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Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 4:

The astonishment of the ladies 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. [emphasis mine]

Why does the subordinate clause “that of Mrs. Bennet perhaps surpassing the rest” not have the “be” verb?

I don’t understand the relationship of Mrs. Bennet “astonishment” to the full meaning of the sentence. Is it the “surpassing” object of Mr. Bennet’s “wish”? Or is it just a stated fact of “surpassing astonishment,” with no particular relation to Mr. Bennet’s wishes?

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    "That" is anaphoric to "the astonishment". The clause "that of Mrs. Bennet perhaps surpassing the rest" is non-finite, so it doesn't contain a finite verb like "be". We understand "the astonishment of Mrs. Bennet perhaps surpassing the astonishment of the rest of the ladies".
    – BillJ
    Oct 16, 2023 at 17:17
  • @BillJ so the clause is a supplement, that is, a non-finite with a subject, right?
    – user424874
    Oct 16, 2023 at 17:25
  • Mrs Bennett was even more astonished than the other ladies. Oct 16, 2023 at 17:54
  • Where would you put the "be" verb??
    – Lambie
    Oct 16, 2023 at 19:48
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    Jane Austen didn't write entirely in what's contemporary English in terms of vocabulary, grammar or punctuation; it might be more usual to have a comma after wished.
    – Stuart F
    Oct 16, 2023 at 22:12

3 Answers 3

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You've probably encountered cases where a supplement of the form "<noun phrase> <participle phrase>" modifies a clause. Here's a simpler example of that construction:

His work done, he headed home for the night.

Your example is more complicated, and uses a semicolon where present-day English would use a comma, but the concept is the same: the supplement "{that of Mrs. Bennet} {perhaps surpassing the rest}" modifies the clause "The astonishment of the ladies was just what he wished".

(If it helps, the construction "with <noun phrase> <participle phrase>" is roughly equivalent; so you can imagine an implied with: "The astonishment of the ladies was just what he wished, with that of Mrs. Bennet perhaps surpassing the rest".)

I don’t understand the relationship of Mrs. Bennet “astonishment” to the full meaning of the sentence. Is it the “surpassing” object of Mr. Bennet’s “wish”? Or is it just a stated fact of “surpassing astonishment,” with no particular relation to Mr. Bennet’s wishes?

No relation to Mr. Bennet's wishes; it's just saying that Mrs. Bennet's astonishment may have been greater than the other ladies'.

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Why does the subordinate clause “that of Mrs. Bennet perhaps surpassing the rest” not have the “be” verb?

The off-set isolates Mrs. Bennet’s astonishment(that) and emphasizes it by expressing it in the non-finite. This serves to shift the focus from the reaction of the group, to the reaction of Mrs. Bennet, whose further actions become the focus in the rest of the sentence. It is the literary equivalent of a cinematic pan.

I don’t understand the relationship of Mrs. Bennet “astonishment” to the full meaning of the sentence. Is it the “surpassing” object of Mr. Bennet’s “wish”? Or is it just a stated fact of “surpassing astonishment,” with no particular relation to Mr. Bennet’s wishes?

Either or both depending on how much the reader wants to invest into the meaning of the sentence beyond what is written on the page. Follow the pan and decide what exactly the author wants you to see about the family dynamics expressed in this scene and how it fits into the larger event of which it is but a part.

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The astonishment of the ladies 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. MEANS

The astonishment of the ladies was just what he wished; that [the astonishment] 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.

It just means that that Mrs. Bennet's astonishment perhaps was more than the astonishment of the other ladies.

"that of" in English will refer to something that is already stated. Here, it is the astonishment of the ladies and avoids repeating the word astonishment.

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