Pride and Prejudice With Astronomers.
Jane Austen (the good bits) and Richard Brown (the rest)
Jane Austen (the good bits) and Richard Brown (the rest)
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single astronomer in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a big telescope.
However little known the field of view of such a man may be on his first entering an observatory, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding observatory directors, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their astronomer-daughters.
"My dear Professor Bennet," said his lady to him one day, "have you heard that Netherfield Observatory is let at last?"
Prof. Bennet replied that he had not.
"But it is," returned she; "for Dr Long has just been here, and she told me all about it."
Prof. Bennet made no answer.
"Do you not want to know who has taken it?" cried his wife impatiently.
"You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it."
This was invitation enough.
"Why, my dear, you must know, Dr Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young astronomer with a Large Grant from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise hauled by four graduate students to see the place, and was so much delighted with the seeing, that he agreed with Dr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Perihelion, and some of his research assistants are to be in the Dome by the end of next week."
"What is his name?"
"Is he planetary or deep sky?"
"Oh! planetary, my dear, to be sure! A single astronomer of large fortune; four or five Herschel telescopes to his name. What a fine thing for our astronomer - girls!"
"How so? How can it affect them?"
"My dear Prof. Bennet," replied his wife, "how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his giving telescope time to one of them."
"Is that his research plan in settling here?"
"Plan! Nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he may fall in love with one of their orbital calculations, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes."
"I see no occasion for that. You and the girl - astronomers may go, or you may send them by themselves, which perhaps will be still better, for as you are as clever with a telescope as any of them, Dr. Bingley may like you the best of the cohort."
"My dear, you flatter me. I certainly have had my share of telescopic success, but I do not pretend to see anything extraordinary now. When a woman - astronomer has five grown-up astronomer - daughters, she ought to give over thinking of her own observations."
"In such cases, a woman has not often much astronomical ability to think of."
"But, my dear, you must indeed go and see Dr. Bingley when he comes into the observatory."
"It is more than I calculate for, I assure you."
"But consider your astronomer - daughters. Only think what an establishment it would be for one of them. Emeritus Professor Sir William and Lady Lucas are determined to go, merely on that account, for in general, you know, they visit no observatories. Indeed you must go, for it will be impossible for us to visit him if you do not."
"You are over-scrupulous, surely. I dare say Dr. Bingley will be very glad to see all your instruments; and I will send a research communication by you to assure him of my hearty consent to his giving telescope time to whichever he chooses of the astronomer - girls; though I must throw in a good word for my little Lizzy."
"I desire you will do no such thing. Lizzy is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure she is not half so good at micrometer readings as Jane, nor half so good at calculus as Lydia. But you are always giving her the place at the eyepiece."
"They have none of them much to recommend them," replied he; "they are all silly and ignorant like other astronomer - girls; but Lizzy has something more of observing skill than her sisters."
"Professor Bennet, how can you abuse your own astronomer - children in such a way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion for my poor focuser."
"You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your focuser. It is my old friend. I have heard you mention it with condensation these last twenty years at least."
"Ah, you do not know what I suffer."
"But I hope you will get over it, and live to see many young astronomers who own four Herschel telescopes come into the neighbourhood observatories."
"It will be no use to us, if twenty such should come, since you will not visit them."
"Depend upon it, my dear, that when there are twenty, I will visit them all."
Professor Bennet’s speculum recipe was so odd a mixture of metal parts, sand grain, wool grease, and polishing cloth, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his optical manufacturing processes. Her mirror was less difficult to grind. She was a woman - astronomer of mean aperture, little reflectivity, and uncertain F ratio. When she was not parabolic, she fancied herself spherically aberrant. The business of her life was to get her daughter – astronomers telescope time; its solace was visiting observatories and eyepiece manufacture.
to be continued....
Prof. Bennet was among the earliest of those who waited on Dr. Bingley. He had always intended to visit him, though to the last always assuring his wife that he should not go; and till the evening after the visit was paid she had no knowledge of it. It was then disclosed in the following manner. Observing his second astronomer - daughter employed in grinding a mirror, he suddenly addressed her with:
"I hope Dr. Bingley will like it, Lizzy."
"We are not in a way to know what F Ratio Dr. Bingley likes," said her mother scientifically, "since we are not to visit."
"But you forget, mamma," said Elizabeth, "that we shall meet him at the colloquia, and that Dr. Long promised to review his presentation."
