The least agreeable circumstance in the business was the surprise it must occasion to Elizabeth Bennet, whose friendship she valued beyond that of any other person. Elizabeth would wonder, and probably would blame her; and though her resolution was not to be shaken, her feelings must be hurt by such a disapprobation.When Elisabeth is told, it follows much as Charlotte had anticipated:
"Engaged to Mr Collins! My dear Charlotte — impossible!"Despite Elisabeth's struggle to come to terms with Charlotte's surprise announcement, Charlotte is not particularly disturbed as 'it was no more than she expected'. And there is nothing to suggest Charlotte became angry or revengeful even for a single moment.
The steady countenance which Miss Lucas had commanded in telling her story, gave way to a momentary confusion here on receiving so direct a reproach; though, as it was no more than she expected, she soon regained her composure.
"I am not likely to leave Kent for some time. Promise me, therefore, to come to Hunsford."Elisabeth stays with Charlotte for six weeks. Their friendship continues as sound and solid as ever. While Elizabeth is still at the Collinses, Mr Darcy makes a surprise visit and finds her alone. When Charlotte returns Mr Darcy leaves. Charlotte tells Elizabeth that she believes Darcy's actions indicate he loves her, and that she, Charlotte, wishes it so. Thoughts of Darcy loving her had never crossed Elizabeth's mind and would be abhorrent to her anyway. Why, oh why, does Charlotte raise the issue of Darcy's love, and therefore the possibility of a Darcy/Elizabeth marriage, if her revengeful intention and desire is to stop their marriage? It doesn't make sense, so clearly it is not Charlotte who betrays Elizabeth.
Elizabeth could not refuse, though she foresaw little pleasure in the visit.
March was to take Elizabeth to Hunsford. She had not at first thought very seriously of going thither; but Charlotte, she soon found, was depending on the plan ...
A short dialogue on the subject of the country ensued, on either side calm and concise — and soon put an end to by the entrance of Charlotte and her sister, just returned from their walk. The tête-à-tête surprised them. Mr Darcy related the mistake which had occasioned his intruding on Miss Bennet, and after sitting a few minutes longer without saying much to any body, went away.
"What can be the meaning of this!" said Charlotte, as soon as he was gone. "My dear Eliza, he must be in love with you, or he would never have called on us in this familiar way."
But when Elizabeth told of his silence, it did not seem very likely, even to Charlotte's wishes; ...
Mrs. Collins knew not what to make of him [Darcy]. Colonel Fitzwilliam's occasionally laughing at his stupidity, proved that he was generally different, which her own knowledge of him could not have told her; and as she would liked to have believed this change the effect of love, and the object of that love her friend Eliza, she set herself seriously to work to find it out.
She had once or twice suggested to Elizabeth the possibility of his being partial to her, but Elizabeth always laughed at the idea.But Charlotte's perception proved to be correct. A few days later, Darcy tells Elizabeth he loves her and proposes to her but she rejects him. Elizabeth doesn't tell Charlotte about Darcy's declaration of love nor his proposal. Had she done so, Charlotte would surely have said "My dear Eliza, you will recall that I told you several times that he must be in love with you." She would then have told Elizabeth she was crazy for not accepting him.
"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."Mr Collins and Lady Catherine discussed the possibility of the marriage. Mr Collins then wrote a congratulatory letter to Mr Bennet, though, apparently, unaware of Lady Catherine's journey to Meryton to see Elizabeth, as he never mentions it.
Before any answer could arrive from Mr Collins, or any congratulations to Elizabeth from his wife, the Longbourn family heard that the Collinses were come themselves to Lucas Lodge. The reason of this sudden removal was soon evident. Lady Catherine had been rendered so exceedingly angry by the contents of her nephew's letter, that Charlotte, really rejoicing in the match, was anxious to get away till the storm was blown over. At such a moment, the arrival of her friend was a sincere pleasure to Elizabeth, ...At the very end of the story [4th last paragraph, Chapter 61], a strong hint is given to the person who would have wished to nip-in-the-bud any possibility of a Darcy/Elizabeth marriage:
Miss Bingley was very deeply mortified by Darcy's marriage;Caroline wanted Darcy for herself and was jealous of Elizabeth.
So, who did betray Elizabeth Bennet?
Louisa Hurst betrayed Elizabeth Bennetbut only at the instigation and on behalf of her sister, Caroline.
Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her [Elizabeth]. Miss Bingley saw, or suspected enough to be jealous; ...Caroline wanted to marry Darcy but was jealous of Elizabeth in whom Darcy expressed an interest. Her jealousy induces her to denigrate Elizabeth and try to get Darcy to turn against her, however, what she says repeatedly produces the opposite effect of what she desires.
Caroline's thoughts on marriageElizabeth tells Jane the way Caroline's mind works:
"Miss Bingley is the more anxious to get Miss Darcy for her brother, from the notion that when there has been one intermarriage, she may have less trouble in achieving a second; in which there is certainly some ingenuity, and I dare say it would succeed, if Miss de Bourgh were out of the way."So, it follows that when Bingley became engaged to Jane, presumably Caroline would instantly see the possibility of that intermarriage achieving a second, namely a Darcy/Elizabeth marriage.
Bingley/Jane engagementThe first person Bingley told of his engagement to Jane, was his sister, Caroline. He told her of Darcy's changed opinion of Jane and his approval of the match. Caroline would have disapproved but not have disclosed her feelings. She would realise that her alliance with Darcy that had so successfully forestalled Bingley from seeing Jane was well and truly over.
Caroline's plan to reverse a Darcy/Elizabeth marriageCaroline would realise that Darcy's changed mood shattered her prospect of marrying him and that he very likely would wish to marry her rival, Elizabeth. She would need to find some way to reverse Darcy's thinking. What could she do about it?
Lady Catherine's visit to ElisabethOne morning, about a week after Bingley's engagement with Jane, Lady Catherine de Bourgh went to Longbourn to see Elizabeth.
Lady Catherine: "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. Has it not been industriously circulated by yourselves? Do you not know that such a report is spread abroad?"Lady Catherine is wrong. No such report exists. 'industriously circulated by yourselves' implies a rumour of a Darcy/Elizabeth marriage had been spread far and wide by the Bennet family. None of the Bennets can stand Darcy and the two closest to Elizabeth, her father and Jane, know how intensely she dislikes him. Clearly, the Bennets never created a rumour and so no report was spread abroad. Evidently, someone invented the Darcy/Elizabeth marriage idea and, five days after the Bingley/Jane engagement, put it privately to Lady Catherine in the hope she might intervene to stop them marrying.
The aftermath of Lady Catherine's visit
The discomposure of spirits which this extraordinary visit threw Elizabeth into, could not be easily overcome; nor could she, for many hours, learn to think of it less than incessantly. Lady Catherine, it appeared, had actually taken the trouble of this journey from Rosings, for the sole purpose of breaking off her supposed engagement with Mr Darcy. It was a rational scheme, to be sure! but from what the report of their engagement could originate, Elizabeth was at a loss to imagine; till she recollected that his being the intimate friend of Bingley, and her being the sister of Jane, was enough, at a time when the expectation of one wedding made everybody eager for another, to supply the idea. She had not herself forgotten to feel that the marriage of her sister must bring them more frequently together. And her neighbours at Lucas Lodge, therefore (for through their communication with the Collinses, the report, she concluded, had reached Lady Catherine), ...Elizabeth for once was really, really dumb! Why did she think the report came from Lucas Lodge? She knows if they dreamed up a Darcy/Elizabeth marriage they would tell everyone, yet [as already pointed out] no rumour exists. Why didn't she think of Caroline Bingley as the originator of the report? It ought to have been obvious to her that Caroline was the likely source, for the simple reason she had already explained to Jane how Caroline's mind worked.
Elizabeth appears to have completely forgotten her perceptive observation. Despite that, she still ought to have considered each of the likely candidates. There aren't very many to think about. Elizabeth might ask herself, "I wonder who would go privately to Lady Catherine with a fictional story of a marriage between Darcy and me? What would be the reason for putting this to her? Presumably, so that she would stop any possibility of Darcy and me ever marrying. But who would be so desperate to go to all that trouble? Perhaps someone who wants Darcy for herself, and is jealous of me. I haven't the foggiest notion who that might be. Then again, maybe it's just something the Lucases dreamed up." This doesn't say much for Elizabeth's capacity to think when her lackadaisical father, who neither knows, nor cares, nor thinks about family matters also comes up with the Lucases.
Mr Collins's letterThe next morning, Mr Bennet received a letter in the post. Elizabeth thinks it might be from Lady Catherine. She knows Lady Catherine could have returned home to Rosings [fifty miles of good road and little more than half a day's journey], written a letter, posted it, and for it to arrive at Longbourn next morning. Elizabeth would have known the Hunsford postal service timetable because she wrote home frequently during the six weeks she stayed with the Collinses who live within walking distance of Rosings. In fact, the letter is not from Lady Catherine but from Mr Collins in which he tells of talking to Lady Catherine the previous night. He posted the letter and it arrived at Longbourn the following morning.
