Several months back, I landed upon an idea that has become part of my latest Austen-inspired book. You see, there is this whole faction of people/experts who believe that Francis Bacon and others within Bacon’s circle wrote Shakespeare’s plays. And guess what? Francis Bacon’s home is in the St Albans area of Hertfordshire. Old Gorhambury House [see image above] is an Elizabethan mansion, which now lies in ruins. It is an example of what was called an Elizabethan prodigy house, a term for large and showy English Tudor and Jacobean houses built by courtiers and other wealthy families. In the case of Old Gorhambury House, it was built by Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England. It is said that Elizabeth I visited the home upon multiple occasions.
The house was built from the bricks of St Albans Cathedral, which had been demolished a quarter century earlier. Sir Francis Bacon lived there for many years before Bacon bequeath it to his secretary, Sir Thomas Meautys, who married Anne Bacon, the great-granddaughter of Sir Nicholas. Between the years 1777 and 1784, James Bucknall Grimston, 3rd Viscount Grimston commissioned the notable architect, Sir Robert Taylor, to build a new Gorhambury House, this one in the Palladian-style. The Grimston family came in possession of the estate when Anne Bacon Meautys remarried after her husband passed. She then married Sir Harbottle Grimston, Master of the Rolls and Speaker in the Convention Parliament in 1660.
For more images of the original house, visit http://www.hertsmemories.org.uk/content/herts-history/topics/literary_hertfordshire/francis-bacon/old-gorhambury-house-2
In my latest Austen-inspired title, Pride and Prejudice and a Shakespearean Scholar, Mr. Bennet is a renown Shakespearean academic, a man of whom Darcy and Bingley know only from their years at Cambridge. What they do not know of Mr. Bennet helps to drive the story. But what of those Shakespearean plays? Is there any chance William Shakespeare is not the author? In Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare by James Shapirio, the author tells us of several “conspiracy theories” regarding the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. One involved Miss Delia Bacon, an American playwright, whose best known work was The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakespeare Unfolded, in which she attributes the plays to social reformers such as Francis Bacon and Sir Walter Raleigh. She speaks of Bacon, Raleigh, Lord Buckhurst, Edmund Spenser, the Earl of Oxford, and others as being disappointed and defeated politicians, who collaborated and used drama (an art form coming into itself during the Elizabethan period and one enjoyed by both the wealthy and the common man) to oppose the “despotism” of Queen Elizabeth and King James. For example, there are many who think that Shakespeare’s Macbeth comments on the 1605 Gunpowder Plot.
Shakespeare’s Globe tells us, “Shakespeare’s ‘Scottish Play’ was probably written in 1606, just three years after James I was crowned as Elizabeth’s successor, and so undoubtedly seems to be paying homage to the succession of the Scottish King to the English throne. But within that time, in November 1605, the Gunpowder Plot had been discovered: the plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament, kill James and replace him with a Catholic monarch failed and the plotters were tortured and horribly executed. The impact of the event was so dramatic that we still remember it today on Bonfire Night, so we can only imagine the enormity of the event for Shakespeare and his contemporaries.
“Why are the Gunpowder plot and Macbeth connected?
“Firstly, many of Macbeth’s themes resonate with the attempted revolt: it’s a play about treason, the overthrow of a King, and the downfall of his murderers. Even more importantly, King James was commonly believed to be descended from Banquo the thane of Lochquhaber, the historical counterpart of Shakespeare’s Banquo, the friend who Macbeth betrays and has murdered. With this in mind the witches’ prophesy that Banquo’s ancestors will be kings takes on a new meaning: it is referring to Banquo’s ancestor James Stuart, King of Scotland and England. By extension, it has been suggested that the escape of Fleance, Banquo’s son, from Macbeth’s murder plot is designed to echo James’s own escape from the Gunpowder plot and to subtly compliment the House of Stuart as legitimate and truly-descended rulers.”
