Walking with Lizzy

Walking with Lizzy

I love to walk. My daily walk lasts about an hour. When the weather is bad I walk on my treadmill. On good weather days I take to my neighborhood sidewalks, and sometimes I walk in circles around the quarter-mile track at the high school.

It’s an hour out of every day when I can simply enjoy the movement of my body in the fresh air. But most of the time, when I walk, I think. I’m often amazed at how many problems I solve, bad moods I correct, and bright ideas I come up with just by walking.

via Gfycat

In that respect, I think I have something in common with Elizabeth Bennet, the heroine of Pride and Prejudice.

Elizabeth also enjoyed a good walk. She walked to Netherfield Park, “crossing field after field at a quick pace, jumping over stiles and springing over puddles with impatient activity.”

A Country Road near Dover, Kent, by William Richard Waters (1845)

She often walked to Meryton with her sisters, sometimes to visit their aunt, or to get Mr. Collins out of their father’s study, or “to inquire if Mr. Wickham were returned, and to lament over his absence from the Netherfield ball.”

But it wasn’t until she went to Hunsford to visit her cousin Mr. Collins and his wife Charlotte that we get a real sense of the joy Elizabeth felt when she went on one of her “solitary walks.”

There was a good reason for that. The imaginary village of Hunsford was located in the very real county of Kent; and Kent is known as The Garden of England.

It’s a lush county with fertile soil; for centuries Kent has been home to a myriad of fruit and hops farms.

Chilston Park in the mid-1800s, by Frederick Lee

Sovereigns and aristocrats built castles and magnificent country retreats amid Kent’s beautiful landscapes, and in the story, Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s Rosings Park would have ranked among those country estates.

In the spring—the very time of year in which Elizabeth arrived in Hunsford in the story—Kent is in full bloom.

“The weather was so fine for the time of year that she had often great enjoyment out of doors.”

A poppy field at sunset in Barham, Kent (courtesy of Visit England/Alex Hare)

And being an avid walker, Elizabeth quickly found her own favorite course for walking about the Kent countryside:

“Her favourite walk, and where she frequently went while the others were calling on Lady Catherine, was along the open grove which edged that side of the park, where there was a nice sheltered path, which no one seemed to value but herself, and where she felt beyond the reach of Lady Catherine’s curiosity. In this quiet way, the first fortnight of her visit soon passed away.”

The view near Sevenoaks, Kent, by Patrick Nasmyth (1820)

If Elizabeth’s walks were anything like mine, she relished her time alone in the out-of-doors, where she could simply enjoy her surroundings in peace. It’s no wonder, then, that she was a little miffed when Mr. Darcy intruded upon her walks:

More than once did Elizabeth, in her ramble within the park, unexpectedly meet Mr. Darcy. She felt all the perverseness of the mischance that should bring him where no one else was brought, and, to prevent its ever happening again, took care to inform him at first that it was a favourite haunt of hers. How it could occur a second time, therefore, was very odd! Yet it did, and even a third.

Poor Elizabeth had to change her walking course to avoid meeting him again. But even after taking that extraordinary step, Darcy still found her on the morning after she rejected his offer of marriage:

“I have been walking in the grove some time in the hope of meeting you. Will you do me the honour of reading that letter?”

Mr. Darcy delivers his letter to Elizabeth Bennet in the 1985 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice.

That scene, when Darcy hands his letter to Elizabeth near the grove of trees, is one of my favorite scenes in Pride and Prejudice. It’s a pivotal moment in the story; and it seems fitting that Elizabeth should read the letter while she’s on one of her solitary walks and can absorb the letter’s revelations without interruption.

I don’t walk in a setting as lovely and peaceful as the Kent countryside, but I still enjoy my daily walks. And, like Elizabeth, I guard my solitude as I walk (although saying a friendly “hello” or “good morning” to passersby is allowed). I return from my walks refreshed and comforted, and that was Elizabeth’s experience, too.

Near Canterbury, Kent, by William Sidney Cooper (1904)

After re-reading the passages in Pride and Prejudice that describe Elizabeth’s walks, I realize that, like me, there must other Elizabeth-style walkers in the world.

How about you? Are you a walker? Do you walk with friends or do you have a “love of solitary walks” like Elizabeth Bennet? Where do you enjoy walking?

