Today, I welcome Ginger Monette to Every Woman Dreams. Ginger is a relative newcomer to JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction) writing, as she promotes her latest book, Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey. Unlike many Austen variations that remain in the Regency period, Ginger’s book is set during World War I. We are the last stop on Ginger’s blog tour. (By the way, did I mention Ginger and I live some 5 miles removed?) Enjoy the post on Downton Abbey and then check out more on Ginger’s books.
Is Downton Abbey a Copycat of Pride and Prejudice?
Is there something magical about a houseful of daughters with no heir? If I were to pitch the premise to a television producer or literary agent, I wouldn’t expect him to sit up and clamber for a pen to underwrite the project. But for both Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice and Julian Fellowes’ Downton Abbey, the simple premise has made millions.
As a Jane Austen and period drama fan, I devoured Downton Abbey right along with the rest of the world. And one day it dawned on me that a houseful of unwed sisters wasn’t the only thing the two hits had in common. Was it possible that Julian Fellowes found inspiration for Downton Abbey in Austen’s Pride & Prejudice? There are a number of uncanny similarities….
Entailed Estate, Unsuitable Heir, Headstrong Heroine
In Pride and Prejudice, the odious (unsuitable) Mr. Collins is destined to inherit the Bennet’s entailed estate, and spirited heroine Elizabeth Bennet narrowly escapes engagement to him. In Downton Abbey, when heirs #1 and #2 both perish with the sinking of the Titanic, the nearest male kinsman, Matthew Crawley, is found to be a mere “man in trade” (again unsuitable), whom headstrong heroine Lady Mary Crawley is determined to despise.
Furthermore, in both cases the girl’s mother strongly encouraged marriage to the new, but unwelcome heir.
These aspects of the plot are important in both stories as they create some of the conflicts that drive the decisions and actions of the characters. It seems plausible that Fellowes, noting Austen’s success, may have adapted these plot points to serve Downton Abbey.
A Grand Estate
In both Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey, a grand house is a silent, yet central character. For nearly 200 years women have been swooning over Pemberley, the estate of Austen’s heartthrob Fitzwilliam Darcy. Described as “…a large, handsome, stone building standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills…” many believe Austen had Chatsworth House in mind when she described its grandeur.
Highclere Castle’s gold rectangular structure topped with corner towers and spires is instantly recognizable as the Crawley’s family home on Downton Abbey. Fellowes, a personal friend of Highclere’s current owners, had firsthand knowledge of the home’s magnificence and was instrumental in securing it as the filming location.
These lavish homes set our hearts to dreaming and become beloved characters in and of themselves. Are these grand houses part of what has made both Downton Abbey and P&P breakout successes? It is worth noting that even the name Downton Abbey is suspiciously similar to Donwell Abbey, the name Austen chose for George Knightley’s estate in her classic work, Emma. In any case, there’s no doubt that the public is enamored by these magnificent homes. Chatsworth House and Highclere Castle have become two of England’s most popular country homes.
A Crotchety Matriarch
Colorful characters bring life and personality to stories, and Austen’s Lady Catherine de Bourgh is no exception. Her domineering and intimidating temperament make her an antagonist of sorts, which further heightens the conflict in Pride and Prejudice.
Fellowes chose a similar character in the dowager Lady Grantham. Although she no longer lives at Downton, the matriarch’s imperious disposition and sharp tongue make her a force to be reckoned with. The two women are so similar, it is hard for me to believe Fellowes wasn’t thinking of Lady Catherine when he first envisioned Lady Grantham.
High Society Characters Falling in Love With, Well, Those Not so High Society
Fitzwilliam Darcy can hardly believe that he’s fallen in love with country girl from Hertfordshire—one who grew up without a governess, no less! His struggle leaves him off balance and ultimately leads him to propose marriage to Elizabeth in a most unflattering manner. Was Fellowes envisioning just such a match when he dreamed up Matthew Crawley, a lowly solicitor from Manchester, and paired him with the high and mighty Lady Mary?
Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and if indeed Fellowes did look to Austen’s Pride & Prejudice when crafting Downton Abbey, he made an excellent choice. Clearly the popularity of Downton Abbey and Pride & Prejudice has shown these elements to be a winning combination, and perhaps it is one of the reasons why readers like us keep returning to P&P fan fiction again and again.
Do you see any other parallels in the two works?
Meet Ginger Monette
Ginger lives with her family in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she enjoys dancing on the treadmill, watching period dramas, public speaking, and reading—a full-length novel every Sunday afternoon. Her WW1 flash fiction piece, Flanders Field of Grey, won Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s 2015 Picture This grand prize.
Introducing Darcy’s Hope: Beauty from Ashes
1916. World War I has turned French chateaux into bloody field hospitals, British gentlemen into lice-infested soldiers, and left Elizabeth Bennet’s life in tatters.
Her father is dead and her home destroyed. Never again will Elizabeth depend on a man to secure her future!
But when an opportunity arises to advance her dreams of becoming a doctor, she is elated–until HE arrives….
Heartbroken. Devastated. Captain Fitzwilliam Darcy is left rejected by the woman he loved and reeling from the slaughter of his men on the battlefield. “Enough!” Darcy vows. “No more sentimental attachments!”
But arriving at a field hospital to pursue a covert investigation, Darcy discovers his beloved Elizabeth training with a dashing American doctor and embroiled in an espionage conspiracy.
With only a few months to expose the plot, Darcy is forced to grapple with his feelings for Elizabeth while uncovering the truth. Is she indeed innocent? Darcy can only hope….
• Cameo appearance by John Thornton of North & South
• Rated PG-13 for mild language & war scenes. Romance is clean.
• Note: Darcy’s Hope has a happy ending but will continue in
January 2017. In the sequel, readers will experience the full resolution of the mystery, and our beloved couple’s love will face a new, tragic test in Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey.
1917. Amidst the chaos of WW1, Captain Fitzwilliam Darcy has won the heart of Elizabeth Bennet. Finally.
Then she disappears.
Still reeling from the loss, Darcy is struck by a battlefield tragedy that plunges him into a dark and silent world.
Sent to Donwell Abbey to recover, he’s coaxed back to life by an extraordinary nurse determined to teach how to live and love again. A woman whose uncanny similarities to Elizabeth invite his admiration and entice his affections.
His heart tells him to hold on to Elizabeth.
His head tells him to take a chance with his nurse.
But Donwell Abbey holds a secret that could change everything….
Escape to the era of Downton Abbey in this enthralling stand-alone sequel* to Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes.
•Perfect for fans of Downton Abbey and Pride & Prejudice.
•Includes appearances by literature’s iconic John Thornton, Margaret Hale, Colonel Brandon, Marianne Dashwood, and the descendants of George Knightley.
•Contains mild language and some graphic descriptions of war. Romance is clean.
*Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey may be read as a stand-alone novel, but readers may experience some minor confusions without the context of the mystery developed in Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes.
Excerpt: Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey by Ginger Monette
Elizabeth bolted from the chair. “Fitzwilliam, wake up!” She nudged his arm in the darkened room, but he continued writhing with great heaving breaths. “Captain!” She squeezed his hand, but he jerked it away, whimpering.
On impulse, she slid her arms under his shoulders and held him close. Instantly his thrashing ceased.
Gently rocking him, she massaged the unbandaged hair at his temple and whispered against his cheek, “It’s all right. Just a dream.”
He breathing slowed, but his body remained tense. “My ribs…hurt.”
She lowered him back to the pillow, then tapped on his hand, Try to relax. All right now?
“Mmm…. Water. And morphine.”
She squeezed his hand and poured water into the hospital cup. She touched the pill to his lips then offered the porcelain straw.
He swallowed. “Who are you?”
Elizabeth froze and closed her eyes. How she longed to tell him the truth, then brush a kiss on his lips, assure him of her love, and promise to stay by his side.
She took his hand and spelled, Miss Thomas.
“Thank you…Miss Thomas.”
Elizabeth sank into the wing chair and released a heavy breath. Could she bear to be so close and yet so far away from Fitzwilliam?
You may also enjoy Tree of Life: Charlotte & the Colonel, A Pride and Prejudice Companion Story.
Darcy’s attachment wasn’t the only one smouldering beneath the surface that Easter at Hunsford…
On the verge of proposing to his cousin Anne, the gritty Colonel Fitzwilliam discovers his beloved childhood friend Charlotte living less than half a mile away, married to the odious Mr. Collins.
A harrowing battle escape a year later leaves the colonel with a life-threatening injury that plunges him into despondency. But three words from his doctor lead to a profound spiritual encounter and launch him on a journey to become more than just the second son of an earl.
Suddenly finding himself responsible for Rosings estate, he is forced to wrestle with his affection for Charlotte while struggling to learn lessons of trust and forgiveness–lessons which have far reaching implications for family and friends.
Just when he thinks Charlotte may be within his grasp, a summons to Waterloo changes everything.
In this compelling companion to Pride & Prejudice, follow the forging of a man’s character through waiting, war, a woman, and three simple words.
*Suitable for older teens and adults. Contains mild profanity of a soldier, mild battle violence, and innuendo. One of the story’s predominant themes is Christian.
Thank you, Regina! I’m anxious to hear if readers see any other parallels in P&P and Downton Abbey.
Oh! And I hope readers will have a look at the wonderful reviews of Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes and grab the e-book while it’s still on sale. http://www.books2read.com/u/47kXOj
Glad to have you with me today, Ginger. We really must do lunch soon.
I think there’s a world of difference between Lady Catherine and Lord Grantham’s mother. Not only does the dowager Lady Grantham have a strong intellect, she also has a heart.
From a Twitter comment: Mary Cleary @zendallamc 13h13 hours ago
@Downtunes1 @downton @reginajeffers no Pride and Prejudice didn’t deal at all.with the lives of servants.
From a Twitter comment: StellaMarieGreenArts @SMGreenArts 24h24 hours ago
@VanessaRiley @reginajeffers might be inspired though I don’t see it but copycat? I don’t know
Good point. Copycat is too strong of a word. Thanks for joining the conversation!
I read some time ago (cannot recall where) that Downton Abbey’s inspiration may have been from Upstairs and Downstairs. In fairness I read your similarities and agree to disagree but to use the word ‘copycat’ seems strong. Downton Abbey has a more holistic take on the lives of both gentility and servitude where is lacking in Pride and Prejudice. The closest of Jane Austen novels which handles such holistic treatment of a family and their servants is Mansfield Park and the story of servants and poor families does not receive a deep treatment.
I see similarities, but I wouldn’t call it copycat. Very interesting thoughts, Regina. 🙂
The post is from Ginger Monette, Kate.
I definitely see some similarities but not so as to say it’s by any means a copycat. When it comes to the unsuitable heirs, I think I’d rather have Matthew Crawley over William Collins, especially as just last night I was watching Dan Stevens’ Edward Ferrars chopping wood in the rain!
I suppose another similarity could be a younger daughter marrying someone unsuitable, when Lady Sybil marries the chauffeur Tom Branson, but at least he turns out a lot better than Lieutenant Wickham.
Ginger, I think I’ve said it before elsewhere, but I could hear Maggie Smith (speaking as the Dowager Countess of Grantham) very clearly when I was reading any part of Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey that involved Darcy’s aunt from the Knightley family.
Thanks for a very interesting post and for the joy of reading both of the Darcy’s Hope books. Now looking forward to Thornton’s Hope!