Okay. Does that not play with all we hold most dear in English literature? Obviously, I do not have Darcy and Elizabeth back in the 1600s, but what I do have is a “puppet master,” of sorts in Mr. Bennet, who encourages Darcy to “tame” Elizabeth much as does Petruchio with Katherine in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. However, what if neither Darcy nor Elizabeth wish to be a part of such a farce? Within the story, you will find other examples from Shakespeare’s works, and I do acknowledge the Bacon theory when Darcy, Elizabeth, Mr. Bennet, Jane and Bingley visit the old ruins and tour Gorhambury House, much as Elizabeth and the Gardiners did at Pemberley in Austen’s original tale.
Introducing Pride and Prejudice and a Shakespearean Scholar: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary
Unless one knows the value of loyalty, he cannot appreciate the cost of betrayal.
What if Darcy and Elizabeth met weeks before the Meryton assembly? What if there is no barely “tolerable” remark to have Elizabeth rejecting Mr. Darcy’s affections, but rather a dip in a cold creek that sets her against him? What if Mr. Bennet is a renown Shakespearean scholar who encourages Darcy to act the role of Petruchio from Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” to bring Elizabeth’s Katherina persona to the line.
ELIZABETH BENNET’s pride has her learning a difficult lesson: Loyalty is hard to find, and trust is easy to lose. Even after they share a passionate kiss outside the Meryton assembly hall and are forced to marry, Elizabeth cannot forget the indignity she experienced at the hands of Fitzwilliam Darcy. Although she despises his high-handedness, Elizabeth appreciates the protection he provides her in their marriage. But can she set her prejudice aside long enough to know a great love?
FITZWILLIAM DARCY places only two demands on his new wife: her loyalty and her trust, but when she invites his worst enemy to Darcy House, he has no choice but to turn her out. Trusting her had been his decision, but proving his choice the right one before she destroys two hearts meant to be together must be hers, and Darcy is not certain Elizabeth is up to the task.
Now, for an EXCERPT: You may read Chapter 1 (how Darcy and Elizabeth meet) on the Austen Authors’ Writers’ Block at this link: http://austenauthors.net/writers-block/exquisite-excerpts/pride-and-prejudice-and-a-shakespearian-scholar/
Darcy watched her storm away. “Magnificent,” he murmured in admiration. He held no idea what had come over him. He certainly did not set out to flirt with the lady. Perhaps it was his recent confrontation with Lady Catherine that had him looking to potential mates other than Anne. Or perhaps is was Georgiana’s encouraging words regarding his need to look beyond the obvious. Or more likely it was the loneliness that had invaded his soul of late that had spurred him on. “The lady is certainly from the norm.”
He brushed the dirt and water droplets from his hat as he privately enjoyed the sway of her hips as she marched angrily across the field. Those hips were made more enticing by the damp muslin clinging to her skin and undergarments. He chuckled. She was a real virago. As he turned, he noticed something dark lying in the long grass and bent to retrieve it. It was the book in which the woman had been writing when he approached her. He had meant simply to inquire of Netherfield’s location, but when he had looked down upon the enticing globes of her breasts peeking from the neckline of her day dress, something primal had caught his good sense and had emphatically announced: Mine.
He glanced in the direction of her retreating form, momentarily considering whether to chase after her to return the book in his hand, but he thought it likely she would throttle him if he acted, even if he did so in good conscience. Moreover, she had set herself a good clip, especially for one walking without boots. She was nearing the far side of the field.
“Perchance Bingley will know something of the lady,” he said aloud, as he opened the book to view her last entry. The words brought a smile to his lips as he read…
Mama has no idea that I prefer Juliet’s words when she speaks of the necessity of our marrying before Papa passes to the prescribed sensibility of society on the matter.
’O bid me leap, rather than to marry Paris,
From off the battlements of any tower,
Or walk in thievish ways, or bid me lurk
Where serpents are. Chain me with roaring bears,
Or hide me nightly in a charnel-house
O’ercovered quite with dead men’s rattling bones,
With reeky shanks and yellow chapless skulls.
