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Notes on the text of Pride and Prejudice
Learn what those weird words and phrases mean here! I've tried to explain anything I thought wasn't clear for a modern audience, but if you think I've missed anything, please let me know.
For use with the text version of Pride and Prejudice found on this site. These notes are copyright © Austen for Beginners 2008 and may not be reproduced without permission.
Michaelmas is in September, and was one of the 'quarter days' during the year when rents were commonly paid and other agreements were started or ended. Pronounced 'Micklemuss'
Mrs Bennet could not, by the social etiquette of the time, visit an unknown single gentleman at his house, unless her husband (or other male relation) had done so first. In this situation, the polite thing to do would be for all the local gentlemen to call on Mr Bingley to welcome him to the neighbourhood. In modern terms, they would be 'checking him out' before allowing him to come into contact with the ladies.
This means a look or an air about him.
In this context, engaged means 'busy' - in other words, Mr Bingley's sisters are already dancing with others.
An English country dance.
fortune acquired by trade
In other words, the Bingleys' fortune is new money. Darcy's is old money i.e. inherited wealth over many generations. In the highest social circles, old money is the thing to have; new money may be tolerated if its owners behave themselves. In Mr Bingley's case, his father made the money, not him, so he is a generation removed from 'trade' and is accepted as a gentleman for the most part. There are probably still some old money snobs in Town who consider him and his sisters to be socially beneath them. Darcy obviously isn't one of them.
The Court of St James's, the official name of the monarch's court. The name comes from St James's Palace, which was the official residence of the monarch. The term is still used today in some contexts, even though the official London residence of the monarch is now Buckingham Palace.
A hired carriage.
In this context, it means 'visited'.
Card game similar to Pontoon or Blackjack.
Card game where players exchange cards to get a better hand.
In this context, means a piano (known by its full name as a pianoforte in those days).
wish you joy
meaning 'congratulate you on your engagement to be married'.
An entail was a condition of a will, legally enforced, that meant that if a couple had no son, property had to be passed on to the next male in line in the family, rather than being divided up between the daughters (which effectively meant that it passed to their husbands). To avoid this, an entail could be set up to keep the property intact as a whole and ensure it was passed on to future generations in one piece, bypassing female heirs along the way. An entail could be broken with the agreement of the next male in line, but it was a complicated process, and in most cases it wouldn't be in the male heir's interest to do so. In the Bennets' case, Mr Collins clearly has no intention of breaking the entail, and there is no expectation on the Bennets' part that he would ever be likely to consider doing such a thing.
A mother's fortune was usually settled on her daughters (or younger sons, if there were no daughters). In that case, it was kept separate from the rest of the couple's property and assets, and would not be subject to an entail (see above). In Mrs Bennet's case, five thousand pounds (or the investment interest on such a sum) would be divided among her five daughters, since they could expect nothing from their father, whose property was entailed to Mr Collins.
In modern terms, did all the book work - administration, accounts and so on.
Junior army officer
Worn by army officers (and other ranks, but the Bennet girls are only interested in officers).
In this context, means medicine.
A street in the City of London, today the financial district and at the time of our story decidedly associated with 'trade', that terrible new money thing that the Bingleys are trying so hard to forget about. An area that Miss Bingley or Mrs Hurst would never dream of visiting if they could possibly avoid it.
Betting with large amounts of money.
Make covers for fire screens (screens placed in front of open fires to prevent the occupants of a room from getting too hot). Generally embroidery/tapestry.
Make purses by netting (fine knitting).
Table set up for playing loo (see above).
Yet another card game.
Pens were made of quills or feathers, and the point would require frequent sharpening or mending with a pen knife to keep it usable.
Ladies generally had some 'work' near to them - embroidery, tapestry or any other ladylike occupation.
Tea was generally served after dinner. Coffee might be served also, but the after-dinner period of refreshment was still known as 'tea'.