"I do not believe Dr. Long will do any such thing. She has two astronomer - nieces of her own. She is a selfish, Wide – field type of observer, and I have no opinion of her results."
"No more have I," said Prof. Bennet; "and I am glad to find that you do not depend on her server running your rig."
"Don't keep calculating so, Kitty, for Heaven's sake! Have a little compassion on my focuser. You fog it totally."
"Kitty has no discretion in her calculations," said her father; "she bases them on a poor transit instrument."
"I do not calculate for my own amusement," replied Kitty fretfully. "When is your next observing session to be, Lizzy?"
“What say you, Mary? For you are a young lady of deep analysis, I know, and read The Astrophysical Journal and make extracts."
Mary wished to say something sensible, but knew not how.
"While Mary is adjusting her opticks," he continued, "let us return to Dr. Bingley."
"I am sick of Dr. Bingley," cried his wife.
"I am sorry to hear that; but why did not you tell me that before? If I had known as much this morning I certainly would not have called on him in his dome. It is very unlucky; but as I have actually paid the visit, we cannot escape the observing sessions now."
The astonishment of the lady-astronomers was just what he wished; that of Mrs. Bennet perhaps surpassing the rest; though, when the first tumult of joy was over, she began to declare that it was what she had expected all the while.
"How good it was in you, my dear Professor Bennet! "Now, Kitty, you may calculate as much as you choose," said Prof. Bennet; and, as he spoke, he left the staff room, fatigued with the raptures of his wife.
"What an excellent father you have, astronomer - girls!" said she, when the dome was shut. "I do not know how you will ever make him amends for his kindness; or me, either, for that matter. At our time of life it is not so pleasant, I can tell you, to be making new observations every day; but for your sakes, we would do anything. Lydia, my love, though you are the youngest, I dare say Dr. Bingley will offer telescope time for you on the next clear night, though it may daunt you."
"Oh!" said Lydia stoutly, "I am not afraid; for though I am the youngest, I'm the tallest and can reach the eyepiece easiest"
The rest of the evening was spent in polishing and collimating and determining when they should ask him to staff morning tea.
Not all that Mrs. Bennet, however, with the assistance of her five astronomer - daughters, could ask on the subject, was sufficient to draw from her husband any satisfactory description of Dr. Bingley. They attacked him in various ways—with barefaced corollaries, ingenious differential equations, and distance by parallax surmises; but he eluded the skill of them all, and they were at last obliged to accept the second-hand intelligence of their neighbour, Lady Lucas. Her report was highly favourable. Emeritus Professor Sir William had been delighted with him. He was quite young, wonderfully handsome, extremely agreeable, and, to crown the whole, he meant to be at the next colloquium with a large group from his department. To be fond of planetary physics was a certain step towards falling in love; and very lively hopes of Dr. Bingley's grant allocations were entertained.
"If I can but see one of my astronomer - daughters happily tenured at Netherfield Observatory," said Mrs. Bennet to her husband, "and all the others equally well posted, I shall have nothing to wish for."
In a few days Dr. Bingley returned Prof. Bennet's visit, and sat about ten minutes with him in his office. He had entertained hopes of being admitted to a sight of the young lady - astronomers, of whose talents he had heard much; but he saw only the Professor. The lady - astronomers were somewhat more fortunate, for they had the advantage of ascertaining from an upper observing slit that he wore a blue lab coat, and carried a black brief case.
Mrs Bennet began to fear that he might be always flying about from one conference to another, and never settled at Netherfield Observatory as he ought to be. Lady Lucas quieted her fears a little by starting the idea of his being gone to London only to get a large eyepiece for the upcoming observing sessions; and a report soon followed that Dr. Bingley was to bring twelve postgrads and seven techo’s with him to the colloquium. The girl - astronomers grieved over such a number of postgrads, but were comforted the day before the colloquium by hearing, that instead of twelve he brought only six undergrads with him from London—his five astronomer -sisters and a physicist - cousin. And when the party entered the colloquium room it consisted of only five altogether—Dr. Bingley, two astronomer - sisters, the night assistant of the eldest, and another young IT specialist
To Be Continued...
