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. 

Tolpuddle_martyrs_museum

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

Resources:

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?

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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

“Whiskey in the Jar,” a Traditional Irish Ballad

A traditional Irish song, “Whiskey in the Jar,” is about a Rapparee or Highwayman, whose wife/lover betrayed him. It is a widely popular tune that had know a number of professional recordings including: Séamus Ennis, Burl Ives, The Highwaymen, the Limeliters, the Seekers, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Darby O’Gill, Metallica, Celtic Thunder, Roger Whittaker and the Irish Rovers.  The sound’s “action” takes place in the County Cork and County Kerry in the Mangerton Mountains, with specific mention of Fenit, a village in Kerry. 

The song likely dates back to the 17th Century and deals with the exploits of Patrick Fleming, a highwayman. Poems have been written about Fleming’s deeds named, including The Ballad of Patrick Flemming or Patrick Flemmen he was a Valiant Soldier. These poems are said to be the foundation for Whiskey in the Jar. Many believe that the song and legend inspired John Gay to write The Beggar’s Opera in 1728. The song’s origins come from the traditional folk song “The Highwayman and the Captain.” The song became a “signature song” of the Irish folk band, the Dubliners. It appears upon three of their albums. 

Whiskey_in_the_Jar_-_Thin_Lizzy

Fair Use ~ via Wikipedia ~ This is the cover art for the 7-inch single “Whiskey in the Jar” by the artist Thin Lizzy. The cover art copyright is believed to belong to the label, Decca Records, or the graphic artist(s).

 According to Wikipedia, “Whiskey in the Jar is the tale of a highwayman or footpad who, after robbing a military or government official, is betrayed by a woman; whether she is his wife or sweetheart is not made clear. Various versions of the song take place in Kerry, Kilmoganny, Cork, Sligo Town, and other locales throughout Ireland. It is also sometimes placed in the American South, in various places among the Ozarks or Appalachians,  possibly due to Irish settlement in these places. Names in the song change, and the official can be a Captain or a Colonel, called Farrell or Pepper among other names. The protagonist’s wife or lover is sometimes called Molly, Jenny, or Ginny among various other names. The details of the betrayal are also different, being either betraying him to the person he robbed and replacing his ammunition with sand or water, or not, resulting in his killing the person. The song appeared in a form close to its modern version in a precursor called “The Sporting Hero, or, Whiskey in the Bar” in a mid-1850s broadsheet.”

LYRICS: As I was a goin’ over the far famed Kerry mountains
I met with captain Farrell and his money he was counting
I first produced my pistol and I then produced my rapier
Saying “Stand and deliver” for he were a bold deceiver

Mush-a ring dumb-a do dumb-a da
Wack fall the daddy-o, wack fall the daddy-o
There’s whiskey in the jar

I counted out his money and it made a pretty penny
I put it in me pocket and I took it home to Jenny
She sighed and she swore that she never would deceive me
But the devil take the women for they never can be easy

Mush-a ring dumb-a do dumb-a da
Wack fall the daddy-o, wack fall the daddy-o
There’s whiskey in the jar

I went up to my chamber, all for to take a slumber
I dreamt of gold and jewels and for sure ‘t was no wonder
But Jenny blew me charges and she filled them up with water
Then sent for captain Farrell to be ready for the slaughter

Mush-a ring dumb-a do dumb-a da
Wack fall the daddy-o, wack fall the daddy-o
There’s whiskey in the jar

And ‘t was early in the morning, just before I rose to travel
Up comes a band of footmen and likewise captain Farrell
I first produced me pistol for she stole away me rapier
I couldn’t shoot the water, so a prisoner I was taken

Mush-a ring dumb-a do dumb-a da
Wack fall the daddy-o, wack fall the daddy-o
There’s whiskey in the jar

There’s some take delight in the carriages a rolling
and others take delight in the hurling and the bowling
but I take delight in the juice of the barley
and courting pretty fair maids in the morning bright and early

Mush-a ring dumb-a do dumb-a da
Wack fall the daddy-o, wack fall the daddy-o
There’s whiskey in the jar

And if anyone can aid me ‘t is my brother in the army
If I can find his station in Cork or in Killarney
And if he’ll go with me, we’ll go rovin’ through Killkenney
And I’m sure he’ll treat me better than my own a-sporting Jenny

