Mirrors of the Mind, Part 3, a Guest Post from Alexa Adams

This post originally appeared on July 12, 2019, on the Austen Authors’ blog. Enjoy. 

I had planned to take a break from this topic, but then a recent article inspired me to press on, and not in the direction I had planned. Instead of delving into Mansfield Park, as predicted in my last post, I’m turning my attention to Northanger Abbey. It is one of only two Austen novels that open with a description of the heroine (the other is Emma). Most do not provide physical descriptions of the heroine until her character is very well-established, several chapter into the book. Her tendency to withhold such vital information is, perhaps, her most radical means of attacking the prevailing reliance of novelists on physiognomy (the practice of determining a person’s personality through examination of their physical form). Look at it in the context of contemporary literary conventions. Conveniently, the three novels Austen references in Northanger’s defense of the novel (Vol. 1, ch. 5) are perfect examples. Cecilia, Camilla (both by Frances Burney), and Belinda (Maria Edgeworth) all provide precise physical descriptions of the heroines within a few sentences of each book’s opening. This encourages readers to utilize physiognomical assumptions to create sympathy and admiration for the novel’s heroine. By denying her readers such information, Austen forces them to judge her heroines based upon their actions.

But not in Northanger Abbey. In this, her first full-length novel, Austen is not so subtle in her rejection of the literary devices regularly employed by her fellow novelists, including physiognomical assumptions. She declares her intentions in the opening line of the novel, and the entire first chapter is devoted to describing Catherine’s physical and mental development from a scraggily “tomboy” (perhaps the first description of one, a good half century before Loiusa May Alcott and Victor Hugo created Jo March and Eponine Thernadier) into “a young lady [who] is to be a heroine.” Here is the first paragraph of the book in its entirety:

No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her. Her father was a clergyman, without being neglected, or poor, and a very respectable man, though his name was Richard — and he had never been handsome. He had a considerable independence besides two good livings — and he was not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters. Her mother was a woman of useful plain sense, with a good temper, and, what is more remarkable, with a good constitution. She had three sons before Catherine was born; and instead of dying in bringing the latter into the world, as any body might expect, she still lived on — lived to have six children more — to see them growing up around her, and to enjoy excellent health herself. A family of ten children will be always called a fine family, where there are heads and arms and legs enough for the number; but the Morlands had little other right to the word, for they were in general very plain, and Catherine, for many years of her life, as plain as any. She had a thin awkward figure, a sallow skin without colour, dark lank hair, and strong features — so much for her person; — and not less unpropitious for heroism seemed her mind. She was fond of all boy’s plays, and greatly preferred cricket not merely to dolls, but to the more heroic enjoyments of infancy, nursing a dormouse, feeding a canary-bird, or watering a rose-bush. Indeed she had no taste for a garden; and if she gathered flowers at all, it was chiefly for the pleasure of mischief — at least so it was conjectured from her always preferring those which she was forbidden to take. — Such were her propensities — her abilities were quite as extraordinary. She never could learn or understand anything before she was taught; and sometimes not even then, for she was often inattentive, and occasionally stupid. Her mother was three months in teaching her only to repeat the “Beggar’s Petition;” and after all, her next sister, Sally, could say it better than she did. Not that Catherine was always stupid, — by no means; she learnt the fable of “The Hare and many Friends,” as quickly as any girl in England. Her mother wished her to learn music; and Catherine was sure she should like it, for she was very fond of tinkling the keys of the old forlorn spinnet; so, at eight years old she began. She learnt a year, and could not bear it; — and Mrs. Morland, who did not insist on her daughters being accomplished in spite of incapacity or distaste, allowed her to leave off. The day which dismissed the music-master was one of the happiest of Catherine’s life. Her taste for drawing was not superior; though whenever she could obtain the outside of a letter from her mother or seize upon any other odd piece of paper, she did what she could in that way, by drawing houses and trees, hens and chickens, all very much like one another. — Writing and accounts she was taught by her father; French by her mother: her proficiency in either was not remarkable, and she shirked her lessons in both whenever she could. What a strange, unaccountable character! — for with all these symptoms of profligacy at ten years old, she had neither a bad heart nor a bad temper, was seldom stubborn, scarcely ever quarrelsome, and very kind to the little ones, with few interruptions of tyranny; she was moreover noisy and wild, hated confinement and cleanliness, and loved nothing so well in the world as rolling down the green slope at the back of the house.

The genius of Austen is that she not only establishes Catherine in contrast to every expected heroic quality, but that we find her utterly charming, regardless. The length of her description is also innovative. Unlike the few words deemed sufficient to develop the characters of the heroines in those famous novels mentioned above, Austen gives us an in-depth account of a fully materialized Catherine. Many have conjectured that the description is somewhat autobiographical, pointing out similarities to what we know of Austen’s childhood. If so, it is perhaps her fondness for herself as a child that comes through in the text, enveloping her readers in a cozy, memory-laden fog of their own lost youths.

I began my last post by asking you to imagine you knew nothing of Pride and Prejudice and lamented my own difficulty in recalling my first impressions of Austen. Ironically, the only one of her novels I can clearly remember reading the first time is Northanger Abbey. It was my first Austen novel, and I bought it in a train station along the Northeast Corridor when I was eleven or twelve years old. I didn’t have much time and picked the book up randomly, opening to the first page and scanning it quickly to see if I would like it. I don’t think I had ever even heard of Jane Austen before. I read it quickly, without much reflection, but I completely sympathized with Catherine and adored Henry Tilney. His introduction is more propitious than his lady’s, but Austen’s succinct description continues to defy the literary conventions of the time: “The master of the ceremonies introduced to her a very gentlemanlike young man as a partner; — his name was Tilney. He seemed to be about four or five and twenty, was rather tall, had a pleasing countenance, a very intelligent and lively eye, and, if not quite handsome, was very near it. His address was good, and Catherine felt herself in high luck.”

The contemporary physiognomers could rest assured that here was no Signor Montoni, from The Mysteries of Udolpho, destined to make Catherine’s life a misery. Nor is he a vapid Valencourt, destined to bore you to death, as his conversation instantly proves. Austen manages to give us one of her most delightful heroes without relying on any of the prevailing tropes, just as she defies convention in the creation of Catherine. That opening line of the book, while it might seem cute and humorous to the modern audience, had to be shocking to Austen’s contemporaries. A perfectly normal girl elevated to the position of heroine … it shouldn’t have been a revolutionary notion, but it was. It is yet another of the endless examples I continue to discover of Austen’s literary prescience. I never cease to be awed by how groundbreaking her writing is, so often providing the foundation of what became entire genres of literature, from detective stories to 20th century experimentalism. It’s a subject I wrote about in an article for Pride & Possibilities a few years back, and I won’t reiterate that argument now. Honestly, I barely had time to write this post. It would have been far easier to throw together an ode to summer vacation as I had planned (today is FINALLY my daughter’s last day of school), but circumstances required I come to my muse’s defense.