Mr Bennet says to Elizabeth,"I have received a letter this morning ... from Mr Collins. He begins with congratulations on the approaching nuptials of my eldest daughter, of which, it seems, he has been told by some of the good-natured, gossiping Lucases.Note Mr Collins's terminology: 'of which we have been advertised by the same authority.' Who is this authority? Mr Collins doesn't know and so cannot name the person in his letter. The authority who has put forward the possibility of a Darcy/Elizabeth marriage to Lady Catherine would appear to be from a similar stratum of society and thus able to influence her. Lady Catherine divulges what she has been told but not its source. The word 'advertised' suggests the spreading far and wide of a Darcy/Elizabeth marriage rumour. It seems that Lady Catherine's informant claimed the existence of a rumour simply as a way of provoking her into action, which it does. Later, when Lady Catherine meets Elizabeth she accuses her of spreading the rumour, but no such rumour exists, proof that the rumour idea was an invention of Lady Catherine's authorative informant.
Who could be the authority?People tell of events that have occurred and when they occurred. If these events are treated retrospectively and listed chronologically the sequence may lead to working out who is Lady Catherine's informant. First, then, a list of things that were said where time is mentioned:
Points relevant to the time factorsOn Saturday, Lady Catherine is informed by an unnamed authority of a likely Darcy/Elizabeth marriage. Who is the mystery person?
That night, the Collinses visit Lady Catherine. Though they know of the Bingley/Jane engagement (it is public knowledge) it is unlikely they would mention it to Lady Catherine, who knows neither party and would have no interest in them even if she did.
It seems very unlikely Lady Catherine said anything about a possible Darcy/Elizabeth marriage, otherwise Mr Collins would have immediately written his congratulatory letter to Mr Bennet on Sunday, If he had written it then and posted it, it would have been in Mr Bennet's hand first thing Monday morning, several hours before Lady Catherine arrived. But as that never happened, it appears conclusive, that on Saturday night, the Collinses knew nothing of a Darcy/Elizabeth marriage, nor were told anything about it.
Clearly, Lady Catherine's informant was not Charlotte, otherwise Mr Collins would have already written his letter and posted it, with a likelihood of it being delivered Sunday, or Monday at the latest. But no letter arrives on either of those days which pretty much proves Charlotte said nothing and knew nothing of a possible Darcy/Elizabeth marriage. Also, if Charlotte had been the informant, Mr Collins would have named her, not referred to her as an authority. The 'authority' told Lady Catherine the Darcy/Elizabeth marriage had been industriously circulated. That claim was an invention of the informant and so easily proven false that Charlotte would never be so stupid to say it, hence, Charlotte is definitely not the informant.
Lady Catherine's discussion with Mr Collins on Sunday night, regarding a possible Darcy/Elizabeth marriage, would seem to have triggered his desire to write to Mr Bennet and drop a hint or two about what he had just learned. He would write his 'hot news' item on Monday and send it off as soon as possible. Mr Bennet received it Tuesday morning.
Mr Collins's letter does not name Lady Catherine's informant, presumably because she never told him who it was. Why would she? If the unnamed authority was of the same class as Lady Catherine's stratum of society it would not be a name to divulge to the low class, Mr Collins, regardless of how often Lady Catherine might choose to discuss things with him.
Nor does Mr Collins mention Lady Catherine's intended trip to see Elizabeth, simply because he never knew anything about it. Although they had talked together Sunday night, she did not mention of her intention to go to Longbourn first thing in the morning. She has her own privacy.
Lady Catherine meets DarcyOn her return journey to Rosings, Lady Catherine passed through London where she met Darcy and expressed her disapproval of a Darcy/Elizabeth marriage. Darcy's response was to race off to Netherfield, then to Longbourn to propose to Elizabeth.
She [Elizabeth] soon learnt that they were indebted for their present good understanding to the efforts of his aunt, who did call on him in her return through London, and there relate her journey to Longbourn, its motive, and the substance of her conversation with Elizabeth; dwelling emphatically on every expression of the latter which, in her ladyship's apprehension, peculiarly denoted her perverseness and assurance; in the belief that such a relation must assist her endeavours to obtain that promise from her nephew which she had refused to give. But, unluckily for her ladyship, its effect had been exactly contrariwise.
"Lady Catherine's unjustifiable endeavours to separate us were the means of removing all my doubts. I am not indebted for my present happiness to your eager desire of expressing your gratitude. I was not in a humour to wait for any opening of yours. My aunt's intelligence had given me hope, and I was determined at once to know every thing."Only after receiving Darcy's letter saying he had become engaged to Elisabeth did Lady Catherine express her violent disapproval but by then it was too late.
Though Darcy and Elizabeth saw Lady Catherine as something of a fairy godmother, the real fairy godmother was Caroline for it was she who, though wishing to keep them separated, actually caused them to come together. Caroline's endeavours to turn Darcy against Elizabeth repeatedly produced the opposite effect of what she desired but this final reversal proved to be her biggest failure and Miss Bingley was very deeply mortified by Darcy's marriage.
A TimelineTo get some idea of the passage of these events needs a timeline. The range of day names chosen is arbitrary but they fit the time intervals.