Mush-a ring dumb-a do dumb-a da
Wack fall the daddy-o, wack fall the daddy-o
There’s whiskey in the jar

Listen to Metallica’s “Whiskey in the Jar”

Listen to Thin Lizzy’s “Whiskey in the Jar” 

Listen to the Dubliners’ “Whiskey in the Jar”  (my preferred version)

Additional Resources: 

The History of Lyrics of ‘Whiskey in the Jar’

The Long and Winding Road of ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ 

“Whiskey in the Jar”: History and Transformation of a Classic Irish Song

 

 

Posted in ballads, music, romantic verse, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

In Quest of the Officers, a Guest Post from Diana J. Oaks

Below you will find another of the fabulous posts one might find on any given day on Austen Authors. Diana J. Oaks explores the “appeal” of a man or woman in uniform. 

Lydia Bennet. She’s naughty, she’s loud, she’s determined to expose herself as ridiculous and bring disgrace to her family in the process. In spite of these things, I relate to her in one intrinsic way. She’s drawn by the compelling figure of a man in uniform, especially a military uniform.

lydia-soldiers
Lydia Flirts with the Officers

She, of course, was particularly fond of the militia officer in his regimentals; the goal of encountering exactly that sort of person was the impetus for an excursion to Meryton.

“Their eyes were immediately wandering up in the street in quest of the officers, and nothing less than a very smart bonnet indeed, or a really new muslin in a shop window, could recall them.”

Lydia spots her prey, an officer with whom she is already acquainted, accompanied by a man who in Elizabeth’s view is rather good looking. It is through her eyes that we understand that his appearance was greatly in his favour; he had all the best part of beauty—a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address.” In today’s terms, where such opinions are relayed via text messaging as succinctly as possible, he was “hot.” The introduction of this man carried happy news:

Rupert-Friend as Mr Wickham

“Mr. Denny addressed them directly, and entreated permission to introduce his friend, Mr. Wickham, who had returned with him the day before from town, and he was happy to say, had accepted a commission in their corps. This was exactly as it should be; for the young man wanted only regimentals to make him completely charming.”

It took me a few readings of Pride and Prejudice before I caught the subtle nuance here. Perhaps swayed by the adapted versions that emphasized that Lydia and Kitty were the officer-crazed sisters, I totally missed the hint that Elizabeth, whose point of view carries the majority of the book, is also a bit enamored of men in uniform.

It’s evident that Jane Austen was aware of the place military officers held in society. Closely tied to nobility and aristocracy, the upper-level officers were drawn from the elite strata of society. Even the lower officers were supposed to be landowners, and therefore, one could construe them to be eligible matches for the gentry. Things are not always what they appear, however, particularly in militia regiments.

Members of the militia were not bound for foreign soil; they were the local peacekeepers.  The commanding officers were typically titled and among the largest landowners in the county from which the regiment was drawn. They were given a quota to fill, with the station of officers fully reflective of the social and financial status of the members. Captain Carter was a much better marital prospect than Mr. Denny.

As with almost anything, appearances can be deceiving. Those with the resources to do so could hire a proxy to serve in their place, and when the quota wasn’t matched by those who met the minimum standards, the powers that be allowed the standards slide a bit. Mr. Wickham, though not a landowner, was educated, gentlemanlike and attractive—all characteristics which would lend distinction to the regiment, so he was let in. What is less clear is how he paid for his uniform, which is an expensive proposition. When the fact that he isn’t a landowner, nor an heir to land becomes apparent, Austen lets her readers use their imaginations as to how he qualified.

mr-wickham-pride-and-prejudice-1995 militia

Militia regiments, though populated from a common region, never served in their home county. This was partly to prevent abuses of power and partly to prevent its members from being distracted by temptations of their familiar turf. The fact that Wickham has joined the regiment stationed in Meryton strongly implies that it is the Derbyshire militia stationed there. His connection to Pemberley would be known and respected, and one could surmise that this is how he got around the landowner requirement to be an officer.

Aside from all the social associations, there is a psychological reason that persons dressed as military officers impress. Recall Caroline Bingley’s claims of what makes an accomplished woman, and there is a piece of it that could as easily be applied to officers. I changed the pronouns for emphasis of the point. “…he must possess a certain something in his air and manner of walking, the tone of his voice, his address and expressions…”

Military training, particularly for officers, does reinforce a commanding bearing, confident air, purposeful stride and disciplined behavior. These things, accompanied by a finely tailored uniform, brass buttons, gold braid and other embellishments of design combine to create the perfect storm for a young girl’s fantasies. Is it any wonder that when I first laid eyes on my husband and he was dressed in a work uniform that was military-esque, I found him completely charming?

undress-uniform Captain Wentworth
…something in his air and manner of walking, the tone of his voice, his address and expressions…

What say you? Do you love a man (or woman) in uniform?

41i7+3KAdcL._UX250_.jpg Meet Diana J. Oaks: Diana Oaks is the third of eight children. She grew up in a large and loving home inclusive of the hi-jinx one would expect with six brothers in the house. She has been known to bemoan the lack of any serious childhood angst to draw upon when writing. She graduated in 1981 from Ricks College in Rexburg Idaho. Diana has been married to her husband Adam since 1982. She is the mother of three adult children and several grandchildren.

Her debut novel, “One Thread Pulled: The Dance with Mr. Darcy,” was released in August 2012.
The sequel, “Constant as the Sun: The Courtship of Mr. Darcy” which chronicles the events of the engagement was released on October 31, 2016. A third book focusing on the early months of their marriage is planned.

Diana currently resides with her husband in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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Posted in Austen Authors, British history, British Navy, George Wickham, Guest Post, historical fiction, history, Living in the Regency, manuscript evaluation, military, Pride and Prejudice | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Roots of Primogeniture and Entailments

The concept of “love and romance” were never required in marriage among the English aristocracy. Certainly there were some who did marry for love, but early on, the idea of marriage became a “business transaction,” instead of a romantic joining of like minds. For many, a genuine obstacle to matrimony was financial considerations, including the idea of inheritance, marriage settlements, entailments, and primogeniture. Marriages were made between those of the same social circle in order to secure a blood line or to secure property. Marriage settlements were contracts that aligned those “…within the landed class. The business side of [such] arrangements were shrouded under a sacred cloth of tradition and accepted formality, and solicitors were usually left to deal with the legal intricacies. Contributions towards a couple’s maintenance and provisions for offspring of the marriage came from the two families involved. The contribution from the wife’s family was known as the dowry, or portion, and this was settled on the couple, though the husband usually held control of it.…” (Montgomery, Gilded Prostitution. Status, money, and transatlantic marriages, 69)

31hsgAZpnrL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ Women’s lack of educational and professional opportunities throughout history prevented them from acquiring their own wealth and independence. This situation was exacerbated by the common law practice of primogeniture, which left women with little choice but to secure their social status and economic welfare through marriage.

Let us look at how the custom of primogeniture became the law of primogeniture and how history changed marriage and family life within the aristocracy of England.

Primogeniture, as practiced in Great Britain, is a distinct combination of law and custom. It finds its roots firmly planted in the time of feudal lords presenting land grants to knights who served them well. Primogeniture is also the creation of law because it serves as a fixed rule of succession in case of intestacy with a preference being bestowed upon the eldest son in wills and settlements regarding landed estates.

HSMaine.jpg To understand primogeniture as it is practiced in England, one must possess a working knowledge of the history of the custom. Sir Henry Maine, a British comparative jurist and historian of the mid 1800s, tells us, There are always certain ideas existing antecedently on which the sense of convenience works, and of which it can do no more than form some new combination; and to find these ideas in the present case is exactly the problem.[Maine, Ancient Law, 226]

220px-Sir_William_Blackstone_from_NPG.jpg In William Blackstones Commentaries on the Laws of England, the author addresses the lawof primogeniture as it applies to inheritance of land ab intestate, referring to laws governing the succession of property after its previous owner dies without a valid will.  With primogeniture, males take precedence over females, and where two or more males exist in equal degree, the eldest alone inherits.

Some experts purport that Aryan law and the laws relating to the land tenures of lower Bengal serve as the beginnings of primogeniture. However, researchers cannot unequivocally claim that primogeniture belonged to the customs of these early societies, nor does it find its origin in the annals of the early Roman Empire, for the practice of primogeniture is at variance with the principle of equality, which operated in those communities, where the eldest son held no advantage over his siblings. Maine [Ancient Law, 134] claims, An absolutely equal divisions of assets among the male children at death is the practice most usual with society at the period when family dependency is in the first stages of disintegration.

