Upon the whole, therefore, she found, what has been sometimes found before, that an event to which she had looked forward with impatient desire, did not in taking place, bring all the satisfaction she had promised herself. It was consequently necessary to name some other period for the commencement of actual felicity; to have some other point on which her wishes and hopes might be fixed, and by again enjoying the pleasure of anticipation, console herself for the present, and prepare for another disappointment.
The novel’s opening sentence is one of the most celebrated in English literature. It alerts us, quite subtly, to Austen’s powers of irony. ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged,’ she writes, ‘that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’ This seems straightforward, but ought to prompt two questions: is this alleged ‘truth’ really acknowledged ‘universally’, and ‘must’ an affluent man always be ‘in want of a wife’? Austen is not endorsing the view that all affluent men should marry; instead she gently mocks the notion that there can be universal truths, and at the same time she mocks the shallowness of her contemporaries.
The wedding took place; the bride and bridegroom set off for Kent from the church door, and everybody had as much to say or to hear on the subject as usual.