When Nancy Lawrence isn’t walking, she’s usually at her computer, hard at work on her next book. Her first JAFF novel, Mary and the Captain, is available in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and all other major book retailer sites.

22 Responses to Walking with Lizzy

  1. I am very close to a lovely park with hilly paved trails that go around a lake and there’s one steep trail that has a waterfall to the side. Just like Lizzy, I am a solitary walker, it suits me best. Recently I came up with an idea for a printed T-shirt for walking. The front would say, “Stay calm and take a walk.” Elizabeth Bennett. The back would list the benefits of walking such as 1. To escape the dysfunctional atmosphere of Longbourne, 2. No need for a carriage for the 3 miles to Netherfield to visit my ailing sister, 3. Mr. Darcy noticed my fine eyes were brightened by the exercise. 4. Long walks are essential to maintaining a light and pleasing figure.

    What do you think of my idea, would you wear one of these shirts? I know I want one!

  2. I use the treadmill and watch binge watch series on TV or walk all the aisles at our store twice for 1/2 so I total an hour each day. It has been too rainy and too hot to walk outdoors plus I avoid getting a tan due to melanoma worries. I take medication which warns against sun exposure. I used to walk outdoors when I had someone to walk with but that is in the past now.

  3. I tend to walk more in the spring and fall on our country roads. I find the summer too hot/humid and this summer we have been cutting red cedars on our property and I have the task of dragging the branches to the edge of our driveway for my husband to stack on to the trailer on Saturdays to take to the dump. I get plenty of walking doing that! I do prefer a solitary ramble, and like you, think through a lot of things. I enjoy the scenery of farm fields and the lake and the Osprey that fly overhead. Sometimes my husband comes with me and we chat as the mood strikes us. I love the 1985 version but for me the 1995 is my favourite. That is when I found ‘Jane’.

    • Oooh, I wish I were your neighbor, Carole, and could walk with you on those country roads! Your words painted a beautiful picture of your neighborhood. I like both the ’85 and the ’95 P&P versions equally well; my mood at the time dictates which version I watch.

  4. I am glad to see that I am not alone in my liking the ’85 version of P&P. It is too hot right now to walk. Maybe when it cools down I can get started. I know it is important and walking to the mailbox or taking the trash can to the curb is not exercise. I really enjoyed these photos and pictures that you provided. They are fabulous. Thank you.

  5. Loved seeing the 1985 BBC P&P screen shot! Sorry but I prefer it over the later versions. Still try to watch it whenever I can.

  6. The main walking I do now is at home on my walker but as a teenager in the sixties I often walked around 2 hours going to school, meeting my friend, going to the youth club and walking home. Also as I lived in north Derbyshire this always included steep hills. When I had my children I used to walk for miles with my pram. when I had my son my daughter aged 2 would also walk with me until her legs were tired then she would sit on the pram seat. I didn’t have a car until a few years ago but did have a bike so got around on that.
    I love your photos, thank you so much for sharing them.

    • You brought back memories for me, Glynis. When my son was young I didn’t have a car, so I walked everywhere with him in a stroller (the U.S. version of a pram). Thank you for commenting, and I’m glad you liked the post!

  7. The pictures you posted from Kent are wonderful! I walk every day whether it be in the neighborhood or at the Planet Fitness. It balances off the sitting I do when teaching music lessons. Lovely post!

  8. Like you, I am a walker, Nancy. I walk through my incorporated village with its nine man-made lakes. The loop is about 2.7 miles. When it is bad weather, I walk on the treadmill or use my Gazelle.

  9. Kent is known as the Garden of England? Mrs Elton of Emma has something to say about that. Consider her conversation with Emma (who speaks first):

    "When you have seen more of this country, I am afraid you will think you have over-rated Hartfield. Surrey is full of beauties."

    "Oh! yes, I am quite aware of that. It is the garden of England, you know. Surrey is the garden of England."

    "Yes; but we must not rest our claims on that distinction. Many counties, I believe, are called the garden of England, as well as Surrey."

    "No, I fancy not," replied Mrs. Elton, with a most satisfied smile. "I never heard any county but Surrey called so." - Chapter 32, Emma

    • I love Mrs. Elton, Beatrice! She speaks her opinion and misquotes authors with so much conviction! Juliet Stevenson’s portrayal of Mrs. Elton in the 1996 version of Emma is my favorite.

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