Or bid me go into a new-made grave,
And hide me with a dead man in his shroud—
Things that, to hear them told, have made me tremble—
And I will do it without fear or doubt.
To live an unstained wife to my sweet love.
Darcy was not certain he was comfortable reading the lady’s most intimate thoughts. On one hand, he was impressed by her knowledge of Shakespeare, her having quoted from Macbeth, The Taming of the Shrew, and now Romeo and Juliet with accuracy. “She even recognized my walking song,” he said in real respect. “I know few men—and fewer women—who hold knowledge of so many of Shakespeare’s finest pieces.” But on the other hand, the notation regarding her need to marry was troubling. “When she discovers my identity, will the lady transform into another Caroline Bingley? Will the need arise for me to avoid her as I do Miss Bingley?” Darcy thought that would be a true shame, for he did wish to take the lady’s acquaintance properly just to see if they could be in each other’s company for more than a few minutes without freely tossing accusations holding no merit about. “Certainly, she had a right to be angry, for I placed her down, but not as she wished, but there was that moment when I kissed her hand. Something resembling interest passed between us.”
Reluctantly, Darcy placed the journal in the pocket of his greatcoat. He would return the book when the opportunity arrived. “To think all I wished was to ask directions to Netherfield.” With a shrug of resignation, he set out the way he had come. This time he would pay more attention to locating the marker leading him to Netherfield.
* * *
When she was certain the man had not followed her, Elizabeth had sat upon the opposing stile from the one she had foolishly crossed earlier to don her stockings, garters, and boots. Mrs. Hill would have something to say about the moss stains on both her gown and her smock, but there was nothing for it. Surprisingly, tears stung her eyes. She had never encountered such an overbearing man, but she had to admit, if only to herself, she had enjoyed the heat and the strength of his body as he held her in his arms. For just a moment, she felt protected and foolishly a bit cherished. “Even so,” she announced to the birds above her in the trees lining the field, “I wish the cad the fate of Prometheus. A vulture forever nibbling upon his liver. Or perchance his cold heart instead.” With a satisfied nod of her head, she shook out her skirts to loosen them from her legs and then said a prayer that she could sneak into Longbourn without her mother’s notice.
However, God meant to vex her day, for although she managed to cross the kitchen and mount the servants’ stairs without anyone’s notice, when she reached the entrance hall, the sound of female voices filled the front drawing room. On silent feet, she tiptoed along the carpet, wordlessly asking the Fates to permit her invisibility.
“Lizzy!” her mother bellowed when the floor board popped from her weight pressing down upon it, and everyone in the room looked up to see her standing awkwardly in place outside the open room door.
Biting back a curse no lady should utter, Elizabeth straightened her shoulders to face those within the room. “Good morning, Lady Lucas. Charlotte. I did not realize you meant to call upon us today.” She remained a step outside the room’s entrance, where the shadows might mask the condition of her clothing.
“Do you wish tea?” Jane asked kindly.
“Perhaps later,” Elizabeth said with a well-placed smile. “I must to speak to Papa first.”
“You leave your father to his studies,” her mother warned. “I told Mr. Bennet that no one would disturb him this afternoon if he would promise to be agreeable over supper when Mr. Bingley comes calling this evening. Now, stop dilly-dallying in the hall. Come join us. I am certain Charlotte is desirous of your conversation.”
Elizabeth sighed in resignation and stepped forward where they all might view the condition of her dress. “I fear I have taken a tumble,” she said with a hard swallow.
Charlotte Lucas’s dark head turned away so her friend might smother her laughter in her serviette. Meanwhile, the rest of the room gasped upon viewing her smudged and wet appearance.
“Elizabeth Ruth Elaine Bennet!” her mother shrieked. “What am I to do with you?” Mrs. Bennet threw her head back in despair, her mother’s mobcap draping to one side.
Lydia mocked, “I have seen drier fish.”
Jane and Charlotte were both quickly at Elizabeth’s side. “Oh, Lizzy,” Jane whispered in sympathy. “Come, I shall assist you in changing your clothing.”
“No, I shall do it,” Charlotte corrected. She shot a glance to Mrs. Bennet. “It might be best if you see to your mother. I would dislike seeing her suffer from a fit of her nerves.” Mrs. Bennet had retrieved her handkerchief from her sleeve and was waving it about in agitation.
Elizabeth shook her head in the negative. “Both of you remain. I am a bit sore from my tumble. I believe I shall lie down after I change my clothes. It is imperative that I not disappoint Mama twice in one day. I just require a bit of rest.”
“Are you certain?” Jane asked.
Elizabeth placed a smile upon her features. “Absolutely. I have suffered no harm more than a few bruises, sodden skirts, and wounded pride.”
With acceptance in her stance, Jane nodded her agreement and turned toward her mother. Elizabeth squeezed the back of Charlotte’s hand. “Do not permit Lady Lucas to tarry too long. Mama calms faster when she has no audience.”
Charlotte smiled knowingly. “No more than a quarter hour. Now, go change before you catch your death from being cold.”
Elizabeth quietly departed, although the sound of her mother’s “It did me little good to forbid her to go out. Lizzy never listens to me.” followed her down the hall. Without a glance backwards, Elizabeth turned to her father’s study. She required someone of sense to vet out the truth of her encounter with the stranger.
She tapped lightly upon the door, but did not wait for her father to bid her to enter. Instead, she turned the latch and slipped into the room, closing the door behind her. “Papa, I know you are extremely busy with your research, but may I claim five minutes of your time?”
He did not look up immediately, rather he finished his notation before placing his pen in the well. It was the way with him. How many times had she waited until he finished his thoughts before he addressed her? “Lizzy?” he remarked in distracted tones. “Is something amiss?”
Although she had closed it behind her, she had not moved from the door. “Something is amiss, sir. Yet I do not know the best course.”
“Come sit,” he instructed, gesturing to the chair pulled close to his desk. She crossed to the cushioned seat. As always, the odor of musty manuscripts and cigars and leather filled the space. He folded his hands across and middle and said, “You appear quite disheveled. I assume your tale will include an explanation of what occurred to your gown.”
Both of her parents had expressed their concern over her appearance, but their approaches were as different as their histories. Her father was of the gentry—a country squire, educated at Cambridge and considered one of England’s finest intellects. Her mother was the daughter of a rich man with connections to trade. Elizabeth doubted that Fanny Bennet had ever read an entire book. Her mother was not illiterate, but Mrs. Bennet saw no reason to educate her girls unless one of them took a special interest in a social skill, such as her sister Mary’s love of music. “I walked to Oakham Mount after Mama returned to her quarters for a restorative nap.”
“I imagine this was against Mrs. Bennet’s orders,” he surmised. Immediately Elizabeth experienced guilt. Although he did not yell and fuss over her deception, her father’s simple statement told Elizabeth that he did not approve of his daughter’s acting behind Mrs. Bennet’s back.
Elizabeth dropped her eyes. “Mama did not specifically forbid my leaving,” she offered as an excuse that made her feel more at fault than if she had admitted her manipulation. “It was only implied, sir.”
Her father snorted his amusement. “The fool considers himself as wise as Solomon, while a man of intellect realizes we are all fools.”
Elizabeth protested, “I did not intend to act a fool. It was all the strange gentleman’s fault.”
“What strange gentleman?” he asked with a lift of his brows.
She leaned forward to press her point. “The one who accosted me on Oakham Mount.”
“Accosted you?” he questioned in serious tones. “Did he harm you? Treat you poorly?”
“Certainly he treated me in an ill manner,” she declared.
