In Part II of Mr. Bennet and the Entailment I mentioned the fact that the Bennet girls do not have any familiarity with household tasks such as cooking (and presumably cleaning). After further consideration of that point, I have a theory that Mrs. Bennet's sensitivity on this issue could come from the relative difference in social standing between the family she grew up in and the family she married into.
I think it is likely that as the daughter of a Meryton attorney, a young Miss Gardiner did assist with the cooking and perform other tasks that a young Miss Bennet does not have anything to do with. I also wonder if part of the reason Mrs. Bennet is so willing to broadcast the fact that her daughters do not need to do household chores is that she wants to advertise that she and they do belong in the gentry class. It is quite possible that due to her circumstances she doesn't feel secure or comfortable in her place as a gentleman's wife, she is certainly concerned about what will happen if she becomes a gentleman's widow.
Going into the realm of pure speculation, I wonder if a young, pretty but not too intelligent Mrs. Bennet had some difficulty in the local society, if she had some well-meaning (or not) comments directed at her due to her less favorable family connections and her possible lack of familiarity with the customs of the gentry. I do find it interesting that even though their are twenty-four families that the Bennets dine with, and some of those families are well-off enough to spend their winters in London, the only women we see or hear about Mrs. Bennet socializing with regularly are Lady Lucas, whose husband was formerly in trade in Meryton; Mrs. Phillips, Mrs. Bennet's sister, whose husband is in trade in Meryton; and Mrs. Long, who appears to be a widow living on a smaller income.
In conclusion, there is evidence that some of Mrs. Bennet's anxiety could come from the perils of marrying up the social ladder, particularly since she lacked many of the resources of sense, education and her husband's support which would have helped her settle in and become comfortable in her role as a gentlewoman in late eighteenth and early 19th century England.
Labels: Mrs. Bennet, Pride and Prejudice, Regency Society, Social Classes