Darcy to Elizabeth: God bless you.
This essay is a series of posts by Lisa and Warren from the Pride and Prejudice board at Pemberley that examines Darcy's "God bless you" in his letter to Elizabeth after his first proposal. I will only add that we should all learn to love like that. Darcy's letter is found in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice Chapter 35.
We begin where Warren has made an assertion that Darcy is saying "I love you" when he says "God bless you".
"To say 'I love you' right out loud" written by Warren (April 27, 2001)
Lisa's reply to Warren's assertion:
I will admit that when I read your post about the closing words of the letter suggesting that "God Bless You" equaled "I love you" in Darcy's eyes, I wouldn't have made that connection myself in a million years. Still don't, even after reading your interpretation, even though I think it was a very kind and tender closing remark.
Like so many things in the book, this interpretation can't be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but it rings powerfully true to me. In addition to whatever conclusions one is inclined to draw from one's overall view of Darcy, here a few specific thoughts that bear on this interpretation.
First, Elizabeth's reaction to the "God bless you" after the engagement -- "The adieu was charity itself" -- is a strong hint that, at least by the time she made that remark, she too interpreted it as a signal of "I love you". The classical Greek word "agape," usually translated in the King James version of the New Testament as "charity" (e.g., the familiar passage about "faith, hope and charity" in II Corinthians), is almost always translated in modern versions, and sometimes even in the King James version, as "love." JA, daughter of a clergyman, doubtless knew that, as did her contemporary readers, who mostly would have been flogged into a good knowledge of classical Greek in their schooling.
Second, "God bless you" is a phrase more weighty and solemn in England than it is in the US. My impression to this effect has been confirmed by some English men and women from time to time.
Third, look at the flow of the letter. Darcy has just shown Elizabeth that her accusations about Wickham, shouted at him yesterday with maximum intent to wound, are completely false. His blood is still up from that quarrel, and it would be all too human for him at this point to add something to rub her nose in her humiliation, or at least to convey a cool sense of superiority ("So you see, madam, how utterly baseless were your accusations of yesterday in this matter.")
But Darcy doesn't do that, or anything remotely close to that. Instead, his tender feelings for Elizabeth are clearly visible in what he says and does not say at the conclusion of the letter. He does not simply state the facts about Wickham, and leave her reproached by implication for swallowing his lies. Instead, Darcy tells her that he excuses her for having been duped. Even more, he tells her that she should *not* blame herself, that her having been deceived was reasonable ("Detection could not be in your power") and even a tribute to the sweetness of her character ("suspicion [was] not in your inclination"):
I know not in what manner, under what form of falsehood he had imposed on you; but his success is not perhaps to be wondered at, ignorant as you previously were of everything concerning either. Detection could not be in your power, and suspicion certainly not in your inclination.
Though Darcy was the one wounded by Wickham and by Elizabeth's false charges, Darcy's first concern is with *her* feelings, that she should not feel blamed and should not blame herself.
Finally, put yourself in his shoes: he is writing to a woman who when last sighted was shouting at him that he was ungentlemanly, arrogant, conceited, the last man on earth, etc. He cannot possibly write to her the next day "I love you" in so many words. A hopelessly weak thing to do, and one that would only rouse her contempt; and he is entitled to keep some shreds of his pride, after all. The most tender thing he can allow himself to say is "God bless you," and hope that she will understand his subtext. The sweetest "Darcy special" of them all.
Pathos doesn't get much stronger than this.
Darcy the Bible Scholar written by Lisa (April 29, 2001)
This wasn’t at all the sort of justification that I expected you to present, but it is one that I do appreciate and can easily follow. Please pardon me while I pull my expository dictionary & concordance off the shelf in my kitchen. (slides books off shelf, sits down at table, rolls up sleeves) Okay, I’m ready to roll now!
Your point that JA and Darcy would have some familiarity with the Greek language is a good one. However, it is also very plausible that as a clergyman’s daughter, JA would have a good command of the Old Testament. Likewise for Darcy given that he is a man of education and sense who has considerable patronage in the church. So in all fairness we should consider the closing phrase of Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth--“God Bless You"-- in the light shed on it from the OT viewpoint.
In the OT, the term ‘bless’ and its derivatives are used with great frequency. The Hebrew root ‘barak’ literally means ‘to kneel’ and carries with it the picture of a camel bending at the knee so a man could get on. There are a number of uses of the term and its derivatives, but two are worth noting here.
When used in the context of a person blessing God (as in Genesis 14:20 “And blessed be God Most High who delivered your enemies into your hand.”) the term implies honor—a bowing the knee in adoration. Honor and adoration may and often do include love, but the usage of the term varies in the letter from this application.
When used in the context of a person asking God to bless (berekah) another person, ‘bless’ refers to the endowment of God’s power and favor upon the recipient. It carries with it the expectation that God will honor the request contained within the blessing. Blessing was extremely significant in OT times and bore little resemblance to the casual manner in which the term is often used today (as you previously noted). A blessing was frequently bestowed when people were going to be separated due to distance or death.
There are many examples of individuals receiving words of blessing but a fitting parallel is in Deuteronomy Chapters 33-34. Here Moses has reached the end of his life and is bidding his final farewell to the Israelites as they are about to enter the Promised Land. He has poured his life into them, his love for them is very great, and his farewell consists of a blessing—seeking God’s favor and power upon them as they face the greatest challenge imaginable. I think it is a very beautiful and tender farewell in which Moses leaves the Israelites with something of infinitely more value than a declaration of his own love for them.
Whereas I am very respectful of the logic and likewise appreciative of the feeling that went into your interpretation that Darcy’s closing remark was really his way of telling Elizabeth “I love you”, I prefer to think that he meant “God Bless You” for the following reasons:
1) We have discussed that there are times when JA does allow us several possible interpretations that fit a situation. In those situations I typically lean towards the more literal translation. “God Bless You” is a very fitting closing to his letter and I see no need to seek alternative interpretations.
2) The intent of the closing words of his letter parallel his final words to Elizabeth in the proposal scene. He does love her and is communicating his wish for her well being in both cases. (“Forgive me for having taken up so much of your time, and accept my best wishes for your health and happiness”).
3) I love you is a very intimate phrase that communicates the very deepest affection for another person. It says, “I am giving you the gift of my love”. But for someone who had an understanding of the actual meaning of seeking God’s blessings for another, the phrase “God Bless You” is richer. It is not just offering the other person their own affections—it is seeking the gift of God’s love for them—HIS favor and power. God’s favor may, include love between two individuals, but it’s application impacts far more of the person’s life than just the area of love.
Someone who took the words literally would accept that the love of God is so much greater than the love of man—pure, unselfish, unconditional—it is the only love that is truly agape.
I like to think that when Darcy closed the letter with the tender, loving words “God Bless You” he meant exactly what he said. And I don’t think that he could have given Elizabeth a better farewell.
(closes books, sinks head into hands in exhaustion)
My God Bless You Detour written by Lisa (April 30, 2001)
My camel kneels at your feet, Lisa!
Warren, your words are truly kind and very much appreciated. Since it is obvious that you have experience with these beasts, perhaps you might offer some advice on how to get these mangy creatures moving? My camel is most unruly and refuses to budge from the watering hole at this oasis. So I have endeavored to make the most of it and will continue with a few more thoughts on this thread.
“I Love You” or “God Bless You”--either way Lizzy can’t lose as Darcy was extending to her his very deepest regard.
I thought you might find my reaction to your original post interesting. First, as I mentioned previously, I was impressed by the flow of the logic that led to the final conclusion. As I read it I knew that it was a justification that I could accept but I personally still favored the literal phrase. Because of my familiarity with the material I could have given the general explanations, but your post encouraged me to hit the books and dig out the detailed reasoning. That process—and the end result—is very valuable to me so I thank you for the prompting.
The second thing that came to mind dealt with the term ‘agape’. It fit perfectly in the explanation but my mind immediately jumped to the thought that Darcy was the last person who should have been using a term expressing his unconditional love to Elizabeth—especially in light of the way he had just treated her. I headed into my study with this thought and was very surprised by the outcome. In no time at all I was reading a passage in an old Bible commentary on I Corinthians 13:4-7 (the chapter that defines love from a biblical standpoint). The commentary was Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary and was written 1710-1714 so it could easily have been on the shelf at the Austen home. I’ve included portions of the condensed and edited text along with my thoughts as they came to me. (You can find the unabridged version on-line Here.)
Matthew Henry on I Corinthians 13:4-7
Some of the properties and effects of charity: (Note: The term 'charity' as used below would be translated 'love' today.)
I. It is long suffering--It can endure evil, injury, and provocation, without being filled with resentment or revenge. It will put up with many slights and neglects from the person it loves, and wait long to see the kindly effects of such patience on him.
“…for in Darcy’s breast there was a tolerable powerful feeling towards her, which soon procured her pardon…”
II. It is kind--It seeks to be useful; and not only seizes on opportunities of doing good, but searches for them.
“…she soon learnt that his resolution of following her from Derbyshire in quest of her sister had been formed before he quitted the inn…”
(My eyebrows raise in skepticism—I fully had expected the text to confirm Darcy’s faults—NOT to expose his strengths.)
IV. Charity subdues pride and vain-glory; It vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, is not bloated with self-conceit, does not swell upon its acquisitions, nor arrogate to itself that honour, or power, or respect, which does not belong to it. It is not insolent, apt to despise others, or trample on them, or treat them with contempt and scorn.
IMO, Darcy fails thoroughly on this account. We don’t need to look far for textual evidence to support this.
Charity calms the angry passions, instead of raising them.
“I will only add, God bless you.”
Charity abhors such falsehood and flattery.
“These bitter accusations might have been suppressed, had I…flattered you...But disguise of every sort is my abhorrence”
VI. Charity is an utter enemy to selfishness: Seeketh not its own, does not inordinately desire nor seek its own praise, or honour, or profit, or pleasure. Indeed self-love, in some degree, is natural to all men, enters into their very constitution. But charity never seeks its own to the hurt of others, or with the neglect of others. It often neglects its own for the sake of others; prefers their welfare, and satisfaction, and advantage, to its own...
“His father was an excellent man,” said Mrs. Gardiner. “Yes ma’am, that he was indeed and his son will be just like him—just as affable to the poor.”
“He is the best landlord, and the best master,” said she, that ever lived. Not like the wild young men now-a-days, who think nothing but themselves.”
“Let me thank you again and again, in the name of all my family, for that generous compassion which induced you to take so much trouble, and bear so many mortifications, for the sake of discovering them.”
(It’s becoming very evident to me that my prejudices are still very much at work even though I know the outcome of the story which reveals Darcy’s true character :( )
VII. It tempers and restrains the passions--is not exasperated. Where the fire of love is kept in, the flames of wrath will not easily kindle, nor long keep burning. Charity will never be angry without a cause, and will endeavour to confine the passions within proper limits, that they may not exceed the measure that is just, either in degree or duration. Anger cannot rest in the bosom where love reigns. It is hard to be angry with those we love, but very easy to drop our resentments and be reconciled.
“Hate you! I was angry perhaps at first, but my anger soon began to take a proper turn.”
VIII. Charity thinks no evil. It cherishes no malice, nor gives way to revenge: so some understand it. It is not soon, nor long, angry; it is never mischievous, nor inclined to revenge; it does not suspect evil of others… True love is not apt to be jealous and suspicious; it will hide faults that appear, and draw a veil over them, instead of hunting and raking out those that lie covered and concealed…
“Now be sincere; did you admire me for my impertinence?”
“For the liveliness of your mind, I did.”
“Had you not been really amiable you would have hated me for it….”
IX. The matter of its joy and pleasure is here suggested: 1. Negatively: It rejoiceth not in iniquity. It takes no pleasure in doing injury or hurt to any. It thinks not evil of any, without very clear proof. It wishes ill to none, much less will it hurt or wrong any, and least of all make this matter of its delight, rejoice in doing harm and mischief.
“Pardon me—it pains me to offend you.”
Nor will it rejoice at the faults and failings of others, and triumph over them, either out of pride or ill-will, because it will set off its own excellences or gratify its spite.
“What a triumph for him, as she often thought, could he know that the proposals which she had proudly spurned only four months ago, would now have been gladly and gratefully received! He was as generous, she doubted not, as the most generous of his sex. But while he was still mortal, there must be a triumph”
(Tsk, tsk, Lizzy, you are mistaken here, don't be too quick to judge!)
X. It beareth all things, it endureth all things, -- Some read the first, covers all things. So the original also signifies. Charity will cover a multitude of sins. It will draw a veil over them, as far as it can consistently with duty. It is not for blazing nor publishing the faults of a brother, till duty manifestly demands it. Necessity only can extort this from the charitable mind. Though such a man be free to tell his brother his faults in private, he is very unwilling to expose him by making them public.
(I now begin to think that JA studied this commentary before writing P&P)
Note, What a fortitude and firmness fervent love will give the mind! What cannot a lover endure for the beloved and for his sake! How many slights and injuries will he put up with! How many hazards will he run and how many difficulties encounter!
Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Collins, Lydia, Wickham, Miss Bingley, Lady Catherine, and the opinions of those who would question his choice.
(Sighs, realizing that if I still judge a fictional character so harshly even when I know the outcome, there are applications in real life that must be attended to as well.)
Some final thoughts:
1) What struck me here were the many instances that were present showing Darcy's loving-kindness. They were there all along and I knew it, but his proud, disagreeable behavior acts like a cloak covering the goodness. I make no excuses for his bad behavior--had I run him through looking for negatives, they surely would have been there, but likely not nearly as strongly as I first would have predicted.
2) I have not done it, but I believe if I held Elizabeth up to the same standards, that she wouldn’t have come out scoring as high as Darcy. This surprised me and I was trying to think of the reasons; we know Elizabeth is a pleasant person who people like, but perhaps it is more because of her lively disposition and not because some of other qualities that might ‘raise the score’ so to speak. It was also necessary for JA to gradually reveal the positive qualities about Darcy along the way so we could erase our prejudices like Elizabeth did, but maybe not so necessary to spell out Elizabeth's good qualities.
3) Jane Bennet probably would outrank everyone on the love scale:)
Well, My detour is over and as soon as I can get this curled-lip fleabag camel to move I will see you up top of the board (although I am now hopelessly behind). I’ve never had such a stubborn disrespectful camel before. Giddy-up! Yeeehaaaww!!!
Reflections of Elizabeth written by Lisa (May 5, 2001)
Clara requested that I analyze Elizabeth to see how she would measure up to the Matthew Henry Bible Commentary passage on unconditional love that I previously had done for Darcy. Not far into it I realized that if Darcy had desired a woman who shone brightly in this area, he would have been married Jane Bennet. But he fell in love with Elizabeth for exactly who she was and I believe her true beauty is better reflected elsewhere in the Bible.
The Bible is very rich in its description of human nature, and I am becoming convinced that JA was listening intently to her Papa’s teachings as she grew up.
This is a companion piece to the one found at the link below. (If you are just tuning in, the original post does contain a bit of silliness that can be explained by reading the previous posts or can just be ignored altogether.)
Reflections Of Elizabeth In The Proverbs
Listen, my son, to a father's instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching.
When I was a boy in my father's house, still tender, and an only child of my mother, he taught me and said, "Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live.
Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them.
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor." (Proverbs 4:1-8)
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies. (Proverbs 31:10)
"The perpetual commendations of the lady either on his handwriting, or on the evenness of his lines, or on the length of his letter, with the perfect unconcern with which her praises were received, formed a curious dialogue, and was exactly in unison with her opinion of each."Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting…(Proverbs 31:30)
"He began to feel the danger of paying Elizabeth too much attention."Gold there is, and rubies in abundance,
but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel. (Proverbs 20:15)
"My fingers…do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women's do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault -- because I would not take the trouble of practising. It is not that I do not believe my fingers as capable as any other woman's of superior execution."A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.(Proverbs 25:11)
"From the very beginning, from the first moment I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that ground-work of disapprobation, on which succeeding events have built so immoveable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry."She is clothed in strength and dignity. (Proverbs 31:25)
"She grew absolutely ashamed of herself. -- Of neither Darcy nor Wickham could she think, without feeling that she had been blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd. How despicably have I acted!…I, who have prided myself on my discernment! -- I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my sister, and gratified my vanity, in useless or blameable distrust. -- How humiliating is this discovery!"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)
"For a few moments, indeed, she felt that he would probably strike into some other path. This idea lasted while a turning in the walk concealed him from their view; the turning past, he was immediately before them."Does not wisdom call out?
Does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand... (Proverbs 8:1-2)
"...and the very circumstance which had been designed to turn his thoughts from Elizabeth, seemed to have fixed them on her more, and more cheerfully."A kind hearted woman gains respect... (Proverbs 11:16)
"I am afraid that you have long been desiring my absence..."Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished,
but those who are righteous will go free. (Proverbs 11:21)
"It was an union that must have been to the advantage of both; by her ease and liveliness, his mind might have been softened, his manners improved, and from his judgment, information, and knowledge of the world, she must have received benefit of greater importance."As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
"It taught me to hope...as I had scarcely ever allowed myself to hope before."An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. (Proverbs 24:26)
"The happiness which this reply produced, was such as he had probably never felt before; and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do."Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (Proverbs 16:24)
"I do, I do like him...I love him. Indeed he has no improper pride. He is perfectly amiable. You do not know what he really is; then pray do not pain me by speaking of him in such terms."A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown…(Proverbs 12:4)
Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.
Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who embrace her;
those who lay hold of her will be blessed. (Proverbs 3:13-18)
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