Silhouettes, a Poor Man’s Portrait, a Guest Post from Brenda J. Webb

This post originally appeared on the Austen Authors’ blog in April 2015. I have chosen to recycle it here. Enjoy!!!!


Jane’s father, George Austen, in silhouette

I’ve been fascinated by silhouettes since I had one done when I was a teenager by an artist at one of the tourist attractions in Tennessee. I was going down a row of souvenir shops and right in the middle of the sidewalk was a booth. As I passed, I saw that the man in the booth was using scissors to do a portrait of a woman who had stopped in front of him. I was amazed at how much it favoured her and, having a little money to spend, I had to have one. That silhouette was left in a drawer somewhere, and I thought little of it over the years, until I began reading everything I could about Jane Austen and saw some of the silhouettes of her and her family.


The famous silhouette of Jane Austen, titled L’amiable Jane, in the National Portrait Gallery in London

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the silhouette was popular with families and individuals who couldn’t afford a more formal and expensive mode of having their likenesses made. Oil paintings required several sittings, and even pastels or watercolor portraits took time. A silhouette was created in one quick sitting which made them affordable. A popular method used to create it was to have a person sit sideways before a screen with a light on a table on the other side of him. In this manner, a clear shadow was projected on the screen, which gave a perfect image if the light and sitter were arranged properly. The shadow was then replicated by hand. Among the upper class and commoners, shade parties became de rigueur, and soon almost everyone had a copy of their unique likeness. Later machines were invented for the same purpose.

Most silhouette artists were itinerants who worked their magic in popular tourist spots, such as Brighton or Bath, or at public fairs where people were apt to buy souvenirs. They either traced profiles by hand and painted them, or skillfully snipped away at paper with sharp scissors. With an experienced artist, this second method would have been fast and accurate.

The eighteenth century is widely regarded as the revival of silhouettes, though English silhouettes in those days were generally painted, not cut-out. A life-size cut-out was usually taken from the subject’s shadow, and from this, the finished silhouette was made, using a reducing instrument known as a pantograph.

The skill of the best artists lay in the painting. After painting the face solid black with soot or lamp black on plaster or glass, the hair, hats, ribbons, frills, and other essential accessories of the day would have been dragged out, using a fine brush with progressively more and more diluted pigment. Most of us are familiar with images of Jane’s distinctive profile and that of her sister Cassandra.


Jane Austen’s mother

 cassandrasil.jpg A complicated silhouette with painted touches, such as Cassandra’s, would take a skilled artist like John Miers a reputed three minutes to produce. With such speed, an artist working in a busy area could create enough portraits to make a decent living at a penny a likeness. 

md22427260180 A few years ago, I read an article about a book, Shades from Jane Austen by Honoria Marsh, which was published in 1975-1976 in a series of limited editions. It contains colored illustrations, mostly silhouettes, and a few reproductions of Jane Austen’s writings. Though out of print, I managed to acquire a copy for my editor for Christmas. 

Part one of the book includes ‘Jane Austen’s Family in Silhouette’, a table showing Jane Austen’s family and chronology of events during her lifetime (written by Peggy Hickman), and Jane Austen’s family tree. Part two includes an introduction and a discussion of Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

I hope this has wetted your appetite to know more about silhouettes, for there is so much more information available than I could put in one post.  What do you think? Are you a fan of silhouettes? Do you think the illustrations do the characters justice? I thought Mr. Darcy (above) should have looked a little heavier—more like Bingley—while Caroline’s silhouette is far too flattering. wink But that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?

Most of the information for this post came from Jane Austen’s World, and the Jane Austen Centre.




via Silhouettes By Hand Lauren Muney cuts the silhouette of a young girl at a Renaissance event

Posted in Austen Authors, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Regency era | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Oxfordshire St. George Play

Closely related to the Morris and Sword Dancers, the Oxfordshire St. George Play is considered a kind of Mummers Play. As well as possessing close elements of kinship, the characters in all these plays are largely interchangeable. That being said, the Oxfordshire St. George Play is unique because its chief character is heroic. Saint Plays and Miracles (Clifford Davidson) at Oxford Bibliographies tells us, “Shows based on the lives and martyrdoms of saints appear perhaps to have been the most widespread type of religious theater across Great Britain. There are known to have been plays or entertainments on nearly fifty saints, with well over a hundred instances of performance recorded, albeit mainly lacking extant texts. Considering that the records, both ecclesiastical and civic, that have been preserved represent only a sampling of what was once available, we can extrapolate that such plays were immensely popular with audiences—much more popular than the morality play, which barely registers historically until the early modern period. Saint plays offered scope for creativity and extravagant theatrical effect, and, linked to the cults of the saints deeply rooted in popular religion, they appealed to a common pre-Reformation religiosity. In many cases, performances seem possibly to have been projects of a parish or religious guild, each likely to have possessed a saint as its patron. Thus, the church of St. Denys in York had a play of “Sancti Dionisij,” and the Norwich St. George guild sponsored a pageant and riding of George, the latter involving a dragon, which survived the change of religion in the 16th century. Every pre-Reformation church had images, wall paintings, and stained glass, not only of the Virgin Mary but also a selection, depending on local preference, from a panoply of available saints. These ranged from the popular St. Christopher or St. Catherine to lesser known saints, sometimes venerated only locally in a particular town or region. Individual images might themselves be the focus of intense veneration because of the beliefs that devotion to the representation served to connect one in a mystical way to the actual saint and that prayers thus directed might be effective for assistance in this life or for alleviation of the pains of Purgatory.

The drama of the saints cannot be separated from these aspects of late medieval religion. From the evidence in the extant texts and descriptions, however, there is no reason to suppose that the dramas were always necessarily spiritual in their principal focus, nor were they didactic in the usual sense of teaching doctrine. For example, the St. George skits, plays, and pageants, which were widely distributed, are likely to have been usually presented as entertainment. Some of these, and other saint or miracle plays, may have been unscripted. In drama, as in music, unscripted improvisation has its place. Full and extant Middle English texts, all from East Anglia, treat Mary Magdalene, St. Paul, and the Virgin Mary, the latter incorporated into the N-Town collection. Also perhaps appropriately included in this list is the Lazarus play added to the end of the Towneley manuscript, where it follows the Last Judgment. Another East Anglian drama, the Croxton Play of the Sacrament, is a miracle play with close affinity to the saint play. Three fragments have been proposed as miracles of the Virgin: the Ashmole Fragment, the Durham Prologue, and Dux Moraud. Finally, in Cornish there is an extant play of a Breton saint, St. Meriasek, and, recently discovered, another of St. Kee, unfortunately lacking a complete text. There is also a short late medieval Welsh play of The Soul and Body. The plays that survived were those that escaped the distaste of the Protestant reformers, whose hostility also expressed itself against the images of saints in churches during the period of iconoclasm. Another, and perhaps no less important, factor was the neglect suffered by play texts both before and after the Reformation.”

The Oxfordshire St. George Play often includes a Morris Dance or a Sword Dance as part of the production. The central element represents the death of winter and the resurrection of the world in spring, but the incidents came to have less and less meaning to those watching the plays that the plays soon became part of the ecclesiastical feasts during the Christmas season. Father Christmas became a standard character in the plays. We also find a Turkish knight, an element of the Crusades. In most of the stories, the knight slays Prince George. 


The Doctor brings St George back to life in a 2015 production by the St Albans Mummers ~ via Wikipedia

A modern representation of the these Leicestershire plays can be found in Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native, Book II, chapters IV and V. The character may be St. George or Prince George or even King George. “George” is not always successful, but when he is killed, a comic doctor revives him. After the prologue, a fight and a resurrection occur, which is followed by a comic scene and a dance, with a request for money coming from Father Christmas at the end. Occasionally, Beelzebub with a frying pan gathers the money. A clown is another substitute for the money collector. The play is always casual in their presentations, introducing themselves to the audience. Action and noise abound. 

F. G. Lee printed the Oxfordshire St. George Play in 1874. In his “Notes and Queries,” we find this comment: “The text of this play was taken down by myself from the lips of one of the performers in 1853. … The man from whom I took [it] down … had performed at Brill, in the year 1807, and his father had done the same at Thame Park in the previous cemetery.” 

ElfinSpell tells us, “Mr. Chambers in his Medieval Stage devotes a chapter to the Saint George Play (vol. i, 205 ff.), listing twenty-seven printed versions on which his account is based. The play is distinctively a play, with characters playing individual parts, as distinguished from the 117various sword and other dances which sometimes include dramatic features, but with few and indefinite characters, a connecting feature being that in some cases in the dances a doctor appears as in the Saint George Play. This play seems far to have surpassed other forms of mummers’ play in popularity. For the general subject of folk-plays, see the volume announced by the Folk-Lore Society under the editorship of T. F. Ordish, who has already treated it in Folk-Lore, vol. ii, 326, vol. iv, 162.

“The play consists characteristically of three parts, the “presentation,” in which the persons, as they are successively announced, come forward or “enter” from the half circle in which they stand; the “drama” proper; and the “quete,” or passing round a suitable receptacle for gifts of money, which terminates the performance. The serious presentation of the story of Saint George, forming the kernel of the play, has, as will be seen, long since merged in rustic burlesque and foolery, for which Dr. Lee felt it necessary to offer his quaint apology. That the story should have been turned into extravaganza was inevitable, if it was to be perpetuated at all, after its original inspiration had disappeared with the conditions of life and belief which originated and fostered it. Degenerate and intrinsically trivial as the modern versions of these plays are, they are, however, of real interest and value in illustrating the persistence of tradition, and above all as attesting the natural tendency of popular drama to turn to national tradition and history for themes for dramatic presentation.”

(The script for the play may be found HERE.)

Posted in British history, drama, literature, medieval | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Jews in King George’s England, a Plot Point in my “Realm” Romance, “A Touch of Love”

Over the years, the “backlash” regarding Georgette Heyer’s depiction of the Jewish faith in Regency England has become better known (See

and for examples of the reported offending passages and the changes the current publisher of Heyer’s works has made to those passages).

