The annotation in Harvard University Press’ Pride and Prejudice (2010) quotes from Michael Wood’s essay in A Companion to Jane Austen ed. Claudia L. Johnson and Clara Tuite ( Wiley Blackwell 2009).
He writes that the phrase “Time and her aunt”
offers us a glimpse of Austen’s ironic philosophy, or if you prefer, her irony about philosophy. It brings together, as if to mirror life’s confluences in a trick of grammar, two very different orders of contingency. There is the world of aunts, and everything they represent of family and society; kindness and curiosity. It’s a world of aunts and not of uncles because it’s a world of women. And there is the world of time, which is also the world of chance meetings (one day earlier and the visitors would have missed Darcy, one day later, knowing he was supposed to be there, they would not have visited) and the world of ageing and healing. Time is the enemy of marriage for women in Austen, which is why its supposed healing powers are so often treated with skepticism. Aunts and time, together or separately, determine much of life – determine all of life, Austen’s irony cryptically suggests – that we do not manage to take into our own hands.