In Chapter 20 of Pride and Prejudice, after Lizzy refuses to marry Mr Collins, Mrs Bennet says of her:

There she comes... looking as unconcerned as may be, and caring no more for us than if we were at York, provided she can have her own way.

I know that York is a place in England, but it just seems to be a very strange thing for her to say.

What is meant, in the context of the times, by being at York?

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    I haven't looked at the context of this quote, but could it just mean "caring no more for us than if we were far away", in an "out of sight, out of mind" sort of way?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Aug 28, 2017 at 16:02
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    The context doesn't provide any additional clues, but I believe you're correct. P&P takes place primarily in Hertfordshire, in the south of England, and York (North) is about as far as you can go in England. Which is charmingly provincial: she couldn't imagine being in, say, John O'Groats (furthest place on the island, in Scotland), or (heaven forfend) out of the UK. Aug 28, 2017 at 16:23
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    @JoshuaEngel Duncansby Head is further. hashtag common fallacy :)
    – Spagirl
    Aug 29, 2017 at 1:28
  • I didn't mean in the context of the line itself. I said in the context of the times. That makes sense about the distance. If you think about it: average travel speed with 2 horses was about 5 m/h. The distance (as crow flies) is 155 miles. Assuming traveling for 10 hours a day, that is about a 3 day trip. And they wouldn't have traveled in a straight line. Aug 29, 2017 at 5:40

1 Answer 1


'At York' as you have rightly remarked is far away from the scene of action. But York is figuratively used to mean a distant place; It metonymically describes any place far off, particular for the general.

Lizzy doesn't care whosoever is around, she's oblivious of the surroundings and given to follow her own sweet will, all are removed from her reckoning to places as distant as York. Jane Austen chose York, she might as well choose any other place to suggest the character's detachment from the persons around her.

  • Have you got anything to back this up with? Other contemporary uses etc. Is it significant that York was a fashionable regional centre, that it had a famous asylum? austenauthors.net/…
    – Spagirl
    Dec 21, 2021 at 20:42

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