Mrs. Bennet was most likely a beauty in her youth as her physical appearance is referenced (teasingly) by Mr. Bennet.
"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 handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley may like you the best of the party."
Character Description and Analysis
Mrs. Bennet is a miraculously tiresome character. Noisy and foolish, she is a woman consumed by the desire to see her daughters married and seems to care for nothing else in the world. Ironically, her single-minded pursuit of this goal tends to backfire, as her lack of social graces alienates the very people (Darcy and Bingley) whom she tries desperately to attract. Austen uses her continually to highlight the necessity of marriage for young women. Mrs. Bennet also serves as a middle-class counterpoint to such upper-class snobs as Lady Catherine and Miss Bingley, demonstrating that foolishness can be found at every level of society. In the end, however, Mrs. Bennet proves such an unattractive figure, lacking redeeming characteristics of any kind, that some readers have accused Austen of unfairness in portraying her—as if Austen, like Mr. Bennet, took perverse pleasure in poking fun at a woman already scorned as a result of her ill breeding.
Mrs. Bennet is mentioned by name 135 times in the novel.
Mrs. Bennet deigned not to make any reply, but, unable to contain
herself, began scolding one of her daughters.
"Don't keep coughing so, Kitty, for Heaven's sake! Have a little
compassion on my nerves. You tear them to pieces."
The girls stared at their father. Mrs. Bennet said only, "Nonsense,
"What can be the meaning of that emphatic exclamation?" cried he. "Do
you consider the forms of introduction, and the stress that is laid on
them, as nonsense? I cannot quite agree with you _there_. What say you,
Mary? For you are a young lady of deep reflection, I know, and read
great books and make extracts."
Mary wished to say something sensible, but knew not how.
"While Mary is adjusting her ideas," he continued, "let us return to Mr.
"I am sick of Mr. Bingley," cried his wife.
"I am sorry to hear _that_; but why did not you tell me that before? If
I had known as much this morning I certainly would not have called
on him. It is very unlucky; but as I have actually paid the visit, we
cannot escape the acquaintance now."
The astonishment of the ladies was just what he wished; that of Mrs.
Bennet perhaps surpassing the rest; though, when the first tumult of joy
was over, she began to declare that it was what she had expected all the
"How good it was in 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."
"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 to wish for."
"_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. To be
sure that _did_ seem as if he admired her--indeed I rather believe he
_did_--I heard something about it--but I hardly know what--something
about Mr. Robinson."
"Can I have the carriage?" said Jane.
"No, my dear, you had better go on horseback, because it seems likely to
rain; and then you must stay all night."
"That would be a good scheme," said Elizabeth, "if you were sure that
they would not offer to send her home."
"Oh! but the gentlemen will have Mr. Bingley's chaise to go to Meryton,
and the Hursts have no horses to theirs."
"I had much rather go in the coach."
"But, my dear, your father cannot spare the horses, I am sure. They are
wanted in the farm, Mr. Bennet, are they not?"
"They are wanted in the farm much oftener than I can get them."
"But if you have got them to-day," said Elizabeth, "my mother's purpose
will be answered."
She did at last extort from her father an acknowledgment that the horses
were engaged. Jane was therefore obliged to go on horseback, and her
mother attended her to the door with many cheerful prognostics of a
bad day. Her hopes were answered; Jane had not been gone long before
it rained hard. Her sisters were uneasy for her, but her mother was
delighted. The rain continued the whole evening without intermission;
Jane certainly could not come back.
"This was a lucky idea of mine, indeed!" said Mrs. Bennet more than
once, as if the credit of making it rain were all her own.
Everybody was surprised, and Darcy, after looking at her for a moment,
turned silently away. Mrs. Bennet, who fancied she had gained a complete
victory over him, continued her triumph.
"I cannot see that London has any great advantage over the country, for
my part, except the shops and public places. The country is a vast deal
pleasanter, is it not, Mr. Bingley?"
"When I am in the country," he replied, "I never wish to leave it;
and when I am in town it is pretty much the same. They have each their
advantages, and I can be equally happy in either."
"Aye--that is because you have the right disposition. But that
gentleman," looking at Darcy, "seemed to think the country was nothing
"Indeed, Mamma, you are mistaken," said Elizabeth, blushing for her
mother. "You quite mistook Mr. Darcy. He only meant that there was not
such a variety of people to be met with in the country as in the town,
which you must acknowledge to be true."