"a staple of elegant entertainment...was served regularly at ball suppers; though the recipe varied, the result generally involved veal stock, cream and almonds, sometimes thickened with rice or breadcrumbs." From Jane Austen - A Companion by Josephine Ross.
In this context, means 'position.'
Church service conducted by a bishop, during which new priests are admitted (ordained).
In this context, means 'appointed'
House where the rector (priest in charge) of the parish lived.
Card game. Also the name of a dance, but in this context, definitely the card game.
Low carriage which could be easily driven by a lady. The high-perch phaeton or 'high-flyer' was a more sporting version which was much higher and much harder to drive - definitely not the version described here!
To be presented was the occasion of a young lady appearing at Court and being 'presented' - in this period, to Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III. This marked the official debut in society of the young lady in question. Only for those in the highest levels of society - Anne de Bourgh would certainly have been presented, had she been well enough to take part in London society life, but the Bennet daughters, for example, would not have been so honoured.
The name of the militia regiment (each one called after the county or town to which it belonged). The regiment here might perhaps be called the Hertfordshire (the county in which Meryton and Longbourn are supposed to be situated) but conventionally an author at the period when Jane Austen was writing would not use the real name in a work of fiction.
interval of waiting
Mrs Phillips was alone in her drawing room; her husband and his dinner guests (the militia officers) were still in the dining room. After a suitable interval, they would join the ladies and Mr Collins in the drawing room.
The post of parish priest. It was often funded by the local landowner and so it was up to them who to appoint to the post.
unite the two estates
In other words, marry each other so that the two estates remain in the family.
Counters used in the game of lottery tickets and other card games.
In other words, he was apologising for being in the carriage with them, since there was very little space.
Literally what it says - flowers or rosettes to sew onto shoes to make them more ornamental.
Done by someone else - in this context, the Bennet girls probably sent a servant with a note to the shopkeeper to explain what they wanted, or possibly to their aunt to ask her to make the purchases on their behalf.
The steward of an estate was an important person who took care of all the business dealings together with the owner. Often had a training in the law and effectively managed an estate whenever the owner was absent. Later known as a land agent. In summary, a very superior servant and his son (Wickham here) would be quite likely to think himself above the children of other servants.
laymen - those who were not clergymen.
oblige the company
Meaning to entertain everyone.
verses of a song
Payments that everyone in the parish had to make to the priest, calculated according to their agricultural production. The very poor would pay almost nothing, but a relatively well-off farmer would find around 10% of his income going to the Church. Effectively this was part of the priest's salary and he would unable to live without it. Here, Mr Collins is referring to the possibility of reassessment of everyone's obligations, in order to ensure that all are paying their dues, without upsetting Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
put it out of her power to dance with others
Once Elizabeth had refused to dance any more with Mr Collins, she was obliged by convention to refuse anyone else who asked her.
four per cents
Investment funds for which the guaranteed interest rate was four per cent per year.
Next day (as in 'tomorrow')
Smooth, glossy paper that was made by being pressed between hot metal plates. The very best writing paper available at the time.
fair, flowing hand
Beautiful, educated handwriting. Jane Austen herself would have been thought to write in such a way - click here for an example of her handwriting.
name the day
To fix a date for their wedding. Charlotte could not do this, of course, until her father's consent to their marriage had been obtained and her parents consulted as to a date.
A home of her own.
Making one's debut in society. Charlotte's younger sisters were desperate for her to marry so that they could take their place in society; it was considered bad form for them to make their debut at an early age if an elder sister were still unmarried, and they might have been obliged to wait a few extra years. This isn't a point of view that Mrs Bennet goes along with - all her daughters are 'out', even though none are married. Kitty and Lydia in particular are very young and in more refined families would have been kept safely at home until they were older.
moved for the night
Went to bed.
Street in what is now the financial district of London (the 'City') - then associated with trade and not visited by the highest society except for business reasons. See Cheapside.
The Lake District, in the northwest of England, in the modern county of Cumbria.
palings or pales
Dressing, doing one's hair etc. before emerging for the day, or for dinner, or for any other occasion when a change of clothes was necessary.
