Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and I want to take this opportunity to say Happy Mother’s Day to all the lovely moms out there. I also think that in honour of Mother’s Day, it is only fitting that we talk about the most embarrassing and most memorable mother in Austen’s novels, Mrs. Bennet. She is arguably one of the most enjoyable characters to read and that is perhaps why she is the first person we meet in the story.
“My dear Mr. Bennet,” replied his wife, “how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them.”
I know most people cringe whenever she speaks, and I truly feel for the Bennet girls for having a mother like her. But I cannot help but like her. She is real and her character remains the same throughout the novel. After all, all she wants is for her daughters to be married and settled, and considering their situation and the reality of life for women at that time, one can hardly blame the woman for trying so hard. She is loud and embarrassing and silly. But she also delivers some very enjoyable set downs.
“That is my idea of good breeding; and those persons who fancy themselves very important, and never open their mouths, quite mistake the matter.”
Mrs. Bennet is a relatable character. I think we all know a Mrs. Bennet or two in our lives. Despite her ridiculous behaviour and her little understanding, I cannot help thinking that Pride and Prejudice would not have been the amazing story that it is, had Mrs. Bennet not been written in it.
“She will be married at sixteen! My good, kind brother! I knew how it would be. I knew he would manage everything! How I long to see her! and to see dear Wickham too? But the clothes, the wedding clothes! I will write to my sister Gardiner about them directly.”
In honour of Mother’s Day, I have decided to share an excerpt from To Love and Cherish, where Lord Paisley and his mother, Lady Paisley, discuss his love interest. I think you will agree that Lady Paisley is a very different character form Mrs. Bennet. But I hope she is still as real and as relatable is Mrs. Bennet.
Lady Paisley watched her son half-amused, half-concerned by his pensive mood. He had returned a week prior, claiming that he had urgent business with his steward and that he needed to dedicate long hours to estate matters. True to his word, he had retreated to his study, spending most of the day going over letters and ledgers. He had also ridden throughout the estate with his steward, meeting with his tenants, seeing to their needs, and resolving conflicts. Despite his long days, however, he had spent every evening with his family, listening to their dinner conversations and complimenting his sisters’ playing and singing. No one could claim that the young marquess had altered in temper or behavior. No one except, perhaps, for his mother, who knew him well. She had noticed subtle changes in him. He was quieter than his wont, and yet, he was not gloomy. The mischievous gleam in his eyes had turned mysterious as if he was the holder of a most precious secret. He was, Lady Paisley decided, more contemplative than before.
Lord Paisley was sitting on the chaise longue beside his mother, listening to his sisters’ performance. Lady Claire was playing the pianoforte while her younger sister accompanied her with her beautiful, well-trained voice. Lady Paisley noticed her son seemed lost in his own thoughts, his fingers absently playing with his signet ring, a small smile lingering about his mouth. Lady Paisley was convinced that it had not been business that had called her son away from Pemberley. Something far more important, far more delicate, would have caused Julian to cut his time with his good friend. Interestingly, whatever, or whoever, was occupying the young man’s musings seemed to have followed him back to Paisley Court.
The duet came to an end and both mother and son were jolted from their reverie by the obligation to applaud the young ladies’ performance. Lord Paisley stood and walked to his sisters. “That was a beautiful performance.”
“Thank you, Brother.” Lady Henrietta smiled, pleased by her brother’s praise. “Lady Davenport complimented my singing when she came to visit us a fortnight ago. She believes my voice is as good as Signora de Rossa.”
“Being a great patroness of music,” Lord Paisley said with a hint of irony that did not escape his mother, “Lady Davenport is naturally expected to know greatly about such matters. As such, it would be wrong of me to disagree with Her Ladyship.”
“But what of the ladies of Pemberley?” Lady Claire asked her brother. “You have yet to tell us of their talents, Brother. Were you impressed with their playing and singing? Is Mrs. Darcy a proficient musician?”
“Mrs. Darcy plays and she has a pleasing voice as well.”
