The novel opens with the line "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession
of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife". The arrival of such a man in the neighbourhood greatly
excites Mrs. Bennet, whose sole interest in life is to see her five daughters married. The wealthy
young man in question, Mr. Bingley, has leased the Netherfield estate and plans to settle for a while
with his two sisters and his brother-in-law.
The newcomers excite great interest locally, particularly amongst mothers of marriageable daughters.
They attend a public ball in the village of Meryton, where Mr. Bingley shows himself to be amiable and
unpretentious, dancing with many young ladies and showing his decided admiration for Jane Bennet, the
eldest of the five Bennet sisters. His friend Mr. Darcy, however, makes himself unpopular despite his
fine figure and income of £10,000 a year, being seemingly proud and disagreeable. Of Elizabeth Bennet,
the independent and spirited second eldest Bennet sister, he is heard to say "She is tolerable, but not
handsome enough to tempt me". Following the ball, Jane is invited for an evening to Netherfield, but
catches a bad cold and is forced to stay for some days. Elizabeth walks the three miles to Netherfield
to nurse her, engaging Darcy's guarded attention and the not-so-guarded hostility of Miss Bingley, who
has an interest in Darcy herself.
Mr. Collins, a clergyman and the cousin who will inherit the Bennet estate as Mr. Bennet's nearest male
relative, arrives for a visit. He is also "in want of a wife", and intends to marry one of his cousins,
thus atoning for his position as entailed heir and healing the breach in the family. A pompous buffoon,
Mr Collins has been advised by his imperious patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh (who is also Darcy's
aunt), to find himself a suitable wife. Finding that Jane appears destined for Bingley he immediately...