Chapter 3 ish
Dr. Bingley was good-looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant set of sextants, and easy, unaffected observing technique. His sister - astronomers were fine scientists, but tended to run with the current observing crazes. His brother-in-law, Dr. Hurst, merely looked the astronomer; but his colleague Dr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall tripod, handsome tube, noble finderscope, and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having a recurrent grant of ten thousand a year. The gentlemen - astronomers pronounced him to be a fine observer, the lady astronomers declared he was better resolved than Dr. Bingley, and he was looked at with high magnification for about half the observing session, till his technique at the eyepiece gave a disgust which turned the tide of his data’s validity; for he was discovered to be a telescope hog; and not all his large observatory and instrument collection in Derbyshire could then save him.
Dr. Bingley had soon made himself acquainted with all the principal investigators in the room; peered through every telescope, was angry that the dome closed so early, and talked of having a public session himself at Netherfield observatory. Mr. Darcy looked only once through Mrs. Hurst’s assemblage and once through Miss Bingley’s binos, and spent the rest of the evening in walking about the dome access walkway, speaking occasionally to one of his own postgrads. Amongst the most violent against him was Mrs. Bennet, whose dislike of his general behaviour was sharpened into particular resentment by his having slighted one of her daughters.
Elizabeth Bennet had been obliged, by the scarcity of telescope time to sit down for two hours; and during part of that time, Dr. Darcy had been standing near enough for her to hear a conversation between him and Dr. Bingley, who came from the upper dome for a few minutes, to press his friend to join in.
"Come, Darcy," said he, "I must have you observe. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better get focusing."
"I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with the telescope. At such an observing session as this it would be insupportable. Your sister astronomers are engaged, and there is not another woman astronomer in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to observe with."
"I would not be so fastidious as you are," cried Dr. Bingley, "for a head of faculty positon! Upon my honours student, I never met with so many pleasant girl astronomers in my life as I have this evening; and there are several of them you see uncommonly clever."
"You are observing with the only clever girl in the room," said Dr. Darcy, looking at the eldest Miss Bennet.
"Oh! She is the most beautiful calculator I ever beheld! But there is one of her sister astronomers sitting down just behind you, who is very clever, and I dare say very skillful at the tube.
"Which do you mean?" and turning round he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said: "She is tolerable, but not numerically agile enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young lady astronomers who have been corrected by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her log tables, for you are wasting your observing time with me."
Dr. Bingley followed his advice. Dr. Darcy walked off; and Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings toward him. She told the story, however, with great spirit among her friends; for she had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in anything ridiculous.
The evening altogether passed off pleasantly to the whole family. Mrs. Bennet had seen her eldest astronomer daughter much admired by the Netherfield staff. Dr. Bingley had observed with her twice, and she had been distinguished by his sisters. Mary had heard herself mentioned to Miss Bingley as the most accomplished observer - girl in the neighbourhood; and Catherine and Lydia had been fortunate enough never to be without a tube in their hands, which was all that they had yet learnt to care for at an observing session. They returned, therefore, in good spirits to Longbourn observatory. They found Prof. Bennet still up working at his transit telescope. At the transit scope he was regardless of time; and on the present occasion he had a good deal of curiosity as to the session of an evening which had raised such splendid expectations.
"Oh! my dear Prof. Bennet," as she entered the room, "we have had a most delightful evening, a most excellent observing session. I wish you had been there. Jane was so admired, nothing could be like it. Everybody said how well she worked; and Dr. Bingley thought her quite clever at the calculus, and computed with her twice! Only think of that, my dear; he actually computed with her twice! First of all, he asked Miss Lucas. I was so vexed to see him work up with her! Then he observed Saturn with Miss King, and Jupiter with Maria Lucas, and Uranus with Jane again, and a few nebulae with Lizzy, and the Great Nebula—"
"If he had had any compassion for me," cried her husband impatiently, "he would not have observed half so much! For God's sake, say no more of his observing partners. Oh that he had eye strain in the first viewing!"
"Oh! my dear, I am quite delighted with him. He is so excessively handsome! And his sisters are charming women astronomers. I never in my life saw anything more elegant than their micrometers. I dare say the speculum upon Mrs. Hurst's five footer—"
"No five footer, Mrs Bennet, I beg you,"
She was therefore obliged to seek another branch of the subject, and related, with much bitterness of spirit and some exaggeration, the shocking rudeness of Dr. Darcy.
"But I can assure you," she added, "that Lizzy does not lose much by not suiting his speculum; for he is a most disagreeable, horrid man. So high up on the ladder of his ten foot and so conceited that there was no enduring him! He observed here, and he observed there, fancying himself so very great! Not clever enough to view with! I wish you had been there, my dear, to have given him one of your lens foggings. I quite detest the man."
To Be Continued....