We all know that Jane Austen wrote two of the most disastrous proposals in Pride and Prejudice. The first one was made by Mr. Colins and the second by Mr. Darcy and, of course, poor Lizzy was the unfortunate recipient of both. Every time I read the proposals or watch them in my favourite rendition of Pride and Prejudice (1995 BBC version), I cannot decide which of the two gentlemen made a bigger fool of themselves. I have to say, the proposals, though equally awkward, are very different in nature.
Mr. Collins’ proposal cannot be more ridiculous. I mean I cannot stop laughing every time I read his stupid reasons for marriage. But Mr. Darcy’s proposal is, for me, the more painful of the two. I guess it is because I am so disappointed in him for uttering such insufferable nonsense instead of telling her how he really feels. I also think it is painful to read his proposal because I know he is going to receive a proper dressing down by Lizzy, and although I know he totally deserves it, I cannot help but feel bad for him.
In my second novel, To Love and Cherish, I have written a character named Lord Barton, who manages to offer a proposal in a manner that puts Mr. Colins and Mr. Darcy to shame. Of course, he also gets a well-deserved refusal. I hope you enjoy reading the scene. Do you think he resembles Mr. Darcy’s arrogance or Mr. Collins’ stupidity? Or is he a combination of both?
“Good afternoon, Miss Darcy.” Lord Barton bowed as soon as he entered the room, making Georgiana flinch. “I apologize for startling you. Your butler assured me that you were expecting me.”
“I was informed of your desire to see me.”
Lord Barton stared at Georgiana, unsure of her reception. “I hope my visit is not unwelcome?”
“Not at all, my lord.” Georgiana smiled politely. “I am however curious why you insisted on seeing me rather than my brother.”
“I believe you can hazard a guess as to the reason for my visit.” He took a small step toward her. “What I have come to say necessitates that I see you rather than your brother.”
Georgiana looked away uncomfortably.
“You must know how I feel,” Lord Barton continued, encouraged by her silence. “You must know my wishes.”
He was now standing close enough that Georgiana could feel his breath as he spoke. His closeness, unlike that of another gentleman’s, made her ill at ease. She took a step back and raised her eyes to meet his. “You are mistaken, my lord. I know nothing of your feelings or your wishes. Nor do I expect to know anything so personal about a gentleman with whom I have never enjoyed such intimacy.”
“It is my dearest wish that we enjoy such intimacy, my dear Miss Darcy,” Lord Barton murmured, once again closing the distance between them.
Though not as striking as Lord Paisley, Lord Barton was still a handsome man and it was evident that he had taken great care in dressing for this particular occasion. But his appearance did nothing to recommend him nor did he stir any feelings in Georgiana. Instead, she found his cologne too strong, and his pomade too heavy. She had to admit to herself that she rather preferred Lord Paisley’s fresh scent and his windblown hair that always seemed to fall so perfectly on his forehead. Georgiana took a deep breath and walked away from Lord Barton, standing behind a chair as to prevent him from standing close to her again.
“You must direct your inquiries to my brother, my lord.”
“I have already directed my inquiries to your brother, Miss Darcy,” Lord Barton said assuredly. “When we were staying at Pemberley, I asked your brother for his consent and his blessing for me to court you once the season began.”
“My brother has not shared any of this information with me, sir.”
“I am sorry to hear that,” Lord Barton said, ignorant of the indignant feeling that was stirring within her. “I did not think Mr. Darcy negligent in his care for his sister.
“My brother is never negligent, sir,” Georgiana replied, her color rising in anger. “If he has not said anything of his conversation with you to me, I would assume that he does not mean to give his consent to your request.”
“That cannot be.” Lord Barton waved his hand dismissively. “Your brother is an intelligent man. He knows that an alliance between our families is a great opportunity for everyone.”
“Oh?” Georgiana raised an eyebrow, suddenly struck by the absurdity of the situation. “How so?”
“I am sure that you know of my political aspirations, Miss Darcy.” Lord Barton smiled smugly. “I am destined for greatness and, as my future partner in life, you will share in my glory.”
“I was sure you would see, my dear.” Lord Barton nodded, unable to hear the sarcasm in her voice. “Of course, as my future wife, you will be expected to behave in a manner that befits a man of my stature. And I have no doubt, that given time and my own direct instructions, you will soon become the great lady I know you were born to be.”
Georgiana was not sure whether she should be affronted or entertained. She did not know if she should slap His Lordship for his arrogance or laugh at his ignorance. She looked down, trying in vain to calm her emotions, and prayed for this interview to come to a swift end.
“You are rather young to marry,” Lord Barton said, once again demanding her attention. “But that is one of the reasons I have chosen you as my future wife.”
“I do not understand.”
“As a man with political aspirations, I have to be very careful in choosing a wife with impeccable reputation. With you as my wife, I can be certain that no gossip can ever be attached to my family.”
Georgiana could not help comparing Lord Barton’s views about her reputation with that of Lord Paisley’s. One gentleman had chosen her because of her supposed impeccable reputation, while the other gentleman loved her despite the taint that forever threatened her reputation.
“But I have forgotten my manners,” Lord Barton said, once again forcing her out of her reverie. “I have let my feelings run away with me before I even asked you properly for your hand.”
“That is not necessary, my lord.” Georgiana shook her head.
“Of course it is, my dear.” Lord Barton smiled as he attempted to kneel before her. “I must ask the proper way, even though we both know the answer.”
“Sir!” Georgiana tried and failed to stop the young man from embarrassing them both.
“My fair Georgiana,” he said, taking Georgiana’s profuse blushes as a sign of excitement. “You are a most respectable maiden, and it will give me great joy to have you as my wife.”
“You are very kind, my lord,” Georgiana said, no longer able to allow the man to continue. “But I cannot marry you.”
“Of course you can.” Lord Barton smiled encouragingly. “You are now out in society and are allowed to marry.”
“That is not what I meant, sir.” Georgiana shook her head, keenly feeling the awkwardness of the moment. “Oh, please, do get up.”
Lord Barton did as he was bid and stood in front of her, his face the picture of confusion.
“I cannot marry you, because I am being courted by another gentleman,” Georgiana explained.
“Courted?” Lord Barton asked, as if not understanding the meaning of the word. “By another gentleman?”
“By whom?” he asked in an accusatory tone that did not match his expressed sentiments only minutes ago.
“Lord Paisley has done me the—”
“Lord Paisley?” He repeated his name as if the mere mention of his name was sacrilege. “You are being courted by Lord Paisley? That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.” Lord Barton began pacing the length of the room. “This is impossible! The Honorable Marquess of Dartfort…courting you?”
“Why is that so surprising to you, my lord?” Georgiana asked indignantly. “Do you find it astonishing that a man of His Lordship’s stature should find me desirable?”
“I have no doubt that he finds you desirable. What is astonishing is that he has requested a courtship. He has never bothered to court any of his favorites in the past.”
Georgiana blushed at his unguarded words. “You must think very little of me.”
“I think very little of him,” Lord Barton said. “He is a rake who enjoys flirting with beautiful young ladies. He is not a family man. He is amusing himself with you. But that will pass and you will be sorry for it.”
Georgiana was rendered speechless by Lord Barton’s offensive words. He was calling Lord Paisley dishonest and dishonorable, and her, foolish and unworthy.
“Do not feel bound by this sham of a courtship, Georgiana,” Lord Barton said as he approached her and tried to reach for her hand. “You can marry me if you wish it. You have no obligation toward him.”
“You are mistaken, my lord,” Georgiana replied, pulling her hand away from him. “It is not that I cannot marry you. The simple truth is that I do not wish to marry you.”
“But, Georgiana”—Lord Barton attempted to reach for her hand again.
“Kindly refrain from using my Christian name, my lord,” Georgiana said sternly. “That is a privilege I give to only one man outside of my immediate family. And that man is not and will never be you.”
Feeling as if he was slapped in the face, Lord Barton took a step back from Georgiana, his eyes wide with disbelief.
“Very well, Miss Darcy,” he hissed. “I see that I was mistaken in my estimation of your character.”
“As I was in yours, sir,” Georgiana countered. “I dare say we are both better informed now.”