“And Miss Darcy? Is she musical?”
“Miss Darcy is definitely musical.”
“Is that all you have to say, Brother?” Lady Henrietta asked.
“Nothing I say will do her justice.” Lord Paisley shrugged. “Her performance on the pianoforte is exemplary. You will understand my meaning when you see and hear her performance.”
“Are we to have that pleasure?” Lady Claire asked with excitement.
“The Darcys are coming to London for the season. It is my wish that our families become well acquainted. You and Henrietta are near in age to Mrs. and Miss Darcy. I am persuaded that you will find their company delightful.”
“I am looking forward to making their acquaintance,” Lady Henrietta said with energy. “I am sure that Miss Darcy and I will be the best of friends. I can be her guide in society as this will be her first season and my second.”
“Is Miss Darcy as quiet as her brother, Julian?” Lady Paisley asked.
“She is quiet,” Lord Paisley replied. “But like her brother, when she is compelled to speak, her conversation shows a steady character and sound understanding.”
“I am very pleased to hear that. Perhaps it will not be such a bad idea after all for Miss Darcy and Henrietta to become acquainted.”
Lady Henrietta shrugged, feigning ignorance to her mother’s meaning. “I believe I will enjoy her acquaintance. But if you will forgive me, I will retire to the library. I am impatient to finish the book I am reading.”
“I will accompany you, Henrietta.” Lady Claire stood and left the room with her sister.
“Has Henrietta’s fascination with Mr. Brooks passed?” Lord Paisley asked his mother once his sisters left.
“Thankfully.” Lady Paisley smiled. “You know how quickly she becomes bored. Mr. Brooks never had a chance with her. She needs a strong man who can handle her whims.”
“I do hope,” Lord Paisley said contemplatively, “that in my effort to be kind, I have not spoiled her too much.”
Lady Paisley smiled and handed a cup of tea to her son. “One cannot help worry for the well-being and happiness of one’s loved ones. But at the moment, you are the one I worry about most.”
“Me?” Lord Paisley asked, surprised by his mother’s words. “Why should you worry about me, Mother?”
“My dear! Do you imagine me ignorant of your changed demeanor? Have I been such an inattentive mother in the past that you cannot fathom the possibility of me being aware of your struggles?”
Lord Paisley looked down at his hands, his fingers twisting his signet ring again.
“Is she very beautiful?” Lady Paisley asked softly.
Lord Paisley looked up at his mother, equally astonished and impressed by her keenness.
“Come, now, my darling,” Lady Paisley said, her smile growing deeper at his astonishment. “I could not help noticing your expression when we were discussing Miss Darcy earlier. The mere mention of her name softens your features and brings a smile to your eyes. Tell me, please, is the lady very beautiful?”
“Yes.” He smiled despite himself. “She is the most captivating creature I have ever beheld.”
“She must take after her mother then. Lady Anne was beautiful as well.”
“Miss Darcy is infinitely more special than just a beautiful face. She is intelligent and opinionated and not at all conforming.”
“Not conforming?” Lady Paisley asked with a raised eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
“She has liberal ideas,” Lord Paisley said, remembering her face when he had interrupted her conversation with Lord Barton. “She reads the most controversial literature and challenges our politics regarding the female sex.”
“Oh, dear! Julian, I hope you know what you are about. Do you really want a rebel for your wife?”
Lord Paisley laughed out loud. “You are amusing, Mother. She is a lady through and through. She is well-behaved and well-spoken. But she is not docile and she will not be controlled.”
“She is very young, Julian,” Lady Paisley cautioned. “You will have your hands full with her.”
“Miss Darcy is young,” His Lordship conceded. “But she is mature for her age. She is inexperienced in the ways of the ton but that will be remedied once she enters society.”
“You have not addressed her then?”
“I have not. She is not out yet, Mother.”
“But you have spoken to Mr. Darcy about your intentions?” Lady Paisley pressed. “You will court her when she enters society, will you not?”
“I have spoken to Darcy. He knows of my feelings. But I have no intention of courting her as soon as she is presented. I want her to enjoy her first season.”
“What nonsense is this, my child? I understand why you have left Pemberley. It would not have been proper for you to address her now. But once she is presented, there is nothing improper in courting her and proposing to her.”
“I will not press my suit so early in the season. She will have her hands full with young suitors dangling for her attention. I will not be one of those men making a complete cake of myself.”
“If Miss Darcy is as impressive as to have captured your heart, it is safe to assume that she will capture the hearts of many. She is young and naturally impressionable. Are you not worried that she may find herself in love with another man?”
“I will not propose to soothe my own fears. Miss Darcy will enjoy her first season.”
“And you will stand back and watch other men compete for her attention?” Lady Paisley asked with no little disappointment.
“Other men may have her attention for a while, but I will have her hand in the end.”
“Then why not propose to her as soon as may be? You are, after all, a most eligible bachelor. You are charming and titled, and you have more money than you can ever care to count. No other man can compete with you. You can have her hand now.”
“But will I have her heart? I will not have one without the other, Mother. I have chosen Miss Darcy as my future wife. I have no doubts, no reservations, and no uncertainties. But she does not know her own heart. She must be given time. I will propose to her when I am certain of her feelings for me.”
“Are you protecting her or yourself, Julian? You claim to want to allow Miss Darcy time and opportunity to make an informed decision. You say you want her to be sure before she commits to you, but I cannot help wonder that perhaps you want to be certain of the young lady’s feelings before you commit to her.”
“How cowardly you make me seem.”
“Not cowardly, my love”—she caressed her son’s face—“only cautious, and justly so. I cannot blame you. You should guard your heart until you are certain of hers.”
Lord Paisley smiled and taking his mother’s hand in his, bestowed a kiss upon it.
“Do you believe I will like her?” Lady Paisley asked after a long pause.
“You will love her,” Lord Paisley said with conviction. “And I am convinced that she will love you. She has grown up without a mother. She will benefit greatly from your love and your support.”
“She shall have both my love and my support.”
“Thank you, Mother.”
“I am afraid, Julian, I have something to say that you will not like.”
“What is it?” Lord Paisley asked, growing concerned.
“Lady Petershaw has written.”
Lord Paisley drew in a deep breath and stared at his mother, waiting for her to continue.
“She is staying with her parents until the start of the season,” Lady Paisley said quickly. “No doubt, she expects us to call on her.”
“No doubt she does.” Lord Paisley smiled, seemingly unaffected. “You must show them the respect that is due to them. Whatever passed between Lady Petershaw and me belongs to the past. What is more, I will most likely be away when they visit.”
“What do you mean? Are you going away again?”
“I am. And this will be a trip of considerable duration. I am traveling to Italy. And I will not return until the season begins.”
Noticing his mother’s confusion, Lord Paisley told her about Lady Sophia being at Pemberley and the things she had shared with Miss Darcy.
“What would possess that woman to spread such lies?” Lady Paisley said, displeased by the news. “Why would she poison Miss Darcy’s mind about you?”
“Lady Sophia desires to have Miss Darcy as her own sister,” Lord Paisley explained. “She must have said those things to dissuade Miss Darcy from forming any hopes for my suit.”
“Despicable woman!” Lady Paisley said. “Does Lady Sophia know about your feelings for Miss Darcy?”
“I do not know.” Lord Paisley shrugged. “The damage is done, however. And I have no choice but to prove my indifference to Lady Petershaw by avoiding her company until the season begins. I will not have Miss Darcy believe that I hold Lady Petershaw in affection.”
“Oh, Julian,” Lady Paisley said, her eyes shining with unshed tears, “you really do love Miss Darcy.”
“I do. And there is nothing I desire more than to one day have my feelings returned.”
“My darling child!” Lady Paisley sighed. “If Miss Darcy is half as sensible as you claim she is, I am certain she is in love with you already.”