sense and conduct are of a superior order to those of the common heroines of novels. From her independence of character, which is kept within the proper line of decorum, and her well-timed sprightliness, she teaches the man of Family-Pride to know himself.***
The above is merely the brief outline of this very agreeable novel. An excellent lesson may be learned form the elopement of Lydia;-the work also shows the folly of letting young girls have their own way, and the danger which they incur in associating with the officers, who may be quartered in or near their residence. The character of Wickham is very well poutrayed;-we fancy, that our authoress had Joseph Surface before her euse when she sketched it; as well as the lively Beatrice, when she drew the portrait of Elizabeth. Many such silly women as Mrs. Bennet may be found; and numerous parsons like Mr. Collins, who are ever thing to every body; and servile in the extreme to their superiors. Mr. Collins is indeed a notable object.***
We cannot conclude, without repeating our approbation of this performance, which rises very superior to any novel we have lately met with in the delineation of domestic scenes. Nor is there one character which appears flat, or obtrudes itself upon the notice of the reader with troublesome impertinence. There is not one person in the drama with whom we could readily dispense;-they have all their proper places; and fill their several stations, with great credit to themselves, and much satisfaction to the reader."
(Gnay, #3)
(this page by SL)

       "You are each of you so complying, that nothing will ever be resolved on; so easy, that every servant will cheat you; and so generous, that you will always exceed your income."
(Austen, #1)

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