Chapters 56–61 Summary
One morning, about a week after Jane’s engagement, Lady Catherine de Bourgh unexpectedly arrives at Longbourn. After engaging in some brief—and rather rude—small talk, Lady Catherine asks to meet with Elizabeth outside. Once they are alone, Lady Catherine declares that Elizabeth must know the reason for her unexpected visit. Astonished, Elizabeth replies that she does not. Lady Catherine says that she has heard a rumor that her nephew, Mr. Darcy, intends to marry Elizabeth, and she accuses the Bennet family of spreading this “scandalous falsehood.” When Elizabeth indignantly denies this, Lady Catherine grows angry, demanding to know whether Darcy has proposed to her. Elizabeth tries to evade her questions, and Lady Catherine accuses Elizabeth of intentionally trying to break up the planned union between Darcy and Anne de Bourgh. Elizabeth counters that if Lady Catherine’s daughter is not Darcy’s choice, he should be free to make another. Appalled, Lady Catherine insists that a marriage to Elizabeth would be a “disgrace” and that no one connected with Darcy would ever speak her name. Elizabeth admits that she is not engaged to Darcy, but when Lady Catherine asks her to promise never to enter into an engagement with him, Elizabeth flatly refuses. Having endured Lady Catherine’s insults for as long as she can bear, Elizabeth insists on returning to the house. Lady Catherine’s insults continue as she prepares to depart, and she declares that a union between Elizabeth and Darcy would “ruin” him and make him contemptible to the world.
Elizabeth cannot stop thinking about her conversation with Lady Catherine and wonders how much Darcy depends on his aunt’s guidance and approval. Mr. Bennet interrupts her silent musings, wanting to share a funny letter with her that he’s just received from Mr. Collins. In his letter, Mr. Collins says he has heard that Elizabeth intends to marry Mr. Darcy. Mr. Collins writes to warn Mr. Bennet that his patroness, Lady Catherine, does not approve of this “disgraceful” match. He also criticizes Mr. Bennet’s decision to allow Lydia and Wickham to visit. Mr. Bennet finds the entire letter very humorous, noting that Elizabeth’s supposed engagement to Darcy is particularly “amusing” because of Darcy’s “perfect indifference” toward her and her “pointed dislike” of him. Elizabeth pretends to be amused but secretly wants to cry, thinking that perhaps her father is entirely correct in believing Mr. Darcy to be indifferent toward her.
Not many days later, Mr. Darcy returns to Longbourn with Mr. Bingley. Darcy, Elizabeth, Jane, Bingley, and Kitty all set out on a walk together, and Elizabeth and Darcy find themselves momentarily alone. Elizabeth takes this opportunity to thank Darcy for his efforts in rescuing Lydia from her impossible situation. Darcy is at first dismayed that Mrs. Gardiner revealed his involvement, but Elizabeth assures him that her knowledge came through Lydia’s thoughtless words. Darcy rejects the gratitude she expresses on behalf of her family, admitting that his sole motivation was to secure Elizabeth’s own happiness. He asks whether Elizabeth still feels the same as she did when she rejected his proposal, and Elizabeth assures him that her feelings have changed greatly. Darcy is elated to hear this and explains that his hopes were raised after his aunt complained about Elizabeth’s stubbornness during their conversation. Darcy apologizes for his previous behavior toward Elizabeth—including his earlier proposal—and Elizabeth admits that she, too, is ashamed to think now of how she treated him. When their conversation turns to Bingley and Jane, Darcy reveals that he confessed his interference the previous winter to Bingley and admitted he was wrong to think Jane “indifferent.”
Back at home, Elizabeth worries about how her family will perceive her engagement to Mr. Darcy. She shares her feelings first with...
(The entire section is 1,449 words.)