Monday, September 29, 2014

Being Mrs. Bennet: Chapter Twenty

Elizabeth was true to her word and kept up a daily correspondence while in Derbyshire. If she did not write to Alison on a given day she wrote to Jane instead, and so her activities were well known to all her family. The beauties of Oxford, Blenheim, Warwick, Kenelworth, and Birmingham were all described in detail, and as the travelers approached the small town of Lambton, Alison's increasing eagerness upon reception of each consecutive missive did not go unremarked.

"it is a wonder how your attachment to Lizzy has increased in recent weeks, my dear," Mr. Bennet remarked.

"My affections are equally divided amongst all my children," she replied. 

"You weren't so egalitarian of old."

"Yes, as we have discussed time and time again, I have changed. Be warned that if you continue to take note of the fact, my nerves might retaliate," she replied with a teasing smile.

He laughed. "Consider the matter entirely forgotten. Now, what has my Lizzy to say?"

Alison read aloud:

My dear Mama,

We arrived in Lambton in time for dinner this  afternoon.  The charms of this small part of Derbyshire are little regarded compared with the more renowned sights nearby, but I admit to anticipating our time here a great deal. How to account for such misplaced enthusiasm? Having pondered the question at some length, I find it is my aunt who is entirely responsible. Were you subject to her joy in returning to this beloved corner of the country after so many years and reuniting with old friends, you would be swept up in her excitement as well. 

We traveled leisurely, and it was a day designed for an open carriage. It is a fine country, and the well-maintained roads do their part to add to a traveler's pleasure. The inn keeper's wife set us off this morning with a picnic basket, and we enjoyed it above a fabulous vista of a river nestled in a valley. We had intended to arrive in Lambton much sooner than we did, but so enjoyable was our repast and location that we remained far longer than intended. I explored some of the adjacent paths and climbed to an even high peak with my uncle while Aunt Gardiner organized our removal. The rest of the journey was marked by little of significance but perfect harmony, excellent conversation, and those visual delights which mother nature is so very adept at producing.  

After so many great houses, one might be expected to tire of fine carpets and satin curtains, but I find myself enduring. Pemberley, as we discovered prior to my departure, is but a few miles from Lambton, and we will visit it tomorrow. Dear Mama - you will recall my concern in visiting this home, not knowing if it's master would consider it an intrusion, but the chambermaid has just now informed me that the family is away from home over the summer, and so I may view it without qualm. There is a great deal of relief in this knowledge, but also some disappointment. It would be interesting to confront Mr. Darcy in his own domain. Who knows - perhaps the chambermaid is mistaken?

"I don't know how Lizzy could possibly hope Mr. Darcy would be at home!" Lydia interrupted.

"Can you imagine coming upon him unexpectedly," Kitty giggled nervously. "I wonder if he would acknowledge her?"

"Of course he would!" Alison protested. "Mr. Darcy is a perfect gentleman and extremely hospitable."

"And how would you know that, my dear?"

Alison blushed. "I should say I assume he would be hospitable."

"It is rather amusing," Mr. Bennet chortled. "I find myself in sympathy with Lizzy in hoping for a meeting with Mr. Darcy. The encounter would certainly enliven her next letter, and we would learn who had the best understanding of the man's character, but it is highly unlikely that the chambermaid is wrong."  

"It is my understanding that working in such a position would render the girl a strong source of information. Gossip is sure to circulate in an inn, and the comings and going of a great family nearby are likely to be tracked with interest," Mary contributed.

"Very true, Mary. The obviousness of your observations render them no less astute, I assure you."  

Alison cast a disapproving look on him, under the glare of which he smiled meekly. "Will you not continue your letter, Mrs. Bennet?"

She gave him one more admonishing glance before proceeding:

We dined on very tolerable mutton this evening: the best, according to my uncle, that we have enjoyed since our departure. I confess I grow weary of eating from inn larders. My aunt and uncle send their good wishes to you and everyone else at Longbourn. I will be sure to describe all the wonders of Pemberley for you tomorrow. Much love, etc.

"Lizzy has undertaken a most complete correspondence," her father commented, gazing at his wife meaningfully. "I wonder where her newfound sense of urgency in writing derives?"

"I asked her to write often."
"But daily? What secrets are left for her to relate in letters addressed to you, Jane, when she makes such a complete account to your mother?"

Jane smiled serenely. "It is almost like being with them, her descriptions are so complete." 

