Friday, April 30, 2010

First Impressions and The Darcy Cousins Giveaway

On this last day of April, I am offering one last giveaway in honor of the release of my first book, First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice. Over the past month, these giveaways have revealed all kinds of information about the book: secrets I had jealously guarded until now. Earlier this week, I introduced my Georgiana, a rather outspoken young lady, who becomes her brother's confidant as he struggles with his feelings for Elizabeth. So my last question, calling upon all your faculties for conjecture, is if you were Georgiana, what arguments would you employ to convince Mr. Darcy to pursue Elizabeth?  I used five, and each you can correctly guess will gain you an entry, as will tweeting or posting about this giveaway (please be sure to let me know if you do so!). Please keep in mind that in my story, there is no rejected proposal at Hunsford, so Darcy has not had the benefit of Elizabeth's perspective on his concerns. Leave your comments, including your email address, before 12:00 AM EST on Wednesday, the 5th of May for a chance to win either a signed copy of First Impressions, or my second copy of The Darcy Cousins by Monica Fairview, which I accidentally added to my cart in my excitement to order this book. I reviewed it earlier this week (read the post here) and found it highly satisfying. This is the descrption from Amazon:

A young lady in disgrace should at least strive to behave with decorum...

Dispatched from America to England under a cloud of scandal, Mr. Darcy's incorrigible American cousin, Clarissa Darcy, manages to provoke Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. Collins, and the parishioners of Hunsford all in one morning!

And there are more surprises in store for that bastion of tradition, Rosings Park, when the family gathers for their annual Easter visit. Georgiana Darcy, generally a shy model of propriety, decides to take a few lessons from her unconventional cousin, to the delight of a neighboring gentleman. Anne de Bourgh, encouraged to escape her "keeper" Mrs. Jenkinson, simply...vanishes. But the trouble really starts when Clarissa and Georgiana both set out to win the heart of the same young man...

Thank you to everyone who has participated in these giveaways and good luck to this week's entrants. As always, I look eagerly forward to reading your comments!

Villette by Charlotte Bronte

It was with both joy and trepidation that I opened my very well-worn copy of Villette, the same one I first devoured in an eleventh grade English class. I have always written in my books, at least those I read in school, and the text is covered in enthusiastic exclamations, all made with the same black pen (it used to be my habit to use one pen, and one pen only, until it ran out of ink). To my teenage mind, Villette was the greatest book ever written. Ever since I have readily included it amongst my favorites, but I haven't read it in fifteen years, only now having the excuse to do so as part of the All About the Brontes Challenge, hosted by Laura's Reviews.

Since the age of sixteen, my tastes and habit have altered somewhat drastically. I often liken myself at the time to Marianne Dashwood - passionate, romantic, and prone to melodramatic displays.  Villette thrilled my teenage sensibilities, but I wondered if my adult sense could revel in such abject misery as I clearly remembered this book to contain. I think my anxiety reasonable, especially in light of my having already discovered that neither Jane Eyre nor Wuthering Heights move me as they once did, but it proved needless. While Villette no longer (thankfully) caused my emotions to plummet into those glorious depths of despair I once relished, it still awed me, perhaps more than ever, for it it one of the most beautifully written books it has ever been my privilege to read.

In many ways, Villette is a book of "sense and sensibility", here termed "Reason" and either "Feeling" or "Hope", which are at war within our heroine, Lucy Snowe. Like Marianne determines to "enter on a course of serious study", as a means of regulating her mind, Lucy employs similar methods to calm her fevered mind, doing her best to check her repressed, passionate nature, but to no avail:

I tried different expedients to sustain and fulfill existence: I commenced an elaborate piece of lace-work, I studied German pretty hard, I undertook a course of regular reading of the driest and thickest books in the library; in all my efforts I was as orthodox as I knew how to be. Was there error somewhere? Very likely. I only know the result was as if I had gnawed a file to satisfy hunger, or drank brine to quench thirst.

Similar to Jane Eyre, Lucy Snowe has a fiery personality that is forced into restraint by her extremely restricted circumstances. She mourns the loss of all her family (in a manner never detailed) with very few pleasures to ease her pain. The demands of existence, when most pressing, allow her to act as she must for survival, but when left without occupation her mind reveals how diseased it is. The modern reader instantly recognizes in Lucy a woman suffering from severe depression. Indeed, Bronte is remarkably current in her portrayal of mental illness, her depiction at times resembling that of Sylvia Plath's in The Bell Jar, and the symptoms corresponding precisely to those listed in the DSM (I could so easily turn this post into a very long essay on psychology, which would fit very well with my discussion of physiognomy in my review of The Professor, but as I didn't get much positive feedback on that diatribe, I will spare you further musing along such lines now):

Indeed there was no way to keep well under the circumstances. At last a day and night of peculiarly agonizing depression were succeeded by physical illness, I took perforce to my bed. About this time the Indian summer closed and the equinoctial storms began; and for nine dark and wet days, of which the Hours rushed on all turbulent, deaf, disheveled - bewildered with sounding hurricane - I lay in a strange fever of the nerves and blood. Sleep went quite away. I used to rise in the night, look round for her, beseech her earnestly to return. A rattle of the window, a cry of the blast only replied - Sleep never came!

Lucy suffers throughout this book, her difficult existence only lightened by small tastes of happiness, which are inevitably snatched from her. When we examine Bronte's biography, this dismal world view begins to make sense. Villette was written shortly after the loss of her almost her entire family, Branwell, Emily, and Anne, between September of 1848 and May of 1849. Like Lucy, Charlotte was left alone and isolated with her grief. It is easy to understand why such a morbid novel was written under these circumstances, and all I can conclude is that there is a great deal of merit to the notion that great suffering produces great art. Pain oozes from this book's pages, the emotion alive and raw. Rereading Villette has caused me to better understand Bronte's famous criticisms of Austen. Sneeringly she wrote:

I have likewise read one of Miss Austen's works, Emma -- read it with interest and with just the degree of admiration which Miss Austen herself would have thought sensible and suitable -- anything like warmth or enthusiasm, anything energetic, poignant, or heartfelt, is utterly out of place in commending these works: all such demonstrations the authoress would have met with a well bred sneer, would have calmly scorned as outré and extravagant. She does her business of delineating the surface of the lives of genteel English people curiously well; there is a Chinese fidelity, a miniature delicacy in the painting: she ruffles her reader by nothing vehement, disturbs him by nothing profound: the Passions are perfectly unknown to her; she rejects even a speaking acquaintance with that stormy Sisterhood; even to the Feelings she vouchsafes no more than an occasional graceful but distant recognition; too frequent converse with them would ruffle the smooth elegance of her progress.