“You would know the men from the neighborhood.” His gaze remained steady, and Elizabeth resisted the urge to squirm. “The only stranger is Mr. Bingley. Was it he who approached you? I would not wish to sit with the man if he does not respect my daughter.”
Elizabeth shook off the suggestion. “You described Mr. Bingley as having hair a shade or so darker than Jane’s, with reddish tints to his locks. The man I encountered was tall and dark and…”
Her father chuckled. “And handsome?”
She bristled, “Reasonably fair of countenance.” The unguarded admission shocked her.
His brows drew together in what appeared to be mock thoughtfulness, and Elizabeth suddenly felt the fool her father had described previously. “How did the man touch you?”
Frustration ate at her. She would be forced to admit her temper. “He kissed my hand.”
“How did he come in possession of your hand?” Mr. Bennet ran his palm across his features to smooth his expression.
Despite her best efforts, her voice rasped, cutting like shards of glass. “I was sitting upon a log. He came up behind me and extended his hand to assist me to my feet.”
“So, you presented your hand to the man, and he kissed it?” He spared her a shake of his head in denial. “Quite a scoundrel. Is there more I should know of the this stranger?”
This had to be one of the most uncomfortable conversations in which she had ever participated. Determined to make her point, Elizabeth declared, “He picked me up in his arms to carry me across the brook between Mr. Olsen’s and Mr. Kincaid’s farms.”
Her father tilted his head to one side in consideration. “Why would the man assume you could not cross alone?”
Elizabeth again dropped her eyes in shame, for she knew her father would not approve. “I had removed my half boots and stockings before he arrived. I was writing in my diary. But after the stranger kissed my hand without permission…” her voice rose in consternation.
“I thought we established that you offered the gentleman your permission by presenting him your hand,” he argued.
Elizabeth rolled her eyes in vexation. “Please, Papa, permit me to finish.”
Her father sat forward, and his smile had lost its amusement. “Instead, permit me to summarize the obvious,” he said in serious tones. “You rushed away from the man when his kiss of your proffered hand offended you. You wore no boots, but still you meant to cross the cold stream despite the foolishness of your actions. By your own admission, the man presented you no offense beyond the brush of his lips across your bare knuckles. When he offered to carry you across the stream’s stones, you again objected to his forwardness.”
“He did not offer!” she protested. “I told him when he would not turn aside and go away that he was no gentleman, and he took it upon himself to prove me in error.”
“Knowing my Lizzy, you did not take well to his defending his pride. How did you make him pay for his presumptuous nature?”
“I struck him with the boot I carried in my left hand.”
Relief eased the lines of weariness etched upon her father’s forehead. “I imagine you struck him harder than I could have if I chose to challenge him for his behavior.”
“Then you will do nothing to defend my honor?” she charged.
“I would bend Hell over the Devil’s anvil to defend your honor, Elizabeth. You are now and forever my dearest Lizzy, but I will not challenge a much younger man to defend your pride. He would dispatch me in less than a minute, then you and your sisters and your mother would be set out in the hedgerow when my heir presumptive claims Longbourn.”
“But the man set me in the water when I demanded that he place me down,” she protested. Her arguments were having little effect upon her father, for he disguised a laugh behind his hands as he pretended to cough.
At length, he asked skeptically, “Did you unknowingly provoke the man?”
Standing defiantly, she snapped, “I repeated lines from Shakespeare, as did he.”
“Obviously, I cannot fault a man the improvement of his mind, but if you encounter the gentleman again, point me in his direction. I promise to present the fellow a earful laced with my disdain for his handling of my daughter.”
NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY! LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW TO BE PART OF THE GIVEAWAY. I HAVE A eBOOK COPY OF PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND A SHAKESPEAREAN SCHOLAR AVAILABLE FOR THE WINNER. THE GIVEAWAY WILL END AT MIDNIGHT EST, DECEMBER 17.