"Certainly, my dear, nobody said there were; but as to not meeting
with many people in this neighbourhood, I believe there are few
neighbourhoods larger. I know we dine with four-and-twenty families."
"The person of whom I speak is a gentleman, and a stranger."
Mrs. Bennet's eyes sparkled. "A gentleman and a stranger! It is Mr.
Bingley, I am sure! Well, I am sure I shall be extremely glad to see Mr.
Bingley. But--good Lord! how unlucky! There is not a bit of fish to be
got to-day. Lydia, my love, ring the bell--I must speak to Hill this
"It is _not_ Mr. Bingley," said her husband; "it is a person whom I
never saw in the whole course of my life."
This roused a general astonishment; and he had the pleasure of being
eagerly questioned by his wife and his five daughters at once.
After amusing himself some time with their curiosity, he thus explained:
"About a month ago I received this letter; and about a fortnight ago
I answered it, for I thought it a case of some delicacy, and requiring
early attention. It is from my cousin, Mr. Collins, who, when I am dead,
may turn you all out of this house as soon as he pleases."
"Oh! my dear," cried his wife, "I cannot bear to hear that mentioned.
Pray do not talk of that odious man. I do think it is the hardest thing
in the world, that your estate should be entailed away from your own
children; and I am sure, if I had been you, I should have tried long ago
to do something or other about it."
"But, depend upon it, Mr. Collins," she added, "that Lizzy shall be
brought to reason. I will speak to her about it directly. She is a very
headstrong, foolish girl, and does not know her own interest but I will
_make_ her know it."
"Pardon me for interrupting you, madam," cried Mr. Collins; "but if
she is really headstrong and foolish, I know not whether she would
altogether be a very desirable wife to a man in my situation, who
naturally looks for happiness in the marriage state. If therefore she
actually persists in rejecting my suit, perhaps it were better not
to force her into accepting me, because if liable to such defects of
temper, she could not contribute much to my felicity."
"Sir, you quite misunderstand me," said Mrs. Bennet, alarmed. "Lizzy is
only headstrong in such matters as these. In everything else she is as
good-natured a girl as ever lived. I will go directly to Mr. Bennet, and
we shall very soon settle it with her, I am sure."
"Let her be called down. She shall hear my opinion."
Mrs. Bennet rang the bell, and Miss Elizabeth was summoned to the
"Come here, child," cried her father as she appeared. "I have sent for
you on an affair of importance. I understand that Mr. Collins has made
you an offer of marriage. Is it true?" Elizabeth replied that it was.
"Very well--and this offer of marriage you have refused?"
"I have, sir."
"Very well. We now come to the point. Your mother insists upon your
accepting it. Is it not so, Mrs. Bennet?"
"Yes, or I will never see her again."
"An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must
be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you
again if you do _not_ marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again
if you _do_."
Elizabeth could not but smile at such a conclusion of such a beginning,
but Mrs. Bennet, who had persuaded herself that her husband regarded the
affair as she wished, was excessively disappointed.
"What do you mean, Mr. Bennet, in talking this way? You promised me to
_insist_ upon her marrying him."
"My dear," replied her husband, "I have two small favours to request.
First, that you will allow me the free use of my understanding on the
present occasion; and secondly, of my room. I shall be glad to have the
library to myself as soon as may be."
Not yet, however, in spite of her disappointment in her husband, did
Mrs. Bennet give up the point. She talked to Elizabeth again and again;
coaxed and threatened her by turns. She endeavoured to secure Jane
in her interest; but Jane, with all possible mildness, declined
interfering; and Elizabeth, sometimes with real earnestness, and
sometimes with playful gaiety, replied to her attacks. Though her manner
varied, however, her determination never did.
"Indeed, Mr. Bennet," said she, "it is very hard to think that Charlotte
Lucas should ever be mistress of this house, that I should be forced to
make way for _her_, and live to see her take her place in it!"
"My dear, do not give way to such gloomy thoughts. Let us hope for
better things. Let us flatter ourselves that I may be the survivor."
This was not very consoling to Mrs. Bennet, and therefore, instead of
making any answer, she went on as before.
"I cannot bear to think that they should have all this estate. If it was
not for the entail, I should not mind it."
"What should not you mind?"
"I should not mind anything at all."
"Let us be thankful that you are preserved from a state of such
"I never can be thankful, Mr. Bennet, for anything about the entail. How
anyone could have the conscience to entail away an estate from one's own
daughters, I cannot understand; and all for the sake of Mr. Collins too!
Why should _he_ have it more than anybody else?"
