Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (Naxos AudioBooks), by Samuel Richardson, read by Clare Corbett – A Review

Pamela, by Samuel Richardson, Naxos AudioBooks (2013)From the desk of Br. Paul Byrd, OP:

Her knowledge of Richardson’s works was such as no one is likely again to acquire, now that the multitude and the merits of our light literature have called off the attention of readers from that great master.” – J.E. Austen-Leigh, Memoir of Jane Austen, ch. 5

Listed among Jane Austen’s most beloved authors is the rebellious printer-turned-novelist Samuel Richardson, creator of such potboilers as Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (1740). The novel opens at the death of Pamela Andrew’s employer, the woman who has educated her to be as accomplished as any young woman could hope to be, by eighteenth-century standards. And from there commences a rather strange and disturbing plot in which Pamela must fend off the unwanted advances of her new male employer—and I’m not simply talking about sexual harassment, which would have been bad enough; I’m talking about the outright attempted rape. Indeed, the main dramatic question of the novel is whether Pamela will forfeit her honor (read “her virginity”) for the sake of wealth and safety, or will she display a heroic level of Christian virtue, and risk the possibility of public disgrace. Spoiler Alert: the novel’s subtitle gives the answer away from the start. Continue reading

Giveaway Winners Announced for Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece

Celebrating Pride and Prejudice, by Susannah Fullerton (2013)40 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one of three copies available of Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece, by Susannah Fullerton. The winners drawn at random are:

  • Kelli H. who left a comment on January 08, 2013
  • Melissa W. who left a comment on December 26, 2012
  • Courtney who left a comment on December 30, 2012

Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by January 16, 2013.  Shipment is to US addresses only please.

Many thanks to Susannah Fullerton and Voyageur Press for the giveaway copies. Check back in February for my review of this new book during The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013. Happy reading to the winners!

© 2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen (Naxos Audiobooks) – A Review

Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, read by Juliet Stevenson (Naxos Audiobooks) 2005Even though it has been two hundred years since the world was first introduced to sisters Marianne and Elinor Dashwood’s financial, social and romantic trials, their story remains for me, as fresh and vibrant as any contemporary story you might read of, experience yourself, or hear tell tale of today. I give full credit, of course, to Jane Austen. Her understanding of human nature and how to craft emotions and characters into an engaging story remains unparalleled. Add to that a delightful twelve hour and forty-three minute reading by the accomplished British actress Juliet Stevenson’s polished interpretation of memorable personalities and you are primed for unsurpassed entertainment. Here is a brief description from the publisher:

When Mrs. Dashwood is forced by an avaricious daughter-in-law to leave the family home in Sussex, she takes her three daughters to live in a modest cottage in Devon. For Elinor, the eldest daughter, the move means a painful separation from the man she loves, but her sister Marianne finds in Devon the romance and excitement which she longs for. The contrasting fortunes and temperaments of the two girls as they struggle to cope in their different ways with the cruel events which fate has in store for them are portrayed by Jane Austen with her usual irony, humor and profound sensibility.

It is amazing to think that Sense and Sensibility was Jane Austen’s first published novel. As a debut author she showed incredible understanding of characterization and plot development. Many of the personalities contained in this novel remain the most memorable for me of her entire canon. The affability of Sir John Middleton, the persistent meddling of Mrs. Jennings, the droll indifference of Mr. Palmer and the malleable weakness of Mr. John Dashwood are played against the narrow greed of the unscrupulous Fanny Dashwood and her officious, spiteful mother Mrs. Ferrars. These secondary characters really make our heroes and villains shine, and withstanding the two heroines Elinor and Marianne, it is amusing to see how Austen plays with our emotions in guessing who the heroes will be and how the morality will play out.

Sense and Sensibility does have a few plot wholes and loose coincidences that readers will be raising eyebrows over, but it remains a novel wholly entrenched in the passionate joys of youthful love and emotional loss, cruel social snobbery and biting social reproof as relevant today as it was in 1811.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

This is my ninth selection in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011, my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. You can follow the event as I post reviews on the fourth Wednesday of every month and read all of the other participants contributions posted in the challenge review pages here.

A Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one unabridged CD or digital download of Sense and Sensibility (Naxos Audiobooks) by leaving a comment by midnight PT, Wednesday, October 5, 2011 stating which character you love to hate in Sense and Sensibility or what motivates you to read Jane Austen’s classic for the first time. Winner to be announced on Thursday, October 6, 2011. CD shipment to US or Canadian addresses only. Digital download internationally. Good luck!

Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen and read by Juliet Stevenson
Naxos Audiobooks (2005)
Unabridged audio CD’s, 12 hours, 43 minutes
ISBN: 978-9626343616

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Giveaway winner Announced for The Annotated Sense and Sensibility

The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austenm edited by David M. Shapard (2011)37 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win a copy of The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, edited by David Shapard. The winner drawn at random is Jocelyn who left a comment on May 28th.

Congratulations Jocelyn! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by June 21st, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments in the giveaway, and for all those participating in The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge. This year we are reading Jane Austen’s first published novel Sense and Sensibility and books inspired by it as well as viewing many of the movies adaptation this year in honor of its 200th anniversary.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Persuasion: An Annotated Edition, edited by Robert Morrison Due Out in November

Persuasion: An Annotated Edition, by Jane Austen, edited by, Robert Morrison (2011)Where are my aromatic vinegars? Harvard University Press really knows how to make this Janeite book lover swoon.

