Today marks the debut of the Pride & Prejudice 200th anniversary project at Austen Authors. No, it’s not the anniversary of the publication of Pride & Prejudice – we have to wait until 2113 for that. P&P200 is something else entirely. It’s a real-time celebration of the 200th anniversary of the events in Pride & Prejudice. What, you hadn’t realized that 200 years ago today, Mr. Bingley was viewing Netherfield Park with an eye toward letting it? Or that November 26 will be the 200th anniversary of the Netherfield Ball? Well, you’ve come to the right place.
Over the next 16 months, various Austen Authors will be taking a new look at the events of Pride & Prejudice. Sometimes it may be a scene that isn’t shown in the original, like Lady Catherine advising Mr. Collins to find a wife; sometimes it’ll be an existing scene through the eyes of a different character, like the Meryton Assembly from Louisa Hurst’s point of view. Sometimes you’ll even get multiple points of view for the same event! We’ll be presenting everything from brief glimpses to full scenes and short stories; some authors will stick with one character throughout the story (I’m dying to read Diana Birchall’s share of the conversation as Lady Catherine) while others will jump around. Many different authors are involved, so the scenes may not always be consistent with one another, but they’ll always be consistent with Pride & Prejudice.
We’ll be posting the scenes here at Austen Authors as they occur. When an event in P&P doesn’t have a specific date, we’ll post on Sundays if possible, but any day of the week could be a P&P200 day here at Austen Authors. On days other than Sunday, P&P200 posts will follow the main daily post. At the end of each month, we’ll gather all the P&P200 bits and post them together in The Writer’s Block.
And now, with no further ado, join us as Mr. Bingley takes his first look at Netherfield Park. Heather Lynn Rigaud represents the venerable Netherfield housekeeper, and I’m up giving Mr. Bingley’s point of view as he sets himself up for what will eventually be quite a surprise, but not the kind he’s expecting.
Household Ledger of Netherfield Estate
Mrs. Robert Johnson, Housekeeper
September 17, 1811
The apple harvest continues, 3 bu collected today.
2 dz eggs, 4.5 gal milk.
Mr. Anderson, Sir Frederick’s solicitor sent word today to expect him tomorrow. He is bringing a possible tenant for the house. I have set Mary & Roseanne to preparing the rooms for inspection.
September 18, 1811
5 bu apples, 2 bu pears gathered
2 ½ dz eggs, 4.5 gal milk
Groom reports one of the greys has gone lame. Ferrier has been hired to poultice.
Met a Mr. Bingley today as a possible tenant for Netherfield. He seems a good, well-mannered young gentleman, despite having a slight whiff of trade. If he and Mr. Anderson can come to terms, he’ll be occupying the house immediately. While I doubt Lady Pryce Wellington, may she rest in peace, would have ever wanted to see Netherfield let out, I believe it will be good to have some persons here to care for and to provide needful work. Mr. Bingley mentioned his sisters, so we can expect he will bring guests, if he does decide to take the house.
I caught Roseanne being all together too friendly with the footman Wilkenson and had to have words with her. Hopefully she will heed my advice, although she is a foolish girl.
Hertfordshire, September 18. 1811
Mr. Anderson reined in his horse at the top of a hill. “And there you have it, Mr. Bingley,” the soliciter said. “Netherfield Park!”
“So this is Netherfield!” Bingley shaded his eyes for a better view. “It looks delightful.”
“The proportions are indeed excellent, as you will see as we approach the house. Come, the drive is just ahead.”
Bingley had rarely seen such pleasant countryside! He turned his head from one side to another as they rode, trying to take in every detail to report later to Darcy.
They trotted past an orchard where gnarled old man clung precariously to a ladder as he plucked apples from an equally gnarled old tree. Mr. Anderson said, “As you can see, the land here is rich and productive. And the hunting! You have surely heard of Lord Pryce-Wellington’s famous hunting parties, Mr. Bingley.”
Bingley could not recall anything of the sort, but he nodded obligingly. “My sister will love this house. She has always wished for a country estate.” He doubted Caroline would wish to have hunting parties in any case; she would be more concerned with hosting house parties for her well-bred friends. Darcy would enjoy the hunting, though, and if Darcy liked it, Caroline would adore it.
“Will Miss Bingley wish to view it as well?”
Bingley smiled broadly. “No, it is to be a surprise for her.” Just a few weeks past, Caroline had praised Darcy’s habit of purchasing surprise gifts for his sister. Bingley had immediately decided to take a page from Darcy’s book, and there was nothing Caroline wished for more than a fashionable country estate. She would be delighted!
Mr. Anderson cleared his throat. “Perhaps your sister might prefer to see the house before you sign the contract,” he said delicately. “There is no accounting for a lady’s taste in these matters.”
Bingley waved away the suggestion. “Unless the interior disappoints, I see no cause for concern.” He paused with a frown. “It does not have a parterre, does it? Caroline despises parterres. She says they are ridiculously old-fashioned.”
“I do not recall any mention of parterre gardens, but we shall see for ourselves. Come, the housekeeper is expecting us and will give us a tour of the house.”
So, do you think Caroline Bingley will be happy with her surprise? Will the foolish Roseanne do anything, well, foolish? What will Mr. Darcy say?
Coming up later this week in P&P200: Bingley discusses taking Netherfield with Darcy. Regina Jeffers will give Darcy’s point of view, while Susan Kaye has been, um, persuaded to leave Persuasion for long enough to show it from the view of a farm worker at Netherfield. Next Sunday Heather and I will be back to tell you what happens when the Bingleys arrive at their new house.