“Affection” in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

When writing my Regency-based novels, I sometimes find it difficult to express the emotions felt by my characters, while keeping in mind the “restraint” those of the era practice. Previously, I took a look at how often and in what context the word “love” is used in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. In that situation, Austen used “love” to mean romantic devotion, as an endearment, and as a strong “liking” for an activity or preference. My two-year-old granddaughter “loves” everything, meaning she prefers one doll over another or she “loves” chicken, but not turkey.

Today, I mean to take this process a step further. Today, we will search out the word “affection,” which often served as a substitute for “love,” but does Austen use the word as such?

charlotteIn Chapter 6, Charlotte Lucas warns Elizabeth that Jane’s shyness around Mr Bingley could be construed as indifference. “If a woman conceals her affection with the same skill from the object of it, she may lose the opportunity of fixing him; and it will then be but poor consolation to believe the world equally in the dark.” This one has romantic elements.

In Chapter 7, Elizabeth attempts to like Mr Bingley’s sisters. “When breakfast was over, they were joined by the sisters, and Elizabeth began to like them herself, when she saw how much affection and solicitude they showed for Jane.” Elizabeth refers to the “preference” the Bingley sisters show Jane. 

In Chapter 8, when the Bingley sisters criticize Elizabeth for walking three miles across the muddy fields to Netherfield to tend Jane, Mr. Bingley says of Elizabeth, “”It shews an affection for her sister that is very pleasing.” This one is familial “love,” not romantic desire. 

In Chapter 9, Mrs Bennet describes a man who was in love with a 15-year-old Jane and from whom they expected a proposal of marriage. Elizabeth attempts to make light of the situation when she says, “And so ended his affection. There has been many a one, I fancy, overcome in the same way. I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love!” This one could be construed as a preference for Jane over others or a romantic involvement.



In Chapter 9, Lydia and Kitty boldly ask Mr Bingley to host a ball, while Mrs Bennet looks on with pride. “Lydia was a stout, well-grown girl of fifteen, with a fine complexion and good-humoured countenance; a favourite with her mother, whose affection had brought her into public at an early age.”

In Chapter 10, Elizabeth and Darcy argue over Mr Bingley’s tendency to be influenced easily by his friends. ”You appear to me, Mr. Darcy, to allow nothing for the influence of friendship and affection. A regard for the requester would often make one readily yield to a request, without waiting for arguments to reason one into it.” This one reflects a preference in one’s friends.

In Chapter 12, Miss Bingley questions any “affection” she felt for Jane, when Mr Bingley insists that both Jane and Elizabeth stay one more day at Netherfield. “Miss Bingley was then sorry that she had proposed the delay, for her jealousy and dislike of one sister much exceeded her affection for the other.” Again, this is a preference in one friend over another.

george-wickham-lost-in-austenIn Chapter 16, Mr Wickham continues his tale of woe against Mr Darcy by telling Elizabeth, “He has also brotherly pride, which with some brotherly affection, makes him a very kind and careful guardian of his sister; and you will hear him generally cried up as the most attentive and best of brothers.”
In Chapter 18, Elizabeth watches Jane and Bingley at the Netherfield ball. Elizabeth believes Jane holds a romantic attachment to Bingley. “She saw her, in idea, settled in that very house, in all the felicity which a marriage of true affection could bestow; and she felt capable, under such circumstances,of endeavoring to like Bingley’s two sisters.”

imagesIn Chapter 19, as part of Mr Collins’ proposal, he says, “And now nothing remains for me but to assure you in the most animated language of the violence of my affection. To fortune I am perfectly indifferent, and shall make no demand of that nature on your father, since I am well aware that it could not be complied with; and that one thousand pounds in the four-percents, which will not be yours till your mother’s decease, is all that you may ever be entitled to.” Collins expresses his devotion to Elizabeth, but he does not truly love her. 

