Lady Catherine DeBourgh, wife of the long deceased Sir Lewis DeBourgh, was the Aunt of Col. Fitzwiliam and Mr. Darcy. The pround mistress of Rosings Park (magnificent chimney piece, staricases ["I say staircases, for there are several"] and all), she fancied herself a great lady.She was determined to marry her daughter, Anne (heiress to Rosings, ) in order to join the two great estates, Rosings and Pemberley. To further the match , she demanded a yearly visit from her nephews, and looked disparagingly on all who might come between the couple (i.e. Elizabeth Bennet).
Lady Catherine was also an officious neighbor, plagueing Charlotte with her reforms to the pasonage ("Shelves in the closet") and her attentions to even the minutest of household details, even going so far as to give her instructions on what type of meat to purchase. In Mr. Collins' eyes, however, she could do no wrong. She was his exalted patroness, and he, her humble servant. (A fact he took every occasion to impress upon the minds of those who might be present.) She also meddled in the lives of her "friends" dispensing medical advice and governesses where she saw fit. While at the same time playing Lady Benificence to the poor of the parish, she was all around a most helpful person, taking great delight in improving those around her.
Priding herself on her wisdom and withering retorts, Lady Catherine was somewhat taken aback by Elizabeth Bennet's unabashed refusal to cower in awe before her. This, along with the Lady's growoing suspicion that Elizabeth was setting out to catch Mr. Darcy, "to draw him in with her arts and allurements", set the Lady's favor against Miss Bennet. Things finally came to a head when a rumor reached her ears that Elizabeth was soon to marry Mr. Darcy.
Incensed, she set out at once for Longbourn, "to have such a report universally contradicted". Elizabeth, while admitting the fact that the two were not actually engaged, refused not to ever enter into such an egagement and Lady Catherine's true feelings were finally displayed. She informed Elizabeth of Darcy and Anne's engagement. When Elizabeth then queried as to why, if Mr. Darcy were already engaged lady Catherine should fear that he should pay his attentions to another woman, she grew even more irate:
"The engagement between them is of a peculiar kind. From their infancy, they have been intended for each other. It was the favourite wish of his mother, as well as of her's. While in their cradles, we planned the union: and now, at the moment when the wishes of both sisters would be accomplished in their marriage, to be prevented by a young woman of inferior birth, of no importance in the world, and wholly unallied to the family! Do you pay no regard to the wishes of his friends? To his tacit engagement with Miss De Bourgh? Are you lost to every feeling of propriety and delicacy? Have you not heard me say that from his earliest hours he was destined for his cousin?"
Still refusing to concede to her Ladyship, Elizabeth condidered the interview over. Lady Catherine, though, had other ideas:
"Honour, decorum, prudence, nay, interest, forbid it. Yes, Miss Bennet, interest; for do not expect to be noticed by his family or friends, if you wilfully act against the inclinations of all. You will be censured, slighted, and despised, by every one connected with him. Your alliance will be a disgrace; your name will never even be mentioned by any of us.''
``These are heavy misfortunes,'' replied Elizabeth. ``But the wife of Mr. Darcy must have such extraordinary sources of happiness necessarily attached to her situation, that she could, upon the whole, have no cause to repine.''
``Obstinate, headstrong girl! I am ashamed of you! Is this your gratitude for my attentions to you last spring? Is nothing due to me on that score? Let us sit down. You are to understand, Miss Bennet, that I came here with the determined resolution of carrying my purpose; nor will I be dissuaded from it. I have not been used to submit to any person's whims. I have not been in the habit of brooking disappointment.''
``That will make your ladyship's situation at present more pitiable; but it will have no effect on me.''
``I will not be interrupted. Hear me in silence. My daughter and my nephew are formed for each other. They are descended, on the maternal side, from the same noble line; and, on the father's, from respectable, honourable, and ancient -- though untitled -- families. Their fortune on both sides is splendid. They are destined for each other by the voice of every member of their respective houses; and what is to divide them? The upstart pretensions of a young woman without family, connections, or fortune. Is this to be endured! But it must not, shall not be. If you were sensible of your own good, you would not wish to quit the sphere in which you have been brought up.''
"Allow me to say, Lady Catherine, that the arguments with which you have supported this extraordinary application have been as frivolous as the application was ill-judged. You have widely mistaken my character, if you think I can be worked on by such persuasions as these. How far your nephew might approve of your interference in his affairs, I cannot tell; but you have certainly no right to concern yourself in mine. I must beg, therefore, to be importuned no farther on the subject.''
``Not so hasty, if you please. I have by no means done. To all the objections I have already urged, I have still another to add. I am no stranger to the particulars of your youngest sister's infamous elopement. I know it all; that the young man's marrying her was a patched-up business, at the expence of your father and uncles. And is such a girl to be my nephew's sister? Is her husband, is the son of his late father's steward, to be his brother? Heaven and earth! -- of what are you thinking? Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?''
``You can now have nothing farther to say,'' she resentfully answered. ``You have insulted me in every possible method. I must beg to return to the house.''
And she rose as she spoke. Lady Catherine rose also, and they turned back. Her ladyship was highly incensed.
Lady Catherine's next move was to travel to London to hold a simlilar interview with her nephew. She informed him of Miss Bennet's unreasonableness, however her visit had much tht opposite effect from the one she had hoped for, as the couple soon were engaged:
They (Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy) walked on, without knowing in what direction. There was too much to be thought, and felt, and said, for attention to any other objects. She soon learnt that they were indebted for their present good understanding to the efforts of his aunt, who did call on him in her return through London, and there relate her journey to Longbourn, its motive, and the substance of her conversation with Elizabeth; dwelling emphatically on every expression of the latter which, in her ladyship's apprehension, peculiarly denoted her perverseness and assurance; in the belief that such a relation must assist her endeavours to obtain that promise from her nephew which she had refused to give. But, unluckily for her ladyship, its effect had been exactly contrariwise.
``It taught me to hope,'' said he, ``as I had scarcely ever allowed myself to hope before. I knew enough of your disposition to be certain that, had you been absolutely, irrevocably decided against me, you would have acknowledged it to Lady Catherine, frankly and openly.
Lady Catherine was extremely indignant on the marriage of her nephew; and as she gave way to all the genuine frankness of her character in her reply to the letter which announced its arrangement, she sent him language so very abusive, especially of Elizabeth, that for some time all intercourse was at an end. But at length, by Elizabeth's persuasion, he was prevailed on to overlook the offence, and seek a reconciliation; and, after a little farther resistance on the part of his aunt, her resentment gave way, either to her affection for him, or her curiosity to see how his wife conducted herself; and she condescended to wait on them at Pemberley, in spite of that pollution which its woods had received, not merely from the presence of such a mistress, but the visits of her uncle and aunt from the city.