“Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure” (Pride & Prejudice, Chapter LVIII, Jane Austen).
This is from the cheesy scene where Mr. Darcy reveals his undying love for Lizzy and Lizzy is telling Mr. Darcy how very different she feels about him now. (It’s the scene where I was sure the writers had made up for a Hollywood-type audience. So, I went straight to my bookshelf and pulled out the novel and found the exact scene. I was dismayed to find the words were literally lifted off the pages. Boy, was I disappointed in Jane!)
Anyway, the reason why this quote stood out is because on the surface it looks simple enough.
She’s telling Mr. Darcy that he should only think about good memories.
It’s her words that precede though, “You must learn some of my philosophy,” that indicate there may be a deeper meaning. Given that we are dealing with Jane Austen here, I really don’t think the meaning is trite.
For starters, Austen sets up women’s role in her 19th Century society to knock it down. Women are expected to ‘play and sing all the day long’. Not to mention, women must marry (as shown by the mother’s incessant desire to match-make her five daughters throughout the novel).
And finally, Jane Austen makes her hero a supporter of women’s education.
Accomplishment, according to Caroline Bingley, involves the following: “A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, 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” (Chapter VIII).
Mr Darcy responds by saying, “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 reading.”
The way is already paved for the smart-talking and bold Lizzy to come in and steal Darcy’s heart. (I use the word “steal” on purpose – just think of poor Ms. Caroline Bingley’s crush on Mr. Darcy.)
Through Elizabeth, the reader knows that she believes she can teach this Mr. Darcy – a man from the Aristocratic class – a thing or two.
It is a bold statement by a woman at any period of history. And, the thing all the ladies love about Mr. Darcy is that he gratefully accepts her teaching, instruction and reproof. He does learn something from Elizabeth Bennett.
I know feminists hate this novel. I believe Margaret Atwood dissed Mr. Darcy as an arrogant, pompous ass, but I wonder if she’s really read it. I mean REALLY read it. I think if Jane Austen was creating a character, who was just a pompous, arrogant, ass, he would never be interested or drawn to Lizzy.
It would just not happen!! (This is what I tell my single-self – I just haven’t met a man who appreciates my sass…)
His assertion that women must read and improve their minds shows that underneath his surface is a man with a kind heart. The younger sister affirms how wonderful her elder brother is, and Jane Austen even goes so far as having the servant offer words of praise for her “Master”. People from all classes affirm Darcy’s worth.
So I would argue that Jane’s words, “You must learn some of my philosophy. Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure,” have more to do with women’s abilities and what we have to offer the world, rather than some trite advice on thinking about the good times.
No, Ms. Austen definitely wants us to know that we women are capable of more! I agree!