In this context, means inspiring awe, rather than being terrible.
Small room which one had to pass through in order to reach a larger one.
Dishes and so on made of silver (gold if it was an extremely rich household).
It was usual for the gentlemen to carve joints of meat at the table and serve it to the ladies, rather than a servant doing it. Ladies might also carve occasionally - a daughter might carve for her father, for example, or a wife for her husband.
Female teacher who lived in the house and taught the children - girls mainly, but also small boys. Older boys either went to school or had a tutor (male teacher). Governesses were in the awkward position of being a refined kind of servant - they were paid a salary and not part of the family but were definitely superior to the rest of the household. In a family such as the Bennets, it would be assumed that the mother took on the governess role if an actual governess was not employed.
Open, two-wheeled carriage drawn by a single horse.
commission of the peace
Justice of the peace or magistrate. Only men could do this officially so Lady Catherine wasn't on the official 'list', but that didn't stop her intervening or directing any local dispute. Since she was the local landowner, no one was likely to stop her.
The entrance lodges to a grand estate would be two small buildings, one on each side of the main gateway and effectively forming part of it. In some cases there would be a single lodge on one side only.
Field sports would include hunting with dogs and shooting, both of which are only in season in the winter. At the time of this part of the story, Easter Day has just passed, so it is spring.
In this context, means happy. Not in spirits = unhappy.
Questions that are striking home - i.e. hitting the nail on the head, so to speak.
in the same style
In a joking fashion - Elizabeth was joking, so he jokes back.
The turnpike was the main road, requiring the payment of a toll to pass.
A piece of writing-paper folded around to 'envelop' the actual letter. Here, Mr Darcy has written on the outer piece of paper as well, so he has enclosed the whole thing in a second 'envelope' which he then hands to Elizabeth.
The lines of writing are very close together - no space is wasted.
Here, means 'particular'
participation of sentiment
Sharing of feelings.
The University of Cambridge, one of the two principal universities in England, the other being Oxford.
in lieu of
Here, means 'appointment'.
The person holding the post of parish priest.
Gift (here, the gift of the job of parish priest).
A young lady's fortune was a sum of money settled on her by her family, which would pass to her husband on marriage. Depending on how rich he was himself, it might be needed for the couple to live on or might be kept to pass on to their children in a similar way. In Wickham's case, he would have seen it as a passport to wealth.
Seaside resort in Kent.
A barouche was a four-wheeled carriage, seating four people inside. There was room for an extra person on the box, the platform at the front where the driver sat.
A lady's personal maid would be referred to by her surname only. Normally a maid in a senior position like this would expect to be transported inside a carriage rather than having to take a seat outside and be exposed to the weather. We have no way of knowing here if Lady Catherine's maid really did not have any objection to sitting outside the carriage next to the driver, or if Lady Catherine herself had decided that her maid did not object.
To 'travel post' meant to travel in a carriage and change horses at posting inns along the route as required. Even if you used your own carriage instead of a hired one, it was still an expensive way to travel. The various servants had to be given tips along the way, and it was considered advisable for ladies to have a gentleman escort them, or at the very least a servant or some sort.
Popular seaside resort on the south coast of England. Made popular by the Prince Regent (later King George IV) in the early nineteenth century. Brighton website
The expression of disdain involves sticking one's nose in the air and pressing the lips together. Try it, and see if you don't end up with a 'long chin.'
At the time, town in the northwest of England, now a major city.
Married lady, or middle-aged spinster, who accompanied young unmarried ladies whenever there might be gentlemen in the vicinity. Lydia is making the point that if she were married, even though she is the youngest sister, she would make the rest respectable by her presence.
Common name for an inn, both then and now. These days, would be a pub.
A place to 'take the waters' - could be either a seaside resort, such as Brighton, or a spa such as Bath.
in town for the winter
The social season in London took place during the winter and spring months. Families who had taken part would then return to their country houses for the summer.
Government department responsible for the army. Now called the Ministry of Defence.
Spa town in Derbyshire. Information about Matlock
Home of the Duke of Devonshire, very grand stately home which was much visited even in Jane Austen's day. Chatsworth website
One of the most famous of Derbyshire's dales (valleys). Information about Dovedale
The Peak District in Derbyshire - beautiful area of hills and valleys, now a National Park. Information about The Peak District
Literally, pieces of rock. The Peak District is famous for its limestone caverns.
County town of Oxfordshire and seat of the famous university.
Home of the Duke of Marlborough just north of Oxford, another grand stately home which was commonly visited. See Chatsworth. Blenheim website
Medieval town with large castle. Warwick Castle website.
Town with ruined castle, not far from Warwick. Kenilworth Castle website
England's second city, after London. By the time Jane Austen was writing her novels, it was well established as an industrial centre.
applying to see the place
At great houses, it was perfectly normal practice for visitors to ask to be given a tour, even if they had never met the owners. The housekeeper at Pemberley, as at Blenheim or Chatsworth, would be quite used to such requests.
Small paintings, usually just of a person's face. Much more portable than the usual large portrait and often given as keepsakes.
Small town in Derbyshire, famous for its tarts. Jane Austen supposedly visited it and took it as her model for Lambton. Information about Bakewell
A two-wheeled carriage, normally drawn by two horses. The modern analogy would be to a sports car.
Uniform worn by a servant (in this case presumably a groom riding up behind the curricle) - each household would have a distinctive livery so it was obvious for whom the servant worked.
Meaning 'salon' or drawing room.
lady with whom she lived
Georgiana could not live alone in the house, especially when her brother was not there; she was unmarried and too young. Mrs Annesley fulfils the role of a 'companion' - a genteel lady who kept company with an unmarried lady who was too old for a governess, becoming her paid employee.
Body of men in the army; regiment.
brown and coarse
Suntanned - thought by superior ladies to be a very lower class thing, since a lady prided herself on her white skin.
Here, means the address on the letter.
A letter sent by special messenger, in order to get to the recipient as quickly as possible. This was before the days of telegrams.
Favoured destination for runaway marriages, since the ceremony could be performed there even if the bride or groom (or both) were under twenty-one and did not have their parents' consent to the marriage. The most well-known town in Scotland for this was Gretna Green since it is just over the border between England and Scotland. More information about Gretna Green weddings
Town on the main road between Brighton and London, now a suburb of London.
Also a town on the main road between Brighton and London, further away from London than Clapham. Lydia and Wickham must have changed horses there.
Hired carriage, smaller than a chaise - the modern equivalent would be a taxi.
Four-wheeled closed carriage drawn by either two or four horses. A family might have their own if well-off, but the one Lydia and Wickham travelled in was certainly hired.
that side of London
Brighton is on the south coast of England and to reach London one would travel almost directly north. Hertfordshire is to the north of London and to reach Scotland one would have to pass through it.
Town on the northern side of London. Then in Hertfordshire, now part of London.
Town situated in Hertfordshire on the main road running from London to Scotland.
If Lydia had her father's consent to the marriage, she and Wickham could obtain a marriage licence and be married quietly without too many people knowing the circumstances.
lost to everything
Meaning that she has forgotten all the rules of behaviour and is prepared to live with Wickham without marriage. This is what her parents fear most.
Small room next to a bedroom where clothes might be kept. In this case like a small sitting room where Mrs Bennet can spend her time secluded without actually taking to her bed.
Places to buy materials such as silk and muslin to make dresses.
Gown worn during 'powdering' to protect ones normal clothes - powder would be sprinkled over the hair or over a wig if worn. An outdated fashion by this period which was no longer followed by the young, although the elderly and middle-aged might still do it.
Now known as Eastbourne, a seaside resort a little further east along the south coast from Brighton.
stand up with
Army review, a social occasion as well as a military one.
bowl of punch
Punch, traditionally a mixture of rum, water, lemon or orange juice, sugar and spices, was served in a large round bowl and ladled out into glasses.
Documents drawn up at the time of a marriage, laying down the financial arrangements.
come upon the town
Polite way of saying 'become a prostitute'.
Golden coin worth 21 shillings (a pound was 20 shillings).
The regular army, as opposed to the militia, who were the reserve army.
because I am a married woman
Applying strict etiquette, Lydia takes precedence over her elder sister once she is married. Not that Lydia would normally take any notice of such rules, but in this case it benefits her and she enjoys herself thoroughly insisting that she goes through a door in front her sisters, or sits higher up the table than they do.
Newcastle upon Tyne, an important industrial town in the northeast of England. More information.
received his commission
Received the papers confirming his new position in the army.
kill more birds on the first of September
The general season for shooting most types of wild birds opened on the first of September. For the current shooting season dates in the UK, which have not changed much since Jane Austen's day, click here.
St Clement's Church, Clements Land, Eastcheap. Not far from Gracechurch Street where the Gardiners live.
Dress uniform of the regular army.
Here meaning 'thin of company' - in other words, there were not many people around. Most of society would have left London for the summer.
The Little Theatre was situated in the Haymarket in what is now London's West End. Built in 1720, the building which Jane Austen mentions was demolished in 1820 and replaced by the current building.
The main daily newspaper in London was The Times. It is still published daily.
London evening newspaper.
Coverts, or wooded shooting areas where game birds were flushed out and shot.
Most dinners had just one course, consisting of sweet and savoury dishes all on the table at once. Where two courses were served, the first course was usually of meat, fish, poultry and so on with side dishes of vegetables and some puddings. The second course would be of more exotic concoctions, such as fricasées, tarts, jellies and creams. If soup was included in the meal, it would be served with the first course.
Dinner was served in the late afternoon or early evening, so a light supper would be served at around 10 or 11 at night, particularly if the family were entertaining guests.
Large joint of meat.
Shorthand for et cetera (etc) - 'and so on'
Here meaning the grounds surrounding a house.
the windows are full west
Facing west in the evening in summer would mean that the sun shone brightly into the room, dazzling the occupants.
Here, meaning an area of grounds which has been left to nature rather than formalised as lawn or flowerbeds. The 'rustic look' was popular in formal grounds at that time - the idea was to make everything look as if it had been there for a long time.
Rustic building placed within the park to appear ancient and blending with the landscape.
Belonging to the aristocracy - titled, in other words. Lady Catherine is the daughter of an earl, and therefore the courtesy title of 'Lady' belongs to her, just as it would have to Darcy's mother, her sister. They retain this title even if they marry outside the aristocracy - the correct way to address Darcy's mother would have been 'Lady [first name] Darcy'. Note that she would not have been known as 'Lady Darcy' without the first name inserted unless her husband was also titled, which he wasn't. Likewise, Lady Catherine De Bourgh is Darcy's aunt's official title. But since her husband was not an earl or higher nobility, her daughter is only 'Miss De Bourgh'. For more information on titles and nobility click here: British titles
his dear Charlotte's situation, and his expectation of a young olive-branch
In other words, Charlotte is pregnant.
Prudish, coy, bashful - behaving like a naive young Miss.
more to give
In other words, Mr Darcy is richer than Lady Catherine and is likely to have just as many profitable livings to give away, if not more.
place at court
A suitably superior job as a courtier, requiring no effort but paying well. To be appointed to such a position would require great influence socially and probably politically. How Lydia imagines that Darcy would or could provide such a job for Wickham is beyond imagination.
changed their quarters
restoration of peace
The end of war. Could be either the peace in Spain in 1812 or the eventual peace with Napoleon in 1815. The disbandment of part of the army would mean that the Wickhams could no longer claim army accommodation and must find a home of their own.
Spa town in the south-west of England, second only to London in social prestige. Gets a very brief mention in Pride and Prejudice, but plays a larger part in most of the other Austen novels, and Jane Austen herself lived there for a time. Jane Austen Centre in Bath
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