There is a debate of sorts that swirls around the Pride & Prejudice world…stories about Lizzy and Darcy versus stories that feature other characters. Honestly…these are two different worlds.
I realize that Lizzy and Darcy stories build upon the already revealed affinity these two eternal personalities have for one another. And, I realize that there is such fertile ground yet to be planted with the ODC seed.
However, the secondary characters have such great potential. Will Caroline Bingley find her humanity in time to save herself from spinsterhood? Will Wickham remained unrepentant and unredeemed? Will Georgiana transcend her terrible emotional distress and find love? How about Mary and Kitty?
Of all the supporting characters, the most popular in JAFF is Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam. He has been rewarded with the love of Anne de Bourgh, Georgiana Darcy, Kitty Bennet, Mary Bennet and even Charlotte Collins (after Mr. Collins has been suitably dispatched). I paired him with Lydia Wickham in The Keeper and Kitty Bennet in “Of Fortune’s Reversal.”
Yet, even with all of these variations, we do have to agree that these characters are interesting to us because of their referential relationship to Elizabeth and Darcy. We would not be interested about Caroline’s fate except that she was so awful to Lizzy and Jane. Same goes for Georgie, Wickham and the other sisters.
What this leads us to is similar to what Thomas Aquinas postulated when he sought to prove the existence of God in the 13th Century:
“Ergo est necesse ponere aliquam causam efficientem primam, quam omnes Deum nominant.”
“Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.”
A stone rolls downhill…we all agree that something caused it to move. Maybe erosion. Well, something caused the rain to fall to erode the earth around the stone…and so on. Aquinas notes this cannot go on ad inifinitum…at some point there had to be something which started it all.
For us in the Jane Austen universe…that would be Lizzy and Darcy. Everything leads from their interaction, everything. They are the First Cause.
Even when their story is in the background, they are ever-present. And, because we know that they existed in one sense, we are free to have that relationship run in the background like so much musical accompaniment.
And…even when the Lizzy/Darcy relationship is not there in the specific timeline (see “Of Fortune’s Reversal” which runs from 1811 to 1816 without the Netherfield Ball), its absence actually provides a First Cause in an inverse manner. The readers know that every P&P Variation will eventually lead back to one point where ODC come together. It may be sooner or later…but it will happen.
Now, as I get deeper into the Bennet Wardrobe stories, I have come to realize that everything the Wardrobe is doing with Mary, Kitty, Lydia and Thomas (and perhaps Caroline and Jane) is to lead us to one point…to bring the Lizzy/Darcy story to a wonderful and unique conclusion. When I reach the end of this journey there will be such a story.
After finishing The Exile in May, I was looking ahead to Part 2 of the book (essentially 1932-1944). But, something was nagging at me: the time sequence between 1892 when Part 1 ended and 1915 when Henry Fitzwilliam’s War was set to explain the young Viscount’s behavior toward Kitty Bennet after she arrived through the Wardrobe in 1886. Did anything interesting happen to the Countess of Matlock between her marriage and the (now older) Earl’s involvement in World War I?
A “bread crumb” rose to the surface, perhaps in a sub-conscious answer to my quandary. I discovered it in a transitional chapter (written in early 2016) in “The Keeper” (Ch. XLII) where Mary is contemplating a letter she received from Lizzy who was traveling in Europe with Darcy. In it Lizzy relates a tale about the time they had been spending with another party of British travellers at the Villa Diodati in Switzerland.
“You have to understand how out-of-our-depth Darcy and I felt. Fitzwilliam has only recently begun to read novels. Most of his time is spent absorbing tracts on farming techniques or new mill machinery. And you know that I do enjoy reading gothic tales, but to write one?
…the stories offered by Byron, Shelley and most of the other guests were workmanlike but not particularly scary.
There was one, however, written by Mary Godwin, Shelley’s paramour, that utterly terrified everybody. Byron fled the room as she was reading. Please do not be outraged that we would associate with ‘that sort’ of woman for she and Shelley are deeply in love but are trapped by his marriage[i].
Her tale of a doctor revivifying a corpse he had assembled out of pieces pilfered from graveyards has the makings of a timeless story. It works on two levels. Certainly it is the most frightening story I have ever heard. The monster is heart chilling.
But, as Fitzwilliam and I later discussed, this doctor’s assumption of what had only been in God’s hands, that is the power to create life, is a metaphor for our new industrial age.”
Questions began to bubble up in my mind.
We know that the Industrial Revolution was behind the metaphor of the Doctor and The Monster in Mary Godwin’s (later Shelley) story The New Prometheus.
What inspired her?
In this world, it was Godwin’s reading of Erasmus Darwin’s Zoönomia (1796) and a variety of scientific experiments as well as the nascent industrialization of Great Britain that had been underway for some 50 years.
But, in the universe of the Wardrobe, Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy were also present at the Villa Diodati. Might not their attendance at the birth imply that there was some influence at the conception?
And then things began to click.
Godwin’s story was envisioning the future by placing the story within the worldly context familiar to her listeners and readers…much like Homer’s epic poems in around 750 BCE discussed the heroic period before 1100 BCE using forms and structures of the Greek Dark ages (1100-700 BCE) which were all the audience knew.
Who within her vicinity had the ability to envision that future? Elizabeth Darcy. But, Mrs. Darcy did not have the Wardrobe—that was secure in Mary and Edward’s rooms at the Kympton Parsonage. And, honestly, which story would Godwin have written if a mature Elizabeth related a story of a trip to the future taken in the days before the contest?
No…fresh memories are too crisp to smudge into speculative fiction/gothic horror.
But the foggy recollections of an adult relating that which arrives in the brain at the edges of sleep…or even employed in the dreamtime would provide ample fodder for a novelist.
And, so they have.
I needed to have Lizzy in 1816, still recovering from her miscarriage, relating dreams to Mary Godwin. How did she arrive at those?
Because she had accidentally traveled in the Wardrobe as a ten-year-old in 1801. Her trip ended in August 1907, because the Wardrobe sends voyagers where they need to go. And, Lizzy needed to see some future…and Kitty needed to see some of her family from whom she had been exiled for over 20 years by 1907.
Thus, the roots of another side-rabbit hole (a nod to Alice) in the universe of the Wardrobe are exposed.
Please enjoy this excerpt (the writing is slow because I am recovering from surgery making it somewhat difficult to sit for extended periods) from a new work The Darcys Meet Frankenstein.
And please be sure to enter the drawing for a copy of a three eBook book bundle of the Bennet Wardrobe Series to date
The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey
Henry Fitzwilliam’s War
The Exile (Pt. 1): Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque
by leaving a comment below. The giveaway will end at midnight EDST, September 6th.
Excerpt of “The Darcys Meet Frankenstein,” a work in progress (C) 2017 by Don Jacobson. All rights reserved.
Lizzy Bennet having tumbled out of the Wardrobe at Matlock House in 1907 is now travelling to the Beach House at Deauville where the Earl and Countess (Henry and Kitty Fitzwilliam) await her arrival.
The Persephone completed the transit of the Channel by late afternoon, having covered the 100-plus miles from Southampton in slightly more than ten hours. The captain had told Madame and Monsieur Robard and the young people that he did not give the steam yacht her head for fear of disturbing the comfort of his passengers. The heat of the day had broken as she nestled her 120-foot length against the quay beneath Deauville’s Casino. Mother Robard bustled her chicks into the Fitzwilliam landau—the family had decided that a motorcar was most appropriate for Town, although a new Renault AG had been ordered for the Continental establishment—whose team slowly clopped away from the center of town toward la maison de plage à Deauville.
Yesterday, while still aboard the Evening Mist as the special raced from London to the docks at Southampton, Jacques, fully aware that Lizzy’s nose was glued to the window overlooking the Kentish and Dorset countryside, had pulled Tom and Maxie aside. He buttonholed both boys and, since both were bi-lingual, impressed his code of behavior upon them using that wonderful langue d’oïl known as Lorrain, a combination of French, German, and Walloon. While his speech may have been incomprehensible to outsiders who had not lived under his sway for a decade or more, Robard’s meaning was clearly understood by the two boys, one his own flesh and the other his godchild.
“You two need to keep an eye on your cousin. Miss Elizabeth is not used to machinery. She has never been aboard a ship. You may not think twice about the pulleys and cables snaking around Persephone’s decks, but there are a dozen ways she could be injured. There is a lot lying about with which she is unfamiliar.
“Do not try to play funny with her. She will not understand your jokes and will become upset. If she begins to cry…and if that happens, God Help You…Madame will be upset. When Madame becomes upset, she nags me until I solve the problem.
“You will be the first…and last…place I look. Just imagine yourselves as nails and consider me the hammer!” Vigorous nods and “Yes, Papas” and “Yes, Uncle Jacques” indicated planned compliance.
After Jacques and Maggie had safely installed the three children in two adjacent cabins aboard the Persephone—the boys bunking in one and Lizzy in the other—joined by a common sitting room, the couple repaired to their suite across the companionway. Within five minutes, Tommy had breached the sitting room and was knocking on the door leading to Lizzy’s room. He heard a soft query in reply.
He immediately launched into his appeal, “Cousin Lizzy, open the door. Cook has left some tarts and biscuits as well as some punch. Besides, it is far too early to go to bed…you haven’t changed your clothes yet, have you?”
The knob turned and the latch snapped back. A fully dressed Lizzy pulled the door inward and stepped over the low sill into the small parlor. Maxie was already sprawled in one of the three chairs surrounding a low table groaning with snacks and drinks. A large rectangular porthole/window had been dropped open to let the great harbor’s cooling breeze flood in. The tolling of buoys’ bells and the distant tooting of steam whistles added background as the last streaks of the August sunset pinked the dusk settling over the yacht basin.
Rather than immediately sit, Elizabeth stood silently in front of the port, her hand resting on the sash. Normally a bundle of potential energy only awaiting inspiration to change its state to kinetic, her body was relaxed; the only motion breaking that statue-like stillness being the gentle rise and fall of her shoulders as she inhaled and exhaled the tangy salt-sea air while looking out across the pool.
She whispered, “So big. So many.”
Maxie rose and with Tommy bracketed the girl. He asked her, “Big? Many?”
Lizzy looked up at his red-crowned face, speckled with Monsieur’s efforts to blot as many insect bites as he could, and replied, “I never imagined there could be all these vessels in one place. And, some of these dwarf any ship with which I am familiar. Papa showed me a plate of the Victory in which Lord St. Vincent raised his flag before destroying the Spanish! ”[ii]
Both boys broke in with excitement because they had visited Portsmouth two years earlier and had viewed the old flagship as the nation commemorated Nelson’s greatest triumph, Jervis having faded in British memory. They assumed that Lizzy was referring to that event. She did nothing to disabuse them of the notion.
Maxie quickly added, “Southampton is huge, but here only passenger ships and private vessels are moored. The Royal Navy’s base over at Portsmouth makes this look positively tiny! Victory is puny when you see her beside Dreadnaught.”
He then pointed across the harbor to where a giant black wall rose from the water. Identifiable to Lizzy as a ship only because of its recognizable bow and stern, it was crowned by a white superstructure and two towering red stacks which sparkled under great floodlights in the deepening night, “But, the passenger liners can show well against the Navy. Right there at the White Star dock is one of the greatest of them all…the RMS Adriatic…longer than seven Persephones and able to carry nearly 3,000 passengers.”
The girl was astonished and gasped out, “Where would all those people want to travel?”
Tommy jumped in, eager to exhibit his nautical knowledge, “Well, Cousin Lizzy, mostly to the United States. She has been on the New York run since her maiden voyage last year. Captain Smith has a reputation for fast and safe voyages. Adriatic’s seventeen knots will never challenge Lusitania and Maurtania for the Blue Ribband. They both can travel twice as fast!”[iii]
Lizzy remained skeptical, “Three thousand? Meryton would count a market day very busy if three hundred came to the fair. Where could ten times that many go even in a first city like New York?”
Maxie laughed, “Lizzy, only about half of them will stay in the city. The rest will board passenger trains just like the one we took here and roll off to Chicago or even as far away as California’s San Francisco, even though it was nearly destroyed by last year’s earthquake.”
Lizzy shook her head in amazement at the unfamiliar place names. Then pre-teen hunger overtook her, and she turned away from the broad vista to tighten her focus onto the tray of pastries. As she advanced toward the table, both boys scrambled to guide her to a seat. Lizzy allowed them to compete for a moment until she offered each an elbow. Thus escorted by Tommy and Maxie, Lizzy eventually found herself comfortably ensconced before a trove of tasty diversions.
Silenced reigned as the three fortified themselves.
Then the young Viscount broke the peace.
“All right, Cousin Lizzy, tell us of your home. All Aunt Maggie said was that you had come here from a great distance. We know there are Family groups in the Union and Australia. Did it take very long to get here?”
Lizzy, who from an early age abhorred disguise of any sort, fell back on a strategy she had often used to divert Mama’s more persistent interrogations. She gave noncommittal responses in the ilk of
“Further away than you would ever imagine.” And “Less time than you would think.”
Then she immediately asked the boys about their time camping with the Scouts. As most young fellows imbued with an astounding capacity to consider their every experience to be utterly unique and of the greatest interest to all, young Lord Fitzwilliam and the slightly elder Monsieur Robard dominated the conversation until only crumbs remained on the tray and all three pairs of bright eyes were dimmed with the weariness of an eventful day.
The road shifted from smooth pavement to age-worn cobbles partially obscured by blowing sand. Buildings became lower and the surrounding dunes higher until all signs of habitation vanished. And yet the road continued.
Suddenly a great fieldstone wall rose up on the ocean side of the byway. Lizzy could not gauge its actual height. It seemed about equivalent with the landau’s wheels, but was also toped by an impressive set of iron railings, each section embossed with musical notes, key signatures, and clef markings. That Lizzy could discern that the wall was made of tightly mortared grey stone was only because the overlay of hundreds of rose bushes sported a few gaps in the variegated display of yellows, reds, whites, and blush!
Tears of homesickness pricked the corners of Lizzy’s eyes as thoughts jumbled through her mind.
Mama would be in her element here. She is so proud of her roses…especially her Rosa chinesis.[iv] A great gardener has been at work here!
As the coach approached a formidable iron-filigreed gate, Tomkins slowed the carriage and the Wilson twins jumped down and raced to them, but waited until the vehicle’s occupants could clearly see the gate. The vertical bars were broken by a powerful diagonal slash that, to Lizzy, was nothing less than the entire keyboard of a pianoforte!
Then Liam and Sean engaged in a Family tradition. Recessed into each of the stone towers supporting the gates were four tubular bells—two on each side. Each Wilson grasped two wooden mallets and stood stock-still. Even the horses dropped into a respectful silence and dipped their angular heads. Tomkins removed his hat. Maggie grasped Lizzy’s right hand with her left and reached across to the opposite seat to take her son’s left. Without a moment’s hesitation, Maxie held Tommy’s left as the young lord reached across to take Lizzy’s free hand.
The circle complete, Liam, as the eldest, gave a silent count. As one the brothers stroked the bells.
Four notes—F, B, D#, and G#–rang out as one, rising into the crystalline blueness that was the heavenly dome above the Beach House at Deauville.
Instantly the gates began to swing inward as if under their own volition and a joyous peal of the great carillon housed in the gallery above the House’s central stairwell replied. The bells sounded the glorious chord, played its variations, assembled melodies, and constructed/deconstructed the component notes until, after a full two minutes, resolved into one enduring reverberation of the four notes.
Throughout the performance every person waiting in the carriage moved nary a muscle except, most often, to close their eyes and lift their faces up toward the clouds.
Lizzy was speechless.
Maggie understood and explained the event to her.
“This is the Family’s Beach House at Deauville. Built by Georgiana Darcy, Miss Darcy, in 1818, this has been the refuge of the Five Families ever since.
“Miss Darcy was one of the greatest piano virtuosos to ever live. This was her retreat where she would prepare her music and enjoy her family and friends. Mrs. Benton and the Canon, bless their memory, were frequent residents.
“The notes the Wilsons played are sounded every time a Family member visits the House for the first time. The Wilsons struck them in your honor—and the carillon replied to remember Miss Darcy.
“It is called the Tristan Chord.[v] Monsieur Chopin used it in many of his works…especially those he knew would be premiered by Miss Darcy.”
The carriage entered the grounds passing between the gates that swung closed behind it. There were no lawns, only oases of roses filling spaces between the intervening small dunes and decorative rock displays.
As the House swiftly grew in front of her, Lizzy espied a couple, she with corn silk blond hair and penetrating china blue eyes and he, wearing dark glasses beneath his brownish grey locks, standing in front of the doorway, welcoming smiles on their faces.
‘Aunt’ Kate and ‘Uncle’ Henry waited for Elizabeth Rose Bennet.
[i] Shelley’s first wife committed suicide in December 1816. Mary and Percy married on December 30, 1816. She published the full version of Frankenstein in 1818.
[ii] The Battle of Cape St. Vincent (2/14/1797) in which Admiral Sir John Jervis badly mauled the Spanish fleet was the first of four great naval battles [the others being Camperdown (vs. the Dutch in 1798), the Nile (vs the French in 1798) and Trafalgar (vs the French and Spanish in 1805)] that ensured British naval supremacy in the Napoleonic Wars. Victory carried the commander’s flag both at St. Vincent and Trafalgar.
[iii] The unofficial award given for fastest average speeds made on Transatlantic crossings by passenger liners in regular service.
[iv] Rosa chinesis or “Old Blush” was first cultivated in England about 1793. Mrs. Bennet eagerly planted those bushes around Longbourn.