“Lady Middleton piqued herself upon the elegance of her table, and of all her domestic arrangements; and from this kind of vanity was her greatest enjoyment in any of their parties.”

Source: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Pique means annoy and vanity means pride and being worthless. However, somehow I get the feeling that the Lady M. is not annoyed but pleased in arranging domestic things but it contradicts the word’s meaning. I’m confused.

And if I take vanity as pride, I think it means that she likes specially the dinner time more than the party itself because she feels proud in arranging tables. But the other meaning of the word “being worthless” somehow match the “annoy” word in general. I don’t understand the meaning of this sentence at all. Could you explain its meaning in other way?

1 Answer 1


Vanity meaning "something worthless" is effectively obsolete, except in the Biblical phrase "vanity of vanities, all is vanity": you can safely ignore it.

Pique oneself in the sense of "take pride in" was unknown to me, but the OED has it as "pique, _v_2s, sense 3 (reflexive): "To take pride in or congratulate oneself on".

  • 1
    I'm liking your answer, but I wish you'd go one step further and provide a good definition of vanity that fits this context.
    – J.R.
    Jun 23, 2019 at 19:34

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