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! Continue reading →
‘Oh, the lamps of a night! her rich goldsmiths, print-shops, toy-shops, mercers, hardware men, pastry-cooks, St Paul’s churchyard, the Strand, Exeter Change, Charing Cross, with a man upon a black horse! These are thy gods, O London!’
Most shopkeepers lived with their families above or behind their premises. They were usually specialists in the goods they sold, and very often the craftsman who made them – whether a shoemaker, tailor, hatter, fan-maker, umbrella-maker or jeweller – often there was no distinction between retailer and wholesaler. There were no regular shopping hours – the shopkeeper opened his shop before breakfast and closed it before he retired for the night.
Sophie von la Roche, a German novelist, wrote about Oxford Street to her daughters in 1785:
We strolled up and down lovely Oxford Street this evening, for some goods look more attractive by artificial light. Just imagine, dear children, a street taking half an hour to cover from end to end, with double rows of brightly shining lamps, in the middle of which stands an equally long row of beautifully lacquered coaches, …
First one passes a watchmaker’s, then a silk or fan store, now a silversmith’s, a china or glass shop. The spirit booths are particularly tempting, for the English are in any case fond of strong drink. Here crystal flasks of every shape and form are exhibited: each one has a light behind it which makes all the different coloured spirits sparkle. … Just as alluring are the confectioners and fruiterers, where, behind the handsome glass windows, pyramids of pineapples, figs, grapes, oranges and all manner of fruits are on show … Most of all, we admired a stall with Argand and other lamps … forming a really dazzling spectacle … Continue reading →
Welcome to the eighth 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:
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.
Voting for today’s installment will end at 6am tomorrow – Thursday, April 4. Next week, the story continues with a new addition by Nina Benneton. The previous seven installments can be read in order on The Writers Block.
And, now, without any further ado, here is Scene #8 by Jane Odiwe:
The answer to the question of what Wickham was after was not really a difficult one as far as Darcy was concerned. Wickham’s actions were almost always motivated by greed, and his insatiable quest for money at the expense of everyone else, with little effort or endeavour on his part. Darcy knew too well from his dealings with his former childhood friend that these facts must certainly be at the root of this latest scheme.
‘Mr Darcy, you know him better than I,’ said Edward. ‘Where is he most likely to go and seek refuge?’
Darcy put down his glass of water on the Pembroke table at his side, pulling himself up in an attempt to make himself more comfortable on the sopha. ‘I daresay he is London bound where, no doubt, he will find anonymity, haunt the usual pleasure-houses and, on route, dispose of my horse for a tidy sum, Mr Bennet. In order to realize such a task without raising eyebrows he will have to sell in a large enough place, but I think if we act now it may not be too late.’
‘Charlemagne is a wonderful steed, Darcy. How far do you think he will be by now?’
‘If I know Wickham, he will not be taking the predicted route and he may not be as far as we think. He will be expecting me to send out a party to follow him in the direction of Nottingham and Northampton. But, it may be that he takes a detour and rids himself of Charlemagne in another city. Birmingham would do it. He could lose himself just as easily there for a day or two and there is nowhere better in this country to re-arm. The gun-makers are second to none.’ Continue reading →
In this special year of the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice I’ve been reminded of the pleasure I’ve had in writing two books inspired by Pride and Prejudice – Lydia Bennet’s Story and Mr Darcy’s Secret. Being able to extend the lives of some of my favourite characters is always such fun to do and I particularly enjoy taking on those ‘difficult’ ladies who make us gasp in horror or laugh out loud. One of these ladies is the formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh. In Mr Darcy’s Secret she finally appears after initially snubbing the newly-weds, but she makes a surprise visit! Elizabeth has the misfortune to literally ‘run’ into her on the road and now she has the job of smoothing the elder lady’s ruffled feathers. I hope you enjoy what follows!
What a commotion ensued on their arrival. Elizabeth could tell that poor Mrs Reynolds, though as accommodating as ever, was quite upset that she was not prepared for Lady Catherine’s arrival. Maids and servants flew about them removing luggage and bandboxes. As they entered the hall Mrs Reynolds took Elizabeth to one side. “Begging your pardon, ma’am, but I think you should know that the master has been in a bit of a lather since you left this afternoon. He’s had all the footmen out looking for you on the peaks. I did tell him that you like to go off on your own sometimes, but he wouldn’t listen. Don’t judge him too badly if he seems a little fractious, but he’s been that worried, I can’t tell you.”
Elizabeth fumed inwardly. She had not been gone for long. Why must she tell the entire household if she wanted to go for a walk? Mr Darcy’s reaction seemed entirely ridiculous if what Mrs Reynolds said was true. Continue reading →
What an exciting time I had last week! It was an honour to be so involved with the events of the 200 year anniversary of Pride and Prejudice. Below is the interview I had with David Sillito, the Arts Correspondent from the BBC, which also features our lovely Abigail Reynolds. I wish that they’d shown the whole interview as well as all the other wonderful authors who were interviewed too. If only we could all have been a part of it and together on this special day-now, that would have been a fantastic after party! I was so pleased to see our genre getting special recognition and I hope readers will see how much we’re motivated to write (and paint) by our love for that special lady and her books, Jane Austen!
Later on that day I travelled to Bath to take part in the Jane Austen Centre Readathon of Pride and Prejudice which was streamed live on the internet. Thank you to all the people who left such encouraging comments. It was a lot of fun and I was able to read four chapters in the end!
I was thinking about what Lizzy Bennet might have been contemplating as her new year starts after the Bennet family spend Christmas with the Gardiners in Pride and Prejudice. I love the snow and couldn’t resist ‘painting’ a winter’s scene for this poem.
Garlands of ferns mist the frosted pane,
As Lizzy peers out to see the icy lane,
Drifts of snow swathe the fields in white,
A New Year’s early start by candlelight.
Lizzy hears the laughter as Jane slumbers on,
Kitty and Lydia are up, eager to be gone.
Off to join the revellers sledging in the snow,
Whilst Mary shuns the cold, refusing to go. Continue reading →
My latest novel, Searching for Captain Wentworth, is set in Bath and Lyme. I’m very lucky to spend a lot of time in Bath and it is one of my favourite places to be. So much of the novel was inspired by Bath – places like the Assembly Rooms, the Pump Rooms and the Holburne Museum, to name but a few, are all mentioned. Perhaps less well known as some of these famous landmarks is Beechen Cliff. Jane mentions Beechen Cliff in Northanger Abbey when she takes Catherine Morland up there for a walk with Henry Tilney and his sister. We know how much Jane Austen enjoyed walking and I’m sure she knew this area well so I wanted to take Jane, her sister Cassandra, their brother Charles and my heroine Sophie up to Beechen Cliff for a picnic in my own novel. It’s still possible to walk to Beechen Cliff today, but be warned – it’s quite an energetic climb and is steep in places, though the views are well worth the effort when you reach the top! Here’s an excerpt from the book where Sophie has travelled back through time. She’s living the life of her ancestor Sophia and finds herself irresistibly drawn to Jane Austen’s brother, Charles:
I saw Charles before he saw me. Dressed in a dark green coat and buff breeches he towered over Cassandra. I felt so pleased to see him and experienced a sense of excitement that I hardly dared acknowledge. Beechen Cliff above us rose steeply ahead. I was soon out of breath, but Jane and Cassy seemed to find it no effort at all striking out at a march, their parasols shading them from the warm sun. Charles, ever the gentleman, sauntered along beside me. Continue reading →
Happy for all her maternal feelings was the day on which Mrs Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters. With what delighted pride she reflected on the day’s events as she and Mr Bennet sat amongst the detritus left from the celebrations in the dining-parlour.
‘Mr Bennet, did you ever attend such a wedding? What a remarkable day! I think it all passed off exceptionally well. I am excessively pleased with everything. Everyone behaved prettily and I never saw so many onlookers gawping at the church gate. Mrs Long’s nieces seemed enraptured, in particular. Of course, those poor girls will probably never see a wedding of their own. They cannot help being so very plain but I like them well enough for it. Plainer even than Charlotte Lucas – not that I think her exceptionally so, but then she is such a cherished friend. Next to Jane, anyone would be at a disadvantage. I said to Lady Lucas and Mrs Long, “Did you ever see a more radiant bride?” and, of course, they concurred.’
‘How could they do anything else, my dear?’
‘And I know you are not fond of discussing lace, Mr Bennet, but our girls’ lace marked them out with distinction. Elizabeth’s veil has been in the Darcy family since the time of good old Henry, I believe. I daresay, Anne Boleyn herself saw it grace some noble head.’
‘More than likely. And before she lost her own, I presume.’
‘Mr Bennet! Nothing you say will vex me today.’
‘I am glad to hear it!’
Smiles decked the face of Mrs Bennet. ‘And dear Bingley is so good-looking and everything a gentleman should be even if he has not quite the consequence of dear Darcy.’ Continue reading →
Elizabeth watched Jane take the pins from her hair as she sat before the looking glass on the dressing table. She noted, as if for the first time, Jane’s nimble fingers following the nightly ritual Lizzy had witnessed for years. With swift strokes, Jane brushed her hair back from the crown and the sides before inclining her head to reach underneath the tresses at her nape. Lustrous curls tumbled about her shoulders and cascaded down the back of her nightgown. In candlelight, her sister thought she’d never looked more beautiful.
Jane sat up to meet Elizabeth’s eyes in the mirror.
‘Oh, Lizzy, do you realise this is the last night we shall spend together? I’ve been so caught up in wedding preparations that I’m not certain I have fully comprehended the fact until now.’
‘Do you mean to tell me that you have only just understood our mother’s timely advice that we shall be expected to share our husband’s beds?’ quipped Lizzy. ‘Or, that you’ve not fully grasped that implicit in her motherly counsel was a pearl of a reminder that in future we should be “slaves to our masters in order to warrant connubial felicity for all eternity!”’
Jane laughed, delighting in her sister’s humour. ‘I have never been so embarrassed in all my life. From Aunt Gardiner such advice is so well-meaning, so tactfully done, but our mother could not have made a more uncomfortable speech.’
‘Lizzy! Don’t snigger!’ mimicked Elizabeth in imitation of her mama, ‘How do you think your father and I have enjoyed such a happy marriage for so long? It isn’t by the efficacy of separate sleeping arrangements such as the Longs and the Lucas’s have adopted except, I daresay, if I’d produced an heir I might have befallen such a fate myself. Though, truth to tell, Mr Bennet has never made a secret of the fact that he still finds me irresistible and if you can still say the same after twenty four years of marriage, you will be doing well!’ Continue reading →
I’ve never been a person for dwelling on the negatives but this year has been a difficult one for me. When I left Austen Authors I knew I wasn’t feeling quite right though at the time I didn’t really know why I wasn’t functioning properly. Added to that came the awful shock that my beloved sister had breast cancer and my world stopped. Far from being able to nurse her as I’d hoped, I then managed to trip up on Pulteney Bridge and break my hip. Shortly after this I became ill with Pancreatitis caused by gallstones and in the end my sister spent more time looking after me!
I’ve spent most of the year not blogging very much or even doing too much writing but it meant I have spent a lot of time with my sister which has been fantastic despite the trauma of everything she’s been through. She is now doing really well – her treatment of chemotherapy and radiotherapy is over and it’s wonderful to see her looking to the future again!
In Bath for the Jane Austen Festival, it was wonderful to meet up with Abigail Reynolds again and when she suggested coming back to Austen Authors I knew it was the right time! She was with her lovely friend who has been through a similar experience to my sister. It gave me such hope that everything was going to turn out well. Continue reading →