I’ve always thought Anne de Bourgh to be one of the least developed characters in Pride and Prejudice. Overshadowed by her mother and in permanent ill health, Elizabeth described her as appearing ‘sickly and cross’ after Maria Lucas noted how ‘thin and small’ she was. Yet, she was a great heiress and undoubtedly Lady Catherine would have had plans for her once Darcy married Elizabeth. What happened to Anne? is a question I’ve asked myself more than once.
I decided to write Anne’s story as a diary in her own words, beginning on the very day Pride and Prejudice ends; Elizabeth and Darcy’s wedding day. Though the book won’t be out until mid-2019, I’m delighted to share the first few entries exclusively with the Austen Authors blog.
18th February, 1814.
Today is the day that my cousin Fitzwilliam Darcy takes to wife Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Hertfordshire.
Today is the day when all hope ends. I wish I were dead.
19th February, 1814.
Goodness me, what a melodramatic mood I was in yesterday! Anyone would think me desperately in love with Darcy. I’m not, of course. I never have been. I do love him dearly, he has been very kind to me, and I did wish very much to marry him. But it would never have been the passionate marriage it is clear he will have with Miss Elizabeth – Mrs Darcy now, of course. I do wish Mother had relented and let us go to the wedding. I am sure Elizabeth would have been beautiful with her dark hair a glorious contrast to the cream satin gown Georgiana told me she planned to wear.
I liked Elizabeth very much when we met last year, though I am sure she thought me a poor feeble creature. She was lovely and vivacious and she dared to stand up to Mother as I have never seen anyone do, not even Uncle Matlock. She was not overtly rude, of course, her manners far too fine for that, but she was so quick-witted she seemed to have an answer for everything. I was not in the least surprised to see Darcy staring at her constantly, nor when the rumours reached us of their engagement.
I’m happy for Darcy and Elizabeth, truly I am. I must keep telling myself that, or I shall again fall upon my bed weeping because he did not marry me.
20th February, 1814.
Reading back over the last two entries, I realise that I still have not explained just why I wanted to marry Darcy even though I do not love him in that particular way. I suppose I still fear to set the words to paper in case Mother should somehow discover them. Perhaps Darcy’s wedding will finally give me the courage I need.
Darcy would have taken me away from Rosings.
There, I have said it. I hate this place, I truly do. It has been my prison since the day I was born and now that Darcy has married another, it will no doubt be a prison for me until I die. No one else will marry me unless they want Rosings, and then I will be trapped here forever. Darcy was my only hope, because of course he would have insisted that we reside at Pemberley, and we would have left my mother here.
Since it seems to be a day for honest truths, I shall confess that I want to be away from Mother even more than from Rosings. How I envied Miss Elizabeth’s – Mrs Darcy, I must remember she is Mrs Darcy now – ability to defy her with such charm! When I am in my mother’s presence my tongue seems to freeze to the roof of my mouth and I can barely utter a word unless it is a simple ‘Yes, Mother.’
24th February, 1814.
It is Thursday and finally I have enough energy to stay awake in the afternoon while Mrs Jenkinson takes her nap. How I hate the beginning of the week. Every Monday Dr. Thornely comes and every Monday without fail for the last ten years he has insisted on bleeding me. How Mother can still believe that this is good for me I cannot fathom. For ten years it has done nothing but make me weaker. Surely it is time for a new treatment, a new doctor, SOMETHING? But all of my pleas and reasoning – with Mrs Jenkinson, I cannot find the courage to raise the subject with Mother – fall on deaf ears.
Oh, God, Darcy, why did you have to fall in love? Why could you not have just given in to Mother and taken me away from this hell? You would have found a new doctor, you would not have forced me to be bled and to drink potions which make me feel so queasy I cannot eat. I no longer know if I truly am sick or if my illness comes from the treatments. Perhaps Dr. Thornely will one day get one of his potions wrong enough to poison me and I will die. At this moment I honestly believe that would be a relief.
9th March, 1814.
Well, I daresay that is what I deserve. After writing the last diary entry I decided to go out, in a fit of melancholy, and drive my phaeton down to the vicarage to visit with Charlotte in the hope that she might cheer me a little. And of course, to suit my miserable mood, the skies opened on the way home and I was quite drenched. By nightfall I had a nasty case of the shivers and by the morning it was a full-blown influenza.
Now I remember what it is to be REALLY ill. Dr. Thornely was summoned and immediately announced I needed to be bled again: I am afraid at that point I gave into a most unladylike fit of hysterics and accused him of being a monster who was trying to drain me of blood for nefarious purposes. Of course my mother then accused Mrs Jenkinson of letting me read Gothic novels.
Well, in the end I snatched the scalpel and told the doctor I would let ten times as much of his blood as he did of mine, and he went away in a huff. I do not know where I found the strength: it must have been the fever.
I don’t recall exactly what it was that I said, but I made some sort of bargain with Mrs Jenkinson that I would take medicines and accept any nursing without fuss so long as I was not bled until the illness was past. Because it seems that I do not want to die after all, and I truly believe that if the doctor had been allowed to bleed me when I was fevered, I might not have been able to fight off the illness.
Are you starting to like Anne yet? Maybe feel some concern for her? Well, that’s my goal, of course.
Lady Catherine turns out to be a thoroughgoing villain in this story (I do like making her the villain!) and there is a delicious confrontation coming up where Anne finds her champion, willing to fight for her no matter what it might cost him. The path to true love never does run smoothly, though, and her happy ending is some ways off – though not nearly as far as she thinks.
I hope you enjoyed this special sneak peek of one of my current Austen projects!