I’ve just spent a few days in Bath and I thought I’d share some pictures with you as summer has now arrived! It has felt as if winter might stay forever and the leaves took such a long time to come out on the trees, but now not only have we luscious greenery but beautiful blossom, wisteria, magnolias, and wildflowers. This first photo shows a view taken from Pulteney Street where Catherine Morland stayed with the Allens in Northanger Abbey. It’s a short walk from here to Sydney Place, where Jane Austen lived, and at the end of Pulteney Street sits the Holburne Museum. They have a fascinating event on at the moment called The Ghosts in the Gardens – you are presented with a box hung on a strap and a map which shows the locations of all the spectacular attractions there used to be in the gardens. I chose the fireworks option and when you are given the box to hold it starts ticking and making firework noises, which gets some odd expressions from people in the park! When you find a particular spot on the map, the box starts to rumble and a voice starts to relate a tale. Actors are used to bring the story to life – the characters are based on real people who worked in the gardens – it was immensely enjoyable. Like my book, Searching for Captain Wentworth, the theme is travelling back through time, and I suppose that’s why it really appealed to me!
My next two photos show a view of Camden Place which is situated high above Bath. It’s quite a climb up here – if you remember, at the end of Persuasion Captain Wentworth accompanies Anne home shortly after he has presented her with “the letter”.
Presently, struck by a sudden thought, Charles said -
”Captain Wentworth, which way are you going? Only to Gay Street, or farther up the town?”
”I hardly know,” replied Captain Wentworth, surprised.
”Are you going as high as Belmont? Are you going near Camden Place? Because if you are, I shall have no scruple in asking you to take my place, and give Anne your arm to her father’s door. She is rather done for this morning, and must not go so far without help, and I ought to be at that fellow’s in the market place. He promised me the sight of a capital gun he is just going to send off; said he would keep it unpacked to the last possible moment, that I might see it; and if I do not turn back now, I have no chance. By his description, a good deal like the second-sized double-barrel of mine, which you shot with one day round Winthrop.”
There could not be an objection. There could be only a most proper alacrity, a most obliging compliance for public view; and smiles reined in and spirits dancing in private rapture. In half a minute Charles was at the
bottom of Union Street again, and the other two proceeding together: and soon words enough had passed between them to decide their direction towards the comparatively quiet and retired gravel walk, where the power of conversation would make the present hour a blessing indeed, and prepare for it all the immortality which the happiest recollections of their own future lives could bestow. There they exchanged again those feelings and those promises which had once before seemed to secure everything, but which had been followed by so many, many years of division and estrangement. There they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their reunion, than when it had been first projected; more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other’s character, truth, and attachment; more equal to act, more justified in acting. And
there, as they slowly paced the gradual ascent, heedless of every group around them, seeing neither sauntering politicians, bustling house-keepers, flirting girls, nor nurserymaids and children, they could indulge in those retrospections and acknowledgments, and especially in those explanations of what had directly preceded the present moment, which were so poignant and so ceaseless in interest. All the little variations of the last week were gone through; and of yesterday and to-day there could scarcely be an end.
Lady Russell is Anne Elliot’s older friend in Persuasion. She lives in Rivers Street, which is not too far to walk to the Assembly Rooms.
When Lady Russell, not long afterwards, was entering Bath on a wet afternoon, and driving through the long course of streets from the Old Bridge to Camden Place, amidst the dash of other carriages, the heavy rumble of carts and drays, the bawling of newsmen, muffin-men, and milk-men, and the ceaseless clink of pattens, she made no complaint. No, these were noises which belonged to the winter pleasures: her spirits rose under their influence; and like Mrs. Musgrove, she was feeling, though not saying, that after being long in the country, nothing could be so good for her as a little quiet cheerfulness … (Anne) was put down in Camden Place, and Lady Russell then drove to her own lodgings, in Rivers Street.
Colonel Wallis is Sir Walter Elliot’s friend. He lives in Marlborough Buildings which are just off the Royal Crescent. I’ve been told they were built as a wind break for the crescent who didn’t like the wind that whipped up from below. I have some friends who have a flat here and a garden – it is really beautiful – and apart from the gardens are some lovely allotments where residents grow flowers and vegetables.
Mr. Elliot, and his friends in Marlborough Buildings, were talked of the whole evening. “Colonel Wallis had been so impatient to be introduced to them! and Mr. Elliot so anxious that he should!”
Lastly, here’s a photo taken on the Kennet and Avon canal. If you take a walk in Sydney Gardens and find the white gate that leads to the canal you can step down and follow the path which goes in a couple of directions – this view is on the way to Widcombe and there are some lovely houses with gardens falling almost into the water.
In my latest book, Searching for Captain Wentworth, my heroine Sophie goes back in time to live the life of her ancestor, Sophia Elliot. Sophia’s family live next door to the Austen family and when she meets Jane’s sailor
brother Charles, she finds she is very attracted to him. Sophia has to leave Bath for Lyme with her own family and meets Charles in Sydney Gardens.
I escaped to Sydney Gardens. Fine weather had brought out crowds of people who promenaded in their finery. The sun felt very warm on my skin, and I wished I’d brought a parasol to keep me cool. I kept to the shadows and the sun-dappled paths, lingering under tall trees whose leaves rustled in the warm breeze over my head. I’d reached the white gate before I stopped to catch my breath and cool down. All of a sudden, I had the inexplicable feeling that I was being watched. I looked up, and then I saw him. There, not ten feet away was my very own Captain Wentworth, dressed in a blue uniform with a velvet stock about his throat. He carried his hat under his arm so that I saw the dark waves of his cropped hair above his lean and handsome face. It was Charles and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that he had come looking for me.
‘I thought I might find you here,’ he said, a generous smile breaking to light up his face.
‘You look lovely,’ I said, before I could think of any alternative, and then immediately thought how inappropriate that would sound in this time and place.
Charles blushed but, far from being shocked, he actually seemed pleased by my reaction. ‘Thank you for your generous compliment, but it is you who truly does justice to the word.
Indeed, if I may be permitted to say it, Miss Elliot, you do look very lovely.’
It was my turn to blush.
Charles continued. ‘There’s a military parade at four o’clock, to celebrate the Peace.’
‘I confess; I did not know. I should love to come and see it, to watch you marching down the road.’
‘Well, we are to start at Great Pulteney Street with a march through the town and back again in time for the grand gala opening at six.’
‘I will come and wave at you.’
Charles smiled again, but then his expression changed to such a serious one that I wondered what on earth he could be about to say.
‘I have enjoyed our discussions, Miss Elliot. It has been an honour to know you and your friendship is one I shall always think on with pleasure.’
I could hardly meet his eyes. ‘I wish we were not going away just yet. I should so much like to know you and your sisters better.
Thank you for your kindness towards me, Lieutenant Austen.’
‘I hope we will meet again.’
‘We will meet this evening, I am certain.’
‘Yes, I trust we will, but if we are unable to speak to one another, if the opportunity does not arise … Please write to my sister and tell her of your plans, where you are headed on your journey.
Do I ask too much, Miss Elliot?’
‘No, it will be my delight to do as you ask. I sincerely hope our paths will cross again one day.’
He paused. ‘I must go now,’ he said, ‘but I wished you to take this in remembrance of a friend who holds you dear.’
From the lining of his hat he produced a small package loosely wrapped in paper.
I hope you enjoyed the extract – if you’d like to participate in the Ghosts in the Gardens event there is more info here
Welcome to the fifteenth installment of The Bennet Brother, the interactive group writing project from Austen Authors! At the end of this segment, you’ll have a chance to vote on what happens next. There are also extra details on Twitter, where this story has taken on a life of its own. Mr. Edward Bennet (@edwbennet) already has a notable presence and regularly interacts with readers, including this interview with Miss Leatherberry on Leatherbound Reviews:
See how it all started and take a few moments to enjoy the Bennets as children in Susan Mason-Milks The Bennet Children have an Adventure, prelude to The Bennet Brother.
Full details on Pride & Prejudice Reader’s Choice can be read by clicking to the page via the menu above or the icon to the left. Authors for upcoming scenes through August are now listed.
Voting for today’s installment will end at 6am tomorrow – Thursday, May 23rd. We are also running a special poll for YOU to vote on which lovely lady will win Edward Bennet’s heart! The competition is stiff with so many worthy candidates to choose from, so we need YOUR help! Scroll down, or click this link: The Bennet Brother Special Poll
Next week, the story continues with a new addition by Susan Mason-Milks. The previous fourteen installments can be read in order on The Writers Block.
And now, Scene #15 by Maria Grace~~
Her fingers were warm in the crook of his arm. A twinge of pain shot through his arm as he bent it more tightly to cradle her dainty hand. The gunshot wound had not yet healed, but even this pain only raised the warmth in his chest, for it was the tangible reminder of her tender ministrations. Even with her knowledge, how many women would have had the strength of mind to do what she did for him? Anne was right, Elizabeth was a treasure.
How improper for him to even notice. Their position was dangerously compromising—together, unchaperoned, in the dark. Had Mrs. Bennet been permitted to join this visit she would have insisted on an immediate marriage. Not that he would mind so much. It would save him the anxiety of winning her hand. Elizabeth deserved better though. He would not force her hand in any way.
Thankfully her brother had proven himself honorable. Should he catch wind of their private assignation, Edward would hold his peace. Unlike far too many others, that man could hold his tongue.
Hold his tongue—blast it all, he had been silent far too long. They must have some conversation. What must she think? He cleared his throat.
She looked up at him and he nearly lost himself in her amber eyes, so intense, so unique—Get a hold of yourself, man!
He cleared his throat again. “You must allow me to apologize for my aunt’s infamous behavior. I do not even know where to begin expressing my deepest regrets. Her transgressions are so egregious. Truly I would have never considered her capable of such things.”
“I have long believed it best to think on the past only as it gives me pleasure. Perhaps in this circumstance the advice might serve you well also.”
“I fear I do not follow.”
“Rather that relive each transgression, you might offer a single apology to cover all her sins and then we may look on it no more.” Her smile extended to her eyes. “You are not the only one with family members for whom apologies have been required.”
“If you would find that sufficient in light of what has occurred, then I can hardly argue. Please, madam on behalf of myself and my family, please accept my humblest apologies for my aunt’s wrongdoings.”
“On behalf of my family, I accept, sir.” Her lips turned up in the delightful teasing smile that had become the way he most often remembered her.
“You are most gracious—and lovely. Have I told you, I consider you one of the loveliest women of my acquaintance?” Had he just said that? The moonlight was far more intoxicating than the finest wine. It certainly loosened his tongue more effectively.
“Considering the arrival of Lady Colette, I will consider that a compliment of the highest order.” She looked away and continued their walk.
“Poor Colette.” He sighed and covered her hand with his.
“Indeed? Why do you say that?”
“You will not be surprised that she is known everywhere for her beauty. She would tell you her attractiveness is as much bane as boon.”
“Most certainly. She is a remarkable woman. Though her intellect might not quite rival your own, she is very clever and her sense of humor has a rapier point. But men rarely see past her face—or her fortune, and women rarely can swallow their jealousy long enough to become acquainted. I think you would find her a charming acquaintance—although I might live to regret the suggestion.”
“She loves to tease, even more than her brother, and perhaps even more than you. I fear the two of you together might be quite formidable.”
They shared a gentle laugh. How few people did he laugh with? He needed more laughter in his life.
He chewed his lip. “I know your brother had purposed to leave Pemberley in the face of my aunt’s harassment. Do you think it possible that he might reconsider? I would like to reissue my invitation to you, your sister and your brother. Would you accept Pemberley’s hospitality once again? I should very much like to make good on my promises to your brother and demonstrate to you and your sister that most of my family can perform appropriately in polite company.”
“So you desire to secure companions for your sister and cousin who are perhaps a bit less trying than Mr. Bingley’s sisters?” Her eyebrow lifted in that precious little expression somewhere between amusement and pique, an expression he had seen no other woman perfect like Elizabeth did.
He paused and turned slightly to meet her gaze. “While I am certain Georgiana would repine the loss of your society, no, I do not ask on their behalf, I am a selfish being and ask you for myself alone.”
Her eyes widened, glistening in the moonshine. Had his confession surprised her? It had him. Normally difficult words flowed far too easily in her presence.
“I…I…I must consult with my brother, of course, but I will tell him I would be very pleased to accept your invitation.” She licked her lips and caught the top one in her teeth.
Though he fought it, his smile would not be suppressed. Was it her presence or the night air or some combination of the two that sapped his lauded self-control? Perhaps it might be best for them to return to the house before it was further taxed.
“Shall we go in search of him then?”
“Yes. I am surprised he has not already come after us. He can be most protective.”
“I believe that a desirable trait in an elder brother. Perhaps you would consider reminding Georgiana of that.” He winked and turned them in the direction of the house.
* ~ * ~ *
That brazen chit! The hoyden! Elizabeth Bennet was little better than a public woman! Caroline wrapped her arms around her waist and leaned a little closer to the window. She could still see them—Darcy and that horrid Bennet girl—silhouetted in the moonlight.
Could Darcy not see the very great danger he was in? If Edward Bennet saw any of that imprudent display, he could demand Darcy marry his sister and spread enough gossip to ensure it happened. This could not be borne!
Lady Catherine was correct, these Bennets had to go. Even more so because her own brother was in very great danger of being drawn in by a Bennet himself. Granted, the eldest sister was less objectionable, but still to be related to those people with those connections and no fortune? No—she could not take the risk.
She had been entirely unsuccessful in distracting Darcy from Elizabeth, so the use of her own womanly wiles was out. Nor was she likely to be able to discredit Elizabeth to those who did not already find her objectionable. There had to be another way.
She dragged herself away from the window and took a turn about the drawing room. Dear Miss Darcy—a much more acceptable match for Charles than a Bennet—sat near a screen, taking the silhouette of her Fitzwilliam cousins together as they sat back to back on the other side of the screen.
At least Lady Colette did not parade around flaunting her beauty—not that she needed to. Charles did not fail to notice her, but he could not manage a woman like Lady Colette. He was too much of a puppy. Her fortunes and connections were good though. Still, she was not a woman Caroline could manage. If there were only some way to get her gone, too. But no, one problem at a time.
Lady Colette giggled as she walked past. “You know, her father hardly approved. He sent word for her to return immediately.”
“I should say so!” Colonel Fitzwilliam slapped his thigh. “His was entirely unfitting company for her.”
“Do not move, cousin.” Georgiana huffed.
Caroline continued on. Her brow furrowed and she worried her lower lip in her teeth. If only Mr. Bennet would call his insufferable family home. Surely he could not approve of his daughter walking chaperoned in the moonlight with a man. Her brows rose and she cocked her head. Nor would a decent father approve of highwaymen hired to attack his daughter’s party, nor his daughter attending a gentleman in his chamber! Surely, if Mr. Bennet knew, he would call his family home. Perhaps a letter…
She nodded and turned the corner. That would take time, though and there was still a chance the dreadful man would not call them back. She could not leave that to chance. But…if Mr. Bennet took ill suddenly, then they would surely leave to attend him. Unfortunately, there was no way to make that happen.
She scowled and ran her knuckles underneath her jaw. He did not actually need to be sick. If they thought he was, then they would leave…and if in the meantime he heard about the dreadful goings on, he might keep them at Longbourn once they arrived. Her eyes widened, especially if warned that a certain jealous and spiteful younger sister high written a false letter to make them quit Pemberley!
Yes! That had possibilities. But who could write to warn them of their father’s demise? It had to be someone whose handwriting they would not recognize. She rounded another corner of the room, nearly bumping into a chair. There had to be someone, a friend, a family member…wait, there was a cousin, the vicar. Yes! He was tied to Lady Catherine. What was his name? Colbin? Colechester? Collingsworth? No, no…it was Collins! Yes, Mr. Collins.
She crossed the last few steps to the writing desk and slipped into the chair. Jane had mentioned that they never corresponded with Cousin Collins. Until now, of course. The corner of her lips twitched. She opened the drawer and removed a crisp sheet of foolscap.
Oh, the poor Bennet family—how distressed they would be to receive the terrible news.
She dipped her pen and scratched it along the paper, with slow, deliberate strokes. She squared each letter and pressed the pen far more heavily than she ordinarily did.
Dear Cousin Edward,
A passible masculine hand—surely better than Charles’s.
I regret to be the bearer of such terrible news. After I learned of my patroness’s terrible deeds toward you and your dear sisters, I immediately set off for Longbourn to confess all to your good father. The news fell on him very hard. He suffered
Gracious, what had he suffered? Caroline held the end of the pen in her lips. If needed to be something serious—but what would a clergyman know? It need not be a detailed account, as with any good fabrication, too many details would be its undoing.
Your good father suffered a serious spell and has been confined to his bed since. In his few wakeful moments he calls for your immediate presence. It is certain your mother requires her eldest daughters for her comfort in this time of need. I implore you—return immediately. There is no telling how long your poor father has left on this earth, but I fear it may not be very long.
She signed Collin’s name and sanded the sheet. She set it aside and pulled out another for a detailed letter warning Mr. Bennet of the imminent danger his family was in.
Laughter broke out in the far corner of the room. She looked over her shoulder. Fitzwilliam and Georgiana were doubled over while Lady Colette surveyed them both with an arch expression. Lady Colette…
She would be the perfect author of the second letter…and if word ever got back to Pemberley that she had sent such a letter to the Bennets, Darcy might be displeased enough to cast Lady Colette out as well. Not likely, but even the distant possibility was pleasing. The loops and flourishes of a lovely lady’s hand were such fun to write as well. Caroline could not suppress her smile.
If she planned carefully, the letter would arrive at Longboun at nearly the same time as the Bennet offspring and she would be rid of the troublesome chits. But how long? She closed her eyes and counted days on her fingers. If she got the letter in the post tomorrow and had the other secreted into the incoming post the day after, that should do it. A few coins and the letter should easily appear when she required it.
She signed Lady Colette’s name with a graceful swoosh. Such a pretty signature, probably only to be wasted on the tasteless family, but was a small concern. A touch of sand and sealing wax and the letters were ready.
She tucked them into her pocket and wandered to the card table. A rubber of whist with Charles and Edward Bennet sounded like a delightful way to end the evening.
* ~ * ~ *
Two days later, Darcy seated Anne sat at the breakfast table with Georgiana and the Fitzwilliams. An assortment of cold meats, cheeses and pastries filled the table. He had hoped the Bennets would join them, but Edward had called his sisters to join him for an early walk and the cousins were left to their own.
“I dare say, Fitzwilliam, that Miss Bingley person will find much to criticize about our family breakfast table.” Colette placed a generous slice of ham on her plate. “Do tell me, she is not one to eat in company in the morning.”
“I doubt she would criticize his table, she does have her cap set, you know. However, your appalling manners, sister dear are another matter entirely.” Fitzwilliam passed a bowl of jam her way. “How indelicate! I dare say you eat enough for you, Anne and Georgiana!”
She flashed a tight smile. “Because I must starve myself in polite company I am certain it was a man who decided a woman’s beauty is spiritual not earthly so to indulge in such base pleasures as food is unladylike.”
Darcy handed her a platter of bread.
“Thank you.” She dropped two slices on her place. “I cannot eat more than two bites in the company of those harpies before they are exchanging those pointed looks and whispers that I eat too much and by that time my appetite is ruined.”
“They are terrible! I find I am making up excuses to leave the room when they enter!” Georgiana whispered from behind her hand.
Darcy sat up straighter. “Harpies?” Surely you do not mean—“
“No, not your dear Bennets, cousin. They are a different class of women entirely, one the ton could use far more of.” Colette slathered butter on her bread, followed by a large dollop of jam.
“What class is that?” Anne asked.
“Sensible, useful, intelligent and genuine.”
“And not jealous?” Fitzwilliam raised an eyebrow.
Colette glared over the coffee cup. Crossing her arms, she pulled herself into a bearing that resembled Lady Catherine at her most imperious.
Darcy choked on his coffee. Colette and Elizabeth would be a dangerous combination. Poor Miss Bingley would never know what hit her. That was a delightful thought.
“You have no idea what it is like to constantly be on display for those harridans! To have your every move scrutinized, ever bite, every ribbon—I cannot breathe lest it is critiqued or aped throughout the kingdom.”
“Many women would kill to have your problems, my dear.” Fitzwilliam reached to pat her shoulder but she swatted his hand.
“Do not tease me,” Her eyes narrowed. “Lest I inform Miss Bingley of your burning, but hidden regard for her.” She flashed a quick smile.
Fitzwilliam sputtered over his coffee. “You would not dare.”
He raised his hands. “I surrender. You have outmaneuvered me.”
They all laughed.
Darcy leaned in close. “What is wrong—are you not diverted by our playful cousins?”
“I am most diverted, but I am concerned about mother.”
“I would have thought you grateful for the respite.”
“I cannot deny that is true, but nonetheless, I did not expect she would still be incarcerated at this point.”
“After what she has done?” Fitzwilliam slapped the table. “You think they will let her walk away so freely? Surely there are a certain number of palms which must be creased and legalities that must be maneuvered before she will be released. These things take time.”
“Well, yes, I had thought she would have bought her way free by now.”
“While I have no doubt, she will,” Colette patted Anne’s hand, “I expect the magistrate will enjoy lording his power over her for at least a little while longer.”
Anne chewed her lip. I do not blame him for taking such pleasure, but I fear for her. It will be difficult for Mother. She works herself into quite a state when she does not get her way.”
“Do not remind me!” Colette pressed the back of her hand to her forehead and fell back in a half swoon.
Anne rolled her eyes. “Yes, I know you take great amusement in all this, but I am worried. After all, who do you think the care of her will fall upon? If anything happens to her, I will be the one to see to her.”
“As she surely will not have the good graces to simply drop dead.” Colette’s eyebrows lifted.
Anne gasped while Georgiana tittered and Darcy caught a snort in his fist.
“She is a tough old bird.” Fitzwilliam glared at his sister. “She will be fine.”
“Absolutely.” Colette leaned in closer. “Now, what can you tell me about the delicious Edward Bennet? With sisters like his, he seems an uncommonly good prospect. Even though his fortune is a bit meager, he is a gentlemen and that is enough for me.” She propped her chin atop her folded hands and stared at Darcy.
Darcy smiled. “He is an enthusiastic—”
Mrs. Reynolds appeared in the doorway. She bore a small silver tray piled with several letters. “The post just come, sir.” She approached Darcy and held out the tray.
He took the stack of letters and examined the directions. “Here’s one for you, Georgiana and you Colette. Several for me. Here, Mrs. Reynolds, this is for Mr. Bennet, and Anne, one for you—it looks like Lady Catherine’s hand.”
She took the missive in shaky hands.
“I am sure Fitzwilliam will not mind, seeing as most of his companions are barely literate—“
Anne choked back a laugh. Colette indulged her mirth more freely.
Fitzwilliam leaned back and shook his head. “Feel free and enjoy your correspondence.” He waved them on.
Anne mouthed a silent thank you and tore open the seal on her letter.
“Go on and take that up to Mr. Bennet. He has been anxious for correspondence.”
Mrs. Reynolds curtsied and hurried away.
What happens next? YOU decide!
1. The letter is from “Mr. Collins” and Edward believes it! Hurriedly he prepares for their departure from Pemberley back to Longbourn… again.
2. The letter is from “Mr. Collins” but Edward has been corresponding with the real Reverend Collins, and recognizes it is not his penmanship. He chalks it up to more of Lady Catherine’s treachery, and ignores it.
3. A faithful servant brings Caroline’s forgeries to Darcy, and the plot is discovered. Watch out, Caroline!
And if you haven’t yet voted for Edward Bennet’s bride, here’s your chance! It’s a dead heat at the moment.
Every Jane Austen novel reminds us of the severe limitations placed on females of genteel birth in her era. Their only honorable option was to become some gentleman’s wife. Although the men seem to have drawn a far better lot in general, their options were also restricted by social convention. If a young gentleman needed an occupation, he could go into the church, the military, the law, or perhaps banking. Those were the standard choices.
“But,” you say, “I thought the mark of a gentleman was having no profession.”
Well, not exactly.
Unless he was fortunate enough to marry an heiress, a younger son absolutely needed a profession. He had to find a way to earn his living, since he might inherit very little. Think of Colonel Fitzwilliam. He was the younger son of a nobleman, and yet he still felt constrained. In Pride and Prejudice, he tells Lizzy, “Younger sons cannot marry where they like.” I described his predicament this way in The Darcys of Pemberley:
As the younger son of an Earl, he could not marry where he chose. Since he would not inherit his father’s estate and yet was expected to uphold the style of living his family enjoyed, he was obliged to establish his own fortune by some other means. The colonel showed no inclination for banking or politics, and an inconvenient state of peace had broken out before he could amass any great sum by distinguished service in the army. His best remaining chance for even a modest fortune seemed to be to acquire one by marriage. This was the course of action strongly recommended to him by some of his relations. As the colonel’s father often reminded him, many a rich merchant would be willing to pay handsomely to have his daughter married to the son of an Earl.
The eldest son would, of course, inherit the family estate when his father died, giving him some occupation thereafter. But what was he to do meanwhile? Too much free time got more than one heir presumptive into trouble. Thomas Bertram (Mansfield Park) gambled his father’s money away while waiting to come into his property. And Edward Ferrars, in hindsight, recognized that his foolish involvement with Lucy Steele sprang from his idleness.
“It has been, and is, and probably will always be a heavy misfortune to me that I have had no necessary business to engage me, no profession to give me employment or afford me any thing like independence … I always preferred the church, as I still do. But that was not smart enough for my family. They recommended the army. That was a great deal too smart for me. The law was allowed to be genteel enough; many young men who had chambers in the Temple, made a very good appearance in the first circles, and drove about town in very knowing gigs.” (Edward Ferrars, Sense and Sensibility)
Better give that boy something to do! Joining the clergy was acceptable, but not stylish. A military life held more prestige, but also more danger (Napoleon, and all). So, perhaps the law? Fine, but then he must be a swanky London barrister, and not (heaven forbid!) a humble country attorney like Lizzy’s uncle Phillips in Pride and Prejudice, who was considered one of her “low connections.”
To become a lawyer didn’t involve the years of intense study and rigorous exams you might imagine. One had to first acquire a standard degree (from Oxford, Cambridge, or Trinity), which hardly required breaking a sweat, before moving on to “study” at one of London’s Inns of Court (Temple, as mentioned by Edward, for example). There his progress was measured according to how often he dined on the premises (I’m not kidding) rather than by successfully completing courses. What a student actually learned during his “terms” was largely left up to him. If he paid attention in court and read the recommended books, he might come away with some level of competency to go along with his certificate. If not …?
Although I’m no expert, from what I’ve read, the haphazard education of lawyers seems only a symptom of a much larger malaise afflicting the legal system that existed at the time. Defendants had few rights, and juries where notoriously unpredictable – as likely as not to completely disregard logic and judges instructions in order to side with the barrister who put on the most entertaining show in court. Jo Walker (heroine of my second novel: For Myself Alone), after her first encounter with the legal system, says this to her friend, a young gentleman pursuing the law as a profession:
“It seems the law has only a nodding acquaintance with justice and an even more tenuous association with common sense. I find it sadly disillusioning. Are you certain you can be happy pursuing a career as a barrister, Mr. Ramsey?”
“The law is a flawed institution, I grant you. Still, I believe reform is coming, and perhaps I shall be able to do my part. At any rate, it is an honorable profession and genteel enough to suit my mother. Of course, she does not intend that I should ever make a living at it. I can, though, if I am obliged to, and that gives me hope for the future.”
You see, Mr. Ramsey is in the same boat as Edward Ferrars. He is the eldest son and natural heir, and yet his widowed mother has the power to disinherit him in favor of a younger brother, should he marry out of her will. Thus, the necessity of acquiring a genteel profession.
So, which will it be? The church, the military, or the law? If you were a young gentleman in that time and place, which would you choose? Or would you put all your dependence on marrying well?
Personally, I’m glad we have more options now, especially since most of us don’t have a rich relation or spouse to provide us an independent fortune.
Today’s post was supposed to be the launch of my new book, Mr. Darcy’s Noble Connections. I was all set to go with the book. The editors and copy-editors had okayed it. The cover was done, the book was formatted, and all I needed to do was to press the button that said ‘Publish.’ But I kept delaying because something didn’t feel right. Finally I decided to send it out to another set of editors. To my surprise, the new editors loved it, but they did feel that there were places I could improve it — not because of the quality of the writing, but because there was a section where I’d strayed too far from my own writing style.
So I’m in the midst of revisions. I’m trying to have it done by mid-June, so rather than add another delay to the release by writing a separate post, I’m going to give you another long, juicy excerpt from the book. It’s probably best to read the first chapter before this, but if you haven’t, the crucial things to know is that this takes place two months after Hunsford. Elizabeth is visiting her childhood friend, Lady Eleanor Carlisle, at Bentham Park, while Darcy is staying nearby with Geoffrey Paxton, his friend from Cambridge and Lady Eleanor’s secret love — and neither Darcy nor Elizabeth knows about the other’s presence.
From Mr. Darcy’s Noble Connections
Lady Bentham rose to her feet. “Eleanor, you may choose a list of dances for the musicians,” she said as if granting a great favor. “No more than two hours’ worth, I think. We do not want to over-tire our guests so soon after their arrival.” She swept out of the room.
“Oh, yes,” said Elizabeth dryly. “It would be a shame to allow the guests to choose how much they wish to dance when we can decide it for them.”
Eleanor gave a look of mock horror before starting to giggle. “You need not worry. After two hours, my stepmother will explain to them that they are tired, regardless of what they believe, and immediately they will start drifting off to sleep like characters from a fairy tale. What is your favorite dance?”
“Mine? You had best choose. I would no doubt pick something that would betray my low origins and make a terrible impression on poor Mr. Paxton.” Elizabeth imitated Lady Bentham’s refined accent. She had heard far more of it than she wished to. In the old days, she and Eleanor had taken their meals in the schoolroom, rather than a formal dining room presided over by Lord and Lady Bentham. The change was not an improvement.
Eleanor heaved a dramatic sigh. “Very well, then. A few country dances, a reel or two, and of course a waltz since we must be modern – and because I have a specific person in mind with whom I wish to waltz. Do you waltz?”
Elizabeth laughed. “Of course not. I have never even seen a waltz. In Meryton, it would be shocking even to speak about it!”
“Oh, you must waltz here, though! I will teach you.” Continue reading →
We have a special poll this week for our Pride & Prejudice Reader’s Choice story, The Bennet Brother. This is your chance to choose which of the ladies in the story will be Edward Bennet’s eventual bride. Think hard about this one! We won’t be announcing the results. You’ll just have to read the story to find out the answer! This poll will be open through 6 a.m. on Thursday, Eastern time.
Who should Edward Bennet eventually marry?
1. The lovely and well dowered Lady Colette Fitzwilliam, younger sister of Colonel Fitzwilliam
2. Miss Caroline Bingley
3. Miss Georgiana Darcy, whose brother will insist on waiting until she is at least 18 years old.
4. The charming and flirtatious Miss Perry of Meryton
5. None of the above
When I read reviews, either for my books or for those written by other authors, I’m struck by the individuality of everyone’s reader personality. Our reading styles are as different as our reading tastes. And I’m not just talking about the Real Book vs. E-book debate. (In case you’re interested, most of the time, I come down enthusiastically on the side of the paperback book–I love the tactile nature of reading.) A reader’s personality is defined by so many other things.
If I had to use one word to describe my reading style, I’d probably say ‘laid-back.’ For one thing, I am not an urgent, desperate reader. Even if I’m loving the book I’m reading, I do not, under any circumstances, stay up till 2:00 a.m. to finish the book. When it’s bedtime, I settle on a stopping point, and look forward to reading a little more the next day. As a result, busy days mean a single book might take me a week and a half or two weeks to finish. But that means I have that many more days to enjoy that particular book.
I often tuck a book in my purse on the off chance that I’ll have an occasion to read while away from home. But I’ll only read if I think I can give the book my full attention. Voices distract me–my conscious mind tends to follow a conversation going on beside me, making it difficult for me to maintain my concentration. I have to be completely wrapped up in a book in order for my mind to block out the world around me, and that doesn’t happen very often. So I tend to save my reading for quiet, unrushed moments. Continue reading →
In her return to Pemberley, with the excitement and business attendant on the weeks leading up to her lying-in, Elizabeth had rather naturally forgotten to think about Lady Catherine de Bourgh. It was not the pleasantest prospect, and having been exposed to rather too much of the lady’s arrogance and her dictatorial ways during the London sojourn, Elizabeth might be forgiven for a powerful wish that she not be required to be in the company of her husband’s aunt again for some considerable span of time.
Darcy’s feelings were not widely different. He knew his duty to his family and his connections; he wished that all related to him should be happy and respectable, as far as possible. Yet there is no denying that time spent in his aunt’s company was penitential. That was why, on the annual courtesy visits to Rosings that could not be avoided without endless remonstrations and repercussions, he had always made sure to travel with his cousin, the equable Colonel Fitzwilliam, whose calm, judicious presence did much to make the visits endurable.
Having attended to his obligations, as he felt, by escorting Lady Catherine and her daughter to London, and going through the comedy and charade of that not-so-young lady’s presentation at court, Darcy was disposed to be glad to see the back of them both, and to retire to the peace and happy domesticity of his own portion of paradise, with Elizabeth at Pemberley.
Both Darcy or Elizabeth had been troubled, on the London visit, to notice an obvious adventurer, Maurice Townley, hovering about Lady Catherine and her daughter, and Darcy had done what he could about it. He had taken pains to discover who Townley was, and to warn his aunt about him in the strongest terms. There was no more to be done: both Lady Catherine and Anne were of age and sound mind, and ought to be proof against fortune hunters. When the news came, taking wings as such gossip always does, that Maurice Townley had followed his new friends to Rosings and was making an extended visit there, Darcy had shrugged his shoulders, fired off one last letter to his aunt, counseling caution, and let the matter rest there. Continue reading →
Welcome to the fourteenth installment of The Bennet Brother, the interactive group writing project from Austen Authors! At the end of this segment, you’ll have a chance to vote on what happens next. There are also extra details on Twitter, where this story has taken on a life of its own. Mr. Edward Bennet (@edwbennet) already has a notable presence and regularly interacts with readers, including this interview with Miss Leatherberry on Leatherbound Reviews:
See how it all started and take a few moments to enjoy the Bennets as children in Susan Mason-Milks The Bennet Children have an Adventure, prelude to The Bennet Brother.
Full details on Pride & Prejudice Reader’s Choice can be read by clicking to the page via the menu above or the icon to the left. Authors for upcoming scenes through August are now listed.
Voting for today’s installment will end at 6am tomorrow – Thursday, May 16th. Next week, the story continues with a new addition by Maria Grace. The previous thirteen installments can be read in order on The Writers Block.
Here is Scene #14 by Sally Smith O’Rourke ~~
Darcy looked around the room at family and friends. What must they be thinking? He could stand it no longer. As the sun’s descent cast shadows across the carpeted floor, he slipped out of the room. Passing a maid in the entry way, he ordered candles lit throughout the house.
Slowly he took the stairs down into the courtyard. Distracted, he wound his way across the lawns to the wilderness. The soothing sound of the rill drew him to the water’s edge; there, on the muddy bank of the river, he sat on a fallen tree. His mind was in utter chaos as he watched the obsidian water, a dark ribbon in the pale light of the new moon, as it slid around branches and twigs, lapping against unseen rocks.
Anger and mortification were heavy on his mind. His aunt, in her brazen attempt to control all of their lives, had broken the law and every rule of polite society… and in his house. He might have been pleased when the authorities took her away, but it removed the intense pleasure it would have given him to evict her, bodily if necessary, himself. He closed his eyes, trying to posit the best course of action to deal with the consequences that were sure to follow the matriarch’s criminal behavior.
He turned at the sound of crushed leaves and pine needles.
“Cousin.” He stood and made a shallow bow, and then took his seat again on the tree.
“It is my desire to be alone, Anne.” Continue reading →
Book 5 of the “Realm” series is my latest Regency romance release, and to celebrate, I have a special giveaway. I will name three lucky winners in this Giveaway – one print copy and two eBooks. The giveaway is open to US, Canada, and International visitors. Leave a comment below to enter the giveaway or for additional opportunities to win, use the Rafflecopter option to connect the post to Social Media.
Members of the Realm, a covert operations group. have retuned to England to claim the titles they left behind. Each holds to the fleeting dream of finally knowing love, but first he must face his old enemy Shaheed Mir, a Baloch warlord, who believes one of the group has stolen a fist-sized emerald. Mir will have the emerald’s return or will exact his bloody revenge.
A devastating injury has robbed AIDAN KIMBOLT, VISCOUNT LEXFORD, of part of his memory, but surely not of the reality that lovely Mercy Nelson is his father’s by-blow. Aidan is intrigued by his “sister’s” vivacity and how easily she ushers life into Lexington Arms, a house plagued by Death’s secrets–secrets of his wife’s ghost, of his brother’s untimely passing, and of his parents’ marriage: Secrets Aidan must banish to finally know happiness.
Fate has delivered MERCY NELSON to Lord Lexford’s door, where she quickly discovers appearances are deceiving. Not only does Mercy practice a bit of her own duplicity, so do all within Lexington Arms. Yet, dangerous intrigue cannot squash the burgeoning passion consuming her and Viscount Lexford, as the boundaries of their relationship are sorely tested. How can they find true love if they must begin a life peppered with lies?
SCENE SETTING: Aidan Kimbolt has been away from his home since his injury has robbed him of part of his memory. He sends his man of all means, Henry “Lucifer” Hill, ahead to prepare the estate for his return. On the road, Lucifer meets Mercy Nelson, the younger sister of Grace Nelson from A Touch of Grace. Like Grace, Mercy has run away from their brother’s life of debauchery. Mercy believes Grace has died on the road, but she is determined to reach London and freedom. Continue reading →
A few days ago on Facebook, a friend of mine posted this cool link about people who’d gotten book-related tattoos. Lots of famous novels were represented, including the Harry Potter books, The Little Prince, The Great Gatsby, Peter Pan, The Catcher in the Rye, and even Where the Wild Things Are!
But, of course, this image from Pride and Prejudice was the one that really caught my eye, and I had to share it. I loved hearing from several other Austen fans about their personal tattoo choices — some of which were definitely Austen related! – or the kinds of tattoos they’d fantasized about getting someday.
If you were going to get a tattoo (or, perhaps, you already have one or more!!), what would yours say? Or which image would you choose? I’m a little too whimpy to do it for real (needles! pain! oh, my!), but one of my favorite JA quotes is this one: “Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken.” Probably a bit long, LOL, but I’d be tempted to immortalize it. Or maybe just: “I *Heart* Mr. Darcy!”
What about you? Would you…tattoo?!