Posted in Austen Authors, British history, excerpt, film adaptations, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, heroines, historical fiction, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Regency era, Regency romance, research, writing | Tagged , , , , ,

History of The Odiham Agricultural Society and the Release of “Mr. Darcy’s Bet”

Britain’s first veterinary college has its roots in Hampshire’s Odiham Agricultural Society, formed on 16 May 1783 for the purpose of encouraging local development of industry and agriculture. Livestock breeding and management was very important to this group. The activities and influence of some of its key members was to result in a far more important outcome: the foundation of the veterinary profession in Britain. It led to the establishment of Britain’s first veterinary college in 1791. 


Bishop Burgess ~ Image Available from the National Library of Wales ~ Public Domain ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Burgess_(bishop)#/media/File:Bishop_Burgess.jpg

Among the Society’s initial members was Thomas Burgess, Winchester and Oxford scholar and son of the local grocer. Burgess later became Bishop of St David’s and he founded St David’s College, Lampeter before being translated to Salisbury. Other members of the group were gentlemen of rank and fortune, as well as a few “intelligent farmers.” 

Burgess was known for his zeal for the Scriptures and his philanthropic nature. [Ironically, “at Salisbury and St David’s, he founded a Church Union Society for the assistance of infirm and distressed clergymen. He opposed both Unitarianism and Catholic Emancipation. The latter policy led to several clashes with the Government: the Duke of Wellington told him sharply that he would do far more to strengthen the Protestant faith by staying in his diocese and minding his flock than he could by bombarding the Government with political pamphlets.”] [Thomas Burgess (bishop)] With the influence of the Odiham Agricultural Society, he, however, took up the cause for animal welfare and humane treatment of sick animals. 

“The minutes of the meeting of 19 August 1785 record Burgess’ motion:

‘That Farriery is a most useful science and intimately connected with the Interests of Agriculture; that it is in a very imperfect neglected state and highly deserving the attention of all friends of Agricultural economy.

“That Farriery, as it is commonly practised, is conducted without principle or science and greatly to the injury to the noblest and most useful of our animals.

“That the improvement of Farriery established on a study of the Anatomy, diseases and cure of cattle, particularly Horses, Cows and Sheep, will be an essential benefit to Agriculture and will greatly improve some of the most important branches of national commerce, such as Wool and Leather.”

The minutes also record that the meeting resolved:

“That the Society will consult the good of the community in general and of the limits of the Society in particular, by encouraging such means as are likely to promote the study of Farriery upon rational scientific principles.”

Unfortunately, neither Burgess or the Society possessed the money or the scientific knowledge to make the resolution a reality. The idea did not die, however. It took root and soon we have further developments.

The next step was agreed at the meeting on 17 June 1786 [Pugh, page 13] at which it was resolved to set up the Farriery Fund: “For the breed, management and improvement of horses, cows, sheep and hogs – for the best fully authenticated cures of diseases incident to horses etc, for accurate registers of dairies – for registers of management, profit and loss of a flock of sheep, etc.”

Arthur Young joined the OAS in 1785 and led the group into the next phase. Young was an author and traveller. Young had visited the French veterinary school (near Paris) in 1787. “In his ‘Travels in France’ he wrote that the school had ‘over one hundred pupils from different parts of France, as well as pupils from every country in Europe except England, a strange exception considering how grossly ignorant our farriers are’. The result of Young’s observation was that, in 1788, the OAS decided to send, at least, two boys to France to study at the French school. They advertised for contributions for the boys’ educational expenses. 

Also in 1788, a Scottish farrier by the name of James Clark published a treatise titled “Prevention of Disease.” He purported the idea of farriery schools in Britain similar to the French ones. 

Granville Penn had read Clark’s treatise and had heard of the OAS’s work in training farriers. He became a subscriber to the Farriery Fund and a member of the Society.

“In the 5 August 1789 minutes of the Society, under his influence it was resolved that:

“From the information collected on this subject it appears that the improvement of Farriery would be most effectually promoted by the Regular Education in that Art on Medical and Anatomical principles. It is to be lamented that there is not yet in England any Establishment adequate to the desired improvement of Farriery by a regular education in that science.”

“This was an admission that it was not enough to send a few boys to France, but that a school was required in England.

“In October 1789 Penn met a Frenchman named Benoit Vial de St. Bel [Pugh, pages 17-19] who was in England finding out about agriculture and thoroughbred horses. He had trained and qualified at the French veterinary school and was also trying, unsuccessfully, to interest the English in establishing a veterinary school in England.

“The combined efforts of Penn and St Bel resulted in a plan for an English school and, for the first time, someone who could provide the teaching experience required.

“Penn sought out the financial support [Pugh, page 22] he needed from wealthy animal owners and also sought moral support from the medical and scientific professions regarding the need to move treatment of animals into the professional sphere. In order to raise money rapidly, he sought large subscriptions from sponsors and patrons, who would be become the first governors of a new ‘College or Body Associating for the purpose of encouraging Veterinary Science” and which would direct the schools.'”

The Odiham Agricultural Society accepted the plan on 5 August 1790. The London Committee of the OAS included both Burgess and Penn, along with Lord Rivers. Penn openly advocated for the school to be in London. Fortunately, Burgess had the foresight to have all related resolutions of the parent Odiham Society read aloud and recorded in detail in the new Minute Book, capturing the OAS’s history for future generations. 

download-1.jpgIn order to earn patronage from the Duke of Northumberland, the London Committee separated itself from the Odiham Society on 18 February 1791. Mr Saint Bell be appointed Professor to the College. The OAS agreed to the separation and presented the Farriery Fund to the new school in London. 

download.jpg  The role of the Odiham Agricultural Society in the foundation of what became the Royal Veterinary Society (in 1844) had ended, and the Odiham Society itself ended a few years later. But its legacy remains today in the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. 


Bell, F.R., 1977. The Days of the Farriers. Veterinary History.

Odiham Agricultural Society 

Pugh, L.P., 1962. From farriery to veterinary medicine 1785–1795. Cambridge, Heffer.


MrDarcy'sBet3x5 Book Blurb 

“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” – Act 1, Sc. 4, William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure

FITZWILLIAM DARCY has done everything within his power to prove his devotion to ELIZABETH BENNET. He believes they are so close to knowing happiness; howbeit, when his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, accosts Elizabeth with predictions of Elizabeth never being able to fit in with his social connections, everything changes. Although the lady sent his aunt packing with words to the contrary, a bit of doubt has slipped under Elizabeth’s shield of confidence, and she again refuses his hand in marriage, this time to protect him from the gossiping beau monde.

Therefore, Darcy must take a leap of faith; he proposes to her before the congregation gathered for the marriage of Jane Bennet and his friend Charles Bingley—a public proposal from which Darcy cannot legally or morally withdraw, one only Elizabeth Bennet can refuse. He bets, this time, he can win not only her heart, but also her consent. With the assistance of his family and hers, a plan is put into motion to prove to all comers that Elizabeth Bennet is not only worthy of his attentions, but also the only one Darcy should consider marrying.

In Chapter 11 of Mr. Darcy’s Bet, Darcy speaks of the Odiham Agricultural Society to a boy whose family he is assisting. 