That being said, when I began writing Book 6 of my highly popular and award-winning Realm series, I was most sensitive to the need to portray the Jewish characters in my book with realism. In A TOUCH OF LOVE, the heroine, Lucinda Warren, discovers her late husband had married another before he spoke his vows to her. Captain Warren had hidden his Judaeo-Germanic background, his family having converted from the  Ashkenazim sect to the Church of England, but his situation became more complicated when he marries a Sephardic Jew from Portugal during the Peninsular War. A TOUCH OF LOVE speaks to the prejudice within England, upon the Continent, and between these two nations within the Jewish race, as well as speaking of the general prejudice found among the members of the haut ton.

270px-Board_of_deputies.svgSo, what was it like to be a Jew during the reign of King George III? In 1760, in imitation of the Deputies appointed to protect the civil rights of Protestant Dissenters, the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish population nominated deputados to oversee political developments of special interest to their well being and to approach the government on the group’s behalf when necessary. A standing committee was also appointed to express homage and devotion to the new sovereign.

However, the Ashkenazi faction presented a formal protest, claiming neglect. The Ashkenzami group nominated their own German Secret Committee for Public Affairs to act on their behalfs. The administration refused to deal with two separate groups, saying they would communicate only to the Committee of the Dutch Jews’ Synagogues and the two factions must find a means to communicate. These deputados represented 6000-8000 Jews, the majority of which lived in London. Approximately 25% of the population belonged to the more anglicized Spanish and Portuguese element. The Ashkenazim, though more numerous, were less assimilated and, generally, belonged to a lower social stratum.

“But, on every section, the alembic of English tolerance was working with remarkable speed and with an efficacy which, from the sectarian point of view, was only too complete. Not only was this the case with the native-born upper class, in whom the process was more notorious, but with their more modest association as well. An immigrant from Silesia, who at the outset of his career corresponded with his parents in Judaeo German and was anxious for the welfare of the religious institutions of his birthplace, could develop within twenty years into a staid British merchant, with his sons married to English girls – one a sea-captain and another in the colonial service, and Destined to be buried in Bath Abbey. So, too, the sons of a London synagogue functionary, all born in Germany, could lose touch with their co-religionists and enter English life as playwrights, authors, physicians, and even naval officers. This process was partially compensated by a modest though unmistakable trickle of proselytization, strenuously combated by the nervous communal leaders, which was to culminate most embarrassingly, notwithstanding their opposition, in the preposterous episode of the conversion to Judaism of the erstwhile Protestant champion, Lord George Gordon in 1787.”

511aX0I+kaL._SX368_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (For a complete look at Jews During King George III’s Reign, please visit this Google Book, History and Antiquities of the Jews in England). One thing that really struck a chord with me while doing my research for this book was the fact that Jews were permitted their rights to practice their religion, where I, a woman who was born a Pentacost, became a Baptist, practiced Existentialism for many years, and married a Catholic, would not have been given the same opportunity. For example, another plot point in this series can be found in Book 7, A Touch of Honor. In it, John Swenton is an English baron. He falls in love with the daughter of an Irish Catholic baron. To marry, they must first marry in the Church of England in order for their children to be recognized as Lord Swenton’s heirs. Then they can marry in the Catholic church to meet her family’s obligations. There are all types of prejudice in the world.

Book Blurb
ATOLThe Realm has returned to England to claim the titles they left behind. Each man holds to the fleeting dream of finally knowing love and home, but first he must face his old enemy Shaheed Mir, a Baloch warlord, who believes one of the group has stolen a fist-sized emerald. Mir will have the emerald’s return or will exact his bloody revenge..

Aristotle Pennington has groomed SIR CARTER LOWERY as his successor as the Realm’s leader, and Carter has thought of little else for years. He has handcrafted his life, filled it with duties and responsibilities, and eventually, he will choose a marriage of convenience to bolster his career; yet, Lucinda Warren is a temptation he cannot resist. Every time he touches her, he recognizes his mistake because his desire for her is not easily quenched. To complicate matters, it was Mrs. Warren’s father, Colonel Roderick Rightnour, whom Sir Carter replaced at the Battle of Waterloo, an action which had named Carter a national hero and her father a failure as a military strategist.

LUCINDA WARREN’s late husband has left her to tend to a child belonging to another woman and has drowned her in multiple scandals. Her only hope to discover the boy’s true parentage and to remove her name from the lips of the ton’s censors is Sir Carter Lowery, a man who causes her body to course with awareness, as if he had etched his name upon her soul. A cruel twist of Fate has thrown them together three times, and Lucinda prays to hold off her cry for completion long enough to deny her heart and to release Sir Carter to his future: A future to which she will never belong.

And now for a short excerpt from A Touch of Love, Book 6 in the Realm Series
Lucinda had stood on the busy street corner for a quarter hour, attempting to shore up her nerves. She had carefully read the social register for the past few weeks, waiting for the return of the Duke of Thornhill to his London townhouse. A single line of type had reported Brantley Fowler’s presence at Briar House, and Lucinda had wasted no time in sending a note around, requesting an audience with the duke. Thornhill had responded immediately, setting the date and time.

Self-consciously, she checked Matthew’s pocket watch for the time. She regularly carried her late husband’s watch in her reticule. It was one of the few items she had kept to mark her days as Matthew Warren’s wife. “Time,” she murmured. Matthew never found the time to speak the truth, Lucinda thought bitterly. As she set her shoulders to cross the street, she wondered how Thornhill would take to her report of his old friend. I have no choice, she assured her rapid pulse.

She sidestepped a fresh pile of horse dung while dodging a young gentleman’s poorly driven curricle to step upon the curb before Briar House. It was a magnificent house: plenty of windows to permit the light and warmth of even a weak sun, as well as beautiful columns giving the exterior the look of a Roman theatre. Briar House spoke to the Fowlers’ place in Society. Her breath hitched, and Lucinda chastised herself for the very feminine desire to break into tears again. Her eyes swept the townhouse’s façade. Splendor she would never know.

With a deep steadying breath, she entered the gate and ascended the few steps to release the knocker. In less than a minute, the door swung wide to reveal the duke’s very proper butler. “Yes, Miss?”

Lucinda swallowed hard to clear his throat. “I am Mrs. Warren. His Grace is expecting me.”

The butler’s eyebrow rose as he peered behind her to look for her maid, but it had been more than a year since Lucinda could afford help of any kind. She pretended not to notice the servant’s disapproval. “This way, Mrs. Warren,” the butler said diplomatically.

Lucinda politely followed the man up the stairs and along an elaborately decorated passage. She had attended the Come Out ball for Thornhill’s sister, Lady Eleanor Fowler, and his cousin, Miss Velvet Aldridge. Now, Miss Aldridge was Brantley Fowler’s duchess, and by all accounts the man’s one true love. Yet, on that one evening, Lucinda had received the duke’s attentions, and although she had been a bit uncomfortable with Thornhill’s sudden adoration, the evening remained one of Lucinda’s favorite memories. A man of worth had revered her intelligence and her good sense. A man had found her attractive, something Matthew had never done.

The butler tapped on an already open door. “Your Grace. Mrs. Warren to speak to you.” The man stepped aside, and Lucinda entered a very masculine study. Dark wood panels spoke of a strong mind and an unqualified determination, both of which could easily describe the Duke of Thornhill.

The duke rose to greet her. His light brown hair was peppered with strands of gold. It was unstylishly long and tied back with a leather strap. Eyes of darkest chocolate glittered with genuine welcome, and Lucinda breathed a bit easier. “Thank you, Mr. Horace. If you will ask Cook to send in tea.”

“Of course, Your Grace.”

Defensa_del_Parque_de_Artillería_de_Monteleón Brantley Fowler caught Lucinda’s hand and brought it to his lips. “I was pleased to hear from you,” he said easily, “but I admit you have piqued my interest.” Lucinda had always liked the young lord. The future duke had spent but two months in the same company as had Lucinda’s late husband; and during the brief interval, Fowler and Matthew had renewed their university friendship. She was proud to say the young lord had always treated her with respect. She was the daughter of the second son of an earl, and the future duke accepted her as his equal socially. In fact, once when Matthew had found fault with the meal she had managed on the few supplies available, it had been Brantley Fowler who had taken up her defense.

“I appreciate your seeing me on such short notice, Your Grace.” The duke led her to a nearby settee before assuming the seat across from where Lucinda sat. “I beg your forgiveness for my bold gesture.”

The duke frowned. “I would hope you would view me as an ally, Lucinda.” His ready familiarity eased her tension.

The butler returned with the tray. “Mrs. Warren will serve, Horace.”

“As you wish, Your Grace.” The butler closed the door upon his exit.

Lucinda dutifully took up the service. This cup would be a treat for her. Her meager funds did not stretch to expensive tea. The duke must have read her mind for he said, “My sister Eleanor’s husband, Lord Worthing, declares he spent seven years of service to his country without a decent cup of tea.”

Lucinda nodded her understanding. “Even on English soil,” she said as a means to define her purpose in coming to Briar House, “many cannot afford the weak mix with which we suffered on the Continent. The military’s idea of tea is less than inspiring, but it would be welcome in many English households.”

A long pause kept Thornhill silent. The air was thick with nerves and unspoken truths. Finally, the duke asked, “Are you among those who cannot afford such luxuries?”

Lucinda had always prided herself on her frankness. She had come to beg Thornhill for his support, and the duke deserved the truth, as she knew it. “I am, Your Grace,” she said more calmly than she felt.

Setting his cup aside, the duke sat forward bracing his arms along his thighs. He cocked his head as if seeing her for the first time, and Lucinda fought the urge to squirm under the man’s close scrutiny. He said with concern, “When last we met, you spoke of a small settlement from your mother and, of course, your widow’s pension. Had I known…”

Lucinda cut off the duke’s offer. “I am not your responsibility, Your Grace, and a pity call was not my purpose this day.”

He jammed his knuckles into the side of his leg. The duke held a reputation for rescuing “damsels in distress.” It was one of the reasons Lucinda had sought his assistance. “But what of your parents? Or of the Warrens?”

