The h2g2 Literary Corner: What Game Are They Playing?

1 Conversation

What kinds of games do they play in Jane Austen novels? For those of you who (like this editor) get the yawns whenever anybody says 'Pemberley', here's what we make of it, from the deathless account in Pride and Prejudice, a novel much less exciting than its title promises.

Although there's plenty of pride in here, and a lot of prejudice, there are just not enough explosions to keep the average male reader awake.

What Game Are They Playing?

A lady in Georgian dress

On entering the drawing-room she found the whole party at loo1, and was immediately invited to join them; but suspecting them to be playing high2 she declined it, and making her sister the excuse, said she would amuse herself for the short time she could stay below, with a book.

Mr. Hurst looked at her with astonishment3.

"Do you prefer reading to cards?" said he; "that is rather singular."

"Miss Eliza Bennet," said Miss Bingley, "despises cards4. She is a great reader, and has no pleasure in anything else."

"I deserve neither such praise nor such censure," cried Elizabeth; "I am not a great reader, and I have pleasure in many things."

"In nursing your sister I am sure you have pleasure," said Bingley; "and I hope it will be soon increased by seeing her quite well."

Elizabeth thanked him from her heart, and then walked towards the table where a few books were lying. He immediately offered to fetch her others – all that his library afforded.

"And I wish my collection were larger for your benefit and my own credit; but I am an idle fellow, and though I have not many, I have more than I ever looked into5."

Elizabeth assured him that she could suit herself perfectly with those in the room.

"I am astonished," said Miss Bingley, "that my father should have left so small a collection of books. What a delightful library you have at Pemberley, Mr. Darcy!"

"It ought to be good," he replied, "it has been the work of many generations6."

"And then you have added so much to it yourself, you are always buying books7."

"I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library in such days as these8."

"Neglect! I am sure you neglect nothing that can add to the beauties of that noble place. Charles, when you build your house, I wish it may be half as delightful as Pemberley."

"I wish it may."

"But I would really advise you to make your purchase in that neighbourhood, and take Pemberley for a kind of model. There is not a finer county in England than Derbyshire9."

"With all my heart; I will buy Pemberley itself if Darcy will sell it."

"I am talking of possibilities, Charles."

"Upon my word, Caroline, I should think it more possible to get Pemberley by purchase than by imitation10."

Elizabeth was so much caught with what passed, as to leave her very little attention for her book; and soon laying it wholly aside, she drew near the card-table, and stationed herself between Mr. Bingley and his eldest sister, to observe the game.

"Is Miss Darcy much grown since the spring11?" said Miss Bingley; "will she be as tall as I am?"

"I think she will. She is now about Miss Elizabeth Bennet's height, or rather taller."

"How I long to see her again! I never met with anybody who delighted me so much. Such a countenance, such manners! And so extremely accomplished for her age! Her performance on the pianoforte is exquisite12."

"It is amazing to me," said Bingley, "how young ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished as they all are13."

"All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, what do you mean?"

"Yes, all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover screens, and net purses14. I scarcely know anyone who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished."

"Your list of the common extent of accomplishments," said Darcy, "has too much truth. The word is applied to many a woman who deserves it no otherwise than by netting a purse or covering a screen15. But I am very far from agreeing with you in your estimation of ladies in general. I cannot boast of knowing more than half-a-dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are really accomplished."

"Nor I, I am sure," said Miss Bingley.

"Then," observed Elizabeth, "you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of an accomplished woman."

"Yes, I do comprehend a great deal in it16."

"Oh! certainly," cried his faithful assistant, "no one can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages17, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half-deserved."

"All this she must possess," added Darcy, "and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading18."

"I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any."

"Are you so severe upon your own sex as to doubt the possibility of all this?"

"I never saw such a woman. I never saw such capacity, and taste, and application, and elegance, as you describe united."

Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley both cried out against the injustice of her implied doubt, and were both protesting that they knew many women who answered this description, when Mr. Hurst called them to order, with bitter complaints of their inattention to what was going forward. As all conversation was thereby at an end, Elizabeth soon afterwards left the room19.

Ed note: These people aren't really playing cards. Notice that nobody cares who's taking the tricks. Their real game is called Courtship. These people have marriage on the brain, and young ladies are racehorses. Accomplishments, my left foot. This book definitely needs a good explosion or two. We recommend Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Literary Corner Archive

Dmitri Gheorgheni

10.08.15 Front Page

Back Issue Page

1This cannot be what it sounds like. Oh, thank you, Wikipedia. It's a card game of the Trump family. We wonder if Donald knows it?2Betting a lot? Or is there something in the tea?3What, reading? Really? At least use a Kindle.4Although she enjoys computer Freecell.5Maybe you'd like to see his back issues of Playboy?.6They didn't read them, either, but they dusted them off occasionally.7By the yard, no doubt.8Masterpiece Theatre are watching.9Don't say that in Yorkshire.10We smell hostile takeover here.11Females, like trees, need to be measured regularly. Horticultural pride is at stake, hence the title of the novel. They are also prejudiced against short girls.12She plays Chopsticks like Paderewski.13It's because they don't bother their silly heads with stuff like business, you dork.14See? Ladies know where it's at. It's all about netting those purses.15Some even grace the screen, like all those actresses who have played Elizabeth Bennett.16And yet you are clueless.17Especially Fortran.18Aha! You noticed that book, didn't you?19To read something better than Jane Austen, we hope.

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