Friday, December 31, 2010

Emma Janeicillin: Part Two

Sorry for the delay in posting this! I blame the abundance of seasonal gaieties (if I may paraphrase Miss Bingley) and can only be thankful that I managed to get part two pounded out before the end of 2010. Happy New Year everyone!

Read Part One.

Of course, the party at Hartfield were not the only ones in the vicinity of Highbury with matrimony on their minds. A wedding of any sort will naturally generate a great deal of talk, especially in a small community. At Randalls, feelings were optimistic for the young couple.

“It is a highly satisfying match. I'm sure no one could think otherwise. Not so great as Frank and Jane's, of course, but I suppose no one ever contemplated Miss Smith taking a place amongst society, while our Jane was surely born to play such a role,” mused a contented Mr. Weston.

“I did think that Emma had hoped higher for her friend at one point, but she certainly seems content with the match now. Mr. Knightley once predicted that their friendship would cause Harriet to grow uncomfortable among those whom birth and circumstances placed her. The conversation seems ages ago, so much has happened since! How wrong he was, and how little he knew then where his own heart would lead him in the course of a mere year.”
“Now there is a fine match. One could not conceive a more appropriate pairing, and if Mr. Knighltey did not see it coming, he was blinder than I would ever credit him with being. Why, Emma was made for him, and he for her, for that matter.”

“Someday, my little darling, it will be your turn to stand at the alter,” cooed Mrs. Weston to the infant in her arms.

“Let's not be so hasty, Mrs. Weston. There are a good many years before any such event need be contemplated.”

“Do you not wish for Anna to be well established in life?” questioned his wife, all too familiar with the import of marriage to a female.

“Yes, yes. Of course I do, my dear. But I do admit that I enjoy having a young Weston around. I do not think I can help being a bit sorry when the day comes that she must take on a new identity. I do not begrudge Frank his name, nor the care the Churchill's have provided him, but it is nice to have an offspring that bears my own.”

Mrs. Weston smiled at her husband in sympathy, her heart touched by the gentleness of the man she had married. “Perhaps someday you will have another son to carry on the Weston name.”

Mr. Weston's eyes lit with the thought. “Indeed, my dear. Perhaps we may.”

At the parsonage, sentiments were of a rather different nature. For two individuals who professed to think little of a Miss Smith, a Mrs. Martin provoked a great deal of interest in Mr. and Mrs. Elton, though not quite as much as the rumor of another young lady's engagement.

“Her dress was not out of the ordinary, as befit her situation, of course, but I do believe Martin is quite pleased with his bide. Indeed, it is a good match for a young farmer. Her father has behaved quite handsomely, I understand, and Martin has use for the capital. I suppose we must be thankful her hand is safely bestowed, before Miss Woodhouse succeeded in foisting her off on some unsuspecting gentleman.”

“Quite right, Mr. E. I suppose Miss Woodhouse will drop the connection now, as I cannot imagine her visiting at Abbey-Mill. Quite surprising she even stood up with the poor girl, but it would have been rather awkward to abandon her protegee so quickly. We shall see if Mrs. Martin attends Miss Woodhouse's wedding. How could poor Knightley be so taken in?”

“The young lady's pride should now be contented. I suppose she had always meant to catch Knightley if she could.”

“This will be the end of all pleasant intercourse with him, you know. A disagreeable wife's personality will have adverse effects on a susceptible gentleman.”

“Exactly so, my dear.”

“I am extremely concerned for him, for, though eccentric, he has a thousand good qualities. I do not think him at all in love – not in the least. Poor fellow! It is a sad business for him.”

“Weston tells me they plan on living at Hartfield, at least until the old gentleman says goodbye to this world. Miss Woodhouse would not be parted from her father. A strange arrangement, I thought, but Weston seems to think it a blessing.”

“A shocking plan! What can they mean, living all together in such a manner? It will never do, Mr. E, mark my words! I know a family near maple Grove who attempted it, and they were obliged to separate before the end of the first quarter. Poor Knightley! I wonder how she convinced him to agree to such a notion?”

“Rather him than I!”

Mrs. Elton did not find this response particularly satisfying, as all reminders of her husband's prior interest in Miss Woodhouse rankled. She turned the discussion to the demerits of the Donwell housekeeper, to which Mr. Elton had little option but to add his assent.

Let us return to those more charitably inclined, both towards the newlyweds and the newly engaged, by listening in on the entirely one-sided discourse Miss Bates maintained on the subject with her mother:

“Mrs. Cole saw Mr. Elton after the ceremony, and he told her that it all went off very well. Dear little Miss Smith! It does one good to see such a sweet creature happily settled. I am sure Miss Woodhouse must be content with the match, such care she has shown towards her! So kind, so obliging is Miss Woodhouse. As I was saying to Mrs. Cole when I saw her outside of Ford's where she had just purchased some new trim for her blue spotted muslin – you know the gown I mean ma'am? Such a lovely dress, and I am sure it will be quite born again with the red trim she bought. I told her so much. I said, 'My dear Mrs. Cole, though the gown is perfectly lovely in its current state, I am sure it will be quite the thing once you have transformed it!' Such a fashionable notion! Why, I do believe even our dear Jane would be enthused by it. I must tell her all about it when I next write. I understand Miss Smith wore white muslin - so appropriate for a bride! I am sure she looked perfectly lovely. Such a pretty girl! And after I parted from Mrs. Cole, I bumped into Mr. Weston, just as he was leaving the Crown. 'My dear Mr. Weston!' I said. 'Have you heard about the wedding? Mrs. Cole assures me it was most elegant.' And Mr. Weston, having just been at Hartfield, was able to assure me it was certainly so. Such a kind man! As you may expect, ma'am, we soon fell into conversation about Jane and Frank – he had not yet heard about their recent evening at the theater – and though I urged him quite incessantly to come inside and read Jane's letter for himself, he was so anxious to return to Randalls and little Anne that he deferred, promising to call on us tomorrow. Is that not something to look forward to? Perhaps he will have more news of Miss Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley's plans, as today he was still unable to confirm if they had set a date or not. What a happy notion for dear Mr. Woodhouse! I am sure he must be thrilled by the match. Can you imagine anything more perfect? Miss Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley! Why, it is almost as exciting as Jane's engagement to Frank! I will write to her directly and share all our news. She will be most interested to learn that they have still not decided on a date.”

