A Man of Good Fortune

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighborhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.”

With these immortal lines, we set off on the delightful romp that is Pride and Prejudice. When the wealthy Mr. Bingley enters the neighborhood, Mrs. Bennet immediately declares him the rightful property of some one or other of her unmarried daughters. Other families in the vicinity would have held similar beliefs of entitlement, however, so the case was by no means settled. And never mind that we haven’t heard from Mr. Bingley himself; he has no say in the matter whatsoever. Therein lies the joke at the heart of this Jane Austen witticism.

It’s interesting that, although Mr. Darcy is soon discovered to be far wealthier, we don’t see him relentlessly pursued by a horde of local maids and their ambitious mamas. In a society where marrying well was the only goal to which a young lady could aspire, it seems unlikely that even advanced age or well-established criminal tendencies would have saved a man with ten thousand pounds a year from such an onslaught. Mr. Darcy’s flaws were not as grave as these, but, besides his wealth, his virtues were not immediately apparent either. In a bit of reparte from my sequel The Darcys of Pemberley, Lizzy says to him, “As I recall, it took much longer for me to discover your merits; they were so well-concealed.” Taking up the game, Darcy responds in kind. “If you were so long in discovering them, perhaps the fault was not with the subject but with the observer.” And so they go …

About Shannon Winslow

author of historical fiction in the tradition of Jane Austen
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