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Everyone knows that a rich, unmarried man needs a pretty wife. And every mother wants her daughters to be happily married. Mr and Mrs Bennet of Longbourn House, in the village of Longbourn, had five unmarried daughters. So when Mrs Bennet heard that a young man was coming to live in the neighbourhood, she was delighted’. She found out all she could about him, and hurried to tell her husband the good news. ‘Oh, Mr Bennet, Netherfield Hall is let at last!’ Mrs Bennet cried excitedly. ‘Don’t you want to know who is going to live there?’ No,’ Mr Bennet answered, ‘but I am sure you want to tell me.’ ‘The house is let to a young man from the north of England. His name is Bingley, he’s very rich and not married. What a chance this is for our dear Jane! Everyone knows she’s the most beautiful girl in Hertfordshire. She’s so good-natured too. She will be an excellent wife for Mr Bingley. ‘I shall be very happy to have her living so near us. And in a fine house like Netherfield too! Mr Bingley plans to live there with his sister. She and Jane’ ‘Please stop a moment, Mrs Bennet,’ her husband said quietly. Why are you telling me all this? Mr Bingley is a stranger. But you are saying that he has come here to marry one of our daughters!’ ‘I did not say that,’ Mrs Bennet answered. ‘But we must think of our daughters’ future. You must call on Mr Bingley at once, Mr Bennet.’ ‘I don’t think so, my dear,’ Mr Bennet said calmly. ‘But I’ll write to this young man and give him my permission to marry Jane or whoever he chooses. Perhaps he’d like to marry my little Lizzy.’ ‘Don’t tease me, please, Mr Bennet,’ Mrs Bennet replied. ‘I know Lizzy is your favourite daughter, but she is not as beautiful as Jane, nor as lively as Lydia.’ ‘Our girls are silly and thoughtless,’ Mr Bennet said severely. ‘But Lizzy is a little more sensible than the others.’ Mr and Mrs Bennet were not happily married. After twenty-three years, Mr Bennet was tired of his wife’s chatter and love of gossip. And Mrs Bennet had never understood her husband’s sense of humour. A few days later, Mr Bennet called on Mr Bingley, without telling Mrs Bennet. She was delighted when she found out that Mr Bennet had called at Netherfield Hall. ‘Girls, you have such a good father!’ Mrs Bennet cried. ‘You will thank him for calling at Netherfield, Jane, when you are married to Mr Bingley. ‘You must look very beautiful at the next assembly ball, my dear,’ Mrs Bennet went on, ‘I’m sure that Mr Bingley will be there.’ On the following Friday, the assembly rooms in the town of Meryton were crowded. Everyone stared as Mr Bingley came in with two ladies and two gentlemen. The fashionably dressed young woman with Mr Bingley was his unmarried sister, Miss Caroline Bingley. Mr Bingley’s married sister, Louisa Hurst, was also there, with her husband. The other gentleman was Mr Bingley’s friend, Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy. Mr Bingley was a good-looking young man with a pleasant smile. Mr Darcy was tall, very handsome and from a noble family. People said he had twice as much money as Mr Bingley and a large estate in Derbyshire. He was also unmarried. At first, everyone admired Mr Darcy. But he danced only with Bingley’s sisters and spoke to no one else. Mrs Bennet and her friends soon agreed that, although Mr Darcy was a fine gentleman, he was much too proud.
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Jane Austen was born in 1775 at Steventon, Hampshire, in the south of England. Jane’s father worked in the church in Steventon. He made sure that his children had a good education. In 1803 Jane and her family moved to Bath in the west of England. Jane was not happy. Some people think that she had an unhappy love affair there. In 1807 the family moved to Southampton on the south coast. In 1810 the family moved again, to Chawton, in Hampshire. From that year until her death in 1817 Jane was very busy. She wrote books, she visited her relatives and she travelled round England with friends. Jane Austen never got married. From her diaries and letters we can see that she was a very kind and intelligent woman. In 1811 her first book was published. Her books were published without her name on them. Not many women writers were published at this time. Publishers preferred to publish books by men. Her books are: Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (1815), Northanger Abbey (1818), Persuasion (1818), Sanditon (unfinished). Jane Austen wrote about people who had money and property (houses and land). Some people were richer than others, but none of them were poor. These people did not work. They visited each other and they met at balls and dances. They played cards and read books and had conversations. Men got money and property from their fathers. An eldest son usually got most of the money and property after his father’s death. Younger sons often went into the church or the army. Daughters stayed at home. They learnt to read and write, to draw, play music and sew. It was important for a girl to marry a man who had money and property. In this society, people were very polite and formal. They used Mr, Miss or Mrs unless they knew each other very well, ‘Miss Jane’, ‘Mr Darcy’. People travelled in carriages pulled by horses or walked, but women did not usually go out alone.
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