"I leave it to yourself to determine," said Mr. Bennet.
Mrs. Bennet, to whose apartment they all repaired, after a few minutes'
conversation together, received them exactly as might be expected; with
tears and lamentations of regret, invectives against the villainous
conduct of Wickham, and complaints of her own sufferings and ill-usage;
blaming everybody but the person to whose ill-judging indulgence the
errors of her daughter must principally be owing.
"If I had been able," said she, "to carry my point in going to Brighton,
with all my family, _this_ would not have happened; but poor dear Lydia
had nobody to take care of her. Why did the Forsters ever let her go out
of their sight? I am sure there was some great neglect or other on their
side, for she is not the kind of girl to do such a thing if she had been
well looked after. I always thought they were very unfit to have the
charge of her; but I was overruled, as I always am. Poor dear child!
And now here's Mr. Bennet gone away, and I know he will fight Wickham,
wherever he meets him and then he will be killed, and what is to become
of us all? The Collinses will turn us out before he is cold in his
grave, and if you are not kind to us, brother, I do not know what we
They all exclaimed against such terrific ideas; and Mr. Gardiner, after
general assurances of his affection for her and all her family, told her
that he meant to be in London the very next day, and would assist Mr.
Bennet in every endeavour for recovering Lydia.
"Do not give way to useless alarm," added he; "though it is right to be
prepared for the worst, there is no occasion to look on it as certain.
It is not quite a week since they left Brighton. In a few days more we
may gain some news of them; and till we know that they are not married,
and have no design of marrying, do not let us give the matter over as
lost. As soon as I get to town I shall go to my brother, and make
him come home with me to Gracechurch Street; and then we may consult
together as to what is to be done."
"Oh! my dear brother," replied Mrs. Bennet, "that is exactly what I
could most wish for. And now do, when you get to town, find them out,
wherever they may be; and if they are not married already, _make_ them
marry. And as for wedding clothes, do not let them wait for that, but
tell Lydia she shall have as much money as she chooses to buy them,
after they are married. And, above all, keep Mr. Bennet from fighting.
Tell him what a dreadful state I am in, that I am frighted out of my
wits--and have such tremblings, such flutterings, all over me--such
spasms in my side and pains in my head, and such beatings at heart, that
I can get no rest by night nor by day. And tell my dear Lydia not to
give any directions about her clothes till she has seen me, for she does
not know which are the best warehouses. Oh, brother, how kind you are! I
know you will contrive it all."
"Well, mamma," said she, when they were all returned to the breakfast
room, "and what do you think of my husband? Is not he a charming man? I
am sure my sisters must all envy me. I only hope they may have half
my good luck. They must all go to Brighton. That is the place to get
husbands. What a pity it is, mamma, we did not all go."
"Very true; and if I had my will, we should. But my dear Lydia, I don't
at all like your going such a way off. Must it be so?"
"Oh, lord! yes;--there is nothing in that. I shall like it of all
things. You and papa, and my sisters, must come down and see us. We
shall be at Newcastle all the winter, and I dare say there will be some
balls, and I will take care to get good partners for them all."
"I should like it beyond anything!" said her mother.
Mrs. Bennet, all amazement, though flattered by having a guest of such
high importance, received her with the utmost politeness. After sitting
for a moment in silence, she said very stiffly to Elizabeth,
"I hope you are well, Miss Bennet. That lady, I suppose, is your
Elizabeth replied very concisely that she was.
"And _that_ I suppose is one of your sisters."
"Yes, madam," said Mrs. Bennet, delighted to speak to Lady Catherine.
"She is my youngest girl but one. My youngest of all is lately married,
and my eldest is somewhere about the grounds, walking with a young man
who, I believe, will soon become a part of the family."
"You have a very small park here," returned Lady Catherine after a short
"It is nothing in comparison of Rosings, my lady, I dare say; but I
assure you it is much larger than Sir William Lucas's."
"This must be a most inconvenient sitting room for the evening, in
summer; the windows are full west."
Mrs. Bennet assured her that they never sat there after dinner, and then
"May I take the liberty of asking your ladyship whether you left Mr. and
Mrs. Collins well."
"Yes, very well. I saw them the night before last."
Elizabeth now expected that she would produce a letter for her from
Charlotte, as it seemed the only probable motive for her calling. But no
letter appeared, and she was completely puzzled.
Mrs. Bennet, with great civility, begged her ladyship to take some
refreshment; but Lady Catherine very resolutely, and not very politely,
declined eating anything
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