My latest Jane Austen Fan Fiction, Amending the Shades of Pemberley, is currently up for preorder and will officially release on Saturday, May 13, 2023. Grab your copy before the price goes up. In it, Elizabeth and Darcy both use a quote from Shakespeare’s play, Love’s Labour’s Lost. It is not unusual for me to consider Darcy and Elizabeth quoting Shakespeare, for we know both to be great readers. Moreover, performing plays or pieces of plays was a common activity at house parties. We see one such scene in Austen’s Mansfield Park. However, for me, the play is customarily something along the lines of Taming of the Shrew or Much Ado About Nothing. [BTW, “Labour’s” is a contraction of “Labour is” for those of you who thought there were too many apostrophes.]
However, for this story, I chose Love’s Labour’s Lost. The reason for my choice deals something with the theme(s) of Shakespeare’s tale. First, we have the wise reluctance of women in believing in love at first sight, which likely makes sense for most of you who are reading this post. The second is the immaturity of men. Although Elizabeth Bennet is quite capable of managing a large estate, arranging the education and future of Mr. Darcy’s daughter, and saving herself and the child, in Regency England, she is still the “property” of her husband, and Mr. Darcy’s choice – good or bad and always without her input – controls the trajectory of her life. “The central conflicts in the play are (1) the struggle of Ferdinand, Berowne, Longaville, and Dumaine to remain faithful (or to appear to remain faithful) to their vow to give up women for three years while they pursue an austere life of learning; (2) the resistance of the women to commit to a relationship with the men after the men renounce their vow.” (Study Guide) I play with this concept, for Elizabeth worries over Darcy’s faithfulness to her and their marriage. (NO panic from those of you who hate angst. I did not say the unfaithfulness was founded, just suspected.)
The action of Shakespeare’s play takes place in Navarre (Spanish, Navarra), originally a region in northern Spain and southern France (département of Basses-Pyrénées). Most of you likely know something of the area, even if you think otherwise, for its capital, Pamplona is famous for the Festival of St. Fermin (July 6-14), in which a chief attraction is encierro—the running of bulls each morning through the streets of the city.
The Kindle Study Guide tells us, “Evidence indicates that Love’s Labour’s Lost was probably first performed in December 1597 at the court of Queen Elizabeth I, although G.B. Harrison notes that the New Cambridge Shakespeare says: “In our opinion its first performance had Christmas 1593 for date and for place some great private house, possibly the Earl of Southampton’s” (Shakespeare: The Complete Works. New York: Harcourt, 1952. page 395). If the play was performed before the queen in 1597, an intriguing question for scholars might center on how the queen responded to the performance. When she viewed it, she would have been sixty-four and, of course, still a spinster. She had had many opportunities to marry—for love or for political advantage—but seized upon none of them. She died in 1603, still unmarried. All of love’s labours showered on her—and all of love’s labours she showered on others—were lost.”
Love’s Labour’s Lost is a romance comedy. Shakespeare depended heavily on wit rather than on character development, which I suppose is a good thing in this story, for at the end, the Princess of France asks that her love interest King Ferdinand wait a year in a hermitage before they can marry. Some sort of test of his love?
Amending the Shades of Pemberley: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary
“You have willfully misunderstood me, Miss Bennet. You have no worry of my releasing you, for I do not wish you to perform as a governess to my daughter, but rather as my wife and the mistress of my hereditary estate.”
Elizabeth Bennet had thought the stranger quite handsome; yet, she had ignored those first tendrils of interest, for she was in no position for the gentleman to pursue her. She and her sister Mary were all who remained of their family. Moreover, Longbourn and its furnishings were to be sold. They were destitute, and, if fortunate, headed for service in some stranger’s household.
Fitzwilliam Darcy’s proposal of marriage would save both Mary and her, for her sister had agreed to assist with the gentleman’s young daughter. But what of the man’s tale of having corresponded with her father and of Mr. Bennet having purported a marriage between this stranger and her? Elizabeth knew nothing of the arrangement nor of the man’s existence. Though their marriage would solve all her troubles, what if the man’s tale was not completely truthful? Would Mr. Darcy become her enemy or a man she could learn to love?
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This book releases on Wednesday, April 26, as an eBook. Print copies are already available.
Also Available to Read on Kindle Unlimited
Enjoy this excerpt from Chapter 7:
“What if I fall?” Alice questioned.
“You will have a wet shoe, but I do not think you will fall,” Elizabeth assured. “You are magnificently brave, for you traveled from India to England. Surely a girl as brave as you can take one step without holding my hand. Miss Cassandra and your papa and Mary will all be so very proud of you. One step at a time, sweetheart.”
Alice studied the stones, but she stood a bit taller. “One step, Lizbet.”
“I shall be right behind you. You are the leader this time.”
Without more coaxing required, Alice long stepped for the last stone, and Elizabeth reached a hand to prevent her fall, but there was no reason. The child wobbled, but quickly stood firmly on the stone. “Now up the bank, love, and to the ash tree. You were quite wonderful, you know.” And it was done. A lesson in bravery.
Following Alice up the bank, she could hear her own father saying, “Well done, Elizabeth. You are a brave girl,” just as he had done all those years ago when he taught her to walk along a stone wall without falling. “One step at a time, child.”
Experiencing her own bit of pride for teaching the child necessary skills, Elizabeth led Alice forward to stand beneath the tree. She pulled down one of the branches. “Let us continue our study. See the leaves always align opposite each other. Some of the smaller branches have three leaves on each side. See. Let us count them.” The child counted the pairs as Elizabeth pointed to each. Next, she reached for a longer branch. “The bigger branches have six leaves on each side. One. Two . . .” Alice finished counting to six.
“Look, Miss Lizbet. That one has three. One. Two. Three. And there is ‘nother with six.”
“Excellent. You may tell your Papa of these wonders this evening. Let us see what else we might tell him. First, the tree leaves follow the sun, even this winter sun.”
The child’s face screwed up in confusion.
“Permit me to show you.” She led the child back to the brick path and a few feet away. “Look up.” Alice did as she instructed. “See how the top of the tree appears as if it is leaning to the side.”
“Like this.” Alice bent at the waist to lean to the side.
Elizabeth smiled largely. “Many flowers and trees, and even people who travel, like on the silk roads in India, follow the sun. Have you not seen people pause to look up at the sun to enjoy the feel of it on their faces?”
“Not in India,” the child said innocently.
Elizabeth chuckled. “No, I do not imagine the sun is so kind there, at least not to Englishmen.”
“Papa worked hard in the sun,” the child disclosed. “Would fall asleep before me.”
Elizabeth did not comment, but she filed Alice’s observation away with the other tidbits she had learned of her husband—another piece of the puzzle. Someday, she hoped the image would be complete.
“We will take a few leaves today. In the spring, we will find flowers on the branches. The twig, which is what we call a little branch—a ‘child’ branch, which has yet to grow to its full size, will have purple clusters close to the tip. Then the new leaves will appear. The flowers are sometimes purple and sometimes yellow. The new leaves will be a softer colored green, almost yellow in color.”
She walked the child back towards the tree. “The bark, as you can see, is pale brown.” She pointed to the bark, peeling back a small piece to add to their collection. “Some parts appear grey.” She took Alice’s hand to direct it to the bark to explore. “In winter, which is quickly approaching our new home, twigs appear almost black, but we can see new buds forming. Feel the little bumps under your fingers when you touch it.”
“Bumps,” the child declared with a grin.
“Like that of each thing that in season grows. Yet, for today, we will only take a few leaves, but we will come back again and again. Each time we will claim something new. In the spring, we will add some flowers to our study and mayhap a bud or two. In late summer or early autumn, the flower clusters will change into seed pods. My sisters and I referred to them as ‘wings.’ The seed pods will fall to the ground. See, there are a few here. and few more over there.”
The child scrambled to gather several clusters of the pods to carry them back to Elizabeth.
She bent to share their find with Alice. “The birds pick them up and carry them to another place. They drop the seeds and often those seeds will take root and a new tree is born.”
“God’s plan?” the child asked.
“I would think so,” Elizabeth admitted. “Just as I think it was God’s plan that my father met your father years ago. Their friendship brought your papa to my door when I needed him most.”
“And I need you and Miss Mary,” the girl spoke honestly.
Elizabeth felt her eyes tearing up, so she simply said, “Exactly,” as she turned to point to the ground beneath them. “Notice, this plant here is called a ‘dog violet’ and this one,” she said as she pointed towards the other side of the tree, “is called ‘wild garlic.’ The ‘wild’ just means it grows outside of the planned garden Cook uses for our meals. It is not ‘wild,’ as if it cannot be tame. Mr. Farrin and the others in the stables have tamed the horses we ride, so they are no longer wild.”
Alice’s expression spoke of the question forming in her thoughts before she spoke it. “Is the dog biolet not ‘wild’ then, and why you call it a ‘dog’?”
Elizabeth’s laughter bubbled forth. “God was smart in permitting the tree and the plants to share the same place, but He might have made an error in permitting people to name the plants.” She turned the child in the direction of where they left their box. Elizabeth leaned over to say, almost as if it were a secret, “As I understand it, ‘dog’ refers to the fact this violet has no scent. Most violets are sweet smelling, but the dog violet has no scent. There are also pig violets and horse violets and even snake violets, but I have never seen any of those, but I assume they also possess no scent.” She nudged the child forward. “It is time for us to return to the house. Do you have your leaves and your ‘wings’ to share with your father after supper?”
Elizabeth took the larger items and placed them in a cloth sack, while Alice added the smaller ones to the wooden box. Once they were prepared to return to the house, she led Alice towards the manor. She said, “Did you know the wood from an ash tree is so strong, we make our carriages out of them? In Norway, which is another country, just as India is one and England is yet another, the Norwegians believe the ash tree is the Tree of Life, meaning it is where God made the first man.”
“But forgot to tell the man what to call everything,” the child pronounced with pride.
“Your father will enjoy your version of the tale of God making the first ash tree. I imagine it will delight him excessively.”
* * *
Darcy had listened carefully to his child’s recitation regarding what she had learned on this particular day, but his mind was on the wonder of the moment. Not only did Alice share the facts of the ash tree, but his child proved, without a doubt, his decision to make Elizabeth Bennet his wife was a turn for the better in his life. His daughter was no longer frightened by her own shadow. She no longer clung to him in desperate pleas not to leave her.
Alice was enjoying claiming Elizabeth as her “mother,” although the word still remained from the child’s lips. In his opinion, such was true because in English households in India, the children were raised by an Indian ayah, not the mistress of the house. In England, Alice should be raised by a governess. If his daughter claimed Elizabeth as “mother,” then Elizabeth might slip away from someone taking care of her to someone who supervised the caregiver. His arrangement with Elizabeth placed her as both “governess” and “mother,” a much better situation for his child.
“The ash tree is related to olive trees,” he commented.
“Do I like olive?” his child asked.
“I seriously doubt it, but perhaps some day you will,” he responded with a grin. “Olives are not sweet like Cook’s cakes.”
Alice smiled up at him. “Cook’s cakes make me happy.”
“Like that of each thing in season grows,” he remarked.
“Miss Lizbet say the same today,” his daughter shared.
He looked up to Elizabeth to notice her smile. “Elizabeth and I often share similar thoughts.” He prayed she would be willing to share his bed this evening. “The line comes from a famous English writer who you, too, will read some day. Today, Elizabeth was speaking of how the ash tree changes with each ‘season.’ You likely heard her say the words ‘summer, autumn, winter, and spring.’ Those are the seasons for growing and playing in the sun. As for me, I was considering the writer’s purpose of the story.”
“Do you believe it will take a year?” his wife asked. “For it, for us, to be as it was for Navarre and the princess in Love’s Labour’s Lost? As they were at the end?”
“I pray not,” he admitted. “Would you not say we are more than halfway there already?”
Oh I do hope they ARE more than halfway already. I love that Elizabeth is teaching Alice as her father taught her. I’ve never actually read Love’s Labours Lost I don’t think, although I did have a book of stories written in easier to understand terms as a child. I only remember Romeo and Juliet though! I also read that for my GCE ‘O’ level exam along with Animal Farm and Tale if Two Cities.
I was an English lit teacher for perhaps 20 of my 40 years of teaching, but I never taught Love’s Labour’s Lost; yet, it was perfect for Darcy and Elizabeth in this tale. Moreover, the fact they both repeat the same line from the play demonstrates how compatible they truly are. In the story, Darcy is more than halfway in love with her before he meets her. Mr. Bennet shared tales of Elizabeth with Darcy, and Darcy has a miniature Mr. Bennet lost on the night they first met. It is of a 16-years-old Elizabeth.
Oh! Love the excerpt. I can’t wait to read! (Weird! I feel like I have said that before! Lol)
You have, but we authors always love hearing it.
Enjoyed the excerpt and the relationship between Alice and Elizabeth.
Elizabeth is the only mother Alice has ever known.
A beautiful glimpse into what being a step parent can be. I am so excitedfor this book!
Elizabeth is very good to Alice, but wait for the special twist I added to this tale.
I’m glad that Elizabeth and Alice have a loving stepmother-stepdaughter relationship. I’m curious about Darcy and his daughter’s life in India. Why would he travel to another continent to earn money? And what about Alice’s mother? I assume she has passed away before the story begin.
Those are all excellent questions, Sylvia. Unfortunately, I cannot give away the plot twists too quickly.