"Well maneuvered, my dear, but all the tact in the world will not alter the fact that Lizzy has been especially attentive - perhaps even anxious - to keep your mother abreast of her every action, while we are regaled with  Mrs. Bennet's surprisingly knowing declarations on Mr. Darcy character. This particular letter, furthermore, seemed to be more focused on that gentleman than the scenery."

"I fail to comprehend your point, Mr. Bennet," Alison replied.

"That is because I have not yet come to it. The point, as you phrase it, is that Lizzy next letter ought to be far more interesting than those that have proceeded it, regardless of the precision of chambermaid gossip. Do you not agree, my dear?" he smiled quizzically.

 Alison shifted in her seat. "I do look forward to descriptions of Pemberley's interior and grounds. The house is said to be uncommonly fine."

"Oh, yes," he chuckled. "We are all so interested in the house, never mind the master."

"I for one still don't care a fig for Mr. Darcy or his house," Lydia declared stoutly.

"Of course, you do not. No one ever expected perception from my youngest child." Ignoring the confused looks gracing the bulk of his family's faces and the admonishment on his wife's, Mr. Bennet left the parlor for his library.

Read Chapter Twenty-One

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Guest Post and Giveaway at Laughing with Lizzie!

When Holidays at Pemberley was published (just about this time last year) I really tried to organize something resembling a blog tour. The ease and speed of publishing through CreateSpace caught me totally off guard (why have I been paying Outskirts Press to torture me these past many years?) and now I'm scrambling to catch up. All chaos and mayhem with this book, as is perhaps appropriate. How lucky I am to have friends in high places ... like Pemberley! Mrs. Darcy of Laughing with Lizzie has been so kind as to invite me to talk about some of the theories regarding madness that informed The Madness of Mr. Darcy, along with an excerpt and THE FIRST GIVEAWAY!!!!  Yeah! Don't miss out on your chance to win a paperback, an ebook, and to take a peek at the physiognomy of a manic.  Who can resist?

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Works of Charlotte Lennox - Part 1

I bought this kindle edition of Charlotte Lennox's works for $1.99 mid-summer, and I just finally finished it. I believe the only major works missing are Henrietta and Hermione, which I might have to go read in the name of thoroughness, but quite frankly, I need a break from Mrs. Lennox. More on why below. Reviewing in no particular order, this post will cover her last novel, Euphemia, and her first, The Life of Harriot Stuart.  Part Two will focus entirely on The Female Quixote, her most famous work. Part Three will tackle the two plays, Philander: A Dramatic Pastoral and The Sister: A Comedy along with the novel Sophia.

Euphemia is the first book in the collection and by far my favorite. It is the only example of an epistolary novel, and I also think it is the work of Lennox's that most resembles Jane Austen's. Were I in the position to be writing a dissertation, I might easily compose one arguing that Sense & Sensibility was directly influenced by Euphemia, which was published just a few years before Austen penned the epistolary Elinor and Marianne: the blueprint for her first published novel. The two female correspondents in Lennox's story are called Euphenia Neville and Maria Harley (Elinor & Marinaane?). They are not sisters but devoted friends, bound to separate as Euphemia prepares to journey to the American colonies for her husband's appointment as the commanding officer of a fort in Albany. This mirrors Lennox' real-life experiences, as her father was lieutenant-governor of New York in her youth. Euphemia's adventures dominate the second half of the novel, while Maria's more domestic exploits comprise the the first. Personally, I found the American part of the tale far more interesting, but it is the first - Maria's tale - where inspiration for Austen may be detected.

Maria is an orphan raised by her uncle, Sir John, upon whom her expectations are based and with whom she shares a devoted relationship. Her fortunes alter when he remarries a calculating woman, jealous of her husband's affection for his niece. Conveniently, she dies early in the tale, and with her demise her schemes against Maria evaporate, but more adventures await the heroine as she navigates the waters of drawing-room courtships.

I won't elaborate on all the many twist and turns that comprise the journeys of the two ladies, for they are many and not always terribly diverting, instead focusing on the thematic elements of this story that, I imagine, influenced Austen. First and foremost is the commentary on the "Cult of Sensibility" (see my review of The Annotated Sense and Sensibility if you are not familiar with this term), which plays a pretty obvious role in both. Something Lennox never lacks is sensibility.