And at Hartfield? How did matters progress amongst those most concerned? Neither of the Mr. Knightley's had the heart to broach the subject again with Mr. Woodhouse, as neither wished to be subjected to another round of gruel, leaving Emma to carry forth her cause virtually unaided. As she was undoubtedly the most skilled handler of her father, the current state of affairs did not overly trouble her at first. Though her once perfect confidence in her ability to manage the hearts of others had been sadly shaken, she still retained faith in her capacity to see to her own, or at least so she assured herself. She and George (a name that still sat awkwardly on her tongue) had determined that their marriage ought to be concluded while John and Isabella were still at Hartfield, as their presence would allow the newlyweds a fortnight's absence to tour the seaside in way of a honeymoon, but as the days slipped by, September making way for October, and Mr. Woodhouse continued unhappy, her courage began to fail. She could not bear to see him suffering - to know him fancying himself neglected – and though her understanding almost acquiesced in the assurances of both the Mr. Knightleys, that when once the event were over, his distress would soon be over too, she hesitated. She could not proceed to urge him when it caused him so much pain. The once resourceful young woman was left with little recourse but to hope that some unforeseen event would intercede on her behalf. 


Come back next Friday (I hope) for another weekly dose!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Beauvallet by Georgette Heyer

After celebrating Christmas a week early with my husband's family, the holiday itself proved unusually quiet, with little activity other than showing up at my aunt and uncle's house in order to stuff ourselves silly. We spent the very welcomed downtime (extended into today due to the timely snowstorm) with Georgette Heyer. Those of you who have been following my Heyer reviews know that my husband and I read her books aloud to each other - her light, adventurous tales and witty dialogue being fabulous for oral recitation - but in case any of you thought I was forcing him into this activity, I'd like to emphasize that it was he who asked if we had any more of her books on hand to read over the weekend, and when I replied in the negative, suggested a trip to the bookstore to procure a few. I find it important to emphasize this fact because of the number of men I encounter who scoff at romance as a purely feminine genre. Heyer's action pact stories are beautifully suited to both male and female sensibilities, and the thoroughly swashbuckling Beauvallet is a perfect example of this fact.

Our story begins aboard a grand Spanish ship, engaged in a seas battle with the notorious English ship, the Venture, captained by the infamous El Beauvallet, the scorge of Spain's armada. It is the Elizabethan Era, the Spanish Inquisition is in full swing, and El Beauvallet is regarded as not only a fierce pirate by the Spaniards, but also as a practitioner of witchcraft, his remarkable conquests and escape affording his enemies no more probable explanation. The haughty Spanish captain who believed he would be the one to capture the notorious pirate, foolishly challenging the Venture, faces defeat as the English crew boards his chip. What Sir Nicholas Beauvallet does not expect, as he brings the Spanish captain to his knees, is that his foe was so cocky as to engage in battle while escorting noble passengers, whose safety should have been his first priority: the former governor of Santiago, Don Manuel de Rada y Sylva, and his beautiful and indomitable daughter, Dona Dominica. Beauvallet, being a true English gentleman (no less than the son of baron and heir to his childless older brother) guarantees to sail the passengers safely to Spain, even though there is a price on his head in that country. Such acts of daring are commonplace to our hero, often known as "Mad Nick", as readers of this delightful book quickly learn.

While not as comic as some of Heyer's other novels, Beauvallet is so action pact that I defy anyone not to become completely enrapt within the Renaissance world it depicts. What humor there is in the tale mainly originates from Sir Nicholas' lacky, Joshua, who is his most constant companion in adventure, as well as the only man willing to criticize the great Beauvallet, and often serves as narrator to the story. Therefore, it seems fitting that Joshua introduces us to his master's character, as he says to a disdainful Dominica while helping her settle into her new quarters aboard the Venture:
"I have served him these fifteen years, and seen none equal him. And I have been about the world, mark you! Ay, we have done some junketting to and fro. I allow you Sir Francis Drake to be a man well enough, but lacking in some small matters wherein we have the advantage of him. His birth, for example, will not rank ours. By no means! Raleigh? Pshaw! he lacks our ready wit: we laugh at his sour countenance! Howard? A fig for him! I say no more, and leave you to judge. That popinjay, Leicester? Bah! A man of no weight. We, and we alone have never failed in our undertakings. And why, you ask? Very simply, senora: we reck not! The Queen's grace said it with her own August lips. 'God's death,' quoth she - her favorite oath, mark you! - 'God's death, Sir Nicholas, you should take Reck Not to be your watchword!' With reason, most gracious lady! Certain we reck not. We bite our glove in challenge to whosoever ye will. We take what we will: Beauvallet's way!"
Though visiting the Tudor court and meeting a great number of the impressive personages named by Joshua (as well as Walsingham and, later, King Philip II of Spain) adds to the excitement of the novel, it is nothing compared with the feats of daring Sir Nickolas seems to be constantly performing. The main plot revolves around his falling in love with Dona Dominica and pledging to return to Spain within the year to claim her as his wife, a task that proves to involve espionage, impersonation, prison breaks, and the 16th century equivalent of the police chase. There is not a dull moment to be had. I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking escape from the mundane limitations of our 21st century reality. A raucous romp with El Beauvallet is precisely what the doctor ordered.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Darcy Christmas by Carolyn Eberhart, Amanda Grange, and Sharon Lathan

Well, this is about a week late (does that make me $7 short?), but there are crucial shopping days left before Christmas for you to take my recommendation and buy A Darcy Christmas for the Austenite in your life (who might very well be yourself). I thoroughly enjoyed this seasonal read, especially the first story in the collection, Mr. Darcy's Christmas Carol, by newcomer Carolyn Eberhart. Attentive readers will know that I was so inspired by this rewrite of Charles Dickens' classic Christmas tale as to immediately turn around and try my hand at a similar treatment of O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi (read The Darcy's Gift here). I love how Miss Eberhart took this oh so familiar story and transplanted it upon Mr. Darcy's even more familiar (to me, at least) conflict over the unsuitability of Elizabeth Bennet as a romantic interest. The action depends on a "What If?" style twist, the events of Pride and Prejudice having played out almost precisely except that, upon that fateful walk near Longborn at the end of the story, Darcy fails to propose to Elizabeth.  Three spirits show him the true spirit of the holiday while warning him of the dangers his current prideful path will lead him on, the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come (in the guise of Lady Catherine, appropriately) predicting a truly harrowing fate. I was particularly pleased with how Miss Eberhart connected her Regency Era story with Dickens' Victorian tale by ending with a glimpse into the future, casting Mr. Gardiner as the gentleman asking for a charitable subscription from Mr. Scrooge. I highly recommend this charming fusion of the work of two of the greatest 19th century writers, and only regret that I didn't think of the notion first.