The three boys slept, as they had done for the last two days. Darcy suspected the two older ones had stood guard over young Cobb while in their cell, for when he had arrived to remove them from their incarceration, he found, despite his specific orders to the contrary, two men were also in the cell with the boys. Filthy, he had first taken them to Darcy House and demanded they be scrubbed clean. Jasper had been sent out to purchase new clothes and shoes, and, by mid afternoon yesterday, they had set out for Kimbolton. His steward’s letter said the man had departed Lincolnshire two days prior to Darcy’s leaving London, so, he expected to encounter the man on this very day. However, with the days shorter in November and the roads north of London less well maintained, it was difficult to make good time. It could be possible he must wait another day to meet up with Mr. Atkinson, but he prayed otherwise.

Darcy had despised leaving Elizabeth, especially after the kiss they had shared. Even now, he could taste her sweetness on his lips, and it was all he could do not to groan. He closed his eyes and relived the moment: the surprise he had felt when she willingly encircled his waist with her arms, the brush of his lips against hers, then her capitulation to a deeper kiss. He was so close to claiming happiness; yet, he feared she might still step away from him. What would happen if he failed to gift her with his childhood wish? Would she overlook his failure and agree to marry him, or would she again deny the bond, obviously resting, between them?

He opened his eyes to discover Kit Fyre watching him closely. “How much longer?”

“Depending on the weather we should meet Mr. Atkinson late this afternoon. You will travel to Lincolnshire with him.” The boy nodded his understanding. “Have you thought more on what trade you wish to pursue? Do you wish to be a smith, like your father?” Darcy had learned from the younger boys that the late Mr. Fyre had been a blacksmith, who was often used by Tattersalls before the family fell on hard times.

“I dost not think I’ll be as strong as was me Pa. He be’d a big man, bigger than you even. I’s take after me Ma. I’d like to work with horses, though.”

“A groom, perhaps, or a farrier,” Darcy suggested. “Learn all you can of horses and then set your sights on becoming what Sir Thomas Brown called ‘veterinary medicine.’ There is even the Odiham Agricultural Society in Hampshire whose purpose is to encourage agricultural development and livestock breeding. I consult regularly with some of its members on the latest ideas in improving the stock upon my tenant farms. The group founded a veterinary college in London some twenty years back. A ‘vet’ tends more than horses; yet, learning all you can of those animals would be an excellent start. Even a truly knowledgable farrier would earn a steady income large enough to support himself and a family.” The boy again nodded his understanding. “Do yourself the favor of speaking honestly with Mr. Atkinson of your aspirations. You must consider whether it will be enough for you simply to earn a fair wage to support your younger brothers. You must consider what will happen when they reach an age to take off on their own. A future stretches before you, and you must have the foresight to understand where you wish to be in ten years. Twenty years. Atkinson is a good man and will do all he can to assist you and your brothers, but he will not coddle you and plead with you to do your job. If you do not perform, he will release you at the drop of a hat, and I will not step in again to save you, for, if you fail, it is because you broke your word to me.”

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What Does a Renown French Astronomer Have to Do with the Release of “Mr. Darcy’s Bet?” + a Giveaway

Comet C/1743 X1, The Great Comet of 1744, or “Comet de Cheseaux-Klinkenberg”, at 4am on March 9, 1744, showing six tails rising above the horizon
Amedee Guillemin, after Jean-Philippe de Cheseaux – Amedee Guillemin, The World of Comets (London, 1877) ~ Public Domain

Charles Messier at age 40 ~ Public Domain

Charles Messier was born in Badonviller on 26 June 1730 in the Lorraine region of France. He was the tenth of twelve children. Six of his siblings died young. Messier’s interest in astronomy was fired by, first, the Great Comet of 1744, and, later, by a solar eclipse in 1748. This eclipse occurred on July 25, near Messier’s home town. 

For those of you unfamiliar with “The Great Comet of 1744, whose official designation is C/1743 X1, and which is also known as Comet de Chéseaux or Comet Klinkenberg-Chéseaux, [it] was a spectacular comet that was observed during 1743 and 1744. It was discovered independently in late November 1743 by Jan de Munck, in the second week of December by Dirk Klinkenberg, and, four days later, by Jean-Phillippe de Chéseaux. It became visible with the naked eye for several months in 1744 and displayed dramatic and unusual effects in the sky.” One can only imagine how such a spectacular display could inspire a curious boy of fourteen. 

Joseph-Nicolas Delisle ~ Public Domain

At the age of twenty-one, Messier was employed by Joseph Nicolas Delisle, a French astronomer and cartographer, associated with the French navy. Delisle instructed Messier on how properly to conduct his observations. The Mercury transit of 6 May 1753 was Messier’s first observation. That one was followed by his observations journals at Cluny Hotel and at the French Navy observatories. 

In 1764, Messier was made a fellow of the Royal Society in England. He was also elected as a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1769. The next year he was honored to become a member of the French Academy of Sciences. 

He was most notable for publishing an astronomical catalogue consisting of 110 nebulae and star clusters, which came to be known as the Messier objects. The purpose of the catalogue was to assist astronomical observer, in particular comet hunters, to distinguish between permanent and transient visually diffuse objects in the sky. 

Messier discovered 13 comets:
  • C/1760 B1 (Messier) c/2760
  • C/1763 S1 (Messier)
  • C/1764 A1 (Messier)
  • C/1766 E1 (Messier)
  • C/1769 P1 (Messier)
  • D/1770 L1 (Lexell)
  • C/1771 G1 (Messier)
  • C/1773 T1 (Messier)
  • C/1780 U2 (Messier)
  • C/1788 W1 (Messier)
  • C/1793 S2 (Messier)
  • C/1798 G1 (Messier)
  • C/1785 A1 (Messier-Méchain)

Unfortunately, near the end of his life, Messier self-published a booklet connecting the great comet of 1769 to the birth of Napoleon, who was in power at the time of publishing. This is the tidbit of history that plays out in my latest Austen release.

According to Meyer:

As hard as it may seem to accept, the memoir is an ingratiation to Napoleon in order to receive attention and monetary support. It is full of servility and opportunism. Messier did not even refrain from utilizing astrology to reach his goal. Messier comes quickly to the point on the first page of the memoir, by stating that the beginning of the epoch of Napoleon the Great … coincides with the discovery of one of the greatest comets ever observed.

Maik Meyer (see link to Messier and Napoleon below) explains the historic context of this booklet’s publication, “Until 1789, Messier had earned an honored name in astronomy. His comet discoveries led to numerous memberships in national and international academies. The Marine Observatory in Paris, from where he was observing as a chief astronomer was financed by the Navy. In summer 1789, the French Revolution erupted, culminating in the ‘Year of Terror’ (1793-1794). Messier lost all his salaries for the Marine Observatory. This was a hard time for Messier, who was then in his sixties. Things got better for him after 1795, and Messier started to observe again from the Marine Observatory, now maintained and financed by himself. His last named comet discovery happened in 1798, and when he was beaten by Pons on the comet of 1801 (C/1801 N1), with which Pons started an impressive career as a comet hunter, Messier seemed to have a hard time accepting that he was no longer dominating the field of comet hunting….

“Napoleon did not take much notice of this memoir. However, Messier’s reputation was seriously harmed. The observatory’s condition became increasingly bad, since no funds for repair were available. Messier’s observing activities came to an end. Charles Messier died in 1817….” 

So, although history does not show that a disgraced French astronomer by the name of Charles Messier lectured in England in late 1812, an author by the name of Regina Jeffers exercised a bit of dramatic license to place Messier into the life of one Fitzwilliam Darcy. The question remains, what purpose does Messier’s presence serve to the plot of Mr. Darcy’s Bet?

Teaser from the book: 

Monsieur Messier, merci de me recevoir aujourd’ hui,” Darcy said as he bowed to the man, who had not risen when Darcy entered the suite Messier occupied in London. The astronomer appeared frail.

Tu es le bienvenu mon garçon.” Messier gestured to a nearby chair. Once Darcy was seated, the Frenchman switched to a halting form of English. “Your name…brought thought…of other Mr. Darcy. You favor ton père.”

My father would have known honneur in reclaiming your acquaintance, Monsieur.” Darcy spoke in clear, distinct syllables, for the man turned his head to one side as if his hearing was not as sharp as it once was.

“You have kept…ton père’s observatory?” Messier asked.

Oui, but I spend less time studying the heavens than I would wish,” Darcy admitted.

Responsabilités?” Messier asked.

“Yes, many responsibilities,” Darcy explained.

Comment puis-je vous servir?” The man’s expression turned to caution.

“I thought perhaps it would be I who could serve you, rather than the reverse, Monsieur,” Darcy clarified. “May I have your permission to speak honestly of what I have to offer?”

Certainement!” Messier sat straighter. His features had turned to hope. “What did you…have in mind…Mr. Darcy?”

For those of you whose curiosity I piqued with this article, check out these other sources on Messier: 

Charles Messier 

Charles Messier, Napoleon, and Comet C/1769 P1

Mr. Darcy’s Bet: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary 

“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” – Act 1, Sc. 4, William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure

FITZWILLIAM DARCY has done everything within his power to prove his devotion to ELIZABETH BENNET. He believes they are so close to knowing happiness; however, when his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, accosts Elizabeth with predictions of Elizabeth never being able to fit in with his social connections, everything changed. Although the lady sent his aunt packing with words to the contrary, a bit of doubt has slipped under Elizabeth’s shield of confidence, and she again refuses his hand in marriage, this time to protect him from the gossiping beau monde.

Therefore, Darcy has taken a leap of faith, he has proposed to her before the congregation gathered for the marriage of Elizabeth’s sister and his friend Bingley. A public proposal from which he cannot legally or morally withdraw, one only Elizabeth Bennet can refuse. He bets he can win not only her heart this time, but also her consent. With the assistance of her family and his, a plan is put into motion to prove Elizabeth Bennet, not only worthy of his attentions, but also the only one he should consider marrying.


Posted in book excerpts, book release, excerpt, Georgian England, Georgian Era, historical fiction, history, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Napoleonic Wars, Pride and Prejudice, publishing, real life tales, Regency era, Regency romance, research, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Celebrating the Release of Mr. Darcy’s Bet with an Excerpt + a Giveaway

Today, I celebrate the birth of my 48th book baby. 48!!!! The idea shocks me!!! I will be at 50 by the end of this calendar year, with the release of The Heartless Earl in October and “Last Woman Standing” in December. 


Mr. Darcy’s Bet: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary is a story which came to me one night in my sleep. I had been thinking all day (outside weeding flower beds, where I do some of my best thinking) of how Elizabeth must have felt when moving into Mr. Darcy’s world. After all, Mrs. Bennet was not the best example of the mistress of an estate, nor of the wife of a man of the landed gentry. Despite her remarks to the contrary to Lady Catherine, surely Elizabeth held doubts about whether finally to accept Mr. Darcy, if the gentleman renewed his proposal. How would she serve as Pemberley’s mistress? It would take more than her bravado to see her through what she might encounter there. What of his relations? Obviously, Lady Catherine would never accept her, but what of his mother’s brother, whom most of us who write JAFF refer to as Lord Matlock? That concept became the base of this story. 

This story begins on Jane and Bingley’s wedding day. I am certain some of you have read part of this excerpt on Austen Authors, but I have added a new scene to the mix. Enjoy!

Leave a comment to be part of the giveaway of 2eBook version of Mr. Darcy’s Bet. The giveaway will end at midnight, EDST, Friday, September 27. 

Book Blurb: 

“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” – Act 1, Sc. 4, William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure

FITZWILLIAM DARCY has done everything within his power to prove his devotion to ELIZABETH BENNET. He believes they are so close to knowing happiness; however, when his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, accosts Elizabeth with predictions of Elizabeth never being able to fit in with his social connections, everything changed. Although the lady sent his aunt packing with words to the contrary, a bit of doubt has slipped under Elizabeth’s shield of confidence, and she again refuses his hand in marriage, this time to protect him from the gossiping beau monde.

Therefore, Darcy has taken a leap of faith, he has proposed to her before the congregation gathered for the marriage of Elizabeth’s sister and his friend Bingley. A public proposal from which he cannot legally or morally withdraw, one only Elizabeth Bennet can refuse. He bets he can win not only her heart this time, but also her consent. With the assistance of her family and his, a plan is put into motion to prove Elizabeth Bennet, not only worthy of his attentions, but also the only one he should consider marrying.


He glanced up from his musings to view the woman whose image haunted his dreams coming toward him, and his heart sang its song of love and devotion. “Is it time?” he asked when she took her place beside him, for they were to stand up with Bingley and Miss Bennet during the ceremony.

“Mama agrees, so here I am,” she said with a grin. “In truth, I assume she means to present Jane the talk regarding what to expect on the wedding night. Mrs. Bennet does not know Mrs. Gardiner has already spoken to each of us.”

Darcy grinned. Whether the lady realized it or not, Elizabeth Bennet considered him one of her closest confidants, for she spoke to him on a level not afforded “indifferent” acquaintances. “May I say you look lovely?” he whispered.

Her brows drew together in disapproval. “Your tone says you would place an addendum to the compliment.”

He hesitated before answering. “If such were possible, I believe you would be more lovely if you were wearing jewels in your hair, rather than the flowers.”

A sound at the rear of the church drew everyone’s attention—everyone’s but his. From the corner of his eye, Darcy noted Mrs. Bennet scampering up the aisle to assume a place on the front pew. Miss Bennet paused at the head of the aisle, the lady’s attention on Bingley as Jane Bennet approached them.

“Is she not beautiful?” Elizabeth murmured.

Darcy’s eyes, however, remained on Elizabeth. “Not as exquisite as you,” he said in hushed tones.

She glanced up at him, displeasure crossing her expression.

Yet, before she could react, Darcy took the ultimate leap of faith. “When we marry, would you prefer a large wedding or a more private affair?”

