Chapters 27–34 Summary
As March approaches, Elizabeth finds that she is actually looking forward to visiting Charlotte. She travels with Charlotte’s younger sister Maria and Sir William Lucas, Charlotte’s father, who arranges for her to stop in London for one day so that she can briefly visit with Jane and the Gardiners. Mrs. Gardiner questions Elizabeth about Wickham’s sudden interest in the newly wealthy Miss King—an interest Mrs. Gardiner deems “indelicate.” Elizabeth defends Wickham’s apparently “mercenary” behavior, noting that his possible financial motives are not so different from Mrs. Gardiner’s motives in cautioning Elizabeth about him at Christmas. Later, Elizabeth is overjoyed when the Gardiners invite her on a “tour of pleasure” through Derbyshire and the Lake Country for the summer.
Elizabeth and her traveling companions set out from London the following day and pass Rosings Park, the grand home of Lady Catherine, on their way to Mr. Collins’s parsonage. Mr. Collins shows the travelers around his grounds and house, being sure to note the fine details of every room and piece of furniture. His commentary seems directed toward Elizabeth, as if to show her what she has missed out on by rejecting the privilege of sharing in his comfortable lifestyle. When left alone, Charlotte gives Elizabeth her own tour of the house. Elizabeth later reflects on Charlotte’s evident enjoyment of her surroundings, realizing that Charlotte truly has found a peaceful life at Hunsford. At dinner, Mr. Collins tells Elizabeth that she will undoubtedly have the good fortune of being able to meet Lady Catherine very soon. The next day, Miss Anne de Bourgh, Lady Catherine’s daughter, causes a stir when she stops by Hunsford in her carriage. Though Anne does not come in, Elizabeth sees her from afar and notes that she “looks sickly and cross” and will thus make a perfect match indeed for Mr. Darcy. Mr. Collins returns from the gate and informs the party that they have all been invited to dine at Rosings the following evening.
The next day, the party is preparing for dinner at Rosings. Mr. Collins instructs Elizabeth to wear the best of whatever she has brought and not to worry about her “simple” garments, for Lady Catherine enjoys having “the distinction of rank preserved.” Upon meeting Lady Catherine, Elizabeth observes that she is a large woman with a manner that makes others remember their inferior rank. She speaks in a commanding voice to further her sense of self-importance. Though Sir William Lucas and Maria seem quite apprehensive in Lady Catherine’s presence, Elizabeth finds that she feels “quite equal to the scene.”
After dinner, Lady Catherine turns her scrupulous attention to Elizabeth, quizzing her about her family and asking a series of intrusive questions about her sisters’ looks, education, and marriage prospects. Lady Catherine is unpleasantly surprised to learn that only one of Elizabeth’s sisters can sing and play an instrument and that none of them can draw. When she learns that the Bennets did not employ a governess, Lady Catherine declares that she’s never heard of such a thing. She goes on to criticize that the Bennets have allowed all their daughters to be “out” into society at once. Elizabeth defends the choice, arguing that her youngest sisters should not be prevented from enjoying the “pleasures” of youth simply because the eldest is not yet married. Lady Catherine says that Elizabeth is quite opinionated for a young person, and when she asks for her age, Elizabeth dodges the question, much to Lady Catherine’s displeasure. When Charlotte later asks Elizabeth for her opinion on all she had seen at Rosings, Elizabeth kindly makes her impression sound more favorable than it truly is.
Sir William leaves Hunsford after a week, and Elizabeth is at first concerned that his departure will lead Mr. Collins to further encroach upon her time with Charlotte....
(The entire section is 1,602 words.)