In Chapter 26, we find advice from Mrs Gardiner to Elizabeth regarding Mr Wickham. “Do not involve yourself, or endeavour to involve him in an affection which the want of fortune would make so very imprudent. I have nothing to say against him; he is a most interesting young man; and if he had the fortune he ought to have, I should think you could not do better.” Elizabeth’s aunt speaks of romantic connections.

prideprejudice_92In Chapter 33, Elizabeth learns from Colonel Fitzwilliam something of Darcy’s part in separating Bingley and Jane. “‘I do not see what right Mr Darcy had to decide on the propriety of his friend’s inclination: or why, upon his own judgment alone, he was to determine and direct what manner that friend was to be happy. But,’ she continued, recollecting herself, ‘as we know none of the particulars, it is not fair to condemn him. It is not to be supposed that there was much affection in the case.’”

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In Chapter 34, Elizabeth holds some pity for the need to reject Darcy’s proposal. “In spite of her deeply rooted dislike, she could not be insensible to the compliment of such a man’s affection, and though her intentions did not vary for an instant, she was at first sorry for the pain he was to receive; till, roused to resentment by his subsequent language, she lost all compassion in anger.”

In Chapter 35, Darcy writes of how he came to join forces with Miss Bingley to separate his friend from Miss Bennet. “He had before believed her to return his affection with sincere, if not with equal, regard. But Bingley has great natural modesty, with a stronger dependence on my judgment that on his own. To convince him, therefore, that he had deceived himself was no very difficult point.” Even though his friend often expressed notions of romantic love, Darcy points out that Bingley rarely held a preference for any female for long.

In Chapter 37, after Darcy’s departure from Rosings Park, his letter proved something of Bingley’s fault in the desertion of Jane. “His affection was proved to have been sincere, and his conduct cleared of all blame, unless any could attach to the implicitness of his confidence in his friend.” Elizabeth realizes Bingley loves Jane. 

200_sIn Chapter 40, after returning to Longbourn from Kent, Elizabeth observes Jane. “She still cherished a very tender affection for Bingley. Having never even fancied herself in love before, her regard had all the warmth of first attachment, and, from her age and disposition, greater steadiness than first attachments often boast; and so fervently did she value his remembrance, and prefer him to every other man, that all her good sense and all her attention to the feelings of her friends were requisite to check the indulgence of those regrets which must have been injurious to her own health and their tranquility.”

In Chapter 42, Elizabeth realizes that she has been blind to the impropriety of her father’s actions toward Mrs Bennet. “Her father, captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humor which your and beauty generally give, had married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind had, very early in their marriage, put an end to all real affection for her.” 

MV5BODA1NzQ4ODg0Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDg2MjI1NA@@._V1_SX640_SY720_In Chapter 46, Elizabeth reflects on the foolishness of Lydia’s elopement, as well as the loss of Mr Darcy’s interest. “Her affections had been continually fluctuating, but never without an object. The mischief of neglect and mistaken indulgence toward such a girl – oh, how acutely she did now feel it!”

46_after_darcy_leaves_Pride_and_PrejudiceAlso in Chapter 46, after Mr Darcy’s exit from the Lambton inn, Elizabeth reflects on the loss of his regard. She is saddened by the loss of “what might have been” romantically. “If gratitude and esteem are good foundations of affection, Elizabeth’s change of sentiment will be neither improbable nor faulty. But if otherwise – if the regard springing from such sources is unreasonable or unnatural, in comparison of what is so often described as arising on a first interview with its object, and even before two words have been exchanged – nothing can be said in her defense, except that she had given somewhat of a trial to the latter method, in her partiality for Wickham, and that its ill-success might, perhaps, authorize her to see the other less interesting mode of attachment.”

In Chapter 47, Elizabeth responds to Mr Gardiner’s question of no one nothing Lydia’s connection to Wickham when they all retreated to Brighton. “I can remember no symptom of affection on either side; and had any thing of the kind been perceptible, you must be aware that ours is not a family on which it could be thrown away.”

In Chapter 48, Mr Collins offers Mr Bennet advice regarding Lydia’s untimely elopement. “Let me advise you then, my dear Sir, to console yourself as much as possible, to throw off your unworthy child from your affection for ever, and leave her to reap the fruits of her own heinous offense.”

In Chapter 49, as is typical of her sister’s personality, Jane finds goodness in the prospect of Wickham and Lydia’s marriage. “Their mutual affection will steady them; and I flatter myself they will settle so quietly, and live in so rational a manner, as may in time make their past imprudence forgotten.”

Picture of Pride and Prejudice www.listal.com

Picture of Pride and Prejudice

In Chapter 50, Mr Bennet declares he will not accept Lydia and Wickham at Longbourn. “He protested that she should receive from him no mark of affection whatever on the occasion. Mrs Bennet could harpy comprehend it.” This time the word is used as “recognition” or “approval.”

In Chapter 51, Elizabeth observes the happy couple when Lydia and Wickham return to Longbourn before leaving for Newcastle. “Wickham’s affection for Lydia was just what Elizabeth had expected to find it; not equal to Lydia’s for him. She had scarcely needed her present observation to be satisfied, from the reason of things, that their elopement had been brought on by the strength of her love rather than by his; and she would have wondered why, without violent caring for her, he chose to elope with her at all, had she not felt certain that his flight was rendered necessary by distress of circumstances; and if that were the case, he was not the young man to resist an opportunity of having a companion.”

In Chapter 52, after learning of Mr Darcy’s involvement in bringing Wickham and Lydia together, Elizabeth is confused as to why he acted with such honor. She wishes for the return of his “violently loving” her. “But it was a hope shortly checked by other considerations, and she soon felt that even her vanity was insufficient, when required to depend on his affection for her, for a woman who had already refused him, as able to overcome so natural as abhorrence against relationship with Wickham.”

Pride-and-Prejudice-Mr-Darcy-and-Mr-BingleyIn Chapter 53, Elizabeth is amazed that Mr Darcy comes to Longbourn with Bingley. “The color which had been driven from her face returned for half a minute with an additional glow, and a smile of delight added luster to her eyes, as she thought for that space of time that his affection and wishes must still be unshaken. But she would not be secure.”

In Chapter 54, after Bingley and Darcy dine at Longbourn, Jane still protests that no future lies between her and Bingley. “Lizzy, you must not do so – you must not suspect me: it mortifies me. I am perfectly satisfied, from what his manners now are, that he never had any design of engaging my affection. It is only that he is blessed with greater sweetness if address and a stronger desire of generally pleasing, than any other man.”

Pride and Prejudice 1995 - Jane Austen Photo (13601705) - Fanpop www.fanpop.com

Pride and Prejudice 1995 – Jane Austen Photo (13601705) – Fanpop

In Chapter 55, after proposing to Jane and receiving Mr Bennet’s permission, Bingley expresses his happiness to Elizabeth. “He then shut the door, and, coming up to her, claimed the good wishes and affection of a sister. Elizabeth honestly and heartily expressed her delight in the prospect of their relationship.” Again, this is familial connections. 

PP3.76In Chapter 57, after the confrontation with Lady Catherine, Elizabeth believes her hopes of a return of Mr Darcy’s love are dashed. “She knew not the exact degree of his affection for his aunt, or his dependence on her judgment, but it was natural to suppose that he thought much higher of Her Ladyship than she could do: and it was certain that, in enumerating the miseries of a marriage with one whose immediate connections were so unequal to his own, his aunt would address him on his weakest side.” This is a familial connection. It is different from the “affection” Elizabeth holds for Mr Darcy. 

In Chapter 59, Jane has difficulty believing that Elizabeth loves Mr Darcy. Jane warns, “And do you really love him quite well enough? Oh, Lizzy! do any thing rather than marry without affection. Are you quite sure that you feel what you ought to do?”

In Chapter 61, we encounter a mention of “affection” in the context of parental care: “Mr Bennet missed his second daughter exceedingly; his affection for her drew him oftener from home than any thing else could do. He delighted in going to Pemberley, especially when he was least expected.”


About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
This entry was posted in British history, Great Britain, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “Affection” in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

  1. Jennifer Redlarczyk says:

    Hi Regina, I never thought of JA’s use of love vs affection before. Loved this post. Jen

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