Thursday, February 28, 2013

Selected Verses by Jane Austen, Compiled and Adorned by Alexa Adams

I gave a preview of this project in my last post, when I announced the publication of Second Glances: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice Continues.

We do not have many poems from Jane Austen. Presumably, she wrote far more than what survives, but those that do display the same wit and taste that characterize her prose. I selected eight short verses that hold particular appeal to me as the subject of the five small folios I made out of card stock, bound with a modified Japanese technique, and decorated with paper images I cut using stencils. I think they came out quite handsome.

Like me, I'm sure many of you do not have time for as much Austen as you want. It is as big of a problem as not having enough Austen to read in the first place. Often I only have a few minutes to spare, and craving the company of my dear friend, I turn to her shorter writings. I hope my Selected Verses by Jane Austen may be counted on for a quick smile during a hectic day.

I plan to give away four of the five copies (must keep one for myself) as part of a series of giveaways in promotion of Second Glances, but first let's take the time to discuss the contents. The inside cover is embellished with a profile of Miss Austen, and the title page was created to resemble those of her novels.

I have not taken a picture of the first page of verse, for it is unadorned. It is the only page to contain more than one verse. The subject of the first, unsurprisingly, is love and marriage:

Maria, good-humoured, and handsome, and tall,
For a husband was at her last stake;
And having in vain danced at many a ball,
Is now happy to
jump at a Wake.

Mr. Wake was the successful suitor of Maria. Austen manipulates his name to convey amusement at the lady's lowered standards and her advancing age, all while shinning light on a very real and troubling concern for unmarried ladies, is absolutely superb. Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas come vividly to mind.

The next, composed for Mary Loyd and enclosed with the housewife Austen made for her when the family moved, is the earliest piece I've included. It provides insight into Austen's qualities as a friend, for the gift could not have been nearly so valuable without the sentiments conveyed in the verse:

This little bag I hope will prove
To be not vainly made—
For, if you should a needle want
It will afford you aid.

And as we are about to part
T'will serve another end,
For when you look upon the Bag
You'll recollect your friend. 

The last poem on this page reminds me of Mr. Woodhouse and displays the ease of Austen's wit:  

'I am in a Dilemma, for want of an Emma,' 
Escaped from the Lips, of Henry Gipps- 

That always make me feel good.
Page two features a stencil design I recently used in my Valentine's Day cards and the following lines, said to be inspired by the newspaper announcement of strangers:

At Eastbourn, Mr. Gell, From being perfectly well,
Became dreadfully ill, For the love of Miss Gill.
So he said, with some sighs, I'm the slave of your iis,
Oh restore, if you please, By accepting my ees.
The pun is twofold, involving both the vowels differentiating the lovers' names and a play on "eyes" and "ease". Clever Miss Austen!

The next poem is one of my favorites, and I had a lot of fun working with the new church stencil I found for it:

Happy the lab'rer in his Sunday Clothes!
In light-drab coat, smart waistcoat, well-darn'd hose,
And hat upon his head, to church he goes;
As oft, with conscious pride, he downward throws
A glance upon the ample cabbage rose
That, stuck in button-hole, regales his nose,
He envies not the gayest London beaux.
In church he takes his seat among the rows,
Pays to the place the reverence he owes,
Likes best the prayers whose meaning least he knows,
Lists to the sermon in a softening doze,
And rouses joyous at the welcome close. 

The forth page is unadorned, but the poem is priceless. In the unfinished novel Sanditon, we get a strong sense of Austen's views on doctoring. This verse captures well the fine line its practitioners walked between science and quackery, illness and hypochondria:
 'I've a pain in my head'
Said the suffering Beckford;
To her Doctor so dread.
'Oh! What shall I take for't?'

Said this Doctor so dread
Whose name it was Newnham.
'For this pain in your head
Ah! What can you do Ma'am?'

Said Miss Beckford, 'Suppose
If you think there's no risk,
I take a good Dose
Of calomel brisk.'--

'What a praise worthy Notion.'
Replied Mr. Newnham.
'You shall have such a potion
And so will I too Ma'am.' 

Calomel is mercury chloride. It was commonly used as a purgative. Thank goodness for modern medicine!

Next comes "Poor Brag". Brag and Speculation were both round card games, meaning they could involve more than four players, unlike Whist, which required two sets of partners (think Bridge). This poem was written while spending the holidays at Godmersham Park, the home of Jane's brother, Edward Austen Knight. I love how she personifies the games:

'Alas! poor Brag, thou boastful Game!-What now avails thine empty name?
Where now thy more distinguished fame?-My day is o'er, and Thine the same,
For thou, like me, art thrown aside, At Godmersham, this Christmas Tide;
And now across the Table wide, Each Game, save Brag or Spec. is tried.'-
Such is the mild Ejaculation, Of tender-hearted Speculation.-

The final poem is Austen's second ode to cambric (yes. she wrote two), which may or may not, like it's predecessor, have been composed for Miss Catherine Bigg (though I think it was), six years after Austen broke a very brief engagement to her brother. Cambric is a finely woven fabric, made of linen or cotton, and was commonly used for linens and needlework. Whoever was the recipient of this particular bundle, they apparently intended to use it for handkercheifs:

Cambrick! Thou'st been to me a good,
And I would bless thee if I could.
Go, serve thy mistress with delight,
Be small in compass, soft and white;
Enjoy thy fortune, honour'd much
To bear her name and feel her touch;
And that thy worth may last for years,
Slight be her colds, and few her tears.

And so ends my little book. I have not completely worked out how the giveaways will work, but please check back soon as I intend to announce the first no latter than Tuesday (hopefully over the weekend, time allowing). Along with a chance to be the owner of one of these lovingly constructed volumes, I will also be sharing a great deal of information about Second Glances and giving away copies of both it and First Impressions. If I get a good response to Selected Verses, I will probably produce different collections, as I had a great deal of enjoyment putting these together. Of my regard, they are assured. Have they succeeded in securing yours?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Second Glances Published!

I have been waiting for so long to make this announcement. After months of doubt and torment, Second Glances: A Tale of Pride and Prejudice Continues is finally published. Thank goodness! Of course, it's still going to be six to ten days before I actually can hold a book in my hand or give it to anyone else, and, as of this precise moment, Amazon has it listed as out of stock. Every rose has its thorn, yada yada yada.

In writing Second Glances, I tried to maintain the lighthearted tone of First Impressions while addressing criticisms that the book needed more conflict. The story focuses primarily on Kitty. Here is the blurb from the back of the book:
A year has passed since the conclusion of First Impressions, and the marriages made by the three eldest Bennet ladies are prospering. Expectations are high for the two youngest sisters to do equally well. Kitty, having excelled in school, receives an invitation to join Georgiana Darcy in her first London season, leaving Lydia to bear the burden of the classroom alone. Will the most forward Bennet tolerate such inequity? 

Kitty arrives in London prepared to be happy, but her delight is marred when she finds a most unwelcome gentleman on intimate terms with her hosts. She has met the reckless Sir James Stratton before and would like nothing more than to never encounter him again, but his acquaintance she is forced to endure. Struggling for firm footing amidst the whirlwind of London society, will Kitty be allowed to follow her heart, or will her family force her hand? Join the reimagined cast of Pride and Prejudice as they pursue happiness amidst the ongoing obstacles of life, love, and interfering relations.
As careful readers of this blog should expect, this novel has a lot of Heyer influence in it. The hero is very much in her mode, with some Henry Tilney and Frank Churchill tossed into the mix. I hope readers will like Sir James. He is the first original character I created, and I'm half in love with him myself.  

You can read the first chapters of the novel here.

In midst of my publication torments, I have recently delved into a bit of book making myself. These little homages to Jane Austen will play a part in the several giveaways of Second Glances (and a few of First Impressions) that I will offer in celebration of the book's release. Check back soon to learn more!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"And Who Can Be In Doubt Of What Followed?": Northanger Abbey

Welcome to the future of Janeicillin! Some may remember my serialized stories, extending the ending chapters of Austen's novel, but anyone might read these musing in their original forms by going to the Janeicillin page of this blog, at least for now. I am in the process of editing the tales for ebook publication this spring under the new title "And Who Can Be In Doubt Of What Followed?": The Novels of Jane Austen Expanded (Persuasion reference ... get it?). To that end, I thought I would share the revised stories as I finish them, eventually replacing the old versions with the new.

Today I give you Northanger Abbey. This is perhaps my favorite in this series of short stories, and I hope you find it to your liking.

It is, sadly, not always the fate of two lovers to hasten together towards perfect felicity. Some unfortunates must instead endure the torment and heartache of doubt and separation. Such sad circumstances are all the more to be bemoaned when brought upon a couple by the capriciousness of a misguided parent, but a blissful Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney had no notion that they were soon to be so imposed upon. As they entered the parsonage at Fullerton, intent on requesting of Mr. and Mrs. Morland their permission to marry, neither had any notion how near disappointment loomed. Do not suppose that it was this eminently kind and practical couple that was so ill-natured as to needlessly barricade their daughter's path to happiness, but it was their very abundance of said qualities that dictated General Tilney’s interests, no matter how perverse, must be considered.

Yet before such objections could be taken into account, the Morlands had first to overcome the shock of Mr. Tilney's most unexpected proposal. One might think that Mrs. Allen would have been so good as to mention Catherine’s forming of a very decided attachment to this young man, but that lady not being the most perceptive, and the Morlands themselves not being ones to indulge in speculation, they were taken entirely by surprise. Indeed, when Mr. Tilney first requested a private conference with Mr. Morland, only recently returned to the house, it seemed his purpose must undoubtedly be to provide the sort of explanation for Catherine's ejection from Northanger Abbey that had best be spoken in private, and the rector braced himself to hear a very disagreeable account. Imagine his surprise when presented with a most wonderful request for his daughter’s hand! After taking the few needed moments to compose his thoughts, he responded thusly: “Forgive me, Mr. Tilney, for my prolonged silence, but I am afraid I had no notion that you and Catherine had such a decided partiality for one another. Has my daughter accepted your proposal?”

“Yes, sir. I have been so fortunate as to win her affections.”

“Following her abrupt removal from your ancestral home, I was rather of the belief that we would not be hearing from any member of your family again. This request, under the circumstances, is most unexpected.”

Henry nodded in understanding, “I fully comprehend what your feelings must be, Mr. Morland. Believe me when I say my father' s precipitate actions drastically accelerated my intended courtship. As Miss Morland was always viewed by my father in a most agreeable light, actively courting her favor and encouraging our association, I hardly expected his inclinations to take such a decided turn.”

Mr. Morland raised a quizzical brow. “And might I ask what caused such a sudden change of heart?”

“It seems that the mischief must be laid at the door of one Mr. John Thorpe, with whose family you are unfortunately already familiar. What you may not be aware of, sir, is that this man also had pretensions towards your daughter, apparently born out of a quite mistaken notion regarding her fortune. Indeed, I believe it is this misconception regarding the affluence of your family that influenced his sister's behavior towards your son. The selfishness of both has caused enormous grief and sorrow.” Mr. Morland showed his agreement, causing Henry to pause before continuing: “Mr. Thorpe, while in Bath, had occasion to regale my father with a massively exaggerated account of Miss Morland's worldly expectations, including a quite unfounded presumption regarding her relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Allen, and it was this, unbeknownst to myself, that persuaded the General to invite her to Northanger. I am sorry to say my father would not be inclined to show such condescension if possessed with a true notion of her expectations.”

“Excuse me, Mr. Tilney, but being so perceptive regarding General Tilney's values, did you not question this surprising kindness towards one whom, I suspect you knew, was not as well dowered as your father expected?”

A pained look crossed Henry's face. “His unusual behavior did indeed take me by surprise, I confess. I even discussed it with my sister, and she too could provide no explanation for his unaccountable overtures. All I can plead in excuse is that I was very taken with Miss Morland, as was Miss Tilney, who lives an isolated life, and we were both too pleased with our good fortune in securing such an agreeable companion to question my father's motives. It is rare that one meets with such innate goodness and unaffected behavior as your daughter possesses, Mr. Morland. She is a credit to both you and Mrs. Morland, and I naively hoped that it was these qualities that influenced my father's hospitality.”

“I thank you, Mr. Tilney, for the acknowledgment, particularly as it is no easy one to make. We are very proud of Catherine, especially considering the presence of mind and fortitude she displayed upon her recent adventure, which I admit to being something of a revelation to my wife and myself. I assume you are about to explain why such attributes were called into action? As pleased as we are to know that they exist, I would not have had them make their debut under such circumstances.”

“No indeed, Mr. Morland, and nor would I! My father again encountered Mr. Thorpe in London. Now speaking under the influence of both his and his sister's disappointed hopes, he exaggerated the extent of your family's poverty to a similar extent that he had previously proclaimed your wealth. My father, angry that he had been misled, and blaming Miss Morland rather than the creature truly responsible for his misconception, took his rage out upon her. He hastened homeward and with all expediency withdrew his hospitality. Thus was she forced to travel in such a decidedly unsuitable manner. As soon as I learned of the circumstances, I rushed here, eager to insure myself of her wellbeing. I can only be thankful my sister had the forethought to make sure Miss Morland had the funds on hand to pay for her journey, else I know not what might have befallen her at my father's hands.”

“Yes, Mr. Tilney. I cannot but feel a similar degree of gratitude towards Miss Tilney, yet I am afraid that this account poses some problems in regards to your request. It is not to be supposed, considering his late position, that General Tilney will be prevailed upon to condone such a union as you seek, and I am afraid that I cannot, in good conscious, bless an engagement that is so disagreeable to your parent.”

Though Henry's face fell, he proceeded with firm determination. “I understand your perspective, Mr. Morland, but let me assure you my own fortunes are in no way dependent upon my father. I am in possession of a very comfortable living and will inherit a considerable sum secured upon me through marriage settlements. Though my father may withhold these for the duration of his life, which I trust and hope will last for many years, I am fully able to support a wife on my own.”

“That is all very well, Mr. Tilney, but money is not my chief consideration. You have shown yourself a considerate and feeling young man. Even in this time of conflict, you maintain a becoming degree of paternal respect, which speaks very well of your character. Could you really countenance marrying so decidedly against your father's will?”

Henry nodded his head sadly, “I certainly would rather not be in such a situation, sir, but I cannot be hopeful that anything will alter my father's opinion.”

“What of your report? You have now seen with your own eyes that we are not quite destitute, as the General seems to believe. Would not your word sway him?”

“I fear that in matters of matrimony, my father’s dominant concerns are rather mercenary,” he blushingly acknowledged.

“Well, we must hope that circumstances intervene to change his mind. In the meantime, while I welcome your overtures towards Miss Morland, I am afraid I must withhold my consent to an engagement.”

“I understand your position, Mr. Morland, and while I respect it, I do not deny myself extremely disappointed.”

“These things have a way of working themselves towards an agreeable conclusion, Mr. Tilney. Do not despair. What is meant to be, will be.”

“Thank you, Mr. Morland. I hope you prove correct.”

They shook hands, a formal gesture which Mr. Morland familiarized by patting the younger man on the shoulder comfortingly. “Let us speak to the ladies. I am sure Catherine has shared your news with Mrs. Morland, and they must be anxious to learn the outcome of our conference.”

In case there was any doubt, both Mrs. Morland and Catherine rose in a most expectant manner upon the return of the gentlemen, and the absence of any of the many other Morlands indicated that mother and daughter had been engaged in private discourse. Catherine stepped forward in anticipation, but upon seeing the serious turn of Henry's demeanor, she held back, a crestfallen look overtaking her expression. Having explained the circumstances to Mrs. Morland, she was duly warned by that sage matron not to be overly hopeful of a positive outcome to Mr. Tilney's request, but youthful spirits lead her, nevertheless, to be most sanguine in her expectations. Surely Mr. Tilney, with his able and eloquent tongue, could convince her father to give his consent.

Mr. Morland, seeing the angst in the young people’s eyes, took it upon himself to convey the bad news. “Well, my dears, I have had the very great honor of receiving a request for your hand, Catherine, from this very fine young man. Though I would be pleased to bestow you upon such a gentleman as he has proven himself to be, I am afraid that the current opposition of his father to must presently hinder my consent. However, should the General have a change of heart, I see no objection to such a desirable connection. I congratulate you, my dear, for securing such a worthy man’s affections.”

Though her father tried to soften the blow, his words seemed to Catherine the loss of all hope. Her mother, as might be expected, took them rather differently. She greeted her husband's announcement as only the mildest set back, her own style of parental care not comprehending how anyone could long oppose the wishes of a beloved child, and while her innate honesty forced her to acknowledge that, "Catherine would make a sad, heedless young housekeeper," she was quick to supply the consolation of there being nothing like practice for improvement. A delay of formal engagement provided an opportunity to better prepare for the matrimonial state.

As the young people were not engaged, they were not allowed the luxury of a private parting. Catherine was denied the solace of bemoaning their lot in Henry’s sympathetic ear, but the Morlands were not so unreasonable as to not prohibit the couple from exchanging a few words out of reach of chaperoning ears.

“I will speak with my father, Catherine. Somehow he must be brought to reason.”

“But how is he to be swayed when all his prejudices are so decidedly against me?”

“I do not presently know, but we will somehow find a way to prevail. I know it.” He spoke to reassure not just Catherine, as he was in need of some fortification himself. “I will write to you and let you know how all proceeds.”

“Oh, please do! I will look for your letter daily.”

At this heartfelt declaration, Henry's smile returned. This is why he fell in love with Catherine Morland: she made no attempt to feign nonchalance, as a more worldly woman might, or tease him into a state of uncertainty. Here was all honesty. “And I shall as eagerly await your response.” Reluctantly they parted, Henry returning to what was now his only home, to watch over his young plantations, and extend his improvements for her sake, to whose share in them he looked anxiously forward, while Catherine remained at Fullerton to cry.
After allowing her daughter what Mrs. Morland considered an excessive amount of emotional indulgence, Catherine was called upon to leave the false comfort of her now tear sodden pillow and resume her normal activities around the parsonage. Her work progressed to a degree, for her mother's gentle reminders of the importance of good housekeeping kept her diligent in trying to complete Richard's cravats, but she did not make much more progress than she had before Mr. Tilney's visit. A fanciful mind, under the influence of the joys and heartbreaks a near engagement simultaneously bestows, will understandably wander. Catherine could not decide what held greater sway: the felicity of knowing that her love was returned, or the disappointments attendant upon indefinite delay. No matter how she pondered, no scheme revealed itself with which to work upon General Tilney. Mrs. Morland remained insistent that he would, inevitably, allow his son to marry where he chose, but Catherine, with her better knowledge of the General's character, could not bring herself to such an optimistic perspective.

It was with great relief that Mrs. Morland welcomed a letter, not many days later, addressed from Glocestershire. A brief consul with her husband proving both to be of like minds in thinking no harm could come from the correspondence, particularly if they did not inquire too closely into the matter, she passed the missive onto her daughter and was notably relieved to see her sullen aspect cheered by its sight. While we can honor the good sense that drove the Morlands to respect their daughter's privacy in this manner, I feel no such scruples:

My dear Catherine,

In the few days that have passed since I was last in your company, life at Woodston has become nonsensically dull. The house craves your enlivening presence just as much as I. Though you were only ever here once, I see you wherever I look. The parlor you so admired will be furnished posthaste, so that it is ready to welcome you on that happy day I bring you to your new home. In the meantime, there are several improvements I think might be enacted on the grounds, and though I have no notion if you should approve of my taste, I find I care little as the occupation is a welcome distraction from our unhappy separation. Once you are installed as mistress, replacing the phantom that currently haunts the parsonage in your place, you may make any alterations you choose. See what you have done to me, dear Catherine? I, who have always fancied myself a sensible man, have adopted the same sort of fantastic notions usually reserved for the heroines you so admire. At least my ghost is a happy one. If I cannot have the real Miss Morland, I shall have to make do, for the time being, with her shade.

And how do you pass your time, my love? Please write to me with all the little details of your daily life. I promise not to take the Allens in dislike just because they enjoy your visits while I languish in deprivation. Indeed, I must ever be thankful for their bringing you to Bath and into my life, and can begrudge them no pleasure. You must commend Mrs. Allen on the extraordinary value derived from that particular muslin she wore to the Lower Rooms on the night of our introduction, for I am sure it was my extensive understanding of ladies' fashions that made you look favorably upon me, as it certainly could not have been the trivial conversation that I insisted on imposing upon you. Perhaps I should not inquire, but did the gown you wore on that particular evening – the sprigged muslin with blue trimmings – fray as I then predicted? I do recall seeing you in it again, and though I noticed no unusual wear at that time, you must understand the great joy I would derive from having my prediction proved accurate. Not that I wish such a fetching garment be lost to you, my dear, but if I may distinguish myself in one area of taste, I shall feel more assured of my triumph in the theater of home decorating. Tell me, do you favor blue or green damask for a sofa? I shall not inquire if you prefer yellow, for I know such a violation to be inconceivable on your part. My estrangement from Northanger means that I cannot call upon Eleanor's good judgment on such matters. I must worry for my sister at this time, as she must be fearfully lonely. Perhaps, in the dark of night, I can smuggle her some new books to enjoy. As I already know your very strong feelings against History, may I inquire which novels you would recommend? Has that something shocking you predicted yet been released upon unsuspecting London Town? I am sure it would perfectly suit my present purpose.

Until we meet again, which I pray will be at no distant time, I am faithfully yours,


P.S. If you truly prefer yellow, I suppose I can learn to tolerate it.

Such a letter could only bring smiles to Catherine's face. References to past happiness and future felicity combined to make her perfectly cheerful for the remainder of the day. Between writing her response, walking to the post office to mail it, and visiting with Mrs. Allen to discuss Mr. Tilney's surprising knowledge of fabrics, Catherine even found the attention to finish one of Richard's cravats! The morrow might bring about a renewal of melancholy, but with more such letters to look forward to, Catherine began to feel she might bear the separation tolerably well.

When compared to the plight of others, Catherine had good reason to be thankful for her present happy state. The schism that Henry Tilney's insistent pursuit of the unacceptable Miss Morland enacted between himself and his father caused no greater suffering than that endured by their sister and daughter, Eleanor. These were sad and lonely days for Miss Tilney, abandoned at Northanger Abbey with little company other than that of servants. Following Catherine's eviction from the house, General Tilney was not long in returning to London, thereby depriving his daughter of even his dictatorial companionship. Eleanor was no stranger to hardship, and in these trying times she turned to those same occupations and diversions that had helped her weather all the disappointments of her life. The loss of Henry was no small disadvantage to her circumstances. In both her mother's death and her forced separation from one young Captain Johnson, a companion in arms of Captain Tilney's, it was the presence of this most sympathetic brother that lifted her spirits. Now that his comforting attention was denied her, Eleanor found her lot hard indeed. While proud of her brother's defiance of their father, as asking Catherine to leave Northanger had been one of the most difficult tasks she had ever been called upon to perform, she could not help the jealousy she felt that he was free to pursue his own path, while she remained under the total command of their father. The future appeared bleak, with the only possible means of escape being marriage to a gentleman of the General's choosing, selected for his wealth and position rather than the likelihood that he would make her happy. The substitution of one form of tyranny for another was not a prospect Eleanor could take comfort in, so she diligently applied herself to the demands of the household, plied her needle, and studied her books, all in attempt to drive despair from her soul, and all the time unaware of the events unfolding to decidedly improve her fortunes.
Captain Tilney was following his father’s example by amusing himself in London. Little concern to him was an estranged brother and languishing sister: it was his pleasure to pursue the same style of occupation that Isabella Thorpe had been so accommodating as to provide in Bath. Several of his companions in arms were likewise enjoying the season, as their fashionable regiment was often at leave to do. However, not all equated pleasure with dissipation, and still others found it completely elusive. One young and worthy member of this band of brothers had the particular misfortune to receive word of a terrible misfortune. A beloved brother was dead, rendering Captain Johnson the sole living representative of his line. If other members of the regiment thought a noble title and fruitful estate ample compensation for his loss, it was not deemed sufficient by the only person whose sentiments mattered, and he would remain Captain Johnson forever if it meant his brother still lived. The only aspect of his new status in which he could find any solace was the notion that his increased fortune just might, someday, allow him to marry where he chose, a freedom previously denied.

The new viscount took himself off to his ancestral home, there to oversea the burial and execute the will, while Captain Tilney repaired to his father’s fashionable home in Mount. He found the General still consuming an ample breakfast, the proportions of which were in keeping with that gentleman's notions of a proper buffet. Knowing that such abundance was not laid out for the purpose of sustaining its sole partaker, but rather for the luxury of wastefulness, the Captain helped himself to a generous plate and joined his father’s table.

“To what do I owe the pleasure of this unaccountably early visit, Frederick? Had I known of your intentions, I would have ordered a more worthy repast.”

Frederick smiled at his father's inhospitable tone, it being precisely what he was accustomed to, and with no hesitation launched into the disclosure that was sure to make him a far more welcome guest. “I come bearing important news for you, sir, the like of which is sure to overcome any inconvenience my presence may cause.”

General Tilney looked up skeptically from his plate, a mere lift of an eyebrow serving as invitation for his son to proceed.

“Lord Seagry is dead.”

The General paused in his consumption, taking a moment to finish his mouthful and put down fork and knife before replying succinctly, “Indeed?”

“Johnson received word last night. His brother was traveling homeward when the carriage overturned, breaking the sorry man’s neck.”

“How unfortunate! Does the new viscount remain in town?”

“He’s off to attend family and estate matters. Assuming that in his haste and grief he does not meet with the same fate as poor Richard, he should be installed as master of Gravenly Hall no later than tomorrow.”

The General rose from the table to look out the window, breakfast momentarily forgotten, and clasped his hands behind his back contemplatively, “I think it only appropriate we pay our respects. What say you, Frederick?”

“I am at your disposal, sir.”

“We will leave in the morning. Nine o'clock sharp. I want to share this news with Eleanor before she hears of it through other means.”

“Very good, sir.”

And so it was that Eleanor's isolation came to an abrupt end. With great surprise did she witness the return of her father, let alone her brother, weeks before she had any notion of seeing either. Like the dutiful daughter she was, her greeting was one of sincere welcome, but upon hearing the reason for their appearance, she was overcome with dismay at the tragedy of this unforeseen event.

“Poor Lord Seagry! Captain Johnson must feel it acutely, for he loved his brother so!”

“Is that all you have to say?” demanded Frederick.

“I suppose that we must be grateful that death was swift,” she replied. “Lord Seagry is unlikely to have suffered.” Such words, while conveying her very real sorrow, concealed a longing for one more dear to her than life itself: a degree of attachment understandable for one declared, by a most reliable source, the most charming man in the world. Yet while Eleanor’s natural modesty guarded her feelings, her family could still penetrate her heart.

“I declare you are as bad as Johnson! They certainly deserve each other, Father.”

“You will forgive your brother’s lack of grace, my dear,” admonished the General, “but you must see that this unexpected event, tragic though it undoubtedly is, must prove greatly to your advantage.”

Eleanor blushed. In her confusion, she prevaricated: “I do not know how you can suppose so.”

“Am I wrong in my surmise that you continue to care for the new Lord Seagry, in the same manner you once professed to regard Captain Johnson?”

Hanging her head to hide the mounting redness of her complexion, Eleanor uttered a quiet, “No, sir.”

“Very well then. Frederick assures me that he continues to feel the same for you as he once so prematurely declared.”

Unable to restrain herself, Eleanor rose from her chair and proclaimed passionately, “I have no reason to suppose that he has any lasting intentions towards me, if that is what you suggest, sir, and I think such a conversation entirely premature considering the very recent nature of his bereavement!”

“Come now, Eleanor!” cried an exasperated Frederick. “Surely you cannot be so totally blind to your own best interests!”

“Enough, sir!” barked the General. “Eleanor's delicacy and respect for the mourning period is exactly what I like to see in my daughter. Anything else would be unbecoming in her, but her father need not be slave to such scruples. It is my duty to position my children advantageously, and towards that end, I intend to pay my respects to Lord Seagry and invite him to dine at his earliest convenience. I assume, Miss Tilney, that you are not adverse to seeing him?”

“No, sir.”

“Very well then. I see no reason to dwell upon this sad matter further. I shall know how to proceed.”

Eleanor was thus left alone to explore the contrary sensations of sympathetic misery and hopeful flutterings that this conversation had aroused, while the gentlemen repaired to their respective quarters. Before parting, Frederick questioned his father, “Do not you believe a full morning must be endured before an engagement might be arranged?”

“I think that we must not be the ones to suggest anything less. However, if Seagry's feelings are as you describe, combined with the obvious duty he has, as the very last of his family, to secure the succession, I think he may find it pragmatic to overlook such protocol.”

Frederick smiled before taking himself off to make the acquaintance of a new claret his father recently procured.


Unaccountable as it may seem to those of more elevated hearts and minds, sometimes callous avarice proves remarkably effective in securing the happiness of not just those who would stoop to its employment, but also of those truly deserving. Such was the case for Eleanor Tilney and Daniel Johnson, Viscount of Seagry. General Tilney, master strategist, quickly secured both young people in the assurance of their mutual affections, and, as he predicted, the confines of mourning were easily set aside by a young man in love. As society’s dictates proved remarkable flexible when the future of a noble house was at stake, no more than three months saw the banns read and vows exchanged, and nary a whisper of censure was to be heard on the matter.

General Tilney had many reasons to find satisfaction in the arrangement, but by far the most prominent was the elevation of his daughter to the peerage. So elated was he when he first hailed Eleanor “Your Ladyship!” that she, the master strategist’s daughter, saw an opportunity to turn his extraordinary good humor to good account, and obtained forgiveness for Henry. So generous was the General in his triumph as to grant his second son permission to be a fool if he liked, thus bestowing upon Henry and Catherine all the acceptance they required to guarantee their own happiness.
Henry was not surprised to receive an invitation to Abbey. Eleanor's marriage having freed her to correspond as readily as she chose with her disgraced brother, he was well informed regarding the General's softened sentiments. When General Tilney's summons arrived, Henry had only to be pleased, not astonished. A the given date and time he dutifully appeared, and the welcome he received from his father leaving nothing to be desired, he was quickly reestablished in his customary quarters of the ancestral home.

It was not until the evening meal that the General broached the subject of his son's desired marriage. “Her ladyship tells me the Morlands are not as necessitous as previously believed.”

“Eleanor, as usual, is perfectly correct in her understanding, sir.”

“Hmm,” replied the General, redoubling his attention to his food before choosing to proceed. “I understand you have been to Fullerton, a freehold property, and there made the family's acquaintance.”

“Yes I have, sir, upon the occasion of my requesting Miss Morland's hand in matrimony.”

“But the Morlands would not consent to the match. I admit to being rather surprised by that news.”

“Again, sir, you prove yourself in full command of the circumstances. Though disappointed by his stance, I cannot blame Mr. Morland for being uncomfortable with an engagement while you stood in opposition.”

“No. Nor can I.” For several minutes father and son ate in silence before the General plunged further into the matter at hand. “Miss Morland is the eldest daughter of the house?”

“Yes sir.”

“And her elder brother, so Frederick reports, is not of robust constitution.”

“I certainly would not describe him so. He seems hale and healthy to me, though his personality is not one which could be described as forceful.”

“You dispute your brother's opinion?”

“I think Frederick, living the life of a soldier, might be misled by the more subdued mannerism of one destined for the clergy.”

“I assume he is his father’s heir?”

“No sir. There are two brothers before him. If I understand the situation correctly, he will be the recipient of a living currently in Mr. Morland's possession, as well as a portion of equal value.”

“Miss Morland has three elder brothers, does she?” he confirmed disgruntledly, privately lamenting their existence before asking, “And what do the other two do with themselves?”

“I have never met either, sir, but I understand the eldest is interested in politics, having studied the law, while the next pursues a military career.”

“A military man, eh?”

Perceiving his father's thoughts, Henry clarified, “As you have found the occupation suitable for your own son, sir, you must know that an active parent, such as Mr. Morland, would see his child placed in a good regiment. I think he is unlikely to face heavy combat.”

“Yes. Yes, of course,” replied the General, striving to hide any disappointment he felt. “And in regards to the Allens, they continue to take great interest in Miss Morland, do they not, though she is not their godchild?”

“The Allens have been good friends to Miss Morland, but she does not have any expectation of being favored by them in Mr. Allen's will, if that is your implication, sir.”

“She must cultivate their friendship.”

“As her nearest neighbors, she is a great deal in their company.”

“That is as it should be. I suppose time will tell. I wonder if they have any nephews or nieces?”

“I cannot say, sir.”

“Very well. Let's get to the heart of the matter. What can Miss Morland expect in way of a dowry?”

“Three thousand pounds.”

“It is certainly not a handsome portion, but it is something to secure her future, and perhaps time will increase her fortunes. You are you own man, sir, and I will not obstruct your chosen path, but I do ask you to consider carefully before acting imprudently. You could do a great deal better with your family and advantages than some obscure clergyman’s daughter.”

“I assure you I have given the matter a great deal of thought, sir. Miss Morland is precisely the kind of unaffected young lady to suit my tastes. I have known far too many society women, putting on airs and false pretenses in order to attract, and I have found none appealing. Miss Morland is all candor and affection. She will make me very happy.”

“I do not comprehend your inclinations, but I admit she is a pleasing young lady, and her prospects, as I said, may very well improve. I imagine you require some proof of my consent to show to the Morlands?”

“A letter would do very nicely, sir.”

“I cannot say it is the match I would have liked for you, but you will have your letter by morning. I expect you are in rather a hurry to deliver the news?”

“Yes, sir. If you find it convenient, I shall leave for Fullerton after breakfast.”

The General emitted a caustic chuckle. “Yes, that is the way with young love. I just hope your enthusiasm outlasts countless children and fading bloom.”

“As you said before, sir, time will tell.”
No one who had ever seen Henry Tilney in his infancy would have supposed him born to be a hero, but when he came riding into the parsonage grounds two days later, he seemed every bit a Valencourt to Catherine's mind, though happily more effective and less inconvenient than Emily’s hapless lover. For these merits and more, the Morlands warmly welcomed him, and the letter from General Tilney, whose courteously worded yet empty professions were easily seen through, was greeted with glee. While Catherine, courtesy of a secret correspondence, had good reason to suspect the moment of triumph near at hand, she nevertheless received news of her engagement with all the excitement and enthusiasm one might expect, the sight of which reaffirmed in Henry's heart all his best beliefs in her character. What young man would not be moved by a lovely young lady's profession that he has made her the happiest of all creatures? Mr. Tilney had little choice but to object, insisting the title belonged to him, and a great deal of enjoyment was derived in arguing the point, an occupation to which the rest of the family was happy to abandon them.

Henry Tilney remained at Fullerton for one week, getting to know his new brothers and sisters, enjoying the unfeigned hospitality of the Morland family, and relishing his time with Catherine, until his father summoned him homeward. Though the General was very well able to part with his younger son for the months during which he was in disgrace, now that amends had been made, he found him quite necessary to his comfort. Even had his father not written to bring him back to the Abbey, Henry would not neglect his parish any longer, his absence being both extended and unplanned. Yet while their week of pleasure lasted, the engaged couple was able to make all the needed decisions attending their impending marriage, as well as enjoying many a casual, and one highly formal, evening of entertainment with the Allens. Mrs. Allen took just as much pleasure in the match – perhaps even more so – than the Morlands. After all, it was she who had the good sense to require a pleasant young companion in Bath, and had she not been gifted with such foresight, the acquaintance could never have come about. Mrs. Allen also took it upon herself to contribute to Catherine’s wedding clothes, an act of generosity which, when he learned of it, did much to increase the General's hope of a future bequest.

The wedding was planned for the end of the year. The young couple would have liked to marry as soon as the banns might be read, but Mrs. Morland insisted she still had far too much household information to drill into Catherine's whimsical head for the wedding to take place so very soon. Mr. Tilney, being so disobliging as to see Catherine's deficiencies as well as her charms, found his future mother's purpose rather worthy, and while expressing his disappointment at the delay, could also find humor in her characterization. The lady in question, however, took umbrage at such slander, and if Mr. Tilney had not been infallible in her eyes, his amusement might have precipitated their first real argument. Fortunately, as Henry’s opinion was with Mrs. Morland, there could be no question to the contrary, thus diverting disaster.

The couple parted tenderly, renewing their promises to correspond, happy that concealment was at an end. “I shall write to you every day,” Catherine promised with fervor.

Henry smiled in his sardonic way. “If you insist, I shall relish each letter, but please do not take it as a waning of my affections if you do not receive such rapid responses. There is much to do at Woodston, and I am afraid that such superficial missives, which is all you would receive if I set myself to writing daily, would not be to your liking. Will it not be far more satisfying to receive two or three truly heartfelt letters a week instead? Besides, if you must express yourself each day, you had far better put those thoughts and feelings into that journal I still have been unable get you to admit to keeping.”

“But I truly do not keep a journal, Henry! I am not such a diligent creature as to be able to maintain such a practice.”

“Then perhaps you should start. It would certainly be an aid to Mrs. Morland's attempts to reform your sadly lacking character.”

“Oh! You do not mean what you say, surely?”

“Not in regards to what matters. But if you do start keeping a journal, I might have the pleasure of seeking it out once we are married and reading all your best-kept secrets. Is not such a violation of privacy romantic? Besides, you may even find the practice helpful, once you have all a wife's household cares of which to keep track.”

“If I am only keeping it in lieu of writing to you, I shall gladly show it to you, as it can contain nothing I would not readily profess.”

“And are you so certain that such an attitude will survive marriage? The time may come when your feelings are very different.”

“Never! I shall only keep a journal if you promise most faithfully to read it.”

“In that case, how can I do anything but concede to your wishes? In return, I shall begin a journal as well, one destined for your eyes. It may not be a thrilling as Mrs. Radcliffe's tales, but perhaps you will find it a bit more edifying than history?”

“Will you? Truly?” He nodded in response. “Now that is romantic! When we are married, we can set aside a time each evening to record and share our thoughts. Will we not be cozy in your lovely drawing room, side by side on the yellow sofa?”

“No as cozy as if it were green,” he laughed. “So you had rather indulge in such domestic comforts than be confined to a dank tower? You have changed these few months, have you not, my Catherine?”

She blushed becomingly, “I think I have learned to judge at least a bit better than to crave such adventures for myself. I shall continue to enjoy reading about them, but I much prefer the honest, modern comforts of England to the dizzying emotions of Gothic adventure.”

“Well put, my love, and will it offend you if I profess myself glad?”

“Not a bit!”

“Excellent,” he smiled, “for the honest, modern comforts to be had in a well-proportioned, English parsonage are all I have to offer.”

Catherine only returned to the house several minutes after Henry rode away, having watched him long after the very last glimpse of his retreating form could be distinguished, staring longingly in the direction that he had disappeared. Mrs. Morland, who had observed much of this behavior from the parlor window, shook her head at her daughter's quixotic absurdities but did not interfere. When Catherine entered the parlor and lethargically picked up her work, her mother refrained from scolding her into better behavior. Ten children might have robbed Mrs. Morland of much of her own whimsicality, but they had not deprived her of the memories of youth, and she could still vividly recall her own sensations when being courted by Mr. Morland. Catherine, therefore, would be granted some degree of lenience, but after two hours of sighing in her chair, or, conversely, pacing the room, Mrs. Morland lost her patience.

“Really, Catherine, what an example you set for your sisters! You should be celebrating your upcoming nuptials, now that they are guaranteed, rather than moping about in this feeble manner. Do you not have a great deal of plans to make and work to accomplish? If you cannot find productive occupation, I would be very gratified if you made an inventory of the storeroom. We shall have many causes to entertain in the near future, and we must not find ourselves unprepared.”

“I'm sorry, Mama, and I am indeed grateful that General Tilney has bestowed his blessing, but the past week has been so lovely with Henry here, and the house just feels empty without him.”

“Empty? That would be novel.” Catherine looked hurt, and her mother said in softened tones, “It isn’t that I don’t understand your feelings, my dear, but they will not be assuaged by such indulgence. Healthy distraction is what you require. Keep your mind busy, and the time until you next see Mr. Tilney will soon pass, I assure you.”

“I had hoped to write to him everyday, but he encouraged me to begin a journal instead.” At this recollection, Catherine's spirits rose. “He says he shall read it, and in turn, he will keep one himself for my perusal. Is it not a happy thought?”

“Rather impractical, I should say. What use is it to a lady to record her private thoughts if they are only to be aired before her husband?”

“I think it is a lovely idea, Mama, and Henry says that such a practice will prove useful once I have a household to run, as it will give me a place to keep track of the tasks in need of doing.”

“Did he?” Mrs. Morland asked with interest. “I knew I liked your young man. That is a notion of which I can thoroughly approve, and it begins to make sense that he would want to read it. Taking on such a young, flighty thing as yourself, he will be able to provide much useful advise on how to best get on.”

“I shall begin at once,” cried Catherine enthusiastically, ignoring this critique and hastily making her way to the door.

“Not so fast, young lady,” her mother called. “I think you had best start with the storeroom. It will give you something concrete to record, rather than just your romantic professions.”

“Yes, ma'am,” replied Catherine, a bit downcast.

“And tomorrow you may oversee the commencement of the laundry!” were the matron's parting words, spoken while suppressing a chuckle as her eldest daughter exited the room.

“Why do you smile so, Mama?” Sally asked, having listened to the exchange between her sister and mother with no small degree of interest. “I cannot imagine anything humorous to be found in the wash. It is a horrid task.”

“It is not the activity I find amusing, my dear, but my own vision of the content such occupation will provide your sister's nascent journal.”

“Oh! I understand,” nodded Sally. “Catherine will write something along the lines of, 'My love for you, dear Henry, is like the store closet, endless in its bounty!' Will she not?”

Mrs. Morland allowed her laughter free rein, “Perhaps not quite the style I had imagined her composing in, but you have captured the essence of my mirth, dear. Well done!”


In keeping with her mother’s prediction, and in spite of her own conviction that the following months would prove the longest she had ever endured, Catherine was surprised to discover how very quickly her wedding day approached. Between visits from Henry, shopping excursions with Mrs. Allen, Mrs. Morland's not so subtle determination to keep her daughter constantly occupied, and Catherine's own faithful letter and diary writing, the days had a way of slipping rapidly by. Soon her constant question became not, “How much longer must I wait?” but, “How am I to accomplish all that must be done?” Both inquiries found satisfaction in the end, and not only was the day of her marriage imminent, but Catherine was as thoroughly prepared for it as an innocent girl of eighteen could possibly be. As she prepared to spend her last night in the bedroom of her youth, Sally, with whom she shared the room, kept up a steady stream of conversation.

“Are you not a bit frightened, Catherine? Mr. Tilney seems a very fine man, but how well do you really know him, having spent only intermittent time together this past year?”

“These are daunting questions to be asking me now, my dear, but be assured that I have no fears. I may not have spent endless hours in Mr. Tilney's company, but those I have revealed his character most thoroughly. He is not some creature from a novel, come to sweep me off my feet and then betray a dark internal nature only after marriage,” she said sagely, “and if he were, what would be his motivation to conceive such a deception? I am no heiress, and his willingness to thwart his father's wishes in proposing to me proves the sincerity of his feelings.”

“But James thought that Miss Thorpe was so disinterested, and you saw first hand how that sad affair came to an end.”

“Sally, do not even begin to compare Isabella Thorpe's character to that of Mr. Tilney's! There can be no two more different creatures, one making constant protestations that her behavior negated, while the other has ever been consistent and true. I have no false notions that everything will always be perfect. Mama has been most insistent that we, like all couples, will have our trials to bear, but there is no one in this world with whom I would rather spend this life with, throughout its triumphs and tribulations, than Henry Tilney. When you fall in love, you will understand exactly what I mean.”

True to her word, when Catherine walked down the aisle the next morning on her father’s arm, she exuded confidence and radiant happiness. Her loving gaze brought a fervent prayer of thanks to Henry’s heart, already overflowing with the pure contentment a true gentleman deserves upon achieving his heart's desire.

The bells rang and everybody smiled, though none more so than the bride and groom themselves. To begin perfect happiness at the respective ages of twenty-six and eighteen is to do pretty well. Some interested in the young couple might suggest that the General’s unjust interference, so far from being really injurious Henry and Catherine’s felicity, was rather conducive to it, improving their knowledge of each other and adding strength to their attachment. Whether the tendency of this work be to recommend parental tyranny or reward filial disobedience is a question I leave to the philosophers amongst you. I, like another author, am content to set aside moral undertones in favor of romantic gratification.

The End

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Valentine's Day Giveaway Winner Announced

I was supposed to do this yesterday, but a surprise visit from my brother-in-law pushed it from my mind. Sorry for being tardy! The winner of the Valentine's Day cards I made is:

Lady Disdain!

Congratulations! You will receive an email from me regarding further details.

I'm now engaged in a new little project - a bit of craftiness to help me cope with this interminable wait for Second Glances to come out (I know I've now said this too many times, but it should be any day now). If you were charmed by the cards and have a penchant for Austen (and why else on Earth would you be here?), please check back this week to see the new manner I've found to pay homage to my favorite author. Maybe I'll even have some book news...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy by Regina Jeffers

Longtime readers of this blog will know the great love I have for Regina Jeffers books.  The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy is, in many way emblematic of her work, combining vivid scenery and historic detail to bring the world of Austen's characters intensely alive, as in this passage:
He wove his way through yet another overflowing berm before he entered the narrow valley below the rocky ledge. A marshy moor flanked by thick heather awaited him, and Wickham urged his horse cautiously forward. "Easy," he said calmly. although he felt anything but calm. He wanted to be free of the constant downpour. He wanted dry clothes. He wanted to escape Scotland, his past, and Darcy's revenge.

The horse stepped gingerly. A sucking noise following each release of its hoofs. "Not much farther," he said as he stroked the animal's mane, while encouraging it forward with his knees. "There is bound to be a lean-to."

One step. Then two. Step by step closer to a few minutes of dry shelter and the opportunity to weigh his options. Where to go next? What to do about Lydia? How to avoid Darcy's retribution? All his choices remained out of reach - nearly as elusive as the cottage's shelter.
Tantalizing, isn't it? The entire book is seductive - I can think of no better word to use - carrying the reader irresistibly forward through its plot, but the terrain covered is sinister in the extreme. Thank goodness the main characters are not implicated in the dark world Ms. Jeffers creates, complete with pretty much everything licentious. Welcome to Normanna Hall. Delving into Scottish lore, the reader is lead through a twisted tale of intrigue:
Domhnall bit back his retort. Somehow, his uncle had weaseled his way into a welcomed position with the MacBethan household. Domhnall wondered what his Uncle McCullough knew of his mother's "madness" - of the way she had sent them all on a ticket straight to Hell. "Tell me, Uncle," he said through gritted teeth, "when was my father's edict regardig your presence at Normana rescinded?"

"It be no longer Coll's house," his mother interceded.

"No, it is mine, and I am my father's child," Domhnall growled. "I may be the product of my father's lying early on with a bastard's daughter, but I do not need to be reminded of my lineage by my mother's equally ruined family."
I have been noticing an increasingly sinister strain in Ms. Jeffers works. I did not review her last book I read, The Scandal of Lady Eleanor, because I was unsure how to deal with the deviant sexuality which forms a foundation for the plot. At the time, I excused myself on the grounds that the book was not Austenesque, but before I read it I had intended to review it anyway. It was an easy out of an awkward situation, but my cowardice only delayed the pain, and now I am in the same situation without an escape clause.

The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy is a beautifully written book, but I could not enjoy it. I anxiously turned each page, but the content just made me extremely uncomfortable. Others are sure to feel differently, and I encourage those interested in such things to read this book, but I read Austenesque to escape from the constant inundation of violence and horror we are subjected to in our society. This book felt like a terrible news story, the kind that leaves you wishing you could erase the information from your mind.

This book is my second review for the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ms. Dawn: Are you out there?

More than two years ago, I asked for suggestions for the title of my second novel. A reader known only as "Ms. Dawn" suggested Second Glances. Now the book will soon be out (finally!), and I have no idea how to get the promised copy of the book to her. If you are out there, Ms. Dawn, please get in contact so I can send you your copy. Or, if anyone knows her, please let her know I am searching for her. I thanked her in the book for the title suggestion, and I would love for her to see her name in print. Thanks!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day and Card Giveaway

I have never been hugely enthusiastic about this holiday. As a child, it was largely the occasion of pain and embarrassment, and as an adult it has been little more than an excuse to eat out. Not so anymore, now that there is a little girl in the house. May my daughter will always feel the enthusiasm she currently displays for Valentine's Day, but even if its glory fades in her mind with the years, she has inadvertently reignited it in mine.

Amidst my toddler centric crafting (I've cut more pink and red hearts out than I can count, and not only paper, but also felt, fabric, and gingerbread), I was inspired to put together a set of Pride and Prejudice inspired valentines, which it will be my great pleasure to bestow upon one of you. My original intention was to do one card quoting each hero, but I was stymied by the rapid realization that only a couple of Austen's heroes make great declarations of love, and Mr. Darcy's is during his failed proposal. I can, however, dwell on those few, most cherished moments in Austen's novels, when the hero expresses those sentiments which we have all been aching to confirm.

First, I must have my Mr. Darcy moment:
"In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you." 
How Elizabeth does not melt, no matter how boorish the subsequent diatribe, always astounds me. So simple, so succinct, and so perfect.

Next, Mr. Knightley's speech:
"I cannot make speeches, Emma:" he soon resumed; and in a tone of such sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing.--"If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am.--You hear nothing but truth from me.--I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it.--Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma, as well as you have borne with them. The manner, perhaps, may have as little to recommend them. God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover.--But you understand me.--Yes, you see, you understand my feelings--and will return them if you can. At present, I ask only to hear, once to hear your voice."
Cannot make speeches, indeed! Would but all men be so eloquent, fewer ladies would have tepid feelings about Valentine's Day.

And last but never least, Captain Wentworth's letter:
I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in

F. W.
Those who think Austen lacks passion must have missed Persuasion, because not even Mr. Rochester makes such a heartfelt declaration (or if he does, it is only after pursuing those mind games and insincerities an Austen hero would abhor, and which cannot add to a lady's happiness). To be the recipient of such unreserved sentiments, especially from such a man, would make anyone's Valentine's Day blissfully perfect. Gravel Walk, here we come!

Regarding the other heroes, I'll say only that I desperately wish I had such a moment to quote fro Mr. Tilney, and that I am really rather happier not hearing such sentiments from either Mr. Ferrars or Mr. Bertram.

What do you consider Austen's most romantic moments? Tell me all about it in a comment below, including your email address, and you may be the recipient of this handcrafted collection of Valentine's Day cards:

This giveaway is open internationally through February 22nd. I'll announce a winner on the 23rd. Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

George Knightley, Esquire: Lend Me Leave by Barbara Cornthwaite

(Note to readers: I began writing this post last Monday, but my daughter has been sick all week, and I never managed to finish it until today. These circumstances have rendered the following content, like that of Northanger Abbey, is a bit dated upon publication, though the closer proximity to Valentine's Day is entirely appropriate for such a wonderful love story)

I meant to spend last weekend reading all twenty-six, frenzied posts from the one woman experiment in insanity that was my version of a Pride & Prejudice Readathon (I'm so out of the loop these days I did not even know the BBC was having their own Readathon on the 200th anniversary until the day before, and the realization only increased the already intensely isolating quality of the experience), but I do not yet have the courage to confront it all. Instead, I delved into the world of Donwell and Highbury with Barbara Cornthwaite, rereading George Knightley, Esquire Book One: Charity Envieth Not (read my review here), and tearing through Book Two: Lend Me Leave. One benefit of the Readathon seems to be the reclamation of my reading time. Hallelujah! May it only last.

I've been aching to read this book for several years, and it is the kind of yearning the makes me nervous, for I have been burned before: adoring the first book of two in a series and finding its  conclusion disappointing. Not this time. Ms. Cornthwaite has again brought alive the world of Mr. Knightley with stunning clarity. In Emma, Austen gives us her most broadly developed community (thanks in no small part to Miss Bates), and Ms. Cornthwaite collects each and every detail, spinning and expounding them into a faithful narrative for our hero. Here is Mr. Knightley, lord of the manor, settling the disputes of his tenants, attending meetings at the Crown, fulfilling his function as magistrate, and generally making sure everyone in his realm has everything they require. Due to my long and abiding interest in the treatment of madness in the 19th century (which, synchronistically, plays a roll in the new P&P sequel I've been planning), I particularly enjoyed his efforts to establish a county asylum, an endeavor compelled by the blatant insanity of a tenant's sister. The book is chock full of similar episodes, anchored in history, of a benevolent landlord's daily occupations and concerns, but the plot's driving force remains those events original to Austen. 

In the first book, the timing of Mr. Knightley's realization of his love for Emma was perfectly developed, and in book two we see him struggling with the consequences of this awakening, particularly his jealously of Frank Churchill. I admit to sensations of discomfort while watching Mr. Knightley lose his well-regulated mind to love. His passion is potent, verging on obsessive, and while I find Ms. Cornthwaite's depiction both believable and touching, it is not how I'm inclined to imagine Mr. Knightley coping with his emotions. I feel somewhat guilty recording this slight criticism, for overall the insight into his mind is blissful in its perfection. His observations of Mrs. Elton are priceless, as in this letter to brother John:
Yes, the new Mrs. Elton is now among us. I imagine that Isabella will soon hear from Emma on the subject, tho' I think Emma will likely moderate her words for her sister. You will have a fairly accurate picture of Mrs. Elton's character when I tell you about the call the Eltons paid to the Abbey today as they returned my wedding-visit. You will be pleased to learn that in her estimation, the Abbey compares favourably with Maple Grove, the seat of her sister's husband. You have never heard of the place before, you say? Neither had I, which now seems incredible, as I gather that it is the pride of Somerset. As Maple grove has been in existance for, I take it, something less than a century. and is evidently decorated in the first stare of fashion, the only resemblance Mrs. Elton could produce between Maple Grove ad Donwell is the air of refinement and - she almost said "wealth", but replaced it just in time with "Prosperity".

She is much disappointed with the card-parties in Highbury. Her hostesses, one and all, have neglected to serve ice at their gatherings (where does she suppose they will get it from? This is not Bath), and, worse, no one has taken the trouble to purchase new packs of cards for each table. She has evidently not grasped the fact that it is done in the large parties of Bath in order to prevent cheating, not as a proof of elegance. Or perhaps she has understood the reason, and is in fact suspicious of Mrs. Goddard or Mrs. Perry, supposing them to be regularly cheating the other ladies out of a sixpence or two. I could believe either of her.
I also love this scene on Box Hill, before Emma's rudeness, as it beautifully displays the keen capabilities of his heart:
"It is breathtaking, is it not, Mr. Knightley?" said Miss Bates at his side. "I was here many years ago - dear me, it must be twenty-years now - when I was rather a young lady. A small party of friends - Captain Fairfax and my sister, Mr. Prescott and his sister - my father's curate, you know."

Mr. Prescott... Good heavens, I had forgotten all about him, thought Knightley. Mr. Prescott had been the last curate in the parish of Highbury, before the town's population had diminished to the point where a curate was not needed. Knightley's memories of the man were verty dim, and he seemed to recall that he had been a tall man who had married a woman from Langham and soon afterwards been given a parish somewhere in Hampshire.

"My dear Jane," said Mrs. Elton, "Come and look at this! I believe you can see that church from here - remember the church with the odd tower we saw on the way here? Come and see if it the same one."

Miss Fairfax came dutifully to Mrs. Elton's side and looked out into the distance in the direction Mrs. Elton was pointing out.

"You may be right, Mrs. Elton," said Jane in so listless a tone that Knightley looked at her thoughtfully. Miss Fairfax had escaped Mrs. Elton's company yesterday by walking home, but she could hardly do the same today.

"My dear Augusta," said Elton, "ought the food baskets to be sitting in the sun there? I would have thought that the shade of a tree might be a better place."

"I told the servants to move the baskets - that shiftless Betty does not hear one word out of three that I say. I will go and see to it that things are done properly - servants can never be expected to think of these things."

She started off, with Elton at her heels, and Knightley saw his chance.

"Miss Bates, Miss Fairfax - will you join me in exploring the hill?"

"Yes, thank you, Mr. Knightley," said Jane, with the first smile he had seen from her all day.

"Have you heard anything of Mr. Prescott lately?" asked Knightley. "I have not thought of him these ten years or more. I believe he was living in Hampshire."

"Oh, yes - he has a parish near Petersfield. Sophia - his sister - writes to me. We used to go on drives quite often - we had the carriage then, and dear Papa would let us drive with - I think he rather hoped - ah, well. How long ago that was, to be sure!" There was a wistful note in her voice as she said the lasy.

Long ago, indeed. The Bates' had not had a carriage for the last decade, at least. Miss Bates had been a young lady then - he could not picture her as demure, for she would always have been talkative - but in her youth her leading characteristic must have been her enthusiasm. He had a vision of her as a young lady with a party of friends - bubbling over with good cheer, enthusiastic for every scheme proposed - perhaps being escorted by Mr. Prescott - who Mr. Bates evidently had hoped would marry his daughter. Knightley glanced at Miss Fairfax to see what she thought and was struck bu her inattention. She walked languidly and seemed to be indifferent to her surroundings. It might be that she was weary - the heat was oppressive and any exercise in it was liable to produce exhaustion in one who had been lately ill.
Like all the best Austenesque, the George Knightley, Esquire series illuminates the original book for a reader, shining new light on the nuances and intimations of the text, while providing what we most crave: more time with Austen's irresistable creations. I love that this genre has given devoted Janeites a new medium for discussing Austen's texts, and Ms. Cornthwaite has added admirably to the conversation.