Friday, November 13, 2009

Another "What If?" Post - Why must we follow the Darcys into the bedroom?

I just read Remembrance of the Past by Lory Lillian, a Pride and Prejudice variation premised on the idea of Elizabeth and Darcy meeting in London before she travels to Derbyshire, Mr. Gardiner's business having postponed their trip. This book is a tomb and there are parts of it I quite enjoyed but, like so many in this genre, it's too sexy for my taste.

Let me clarify a few things. First of all, I appreciate the fact that Ms. Lillian does not include any incidents of premarital sex between our hero and heroine (which really upsets me), though they do become fairly intimate and visit each other's bedrooms (cringe). Second of all, despite appearances, I am not a prude. I do not at all mind sex scenes in literature, particularly if they have a valid reason for being included, but it just feels so wrong in Austen. After all, what would Jane think? Does it matter?

Obviously there are two camps on this issue. I has to admit I think mine is rather weak. I base this on the fact that the vast majority of Austen fan fiction I read depicts Darcy and Elizabeth, particularly, in some sort of sexualized encounter. So I ask why? What is it about these two characters that inspires eroticism? Is it in the book somewhere? Did I miss it? Certainly no one is rushing off to depict Fanny and Edmund Bertram in the sack; it must be something about Elizabeth and Darcy. Perhaps, like the growth of the internet, sex could be the secret to Pride and Prejudice's status? I shudder at my reasoning.

Elizabeth and Darcy certainly have the most passionate romance in Austen, a result of their torment and inherent to the nature of their characters. Their marriage holds every promise of perfection. Of course this is probably why so many love this story: what woman doesn't want to be swept away to Pemberley by Mr. Darcy? The problem arises, so my theory goes, in the fact that modern readers have such vivid imaginations about what follows. Did Jane Austen intend to write a bodice ripper? I really don't think so.

These are deep philosophical questions to tackle and I am likely to spend a good portion of my life attempting to resolve them. I would love to know what other's think about this phenomenon - someone please defend the sex scenes and offer a better rationale than mine! I can't bear to think of dear Jane this way.

Anyway, this post is supposed to be about Remembrance of the Past, almost 500 dense pages of Elizabeth and Darcy. Its steamy aspects aside, the book's scenario allows the romance to unfold with a satisfying rapidity, though an understanding between our heroes does not come easy. Ms. Lillian has introduced a new, rather compelling character, Lady Cassandra, a longtime friend of the Darcy's and a new, thoroughly despicable villain, Lord Markham. It was a fun read, much better written than some of the other novels of this kind, but I would have enjoyed it more if everyone had kept their stockings on.


  1. Well, I don't even like sex scenes in other books, not just Jane Austen books, so I'm not a good choice for defending them.

    And I think Fanny and Edmund are quite sweet, and think they would have had many fat children. So there. :-)

    But my favorite couple is definitely Emma and Mr. Knightley - and they do tend to get a few of those fanfic steams. And I tend not to like them very much either.

  2. You think Fanny and Edmund would have fat children?

    Yes, Emma certainly does have some steamy adaptations, but nothing quite as crazy as what sometimes goes on between Darcy and Elizabeth. Any theories as to why it's this couple's privacy that is constantly being invaded? I really am curious to figure this out as I totally don't get it.

  3. "Fat children" is a phrase I stole from Firefly - it has nothing to do with whether I think said children would actually have a lot of lipids or not. :-)

    I think the Darcy and Elizabeth thing is based on several factors:

    1) It's the most popular story, and thus attracts the most people, meaning also the largest percentage of those who do such things.

    2) It's the easiest story to twist into a cheesy love story and stripping out the moral and artistic merit.

    3) I think most women would rather be Elizabeth than any other heroine (though I love Emma and Fanny more)

    4) The 1995 adaptation (and to a lesser extent the 2005 one) encouraged a level of sensuality (which I thought was appropriate in the films, but people took it as license).

    5) Darcy has always attracted the kind of mindless squeeing - similar to Rochester, except he's not lame, manipulative, and semi-sociopathic.

    6) Clearly, to irritate me personally. :-)

  4. Thanks for clarifying about the lipids.

    Part of this is trying to pinpoint why exactly Pride & Prejudice enjoys such popularity - a phenomenon much older than Colin Firth that has nothing to do with Mr. Darcy swimming in a lake. Jane Austen's stories are romances, after all, and we're supposed to fall in love with her character's (I obviously have a thing for Mr. Darcy, though I hope its not mindless, and you are enamored with Emma).

    What really bothers me is that my love for Austen's character's is a worshipful love: I can just see them all now, a pantheon of regency gentlefolk inhabiting Olympus. While Gods are known to descend time again to chose a lover, humans don't return the favor. I want Austen's characters to retain their perfection and contemplating the size of Mr. Darcy's member does not fit into that plan. He would not approve of taking such liberties with his person.

    I guess what I'm trying to get at is that I don't understand how writers who love this story rationalize subjecting Austen's characters to such treatment. I want someone to thoughtfully provide an explanation. Rochester I can sort of understand - Bronte felt it was O.K. to maim him so have at it (I don't really mean that: he and Jane deserve some peace and quiet). But if Mr. Darcy saw what people were doing to Elizabeth he would certainly put an end to it.

    You see I'm perfectly in tune with why the insertion of sex into these stories bothers me: I consider it a violation of Austen. This extends to most of this monster stuff as well and specifically addresses your third point. I have read a lot of sexy Austen fan fic and so much of it includes scenes in which Elizabeth is sexually assaulted. Why do such a thing to Lizzy? If so many woman want to be Elizabeth ... this is very disturbing! Clearly, it irritates me personally too.

  5. I really think you're over-analyzing people's motives. Let's face it, people like sex. It sells. Maybe it doesn't appeal to Austen purists but it certainly works for the masses. I don't think there is a more complex explanation, just biology.

  6. You're probably right. I have a tendency to over think these things. Thanks for trying to bring me back to Earth. We'll see if it worked by how much I rant and rave this week.

  7. I just posted my thoughts on this book over on my site, and I have to agree with most of what you said. I think the book was delightful until it delves into the sex bits, then it becomes a different book altogether. The author is clearly talented but It felt like I was reading two different books...the sudden change was jarring.

  8. Welcome Bee! Thanks for perusing the blog. Did you see my review of Rainy Days, Lilian's other book? It has much less sex in it (although LOTS of kissy scenes) and is really sweet story. You might enjoy it more.

  9. Yes, and I went ahead and ordered a copy! I'm excited to read it, so thank you!

  10. Rainy days was very good. I also cringe when there's sex scenes about Darcy and Elizabeth. It just seems wrong. I'm not a purist but what makes the book good is our own imagination. That hint of romance that gets us thinking. I don't need the specifics written. It's not nesissary. we all can imagine the particulars it's the journey that matters.

  11. I completely agree, Anonymous. Did you read my conversation about this issue with Lory Lilian? You might find it interesting:

    Thanks for stopping by!