We are Speaking of Music!
“What is that you are saying, Fitzwilliam? What is it you are talking of? What are you telling Miss Bennet? Let me hear what it is.”
“We are speaking of music, Madam,” said he, when no longer able to avoid a reply.
“Of music! Then pray speak aloud. It is of all subjects my delight. I must have my share in the conversation, if you are speaking of music. There are few people in England, I suppose who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.” Pride and Prejudice ~ Jane Austen
I have often wondered what was required of a young lady to become a great proficient during Jane Austen’s time. Jane Austen, 1775-1817, studied the pianoforte until she was age twenty-one. As we know from reading her novels, music was an integral part of her stories. Several of her heroines played the instrument and sang, not to mention that her characters often attended balls and assemblies or concerts.
I suspect that Georgiana Darcy may have begun her musical studies at a very young age. While her first teacher may have been her governess, as she grew older and showed more promise, her father, and later her brother, would have engaged Masters who resided in London to serve as her tutors.
“Oh! Yes—the handsomest young lady that ever was seen; and so accomplished!—She plays and sings all day long.” Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
To become truly accomplished on the Pianoforte, a young lady such as Georgiana might have easily practiced five or six hours a day, much like university music majors do today. Her technical studies may have included the older masters such as J.S. Bach, C.P.E.Bach, G.F. Handle, and Domenico or Alessandro Scarlatti. Then she would have been introduced to more contemporary masters such as Clementi, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. In addition, she would have had vocal studies where she would have been expected to learn Italian arias and popular ballads written by English composers.
In Darcy’s Melody, I have allowed several proficient musicians to join the cast of supporting characters and I would like to introduce them to you here. For example, in chapter one, we first hear of Herr Schneider, Georgiana’s music master, from her days at school. Coming from a German descent, I envisioned him as having lived in Hamburg where he studied with the notable C.P.E. Bach before immigrating in his later years to London where he took up his teaching position.
Then, in Chapter Two, I mention the acclaimed blind composer from Vienna, Maria Theresia von Paradis, 1759-1824. In my story, she happens to be a summer guest of the Darcys’ cousin, Lady Jessica Helmsley. In reality, Miss Paradis was a personal friend of Mozart and toured extensively in Europe as well as London.
At the hospital concert, in chapter six, Georgiana and her friend Lady Lilyan perform Miss Paradis’ composition, the beautiful Sicilienne. https://youtu.be/LAjkBVlZZho This particular recording of Sicilienne happens to be arranged for the flute and harp and interestingly, was performed on the cello for the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markel.
As for Elizabeth Bennet, while she has not had the opportunity to study formally like her friend, Georgiana, in Darcy’s Melody we find that she has an inherit gift for singing. Her strength comes through her interpretation of the ballad song which was very popular during Jane Austen’s time.
Several of Lizzy’s songs happen to be written by Irish favorite, Thomas Moore, 1779-1852, whose poetry was well known not only in Ireland, but in England. Another of her songs was written by English composer, Sir Henry Bishop, 1786-1855, who became the music director and composer in residence of Covent Garden around 1810. Mr. Bishop was known for his ever popular English Ballad Operas and makes a guest appearance during the course of my story.
Now that you’ve read a few of my thoughts on music during Jane Austen’s time, I would like to share the opening scene from Darcy’s Melody. This scene will be followed by some additional thoughts presented by two gentlemen who find themselves attracted to the very lovely Bennet sisters. Enjoy!
Inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice comes Darcy’s Melody. In the year 1811 the war with France continues to rage, sending many injured men home to England where accommodations are limited. Raising funds to build an additional structure at the London Hospital for the wounded has become a top priority for Lady Eleanor Fitzwilliam, Countess of Matlock. She has not only enlisted members of the ton to assist with her committee, but women who are well-known throughout the trade community. It is within this endeavour that Elizabeth Bennet and Georgiana Darcy meet through a mutual love of music. This is the story of how music and friendship bring two families together, challenging Fitzwilliam Darcy to embrace a new melody within his heart.
From Chapter One
Under the Cover of Books London
Tuesday, 21 May 1811
Ballard’s was an eclectic treasure trove of rare first editions and unusual books located on the thoroughfare of Piccadilly. Although it appeared somewhat dingy and dimly lit from the outside, inside the ageing building the atmosphere was inviting, and a vast array of literature beckoned lovers of the written word.
Promptly at one o’clock, Fitzwilliam Darcy entered the bookshop and walked directly towards his favoured section. While paging through a military war journal, he instinctively glanced toward the back of the shop. Even with several patrons milling about the establishment today, Darcy’s eyes were drawn to a young lady who appeared to be examining a small book in the poetry section.
Closing the journal, Darcy ambled over to where the woman stood and began perusing the titles on a nearby shelf. After taking a book in hand, he purposely turned his head towards the young lady. Captivated by her large, dark emerald-green eyes sparkling with mischief, he felt his lips curve into a half smile when she spoke.
“Pray, sir, may I trouble you to hand me the book of Cowper poetry on the upper shelf?”
Darcy nodded. “With pleasure. Cowper is an excellent choice.”
As he reached for the book, she continued, “One poem in particular reminds me of Oakham Mount in Hertfordshire. I find I am rather desirous of its solace today if only through the eyes of the poet.”
Handing her the book, he answered in kind. “I understand your sentiments for I, too, am from the country and have longed to return to Derbyshire.”
Arching an eyebrow in his direction, she inclined her head and said, “I thank you, sir.”
“You are most welcome.”
As she turned the pages of her selection in search of the poem, Darcy heard the young lady gasp when both of her books slid out of her hands and onto the floor. “Oh dear,” she sighed, stooping down to retrieve them.
“Allow me,” he immediately offered. Both reaching for the books, Darcy felt her small, warm hand carefully slip a folded piece of paper into the palm of his own. The young lady had not replaced her glove after perusing her own book, and her skin was soft to the touch. Leaning closer, the faint scent of lavender seemed to strengthen, causing his chest to tighten and his heart to quicken in response.
Feigning innocence, she looked up at him and said, “Again, sir, I am in your debt. Perhaps I should make my purchases before I have another mishap.”
“Permit me to carry these to the desk for you.”
Acknowledging his offer with a slight curtsey, the young lady whispered, “Sir, I think we are being observed.” Then speaking louder, she added, “Thank you again. You are most kind.”
“Your servant.” He bowed. With his senses heightened from being forewarned of impending danger, Darcy spoke softly in return, “How did you come? I would not have you leave here unescorted.”
“There is a carriage waiting, sir. A manservant is nearby and a maid is within.”
“Then leave now and be careful.”
From Chapter Three
A Musical Interlude
At this point in the story, Lady Matlock has suggested Georgiana become involved in some aspect of her charity project. Part of her charity outreach involves a series of weekly concerts for the benefit of the wounded at the London Hospital. Following, their clandestine meeting in the first chapter, Darcy and Elizabeth have since been properly introduced, although there has been no mention of what took place on that particular day. As you may suspect, Darcy has reservations involving his sister with two women who are currently residing in Cheapside, despite his overwhelming attraction to Elizabeth.
In anticipation of Tuesday’s afternoon concert, all parties had been looking forward to their outing at the London Hospital. Noting their arrival, the Bennet sisters were pleased to see the Darcys and Mrs. Annesley, who were accompanied by two additional guests. Once Mr. Charles Bingley and Lady Lilyan Ashbourne were introduced, the sisters directed everyone to the visitors’ section of the Dining Hall. Promptly at two o’clock, Elizabeth stepped forward to preside over the musical offerings.
Following a lively Jacobite Marching Tune, which was well known by the attending soldiers, Elizabeth called on Jane to join her in a traditional ballad, Greensleeves. One could not help but notice the favourable response from the young men in the audience when Jane stepped forward to offer her lovely lyrical verses against Elizabeth’s richer alto harmony. Jane’s beauty, elegance, and serenity presented a vision that was soothing to their weary souls.
Similarly affected was Charles Bingley. “Darcy, why did you not tell me I would be entertained by an angel this afternoon?” he whispered. “She is the most beautiful creature I have ever beheld.”
“Bingley, you are hopeless.” For those who knew Charles Bingley, it was not uncommon to hear him express those same sentiments whenever he met an attractive woman.
Greensleeves was all my joy,
Greensleeves was my delight;
Greensleeves was my heart of gold,
And who but my Lady Greensleeves….
Elizabethan, 1580s https://youtu.be/x4vq0ooafyM
After finishing their duet, Elizabeth announced she would perform a Scottish ballad. Singing tender words for a love who had departed, the listener could not help but be drawn into the imagery painted by the poetry and Elizabeth’s soothing voice.
O, my love is like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June;
O, my love is like a melody
That’s sweetly played in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonnie lad,
So deep in love am I;
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till all the seas go dry….
Robert Burns, 1794 https://youtu.be/JPDdebh9JfM
If anyone had observed Fitzwilliam Darcy during her singing, they would not have missed how he, too, was affected by her performance. Despite his good intentions to remain apart, Darcy’s resolve proved insufficient once Elizabeth began to sing. The melody itself was haunting and the heartfelt emotion with which she sang drew him into her world of song. Upon finishing, not a sound could be heard in the hall until Elizabeth humbly dropped her head, signaling the end.
Later in the same chapter
Proceeding through the hallway leading to the study, Bingley found he could contain himself no longer. “Darcy, did you see her face when she was singing?”
Darcy rolled his eyes, knowing what was to follow. “Yes, I did.”
“The lilt of her sweet voice penetrated my very soul. And when we talked, she smiled at me as though I were the only man in the room. I could hardly bear it. And did you see her beautiful golden hair? I had to restrain myself from touching her long curls.” Darcy opened the door while Bingley continued to enumerate the many charms of Miss Bennet.
“Darcy, I would certainly like to call on her!” he exclaimed.
“What is this?” questioned the colonel with a look of curiosity as the two gentlemen entered the study where he had been waiting.
“Bingley is besotted with Miss Jane Bennet after only one meeting,” Darcy grumbled. “She was introduced to my friend here during one of your mother’s charity functions for the London Hospital, not more than three hours ago. I tell you, he falls in and out of love faster than any man I have ever met.”
The colonel let out a noticeable chuckle. “So I have heard.”
“She is an angel on this earth if ever I saw one!” Bingley proclaimed.
“She smiles too much,” commented Darcy rather dryly.
“Smiles too much! Why her smile is warm and inviting and her.…”
“Richard,” interrupted Darcy. “Before Bingley pledges his undying love to Miss Jane Bennet, do you think you could enlighten my friend here on the great disadvantages associated with the pursuit of that particular young woman?”
“Darcy, I protest!”
“Bingley,” the colonel began. “As much as I love a pretty face, there is some merit in my cousin’s assertion. According to Mother, the Bennet ladies come from a small estate in Hertfordshire which is entailed away to a second cousin of their father upon his death. They have little portion of which to speak and would definitely be frowned upon by any member of the ton, given such a situation. If either of these women wishes to secure a future, they must aspire to raise their prospects by aligning themselves with a man of means, which makes you, my dear fellow, the perfect prey.”
“Not to mention,” Darcy added, “an alliance with a woman in such a position has negative consequences which could equally affect your sister’s prospects for making a good match.”
“Darcy, you are ahead of yourself,” stated Bingley. “I certainly have no intention of marrying Miss Bennet after one meeting! I simply found the woman I met today to be quite charming, and I would like to know her better. At any rate, I shall see Miss Bennet again at the Matlocks’ dinner party, and that is the end of it.”
“It appears you are overruled, Cousin. I must confess, I am heartily looking forward to meeting both of the lovely Bennet ladies myself.”
Darcy muttered, “Shall I call forth the reading of the marriage banns for you as well?”
“Enough! I will not hear any more censure of Miss Bennet or her sister. Gentlemen, I must be off. Caroline is expecting me to join her and the Hursts for an early dinner, to be followed by a viewing of an art exhibit. I shall see both of you on Friday. Darcy, my friend, I thank you for a very delightful afternoon!” Bowing, he finished with a broad grin and left.
Now for my giveaway!
Thank you so much Austen Authors for hosting me here today. I have been a long time follower of your blog, and I hope your readers have enjoyed my guest post. In appreciation, I’m giving away two eBook copies of a Darcy’s Melody (international) as well as one print copy accompanied by a DM tote bag. (USA and Canada) Please leave your comments below and feel free to include any thoughts you may have about your favourite music, as I would dearly love to hear from you. Jen Red.
The giveaway ends at midnight EST on Thursday, September 27, 2018.
If you would like to hear any of Lizzy’s songs, including the ones reference above, I have recorded all of them as well as a book trailer for YouTube. https://youtu.be/aFwhPuzl5EE
In addition, I would like to share Darcy’s Melody in pictures on my Pinterest page. https://www.pinterest.com/jenred88/darcys-melody/
Lastly, here is the Amazon link to my book. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GKRXHNN/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1534507057&sr=1-1&keywords=Jennifer+Redlarczyk