She cleared her throat and hoped her voice did not betray the chaos rushing through her veins. “My mother passed some five months after my marriage to Matthew. The Colonel lost his life in Belgium.” She could not hide the grief, which tugged heavily at her heart. Losing her father had come close to sending her over the edge, both figuratively and literally. “I would prefer not to seek the assistance of the Earl of Charleton. The Colonel and Uncle William were often at odds. I would not wish to claim the role of poor dependent.” Lucinda did not think her father’s oldest brother would take kindly to the situation in which she now found herself.

“And the Warrens?” the duke prompted. His words caused her heart to stutter. Every time she thought of Matthew’s betrayal she wanted to curse the heavens.

Lucinda schooled her expression. Matthew’s parents had turned from her after their son’s death. At the time, she had not understood the reasons the Warrens had placed distance between them. Matthew’s parents had pledged their only child to Lucinda when they were but babes, and the Thornbys had gloried in the connection. She felt the shame for her parents’ hopes. Although she could not say she had loved Matthew Warren, she had always held her husband in great affection; they had been friends for as long as she could recall. “Father Warren has indicated I am no longer welcome at Coltman Hall.”

The duke’s mouth formed a thin line of disapproval. “I had once thought Matthew’s parents perfect in every way,” he confessed.

Lucinda thought, Perfect in their outward displays, but greatly lacking in essentials. “If you hold no objections, Your Grace, I would care to speak to the reasons for my calling upon you.”

“By all means.” The duke leaned back into the chair’s cushions. “I am your servant.”

The nerves she had tamped down had roared to life again. A thousand frightening scenarios flitted through her brain. Purposefully, Lucinda took another sip of the tea. It really was quite lovely to taste the bitter leaves. Setting the cup on the tray, she caught Fowler’s gaze and held it. “Some three months past, I was presented a most difficult situation. I opened the door to my let rooms to find a small boy setting upon the threshold. There were no adults about and upon investigation, no one knew of how the child came to waiting outside my quarters.”

“Was there no identification?” Thornhill inquired earnestly.

Lucinda set her shoulders in a stiff slant. She dreaded what was to come, but the duke would accept nothing less than the absolute facts. “Only a note pinned to the child’s jacket.” When the duke did not respond, she continued. “The note announced the child to be Matthew’s. By his wife, a woman he had married in ’09, some two years before he returned to Devon for the pronouncing of our vows.” Lucinda kept part of the truth as her own special torment. She did not tell him the complete facts of the child’s mother, that the woman was a Jewess.

The duke appeared perplexed. “How may that be so? You are telling me, Matthew Warren took another without his parents’ knowledge?”

Lucinda had asked herself that very question repeatedly. “I would hope the Warrens did not knowingly foist a sham of a marriage upon me.” She forced the tremble from her words.

The duke was up and pacing. “I have heard of such perfidy, but I would never place Matthew Warren among those who would practice such duplicity. The extent of this falsehood is of the gravest debasement.”

Lucinda said softly, “The boy was conceived after our joining.” She would not permit the duke to observe how the thought of her husband with another woman had ripped her heart from her chest; yet, she had cried her last tear for the soul of a dishonest man.

Thornhill dejectedly returned to his seat. “This is all too much.” With a heavy sigh, he asked, “Where is the child now?”

Lucinda glanced to the sun streaming through one of the windows. There was only one small window in her rooms, and she sorely missed the air upon her countenance. Too many years of following drum, she thought. “Today, young Simon is with my landlady. The child is staying with me.” Again, she withheld an important fact that would likely color everything with a black stroke.

The duke set forward again. “You have taken it upon yourself to care for the offspring of your husband’s betrayal?” he asked incredulously. “You must realize, Mrs. Warren, that your raising this child within your home will bring you nothing but ostracism. You are opening yourself to public humiliation when this situation becomes common knowledge.”

Lucinda fought back the tears stinging her lashes. “The child has the right to know the touch of love. I could not turn the boy out on the streets, but is Simon’s presence, which has brought me to your door. The child has complicated my life in ways I could not anticipate. If Matthew married another before speaking his vows to me, I am not his widow, and my only source of income for the boy and me has vanished into a foggy London sky. I require someone to discover the truth of the note’s claim. I can easily voice a myriad of questions, but I possess no resources to discover the answers.”

Other Books in the Realm Series:

A Touch of Scandal (aka The Scandal of Lady Eleanor): Book 1 of the Realm Series

A Touch of Velvet: Book 2 of the Realm Series 

A Touch of Cashémere: Book 3 of the Realm Series

A Touch of Grace: Book 4 of the Realm Series

A Touch of Mercy: Book 5 of the Realm Series

A Touch of Love: Book 6 of the Realm Series

A Touch of Honor: Book 7 of the Realm Series

A Touch of Emerald: The Conclusion of the Realm Series

His American Heartsong: A Companion Book to the Realm Series 

Posted in British history, Church of England, excerpt, George IV, Georgian Era, gothic and paranormal, Great Britain, heroines, historical fiction, Living in the Regency, marriage, military, Napoleonic Wars, political stance, real life tales, Realm series, Regency era, Regency personalities, Regency romance, religion, romance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

18 July 1817: The Death of Jane Austen, a Guest Post by Kyra Kramer

Kyra Kramer recently shared this post on Austen Authors. It speaks so poignantly of the loss of Jane Austen that I thought it appropriate to share here with you on the 200th Anniversary of Jane Austen’s passing. 

The Death of a Great Author, and Greater Woman

Jane Austen passed away on 18 July 1817, at the age of only 41. She didn’t just deprive the future of English literature by her death; she left behind a devastated and grieving family. Her mother, and her seven beloved siblings, all survived her. Moreover, her nieces and nephews were bereft at losing the aunt who had so entertained, encouraged, and embraced them.

Before her death, Jane had been ailing for some time. There is intense speculation regarding what diseased ended her life, with the three main contenders being Addison’s disease of the adrenal glands, a type of cancer termed Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or a commonplace illness of the time period, disseminated bovine tuberculosis, contracted from contaminated milk. Because of the continued mental perspicacity marking Jane’s last days, the hypothesis of disseminated bovine tuberculosis appears more likely than either Addison’s disease or Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but without disinterring her and testing her remains, we can never know for certain what killed her. We can only know that it was physically distressing, chronic, and lingering. In March of 1816 she wrote to her niece, Fanny Austen-Knight, about her reoccurring illness:

“I am got tolerably well again, quite equal to walking about and enjoying the air, and by sitting down and resting a good while between my walks, I get exercise enough … Many thanks for your kind care for my health; I certainly have not been well for many weeks, and about a week ago I was very poorly. I have had a good deal of fever at times, and indifferent nights; but I am considerably better now and am recovering my looks a little, which have been bad enough — black and white, and every wrong colour. I must not depend upon being ever very blooming again. Sickness is a dangerous indulgence at my time of life … I was languid and dull and very bad company … I do not venture to church … I took my first ride yesterday, and liked it very much. I went up Mounter’s Lane and round by where the new cottages are to be, and found the exercise and everything very pleasant; and I had the advantage of agreeable companions, as [Aunt] Cass. and Edward walked by my side. [Aunt] Cass. is such an excellent nurse, so assiduous and unwearied!” 

Although Jane made light of her sickness in her cheerful letters, stressing her sporadic episodes of good health, by the next spring she was rapidly losing strength and mobility. One of life’s self-proclaimed “desperate walkers”, Jane could no longer enjoy long rambles around the Hampshire countryside by 1817, and was forced to remain bedridden or housebound with increasing frequency and duration. On 18 March her deteriorating health even made the master of “two-inches of ivory” put down her pen and give up work on her last, lamentably uncompleted novel, The Brothers (eventually retitled Sanditon). Jane wrote to her closest non-familial friend, governess and aspiring playwright Anne Sharp, on 22 May to explain that:

“In spite of my hopes & promises when I wrote to you I have since been very ill indeed. An attack of my sad complaint seized me within a few days afterwards – the most severe I ever had – & coming upon me after weeks of indisposition, it reduced me very low. I have kept my bed since 13. of April, with only removals to a Sopha. Now, I am getting well again, & indeed have been gradually tho’ slowly recovering my strength for the last three weeks. I can sit up in my bed & employ myself, as I am proving to you at this present moment, & really am equal to being out of bed, but that the posture is thought good for me.  … My head was always clear, & I had scarcely any pain; my cheif sufferings were from feverish nights, weakness and Languor”  [Further Reading: Jane Austen’s Dearest Friendship with Miss Sharp Still Resonates Today]

Although she made the best of things in her letters to friends and family, Jane was aware her illness was dire. She had written a will on 27 April, leaving the bulk of her worldly goods to her sister Cassandra, and had given her sister private information on whom she wished to leave very personal mementoes, such as a bodkin or some of Jane’s hair with which to make jewelry, as a mark of her affection. Her siblings and mother, however, stubbornly held out hope of Jane’s recovery, writing to one another with the good news whenever she felt the tiniest bit better, displaying a perfectly natural form of denial regarding their impending loss.

Throughout her decline, Jane was attended by the local apothecary, Mr William Curtis, who had cared for her with every consideration. Nonetheless, he was aware her amendment was beyond his skills, so Mr Curtis advised Jane’s family sometime in mid-May to take her to Winchester to see a physician attached to the Hampshire County Hospital, Dr Giles King Lyford. It was hoped that the esteemed Dr Lyford could restore Jane’s health with what would have been cutting-edge medical technology at the time. The Austens, of course, were willing to leave no stone unturned in the search for a cure, and immediately made plans to move Jane to Winchester. To this end they turned to close friends who were living there, Mrs Heathcote and Miss Bigg, (they were the older sisters of Jane’s fiancé of less than a day, Harris Bigg-Wither; they clearly held no grudge against her deciding against the union) to help them find lodgings for Jane and Cassandra. Mrs Heathcote and Miss Bigg were equal to their task, and they quickly secured a house at 8 College Street, near to their own home, for the Austens’ use. 

