Austin on Practicing

From My Bookshelf Dec 01, 2009

There’s an insightful scene in Pride and Prejudice where Elizabeth Bennet, Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr. Darcy are around the piano at Rosings Park. After Lizzy recounts Mr. Darcy’s unacceptable introduction to Longbourn, the following exchange takes place:

“Perhaps,” Said Darcy, “I should have judged better, had I sought an introduction; but I am ill qualified to recommend myself to strangers.”

“Shall we ask your cousin the reason of this?” said Elizabeth, still addressing Colonel Fitzwilliam. “Shall we ask him why a man of sense and education, and who has lived in the world, is ill qualified to recommend himself to strangers?”

“I can answer your question,” said Fitzwilliam, “without applying to him. It is because he will not give himself the trouble.”

“I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,” said Darcy, “of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.”

“My fingers,” said Elizabeth, “do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women’s do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault-–because I would not take the trouble of practising. It is not that I do not believe my fingers as capable as any other women’s of superior execution.”

Darcy smiled and said, “You are perfectly right. You have employed your time much better. No one admitted to the privilege of hearing you can think anything wanting. We neither of us perform to strangers.”

Jane Austen: The Complete Novels. PP. 259-60

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