Like Austen, Lennox presents the arguments for and against both sense and sensibility, but while Austen comes ultimately comes down on the side of sense, Lennox (an apt representative of her era) is all sensibility.  The voice of sense in Euphemia, is presented by Mr. Greville, Sir John's closest friend and advisor. He condemns Sir John for sensibility so extreme it endangers his life, as Maria writes:
Mr. Greville utterly condemns his too great sensibility on this occasion. The best virtues, he told him, when in excess, partake so much of vice, that even the extreme right is no better than extreme wrong. 
Good Janeite that I am, as soon as Mr. Greville steps into the story I wished he would prove the hero. He is a model for Mr. Knightley: frank, quick to criticize, taking an interested and advisory role in Maria's affairs (I know we're jumping Austen novels here, but the archetype recurs in Lennox's other works, and Mr. Knightley more than any other hero resembles her portrayals). But Euphemia, who generally represents the less-sensible, more-sensical perspective of the two heroines, rejects Mr. Greville's opinions, preferring instead that of Sir John's heir: the far more gallant and impractical Mr. Harley (who is the actual hero).
Sir John Harley's character rises greatly upon me in your agreeable narrative - he has acted both a just and generous part. You have painted him with great force; I see him in all the turns and changes of his temper, and in every view he is pleasing. Your gay philosopher, your lively, yet sententious Mr. Greville, was in my opinion much to blame, when he placed the most amiable virtue of the mind in the number of its maladies and infirmities. Sir John's sensibility is certainly very great; and if it be necessary, as some have said, that limits and bounds should be set in all cases, they cannot be unfit in acts of acknowledgement. If there be a fault opposite to ingratitude, he has fallen into it; and thus, by the excess, he has avoided the defect; but the defect is so horrid, and the excess so beautiful, that he must be a rigid moralist indeed who calls it an infirmity. 
This convoluted style of rationalizing even the most destructive displays sensibility is typical of Lennox's work, and even when mocking it, she seems to equally embrace it. Yet by the end of the book, one woman in New York is tried to a degree of despair far more poignant than Marianne Dashwood imposes on herself, and the sentiments expressed by both authoresses upon the recovery of their respective ladies are remarkably similar. From Mrs. Lennox:
When I found a calm and steady resignation take the place of that poignant anguish which I had so long filled her heart; When I saw her return to her usual employments, if not with equal vivacity yet with an sir serene and composed ... then my hopes of her returning peace were confirmed. I congratulated her upon a change, so ardently desired by her friends, so salutary for herself.
And Miss Austen:
To Elinor, the observation of the latter was particularly grateful. She, who had seen her week after week so constantly suffering, oppressed by anguish of heart which she had neither courage to speak of, nor fortitude to conceal, now saw with a joy, which no other could equally share, an apparent composure of mind, which, in being the result as she trusted of serious reflection, must eventually lead her to contentment and cheerfulness.
One comes down upon the side of indulging grief while the other is all for restraint and self-command, and still they pretty much end up at the same place (but that Euphemia has little resembling a happy ending). Other themes are similarly explored/echoed/argued in both books. Lennox holds up one young ladies behavior as the ideal:
It is the opinion of [Clara Bellenden's] family, and her friends, that her heart has received a deep, impression in favour of Mr. Euston; but this circumstance, which her modesty and reserve have concealed from herself; no one would be indelicate enough to hint to her.
Both of Austen's heroine's are too fully realized to deny their own feelings to such a degree, but while Elinor is cautious in acknowledging her feelings, Marianne exposes herself too much:
Elinor could not be surprised at their attachment. She only wished that it were less openly shewn; and once or twice did venture to suggest the propriety of some self-command to Marianne. But Marianne abhorred all concealment where no real disgrace could attend unreserve; and to aim at the restraint of sentiments which were not in themselves illaudable, appeared to her not merely an unnecessary effort, but a disgraceful subjection of reason to common-place and mistaken notions. Willoughby thought the same; and their behaviour at all times, was an illustration of their opinions.
Said behavior echoes a sentiment Austen expresses in Pride & Prejudice through Elizabeth Bennet, "Is not general incivility the very essence of love?", potentially originally derived from Lennox's, "he is at leisure to attend to all the little complaisances and assiduities, which a polite man pays to every female in company, but which a lover confines to one." As we continue through Lennox's works, we'll encounter more examples of potential heroic inspiration. The female characters, except in the case of Maria, Euphemia, and Catherine Morland, have little in common. Case in point: Lennox's first novel, The Adventures of Harriot Stewart.