However, this statement does not take into account Irelands Brehon Code, which not only divides the assets equally among all children of the marriage, but also accepts the claims of illegitimate children. Nor does it address the Anglo-Saxon custom of gavelkind, which has prevailed in Kent and Wales and parts of Ireland into the present day. Under the Solonian constitution, the Athenian State set the law of succession to mean that all sons inherited equally, with the only privilege claimed by the eldest was that of first choice of division.

In application, primogeniture cannot be traced to a time before feudalism. Although we know difficulty in defining the means by which the practice came into being, we do know that when land ownership equaled power and wealth, keeping the disputed land intact became all important. Primogeniture owes its longevity to politics and economics. Land grants and honorary feuds,with their attached titles of nobility, laid the groundwork for primogeniture as a form of succession. The feudal lord was not indebted to family law, as were allodial property owners who occupied the land and held it in defense of a takeover. The feudal lord expected his tenants to meet certain obligations, especially that of serving in the lords army. When the father passed, the eldest son was the most logical replacement for the tenants feudal responsibilities. The need to have but one head to speak for the family was important in these early states. The eldest son became invested by the feudal system because he was expected to assume his fathers position in service to the lord. Even so, the feudal system, at least in its early stages, did allow for the ruling lords preferences. Occasionally, the feudal duties fell to a younger son.

Although we also cannot name the exact date when the Common Law of England replaced gavelkind and socage fees, it was sometime before the end of the thirteenth century. The use of entailments also occurred about the same time.

Resources: 

Blackstone, William. Commentaries on the Law of England. Clarendon Press, Oxford. 1766. 

Maine, Sir Henry Summer. Ancient Law: Its Connection to the Early History of Society, and Its Relation to Modern Ideas [New York, Henry Holt & Co., 1964], 134.

Montgomery, Maureen E. Gilded Prostitution. Status, money, and transatlantic marriages, 1870 – 1919. [Routledge, 1989], Published August 6, 2013, Amazon Digital Services. 96.

Posted in Act of Parliament, British history, estates, Living in the UK, political stance, primogenture, titles of aristocracy | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exogamous and Endogamous Marriages in Austen’s Works

Brittanica.com defines an “endogamous marriage” as the custom enjoining one to marry within one’s own group, while Wikipedia says “endogamy” is the practice of marrying within a specific ethnic group, class, or social group, rejecting others on such a basis as being unsuitable for marriage or for other close personal relationships.The penalties for transgressing endogamous restrictions have varied greatly among cultures and have ranged from death to mild disapproval. Endogamous marriages are designed to keep a blood line pure or to create a dynasty by consolidating a family/house/community. British royalty have known this practice from its beginning, and many other examples exist in history.

Anne Elliot and Lady Russell

Anne Elliot and Lady Russell

In Austen’s work, we can think of several such marriages. Lady Catherine De Bourgh wished Darcy to marry her daughter Anne, consolidating the family ties and blood lines. Edmund Bertram marries his cousin Fanny. Charles Musgrove proposes to Anne Elliot, but when Lady Russell dissuades Anne in hopes of a better connection, Musgrove marries Mary Elliot, keeping the connections between the most important families of the community intact.

An exogamous marriage, on the other hand is a union of opposites. This might be political, social, or temperamental foes. The purpose of an exogamous marriage is to inject new blood into one of the Nation’s most revered and ruling families. The New Zealand Slavanic Journal says, exogamy is marriage outside a social group. “In social studies, exogamy is viewed as a combination of two related aspects: biological and cultural. Biological exogamy is marriage of non blood-related beings, regulated by forms of incest law. A form of exogamy is dual exogamy, in which two groups engage in continual wife exchange.” Cultural exogamy is the marrying outside of a specific cultural group. (New Zealand Slavonic Journal, Victoria University of Wellington, 2002, Volumes 35-36, p.81)

Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland

Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland

The most obvious examples of exogamous marriages in Austen is Darcy and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice, Captain Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot in Persuasion,  and Henry Tilney and Catherine Moreland in Northanger Abbey.

Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet

Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet

Some would say the same of George Knightley and Emma Woodhouse’s joining, but in many ways their marriage is also endogamous: The Woodhouses and the Knightleys are the leaders of Highbury society, and the Knightley/Woodhouse marriage will restore the portion of Donwell Abbey that the Woodhouses have claimed as part of the marriage settlement of Isabella Woodhouse. Also, Knightley and Emma are related by marriage. Knightley’s brother is Emma’s brother-in-law.

The weddings in Austen’s works are always financially and socially advantageous for the heroine. We, generally, assume this phenomenon occurs because Austen recognized the sting of inequalities in marriage during the Regency. Gentlemen chose women based on their abilities to deliver an heir. Not for love. Not for her intelligence. Unless the woman possessed the qualities of an “accomplished” lady

Miss Bingley

Miss Bingley

[[Miss Bingley:] “Oh! certainly,” cried his faithful assistant, “no [woman] can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with.  A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half-deserved.”], she was not considered good marriage material.

We also learn from these marriages that some of those who marry for economic advantage are considered “weak minded” or “selling out.” For example, Charlotte Lucas’s acceptance of Mr. Collins is looked upon by Austen, the character Elizabeth Bennet, and Austen’s readers as an abomination.

Mrs. Bennet criticizes Elizabeth’s refusal of Mr. Collins with these words:

“Ay, there she comes, looking as unconcerned as may be, and caring no more for us than if were at York, provided she can have her own way. But I tell you what, Miss Lizzy, if you take it into your head to go on refusing every offer of marriage in this way, you will never get a husband at all; and I am sure I do not know who is to maintain you when your father is dead. I shall not be able to keep you — and so I warn you. I have done with you from this very day.”

Later, when Elizabeth learns of Charlotte’s engagement to Mr. Collins, Elizabeth is astonished.

The possibility of Mr. Collins’ fancying herself in love with her friend had once occurred to Elizabeth within the last day or two; but that Charlotte could encourage him seemed almost as far from possibility as that she could encourage him herself; and her astonishment was consequently so great as to overcome at first the bounds of decorum, and she could not help crying out: “Engaged to Mr. Collins! my dear Charlotte — impossible!”

Charlotte responds with…

“I see what you feeling, you must be surprised very much surprised, so lately as Mr. Collins was wishing to marry you. But when you have had time to think it all over, I hope you will be satisfied with what I have done. I am not romantic, you know — I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins’ character, connections, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.”

It was a long time before she [Elizabeth] became at all reconciled to the idea of so unsuitable a match. The strangeness of Mr. Collins’ making two offers of marriage in three days was nothing in comparison of his being now accepted. She had always felt that Charlotte’s opinion of matrimony was not exactly like her own; but she could not have supposed it possible that, when called into action, she [Charlotte] would have sacrificed every better feeling to worldly advantage. Charlotte, the wife of Mr. Collins, was a most humiliating picture! And to the pang of a friend disgracing herself, and sunk in her esteem, was added the distressing conviction that it was impossible for that friend to be tolerably happy in the lot she had chosen.

Others in Austen’s works have known unequal marriages.

The opening lines of Mansfield Park address the inequality between Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram. About thirty years ago Miss Maria Ward, of Huntingdon, with only seven thousand pounds, had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, of Mansfield Park, in the county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised to the rank of a baronet’s lady, with all the comforts and consequences of an handsome house and large income. Like Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Sir Thomas marries a woman who was a beauty in her youth. Unfortunately, Lady Bertram becomes neurotic, a hypochondriac, and lazy. She values people’s attractiveness over all else. Meanwhile, Mrs. Bennet is a foolish, noisy woman whose only goal in life is to see her daughters married. Because of her low breeding and often unbecoming behavior, Mrs. Bennet often repels the very suitors whom she tries to attract for her daughters.

Mr. William Elliot

Mr. William Elliot

Such revelations leads one to wonder whether “being entranced” by the opposite sex leads to disappointment in marriage. Please note how Austen’s heroines must turn from the “charms” of unworthy gentlemen [Wickham, Willoughby, William Elliot, etc.] to discover contentment in marriage. Is Austen giving us her opinions of cads and scoundrels? Let us face the truth, the gentlemen these heroines claim are often something of a prig, a man of unbending principles. Is this Austen’s idea of honor? Do you suppose our dearest Jane ever knew such a man? Did she know the disappointment of unrequited love?

I look forward to your insights. Comment below and let’s have a conversation.

Posted in British history, Great Britain, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, marriage, real life tales, Regency era, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why Do We Return Again and Again to the Classics? a Guest Post from Katherine Reay

My fellow Austen Author, Katherine Reay, discusses her love of the Classics. Please share with her your favorite Classic literature when you are finished reading.

If you’ve read Dear Mr. Knightley or Lizzy & Jane, you know I keep returning to these beloved favorites and, from the title alone, photoIMG_4286you can tell The Bronte Plot will be no different. The Classics have me hooked.

When asked about this, it’s usually assumed that I studied literature in school and come to this adoration with a very firm scholarly backing. Let me be very clear – I don’t. I approach the Classics (note that reverent capital “C”) with a writer’s interest and a reader’s adoration. And, I think, one of the reasons that I love them is because, not only are they beautifully written, but 100, 200, 300 years later, they still speak to us. We use them in our daily conversations (at least I do); they form our world views and feel as real to us often as our own friends and family. These books, that have stood the test of time and touch upon emotions, motivations, issues and eternal concerns that are still alive and relevant.

For example:

I was taught what was right, but I was not taught to correct my temper. I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit.

Austen penned that for Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, but doesn’t she also capture the universality of men, gentleman, parenting and discipline? Goodness, I’m now looking at my own son and hope against hope I’m getting it right.

51ef-UI-b6L._AC_US218_ And, while we may think of these stories within the historical fiction genre, they were often cutting-edge contemporary novels at publication, breaking new literary ground and digging into issues previously untouched – pushing the boundaries of storytelling, setting and character. In fact, Jane Eyre is credited for single-handedly ushering in the more emotional, character-focused novel. Today we call it “literary fiction.”

I firmly believe these novels still have much in them to delight us and tell us… Here are three that I’ve been enjoying lately:


41fpTaGQ5tL._AC_US218_ Bram Stoker’s Dracula. How did this one ever pass by my radar? I finally dug into it a few months ago and loved it! It’s incredibly creepy and I love that a book written in 1897 can still make my skin crawl. Death and decay seeped into every page and my dreams. Wow!

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. This is an absolute favorite of mine and it plays a large role in my next novel. Bronte fashioned a fascinating character in Jane – so much change, passion and vulnerability. And the scope of the novel reaches farther than that – you see social movement, British imperialism, changing thoughts on religion and justice all within the pages. And, for me, a great attraction is Bronte’s strong and symbolic secondary characters, such as Rochester and St. John.

41V7x+2dDGL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_ Jane Austen’s Persuasion. It has to be mentioned – not only because this is “Austen Authors,” but because this book is never far from me. It is my all-time favorite novel (and Lizzy’s favorite in Lizzy & Jane –not a coincidence.) And in this quiet story, Austen is brilliant at laying out huge character struggles in her own understated way and often within a single line.

“I cannot possibly do without Anne,” was Mary’s reasoning; and Elizabeth’s reply was, “Then I am sure Anne had better say, for nobody will want her in Bath.”

Anne, the main character and the middle sister, is caught between the whims of the married younger sister and the domineering older. She has no say, no means and no ability to carry out her own will and you can feel her simultaneously yanked and pushed all way to whiny Mary’s side. Throughout the whole novel, there is such pressure on her that I keep revisiting her journey to discern how Austen made me feel all Anne’s constraints, desires and tensions without spoon-feeding it to me. Brilliant.

So what are some of your favorites? I’d love to know what you think and what’s on your bedside table these days…

61fMd9yU6xL._UX250_Meet Katherine Reay: Katherine Reay has enjoyed a life-long affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries — who provide constant inspiration both for writing and for life. Katherine’s first novel, Dear Mr. Knightley, was a 2014 Christy Award Finalist and winner of the 2014 INSPY Award for Best Debut as well as Carol Awards for both Best Debut and Best Contemporary. She is also the writer behind Lizzy & Jane and the The Bronte Plot – all contemporary stories with a bit of “classics” flair. Katherine holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University and is a wife, mother, runner, former marketer, avid chocolate consumer and, randomly, a tae kwon do black belt. After living all across the country and a few stops in Europe, Katherine and her family recently moved back to Chicago.

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Posted in Austen Authors, Guest Post, historical fiction, Jane Austen, reading habits | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment