Jane Austen Society of Australia
Writing Competition 1998 winner
Miss Bingley is vexed
Topic: Write a defence of one of the following characters: General Tilney, John
Dashwood, Caroline Bingley, Maria Bertram, Mr Elton, Mrs Clay. The entry could take the
form of: 1. a straight defence by the writer, 2. a self-defence, 3. a defence of the
character by another character in the same novel. (maximum 700 words)
Judges: Julia Redlich, Irene Mannering and Amanda Jones.
It has come to my attention that the Jane Austen Society of Australia is running a
rather quaint little competition in which members are enticed to write a
defence for one of a number of characters, one of whom happens to be myself.
It is not so much that I object to being named in the company of such generals, gentlemen
and ladies of society as stipulated, so much that I abhor the notion that I require
defence to begin with. I can only assume this has sprung from the ill-conceived prejudice
incited by that aptly titled penny dreadful, Pride and Prejudice, for the poorly
countenanced Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
I can only infer that these persons concerned have a misguided sense of
social justice and absolutely no grasp of manners.
The misguided accusations all stem from the country dance at which I was, to my
everlasting regret, introduced into the society of the Bennets. It was plain, however,
that Mr Darcy, finding myself and my sister engaged, as was only to be expected, found not
another female creature in the room with whom, to quote the superb gentlemen, it
would not be a punishment to stand up. Miss Austen has quite correctly described my
sister and I as handsome ladies, well educated, and of fortune. That she chides us for
spending beyond our means and being vain, I choose to overlook, since she has also
chastised Mr Darcy and one can only assume a jealous disposition in this regard. That she
chose, instead, to praise the country set and their coarse habits, I can only consider in
light of the authors own peculiar qualities.
On meeting the Bennet family, we naturally found the mother and all but one sister to
be intolerable. We were, however, very generous in allowing Miss Bennet to be a
sweet girl, in spite of her tendency to smile too often and her deplorable
relations. However, upon learning of her other connections and having my own dear
brothers welfare at the apex of my interest, I cannot be blamed for gently
attempting to discourage the poor girl from an unequal match. It was only by the cunning
of her family, after all, that the match went ahead despite my best efforts to smoothly
guide him towards Miss Georgiana Darcy, a charming young woman of taste and beauty for
whom any sister must surely encourage a brothers affections. I might say that I have
not felt quite the same esteem for her since she allowed herself to fall under the
guidance of Miss Elizabeth Bennet, now Mrs Darcy.
I am much maligned in respect to the courtship of Mr Darcy and that same creature, now
his wife. Yet, I am all astonishment that Mr Darcy ever contemplated her in such a
romantic light. From the start, I merely echoed his probing evaluations of Meryton society
and his well known stance upon matters of manners and breeding. That he could possibly
regard a muddy petticoat and uncles living in Cheapside as desirable qualities in a wife,
irrespective of alleged fine eyes, I was not possibly to know.
When Mr Darcy agreed that among the accomplishments of a lady, she must possess a
certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and
expressions, I never suspected for an instant that he thought of that
something as being an abominable sort of conceited independence, a most
country town indifference to decorum (here, Miss Austen quotes me very well). It
was, one must agree, quite perverse in the gentleman. Although I attempted to understand,
I could never know that such an excellent man would wish to throw himself away on a
creature with blowsy hair and loud, profoundly witless mother. However, as I said from the
start, I wish him all joy. Since the marriage, I have been more than civil to his choice
in wife, have shown no bitterness or distress at Mr Darcys mistreatment of his
scruples, and have even, once or twice, said good day to those wretched
That a woman of my accomplishments should be made to suffer such connections as the
Bennets is, I believe, more than enough punishment for the unjust accusation of pride and
prejudice levelled against me in Miss Austens novel.
Rebecca-Anne Do Rozario
2nd prize $50 ~ Pamela Whalan ~ In Defence of Mr Elton
3rd prize $25 ~ Sibylle Burkart ~ A Defence of General Tilney
30 January 2002
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