In the final chapter of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen writes

Mary was the only daughter who remained at home; and she was necessarily drawn from the pursuit of accomplishments by Mrs. Bennet's being quite unable to sit alone. Mary was obliged to mix more with the world, but she could still moralize over every morning visit; and as she was no longer mortified by comparisons between her sisters' beauty and her own, it was suspected by her father that she submitted to the change without much reluctance.

What does the bolded (by me) phrase mean?

Perhaps part of my issue is that I am not well enough acquainted with the custom of morning visits but I don't have a concrete understanding of what moralizing over them would mean, and how exactly this constrasts with "mixing with the world."

1 Answer 1


Mary stays home on behalf of watching her mother Mrs.Bennet, who could not sit alone. Mary is and always has been a bit of a recluse, with little social skills - she tends to studying and reading. She was obliged (encouraged) to mix more (interact) with the world, although to her parents surprise she was still able to moralize (pretentious/hypocritical banter - Victorian Georgian moralism) with the guests even in company of her sisters of whom are significantly more attractive - a quality which used to greatly upset her.

As we learn in the first chapter Mary is a girl of "deep reflection" and who has read many books and makes extracts, she is smart and clever not beautiful.

On page 8 Mary overhears herself mentioned as the most distinguished girl in the community unlike her sisters whom although always have partners (courtship) that is all they have been taught and rely on because of their beauty. A direct quote from page 16 reveals further information on her personality:

Mary, who having, in consequence of being the only plain one in the family, worked hard for knowledge and accomplishments, was always impatient for display. Mary had neither genius nor taste; and though vanity had given her application, it had given her likewise a pedantic air and conceited manner, which would have injured a higher degree of excellence than she had reached

Lastly on page 42 Austen addresses the transparency of Victorian Georgian moralism and affirms Marys affection to it.

They found Mary, as usual, deep in the study of thorough-bass and human nature; and had some extracts to admire, and some new observations of threadbare morality to listen to.

Austen is a critic of Victorian Georgian morality specifically in etiquette, manners, religious conduct and prudishness. Mary is a personification of stereotypical moralists at the time.

  • 3
    Jane Austen died two years before Victoria was born, and twenty years before she came to the throne. Whatever Austen was a critic of wasn’t ‘Victorian’.
    – Spagirl
    Oct 30, 2018 at 1:29
  • I think this is mostly a good answer, with the exception of the flaw pointed out by @Spagirl. If you edit to replace "Victorian morality" by e.g. "the morality of English gentry in that era", it would be fine. (This really highlights a problem with the word "Victorian", more than with your reasoning: the word is often used to denote 19th-century England, rather than anything to do with a specific monarch.)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Oct 30, 2018 at 10:07
  • @Randal'Thor Why not the "Georgian era"? Austen lived and wrote during that era.
    – Tsundoku
    Oct 30, 2018 at 11:03
  • 3
    @Randal'Thor There are other problems with the answer. Mary didn't choose 'to stay at home', single, genteel and of no fortune she had no choice. She isn't reclusive, but 'impatient for display', any 'opportunity of exhibiting was delightful to her' and she professed herself to "consider intervals of recreation and amusement as desirable for everybody''. She craved social acceptance, was 'glad to purchase praise and gratitude' by accomplishments. For a woman with no personal fortune, marriage was essential, unable to rely on her looks she had to maximise other social capital as best she could.
    – Spagirl
    Oct 30, 2018 at 13:34
  • 1
    Can you explain more why "moralizing" should be interpreted to mean pretentious (and/or?) hypocritical banter?
    – Kimball
    Oct 30, 2018 at 21:48

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