When compared to Bronte's masochistic suffering, Austen may indeed appear passionless. Is  this not an extension of the sense verses sensibility debate? Austen, just like Elinor Dashwood, would have smiled at Bronte's observations, content in her knowledge that she is very well-acquainted with "the stormy Sisterhood", but need not impose her internal, private torments on others. Bronte, like Marianne, would have railed against such stoicism: "Cold-hearted Elinor! Oh! worse than cold-hearted! Ashamed of being otherwise." Both authors confronted their fair share of life's torments and dealt with such trials according to their individual creeds: sense and reason on the one side, sensibility and feeling on the other. While I am overcome by admiration for Bronte's genius, I think Austen's approach a better prescription for happiness. In Persuasion, Anne Elliot observes that "it was the misfortune of poetry to be seldom safely enjoyed by those who enjoyed it completely; and that the strong feelings which alone could estimate it truly were the very feelings which ought to taste it but sparingly." Villette is just such poetry, safest when admired from a distance.  If a teenage girl of similar disposition to myself asked me if I would recommend this book, I would hesitate before doing so. Austen is much safer reading for the Mariannes of the world.

Read my other All About the Brontes reviews:

The Tenent of Wildfell Hall

The Professor

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pride and Prejudice Janeicillin: Part Four

“Wickham! Oh Wickham! Wake up!”

The screech of his wife’s voice broke upon his pounding skull, which felt as if it were being crushed by a vise. He groaned and pulled a pillow over his aching head, struggling in vein to block out Lydia’s far from dulcet tones.

“George!” she cried, grabbing the pillow away. “You must rise at once, for I have just received the most astounding news. You shall never believe what has happened!”

He blinked, the light sending a sharp stab into his temple. Moaning slightly he sat half up, glaring at the excited countenance before him, “Do you have any idea what time I retired?”

“Well after myself, I know, but whose fault is that if not your own? I have the most amazing news from Longbourn!”

Having been married long enough to know that Lydia’s whims were not to be thwarted without a good deal of exertion, he resigned himself to consciousness. “At least bring me some water before you spew your gossip. I’m terribly parched.”

For once obedient, Lydia quickly poured a glass from the jug on the mantle and brought it to her husband, spilling a few drops as she plopped herself down on the edge of the bed. Wickham added a few splashes from the flask on the nightstand before drinking deeply. “Now,” he said once the draft was drained, settling himself back against the bedding, “I will listen to your news from Longbourn. You haven’t heard from your mother since Jane’s engagement.”

“Indeed I have not. I am very surprised. I would have thought Mama would have immediately informed me of events, or Lizzy herself, but instead it has been weeks since I have heard from anyone in Hertfordshire and now am only to find out because Kitty, who really must have all the time in the world, penned me a single hasty page.” She flourished the offending letter, pouting pettishly all the while.

“Please, Lydia, just tell me what she said.”

Her smile returned, “You shan’t believe it, not in one hundred years. I never dreamed there was any attachment between them, and Kitty is quite vehement about the fact that this is a marriage of affection. What a shame we cannot be there.”

He knew that it was not Lydia’s intention to build suspense by speaking in such a vague manner, but that she really was just flutter brained. If he were ever to bring an end to this inconvenient conversation, he must coax her into coherence. “Who is getting married now, my dear?”

“Why, Lizzy of course. Did I not just say so? What is astounding is the name of the bridegroom.”

Wickham felt a sinking sensation in his gut. It couldn’t be. Ignoring the pain in his head, he bolted upright and looked Lydia square in the eye, “It isn’t Mr. Darcy, is it?”

Lydia was all amazement, “But how did you guess? I was quite convinced they hated each other. Kitty says that they met often in Kent, when Lizzy was visiting Charlotte, and again at Pemberley itself when she toured Derbyshire with the Gardiners. To think of Lizzy as mistress of such a grand estate! She will become quite insufferable, I am sure. But do think of it – my sister, Mrs. Darcy of Pemberley! La! That does sound grand, does it not?”

Lydia did not wait for a response, continuing on in the same manner while Wickham, who by now had gotten out of bed, paced the room, lost in his own thoughts. How could he have been so stupid as to believe the tale Darcy fed him about why he became involved in the Bennets’ affairs! Always he had known that his former playmate was attracted to Elizabeth Bennet – Darcy could not hide such unusual admiration from him – but never had he imagined he would condescend to marry so very far beneath him. Not that he could blame him. Elizabeth was one of the most attractive women he had known, and there were many. Certainly she would make a far more agreeable wife than the one to whom Darcy had saddled him. Well, there was nothing to be done now but to try and turn to good account the family connection. It was unfortunate he had laid his old story about the living at Kympton on Elizabeth, as she must now become acquainted with whatever of his ingratitude and falsehood had before been unknown to her. He knew she was not a lady to be fooled twice. His best avenue was her sisterly affection.

“Though why Lizzy would not wish to inform me herself, especially of such a triumphant marriage, I cannot understand. Surely, she must wish to gloat. I certainly would.”

“Perhaps you should write to her,” Wickham interjected. “Your sister must be very busy right now, but if you express the right sentiment, it might benefit us later on.”

“I have no intention of writing to Lizzy when she cannot be bothered to do so for me!”

“Do you hope to visit Pemberley?”

“Oh, yes indeed! I shall enjoy it very much.”

“Well then, Mrs. Wickham, if you think Mr. Darcy is just going to invite us to be a part of his family party, unless you make an enormous effort to maintain Elizabeth’s favor, which the nature of our marriage has already damaged, you shall surely be disappointed.”

“I do not understand you! Why would Mr. Darcy exclude us, when he was so very obliging as to secure you a commission only a few months ago?”

“Mr. Darcy might be willing to put me in the way of advancement, if he thought it would keep both us far from his person, but I assure you he will not welcome us to Pemberley, not as things currently stand. We will have to mend a great deal of fences before receiving such an invitation.”

“Well! Do not expect me to grovel to Lizzy. Surely it is her duty to make sure we are well positioned. She cares very much for appearances, and it will not look good if she denies her sister admittance to her home.” 

“Just write to her, my dear. No need to grovel. Express your congratulations sincerely, and she will reciprocate your sisterly affection. After that, who knows? Perhaps, eventually, she can even persuade Mr. Darcy to find me a position at court. That would suit us far better than Newcastle, would it not, my dear?”

“Oh George! Do you really think so? I never dreamed of such a thing! How handsome you would look in Dragoon raiment!” She threw her arms around his neck in an affectionate, and choking hug.

Laughing, he pulled her arms from around his neck, “Go on and write then, Lydia. No time like the present.”

Inspired, Lydia hurried to gather her long neglected writing materials.

“And send up a tray, wont you? I’m famished!”

The morning following the Colllins’ arrival at Lucas Lodge, the weather turned considerably colder: a first nip of winter frost in the air. Nevertheless, Mrs. Collins, accompanied by her mother and husband, set out early for Longbourn. Their arrival was most welcome by Mrs. Bennet, quite happy to recount her triumph to new and willing ears.

“There is to be a double wedding – is that not felicitous? Mr. Darcy considered obtaining a special license, for he is quite intimate with the Archbishop, you know, but he could not bear the notion of leaving Lizzy's side. He is very devoted, you see. The wedding will be held on December 3rd. I hope your duties at Hunsford, Mr. Collins, will allow you to remain in the neighbor until that time.”

“Indeed, while my obligations are many, the affairs of the parish are in such very good order that I feel perfectly confidant leaving them in the hands of my curate. I would not dream of declining such a generous invitation, especially considering the nature of our familial connection.”

While Lady Lucas patiently listened as her neighbor and her son-in-law attempted to out talk each other, Charlotte sat by Elizabeth, enjoying the familiar chatter of the Bennet sisters.

“Lady Catherine is very grand,” said Kitty knowingly. “Her pelisse when she visited was terribly elegant.”

“Arraignment is material. It is her generosity to Mr. and Mrs. Collins that illuminates the greatness of her character.”

“You were not there, Mary, when Lady Catherine came to Longbourn, and so are in no position to judge.”

“My presence on the occasion has very little to do with the matter. Observations need not be made in person.”

“Perhaps this is one of those rare occasions when the worldly and the spiritual unite to cast their blessings upon one extraordinary human being?” Elizabeth proffered.

“But Lizzy,” protested Kitty, lowering her voice so as not to be overheard by Mr. Collins, “you called Lady Catherine an insufferable cow.”

Charlotte burst out laughing, attracting the attention of the party on the far side of the room. Elizabeth waited to respond until Charlotte had regained her composure and Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Collins their simultaneous diatribes. “That was before I had the good fortune to feel the benefits of her attention. I assure you, I now regard Lady Catherine much in the light of a guardian angel.”

“How is that, Eliza?”

“Had she not been so kind as to express to Mr. Darcy her disapprobation for me, he might never have proposed.”

“Oh my! That does do justice to her meddling,” said Charlotte in a quiet tone. Then louder, “I am the recipient of just such an example of Lady Catherine’s remarkable care. Had she not taken word of your engagement rather hard, I would not now be enjoying the pleasure of your company.”

Elizabeth squeezed her friend’s hand, “I have every reason to be grateful to Lady Catherine.”

Mr. Collins could help himself no longer. He rose, his voice carrying across the room, “Of course you do, dear cousin Elizabeth. I was just saying so much myself. All who have basked in her ladyship’s favor know its glories.” He was about to cross the room to elaborate on his favorite subject when he remembered that the good lady did not favor his cousin and, grinning sheepishly, sat back down to try and resume his half of Lady Lucas’ attention.

Jane, perceiving the danger narrowly avoided, thought it time to turn the current topic of conversation, “We are very happy to have you with us at this time, Charlotte. We would have felt your absence dearly were you not able to attend the wedding.”

“As would I. I am quite content with the current state of affairs.”

“But it will be hard, will it not, to face Lady Catherine once my marriage is an accomplished fact?”

“I look to time to cool her chagrin.”

“Surely she will cease her protests, once the marriage has taken place? No good could come of harboring such resentment.”

Elizabeth shook her head doubtfully, “If you had heard the letter she sent to Mr. Darcy, I think you might better appreciate how very put out the lady feels herself to be.”

Just then the gentlemen from Netherfield were announced, arriving for their now daily visit to Longbourn. Mr. Collins jumped up to greet them, “Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley! What a pleasure to find myself in your company again so soon, sirs. We were just discussing the arrangements for your weddings to my lovely cousins. It sounds to be an event most exalted, as befits those of distinguished ancestry.” He bowed towards Mr. Darcy.

As Jane and Elizabeth greeted their fiancés, Charlotte caught her mother’s attention, reanimated from somnolence by the new arrivals, expressing through look that it was time to liberate the Bennets from their cousin’s courtesies. Lady Lucas rose and expressed her need to bring the visit to an end, extending to the entire party an invitation to dine at Lucas Lodge in two days’ time. Elizabeth and Charlotte made plans to meet the next morning for a private chat, and the guests said their goodbyes.

It did not take long for Lydia’s congratulatory letter to arrive at Longbourn. The very next morning following the above events found it in Elizabeth’s hand. She read it with a great deal of aggravation, instantly determining that Mr. Darcy should know nothing of its contents. Needing to express her chagrin to some sympathetic ear, she turned, as of old, to Jane. Elizabeth found her in her bedroom, where she had been secretly monogramming several gentlemen’s handkerchiefs, a wedding present for Mr. Bingley, whenever she could escape their mother’s fevered wedding preparations. “Read this. I must know what you make of it,” Elizabeth demanded, handing Jane the offending missive. Jane put aside her work and read aloud:


I wish you joy. If you love Mr. Darcy half as well as I do my dear Wickham, you must be very happy. It is a great comfort to have you so rich, and when you have nothing else to do, I hope you will think of us. I am sure Wickham would like a place at court very much, and I do not think we shall have quite money enough to live upon without some help. Any place would do, of about three or four hundred a year; but however, do not speak to Mr. Darcy about it, if you had rather not.

Your's, &c."

“Well?” questioned Elizabeth. “What do you think of our sister’s sentiments.”

“She should not write so,” Jane sighed. “Mr. Darcy has already done so much for them; they must manage on what they have.”

“Yes, that is very sensible, but can we expect that they will? What is to stop Wickham from racking up as many debts as he has in the past? Certainly not Lydia. She will only add to his output. And when they are on the verge of disgrace, who is it that is expected to come to their rescue? My poor Fitzwilliam – as if he hasn’t been imposed on by them enough!” Elizabeth was outraged, passion inflaming her cheeks. She saw before her an endless succession of relations, ready and able to mortify Mr. Darcy, and refused to stand for it.

“Surely, now that he is a married man, Mr. Wickham must amend his ways. Soon they will be expanding their family, and what better to make a man rise to his responsibilities than progeny?”

“Oh, my dear Jane. You are too kind. Gladly would I have things transpire as you predict, but I am not so sanguine as to expect it. No, if this can be taken as a model for Lydia’s future letters, she shall never write one I will allow Mr. Darcy to see. If they find themselves in need, I will do what I can for them myself, but I will not permit them to build their expectations on his good nature.”

“As Mrs. Darcy, it will be your responsibility to protect his interests, even when encroachment comes from your own family. Our loyalties are about to forever change, Lizzy. I hope, should the Wickhams ever attempt to intrude on Charles, that I will have your resolution.”

“You had better start cultivating it now then, as nothing is more certain than Mr. Wickham’s taking advantage of others. But no more of this. After responding, I shall burn the letter and ban both of them from my thoughts. How good of Fitzwilliam to find Wickham such a distant post that there is no danger of them attending the wedding!”

Jane tried to look sternly at her sister but utterly failed, as she herself felt the blessings of Newcastle’s remoteness far too much to frown.

Come back next Thursday for another weekly dose!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Giveaway Winners and "Mystery Speaker" Revealed!

So I've learned that if I keep my questions broad enough, no one will guess the answers. Last week I asked entrants to guess who in my book says, "Love is in abundance at Longbourn." While I received a medley of answers (Mrs. Bennet, Caroline Bingley, Kitty, Charlotte Lucas), no one correctly guessed that is was Georgiana Darcy speaking to Mr. Darcy. Nevertheless, we do have two winners. The signed copy of my book, First Impressions, goes to:


While my superfluous copy of Pemberley Manor by Kathryn Nelson goes to:


Congratulations! I shall soon be in contact with you both via email.

Would you like to know the context in which Georgiana says "Love is in abundance at Longbourn."? If so, and you have no fear of the spoiler, read on ...

          Georgiana Darcy was both surprised and delighted by her brother's unexpected arrival. Rarely did he travel spontaneously unless there was an emergency to address but she could tell upon first glance, even though Wickham weighed on his mind, that never had her brother been less burdened in his life. There was an unusual swing in his always determined stride that she had not seen before. Closer inspection revealed an excited agitation in his typically somber face. “Something certainly has affected my brother, for the positive,” she thought, “but what could possibly have induced such a remarkable change in him?” She counted on being quickly enlightened.
            After exchanging the mandatory pleasantries which must be attended to upon any reunion, regardless of their value conversationally, Darcy said, “I stop here on my way to Rosings, where I shall head tomorrow. I would continue tonight but as my aunt has no warning of my arrival, I thought coming upon her in the daylight would be less of a shock. Besides, this arrangement gives me the opportunity to visit with you, my dear. I have much to tell.”
            “More to tell than why you are off to Rosings? A place you rarely take yourself but for your annual spring visit?” Georgiana asked silently, saying aloud, “It certainly seems you do, Brother.”
            “I have formed a new acquaintance,” he said with a beaming smile that nearly took his sister aback.
            “With whom?”
            “A young lady.”
            “Oh! I see,” she replied. Both her brother's behavior and the trip to Rosings began to make sense.
            “She is a resident of Hertfordshire, Georgiana. Her father owns a small estate near Netherfield. Bingley is to marry her elder sister in December.”
            “That is wonderful news,” she exclaimed sincerely, her animated smile beaming at Darcy. She had often wondered if her brother had not entertained future hopes for herself and Mr. Bingley and was pleased to see him leave the marriage mart. Though she was fond of Mr. Bingley she had never felt anything akin to romantic attraction for him, nor did he ever betray any towards her. She suspected Darcy now had much better means of making Bingley his brother and hers as well, a role much better suited to her regard for the man. “I am delighted for him,” she said, hoping to soon feel even more delight on behalf of her brother. “What is the bride's name?”
            “Jane Bennet, the eldest of five daughters.”
            “And your young lady?” she asked with a nervous grin.
            He smiled broadly, “Miss Elizabeth Bennet, the second eldest of the house – Longbourn is its name,” he enthusiastically replied.
            “He does seem smitten!” Georgiana thought as she hung on to every detail of his account.
            “We met at a local assembly, the same at which Bingley met Miss Bennet. He harangued me into asking her to dance and quite in spite of myself I found her utterly charming. She is so unlike the women I meet in society, Georgiana; she has none of their air of falsity and connivance. I find her company thoroughly rejuvenating. She is kind, caring, honest, and terribly witty. She makes me feel happier than I have ever been and I have asked to spend more time getting to know her.”
            “Oh Fitzwilliam! She sounds wonderful. But pray, if your plans are to be courting her, why are you suddenly off to Rosings?”
            “You will have great difficulty believing the coincidence. I witnessed it and had a hard time myself grasping the notion myself. It seems that Aunt Catherine's new rector, a Mr. William Collins, happens to be cousin to the Bennets and heir of their estate. Just this week he became engaged to Mary Bennet, the third sister.”
            “Love is in abundance at Longbourn,” she replied in astonishment.
            Darcy laughed, “You know, when I first met the family I was certain that such a frantically matchmaking mother as Mrs. Bennet would frighten away all thinking prospects for her daughters. While it is uncertain if the appellation 'thinking' can be applied to Mr. Collins, I must say I either gravely underestimated her, the charms of her daughters, or the powerful force of her husband, as he has proven himself equally determined, in a far more sophisticated fashion, to achieve the same end.”

Monday, April 26, 2010

Check out my Interview at The Bennet Sisters!

Visit the new blog, totally dedicated to pride and Prejudice, The Bennet Sisters, where I have been interviewed! Jennifer Duke convinced me to reveal all kinds of personal information, which you might find intriguing, exposing just how geeky I really am. She asked me about blogging, Austen, First Impressions, and some of my other interests. Please stop by, check out the "Q&A", and browse this fantastic new blog, sure to be a hit with Austen enthusiasts.

The Darcy Cousins by Monica Fairview

I enjoyed Monica Fairview's latest book even more than her last, The Other Mr. Darcy (read my review), to which The Darcy Cousins is a sequel. Some of this can be attributed to her choice of main characters; while Ms. Fairview did an excellent job of redeeming Caroline Bingley in The Other Mr. Darcy, she now turns her attention to Georgiana Darcy, who, no matter how skillfully the former is portrayed, I find a far easier lady with whom to sympathize. Not that Miss Darcy is perfectly pleasant in The Darcy Cousins - in fact, she often comes off as a spoiled and malicious brat. Nevertheless, we give our heroine the leeway due to her age and situation: she is eighteen, thrust into the marriage mart without parental guidance, still combating Wickham's demon, and struggling to develop a sense of self. Into her life walks an American cousin, Clarissa Darcy (nothing at all like Richardson's heroine), who is endowed with all the confidence and daring Georgiana wishes for herself, and a gentleman from Kent, Henry Gatley, to whom she takes an instant dislike, thinking him haughty and judgmental. Is that not promising? Here is the scene in which they meet:

"Darcy!" said the flawlessly dressed young gentleman. "A very good morning to you."