It makes sense to canvass Harriot's trials next to Euphemia's, as many instances in both books are remarkably similar, but I am afraid I have much less to say of this convoluted tale. Harriot, like Euphemia, moves to New York due to an appointment of her father's. Here we can find more echoes of Sense and Sensibility, as it is Mr. Stuart's intention to regain his fortunes but, like Mr. Dashwood, he dies too soon to accomplish anything, leaving his wife and children quite poor and homeless. This too was Mrs. Lennox's experience, and like Harriot she was sent home to be companion to a wealthy aunt who was discovered to be deranged upon arrival. Bad luck, no doubt, but long before this mishap is encountered, Harriot has been abducted multiple times, including by pirates, and is consistently forced to take epically romantic lengths to preserve her chastity and honor. In this she is little like the far more pragmatic Euphemia, who is a) not so witty as to awe society with her intellect and grace, b) not so beautiful as to inspire all men to fall hopelessly in love with her, and c) not so coquettish as to consistently bring about her own troubles. Harriot much more closely resembles Lennox's next and most famous heroine, the ridiculous Arabella, The Female Quixote. It seems safe to assume the author is similarly laughing at Harriot's foibles, but the countless abductions and crises (she is even held prisoner by the prioress of an Abbey in France) are wearying. Even worse, Harriot's own tribulations are frequently interrupted with long reports of the similarly turbulent adventures of pretty much every other woman in the story. I cannot but think of Austen's "Plan for a Novel," as Harriot Stuart's definitely mimics the kind of outlandish romances that Austen mocks, particularly, "Wherever she goes, somebody falls in love with her, and she receives repeated offers of marriage." Perhaps my biggest issue with Harriot is that she says right off the bat, "I was born a coquette, and what would have been art in others, in me was pure nature," and that being said, she makes not the slightest attempt to check her flirtatiousness, which is often the cause of her plights. Lennox does afford this heroine her a well-earned if arguably deserved happy ending (amusingly, just as in Austen's plan for a novel, she meets the irresistible Dumont at the beginning of the story, but they are prevented from loving each other by a prior engagement he has to his cousin and the fact he is Catholic - hence the prioress). It really is a ridiculous story mostly of interest for its autobiographic elements and the precedent Harriot paves for Arabella.

Read Part 2

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Being Mrs. Bennet: Chapter Nineteen

Chapter OneChapter TwoChapter ThreeChapter FourChapter FiveChapter SixChapter SevenChapter EightChapter NineChapter TenChapter ElevenChapter TwelveChapter ThirteenChapter FourteenChapter FifteenChapter SixteenChapter Seventeen, Chapter Eighteen

The time fixed for the beginning of Elizabeth's Northern tour with the Gardiners was fast approaching. In midst of all her turmoil, she clung to the expectation of traveling, even when Alison said she was not to go to the Lakes. Try as she might, Elizabeth could not extract any further information from the lady who only resembled her mother in appearance. Alison might be struggling to remember her true life, but her behavior remained what it had always been: sensible, efficient, thoughtful, and not at all akin to the real Mrs. Bennet's.

Elizabeth found she couldn't enjoy Alison's company as much as she did. She saw her family continue to flourish under her influence with mixed emotions, particularly in regards to her father. When the two ladies were alone, Elizabeth was incapable of speaking of anything but the progressing narrative that was her life, no matter how fictional it might appear to any other. She hounded Alison with questions and received only partial answers. The one thing she was fairly certain of was that her travel plans, though changed and curtailed, were not to be cancelled. In a vain struggle to alleviate her disappointment, Elizabeth abandoned the Lyrical Ballads, which she was in midst of reading, but no pragmatic resolution could ease the uncomfortable fluttering in her abdomen. Her circumstances were far too exceptional.

Finally Mrs. Gardiner's fateful letter arrived, at once delaying the planned holiday's commencement, curtailing its extent, confirming Alison's predictions, and dispersing any lingering doubts Elizabeth had regarding that lady's sanity. Mr. Gardiner would be prevented by business from setting out till a fortnight later in July, and must be in London again within a month; and as that left too short a period for them to go so far, and see so much as they had proposed. According to the present plan, they were to go no farther northward than Derbyshire. 

With the mention of Derbyshire, there were many ideas connected. It was impossible for Elizabeth to see the word without thinking of Pemberley and its owner. "But surely," said she, "I may enter his county with impunity, and rob it of a few petrified spars without his perceiving me." Such reasoning seemed very well but for Alison's strange interest in and knowledge of Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth could only wonder if she had no choice but to see him and scanned through her letter once more for any mention of the place and locale.