“Neither,” she hissed. Embarrassment, or perhaps it was anger, colored her cheeks.

“You would prefer one comparable to the future Mrs. Bingley?” he asked in what he hoped sounded of innocence. Convincing Elizabeth to agree with him would take all his skills at negotiation.

“We are not marrying, large, small, or—” Her voice increased in volume with each denial. “Or—”

“Or would you prefer to leave for Gretna Green? Is a marriage over the anvil more to your liking?”

“Enough, Mr. Darcy!” she exclaimed in a voice and tone rarely used in a church.

“Elizabeth Bennet!” her mother warned from her position on the pew. “This is not your day.”

Elizabeth nodded her apologies, but Darcy ignored everyone but the woman he loved. “Autumn has already made itself known. If you hold no objections, I would prefer we pronounced our vows before Christmastide. You have not lived until you celebrate a Christmas and Twelfth Night at Pemberley.”

She spun around to face him. Pointing her finger at him, as if he was a misbehaving child, she enunciated each of her words slowly. “I once told you I would not marry you even if you were the last man in the world.”

“But we both know you did not mean those words. You have had a change of heart. No absolutes!”

“I am not marrying you, sir,” she growled.

Darcy thought her adorable when she was so angry she had lost her ability to reason. “Never? Let us ask your mother,” he said with a smile.

“You would not dare.” Elizabeth no longer spoke in soft tones.

“Before I do, answer me this: Are you set against me? Completely set against me?”

“Not if we were the last two people on earth,” she said with a stomp of her foot to emphasize her irritation.

“We would require at least one more person,” he continued logically. “To witness the joining.” He thought it exhilarating to watch the passion flowing through his Elizabeth when she was angry. Just imagine how it will be when we are alone together, he cautioned his heart. “Simply explain what obstacles remain to prevent us from marrying.”

She shot a glance to the congregation, who was watching their interactions with great interest. Darcy refused to look, knowing his daring would die if he encountered a scowl upon her father’s face or those of her neighbors. “You know my reasons without my pronouncing them aloud.”

Off to the side, he heard Miss Bingley announce, “I knew the chit did not have the brains of a sluggard.”

“Mr. Bennet,” Darcy called out; yet, his eyes remained on Elizabeth. “Do I have your permission to marry Miss Elizabeth?”

Her father’s voice held his amusement. “As I said, son, you must convince Lizzy on your own.”

“Understood, sir. But you hold no objections?”

“Not if Elizabeth is happy.”

Mrs. Bennet shot to her feet, finally comprehending what was happening. “Elizabeth Bennet, you present Mr. Darcy your assent this very moment.”

Bingley stepped up beside him. “In case neither of you have noticed, this is my and Miss Bennet’s wedding day, not a battlefield.”

“All this is Mr. Darcy’s fault,” Elizabeth accused, refusing to abandon her anger.

Bingley growled, “I do not care for faults. All I care about is my Jane and our pronouncing our vows. I swear one more interruption, and I will personally escort you both outside.”

“I apologize, Bingley,” Darcy said in contrition.

“I will be silent,” Elizabeth said obediently.

Darcy listened in as Bingley leaned closer to speak to Elizabeth without an audience. “You do know something of Darcy’s dogged determination once he sets his mind to a task. It might be best if you offered your consent now. It would please both Jane and me to see the two of you happy.”

Darcy noted how Elizabeth stiffened in denial. “I am determined I will not marry him. No matter how may proposals he issues, I shall not be moved. In fact, some find ‘my’ stubbornness endearing.”

“My money is on Mr. Darcy,” Colonel Forster called out.

“Then you will lose, Colonel,” Elizabeth declared adamantly. “I remain unmoved.”

Sir William announced, “Those who wish to place a bet, see me outside after the ceremony. For now, Mr. Bingley wishes to claim his bride.”

Before the focus switched away from him and Elizabeth, Darcy called to the man, “Put me down for fifty pounds. Before this is over, Miss Elizabeth will change her mind. She will accept my proposal. I mean to prove I possess more resolve than does Miss Elizabeth.”


“You coxcomb!” she growled when Darcy finally cornered her in the churchyard. “Do you have any idea how miserable you have made my life? My mother will not rest until she browbeats me into accepting your proposal,” Elizabeth hissed.

Darcy caught her elbow and directed her steps further from those still gossiping about the spectacle he had caused. He still could not quite believe he had acted so boldly—the man who had always preferred the outside rim of a crowded ballroom had strode to the center of the floor for all to observe his most vulnerable moments. She jerked her arm from his hold, drawing his attention back to the exhibition he had created. Despite his qualms over how things had turned out, a grin still marked his lips.

With a sigh of resignation, he schooled his countenance and suggested, “You could change Mrs. Bennet’s dudgeon to elation by accepting my proposal now.”

“N—O—T ever a possibility,” she growled in elongated syllables.

“Are you so set against me?” he demanded. “What happened to the vibrant Elizabeth Bennet I knew in Derbyshire?”

“Life,” she said, her shoulders dropping in obvious defeat. “Reality. Lady Catherine. Lydia. Mr. Wickham. Miss Darcy. They all happened.” She looked up at him, tears forming in her eyes. “I am begging you to leave me in Hertfordshire. Return to Derbyshire and your life.”

Holding himself stiff so as not to reach for her, he whispered. “A life without you would be a shadow of what God intended for either of us.”

Her bottom lip trembled when she responded, “Is it your wish to force me into a marriage not of my choosing?”

“You know it is not. I hold you in great affection, and I had hoped—” Her tears, just as they had at the inn in Hunsford when she had received word of Miss Lydia’s elopement with Mr. Wickham, were like a fist to his midsection, only this time, he had proven to be the source of her misery. Darcy took a step back, placing distance between them. “If such is your true desire, I will leave Meryton immediately.”

She glanced about in bewilderment. “You mean tomorrow, do you not? You cannot think to leave today. We hold obligations to Mr. Bingley and Jane. The wedding breakfast. People will expect us both there. If you are absent, the guests will assume I sent you away.”

“Which is exactly what you are doing,” he insisted.

“But—” she began.

“You cannot have it both ways. You asked me to leave, and I have agreed to do so. Now, you insist I stay. I must assume you wish me to shoulder my share of the blame for interrupting your sister’s marriage. Or do you have another motive? Do you mean to ring a pell over my head before your neighbors and friends to demonstrate your indifference to me? If such is so, my leaving will prove your denials equally as well and without either of us facing further embarrassment. Permit me a bit of dignity. Your adamant rejection will indicate your triumph.”

“What of Mr. Bingley?” she protested.

“My friend will have nothing but his new wife on his mind,” Darcy argued. “He will offer a mild denial and then return to his elation. Moreover, your declaration of your disgust for me will embolden Miss Bingley. I shan’t chance her taking it in her head I am now vulnerable to her charms simply to satisfy your pride. If I must choose another, then the woman will be someone to my liking.” He presented her a brief bow. “If you will pardon me, I will make my excuses to Bingley. Please know I wish you all the happiness life has in store for you.”

Posted in Austen Authors, eBooks, Georgian England, Georgian Era, giveaway, Living in the Regency, Pride and Prejudice, publishing, Regency romance, Vagary, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Did Lady Bertram Suffer from a Thyroid Condition? a Guest Post from Eliza Shearer

This post originally appeared on Austen Authors on July 23, 2019. Enjoy!

Mansfield Park’s Lady Bertram is the epitome of laziness and indolence. Her favourite activity is sitting on her favourite sofa, with a piece of sewing on her lap and pug at her feet.

Jane Austen’s character is wonderfully well depicted. But as a writer, I like to ask questions, and mine in her case was: what if her laziness, which everyone took for a personality trait, was, in reality, a health issue?

Laziness or Tiredness?

Mansfield Park has been on my mind a lot of late. My new Austeniana book, Miss Price’s Choice, begins in the home of the Bertrams about five years after the elopement of Mrs Rushworth. The protagonist is Susan Price, Fanny’s spirited little sister, who becomes Lady Bertram’s companion when Fanny marries Edmund.

Writing Austen-inspired fiction involves re-reading Austen in no small degree. This time, as I was listening to Karen Savage’s excellent audiobook version, something hit me. I realised that Lady Bertram may well have a thyroid condition.

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits in our necks, wrapped around the base of our throat. It is small but mighty and is responsible for much of the body’s metabolism. When it does not work well, the consequences are severe. In hyperthyroidism, the body speeds up and goes too fast. In hypothyroidism, everything slows down, and the sufferer is in a permanent state of exhaustion.

A Personal Experience of Hypothyroidism

My thyroid began to misbehave in my twenties. My thyroid was underperforming. I had dry skin, and I was always cold. Unbeknownst to me, I also had a swollen neck (or goitre), although it was only discernible to those with medical knowledge. Above all, I was tired all the time.

I began to wonder if Lady Bertram might not have been tired instead of lazy. She often naps during the day, and that is certainly something I wanted to do all the time before I was diagnosed. Lady Bertram is not fat, but neither was I: although weight increase is typical in hyperthyroidism, I did not experience it. She is also the age at which many women experience thyroid issues. A story began to form in my head.

Lady Bertram’s Possible Thyroid Problem

Hypothyroidism is slow to develop. The changes to the body happen so slowly that they are difficult to notice. The person affected and her loved ones do not immediately realise that something is wrong.

Lady Bertram had a lethargic disposition, so a thyroid problem may well go unnoticed for some time. It would take a while for her loved ones to notice the tiredness and foggy brain. Perhaps they would not worry until other symptoms like the dry skin or the bulging eyes made an appearance.

At that point, a loving husband like Sir Thomas would surely take decisive action. But what remedies would have been available to Lady Bertram?

New and Old Solutions for Goitre

Once I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, I began to take synthetic thyroxine. The difference in my energy levels took a few weeks, but the change was striking. After a while, my thyroid was working well again. Going for long walks, keeping focused or having a late night was no longer a struggle.

Of course, synthetic thyroxine was not available during the Regency, but there were medical treatments for the condition. Iodine, an element essential for the thyroid gland to function, was discovered in 1811 in France. Bernard Coindet, a pioneering Swiss doctor, began to use it as a tincture to treat his patients soon afterwards.

However, remedies for goitre had long existed. Seaweed and kelp, naturally rich in iodine, were used in ancient China and Central and South America to treat goitre issues. Word of such treatments probably made its way to Europe in the Middle Ages, and eventually, England as well.

The Coventry Remedy

The famed “Coventry remedy”, first written about by Thomas Warton in 1656, was a tincture developed by a Dr Bate sold as a remedy for goitre. The enterprising Dr Bate and his descendants kept the recipe secret for many years, earning a tidy sum in the process.

By the late eighteenth century, the main ingredient in the Coventry remedy was revealed to be the ashes of burnt sea sponge. The reason why the tincture worked was not understood, but some doctors continued to prescribe it to their patients.

 1da2c2488bc45d8d9b539890211591d1.jpgA Decision for the Bertrams

I thought that Sir Thomas, given a choice between a cutting-edge new therapy developed by a foreigner and an English-made remedy with centuries of proven success, would not think twice. The Coventry remedy had decidedly rustic roots, but it would surely be his preferred course of action.

And this is precisely what happens. After a few weeks of following the treatment, Lady Bertram’s energy levels surge, just as mine did when I started to take thyroid supplements. She even begins to take her new puppy for walks!

But this is a different story, one that I hope to share with you in the autumn.

Miss Price’s Decision launches on 17 October and is now available for preorder.


Do you suffer from a thyroid condition or know someone who does? Was there a symptom in particular that told you that something wasn’t right? What do you think of the Coventry remedy and Regency medicine in general?

Posted in Austen Authors, British history, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Mansfield Park, medicine, real life tales, Regency era, Regency personalities, Regency romance, research, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

“Bell, Book, and Candle” and Excommunication During the Georgian Era

In the Roman Catholic church, “bell, book, and candle” came to be synonymous with “major excommunication,” or “anathema.” The phrase dates back to the 9th Century and has symbolic meaning. The “bell” came to mean the public character of the action taken by the church and its presiding bishop against the one to be excommunicated. The “book” represented the church’s authority over the person charged. The “candle” represented the hope of the ban eventually being lifted, through the person’s repentance and an open show of having changed his ways. The ceremony would be a very public one, and the bishop would write letters to other bishops to report the fact. In that manner, the person could not simply up and move himself into another “see,” the area of a bishop’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction. 

In the traditional ceremony, the bishop and 12 priests would preside, each carrying a lighted candle. “The bishop, wearing violet vestments, then recited the formula, ending thus: ‘We separate him, together with his accomplices and abettors, from the precious body and blood of the Lord and from the society of all Christians; we exclude him from our holy mother the church in heaven and on earth; we declare him excommunicate and anathema; we judge him damned, with the devil and his angels and all the reprobate, to eternal fire until he shall recover himself from the toils of the devil and return to amendment and to penitence.’ Those present answered, ‘So be it!’ Then the bishop and the 12 priests extinguished their candles by dashing them to the ground, and, as a general rule, the ceremony then ended.” [Bell, Book, and Candle]

A form of ecclesiastical censure, what we call excommunication excludes a person from the communion of believers, the rites or sacraments of a church, and the rights of church membership. Sometimes the governing body goes so far as exclusion. 

The Roman Catholic Church distinguishes between two kinds of excommunication. In the first kind, the person is termed to be “toleratus,” or tolerated. The second form is more severe. The person is termed “vitandus,” or one to be avoided. The person is announced by name in a public “shaming,” generally at the See, itself, but for the gravest of crimes, this could take place at the Vatican. The accused is barred from the church sacraments, as well as Christian burial. The Catholic Church has a specified list, set out in the Codex Juris Canonici, of actions that end in excommunication. In January 1983, Pope John Paul II revised the list to “include abortion, violation of the confidentiality of confession, absolution by a priest of one who has committed a sin with the priest’s assistance, profanation of the consecrated communion host, consecration of a bishop without Vatican approval, a physical attack on the pope, and heresy and ‘abandoning the faith.’ 

“If excommunicated persons confess their sins and undergo penance, they are absolved; in some cases this absolution may come from any priest, but in many others it is reserved to the bishop or even to the Holy See alone, save in periculo mortis (‘in danger of death’). Excommunication should be distinguished from two related forms of censure, suspension and interdict interdict [a remedy granted by a magistrate on the sole basis of his authority, against a breach of civil law for which there is no stipulated remedy. Interdicts can be provisionary, opening the way for further action or final.] Suspension applies only to clergy and denies them some or all of their rights; interdict does not exclude a believer from the communion of the faithful but forbids certain sacraments and sacred offices, sometimes to an entire area, town, or region.” [Excommunication]

Various churches handle the situation differently. In fact, some churches do not use the term excommunication, preferring to speak of church discipline. Reformed churches vest the authority for exercising discipline and, if need be, carrying out excommunication, in the session, which consists of the minister and the elders. The 30th article of the Westminster Confession of 1646 specified ‘admonition, suspension from the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper for a season, and excommunication from the church’ as the proper steps of discipline. The Lutheran tradition has followed Martin Luther’s catechism in speaking of ‘the power of the keys’ and in defining excommunication as the denial of the communion to public and obstinate sinners; the clergy and the congregation together have the right to exercise such discipline. In the Anglican Church the bishops have the right to excommunicate, but this right is almost never exercised. Where a Congregational polity and the principle of ‘believers’ Baptism’ are observed, discipline is often very rigorous. In American denominations of the Free Church tradition the term ‘churching’ a sinner refers to excommunication, while in the Mennonite-Amish tradition excommunication also entails social ‘shunning.’ [Excommunication]

During the Georgian Era, in which most of my books occur, two types of excommunication existed: Lesser and greater.

Some changes were made in 1813, which allowed the ecclesiastical courts to send people to the secular courts for contempt, instead of excommunicating them. Also, offense of church rites and tithes were to be sent to the secular courts instead of through excommunication. In such cases, one simply deprives the offender of church services and sacraments–including marriage and a Christian burial. This is pronounced in those who are obstinate and disobedient, such as not appearing at church court when summoned, not submitting to a penance, or not obeying another injunction of the court.

Google Books ~ Ecclesiastical Law by Richard Burns 

The Doctrine of the Trinity Act 1813 (53 Geo. III c. 160. sometimes called the Trinitarian Act 1812) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It amended the Blasphemy Act of 1697 in respect to it Trinitarian provisions. The Blasphemy Act applied only to those educated in or having made profession of the Christian religion. The Act, passed July 21, was also variously known as the Unitarian Relief Act (Trinity Act)The Unitarian Toleration Bill, and Mr William Smith’s Bill, after Whig politican William Smith. The Act granted toleration for Unitarian worship, as previously the Toleration Act 1689 had only granted toleration to those Protestant dissenters who accepted the Trinity. [Note! The Blasphemy Act was repealed in 1967, implicitly taking the Doctrine of the Trinity Act with it.]


Screen Shot 2019-08-06 at 11.59.35 AM

The English Reports: Ecclesiastical, Admiralty, and Probate and Divorce https://books.google.com/books?id=fJRDAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA990& amp;lpg=PA990&dq=Lady+Ferrars +and+divorce&source=bl&ots= pU6j3dqWUT&sig=ACfU3U3sQ207 LvdC_GS82CI8Nav7GgjAlw&hl=en& amp;sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiO8MHwze 7jAhVlmeAKHaTQBdMQ6AEwEnoECAgQAQ #v=onepage&q=Lady%20Ferrars%20 and%20divorce&f=false (link broken on purpose) 

As one can see, there were several incidents brought for excommunication against gentlemen of the Realm. For example, Lady Ferrers went to the House of Lords to request a separation from her husband the earl. She told the HOL members that her husband had no fear of the church courts or of being excommunicated so she feared he would not allow her to live in peace apart from him.


Lady Vane v. Lord Vane. Mich. Term, 3rd Session, 1736. 

Cheslyn returned citation and prayed an appearance, or that Lord Vane be pronounced in contempt. The judge pronounced Lord Vane in contempt, but reserved his pain, and continued the assignation to next Court 

Lady Ferrers v. Laurence Lord Ferres. Mich. Term, 2nd Session, 1757. 

Proclamation for Laurence Earl Ferrers, and he not appearing, Crespigny accused his contumacy and prayed him to be decreed excommunicate for not giving in his answers. 

The assignation and certificate to next Court, upon which day Earl Ferrers being thrice called and not appearing Crespigny accused his contumacy, and the judge (Sir Edward Simpson) at his petition pronounced him contumacious for not giving in his answers, but reserved his pain and continued the certificate and assignation to next Court. From which the assignation was continued to the by-day, when the earl not appearing, Crespigny accused his contumacy, and porrected a schedule of excommunication, which the judges read and signed in the presence of Stevens, and continued the rest of the assignation to the first session of next term. 

11 January, 1757-8. — A requisition to take Lord Ferrers’ oath for absolution at the petition of her proctor, and also for his answers. 

Lady Ferrers v. Robert Lord Ferrers* 23 May, 1792. 

Heseltine alleged that Lord Ferrers had not paid the alimony due to his client pursuant to the monition with which he had been personally served; and therefore prayed the Judge to decree Lord Ferrers excommunicate, and porrected a schedule of excommunication which he prayed the Judge to read and sign; but the Judge (Sir Wm. Scott) declined doing so, and continued the certificate to the next Court. 

Note.  — The certificate was continued for several Court-days; and the alimony was at length alleged to have been paid. 


The greater excommunication deprived the man of church services and published his name abroad so that no church members who wanted to stay in good standing or have any communication or business with him. The church members were not to patronize the man’s shop, if he were a tradesman. He was not to be invited to dine or to visit or to attend a ball. One was supposed to shun his society until he repented.

One could be excommunicated for refusing to have a child baptized or for refusing the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper, or for idolatry, usury, simony, or perjury. All of these were brought before the ecclesiastical courts. One could be excommunicated for fighting in church. Though the clergyman was to say the person was excommunicated right then and there, it was truly necessary to have the bishop endorse the sentence to have the desired effect. If a plaintiff is excommunicated, a defendant can tell the court so. He must do this before he answers the plaintiff. If he can prove the excommunication, he need not answer the plaintiff in court until the plaintiff has been admitted back into the good graces of the church.

  • All excommunicated persons were not to step into the church.
  • Any one who pronounced himself an atheist and spoke out against the church could be excommunicated.
  • One who refused to pay his tithes or who shortchanged the rector and vicar of their tithes could be excommunicated, but after 1813, were likely to be sued in a secular court, rather than be brought before an ecclesiastical court.
  • One guilty of defamation could be excommunicated.
  • One could also be excommunicated for refusing to go to church.
  • Those who socialize with a excommunicated person or trade with him could be excommunicated as well.
  • An excommunicated person could not be a witness in a court.
  • He could not be buried in church grounds. He could not have the burial service read over his body.
  • If a person remains obstinate in refusing to answer or attend a church court, the church could ask the High Court of Chancery to send out a writ, which was to be answered in the Court of Kings’ bench. The writ was to be opened in King’s bench with all the justices present and handed to the sheriff to enforce. The Bench of Kings Court could put out notices to every sheriff and assize that the person is to be summoned, if not found at the usual address. If it takes all these people and writs, to find the person, he can be put into prison. He can be fined for not obeying. If arrested, he cannot have bail.
Posted in British history, England, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Regency era, religion, research, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Birthdays and Jane Austen


Tomorrow, I turn the ripe old age of 72. I am a VIRGO. Some of you know what that means. Some of you are about to learn. 

Horoscope.com tells us these Virgo Facts

  • Symbol:   The Virgin
  • Element:   Earth
  • Polarity:   Negative
  • Quality:   Mutable
  • Ruling Planet:   Mercury
  • Ruling House:   Sixth
  • Spirit Color:   Silver
  • Lucky Gem:   Peridot
  • Flower:   Sunflower & marigold
  • Top Love Matches: Cancer   
  • Key Traits:   Graceful, organized, kind
  • Motto:   “My best can always be better.

Smart, sophisticated, and kind, Virgo gets the job done without complaining. Virgos are amazing friends, always there to lend a hand and also lend advice. Practical Virgos are incredibly adept at big picture thinking, and planning out their life, their vacations, and what they’re going to do today isn’t a drag it makes them feel in control and secure.

Virgos have a rich inner life, and can sometimes seem shy at first meeting. A Virgo will not spill secrets right away, and it is important to earn a Virgo’s trust. But once you do, that Virgo will be a friend for life. 

Virgos expect perfection from themselves, and they may project those high standards on the other people in their lives. A Virgo hates when someone lets him or her down, even if the indiscretion is minor and unavoidable, like a last-minute cancellation. Virgos never want to disappoint the people in their lives, so they may spread themselves too thin and put themselves last.

Intelligent and a lifelong learner, Virgos loves trying new things, reading books, and learning about the world. They will happily sign up for an adult-education course, and they consider an afternoon in bed with a book pretty much ideal. A Virgo prefers an evening with good friends to a huge party and values downtime just as much as socializing. This sign does not need to fill their calendar to be content.

All this talk of birthdays got me thinking about the lack of birthday celebrations in Austen’s novels. It is quite disheartening to have others forget one’s birthday, but it was not so for Jane Austen and her family. We know Christmas had not the “glorious significance” as it does these days, but what of birthdays? Quite simply, as Anglicans, such humoring of a person, would have been frowned upon.

Sense-and-Sensibility-007Can you think of one person in Austen’s books who even mentions a birthday? The only one which springs to mind to me is Harriet Smith in Emma. Harriet speaks of hers and Robert Martin’s birthdays occurring within a fortnight, and those birthdays were separated only by one day.

As readers we know many of the characters’ ages. Lydia Bennet is but fifteen when we first meet her, but she is sixteen when she marries George Wickham. Marianne Dashwood is seventeen at the beginning of Sense and Sensibility and is nineteen when she marries Colonel Brandon. Fanny Price is a child when she first comes to Mansfield Park; yet, never once are her birthdays mentioned as a passing of time. Jane Fairfax is approaching one and twenty and the prospect of becoming a governess. Charlotte Lucas at seven and twenty has “become a burden to her family.” Elizabeth Elliot is nearly thirty and not married, and Anne Elliot is seven and twenty when Captain Wentworth returns to claim her. Catherine Morland turns eighteen just before Henry Tilney claims her as his wife. Even Elizabeth Bennet must have had a birthday somewhere in the year she had taken Mr. Darcy’s acquaintance. But when? There is no mention of her chronological aging, only her emotional aging. The closest we come to knowing something of Elizabeth’s age is when she admits to being twenty to Lady Catherine. But we do not know if she was nineteen when the book began and turned twenty some time between November when she dance with Mr. Darcy at the Netherfield Ball, or whether, like me, she is a September baby, turning one and twenty after she encounters Darcy again at Pemberley. Is such true for all of Austen’s characters? Austen wrote from her life experiences. If she did not “celebrate” such milestones, why would her characters? Tell me what you think. Am I being bizarre or is there some truth in this assumption?

Meanwhile, enjoy this list of September birthdays celebrated by some of our favorite Austen Actors. 

party-clip-art-balloons-different-coloursHappy September Birthday to these Fabulous Austen-Inspired Actors…


images September 1 – Aisling Loftus, who portrayed Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies


Unknown-3henrySeptember 7 Christopher Villers, who portrayed Tom Bertram in 1983 Mansfield Park

September 7 – Henry Maguire, who portrayed Jack Wickam in 2003’s Pride and Prejudice: A Latter Day Comedy


Unknown-4Unknown-5September 9Hugh Grant, who portrayed Edward Ferrars in 1995’s Sense and Sensibility

September 9 Julia Sawalha, who portrayed Lydia Bennet in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice



Unknown-3September 10 Colin Firth, who portrayed Fitzwilliam Darcy in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice Unknown-4

September 11 – Alan Badel, who portrayed Fitzwilliam Darcy in 1958’s Pride and Prejudice (11 September 1923 to 19 March 1982)



images-2September 15 – Sabina Franklyn, who portrayed Jane Bennet in 1980’s Pride and Prejudice Unknown-5

September 16 – Alexis Bledel, who portrayed Georgiana Darcy in Bride and Prejudice



imagesUnknown-3September 19 David Bamber, who portrayed Mr. Collins in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice 

September 22 – Billie Piper, who portrayed Fanny Price in 2007’s Mansfield Park


Unknown-4September 22 – Rupert Penry Jones, who portrayed Captain Frederick Wentworth in 2007’s PersuasionUnknown-6

September 23 – Crispin Bonham Carter, who portrayed Charles Bingley in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice



2b03d4f0September 23Peter Settelen, who portrayed George Wickham
in 1980’s Pride and Prejudice 




hqdefault September 24 – Ryan Paevey, who portrayed Donovan Darcy in Unleashing Mr. Darcy


images-1 September 26Talulah Riley, who portrayed Mary Bennet in 2005’s Pride and Prejudice



2202857,tjUBdj3LNXhm0qAuo3TLB1ygUfTrZOGQXAeMS1OawmjRfXEvlZLprOD9Mx5Ha3GHNTcYybJh04GQPbBKSvfyoQ==Unknown-3September 26Edmund Gwenn, who portrayed Mr. Bennet in 1940’s Pride and Prejudice (26 September 1877 to 6 September 1959)

September 27 Gweyneth Paltrow, who portrayed Emma Woodhouse in 1996’s film version of Emma


Unknown-4September 29 – Greer Garson, who portrayed Elizabeth Bennet in 1940’s Pride and Prejudice (29 September 1904 to 6 April 1996)

Posted in film adaptations, Jane Austen, real life tales, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments