Kindly Meant?

I have long been confused on the conversation between Caroline Bingley and Lizzy at the Netherfield Ball. At this point in the story, Caroline knows that Mr. Darcy admires Lizzy’s “fine eyes,” but I also think she seriously doubts that Mr. Darcy would marry so far beneath his social position. So I would say that she has some vague feelings of jealousy toward Lizzy, but hasn’t yet zeroed in with her wrath and cutting comments.

It is also surprising to me that Caroline Bingley knows of the ill will between Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham. Even though she is sketchy in the details, it is surprising to me that she has any knowledge at all. Given how tight-lipped Darcy wanted to be in the matter, it’s hard to imagine that he would have told her personally. Jane Austen later says that Bingley was quite ignorant of the circumstances between Darcy and Wickham, so Caroline would not have heard from Bingley.

Nevertheless, Caroline has some information on the history between Darcy and Wickham. Caroline hears that Lizzy has an affinity for Wickham, and (despite her civil disdain) warns Lizzy not to trust everything that Wickham says. Why?  I can’t figure it out. Caroline herself has nothing to lose if Lizzy falls in love with Wickham. In fact, one would think that Caroline Bingley would WANT Lizzy’s affections directed any anyone else, so that they aren’t directed at Darcy.

Could it really be that Caroline’s intentions truly were kindly meant!?



2 responses to “Kindly Meant?

  1. I think that Caroline knows because Darcy told them after he met Wickham in Meryton. It’s clear that she doesn’t know any details, only some general information. Likely everything that was needed to explain why Darcy would rather avoid the other man.

    Caroline might be warning Lizzy because Darcy asked her to.


  2. I don’t quite remember the scene from the book, but I recall that the BBC adaptation plays it as pretty straight cattiness. Catherine wants to crow over Elizabeth for taking up with a bad ‘un and have the pleasure of rebuking Elizabeth for not having her (Catherine’s) superior knowledge of society. As for the knowledge she picked up – it’s not hard to hear there’s been a break between two people of long standing association. Being a class snob, she would naturally assume Wickham was in the wrong even if she never heard a word of the scandal.

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