The country afforded enough to be seen to occupy the chief of their three weeks, and to Mrs. Gardiner it had a peculiarly strong attraction. The town where she had formerly passed some years of her life, and where they were now to spend a few days, was probably as great an object of her curiosity as all the celebrated beauties of Matlock, Chatsworth, Dovedale, or the Peak. Elizabeth retreated to her father's library to procure a travel atlas and looked about until she located Lambton, With a sinking heart, though she could not claim surprise, she noted her aunt's hometown's proximity to Mr. Darcy's estate.

Carrying the book with her as evidence, she found Alison strolling through the wilderness alone, having just parted from Jane, Kitty, and Lydia at the palings, those two ladies bound for Meryton.

"Mama!' Elizabeth heralded her, for no matter how odd it often seemed, she could not help but call Alison by the title. "I received the letter from Aunt Gardiner changing our travel plans."

Though Alison now sometimes had to be reminded she had another life, her knowledge of Pride & Prejudice never seemed to diminish. She nodded knowingly, "Yes. I told you it would." 

"But you did not tell me we would be bound for Derbyshire, and to a town not five miles distant from Pemberley!"

"No. I did not think it worth while to alarm you sooner than necessary. You are alarmed, are you not?"

"Of course I am! Only imagine how it must look to him - as if I were putting myself in his way on purpose."

"I assure you he would be thrilled were that the case."

"After insulting him so mercilessly? There cannot be a person in the world he is less inclined to encounter." Alison didn't reply, and Elizabeth was left to pursue her thoughts. "Perhaps the family is not in residence."

"They are not, yet."

"You mean they will return?"

"Yes, and just in time, too."

"Please, ma'am! Stop speaking in riddles and hints. It is torturous. I want to know what I might expect on this holiday."

"I fear if I tell you, you will intentionally thwart what ought to happen."

"And what is that?"

"To be honestly, I am not entire positive, but now that Lydia is safe I strongly suspect that Mr. Darcy will renew his proposal to you."

Elizabeth was flabbergasted. "What man in his right mind would possibly do so after such an emphatic rejection?"

"One who is deeply in love and receives encouragement to hope."

"Surely, not from me!"

"Yes, from you Elizabeth. Has not your opinion of him changed already? When you see him again, at ease in his own home, and obviously heeding your criticism of his previous hauteur, do you not think you might be swayed in his direction?"

Elizabeth looked extremely skeptical. "I do not see how such a revolution in my feelings could occur. My opinion might improve, but I could not love him. To accept such an offer would be entirely mercenary."

Alison smiled despite herself. "Perhaps you do not properly account for the influence of a fine estate?"

"Is that what you think of me? Does Miss Austen portray me as a person who would place financial considerations above harmony and happiness?"

"Not above, no, but I know you are not insensible to the implications of a good income. Did you not first check you inclination towards Wickham upon Mrs. Gardiner's warning he could not support you as a wife?"

"Yes," she replied, shaking off her continued surprise at the extent of Alison's knowledge, "but the man's perfidy surely negates his value as an example."

"Not at all. It merely illustrates that you are not all romantic: practical considerations, like how to eat and shelter, will override your emotional inclinations."

"I might secure myself a respectable union without aspiring to Pemberley."

"But this has nothing to do with respectable union!" Alison cried, revealing some of her own exasperation. "Yours is one of the world's great love stories. Fitzwilliam Darcy is the only man with whom you will ever be happy."

Elizabeth listened to these words in shock. Alison had hinted often enough that Mr. Darcy played an important role in her future, but to consider the man in the light of a lover was almost horrifying, how else to explain the twisted feeling descended on her chest, which fluttered almost painfully? "It is impossible," was her soft reply.

"No. It is not impossible. Go to Derbyshire. When your aunt and uncle choose to visit Pemberley, assure yourself the family is away and go with confidence. The rest will take care of itself. Just have some faith and write to me everyday, for I will be on edge to learn all your doings."

"I doubt they will be what you wish to hear. My first effusions might less insupportable than those of the generality of travelers, but they will not be to your purpose. Nothing but where we have gone - which lakes, mountains, and rivers we have seen. I can promise no more."

"You can promise not to thwart what I have predicted," Alison retorted.

Elizabeth allowed a small smile to curve her lips. "Yes. I suppose I can promise that." She felt a small sensation of excitement infuse her being. "If to Pemberley we are to go, I will not protest."

"Good!" Mrs. Bennet sighed with some relief. "Now we had best procure you a few day gowns for your trip, and I think one for the evenings."

Elizabeth laughed. "If my humble attire did not frighten Mr. Darcy away before, he cannot be overly sensitive to it now."

"It is not Mr. Darcy who concerns me. One never knows where one might be confronted with the pettiness of our sex, and while a fine gown will not quiet a tongue bent on maliciousness, it will gall a jealous heart, and I think that can be rather satisfying, don't you?"

"Who do you have in mind, ma'am?"

"We shall see."

Read Chapter Twenty

Monday, September 15, 2014

T. Tembaron by Francis Hodgson Burnett

T. Tembaron is one of my favorite books by Francis Hodgson Burnett. Like the bulk of her work (see a complete list if her works by category here), it was new to me a few months ago, but it is amongst her novels that should still be well-known and celebrated. The book begins with an explanation of the main character's name:
The boys at the Brooklyn public school which he attended did not know what the "T." stood for. He would never tell them. All he said in reply to questions was: "It don't stand for nothin'. You've gotter have a' 'nitial, ain't you?" His name was, in fact, an almost inevitable school-boy modification of one felt to be absurd and pretentious. His Christian name was Temple, which became "Temp." His surname was Barom, so he was at once "Temp Barom." In the natural tendency to avoid waste of time it was pronounced as one word, and the letter p being superfluous and cumbersome, it easily settled itself into "Tembarom," and there remained. By much less inevitable processes have surnames evolved themselves as centuries rolled by. Tembarom liked it, and soon almost forgot he had ever been called anything else.
The name is of utmost importance to the plot, but Tembaron doesn't know it as slugs through life on the streets of New York on "twenty per," as he describes his salary, He's content with a dreary third-floor room in a boarding house, and ecstatic to be given an opportunity to write the gossip column  newspaper that employs him. Raised to "twenty-five per," he now feels confident speaking of his future intentions to Ann Hutchinson, another resident of the boarding house, who is in New York with her father while he tries to sell his invention. The honor of trudging through the snow in worn shoes so that he can someday marry Ann is all he ever wanted in life, when his real name, Temple Temple Barholm, suddenly interferes.

For this fully American young man proves to be the only heir to a great and established fortune in England. Ann, understanding the implications of his inheritance better than Tembaron, tells him she will not consent to marry until he has spent a year in his new life, and he, dutiful, honest, and loyal, heads of to England to try his hand at being lord of the manor. The effect is entirely comic (his first interactions with his valet are hysterical). He makes horrendous social mistakes and a slew of shady relatives attempt to take advantage of his simplicity, but he begins to make real and powerful friends as well, like his neighbor the Duke of Stone. Tembarom might be uneducated and hopelessly informal, but as he himself says of those who would take advantage of him, "I'm on to them," and to his one new relation not looking for anything of him, having been treated as a drudge all her life, he is an absolute hero.

Part of Tembaron's character, like most of Burnett's heroes and heroines, is that he is almost supernaturally good, and there is no better illustration of this than his treatment of Miss Alicia Temple Barholm. About to leave the place where she had been suffered to dwell for an alms house, Tembaron intervenes like an angel of justice and mercy:

"I beg pardon, sir, but Higgins's cart has come for Miss Temple Barholm's box; he is asking when she wants the trap." 
"She doesn't want it at all," answered Tembarom. "Carry her trunk up- stairs again. She's not going away." 
The lack of proper knowledge contained in the suggestion that Burrill should carry trunks upstairs caused Miss Alicia to quail in secret, but she spoke with outward calm. 
"No, Burrill," she said. "I am not going away." 
"Very good, Miss," Burrill replied, and with impressive civility he prepared to leave the room. Tembarom glanced at the tea-things. 
"There's only one cup here," he said. "Bring one for me." 
Burrill's expression might perhaps have been said to start slightly. 
"Very good, sir," he said, and made his exit. Miss Alicia was fluttering again. 
"That cup was really for you, Mr. Temple Barholm," she ventured. 
"Well, now it's for you, and I've let him know it," replied Tembarom. 
"Oh, please," she said in an outburst of feeling--"please let me tell you how grateful--how grateful I am!" 
But he would not let her. 
"If you do," he said, "I'll tell you how grateful I am, and that'll be worse. No, that's all fixed up between us. It goes. We won't say any more about it." 
He took the whole situation in that way, as though he was assuming no responsibility which was not the simple, inevitable result of their drifting across each other--as though it was only what any man would have done, even as though she was a sort of delightful, unexpected happening. He turned to the tray. 
"Say, that looks all right, doesn't it?" he said. "Now you are here, I like the way it looks. I didn't yesterday." 
Burrill himself brought the extra cup and saucer and plate. He wished to make sure that his senses had not deceived him. But there she sat who through years had existed discreetly in the most unconsidered rooms in an uninhabited wing, knowing better than to presume upon her privileges--there she sat with an awed and rapt face gazing up at this new outbreak into Temple Barholm's and "him joking and grinning as though he was as pleased as Punch." 

Behind all the wonderful cultural clashes and misunderstanding lies a mystery. Before learning of his new identity, Tembaron finds a man suffering from amnesia in a frozen alley and takes him home. When he goes to England, the man dubbed "Mr. Strangeways" goes with him.  The name, though apt enough in a New York boarding house, seems much more questionable on someone who obviously feels so much more at home in the genteel atmosphere at Temple Barholm (oh yeah, he's Temple Temple Barholm of Temple Barholm) than its new owner. 

The book is absolutely delightful. The character of Tembaron closely resembles that of a more minor character called G. Seldon from The Shuttle, another of my favorite, written a decade earlier. I think Burnett found the young entrepreneurial New Yorker to delightful and irresistible to not give him a book all his own. T. Tembaron is a must-read story and you can start it right now for free:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The home stretch, Mrs. Darcy's Diamonds, and more ...

Sorry to have gone silent again. I just finished the sixth and final draft of The Madness of Mr. Darcy. Enormous thanks and gratitude to Anna over at Diary of an Eccentric, who did a marvelous job editing the text. Paperbacks won't be available until early next month, I'm guessing, but the ebook might be out as soon as next week! It's time to switch gears and start marketing. Plus I need to finish writing Becoming Mrs. Norris for this years Twisted Austen offering. Right now it stands at 3,000 words ... there is much to be done, and moving into November I plan on conquering NaNoWriMo once more with my first regency romance, The Prodigal Husband.

For these reasons and more, there looks to be no Being Mrs. Bennet chapter this week. Maybe early next. Gotta get my bearings. She's probably going to have to go on hiatus again in November, but I hope to wrap this first draft of the story up in the first quarter of 2015.

There is also a children's book I'm toying with. More to come. Busy, busy, busy!

I want to make sure I mention, before things get even more out of hand, that I received a copy of Mrs. Darcy's Diamonds from one of my favorite Janeites, Jane Odiwe. I love the way she paints a scene with words, and her powers are nicely displayed in this sweet novella. Reading it helped keep me sane while waiting to get my book back from Anna. This is the first in a series of short tales Ms. Odiwe will be regaling us with over the next year. Look for Mr. Darcy's Christmas Calendar in November, and Mrs. Darcy's Parisian Pin next spring! Can't wait!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Being Mrs. Bennet: Chapter Eighteen

Chapter OneChapter TwoChapter ThreeChapter FourChapter FiveChapter SixChapter SevenChapter EightChapter NineChapter TenChapter ElevenChapter TwelveChapter ThirteenChapter FourteenChapter FifteenChapter Sixteen, Chapter Seventeen

Elizabeth stared at Alison in shock. "So these are my options! I am either a figment of someone's imagination, or the daughter of a lunatic?"

"I am afraid those seem to be the only options," Alison replied.

"You will forgive me then for concluding in the favor of the more probable option!"

"You think I'm mad?"

"I do not think I am a fictional being."

"But I know all about you," Alison persisted. "I know just what happened in Hunsford with Mr. Darcy."

Elizabeth's flushed skin flamed red. "What do you know?"

"'In vain have I struggled,'" she quoted from memory.  "'It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.'" 

"But," Elizabeth hesitated, "how can you ..."

"I have read that scene a thousand times, maybe more. I have watched it performed by half a dozen actors in as many movies and twice in the theater. Your story is one of the most beloved in the English language."

Elizabeth was floored. She knew not what to believe. How could Alison be able to recite Mr. Darcy's words, which sounded painfully romantic when heard a second time, if it were not true? She resorted to her usual defense when at a loss: laughter. "Well, I suppose if I must be a work of fiction, it is preferable to be a famous one. What is the name of the book?"

"Pride and Prejudice."

"Hmm," she smirked. "How fitting. This Jane Austen must have a way with words. We must be long expected below. Shall we make our way down?"

Alison smiled at Elizabeth but her gaze was evaded. She was fairly certain that Elizabeth was still of the belief she was crazy, but she also reasoned that she would accept the truth as the shock wore off. Alison could, if needed, produce ample evidence in her favor, but she hoped it would not prove necessary. As much as she discounted any concerns about changing the future in reality, she did have lingering concerns about changing the future of the book, and now that Lydia was safe, it was best to meddle as little as possible, allowing Elizabeth's journey to Pemberley proceed as it always had, excepting the precipitous departure.

Dinner was a stilted affair, marked only by the diversion of a discourse on Mary's new book and Lydia's continued sulkiness. Jane, who perceived Elizabeth's unease with concern, strove to maintain a conversation with her regarding the needs of a tenant, but it was entirely one-sided.

 When the ladies withdrew, Mr. Bennet held Elizabeth back in order to determined what ailed her. "You are not at all yourself," he protested. "Nothing could divert you at dinner, with Mary and Lydia both providing ample provocation. What has unsettled you, girl?"

Elizabeth, who had been pacing the room, stopped and confronted him. "I think my mother might be mad."

"I am certain of it," he readily agreed.

"This is no time for levity, Papa," she said, resuming her walk with frustration.

"It is always time for levity! How else is one to live? You have been taking yourself inordinately seriously since your return, and I cannot like it. Where is my Lizzy beneath all this seriousness?"

"She is here," her voice pleaded, "she is just concerned for her mother. I cannot except that you do not see anything the matter with her."

"I already agreed she was mad. That was no ordinary bump on the head she suffered."

"Indeed, it was not!"

"But as any change in her person can only be hailed as a blessing to us all, why do you persist in upsetting our new found peace? I have not been so pleased with my life's companion in more than two decades!" He firmly declared.

"Oh, Papa!" Elizabeth sank into a chair, wondering if he was or was not in danger of committing infidelity. The thought made her head ache, and she pressed her temples with her palms. "She tried to convince me I am a character in a book today."

"Well, she is much mistaken there. I never knew a heroine who enjoyed good health, cheer, and wasn't prone to swoon. You are not at all a good candidate for the position."

"Nevertheless, she truly believes that is what we all are - players in a work of fiction!"

"It might possibly prove more diverting than ordinary life, but one shudders at the inconvenience of having daughters eloping left and right."

Elizabeth began to tell him that it was precisely such a scenario Alison had envisioned for Lydia, but then she recalled what was said about Mr. Bennet consenting to Lydia following the militia to Brighton. Though she first balked at the notion of such imprudence, her current frustration made her wonder if her father weren't capable of it. Other things Alison said also rang true. How did she know about Mr. Darcy's proposal? she wondered once again. Perhaps it was too soon to press the issue on her father, especially as he was proving far from receptive. "It does sound exceedingly tiresome," she said with a forced smile, which her father accepted as a sufficient enough improvement to dismiss her.

Alison heard a knock on her door that evening, and though the now familiar swell of nerves attacked her as usual, she felt a corresponding surge of disappointment when Elizabeth, not Mr. Bennet, came through the door. "Lizzy! I thought you would continue to avoid me at least until tomorrow."

"I am sorry if my response caused offense, but you must acknowledge how very disturbing it is to be told your existence is meaningless."

"Not meaningless, Elizabeth. You have no notion the countless millions of people you have inspired, and of course it is disturbing. It is why I did not want to tell you the truth."

"It is the truth, though. I realize now there is no other explanation. To persist in resisting the truth because it is disagreeable is the real madness."

Alison reached out and clasped her hand, drawing the girl to sit on the edge of the bed. A flash a deja vue struck her, as she recalled how often her own Elizabeth had sat just so, confessing her concerns and fears. In her mind's eye, she could no longer clearly recall the difference in the appearance of the two Lizzys, and her heart throbbed at the realization, but in typical motherly fashion she suppressed her own cares to comfort those of the child before her. "I was concerned you might try to persuade your father to lock me away."

"I nearly did, but he would not heed my concerns. It was his unresponsiveness which brought home the truth. I can all too easily imagine having a similar conversation with him regarding Lydia and Brighton, to equal avail." She forced a smile, "Are you not concerned about what might happen now you have altered the plot?"

"I have wondered if it were wise, but I cannot see any purpose to my being here if it is not to remedy those imperfections, so well detailed by Mr. Darcy in his letter, that I am so particularly capable of addressing. As long as my actions do not have any contrary effects on the remainder of the tale, all should be well, I think."

"It is so strange to think you know it all, as if you were there!" Elizabeth exclaimed. "Do you think I was wrong to conceal the truth of Wickham's evil propensities? Had I not, Lydia could never have been imposed upon."

"I think your desire to protect Miss Darcy's reputation is ample justification for the decision. You could not know what was to come and must not blame yourself for it."

"And what is to happen next?"

Alison held Elizabeth's eyes in a steady gaze. "You are not to go to the Lakes."

Read Chapter Nineteen