Next came Amanda Grange's story, Christmas Present, which I must say is the best story I think Miss Grange has ever written, and I have read them all. I often find her books charming, but this tale made me laugh out loud, a thing she has never previously achieved. The story takes place after the marriage of Darcy and Elizabeth. Jane has just given birth to her first child, and Elizabeth is on the verge of following in suit. The entire family gathers at the Bingley's new home for the holiday - the Hursts, Caroline, all the Bennets, and even Lady Catherine and Mr. Collins - providing  ample room for comedy. I must share one of my favorite parts, which occurs while Bingley is sharing with Darcy his fatherly pride:
"Well, what do youthink? Is he not the most handsome baby you have ever seen? Is he not the strongest, the healthiest, the happiest baby it has ever been your pleasure to meet?" he asked as he led Darcy into the drawing-room.

"I have met very few infants and so yes, I can say he is."


"Very well then! I agree with whatever you say. He is a very fine boy. I can say this in all sincerity: he is lucky to have such a father."

"Do you really think so?" asked Bingley. He beamed whilst looking anxious at the same time. "I was elated when he was born. When I first heard him cry I felt an enormous sense of pride - "

There came a snort from the sofa, where Mr. Hurst, Charles Bingley's brother-in-law, was lying, apparently asleep.

"Ah, yes, " said Bingley, momentarily diverted. "My family are here. Caroline arrived a month ago to run the household whilst Jane was indisposed, and Louisa arrived with her husband last week. My brother-in-law, as you see, resting."

Darcy raised one eyebrow. Mr. Hurst spent most of his life on the sofa and Bingley knew, as well as Darcy, that indolence, not the need for rest, was the reason.

The snort resolved itself into words as Mr. Hurst opened one eye.

"Felt an enormous sense of pride?" he asked. "Thought nothing of the sort. As soon as you heard that cry, you said, 'I've killed them!' and strode around the room like a man demented, moaning, 'They're dead. It's all my fault.'"
 The final story in the collection is A Darcy Christmas by Sharon Lathan. Though a pleasant tale, the more overt references to the Darcys' sexual appetites that Miss Lathan makes, particularly when compared to the rest of the collection, was a bit off-putting for me. However, in spirit of the holidays, and having already gotten that complaint off my chest, I will dwell instead on the story's strengths. I loved the structure: each chapter a vignette portraying a different Christmas over the years of the Darcys' marriage. Like life, not all is blissful happiness, but it was highly endearing to be able to follow our beloved couple as they created a family and established Christmas traditions. If you have not yet surmised so much, I found the entire book to be a festive tribute to the spirit of the season, and will end on the same note I began on, by reminding you that it is not to late to buy a copy for yourself in time to enjoy it for the holiday.

Jane Austen's birthday bash in retrospect

If any of you happened to miss the fabulous blog tour in honor of our dear Jane's 235th birthday last Thursday, I highly suggest you take the time to review the excellent posts that made the event such a resounding success. Our organizer, Maria Grazia of My Jane Austen Book Club, has been so kind as to provide a list of direct links to each of the posts (transcribed below), and there is still plenty of time to comment in order to be entered in the fabulous giveaways offered in homage to the occasion. Thanks again the Maria, all the Austen bloggers, and to everyone who participated in this joyous occasion by reading and commenting on the posts. I think we did great justice to the legacy of one of the most astoundingly brilliant writers who has ever graced this remarkable world of ours with her presence.

  1. Adriana Zardini, at Jane Austen Sociedad do Brasil
  2. Laurel Ann, at Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog
  3. Vic Sanborn, at Jane Austen’s World
  4. Katherine Cox, at November’s Autumn
  5. Karen Wasylowski, at Karen Wasylowski Blog
  6. Laurie Viera Rigler, at Jane Austen Addict Blog
  7. Lynn Shepherd, at her Lynn Shepherd Blog
  8. Jane Greensmith, at Reading, Writing, Working, Playing
  9. Jane Odiwe, at Jane Austen Sequels Blog
  10. Alexa Adams, at First Impressions Blog
  11. Regina Jeffers, at her Regina Jeffers Blog
  12. Cindy Jones at First Draft Blog
  13. Janet Mullany at Risky Regencies Blog
  14. Maria Grazia at My Jane Austen Book Club Blog
  15. Meredith at Austenesque Reviews

Friday, December 17, 2010

Here Comes The "Jane Austen Made Me Do It" Short Story Contest!

Though publishing my first novel was one of the highlights of my year, I experienced something like regret when I realized that it disqualified me for this:

The Jane Austen Made Me Do It
Short Story Contest Begins January 01, 2011

In conjunction with the publication of the new anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, Ballantine Books,, and The Republic of Pemberley are pleased to announce an online short story contest.  Enter for a chance to win the Grand Prize: publication of your entry in the anthology – a collection of original short stories inspired by the life and works of popular English novelist Jane Austen (1775-1817).  Hosted by the Jane Austen web site The Republic of Pemberley, the contest begins on January 1, 2011. Publication of Jane Austen Made Me Do It is tentatively scheduled for publication by Ballantine in Fall 2011.

Contest Highlights
  • Eligibility: Previously unpublished U.S. residents over the age of 18
  • Entries must be approximately 5,000 words in length
  • Manuscript submission January 1 – February 13, 2011
  • Voting for the Top Ten finalists February 14 - 28, 2011
  • Top Ten finalists announced on March 1, 2011
  • One Grand Prize winner receives $500.00 and a contract for publication in the anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It
  • Grand Prize winner announced Fall 2011 in conjunction with the official release by Ballantine Books (Random House, Inc.) of Jane Austen Made Me Do It
Jane Austen Made Me Do It contains more than twenty best-selling and popular authors who have contributed short stories inspired by Jane Austen, her novels and her philosophies of life and love. From historical continuations of her plots and characters to contemporary spinoffs and comedies, the stories encapsulate what we love about our favorite author: romance, social satire and witty humor. Contributing to the line-up are best-selling authors Karen Joy Fowler (The Jane Austen Book Club), Adriana Trigiani (Brava, Valentine), Lauren Willig (The Pink Carnation series), Laurie Viera Rigler (The Jane Austen Addict series), Syrie James (The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen), Stephanie Barron (Being A Jane Austen Mystery series), and the husband and wife writing team of Frank Delaney (Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show) and Diane Meier (The Season of Second Chances). Many Austenesque authors and others from related genres have also contributed stories to the project. One spot in the anthology remains open for the lucky Grand Prize winner.

The anthology’s editor, Laurel Ann Nattress of, is very excited at the prospect of discovering the next star in the burgeoning sub-genre of Jane Austen sequels and inspired books. “Jane Austen has been inspiring writers for close to two hundred years. It seems quite fitting that she should be the witty muse of our anthology and short story contest. Encouraging writing and discovering new talent is in spirit with her true legacy. I am ‘all anticipation’ of what will develop, and am honored to be part of the selection team.”

Visit the official Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest web page for official contest rules and eligibility requirements.  Best of luck to all entrants.

“[S]uppose as much as you chuse; give a loose to your fancy, indulge your imagination in every possible flight which the subject will afford.” Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 60

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Jane Austen!

December 16th is a very special day in the history of English literature, for on this date in 1775 Jane Austen was born. Please help us celebrate the 235th anniversary of this momentous occasion by indulging in tributes, celebrations, and a multitude of giveaways by following the blog tour organized by the very lovely Maria Grazia (I always describe her thusly, as it is so true!) of My Jane Austen Book Club, involving the following fifteen fabulous Jane Austen bloggers:

Adriana Zardini at Jane Austen Sociedad de Brasil
Laurel Ann at Austenprose
Vic Sanborn at Jane Austen's World
Katherine Cox at November’s Autumn 
Karen Wasylowski at
Laurie Viera Rigler at Jane Austen Addict
Lynn Shepherd at
Jane Greensmith at Reading, Writing, Working, Playing
Jane Odiwe at Jane Austen Sequels
Alexa Adams (that's me!) at First Impressions
Regina Jeffers at ReginaJeffers's Blog
Cindy Jones at First Draft
Janet Mullany at Risky Regency
          Meredith at Austenesque Reviews
Maria Grazia  at My Jane Austen Book Club
Leave a comment at any (or all) of these blogs by December 23rd, including your email address (I believe)  for your chance to win one of the many prizes on offer. The more you comment, the better your chances to win! See the bottom of this post for a complete list of items on offer.

I often write about my feelings about Miss Austen. Those who regularly read this blog can be left in no doubt of my devotion to the greatest of all authoresses. So instead of composing one of my usual odes to Austen, I have elected to celebrate the day by creating the following Jane Austen themed crossword puzzle. After all, does not a party benefit from games? The clues are based upon Austen's writing, and I hope you find it both challenging and gratifying (as good crosswords should be). You need not solve the puzzle to enter the giveaway, but if you do choose to indulge, I would love to hear your thoughts on it (other than regarding the odd formatting issues that I encountered, as I just could find no manner of getting around them). I will publish the solution after the giveaway is concluded. Have at it Janeites!

 2."No one who had ever seen ______ _______ in her infancy would have supposed her born to be a heroine."
3. Who said: "Good gracious! when I went away, I am sure I had no more idea of being married till I came back again! though I thought it would be good fun if I was."?
6. "A young lady who ____, must be recovered; questions must be answered, and surpizes must be explained."
7. What is the name of the heroine of The Watsons?
12. Who said: "...people always live for ever when there is an annuity to be paid them..."?
15. To whom is Austen referring: "And yet could you Reader have believed it possible that some hardened & zealous Protestants have even abused her for that Steadfastness in the Catholic Religion which reflected on her so much credit?"
16. How many sisters is Mr. Bingley rumored to have?
17. What does Sir Walter Elliot recommend Mrs. Clay use to diminish her freckles?
19. "You have no compassion on my poor _____."
22. What is the name of the play the young people try to put on in Mansfield Park?
23. Who said: "Nothing would satisfy good old Mrs. Whitaker, but my taking one of the cheeses. I sttod out for as long as I could, till the tears almost came to her eyes, and I knew it was just the sort that my sister would be delighted with."?
25. Who said: "The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid."
27. Who said: "I wish you very happy and rich, and by refusing your hand, so all in my power to prevent your being otherwise."?
29. "You ______ my soul."
30. Who said: "I abhor every common-place phrase by which wit is intended and 'setting one's cap at a man,' or 'making a consquest,' are the most odious of all."
32. "I have heard that something very shocking indeed will soon come out in ________."

1. What is the title of Austen's last, unfinished novel?
2. Who said: "I cannot afford to lose one hour."?
4. What is the name of Lady Bertram's lady's maid?
5. Who said: "Not exactly, though I shall be happy to do both, but that would be exercise only to my body, and I must take care of my mind. Besides, that would be all recreation and indulgence, without the wholesome alloy of labour, and I do not like to eat the bread of idleness."?
8. What is the name of Fanny Price's dead sister?
9. Who said: "I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than a book."?
10. What is Lady Susan's daughter's name?
11. Who is Elinor Dashwood speaking to: "Your secret is safe with me; but pardon me if I express some surprise at so unnecessary a communication."?
13. "Very little white satin, very few lace veils; a pitiful business! ______ would stare when she heard of it."
14. "I take no leave of you, Miss Bennet. I send no compliments to your mother. You deserve no such attention. I am most seriously _________."
15. Who said: "My being the mother is the very reason why my feelings should not be tried. I am not at all equal to it."?
18 "You must allow me to tell you how ________ I admire and love you."
20. Whom is Emma Woodhouse speaking of: "No, I am perfectly sure that he is not trifling and silly."?
21. When do the Crofts take possession of Kellynch?"
24. "Ah! poor Miss ______! 'Tis a sad business."
26. "I will not say that your ___________ trees are dead, but I am afraid they're not alive."
28. What is Catherine Morland's favorite genre of novel?
31. What object does Captain Wentworth use to exemplify firmness of character?

Items up for grabs in the giveaways include:

Books:  1 signed copy of…
Willoughby’s Return by Jane Odiwe

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

Murder at Mansfield Park by Lynn Shepherd

Intimations of Austen by Jane Greensmith

Darcy's Passions: Fitzwilliam Darcy's Story by Regina Jeffers

First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice by Alexa Adams

Jane and the Damned by Janet Mullany
Bespelling Jane Austen by Janet Mullany
Other gifts:
Austen bag offered by Karen Wasylowski

DVD Pride & Prejudice 2005 offered by Regina Jeffers

Package of Bingley's Tea (flavor - "Marianne's Wild Abandon") offered by Cindy Jones

DVD Jane Austen in Manhattan offered by Maria Grazia
3 issues of Jane Austen Regency World offered by Maria Grazia
Remember, giveaways will end on the 23rd .  Winners will be announced on My Jane Austen Book Club.

On another exciting note, Laurel Ann of Austenprose has announced that Sourcebooks, the publisher of the vast majority of Jane Austen fan fiction, has offered free digital copies of ten of its most popular books in honor of this special day. Follow this link to learn more.

Happy birthday Jane Austen! My world would be so shallow without you.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Darcys Gift, An Austenesque Adaptation of O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi"

So this should be an Emma Janeicillin post, right? Well, you have my utmost apologies, but it simply is not ready. Those in need of their fix should check back through the course of the weekend, as I do hope to get it posted, but having finally stolen an opportunity to read A Darcy Christmas earlier this week (look for my review soon) and feeling highly inspired by Carolyn Eberhart's wonderful rendition of Dickens' A Christmas Carol I was overwhelmed with the desire to try my hand at composing something similar. I have always loved O.Henry's story The Gift of the Magi, and the love shared by the Della and Jim seems to me of the same, unequivocal nature as that belonging to the Darcy's. I hope my whim entertains you, and may you all enjoy a holiday season filled with that most precious of all possessions: unconditional love.

The Darcy's Gift

Elizabeth Darcy woke with a start. Wrenching off her cap, she rubbed her hand through the now loosened hair, and then felt for her sleeping husband beside her before allowing reality to seep in. It was a dream. She was in the master’s bedchamber at Pemberley, surrounded by the luxury to which she had so readily become accustomed to - well-fed, well-sheltered, and secure. Again, she reassured herself that this was her reality and that of the dream world just fantasy. But it had seemed so very real! And again, was the dream so terrible? It had certainly been shocking - jarring in the extreme - but not truly the stuff of nightmares. In fact, in many ways it was a comforting vision of love. Should the walls of Pemberley crumble and all the protection of Darcy’s great fortune disappear, she would still have the man, and he was by far the most important element to her happiness. If anything, the dream proved it. She snuggle back into the down bedding, wrapping her arms around her husband, who in his sleep returned the embrace, a slight smile gracing his handsome face.

The dream remained so vivid, not slipping away with consciousness as they are so apt to do, but clearly imprinted in her mind. Like a personal theater, she could rewatch it again and again, moment by moment, with perfect clarity. It began with her alone, or, at least a thinner, more disheveled version of herself, dressed in garb far worse than any she had ever donned, even in her less prosperous days at Longbourn. She sat at a worn table in a strange, dingy apartment, the weak fire in the grate not doing its duty against the penetrating cold of the room. Before her was a box of odd coins, farthings and pennies and pence, which she counted repeatedly, her math frustratingly accurate each time. It simply would not do. A flood of memories, of a kind which her true self could never have experienced, but which her dream self recalled with painful accuracy, of scrimping and saving for months for his meager collection of funds, overcame her - bargaining with the grocer, stretching the soup, and dodging the butcher’s bills. Three times she counted the small pile, and three times she received the same result. It was not enough, and the next day would be Christmas.

Although Elizabeth had never known herself to behave thusly, she had also never known such privation, and to the Elizabeth of the dream it seemed clear that there was nothing more to be done but to flop down on a shabby little couch and howl. And so she did. The real Elizabeth reflected that, for the vast many, life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles by far predominating, and she blessed her good fortune in not being amongst them.

But the mistress of the sad little apartment was not so lucky as that of Pemberley, and as she gradually subsided from the sobbing stage to the more common sniffling, took a critical look at her surroundings: her cheep, furnished lodgings. Though not precisely of a beggarly description, it did illustrate that the inhabitants therein were not far above the ranks of mendicants.

Despite the impermanence of appearances, the enduring presence of the residents was attested to by a card above the above the letter-box in the vestibule below, the size of which denied its practical use, as no letter would go into it, bearing the name “Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy”.

The card was a relic of of former prosperity, when more regular employment was readily available and taxes were lower. But with protracted war came an onslaught of new tariffs, while those suffering in the country fled to London for work, making jobs harder to come by. Despite the wails that had only just ceased to echo against the thin walls, Elizabeth’s spirits were generally high and inclined towards amusement and jest, and she had enjoyed a hearty (and much needed) laugh with her husband upon suggesting that they contract the title on the card to a modest and unassuming D, as befit their current circumstances. Yet whenever Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy came home to his sad quarters he was called “Will” (a name which the true Elizabeth had never thought to apply to her stately husband) and greatly hugged by Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy, which seemed a very good thing in the mind of the real-life counterpart to the dream wife.

The fantasy Elizabeth finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with her handkerchief. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray yard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had almost nothing with which to buy Will a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. So little with which to buy a present for Will. Her Will. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and splendid - something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Will.

There was a pier glass next to the window of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier glass in poorly furnished lodgings? A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. The dream Elizabeth, far more slender than even her real self, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. Her fine eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were very few possessions of the Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcys in which they both took pride. One was Will's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. Another was Elizabeth's hair (surprisingly luscious in the dream, in stark contrast to all that was pitiful around her) which fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It was unnaturally long, reaching almost to the floor, making itself a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat, as familiar in the dream as the wedding band that graced her waking self’s finger. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.
Where she stopped the sign read: “Hair Goods of All Kinds”. One flight up Elizabeth ran and collected herself, panting. There stood the proprietress, large, too white, and chilly.

"Will you buy my hair?" asked Elizabeth.

"I buy hair," was the reply. "Take your hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it."

Down rippled the brown cascade.

"Three pounds," and the too white arm lifted the mass with a practised hand.

"Give it to me quick," said Elizabeth.

Oh, and the next hours tripped by on rosy wings as she ransacked imaginary stores for Will's present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Will and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a gold fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation - as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Will's. It was like him. Quietness and value - the description applied to both. With that chain on his watch, Will might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Elizabeth reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She heated her curling irons and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love - a mammoth task indeed.

Soon her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like the fashionable ladies with their Grecian pretensions, but most unlike the Elizabeth Darcy of the cold and dingy apartment. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

"If Will doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a truant school boy. But what could I do - oh! what could I do with so little?"

Will was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat near the door. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little, silent prayers about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."

The door opened and Will stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was a young man but looked far older than his years! He needed a new overcoat, and he was without gloves. The conscious Elizabeth studied the real man - whose formal bearing would undoubtedly be shattered by such a familiarity as being called “Will”, even by his wife - and seeing the perpetual prosperity written in his well-nourished checks, ran her hand lovingly through his hair.

Will stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Elizabeth, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Elizabeth went towards him, crying: "Will, darling, don't look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I could not live through Christmas without giving you a present. It will grow out again - you won't mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!' Will, and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice - what a beautiful, nice gift I've got for you."

"You've cut off your hair?" asked Will, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet, even after the hardest mental labor.

"Cut it off and sold it," said Elizabeth. "Don't you like me just as well, anyhow? I'm me without my hair, am I not?"

Will looked about the room curiously.

"You say your hair is gone?" he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

"You needn't look for it," said Elizabeth. "It's sold, I tell you - sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall we eat, Will?"

Out of his trance, Will seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his wife in his arms before drawing a package from his overcoat pocket and throwing it upon the rickety table.

"Do not mistake me, Liz," he said, using a name as foreign to the real Elizabeth as Will would be to Darcy. "I don't think there is anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me love you any less. But if you will unwrap that package you may understand my shock."

Nimble fingers tore at the string and paper, and then came an ecstatic scream of joy, and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the master of the apartment.

For there lay The Combs - the set of combs that Elizabeth had long admired in a shop window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims - just the shade to wear in the beautiful, vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: "My hair grows so fast, Will!"

And then she leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"

Will had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull, precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.
"Is it not lovely, Will? I hunted all over town to find it. You'll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."

Instead of obeying, Will tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

"Liz," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away to keep for awhile. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose we dine?" And that’s when Elizabeth had awoken.

Not a bad dream, after all. In it she found assurance that no matter what hardships life might bring, the love she shared with Fitzwilliam would carry them through. Contented, her eyelids began to droop just when Darcy began to stir. His eyes still closed, but instinctively aware that Elizabeth slept not, he asked in the dark, “Lizzy? Are you awake?”

Smiling, she replied on the edge of sleep, “No Will. I am fast asleep.”

The unaccustomed appellation jolted Darcy into consciousness. “Will?” he questioned, but upon receiving no response from his now unconscious wife, he let the strange incident slip from his mind and returned to his slumber.

A few weeks later, on Christmas Day, the family gathered in Pemberley’s most elegant parlor to exchange a monstrously large pile of exquisitely wrapped presents. But the greatest gift Fitzwilliam Darcy received was a new gold watch and fob from his wife. Inside was inscribed: To Will at Christmas. May you never need to sell it. Your loving wife, Liz. He looked across the room in confusion at his mischievously grinning wife, who was surrounded by their loved ones, all joyously celebrating the holiday. The notion of ever being required to sell anything was completely foreign to both the master of the house, and to the scene of perfect opulence unfolding before him. Explanations would have to wait until later, and he expected it to be a good one.

The End

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Happy Birthday Jane Austen! - December 16th Extravaganza

The very lovely Maria Grazie of Fly High and My Jane Austen Book Club is organizing a birthday bash for dear Miss Austen to mark the 235th anniversary of her birth. Though on that date I will be swamped by relatives, who descend on our home next Monday, of course I will be taking time out to indulge in such a celebratory occasion. Please join myself and a highly impressive list of fellow writers (I am honored to be included amongst some of my very favorites!) as we pay tribute to Jane. And what is a birthday party without presents? An enormous list of books are up for grabs (as many are being offered by my favorite writers, it is logical to conclude that some of these are my favorite Austenesque novels), so be sure to do the rounds and enter all the giveaways. Thank you, Maria, for organizing "the due celebration of that festival which requires a more than ordinary share of private balls and large dinners to proclaim its importance."

Here is the event announcement, which you can also read at My Jane Austen Book Club. Get ready to toast and fete the great authoress with all the ceremony that is unarguably her due!

It wouldn't be fair to neglect someone as important and dear to  us  as  Jane Austen  on her birthday.  She was born on 16th December 1775, it’ll be 235 years next week . We owe so many immensely pleasant moments to her that we decided she deserved a great B-day celebration.  My Jane Austen Book Club and other bloggers and Austen dedicated writers are going to have a blog party in her honour. You are all invited to join us on our “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JANE!” event next Thursday December 16th. Who will be there? Where is the party going on? 
Adriana Zardini at Jane Austen Sociedad de Brasil

Laurel Ann at Austenprose

Vic Sanborn at Jane Austen's World

Katherine Cox at November’s Autumn 

Karen Wasylowski at

Laurie Viera Rigler at Jane Austen Addict

Lynn Shepherd at

Jane Greensmith at Reading, Writing, Working, Playing

Jane Odiwe at Jane Austen Sequels

Alexa Adams at First Impressions

Regina Jeffers at ReginaJeffers's Blog

Cindy Jones at First Draft

Janet Mullany at Risky Regency

Maria Grazia  at My Jane Austen Book Club
Meredith at Austenesque Reviews

You’ll find Happy Birthday posts and tributes to Jane Austen on all these blogs on December 16th with the HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JANE logo created by Adriana Zardini (JASBRA) just for the occasion. Lovely, isn’t it? Visit all the blogs on December 16th and leave your comments and e-mail addresses to have lots of  chances to win one of the wonderful gifts we are giving away:

Books:  1 signed copy of…
Willoughby’s Return by Jane Odiwe

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

Murder at Mansfield Park by Lynn Shepherd

Intimations of Austen by Jane Greensmith

Darcy's Passions: Fitzwilliam Darcy's Story by Regina Jeffers

First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice by Alexa Adams

Jane and the Damned by Janet Mullany
Bespelling Jane Austen by Janet Mullany
Other gifts: 
Austen bag offered by Karen Wasylowski

DVD Pride & Prejudice 2005 offered by Regina Jeffers

Package of Bingley's Tea (flavor - "Marianne's Wild Abandon") offered by Cindy Jones

DVD Jane Austen in Manhattan offered by Maria Grazia
3 issues of Jane Austen Regency World offered by Maria Grazia
Giveaways will end on the 23rd .  Winners will be announced on My Jane Austen Book Club.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Bertrams by Anthony Trollope

When Anthony Trollope was announced as the subject for this current Classics Circuit tour I could not resist signing up. I had read only small amounts of his work, and that well over a decade ago, but I knew the man was a devoted Janeite. Who better for me to digress from Miss Austen towards than one of her most sincere fans? From his youth he loved Austen's novels (what good taste!), and frequently lauded her as one of the most talented novelists England had produced. When selecting which Trollope novel to pursue, I chose a maddeningly obscure one (all three volumes of which are thankfully available on Google Books), but the title was too irresistible - The Bertrams. Can an Austen fan write a book called The Bertrams without making reference to Mansfield Park. Decidedly not.

Yet as this blog post is not designed merely to indulge those rabid Austen fans who typically read my blog, but to also tempt those who are solely interested in expanding their knowledge of Trollope, I will endeavor to review the book without constant reference to Austen (be warned that there will be some spoilers, though not too many). But fear not Janeites, for after completing that task I will point out precisely how this novel is an homage to the great authoress, just bear with me for a few.

The Bertrams is a story of survival in the quickly changing world of England in the 1840's. The main character is George Bertram, a promising young man torn between the worldy objectives society values and his own conscience. Raised by his wealthy and miserly uncle (his mother being dead, and his sire the Victorian version of an absentee father - and one of the novels great sources of comic relief), but as he was never taught to think of himself as the heir, he thinks he must choose between a career path of social triumph, which his friend Henry Harcourt pursues as a lawyer and politician, or the life of a clergyman, which his other friend and cousin, Arthur Wilkinson, is forced into. A trip to Jerusalem settles him on the latter course, but when there he meets Caroline Waddington, an extremely pretty girl and, it turns out, the ward of the miserly uncle, who would love him but for her own, seemingly pragmatic, financial considerations. As neither can depend on the generosity of the uncle, Mr. Bertram (referred to throughout the novel as "the old gentleman", with somewhat sarcastic but still slightly fitting reference to the devil), George returns to England determined to make his way as a lawyer, following Harcourt's example. Caroline excepts his proposal but insists on a delay of several years, until they can live comfortably. Though her reasoning is sound enough, Trollope clearly condemns such practicality when matters of the heart are at stake, and she is punished accordingly. George, a fickle character, abandons his rigorous studies, eventually removing himself from his declared profession to pursue an unprofitable career as an author of rather heretical pamphlets.  

There is another, secondary hero and heroine (whom Trollope calls his "donna prima", as opposed to Caroline, his "donna primissia") in this tale: the already mentioned Arthur Wilkinson and one Adela Gauntlet, the daughter of the neighboring rector. Arthur would himself have liked to have followed a dashing career in law and made a name for himself, but he does not do as well in school as his cousin George and when, upon his father's death, he is offered his living, he feels he must accept it in order to provide for his mother and several unmarried and dowerless sisters. The problem arises in that the living, 500 pounds, is only offered to him on the condition that he will make over 350 of it to his mother for the remainder of her life. Feeling that he does not have enough to support a wife and family, he explains to Adela that he cannot marry, consumed by those same worldly concerns that prohibit Caroline Waddington, if of a less ambitious nature, from immediately marrying George Bertram. Though Adela silently condemns him for his cowardice, she loves him still and suffers silently, a martyr to her love.

So we have two couples thwarted in their paths to happiness by base economical concerns. The strain of the delayed engagement eventually causes a rupture between Caroline and George which, though both love each other sincerely, cannot be overcome due to the seemingly insurmountable pride of both parties. Always ambitious, George's so-called friend Harcourt (now Sir Henry Harcourt), is conveniently standing by to scoop up the spoils - indeed, he might even be held responsible as the orchestrator of the broken engagement. He sees the power to be derived from having as beautiful a wife as Caroline and the potential benefits to be gained in her possible position as heir to the old gentleman's fortune (though Mr. Bertram repeatedly assures him this is not the case). He proposes, and Caroline, determined to sacrifice her heart to those economic considerations she tells herself are paramount, agrees.

This novel is both a tale of love and ambition and a condemnation of a Capitalist society's false worship of the latter. In some 1000 pages, Trollope successfully manages to demonstrate the folly of such behavior, rewarding those who listen to their hearts and punishing those who think of only gain. It is not his best book, hence its obscurity, but it is a very interesting read, full of apt observations of society's follies, as well as extensive sections travelogue that, while not fundamental to the plot, are rather fascinating, capturing as they do a long gone period of time that still, however, has resonances for the present. Some of his political observations I found to be particularly timeless, for example: "The Tories were in ... but from the fact of bring in, were always liable to be turned out." The Bertrams, too, is a thoroughly Victorian novels, with all the necessary references to changing landscape, railroads, self-descriptive character names (like Mr. Neversay Die), and great emphasis placed on the reading of a will. Those who love books of this nature will find much here to relish, but those who do not had best not attempt it. On the other hand, if you happen to be a Janeite, here lies a wealth of fascination, as I have to imagine you have already perceived. As Cardinal Newman observed of The Bertrams, "There is a touch of scepticism which I have never seen in [Trollope] before': it is an oddly moody and melancholic work." Cannot the same be said of Mansfield Park?

Not only are the themes of this novel very much the same as those Austen addresses, most particularly in Mansfield Park, but there are also similarities in the structure and the characters. Trollope begins his novel philosophically by invoking the topic that dominates the story, introducing the false import placed upon economic success in something of the manner of a great "universal truth", though granted not nearly as succinctly or wittily as Austen would have written it. Nevertheless, here can be found similarly astute observations on the cares and hypocrisies of society:
This is undoubtedly the age of humanity - as far, at least, as England is concerned. A man who beats his wife is shocking to us, and a colonel who cannot manage his soldiers without having them beaten is equally so. We are not very fond of hanging; and some of us go so far as to recoil under any circumstances from taking the blood of life. We perform our operations under chloroform; and it has even been suggested that those schoolmasters who insist on adhering in some sort to the doctrines of Solomon should perform their operations in the same guarded manner. If the disgrace be absolutely necessary, let it be inflicted; but not the bodily pain.

So far as regards the low externals of humanity, this is doubtless a humane age. Let men, women, and children have bread; let them have if possible no blows, or, at least, as few as may be; let them also be decently clothed; and let the pestilence be kept out of their way. In venturing to call these low, I have done so in no contemptuous spirit; they are comparatively low if the body be lower than the mind. The humanity of the age is doubtless suited to its material wants, and such wants are those which demand the promptest reply. But in the inner feelings of men to men, and of one man's mind to another man;s mind, is it no as age of extremest cruelty?

There is sympathy for the hungry man; but there is no sympathy for the unsuccessful man who is not hungry. If a fellow mortal be ragged, humanity will subscribe to mend his clothes, but humanity will subscribe nothing to mend his ragged hopes as long as his outside coat shall be whole and descent.
He also ends his novel in Austen's fashion, paying extraordinary attention to length constraints (which he mentions repeatedly in the last one hundred or so pages). This is most apparent in the first paragraph of the last chapter, which bears far more resemblance to Miss Austen's style than the begining of the book, as quoted above (but I had to include it, you know, in order to make my point!):
Methinks it is almost unnecessary to write this last chapter. The story , as I have had to tell it, is all told. The object has been made plain - or, if not, can certainly not be made plainer in these last six or seven pages. The result of weakness and folly - of such weakness and such folly as is too customary among us - have been declared. What further fortune fate had in store for those whose names have been familiar to us, might be guessed by all. But, nevertheless, custom, and the desire of making an end of the undertaken work, and in some sort completing it, compel me to this concluding chapter.
Again, Austen said it more succinctly, but this paragraph bears a remarkable resemblance to the way Austen ends all of her novels, in particular Mansfield Park, from which Trollope's hero derives his name:
Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody, not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.
As for George Bertram, he is very much an amalgamation of Edmund Bertram and Henry Crawford. His conscience is that of Edmund, especially when he finds himself parting from Caroline Waddington in a scene strikingly similar to Edmund's last interview with Mary Crawford. His personality, on the other hand, is Henry Crawford's. He has all of Henry's brilliance, lack of steadiness, and not terribly appealing looks, but lacks the rogue's baseness (that role is allotted to his father). Caroline, in her part, is composed of part Mary Crawford and part Maria Bertram, but with a great deal more moral fiber than either of those two ladies can boast. She suffers Maria's fate in the misery of a marriage based on greed, but her attitude is all Mary. Take for example this scene between the two in Jerusalem - Caroline's words are almost identical to Mary's regrading the choice of the clergy as a profession, as George's defense rings much like Edmund's:
"I do not know that I think so hihgly of the church as you do," said Caroline. "As far as I have seen them, I cannot find that clergymen are more holy than other men; and yet surely they ought to be so."

"At any rate, there is more scope for holiness if a man have it in him to be holy. The heart if a clergyman is more likely to be softened than that of a barrister or an attorney."
And moments later:
"I suppose nothing would induce you to marry a clergyman?" said he at last.

"Why should you suppose that, Mr. Bertram?"

"At any rate, not the parson of a country parish. I am led to suppose it by what you said to me yourself just now."

"I was speaking of you, and not of myself. I say that you have a noble career open to you, and I do not look on the ordinary life of a country parson as a noble career. For myself, I do not see any nobility in store. I do not know that there is any fate more probable for myself than that of becoming a respectable vicaress."

"And why may not a vicar's career be noble? Is it not as noble to have to deal with the souls as with the body?"

"I judge by what I see. They are generally fond of eating, very cautious about their money, untidy in their own houses, and apt to to sleep after dinner."
As for our secondary hero and heroine, they are direct replicas of Austen's.  Arthur Wilkinson is Edmund Bertram to a tee, and Trollope's portrait of him provides those, like me, who take issue with Edmund a wonderful critique of his character. I love this scene in particular:
He had made up his mind to give up Adela Gauntlet, but he had not made up his mind to discover that she did not care for him - that she was indifferent to his happiness, and unable to sympathize with his feelings. The fact was, that though he had resolved that duty and his circumstances required him to remain single, nevertheless, he had at the bottom of his heart a sort of wish that Adela should be in love with him. He had his wish; but he was not sharp enough to discover that he had it.
Now the circumstances are somewhat different but just like Edmund, who is too self-absorbed to acknowledge the love that Fanny has for him, Arthur cannot recognize the truth in front of his face.  Both are infuriatingly annoying, and, as Trollope recognizes, "He was not worthy of her," just as Edmund is not worthy of Fanny. Also gratifying is Adela as the Fanny character, for Trollope captures in her all that is marvelous in Austen's most derided heroine - the loyalty, firm sense of right, and ready recognition of wrong - but by not casting the entire tale from her perspective, he denies the reader the ability to become irritated with her moral authority, while still using her as the voice of conscience throughout the story. He even introduces her in the same manner that Austen uses for her heroines, not relying on physical descriptions (with which he provides everyone else), but letting her actions determine her quality:
Adela Gauntlet was - No; foe once I will venture to have a heroine without describing her. Let each reader make what he will of her; fancy her of any outward shape and colour that he please, and endow her with any amount of divine beauty. But for her inner character, let him take that from me as I go on, if so be that I can succeed in making clear to others that which is clear enough in my own mind's eye.
I could dissect this novel endlessly for such comparisons to Austen, as it abounds in them, as to do so would inevitably spoil the story for those who wish to read it. For not only are there references to Mansfield Park in the book, but to all of Austen's novels. The Austen fan will smile at critiques of Mrs. Radcliffe's conventions, laugh at loud at "Miss Todd's Picnic" (which lady, by the by, bears a remarkable resemblance to Mrs. Jennings) which echoes the one on Box Hill, and will hear Charlotte Lucas' pragmatic (and problematic) approach to marriage quoted by a succession of female tongues. So while I could only give a somewhat lukewarm recommendation of this book to the average reader, I think the Janeite will thoroughly enjoy it, as all of Trollope (as far as I know it) will delight those of such refined sensibilities. Perhaps this is one of his more melancholy books, but the Austen-like wit is still present, and I will leave you with one such example:
"What do you say, Lady Harcourt," asked the baron, "as to the management of a school with - how many millions of them, Mr. Stistick?"

"Five hundred and fifty-five thousand male children - "

"Suppose we say boys," said the judge.

"Boys?" asked Mr. Stictick, not quite understanding him, but rather disconcerted by the familiarity of the word.

"Well, I suppose they must be boys; - at least most of them."

"They are all from none to twelve, I say," continued Mr. Stistick, completely bewildered.

"Oh, that alters the question," said the judge.