Public Domain ~ via Wikipedia ~ Royal Hampshire County Hospital, Winchester. Rear view of the original Victorian pile on Romsey Road, with modern buildings clothing the hill to the south. A telephoto view from Whiteshute Ridge

Jane left Chawton Cottage for Winchester on 24 May under the care of her siblings, Cassandra and Henry Austen, and a nephew, William Austen-Knight. She wrote to her eldest brother’s son, James Edward Austen (known as Edward to the family, and the nephew would eventually adopt the surname Austen-Leigh and write the first biography of Jane’s life), to assure him her removal to Winchester went as smoothly as possible:

“Thanks to the kindness of your father and mother [Rev James Austen and Mary Lloyd Austen] in sending me their carriage, my journey hither on Saturday was performed with very little fatigue, and had it been a fine day, I think I should have felt none; but it distressed me to see uncle Henry and Wm. Knight [the fourth son of Jane’s brother, Edward Austen-Knight], who kindly attended us on horseback, riding in the rain almost all the way.”

Initially, the move to Winchester seemed to bring Jane a marked return to health. She promised her nephew Edward that, “neither that nor my face have yet recovered their proper beauty, but in other respects I am gaining strength very fast. I am now out of bed from 9 in the morning to 10 at night: upon the sopha, ’tis true, but I eat my meals with aunt Cass in a rational way, and can employ myself, and walk from one room to another.” She also joked with him that, “Mr. Lyford says he will cure me, and if he fails, I shall draw up a memorial and lay it before the Dean and Chapter, and have no doubt of redress from that pious, learned, and disinterested body.”

Jane likewise wrote to Mrs Frances Tilson (the wife of Henry Austen’s London banking partner) on 29 May that Dr Lyford was “encouraging, and talks of making me quite well. I live chiefly on the sopha, but am allowed to walk from one room to the other. I have been out once in a Sedan-chair, and am to repeat it, and be promoted to a wheel-chair as the weather serves. On this subject I will only say further that my dearest sister, my tender, watchful, indefatigable nurse, has not been made ill by her exertions.”

These cheerful letters may have brought those who cared about her some comfort, but it was sadly a false comfort. In private, Dr Lyford had warned family members that even though Jane was feeling a little better, “he must still consider her in a precarious state”. When James Austen went to Winchester to see Jane for himself in early June, he could not echo Jane’s determinedly upbeat reports. Instead, James was forced to tell his teenage son:

“I grieve to write what you will grieve to read; but I must tell you that we can no longer flatter ourselves with the least hope of having your dear valuable Aunt Jane restored to us. The symptoms which returned after the first four or five days at Winchester, have never subsided, and Mr. Lyford has candidly told us that her case is desperate. I need not say what a melancholy gloom this has cast over us all. Your Grandmamma has suffered much, but her affliction can be nothing to Cassandra’s. She will indeed be to be pitied. It is some consolation to know that our poor invalid has hitherto felt no very severe pain–which is rather an extraordinary circumstance in her complaint. I saw her on Tuesday and found her much altered, but composed and cheerful. She is well aware of her situation. Your Mother has been there ever since Friday and returns not till all is over–how soon that may be we cannot say–Lyford said he saw no signs of immediate dissolution, but added that with such a pulse it was impossible for any person to last long, and indeed no one can wish it–an easy departure from this to a better world is all that we can pray for. I am going to Winchester again to-morrow; you may depend upon early information, when any change takes place, and should then prepare yourself for what the next letter may announce.”

Jane was resigned to her death, but she did her utmost to relieve the emotional burdens of those who loved her. She even continued to jest playfully with her caregivers when she could, and made a point of thanking them all repeatedly. She was particularly careful to thank Mary Austen, the sister-in-law who came to stay with the Austen sisters for the final month of Jane’s life in order to share some of the burden of round-the-clock nursing with Cassandra. Jane had never been overly fond of Mary, who was snobbish and whom Jane felt had not made her dearest brother James very happy in marriage, and Jane was eager to make unspoken peace with Mary near the end, as is encouraged by the Anglican religion. 

There is also every indication that she was well enough to still enjoy being with friends and family. Not only did her sister Cassandra remain by Jane’s side almost without cessation, 8 College Street boasted numerous visitors to comfort and distract the patient. Mrs Heathcote and Miss Bigg were there nearly every day, and Mrs Heathcote in particular “was the greatest possible comfort to them all”. Regrettably, two of Jane’s best friends, Anne Sharp and Martha Lloyd, had neither the funds nor the ability to visit Winchester, but were faithful correspondents. Jane’s brother Henry made a frequent appearance in the neat little drawing room with its bow-window overlooking the headmaster of Winchester College’s garden, as did her nephew Charles Austen, who was attending the college at the time. Her brother’s James, Frank, and Charles were all able to come to her as well. However, no one seems to have thought that her brother George, whom may have had mental disabilities, would like to say farewell.

Jane’s mother missed the opportunity to see Jane in the final weeks of her existence, due to a combination of semi-hypochondrial bad heath and bone-deep denial that her youngest daughter was truly dying. When Jane passed way, her mother, in spite of having every forewarning that Jane’s death was imminent, was shocked by her youngest daughter’s death. She wrote to her granddaughter, Anne Austen Lefroy, “I am certainly in a good deal of affliction … I was not prepared for the Blow, for though it in a manner hung over us I had reason to think it at a distance, & was not quite without the hope that she might in part recover”.

Nor were there arrangements made for two of Jane’s most attached nieces, Fanny Austen-Knight and Anna Austen Lefroy, to come to Winchester. Neveretheless, they frequently wrote to their aunts, giving Jane a great deal of pleasure. Cassandra assured Fanny Austen-Knight that Jane “did love you most sincerely, and never shall I forget the proofs of love you gave her during her illness in writing those kind, amusing letters at a time when I know your feelings would have dictated so different a style. Take the only reward I can give you in the assurance that your benevolent purpose was answered; you did contribute to her enjoyment. Even your last letter afforded pleasure. I merely cut the seal and gave it to her; she opened it and read it herself, afterwards she gave it to me to read, and then talked to me a little and not uncheerfully of its contents, but there was then a languor about her which prevented her taking the same interest in anything she had been used to do.”

As further evidence that Jane remained (at least outwardly, for her loved ones) brave and merry in the face of death, her brother Henry would later write that his sister, “retained her faculties, her memory, her fancy, her temper, her affections, warm, clear and unimpaired, to the last. Neither her love of God, nor of her fellow creatures flagged for a moment. She made a point of receiving the sacrament before excessive bodily weakness might have rendered her perception unequal to her wished. She wrote whilst she could hold a pen, and with a pencil when a pen became too laborious. The day before her death she composed some stanzas replete with fancy and vigour.”

This poem, entitled Venta, was a humorous verse about the rainy weather that occurred on St Swithun’s Day, July 15. Venta Belgarumhad been the Roman name for the city [the Latinized form of the Brittonic words meaning City of the Belgae] and erudite scholars of the local college loved to show off their knowledge by calling Winchester by its old appellation. Jane, with her usual wit and acerbic skewing of sociocultural absurdity, mocked everything about the pretentious nomenclature and the races that were held to celebrate St Swithun. 


When Winchester races first took their beginning
It is said the good people forgot their old Saint
Not applying at all for the leave of St. Swithin
And that William of Wykham’s approval was faint.

The races however were fix’d and determined
The company met & the weather was charming
The Lords & the Ladies were sattin’d & ermin’d
And nobody saw any future alarming.

But when the old Saint was inform’d of these doings
He made but one spring from his shrine to the roof
Of the Palace which now lies so sadly in ruins
And thus he address’d them all standing aloof.

Oh subject rebellious, Oh Venta depraved!
When once we are buried you think we are dead
But behold me Immortal. — By vice you’re enslaved
You have sinn’d and must suffer. — Then further he said

These races & revels & dissolute measures
With which you’re debasing a neighbourly Plain
Let them stand — you shall meet with a curse in your pleasures
Set off for your course, I’ll pursue with my rain.

Ye cannot but know my command in July.
Henceforward I’ll triumph in shewing my powers,
Shift your race as you will it shall never be dry
The curse upon Venta is July in showers.

Having made this last sally into the written word, Jane Austen slipped off her mortal shell a little more than 48 hours later, dying in the wee hours of Friday, 18 July, with her head pillowed on her sister Cassandra’s lap. Cassandra sent a letter to Fanny Austen-Knight recounting Jane’s final moments:

“She felt herself to be dying about half an hour before she became tranquil and apparently unconscious. During that half-hour was her struggle, poor soul! She said she could not tell us what she suffered, though she complained of little fixed pain. When I asked her if there was anything she wanted, her answer was she wanted nothing but death, and some of her words were: ‘God grant me patience, pray for me, oh, pray for me!’ Her voice was affected, but as long as she spoke she was intelligible … he was seized again with the same faintness, which was followed by the sufferings she could not describe; but Mr. Lyford had been sent for, had applied something to give her ease, and she was in a state of quiet insensibility by seven o’clock at the latest. [According to Henry Austen, Jane’s “last voluntary speech conveyed thanks to her medical attendant”.] From that time till half-past four, when she ceased to breathe, she scarcely moved a limb, so that we have every reason to think, with gratitude to the Almighty, that her sufferings were over. A slight motion of the head with every breath remained till almost the last. I sat close to her with a pillow in my lap to assist in supporting her head, which was almost off the bed, for six hours; fatigue made me then resign my place to Mrs. J. A. for two hours and a half, when I took it again, and in about an hour more she breathed her last. I was able to close her eyes myself, and it was a great gratification to me to render her those last services. There was nothing convulsed which gave the idea of pain in her look; on the contrary, but for the continual motion of the head, she gave one the idea of a beautiful statue, and even now, in her coffin, there is such a sweet, serene air over her countenance as is quite pleasant to contemplate.”

Austen’s family and friends were profoundly grieved. Cassandra wrote, “I have lost a treasure, such a sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed. She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow; I had not a thought concealed from her, and it is as if I had lost a part of myself. I loved her only too well … I do think of her in every variety of circumstance. In our happy hours of confidential intercourse, in the cheerful family party which she so ornamented, in her sick room, on her death-bed, and as (I hope) an inhabitant of heaven. Oh, if I may one day be re-united to her there!” Fanny Austen-Knight also suffered “severely”, recording in her diary that she “had the misery of losing my dear Aunt Jane after a lingering illness”, and wrote several times to her Aunt Cassandra and her grandmother regarding the extent of their loss. Anne Austen Lefroy also felt the loss of Aunt Jane keenly, constantly eager to tell Jane some news or though, only to recall that she was no longer alive to receive the information. Anna’s young half-sister, 12 year old Caroline Austen, lamented that her sorrow made her feel as though she “had never loved and valued” her Aunt Jane as much as she should. Her brother James was so moved he composed a poem as an elegy for his sister, praising her multitudinous virtues. These effusions of sorrow are all proofs of a family in deepest mourning.   

Jane Austen was laid to rest in Winchester Cathedral on 24 July. As was customary, it was a small family affair, attended by her kinsmen because a funeral was considered too much for the deceased female relatives to bear. Jane’s brothers Frank and Henry were there, but Edward Austen came as his father’s surrogate (James’s was in ill health and they feared the grief might harm him constitutionally) and Charles Austen was unable to come away from his naval post in time. Cassandra wrote of the funeral, “Never was human being more sincerely mourned … than was this dear creature. May the sorrow with which she is parted with on earth be a prognostic of the joy with which she is hailed in heaven!”

A simple memorial stone covered Jane’s grave, saying:

In Memory of JANE AUSTEN youngest daughter of the late Rev GEORGE AUSTEN formerly Rector of Steventon in this County she departed this Life on the 18th July, 1817 aged 41, after a long illness supported with the patience and the hopes of a Christian. The benevolence of her heart, the sweetness of her temperament the extraordinary endowments of her mind obtained the regard of all who knew her and the warmest love of her intimate connections. Their grief is in proportion to their affection they know their loss to be irreparable but in their deepest affliction they are consoled by a firm though humble hope that her charity, devotion, faith and purity have rendered her soul acceptable in the sight of her REDEEMER

There was no mention of her novels, or her success as a writer. For the Austen family, even her overwhelming abilities with the pen were overshadowed by the intense personal nature of her loss. Their dismay was for the absence of a sister and friend, not for the fact her career as an author was so sadly cut short. Not even works of Jane Austen’s magnitude could surpass her worth as a sibling and companion in their eyes.

This is not to say that they were unaware of her extraordinary literary gifts. Her grave may have borne no reference to her writing, but her brother Henry was lavish in his praise of her the obituary he submitted to the newspapers, listing all of her novels with great pride. He furthermore declared that “the whole catalogue of the mighty dead” buried at Winchester Cathedral did “not contain the ashes of a brighter genius”.

Although we probably can all agree with Henry’s assessment of his sister’s talents, we can none of us understand the depths of the Austen family’s pain at losing one of their own. As Austen herself wrote in Mansfield Park, the sibling bond is “a strengthener of love, in which even the conjugal tie is beneath the fraternal. Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connexions can supply”. In a way it is a blessing that Jane was the first to go; she alone was spared the anguish of losing a brother or sister. English literature has suffered for her early demise, but Jane herself did not.

In our regrets for the loss of such a magnificent author, we sometimes neglect the fact she was a wonderful person, as well.

Meet Kyra Kramer: Kyra Cornelius Kramer is a freelance academic with BS degrees in both biology and anthropology from the University of Kentucky, as well as a MA in medical anthropology from Southern Methodist University. She has written essays on the agency of the Female Gothic heroine and women’s bodies as feminist texts in the works of Jennifer Crusie. She has also co-authored two works; one with Dr. Laura Vivanco on the way in which the bodies of romance heroes and heroines act as the sites of reinforcement of, and resistance to, enculturated sexualities and gender ideologies, and another with Dr. Catrina Banks Whitley on Henry VIII.

Ms. Kramer lives in Bloomington, IN with her husband, three young daughters, assorted pets, and occasionally her mother, who journeys northward from Kentucky in order to care for her grandchildren while her daughter feverishly types away on the computer. [Amazon Author Page]


















When her widowed uncle made her home untenable, Mary made the best of things by going to live with her elder sister, Mrs Grant, in a parson’s house the country. Mansfield Parsonage was more than Mary had expected and better than she could have hoped. Gregarious and personable, Mary also embraced the inhabitants of the nearby Mansfield Park, watching the ladies set their caps for her dashing brother, Henry Crawford, and developing an attachment to Edmund Bertram and a profound affection for his cousin, Fanny Price.

Mansfield Parsonage retells the story of Mansfield Park from the perspective of Mary Crawford’s hopes and aspirations and shows how Fanny Price’s happily-ever-after came at Mary’s expense.

Posted in book release, British history, buildings and structures, Georgian England, Guest Post, Jane Austen, literature, Living in the Regency, Regency era, Regency personalities, religion | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Princess Louise’s Early Years of Marriage

Last month, we looked at Princess Louise’s choosing to become the future Duchess of Argyll. View that post HERE. Today, we will take at look at the marriage itself. 


Portrait of Princess Louise (1848-1939), inscribed and dated ‘Victoria/after Winterhalter/1851’ (lower right) and with inscription ‘H.R.H. P’cess Louise, copied by Queen Victoria. (on 1st attempt in Oils) from F. Winterhalter. 1852’ (on the reverse). ~ Public Domain ~ Wikipedia ~ 31 December 1850

Just because Princess Louise had finally emerged from the shadow cast by her familial relationship to Queen Victoria did not mean Louise had completely shed the mantle she had worn for many years. In fact two days into her marriage to John Douglas Sutherland Campbell, Marquis of Lorne and heir to the dukedom of Argyll, the Queen herself paid them a visit. The newlyweds chose to spend the first part of their marriage journey at Claremont House, near Windsor. Queen Victoria’s purpose was more than motherly concerns for her daughter, for Lorne had thought to take Louise to the Continent as part of their honeymoon. One must remember, though, that Europe had recently seen the end of the Franco-Prussian War. Therefore, it was likely that Louise would not be acknowledged properly in the European courts as the daughter of the Queen of England. Miraculously, Lorne rejected his mother-in-law’s meddling, much to Victoria’s dismay. 

In Florence, for example, Louise and Lorne used one of the marquis’s secondary titles, that of Lord Sundridge, and the pair was able to avoid many of the obligatory calls on foreign royalty required of a British princess. 

When the couple returned to London, they originally stayed at Argyll Lodge, a mansion north of Kensington High Street. The estate bordered Holland Park. The estate was connected to Westminster by a turnpike road. The time at Argyll Lodge provided Louise time to become more intimate with the Campbell family: Argylls, Sutherlands, Westminsters, Leinsters, Northumberlands, Blantyres, and Carlisles. The Duke and Duchess of Argyll oversaw what went on at Argyll Lodge, but Louise noted later in life that she had been happy there. Eventually, when Lorne became the Duke of Argyll, they would reside at Inveraray Castle in Scotland, a massive castle that would prove to be a “money hole” for the Argyll family. 


The engagement photo of Princess Louise (Marchioness of Lorne and Duchess of Argyll) and John, Marquess of Lorne and 9th Duke of Argyll ~ Public Domain ~ via Wikipedia

When Lorne first escorted Louise to Inveraray, the couple was greeted with a crowd of Campbells from the surrounding villages and towns and farmlands to welcome the Queen’s daughter. Pipers reportedly played “The Campbells Are Comin’.”

In London, the couple had to find a suitable home of their own. They leased a five-storery townhouse in Belgravia’s Grovenor Crescent, a relatively new enclave for the wealthy. The house was quite expensive, and Lorne only acceded to taking it, for he recognized his wife’s position in society. 

Needless to say, Victoria did not leave her daughter to Louise’s duties. She often begged for Louise’s assistance, keeping Lorne and Louise apart for long periods of time. Even so, Louise was the only one of her sisters who was able to enjoy a certain level of normalcy. Despite Victoria’s efforts to convince Lorne to accept a dukedom, Lorne consistently refused, saying he preferred to remain in the House of Commons and that he would not dishonor his father or the Argyll dukedom by accepting the Queen’s offer. Victoria wrote to Louise: “… if I approved of Lorne marrying MY daughter, he ought to have rank as her husband.”

The largest issue with which the couple dealt was the lack of children. Later, people questioned whether Lorne was a homosexual, but Louise’s writings regularly mentions their sexual encounters. By Victorian standards, Louise’s inability to conceive was a “stigma” on her character. Louise traveled to Germany to partake of medicinal baths and the Queen instructed the senior royal physician, Sir William Jenner, to offer advice to the princess. For more than a dozen years, Louise attempted several homeopathic “cures.” In retrospect, most experts believe her bout of meningitis was the cause of her remaining childless. 

According to Jerrold M. Packard, author of Victoria’s Daughters (©1998, St. Martin’s, New York, 182), “Vicky [the Queen’s eldest daughter] also fretted about Louise’s lack of children, wondering in a letter to Louise when ‘a host of small Campbells’ might be available to keep their various cousins company. When later complimenting her daughter on a new country house she had taken, Vicky commented not very tactfully how much nicer it would be there were a ‘few little fair heads looking out the windows.’ Their mother told Louise to ‘be careful of your diet and in not omitting aperient medicines….’ The queen also weighed in with the view that no children were preferable to ‘wicked’ ones. Leopold [Duke of Albany, Victoria’s son and Louise’s brother] tactlessly wrote his congratulations to Louise when her sister-in-law (the wife of Lord Archie Campbell, Lorne’s younger brother) had a son, with the inane observation that the birth was of a ‘possible future (I hope not) Duke….'”



Posted in British history, Church of England, customs and tradiitons, family, history, marriage, royalty, Scotland, titles of aristocracy, Victorian era | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Tolpuddle Martyrs, Changing the Face of Employment Rights in Victorian England

 6f2ea1a2a8619dede777fe35f0c8806fd06f3baa.jpg This year is the 178th anniversary of when six Dorset farm labourers were sent to an Australian penal colony, but their ‘crimes’ helped change the face of employment rights for generations to come – and it all began in the small village of Tolpuddle.

Tolpuddle is a village near Dorchester in Dorset. During the years leading up to the arrest of the six offenders, a great wave of trade union activity took place and a lodge of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers was established. Entry into the union involved payment of a shilling (5p) and swearing before a picture of a skeleton never to tell anyone the union’s secrets. The average wage for a farm labourer at the time was 10 shillings per week, but the Tolpuddle men had seen their wages dropped to 7 shillings (with threats of future cuts). The fact that the men sword an oath made their actions illegal. Therefore, the men were arrested. Their employers feared possible unrest, for the British populations had not forgotten the French uprisings. 

 tolpud.gif On 24 February 1834, George Loveless and five fellow workers – his brother James, James Hammett, James Brine, Thomas Standfield and Thomas’s son John – were charged with having taken an illegal oath. But their real crime in the eyes of the establishment was to have formed a trade union to protest about their meagre pay. The jury was made up of 12 farmers, the exact same type of men the labourers had been accused of offending. 


2nd_V_Melbourne.jpg Lord Melbourne, the British Prime Minister at this time, openly opposed the Trade Union Movement, so when six English farm labourers were sentenced in March 1834 to 7 years transportation to a penal colony in Australia for trade union activities, Lord Melbourne did not dispute the sentence. The Whig government had become alarmed at the working class discontent in the country at this time. The government and the landowners, led by James Frampton, were determined to squash the union and to control increasing outbreaks of dissent.

According to the BBC Home, “They were tried before an all-male 12 jury. The jury men were farmers, and the employers of the labourers under trial. The farmers themselves rented their land from the gentry – but it was the gentry who had opposed the idea of the labourers uniting. The men on trial stuck to their view. Their leader was George Loveless, and in addressing the judge and jury, he wrote: ‘My lord, if we had violated any law it was not done intentionally. We were uniting together to save ourselves, our wives and families from starvation.’ Even so, after a two day trial, Judge Baron Williams found them guilty: ‘The safety of the country was at stake,’ he said. They were sentenced to seven years in a penal colony in Australia, where they would have been sold on as slaves. It was the maximum sentence they could have had. They had been made an example of.”

The offenders were to be transported to a penal colony in Australia. After the trial many public protest meetings were held and there was uproar throughout the country at this sentence, so the prisoners were hastily transported to Australia without delay. The working class rose up in response to this sentencing A massive demonstration of 30,000 marched down Whitehall through London in support of the labourers, and an 800,000-strong petition was delivered to Parliament protesting about their sentence.

After three years, during which the trade union movement sustained the Martyrs’ families by collecting voluntary donations, the government relented and the men returned home with free pardons and as heroes.

When finally home and free, some of the ‘martyrs’ settled on farms in England and four emigrated to Canada.

This year’s annual festival commemorating this event is July 14 -16, 2017. 


Stephen McKay w:Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Museum. A museum commemorating the Tolpuddle martyrs is housed in this group of cottages at the west end of Tolpuddle village., Dorset, UK. ~ via Wikipedia


Meet the Martyrs 

The Story: Tolpuddle Martyrs

Tolpuddle Martyrs (The Dorset Page)

Tolpuddle Martyrs (Historic UK)

Tolpuddle Martyrs (Wikipedia)

Tolpuddle Martyrs, 1834 (History Home)

Posted in British history, commerce, Dorset, history, Victorian era | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Closer Look at “Mr. Darcy’s Fault: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary”


Mr. Darcy’s Fault was my first foray into what is known as JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction). Since 2009, I have been known as a Jane Austen-inspired writer. Of my 30 published books, I have written 17 Austen-related titles (with #18 to make an appearance in August 2017). Eight of those books are considered retellings and sequels, with all but one based on Pride and Prejudice. Nine are vagaries. Mr. Darcy’s Fault is a vagary, which is also known as a variation in writing circles. By definition, a vagary means 1. an unpredictable or erratic action, occurrence, course, or instance: i. e., the vagaries of weather; the vagaries of the economic scene. 2. a whimsical, wild, or unusual idea, desire, or action. Vagary came into use between 1565-75, in sense a “wandering journey”; apparently Latin vagārī , meaning to wander.

In fan fiction circles, to write a vagary/variation, the author makes a change in the original story that creates a whole new story line. The challenge is to bring the characters back to a similar conclusion as the original at the book’s end. Fan fiction novels are so popular that one can also find vagaries, retellings, and sequels for authors such as Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, etc. Some of you might scoff at this idea, but permit me to provide one major statistic: in March 2017, there were 85 books released related to Jane Austen, and all were snatched up by Jane Austen readers. Needless to say, some were more successful that others, but all were received by an insatiable block of readers, who ignore all the predictions of publishers who say the market is overloaded with Austen stories. They simply keep purchasing books. 

For those authors who, like me, who also write Regencies romances and romantic suspense, Austen readers often follow me over to the Regency market. Is the transfer complete. Absolutely not. But there is a steady crossover from both my Austen market and my Regency market.

So, what is the set up for Mr. Darcy’s Fault? It begins with Darcy waiting in the grove at Rosings Park to give Elizabeth Bennet his letter – the one he wrote after his disastrous first proposal – the one in which he makes his explanations regarding separating Jane Bennet from Mr. Bingley and the one in which he relates the truth of his dealings with Mr. Wickham. As in Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth reluctantly accepts the letter and when she leaves Mr. Darcy behind, she reads it. The change comes when Darcy spots Wickham in the vicinity of Rosings Woods. He makes the assumption that Elizabeth and Wickham planned an assignation. He thinks to leave her to her misery, but the dogs set up a howl. He follows the sound to find Elizabeth unconscious in the woods. In his hurry to see her to safety, he does not think of the letter she carried. When he does think of it, he can find no traces of it. As he treated her leg injury and carried her back to Rosings, Darcy has “ruined” Elizabeth’s reputation. She has no choice but to agree to marry him, but as far as she is concerned Jane’s misery, Mr. Wickham’s penury, and her accident are all Mr. Darcy’s fault. 

MDF Cover copy.jpgMr. Darcy’s Fault: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary

What if an accident prevents Elizabeth Bennet from reading Mr. Darcy’s letter of apology? What if said letter goes missing and ends up in the hands of George Wickham? What if Mr. Wickham plans to use the evidence of both Georgiana Darcy’s ruination and Darcy’s disdain for the Bennets to his benefit? How will Darcy counter Wickham’s plans and claim happiness with the woman he loves?

When he notices his long-time enemy in the vicinity of Hunsford Cottage, FITZWILLIAM DARCY means to put an end to an assignation between ELIZABETH BENNET and Mr. Wickham, but Darcy is not prepared for the scene which greets him in Rosings Woods. Elizabeth lies injured and crumpled beneath the trees, and in order to save her, by Society’s standards, Darcy must compromise Elizabeth. Needless to say, Darcy does not mind being forced into claiming Elizabeth to wife, but what of the lady’s affections? Can Darcy tolerate Elizabeth’s regard being engaged elsewhere?

Amazon      Kindle        Nook       CreateSpace       Kobo   

Chapter One 

“THERE IS NOTHING FOR IT,” he said with a heavy sigh. “I will gather Georgiana from London and set a course for Pemberley.”

Attempting to clarify his thoughts, Darcy stood under the trees of the well-groomed grove of Rosings Woods. He had spent a long night, a night in which his saw his dreams of marital happiness dissolve as quickly as the mist drifting in from the Swale. He spent the hours of darkness composing a letter of apology and of parting for Miss Elizabeth Bennet, and a few minutes prior in the new day’s early hours, he placed it in her hands with a plea for the lady to read it. 


Darcy sank down upon a wooden bench that his aunt placed along the carefully cleared path. Darcy doubted Lady Catherine ever walked in this part of the grove, but it was very much of his aunt’s nature to maintain carefully tended lawns and enchanting pathways leading to a nature walk.


“It is my fault,” he told a rabbit, which scurried into the opening. “I sorely misjudged the lady. I assumed my consequence would secure Miss Elizabeth’s approval.” Darcy shook his head in disbelief. “I certainly acted in a gormless fashion. I desired the woman because she did not easily succumb to the allure of my family’s position, and then I knew surprise when Miss Elizabeth acted as she always does. My fault…” he groaned before burying his head in his hands.

With his eyes closed, the scene of last evening’s horror replayed across his imagination.

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

Darcy expected Miss Elizabeth’s immediate agreement, but was met instead with her cold response.

“In such cases as this, it is, I believe, the established mode to express an obligation for the sentiments avowed, however unequally they may be returned. It is natural that obligation should be felt, and if I could feel gratitude, I would now thank you. But I cannot–I never desired your good opinion, and you certainly bestowed it most unwillingly. I am sorry to occasion pain to anyone. It was most unconsciously done, however, and, I hope will be of short duration. The feelings which you tell me long prevented the acknowledgment of your regard can have little difficulty in overcoming it after this explanation.”

A second groan escaped Darcy’s lips.

“Certainly I did not show well before the lady,” he whispered harshly. “I should have guarded my words. The colonel will have a sound laugh when he learns of my folly.”

His cousin’s words in describing Darcy’s lack of social skill to Miss Elizabeth still echoed in Darcy’s memory.

“It is because he will not give himself the trouble.”

“Yet, even so, how could Miss Bennet be so misguided as to think I would quickly recover from my professions of love? Did she not realize my declarations honest?”

Another would never fill the hole in his gut. Emptiness always followed Darcy about, but after taking the acquaintance of Elizabeth Bennet, he had thought she would make him whole. Now the yearning was stronger than ever, as if his Soul reached out, only to have its hands slapped away for being imprudent.

“How do I begin again with the image of Miss Elizabeth etched upon my heart?”

With acceptance of the impossible, Darcy stood slowly before sucking in a steadying breath.

“Lady Catherine and Ann are likely to be in the morning room. Her ladyship will not be happy to learn I mean a speedy exit from Rosings.”

Returning his hat to his head, Darcy squared his shoulders. Yet, the sound of hurried footsteps had him spinning in the direction of the gate where he had encountered Miss Elizabeth earlier to observe a familiar figure weaving his way in the direction of Hunsford Cottage.

“What the devil is he doing in Kent?” Darcy growled.

* * *

If Elizabeth, when Mr. Darcy gave her the letter, did not expect it to contain a renewal of his offers, she formed no expectations at all of its contents. No longer encumbered by his sudden appearance or his equally speedy exit, she could now stomp her foot in annoyance and complain under her breath, both of which brought little relief to her anxiousness.

“Dratted man! I should have thrown his letter at his too stiff back.”

Yet, instinctively, Elizabeth clasped the letter to her chest.

“It is not as if the man plans to offer you his hand a second time,” Elizabeth told the rising hopes she fought hard to quash. “Foolish girl,” she warned her racing heart. “A man of Mr. Darcy’s importance could not be made to beg for my acquiescence.”

After Mr. Darcy’s withdrawal last evening, the realization of what she had done made inroads into Elizabeth’s resolve.

“Even though the connection would benefit my dearest family, my esteemed father would never have permitted me to marry purely for the bond.” Elizabeth sought justification for what others would perceive as a moment of pure foolhardiness. “And God knows I could never tolerate the man’s control of my life. I am not cut of the same cloth as Jane: I cannot act the martyr.”

Thoughts of the pain Mr. Darcy brought to her sister’s door only riled Elizabeth further.

“I have no wish in denying that I did everything in my power,” Mr. Darcy had replied to Elizabeth’s accusation with assumed tranquility, “to separate my friend from your sister, or that I rejoice in my success. Toward him I was kinder than toward myself.”

Elizabeth looked in the direction Mr. Darcy had walked: The gentleman had turned once more into the plantation. “I should follow him, tear up this declaration of his superiority, and throw it into his face. How would you like that, Mr. Darcy?” Elizabeth taunted the spot where she last saw the gentleman.

Although she would never admit it aloud, recovering from Mr. Darcy’s proposal had not yet been achieved: Since his hurried departure from Hunsford Cottage last evening, Elizabeth had thought of little else. Such was the reason she had begged off assisting Charlotte in the garden to indulge her need for air and exercise.

“After last evening’s headache, I fear I am totally indisposed for employment,” Elizabeth had told her friend.

When she left upon her walk, she purposely chose the lane, which led farther from the turnpike road rather than to face the possibility of encountering Mr. Darcy in the parkland. But Elizabeth’s efforts proved fruitless for Mr. Darcy appeared suddenly from a grove, which edged the park. She had thought to retreat, but he had seen her, and Elizabeth was not of the nature to cower; therefore, she stood her ground, moving again toward the gate, which led to the groomed grounds.

“Miss Elizabeth,” he called while she refused to acknowledge his approach with either a curtsy or verbal reply. Mr. Darcy held out the letter, which she took without thought. He said with what Elizabeth termed as haughty composure, “I was walking in the grove some time, in the hope of meeting you. Will you do me the honor of reading that letter?”

Elizabeth looked down at the letter held tight in her grasp.

“I suppose I should read the poisonous missive and be done with it,” she grumbled.

Reluctantly she returned to the path leading further into the woods. As she walked, Elizabeth broke the wax seal and opened the letter, two sheets of foolscap, written quite through, in a very close hand covered by an envelope, itself likewise full.

“Rosings. Eight of the clock,” she read aloud the first line. Her steps slowed, but Elizabeth continued along the prescribed path. “Be not alarmed, madam, on receiving this letter by the apprehension of its containing any repetition of the sentiments, or renewal of those offers, which were last night so disgusting to you.”

As I expected, she thought, there will be no renewal of Mr. Darcy’s proposal. Elizabeth did not know whether that particular fact disappointed her or brought gladness for the finality of the man’s regard.

“I write without any intention of paining you, or humbling myself, by dwelling on wishes which, for the happiness of both, cannot be too soon forgotten; and the effort which the formation and the perusal of this letter must occasion should have been spared, had not my character required it to be written and read.”

Elizabeth paused suddenly to huff her indignation.

“Naturally Mr. Darcy’s unbridled pride would demand the last word on the matter. Heaven forbid Mr. Darcy practiced the idea of going one’s own way and letting others do likewise. I wish he were before me so I might bring the gentleman more clarity upon the subject.”

With a growl of resignation, she returned to both her walk and the letter.

“You must therefore pardon,” she read through tight lips, “the freedom with which I demand your attention; your feelings, I know will bestow it unwillingly, but I demand it of your justice. Demand?” she hissed. “When did you not demand, Mr. Darcy? And do not flatter yourself to think you know my disposition!”

Despite the fact she unwillingly gave into her strong curiosity to read what would amount to nothing but untruths, Elizabeth was not about to give the gentleman an inch of rightness.

With anger’s bile rising to her throat, she raised her eyes to the heavens, saying a quick prayer for patience. Elizabeth stood perfectly still, seeking the goodness Jane would practice in this sham, but she could not seem to bring her emotions into check. In frustration, she sat a bruising pace, knowing she could not return to the Cottage and her friend without first burning away some of her animosity toward the man. If Mr. Collins learned of Mr. Darcy’s proposal, her cousin would likely drag Elizabeth by her hair to Rosings Park to apologize to Lady Catherine for having drawn the attention of Her Ladyship’s nephew.

“It is very unladylike of me to think so, but I would enjoy throttling the gentleman!” Elizabeth fumed as she marched along smartly while ignoring the beauty of God’s hand, which she would customarily cherish. “How is this madness ever to end? How may I face Mr. Darcy and his aunt when all I can think upon is the gentleman’s umbrage? It will be a difficult fortnight before I can escape to Longbourn.”

Elizabeth glanced at the pages she held tightly to her cloak.

“Should I continue with this deceit or place it in one of Mrs. Collins’s replaces?” she mocked.

She shook the offending letter harshly. Determined to have no more to do with Mr. Darcy, with trembling fingers, Elizabeth began to refold the pages. Yet, before she could complete the task, her eyes fell upon the lines from which she last read.

Her pace slowed once more, and unwittingly, Elizabeth read, “Two offenses of a very different nature, and by no means of equal magnitude, you last night laid to my charge. The first was that, regardless of the sentiments of either, I detached Mr. Bingley from your sister.”

The man possessed a way of forthright speaking, which always challenged Elizabeth’s best efforts of equanimity. Never having fully subsided, her anger roared again.

“Do you mean to deny your involvement, Mr. Darcy? You bragged of your success in the matter only last evening,” she huffed.

Ignoring where her steps led her, as well as the thickening of the vegetation surrounding her, Elizabeth bit out the words as she continued reading Mr. Darcy’s recitation aloud:

“My second offense, that I had, in defiance of various claims, in defiance of honor and humanity, ruined the immediate prosperity and blasted the prospects of Mr. Wickham. Willfully and wantonly to threw off the companion of my youth, the acknowledged favorite of my father, who had scarcely any other dependence than on our patronage, and who was brought up to expect its exertion, would be a depravity to which the separation of two young persons whose affection could be the growth of only a few weeks, could bear no comparison. But from the severity of that blame which was last night so liberally bestowed, respecting each circumstance, I shall hope to be in the future secured, when the following account of my actions and their motives are read. If, in the explanation of them, which is due to myself, I am under the necessity of relating feelings, which may be offensive to yours, I can only say that I am sorry. The necessity must be obeyed, and further apology would be…”

“Absurd!” Elizabeth screeched as she stumbled upon a tree root, pitching forward. Before she could right her stance, a loud click announced she wandered too far from the customary path through the woods. All she could do was scream as the trap meant for a fox snapped shut about her ankle. Her half boots did not prevent the sharp claws of the leg trap from piercing her skin.

~ ~ ~

Darcy quickened his pace, but even so, by the time he reached where the lane leading to the turnpike road marched along with the parkland’s paling, he lost sight of the figure. In frustration, he turned in a circle to survey the various paths leading to Hunsford Cottage, the woodlands, and the park.

“Which way did the scoundrel flee?” He ground out the words. “I thought the dastard in Meryton.” But then the obvious connections arrived. “Could Mr. Wickham’s presence in Kent be the reason for Miss Elizabeth’s refusal?”

Darcy’s mind became a red-hot haze.

“Has Miss Elizabeth renewed her interest in the gentleman?” he whispered in harsh tones. “Perhaps an elopement is afoot. Would than not be the pinnacle of irony?” A deep sigh of acceptance escaped Darcy’s lips. “If the lady’s heart is engaged elsewhere, you escaped a miserable marriage, Darcy.”

More determined than ever to be quickly fromRosings, Darcy crossed to the gate to return to his aunt’s manor house. He knew he should make the effort to ensure the unwelcome visitor left the area, but he could not engender the effort. He would instruct Lady Catherine’s head groom to send out men to drive Darcy’s long-time enemy from the estate’s land.

“And if Miss Elizabeth chooses to follow Mr. Wickham, then more the pity for the Bennets.”

The sound of a dog barking somewhere off to his right had Darcy’s ears straining to locate the noise. Lady Catherine’s games keeper used several Springer spaniels and bloodhounds to keep poachers at bay, as well as to rid the parkland of the creatures Her Ladyship deplored.

“Perhaps the hound cornered a different breed of poacher,” Darcy declared with a wry twist of his lips. “As much as I hold no desire to come upon a lover’s tryst, my pride demands I know the truth.”

~ ~ ~

Face first, Elizabeth smacked the ground hard. With nothing upon which she could catch a handhold, she struck the earth with a resounding thud, one that drove the air from her lungs and literally, shook every bone in her body.

“Lord in Heaven,” she groaned when a breath was finally possible, as she attempted to shove her body upward upon her elbows, only to collapse again from the pain shooting up her calf. She sputtered against the clump of grass and dead leaves at her lips. “What have you done, Elizabeth Bennet?” she chastised. The pain coursed through her leg, and tears formed in her eyes. Raising her head to claim her bearings, she made a second attempt to right her position, only to be held firmly in place.


“A trap,” she pronounced aloud, as the blackness fogged her thinking.

In her distracted state, Elizabeth stepped into a trapper’s lure, which was bad enough, but the leg trap also caught part of the bowl of her day dress, essentially locking her right side in place. She could not bend her knee, nor could she sit to remove the trap. Elizabeth laid upon her stomach in a wooded area of the estate, a place few would think to look for her; there was no means of escape unless she created one.

“It is not as if God means to send you a rescuer,” Elizabeth grumbled as she fought for a lucid thought.

Even though, she realized the futility of her efforts, Elizabeth dutifully emitted several loud calls for assistance. She waited after each for an answering response, but when none came, the fear returned to her heart. Moisture ran down her temples and formed upon her upper lip. With difficulty, Elizabeth worked her right arm free of her cloak to wipe at the droplets away, only to come away with blood smears upon her glove.

“What else, God?” she grumbled, realizing her nose and forehead seeped blood.

With a concentrated effort, Elizabeth raised her head to look over her shoulder to the trapped ankle; again, she attempted to move her injured foot only to be met with more excruciating pain.

“I cannot simply lie here,” she groaned in frustration.

However, as the blackness staked its claim upon her sensibility, Elizabeth succumbed to the need to rest her forehead upon her arm, thinking she simply required a few moments to construct an idea for escape. The calm of her surrounds lured her closer to unconsciousness, but the sound of something moving through the woods had her alert with apprehension.

When the two dogs came bounding into the path ahead of her, Elizabeth did not know whether to celebrate or know more fear. The animals stilled with a warning growl and a barring of teeth.

“Easy,” she whispered. Her heartbeat hitched higher. “Is your master about?” She turned her head slowly to look for the animals’ owner. The hound put his nose to the ground and began to sniff her cloak and arm. “I am not your enemy,” she said in soothing tones.

And then the dog did the unthinkable. He sat beside her and lifted his voice to the trees. The spaniel joined the hound in setting up an alarm, and if the sound were not so ear piercing, Elizabeth would applaud their efforts in her behalf. Instead, she covered the ear closest to the dog with her free hand.

“This is all Mr. Darcy’s fault,” she added her complaint to the mayhem, as the hound took up the call once more. “Him and his dratted letter.”

~ ~ ~

With a couple of miscues, Darcy followed the sound of dogs’ pleas. Yes, there were two: a hound, which split the air with his long, mournful howl, and the deep, resonant ‘woof’ of a working dog. Periodically, Darcy paused simply to listen to the animals ring an alarm. They evidently cornered either a two-legged intruder or a four- legged one. Darcy was betting on the former, but either way, he meant to learn the truth of the racket. However, he did not chase the sound without first removing the Queen Anne pistol he carried in his jacket and then checking the hidden blade in his walking cane.

Prepared for action, when Darcy rounded the curve in the narrow path, he did not expect the sight, which greeted him.

“Miss Elizabeth?” Darcy stumbled to a halt when the spaniel sat low in his haunches to growl a warning against Darcy’s approach.

“Easy,” Darcy said without the anxiousness rushing through his veins. He glanced to where Elizabeth Bennet lay unmoving upon the ground. Instinctively, he knelt to the dog’s level. “I mean the lady no harm.”

Darcy permitted the animal to sniff him before he stood again. Edging closer to Elizabeth, he cautiously examined the situation. Her crumpled form brought an ache to his heart. Seeing her such reminded Darcy of the petite fragility her frame claimed; often, Elizabeth’s personality made her appear larger than she was.

“Elizabeth?” Darcy knelt to whisper into her hair. “Speak to me.”

Although muffled by the earth into which she spoke, Elizabeth weakly chastised him.

“I never gave you permission, sir, to use my Christian name.”

Despite the dire situation, Darcy smiled. “That is my darling girl,” he taunted.

Raising her upper body upon her elbows, Elizabeth protested his familiarity.

“I am not your ‘darling girl,’ Mr. Darcy. Not your darling anything.”

Darcy thought, Not yet, but instead he asked, “Where are you injured?”

She turned her head stiffly to glance at him over her shoulder. “My right ankle. While reading your cursed letter, I stepped in a trapper’s lure.” Her lips were tight, and there was blood caked upon her forehead and chin.


“My God, Woman!” Darcy exclaimed as he flipped Elizabeth’s cloak from his way. “Why are you not caterwauling in pain?” Darcy’s fingers trembled as they lightly brushed the steel trap, while his admiration for the woman increased substantially.

“I promise I will fill several handkerchiefs with my tears once this is over,” she quipped.

Elizabeth gasped, biting hard on her lip to sti e the cry of pain, when Darcy attempted to loosen her skirt tail from the mechanism.

“I apologize, Miss Elizabeth,” he mumbled as he examined the situation from a different angle.

Elizabeth heaved a heavy sigh. “I would like to say I am your champion, but I fear my patience is dwindling. You will know success in this matter, will you not, Mr. Darcy?” she asked breathlessly.

Darcy’s mind filled with unbearable pressure to yank the offending lure from her sight, but he said, “Bear with me. I promise to free you.”

Elizabeth returned her head to her forearm. “I am at your disposal, Mr. Darcy,” she said wearily.

Darcy suspected her supposed calm came from a bit of delirium. He wished he fetched a groom or Lady Catherine’s grounds’ man before he set out upon this task, but his pride told him Elizabeth Bennet refused him because she preferred Mr. Wickham. Little did he think a letter of explanation could bring her more pain.

Darcy caught the rent in the hem of her gown and gave it a mighty yank to open the tear further. Unsurprisingly, Miss Elizabeth did not protest, a sign the lady succumbed to her peril. Gently, Darcy ran his hand along her back to check her breathing. Although weak, her breaths were as if she were sleeping.

Assured, his worse fears would know another day, Darcy reached behind him to find his discarded cane lying beside the pistol upon the ground, before giving Elizabeth’s shoulders a tender shake to arouse her. “I mean to pry the trap open,” he explained. “Do you possess the strength to lift your leg free of the contraption while I hold the lure open?”

Elizabeth raised her chin from the ground. “Tell me when, sir.” For a split second, Elizabeth’s body stiffened with alertness, and then she went completely limp.

From beside him, the spaniel whined. “I agree,” Darcy grumbled as he crawled on all fours to check her breathing once more.

Finding her unconscious, but breathing normally, he scrambled to his feet to straddle her booted ones. Stripping away his caped coat and tossing it to the ground, he edged Elizabeth’s left foot from his way; anxiously, he placed the toe of one of his Hessians on the right side of the trap, loosening the tension of the mechanism as it eased from her skin. Even so, Elizabeth did not move, a fact that worried Darcy greatly. Miss Elizabeth was likely the most strong-willed woman of his acquaintance. Her resting docilely was not a good omen, in his opinion.

Slowly and carefully, Darcy wedged the cane into the small opening. His heart told him to hurry, but his mind kept repeating the need for great care.

“Do not wreak more damage upon the woman,” Darcy said aloud. “If the trap is sprung again, it will likely do irreparable harm to Miss Elizabeth’s ankle.”

He swallowed hard before he placed the toe box of his left boot upon the opposite side of the trap. Using his weight to lower the left side of the lever, Darcy paused only long enough to suck in a steadying breath. Squatting awkwardly over the device, Darcy reached down to capture the curve of Elizabeth’s ankle in his gloved hand. He wished he could shift his weight to keep his balance, but any swift movement could release the trap again.

Patiently, he lifted Elizabeth’s foot, bending her leg at the knee. There were several jab wounds in the creamy skin of her exposed calf, and her ankle appeared badly bruised and swollen. Inch by terrifying inch, Darcy lifted her foot higher. When he cleared her limb of the trap, Darcy removed his right foot, and the lever slammed against his cane. Keeping a tight grasp upon her foot, he released the left side. This time, his cane cracked and bent. Free to rest Elizabeth’s foot again upon the ground, Darcy gently lowered her leg to rest upon the grassy area. Standing to look upon his work Darcy’s eyes fell upon the trap. In anger, he caught the bent metal of his hidden sword and tossed the trap against the side of a nearby tree.

Clear at last, Darcy dropped to his knees beside Elizabeth.

“I have you,” he chanted as he rolled Elizabeth to her back. Darcy used his handkerchief to wipe away the trickle of blood from her nose. Unconscious, Elizabeth did not fight him, and Darcy took a perverted pleasure in having the right to tend her.

“You shall have a black eye, my love,” he observed as Darcy checked her arms and legs for any broken bones. With the release of the pressure upon Elizabeth’s ankle, the puncture wounds began to bleed, and Darcy stripped off his cravat to wrap about her leg. He would like to remove her boot, but he suspected he could cause Elizabeth more injury if he did so.

Instead, Darcy loosened the fastenings of Elizabeth’s cloak to toss it upon his discarded coat. He would leave both garments until later.

“Come, Love,” Darcy spoke in soft tones as he lifted Elizabeth to him. Her breathing was even, which gave Darcy hope. “Like it or not, Elizabeth Bennet, after your recovery, you will be Mrs. Darcy. You are thoroughly compromised, my girl.”

Darcy turned his steps toward Rosings Park. Lady Catherine would disapprove of his actions, but he would not permit his aunt to hush up his actions. One way or another, Darcy meant to have Elizabeth as his wife. Darcy assured his pride that she would learn to return his affections once he had her alone at Pemberley. His ancestral estate would work its magic on Miss Elizabeth’s heart, and he would have her in his bed each night.

“My wish is for you and children,” Darcy whispered into Elizabeth’s hair.

With tails wagging and playful yips, the dogs rushed ahead of him as Darcy wove his way along the tree-rooted path. Neither he nor the animals took note of a dark figure stepping from behind a tree. The man scooped u[ Darcy’s coat and pistol from the ground. Turning to where he had hid while Darcy tended Miss Elizabeth, the interloper bent to gather the pages of the long-forgotten letter.

With a smile of conniving, the man saluted Darcy’s retreating form. The interloper refolded the pages and slipped them into his jacket pocket, along with the pistol, before disappearing the way he came.

Posted in Austen Authors, Bells, book excerpts, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, marriage, Pride and Prejudice, reading, reading habits, Regency era, romance, Vagary | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment