Austen, Jane "Pride & Prejudice" - 1813
The Motherhood and Jane Austen Book Club
I had intended to reread all of Jane Austen's books this year. Then I came across this blog and joined the challenge to read and discuss Jane Austen's novels with a view of the mothers in the stories.
The first one was one "Pride & Prejudice" which I have already reviewed here.
If you have not read this novel, I refer you to that more general review because this one will contain spoilers.
Mothers: Mrs. Bennet, Lady Lucas, Mrs. Gardiner, Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Mothers that are not mentioned: Mrs. Darcy, Mrs. Bingley, Mrs. Collins
There are several mothers in this novel, some take a more prominent part than others. And then there are some that are not mentioned at all but who also contributed to the novel in a way.
Mrs. Bennet is one of the main characters next to the sisters Elizabeth and Jane and their love interests George Bingley and Fitzwilliam Darcy.
She got married young, her husband married her for her beauty more than anything and now all that is left is a silly woman who has only one goal in life: marrying her daughters to a rich husband. The house and all the property of Mr. Bennet is entailed which means it cannot be passed on to any girls in the family. Since the Bennet's have five daughter and no son, the heir to the estate is a Mr. Collins, a second cousin of Mr. Bennet. We see how bad this can be in the end for the girls when we read "Sense & Sensibility" and look at the Dashwood sisters or "Emma" in regard to Miss Bates, we know how hard a life they must lead.
Still, we have to see her in connection with her time. I can see the necessity to get your daughters married to someone who can support them in life. There was no other way at the time, at least not for women with that sort of social standing. But it could and should be done with a little more diplomacy which seems to be an alien word for Mrs. Bennet.
Mrs. Bennet has one favourite, Lydia, the youngest, who is very much like herself, silly, interested only in men and not thinking what her comments and behaviour might to do her reputation and thereby her chances of marrying well. She ruins Jane's chances with Mr. Bingley and contributes to the break with Mr. Collins by trying to push him on Elizabeth. If it wasn't for her, the whole story would be quite different. Without her, Lydia would not have gone to Brighton and would have been safe from Mr. Wickham. She admires Jane for her beauty but that is all, she doesn't seem to care much for the other girls, Elizabeth, Mary or Kitty.
It is very difficult for the girls, especially Jane and Elizabeth, to go out with their mother in public as she embarrasses them everywhere.
But we have to see her in connection with her time.
We don't know much about Lady Lucas but a little about her daughters Maria and, even more, Charlotte who is 27 years old. They have more siblings and the girls are supposed to marry well enough. We do not know much about Lady Lucas but we can imagine that she is encouraging her daughter Charlotte to accept Mr. Collins' proposal so she will be well looked after. She is probably not as aggressive as Mrs. Bennet, otherwise we'd hear more about her. Charlotte's comment that she has no prospects and all she wants is a comfortable home. This she can achieve through her marriage to Mr. Collins and she is happy about that.
Mr. Edward Gardiner of Gracechurch Street is Mrs. Bennet's brother. He and his young wife have four children. We can imagine that his wife is close to the age of the Bennet girls than to Mrs. Bennet, therefore she invites the girls around to their house (Jane) and on holidays (Elizabeth). She is a good friend, almost like an older sister, to the Bennet girls. We don't know much about her own children but we can imagine that she is a good mother as she is a better mother to her nieces than their own mother is.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Lady Catherine is a sister to Mr. Darcy's mother and hence his aunt. She has a daughter of her own, Miss Anne de Bourgh who seems to be of a sickly nature. But, having met Lady Catherine, we can also imagine that she is intimidated by her mother who both dotes on her but always is the one who thinks she knows better, she is better than everyone else. Having to grow up with a mother like that cannot be easy, no matter how much money you can expect to inherit. Other than the Bennet estate, the wealth of Lady Catherine is not entailed, so her daughter is her only heiress. Lady Catherine thinks she rules the world and can make her nephew marry her daughter ... and she might have succeeded with a more gullible nephew or someone who would have needed her money more.
We know of Mr. Darcy's mother that her name was Anne Fitzwilliam before she got married and that she is a sister of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. She dies before her husband who leaves Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and his sister Georgiana after his death. We don't know anything about her as that, according to Lady Catherine, it was her dearest wish, that her son marry her niece Anne.
Again, we do not know a lot about Mrs. Bingley other than that she had three children, Charles, Louisa (who is married to Mr. Hurst) and Caroline, the youngest. We can only guess that she indulged/spoiled her dauthers as they seem to be so much different from her son but that might have to do with the different roles of men and women at the time.
Another mother of an important character in the novel that we hear nothing about. Mr. Collins must have had a mother but we only hear that he has just lost his father in a letter to Mr. Bennet. Given his talkative nature, we can only conclude that Mr. Collins was not very close to his mother and/or that she must have been as simple as Mrs. Bennet.
All in all, it was a great idea to reread the novel and to discuss it with other mothers and share all our ideas about this wonderful novel.
I read a lot of novels by or about Jane Austen. Find a link to all my reviews here.
Other Jane Austen novels I have read with regard to Motherhood:
"Emma" - 1816
"Mansfield Park" - 1814
"Northanger Abbey" - 1818
"Persuasion" - 1817
"Pride & Prejudice" - 1813
"Sense & Sensibility" - 1811