Darcy greeted him like an old friend. He quickly performed the introductions. The gentleman was Henry Gatley, a property owner from a few miles away.

"And here are my two cousins, newly arrived from Boston."

An amused look passed over the young man's face. "Yes, I am well aware of the fact."

What he did not say, but meant, was that every single member of the congregation was well aware of it.

"You have strong powers of observation, Mr Gatley," remarked Georgiana, stung by his implication. What right had he to judge her cousins when he knew nothing about them?

She regretted the words immediately. Mr Gatley, who had barely acknowledged her beyond a quick bow at their introduction, turned his piercing gaze towards her.

"Indeed?" he said.

She flushed for the second time that morning, As if it was not bad enough that her cousins had drawn so much attention to their party. Now he thought her ill mannered as well. Not that she cared particularly for his opinion.

She raised her chin and met his gaze.

I greatly enjoy how Ms. Fairview, while creating two characters that are completely unique from Darcy and Elizabeth, follows the Pride and Prejudice formula for romance - from dislike and misunderstanding to recognition and love - just as she did in The Other Mr. Darcy. I do not feel as if I am spoiling the story by saying so, as all Austen readers should recognize in an instant that Mr. Gatley is the hero.

Lady Catherine is particularly well-rendered. As the first part of the book takes place at Rosings, we have ample opportunity to observe her in action. These are some of the most humorous parts of the book. For example, the narrative takes place during the spring and summer of 1814, when Napoleon (who seems to be haunting me lately - he's everywhere!) escaped from Elba. Hear what Lady Catherine has to say about the Emperor: "It is, of course, all Napoleon's fault, for he is becoming quite bothersome. He has certainly inconvenienced us, for now there will be too few gentlemen and we will be obliged to change the seating arrangement at the table." In the same scene, when Clarissa mentions the Boston Tea Party in context of her preference for coffee, Lady Catherine says:

"What tea party? What are you talking about?" She puzzled over this, until understanding dawned suddenly. "I do recall something about the people of Boston tipping all their tea into the harbour. Why could they not have sent the tea back, instead of destroying it? A shocking waste of good tea when it is so very expensive. I always thought it odd, but then, there is no accounting for taste."

Ms. Fairview also does an excellent job portraying Darcy who, while somewhat absorbed in his new family, is every bit the doting, loving, and sometimes overbearing brother he always was. I particularly appreciated that he still struggles with his pride and remains rigidly moral, even when it is most inconvenient. When Lady Catherine blames Clarissa for the disappearance, without a trace, of Anne de Bourgh, we see a perfect picture of the Mr. Darcy (and the Lady Catherine, come to think of it) I adore:

"Enough, Aunt," said Darcy, springing to his feet as well. "You are overwrought and do not know what you are saying. We will make allowances, given the unfortunate events that have recently transpired. But you cannot speak to my cousin in this manner."

"I will speak as I wish under my own roof!" relied Lady Catherine. "I do not need my sister's child to tell me how or how not to conduct myself. I hope you will not be foolish enough to continue in your defense of a young girl who has had only one goal since she arrived, and that is to turn my own daughter against me."

Darcy's face darkened. "Come, Lady Catherine," he said, maintaining control over his temper with difficulty. "Surely you do not mean to suggest that a mere child of seventeen could have such an influence over a lady of twenty-nine? If Anne is really so easy to persuade, then you can hardly blame Clarissa for it. It is patently absurd to suggest such a thing."

Lady Catherine stared coldly at Darcy.

"I am not accustomed to being addressed in this manner. I resent it exceedingly," she said. "You will cease your support of this unruly child at once."

"I have no intention of doing so," said Darcy, "Once again, Lady Catherine, these are exceptional circumstances. I am sure that in the normal course of things, you would realize that a mountain is being made out of a molehill. I suggest that we wait until tomorrow. By then, the whole thing will have blown over."

"I have given you my warning, Darcy," said Lady Catherine relentlessly. "As long as you continue to support the person who is responsible for my current unhappiness, then you leave me no choice in the matter. Do you withdraw your support?"

"No," said Darcy.

Her ladyship paused to take a deep breath, then announced, "You will see that I am perfectly capable of being reasonable. I will not require you to leave tonight. You will all arrange to leave Rosings by tomorrow morning."

While Mr. Darcy is so satisfyingly captured, I was far less please with Ms. Fairview's depiction of Elizabeth. Many of the qualities we typically associate with the heroine have been transferred to Caroline Darcy nee Bingley, while Elizabeth, most of the time, is reduced to a quiet observer of events or, worse, a neglectful gossip. There are a few scenes in which the real Elizabeth shines through, when responding to a rather malevolent prank of Georgiana's and again later when defending that same lady to her brother, but most of the time she is portrayed flatly, nothing like the sparkling creature of Pride and Prejudice. This is my only complaint of the book.   

Before concluding, I'd like to say something regarding what I consider the misguided marketing of this book. Sourcebooks loves to get the word "Darcy" in their titles (a phenomenon recently pointed out to me by Meredith of Austenesque Reviews, which is why it is on my mind), no matter how relevant the name is to the story. While in the case of The Darcy Cousins the title does suit the book, the subtitle, "Scandal, Mischief, and Mayhem Arrive at Pemberley...", is pretty misleading. I must assume that after Darcy, Pemberley is the key word to work into a title, as we never visit that mythic residence at any point in this narrative, all the action taking place between Kent and London.  So don't be mislead: while the book blurb makes it seem as if it is primarily about Cassandra Darcy and the disappearance of Anne de Bourgh from Rosings, this is a book about Georgiana. It just seems that her first name isn't as marketable as her last (Georgiana Cavendish must be rolling in her grave). Still, marketing aside, like all Sourcebooks publications the quality of the book is magnificent, the cover of this one being particularly beautiful.

I believe The Darcy Cousins might be my favorite rendering I have read of Georgiana Darcy. She is not over idealized, as tends to be the case, and watching her develop from school girl into woman was highly satisfying. Though the book is on the long side (414 pages), it felt like a fast read. Before I realized it I had reached the end and was very sorry to be there.

Winner of Longbourn's Unexpected Matchmaker by Emma Hox

Thanks to all those who entered the giveaway and read my conversation with Emma Hox about her book, Longbourn's Unexpected Matchmaker, writing, Austen, and Rhemalda Publishing, her new company with a focus on Austen adaptations. It was great getting to know Ms. Hox and being able to offer a copy of Longbourn's Unexpected Matchmaker to my readers. The winner is:


Congratulations! I am passing on your email address so you can receive your copy of this whimsical "What if?". Enjoy it! For those who did not win, please be sure to check out Ms. Hox's blog, where she has been offering many additional opportunities to win a copy of Longbourn's Unexpected Matchmaker. There is also a tailor you can watch and more information about her book tour.

Thanks again to Ms. Hox and everyone who participated in giveaway!

Friday, April 23, 2010

More Sanditon Completions: Charlotte & The Brothers

I have just finished reading Jane Austen's Charlotte by Julia Barrett and The Brothers by Jane Austen and Another Lady by Helen Baker, the two Sanditon completions I promised to read in my review of Sanditon by Jane Austen and Another Lady. I continue to consider the latter the definitive completion of Austen's last novel. Though both Ms. Barrett and Ms. Baker's attempts are enjoyable, neither are such impeccable imitators of Austen's style as Another Lady.

I found, for the most part, Helen Baker's The Brothers (Austen's working title for the novel) perfectly delightful. For the most part, Ms. Baker develops Austen's characters in a very similar manner to Another Lady, but she dwells on subjects which seem out of place in Austen. Most particularly, she excessively emphasizes the difficulties of Miss Lamb's social status as a mulatto, which was referenced in such a way as to make me pretty uncomfortable. Mrs. Parker acts as the representative of these sentiments, making some blatantly racist remarks. These might be appropriate to the era, but I have a hard time excusing them, especially when they are unnecessary to the plot and in a modern book (copyright 2009). I do not think Ms. Baker intended anything other than an exploration of period perspectives on race, an issue frequently raised in all forms of Austen related media, from JAFF to criticism, due to those oblique references to slavery in Mansfield Park. However, well-intended though she may be, Ms. Baker only succeeds in offending, adding nothing constructive to her plot in the process.

This disagreeable aspect aside, I can reassert my claim that the book is perfectly delightful. Ms. Baker inserts another chapter into Austen's beginning, in which Charlotte Heywood writes to her sister, as a means of introducing the rest of her plot. Charlotte and Sidney Parker become co-conspirators in this book, protecting the young ladies of Sanditon from that wannabe Lovelace, Sir Edward Denham. I particular liked Ms. Baker's rendition of Esther Denham, which is the most sympathetic portrayal of the lady I have come across. Everyone gets what they deserve in this happy tale. Charlotte is an artist, and as she parts from Mr. and Mrs. Parker she gives them a caricature of the entire family, which perfectly captures the characters as Austen created them:

"Upon my soul, you have observed us well," commented her host as he laughed at the antics of his brothers and sisters. "There is Diana winding a second scarf around Arthur, while he snatches another tart from the table behind her back."

"I am trying to stop Susan dosing little Mary and tipping some of her drops out of the nursery window, while snatching up Baby with the boys clinging to my skirts," laughed his wife. "Meanwhile you, my dear, are inspecting your plans for the construction of an improved Royal Pavilion at Sanditon - well really! But what is Sidney doing - oh Charlotte! He will never forgive this." High above Sanditon, sitting on a cloud, a smiling Sidney Parker pulled on the tangled strings of his brothers and sisters, like a demented puppeteer.

Ms. Baker has written several other Austen continuations/sequels which I am now very anxious to read: Precipitation: A Continuation of Miss Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, The Book of Ruth (about Mary and Kitty Bennet's search for husbands), Connivance (a Persuasion sequel), The Watsons by Jane Austen and Another Lady, and Playfulness (a Mansfield Park sequel focused on Mary Crawford). All are available for download (at a price) at

Ms. Barrett's Charlotte is a more ambitious work than The Brothers - probably too ambitious. There is simply too much happening, far too quickly. She introduces many new characters, including one of some renown. As she says in the preface:

In these pages, Sir Edward Denham quotes the poetry of Charlotte Smith. She was a Sussex-born novelist and poet, admired by Sir Walter Scott, who wrote a brief biography of her. Jane Austen knew her work, and I have taken the liberty here of characterizing her as Emmeline Turner.

Now, I am not an expert on Charlotte Smith, having only studied some of her poetry in college, but I do know she was long dead when Austen was writing Sanditon and did not live the lifestyle Ms. Barrett provides Emmeline Turner. She becomes friends with Charlotte, who leaves Sanditon with her to enjoy the pleasures of London. Simultaneously, the fortunes of the small spa town are fluctuating rapidly, with smugglers lurking on the shore and fashionable Corinthians establishing a race track. The chronology is awkward, and there are some historical issues I noticed, like Lady Denham entering the dinning room first in her own house  and women being members of Brooke's. Still, the story is a wildly different take on the fragment than any other I have read, which makes it very interesting. I would have enjoyed it much more had Ms. Barrett not written such flourishing prose, which frequently obscured her meaning. She does a far better job of miming Austen in another entertaining book, Presumption, about Georgiana Darcy.

My favorite part of Charlotte was the opening of chapter thirty three, where she beautifully captures the essence of a great Austen hero:

Susceptible young men, however vexed by a violent passion, will rarely be possessed by it. It is the clear-minded, those in command of their persons, who by resistance to love's frequent allures, exhibit true strength of character. A pledge from one of these reticents is the more intense, if finally obtained, and certainly most to be valued.

This might be the best depiction of what makes an Austen hero so very special that I have read. As I said before, Ms. Barrett's book is extremely ambitious and there are parts which positively shine, but as a whole her attempt at completing this book just doesn't quite work; the story has more potential than is achieved.

I haven't read Ms. Barrett's The Third Sister, about Margaret Dashwood, but I probably will at some point.

Giveaway! First Impressions and Pemberley Manor

Today on offer is yet another signed copy of First Impressions as well as a new copy of Pemberley Manor by Kathryn Nelson, which I accidentally purchased a second time when Sourcebooks rereleased it last year. I read this book well before I began blogging so I cannot point you to my review. What I remember feeling after reading it was that modern psychology had been highly imposed on the narrative, though I still enjoyed it. Here is the book description from Amazon:

How does "happily ever after" really work?

With such different personalities, Darcy and Elizabeth surely need to work on their communication skills! Unlike Jane and Bingley, both of whom are easygoing and friendly, the Darcys are definitely a case where opposites attract.

Through their dramatic courtship, Lizzy finally saw through Darcy's rigid pride and sense of duty, and Darcy fell in love with Lizzy's sunny optimism and independence of spirit. Now that they're married, what will happen when their fundamentally different personalities reassert themselves? Uncover the true feelings of one of the world's most famous couples during their first year of marriage.

So, for a chance to win this sequel and spend some time with Lizzy and Darcy in therapy or, alternatively, to win a copy of my extremely happy-go-lucky tale, totally devoid of angst, please respond to the following challenge:

Earlier this week, Maria Grazia posted a lovely review of First Impressions on her blog, My Jane Austen Book Club, introduced by a line from my book: "Happiness is in abundance at Longbourn." I wish I had thought of putting this line on the book somewhere as it is highly representative of the story. For your chance to win, please guess who is being quoted and, for a second entry, who they are speaking to. Here's your hint: the speaker is female while the listener is male. That should be vague enough to illicit a large variety of responses!

If you would like a third entry, please help spread the word about this giveaway, either through posting about it or on twitter, and let me know that you did so in your comment. Please do not forget to include your email addresses. Comments must be received before 12:00 AM EST, Wednesday, April, 30th. Good luck!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Disruption in the Janeicillin Supply Chain

Despite my determination to provide the public with its sorely needed weekly dose of Janeicillin, unforeseen events disrupted production this week. The unpleasant task of announcing that the populace shall have to manage without their weekly ration falls upon my unfortunate self. Some symptoms of withdraw can be expected, the most common being mild headaches, blurriness of vision, and an uncontrollable craving for high tea. Do not be alarmed if such ailments manifest. We are assured of the promptness of next week's supply, the quick consumption of which should provide immediate relief.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Beautiful Review!

Those of you who are writers know how wonderful it feels when someone is touched by your work, especially when that someone is a person whose opinion you highly regard. I just read the first blog review of First Impressions, posted by Maria Grazia on her blog, My Jane Austen Book Club, and am positively jubilant.

The Companions of Jehu by Alexandre Dumas

Today I stray away from Austen into a very different world. While it was she who famously confined her literary scope to a "little bit (two inches wide) of ivory", Alexandre Dumas, in The Companions of Jehu, says the following:
Perhaps those who read our books singly are surprised that we sometimes dwell on certain details which seem somewhat long drawn out for the book in which they appear. The fact is, we are not writing isolated books, but, as we have already said, we are filling, or trying to fill, an immense frame.
 And indeed, the frame is immense.  I am no expert on Dumas, but I greatly enjoyed the books of his I have read previously: The Three Musketeers, The Man in the Iron Mask, The Black Tulip, and The Count of Monte Cristo (which I read in less then 48 hours). His books are epic in scope, depicting fantastic (and distinctly masculine) worlds of adventure. I have always wanted to read more of his work, so when The Classics Circuit announced a Dumas tour, I jumped at the opportunity. To help rationalize this impulse, I chose the book which seemed to be most complementary to the Austen focus of this blog, about a band of royalist smugglers during the  Napoleonic Wars. At least the time period was in sync. I knew no more, trusting in Dumas to awe me. Of his own plot, he has one character say, "Why, it isn't possible that such things can happen in France, in the last year of the eighteenth century. It might do for Germany in the Middle Ages, in the days of the Henrys and the Ottos." This sounds to me an awful lot like Austen - Henry Tilney, specifically - but rather than disproving such impossible possibilities, Dumas takes his readers into the heart of chivalric romance. There are no literal dragons to slay, but his heroes are brave enough to fight the fiercest beasts imaginable.

The Companions of Jehu, as Dumas tells us in his "An Introductory Word to the Reader", was inspired by a story he had read in Charles Nodier's Souvenirs de la Revolution of four young highwaymen, belonging to a band called the Company of Jehu, who fought their way out of a prison in order to avoid the guillotine. His son provided him with outlines for two characters for the tale,"an English gentleman and a French captain", the latter being "a mysterious character, who courts death with all his might, without being able to accomplish his desire". These are Lord Tanley, who goes by the quintessentially English "Sir John", and Roland de Montrevel, aide-de-camp to and best friend of the man called General Bonaparte at the beginning of this novel. While Dumas weaves a wonderfully romantic tale involving Roland, Sir John, and the Companions of Jehu, here transformed into a band of aristocratic royalists, robbing government diligences in support their righteous cause, Napoleon's story dominates. As Dumas himself acknowledges:
But we are writing a simple narrative, in which Bonaparte shows himself, if only for a moment, he becomes, in spite of himself, a principal personage.

The reader must pardon us for having again fallen into digression; that man, who is a world in himself, has, against our will, swept us along in his whirlwind.
The action begins when General Bonaparte, accompanied by Roland, returns from the Egyptian campaign and continues through such legendary events as the 18th Brumaire, which instigated the dissolution of the Republic by making Napoleon First Consul, and  the establishment of the Bonaparts in the Tuileries, ending with the Battle of Marengo. The historical details are precise and stunning. Readers of Sandra Gulland's Josephine Bonaparte trilogy (which I really enjoyed when I read it a few years ago - especially the first book, which kept me up all night) will wonder how much of her account was inspired by Dumas'. Napoleon is, of course, presented as ambitious and daring, but also as indulgent and loving, if in a rather dictatorial and regimented fashion. It is an enthralling portrait. Here is just one example of the many passages in which Dumas allows himself to be "swept ... along in his whirlwind":
Bonapoarte had a look for every thought that stirred his soul. In Napoleon, this look, except in the momentous circumstances in his life, ceased to be mobile and became fixed, but even so it was none the less impossible to render; it was a drill sounding the heart of whosoever he looked upon, the deepest, the most secret thought of which he meant to sound. Marble or painting might render the fixedness of that look, but neither the one nor the other could portray its life - this is to say, its penetrating and magnetic action. Troubled hearts have veiled eyes. 

Bonaparte, even in the days of his leanness, had beautiful hands, and he displayed them with a certain coquetry. As he grew stouter the hands became superb; he took the utmost care of them, and looked at them when talking, with much complacency. He felt the same satisfaction in his teeth, which were handsome, though not with the splendor of his hands.

When he walked, either alone of with someone, whether in a room or in a garden, he always bent a little forward, as though his head were heavy to carry, and crossed his hands behind his back. He frequently made an involuntary movement with the right shoulder, as if a nervous shudder had passed through it, and at the same time his mouth made a curious movement from the right to left, which seemed to result from the other. These movements, however, had nothing convulsive about them, whatever may have been said notwithstanding; they were a simple trick indicative of a great preoccupation, a sort of congestion of the mind. It was chiefly manifested when the general, the First Consul, or the Emperor, was maturing vast plans. It was after such promenades, accompanied by this twofold movement of the shoulders and lips, that he dictated his most important notes. On a campaign, with the army, on horseback, he was indefatigable; he was almost as much so in ordinary life, and would often walk five or six hours in succession without perceiving it.

When he walked thus with some one with whom he was familiar, he commonly passed his arm through that of his companion and leaned upon him.
In The Companions of Jehu (which was written in 1858, allowing Dumas to interview those who could attest to the great man's habits first hand), the reader gets to know Napoleon  personally, the way Roland and his family do.  We see him mindlessly rip to shreds the upholstered arms of chairs as he stabs them with his penknife, listen to dispatches while bathing, and concocting his greatest stratagems. It is a picture of a man of the cusp of his destiny - a destiny which shook the world of the writer and his contemporaries so violently that we still feel the reverberations today. This book allows the reader to journey by his side as he takes "his first steps along that incline, at once glorious and fatal, which was to lead him to a throne - and to St. Helena."

As I could easily turn this post into a many of thousands of words essay, I will simple affirm that the parallel story of the book, that of those mentioned in the title, is absolutely thrilling. There is romance, intrigue, and daring deeds galore. While this book isn't in the same league as Dumas' masterpiece, The Count of Monte Cristo, it is nonetheless a testament to his literary genius. As he so accurately declares in his introductory note, "What historians these poets would make, if they would but consent to become historians!"

A final note on the edition: I must mention that I read this book from the anthology, Works of Alexandre Dumas, Kindle Edition.  While it is a bit disorienting reading a work of this length, bundled as is is with almost all of Dumas' other enormous books, without being able to reference a page number, this was, without a doubt, my best Kindle purchase to date. For less than five dollars I now have an enormous amount of never before read Dumas to indulge in, just in time for summer reading. Is that not felicitous?

Giveaway Winners and "Mystery Lady" Revealed!

Well, perhaps she wasn't such a mystery this week. Everyone who entered saw right through me and guessed that it is Mary Bennet who Mr. Collins peruses. I have always wanted them to be together and none of the JAFF I have read (and that's a good deal) has ever allowed this to happen. However, only one person successfully guessed the identity of the person who directs Mr. Collins towards Mary: Mrs. Bennet. I have attached, for your gratification, the scene in which this occurs. But you all want to know who won, don't you? Two books were up for grabs this week: a copy of First Impressions or of Love and Friendship and Other Early Writings, by the great lady herself. The winner of the signed copy of First Impressions is:


And the winner of Love and Friendship is:

Maria Grazia

Congratulations! You shall both receive emails from me soon. For those of you who did not win, the giveaways will continue through this month so come back on Friday and try again.

Now back to Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennet. I hope you enjoy this scene, as it is one of those which directly corresponds to Austen's original, which are the most fun to write. It is one of my favorite in the book, so please be so kind as to leave a comment and let me know your thoughts! Enjoy!

           After making such a stalwart resolution one might think that Mr. Collins would have been disheartened the next morning when, upon finding himself tête-à-tête with Mrs. Bennet, he received a caution against pursuit of the very Elizabeth he had fixed on, but then one would not be accounting for the flexibility of this astonishing specimen of humanity. For a conversation beginning with his parsonage house and leading naturally to the avowal of his hopes that a mistress for it might be found at Longbourn, elicited this presumptuous comment from his hostess, “I have reason to believe, sir, that Lizzy's affections are already quite attached to a wealthy gentleman of large fortune who has recently come into the neighborhood, though I know of no existing predisposition amongst my younger daughters.”
              It was a natural progression for Mr. Collins to turn his sight on the next chronologically eligible daughter, despite some understandable disappointment that the ladies of the house were not as ripe for the picking as he had imagined. There was some minor indignation to overcome as he felt his station entitled him to the pick of the litter, but his eager mind quickly perceived how much more appropriate Mary would be as a companion at Rosings than the elder, more showy Bennet girls. Though not a sensible man, no one would dare underestimate how keenly aware Mr. Collins was of his duty to his illustrious patroness and her daughter; readily he grasped at the notion that Miss Mary would be of far more assistance in upholding his claim that Miss De Bourgh was superior to the handsomest of her sex (and other such homages he thought due the ladies) than a sparkling Miss Elizabeth or breathtaking Miss Bennet.
            In many more words than need be recounted here, Mr. Collins assured Mrs. Bennet that he would very much enjoy getting better acquainted with her middle daughter. What were her pursuits and accomplishments? Happily Mrs. Bennet recounted Mary's diligence and piety, suddenly valuing these qualities more than she ever had before. What a surprise blessing a household of daughters could prove to be! Mary was perfect for Mr. Collins – it now appeared that she had been raised purposefully for the role of clergyman's wife and Mrs. Bennet happily took the credit for educating one of her daughters thusly. She treasured up the hint from Mr. Collins and trusted she might soon have three daughters advantageously settled. Mr. Collins, formerly loathed and despised from afar, now stood high in her good graces.

            Though Mary was not privy to this conversation she would not have found it disagreeable. It was difficult being the middle child amongst such sisters and she had often experienced great anxiety regarding her desirability. Mrs. Bennet's constant preoccupation with the disposal of her daughters only heightened these concerns: each of the many times her mother bemoaned their fate should Mr. Bennet die, Mary would picture her particular lot in that scenario and saw much to bemoan. Surely her prettier, livelier sisters would make matches of some sort or another but what was she to do? Work as a governess? Spend her life caring for an aging and unloving mother? While she had long ago determined that she would not shirk from fulfilling whatever role life demanded from her, she also prayed fervently that it would be one of wife, not caretaker. So when Mr. Collins began to pay her attentions she felt both flattered and receptive, having rarely been the recipient of any masculine notice. From her perspective Mr. Collins was an excellent match – she honored his profession, his role as her father's heir, and the good sense he showed in wishing for a practical and pious wife above a beautiful one.
            After parting from Mr. Collins, Mrs. Bennet rushed into the library in order to share her good news, “Mr. Bennet! Oh Mr. Bennet it is too perfect!”
            “What is it my dear?”
            “Mr. Collins of course! He is interested in our Mary! She will make the perfect clergyman's wife and break that odious entail. Have I not arranged everything admirably?”
             “It is your affair to arrange as you will, Mrs. Bennet,” he replied, barely containing the smile that threatened to destroy his nonchalant mask. “If you desire to live out your years in residence with Mr. Collins the match will of course receive my blessing, but I for one will be glad to be dead, buried, and rid of the man.”

             “Oh, how you do vex me Mr. Bennet!” she exclaimed before bustling back out the door. Mr. Bennet listened to the sound of her shrill voice as it carried down the hall before standing and moving to the window. There he spent many happy moments envisioning his grandchildren, the future heirs of Longbourn, playing merrily on its ancient lawn.