Next November we will be treated to another sumptuous annotated edition of one of Jane Austen’s classic novels. Last year they gave us Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition, edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks, and now Persuasion, edited by scholar Robert Morrison will be available to drool over.  Here is the publisher’s info:

Published posthumously with Northanger Abbey in 1817, Persuasion crowns Jane Austen’s remarkable career. It is her most passionate and introspective love story. This richly illustrated and annotated edition brings her last completed novel to life with previously unmatched vitality. In the same format that so rewarded readers of Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition, it offers running commentary on the novel (conveniently placed alongside Austen’s text) to explain difficult words, allusions, and contexts, while bringing together critical observations and scholarship for an enhanced reading experience. The abundance of color illustrations allows the reader to see the characters, locations, clothing, and carriages of the novel, as well as the larger political and historical events that shape its action.

In his Introduction, distinguished scholar Robert Morrison examines the broken engagement between Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth, and the ways in which they wander from one another even as their enduring feelings draw them steadily back together. His notes constitute the most sustained critical commentary ever brought to bear on the novel and explicate its central conflicts as well as its relationship to Austen’s other works, and to those of her major contemporaries, including Lord Byron, Walter Scott, and Maria Edgeworth.

Specialists, Janeites, and first-time readers alike will treasure this annotated and beautifully illustrated edition, which does justice to the elegance and depth of Jane Austen’s time-bound and timeless story of loneliness, missed opportunities, and abiding love.

About the Author

Robert Morrison is Queen’s National Scholar at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario.

It already has the blessing of two prominent scholars:

  • Robert Morrison’s new annotated edition of Persuasion is terrific: thorough, scrupulous, and thoughtful. It is a worthy addition to the wonderful Harvard series of annotated volumes, likely to be long read and much enjoyed by Austen enthusiasts. — Patricia Meyer Spacks
  • Readers who know Pride and Prejudice and Emma very well, can on encountering or re-encountering Austen’s final novel find it disconcerting and disorienting. Fortunately, they are now well served by the thorough and thoughtful annotation in Persuasion: An Annotated Edition. — Deidre Lynch, University of Toronto

What an incredibly beautiful cover. I can’t wait to tear into this.

Persuasion: An Annotated Edition, edited by Robert Morrison
Harvard University Press (2011)
Hardcover (360) pages
ISBN: 978-0674049741

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Stalk Jane Austen

Portrait of Jane Austen, by Rocco Fazzari from The Herald (2008)Gentle Readers: Here is a guest post with some Friday fun to get the weekend rolling early. Alyssa Palazzo is a young college student with a passion/obsession for our dear Jane. I thought her essay charming and very funny. Enjoy!

My friends think I have a problem.

I follow Jane Austen on Twitter.  I watch her house on Google Earth and note her every movement in my journal.  I have friend requested her 307 times on Facebook.  Last night, I checked to see what time she was leaving for the Connecticut Repertory Theater’s rendition of Pride and Prejudice.  Then I followed her there.  I keep my cupboard stocked with her favorite cereal brand in the hopes that one day her car will break down in front of my house and she will want breakfast.

Just kidding.  Jane Austen’s dead.  BUT, if she were alive, I would have absolutely no problem hiding under her bed and tracking her every movement.  After all, I’ve read the books, seen the movies, watched the plays, and enrolled myself in the Jane Austen class offered at UConn.  In order to defend my sanity I have composed a list of the top ten reasons I should stalk Jane Austen (or at least like the books.)

  1. Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightley, and Edmund Bertram are the sexiest male protagonists of all time.  Enough said.
  2. Happy endings.  Every young lady ends up with exactly the right gentleman despite undergoing several trials and mix-ups.
  3. The heroines aren’t weak creatures who need to be saved.  Elizabeth Bennet treks through three miles of mud to visit her sick sister.  There is no fainting, swooning, or rescuing to be found – although it might be worth it to be saved by the sexiest male protagonist of all time.
  4. The characters suffer the consequences of their actions.  For example, when Charlotte Lucas marries for convenience, she has to spend the rest of her life rotting in the back room of her house while avoiding her idiotic and obsequious husband.  Harsh, but true.
  5. The luxurious settings.  Forget London.  Who wouldn’t want to live in Longbourn or Highbury amidst the ample fields and long country roads?  Especially when you live right down the lane from the sexiest male protagonist of all time.
  6. Best opening line ever:  “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”  Haha.  Get it?
  7. Austen does a fantastic job of mocking society.  The clergymen are foolish, the “accomplished” young ladies are dimwitted, and the main characters can be spoilt and headstrong.  This makes for a great book.
  8. It’s not all about romance.  The books incorporate human shortcomings, character flaws, and moral dilemmas, forcing the readers to think about human nature.
  9. Austen was one of the few female writers of her time, and better yet, she never married.  Way to stick it to the man.
  10. Have I mentioned the sexiest male protagonists of all time?!  I’m a Darcy girl myself, but trust me, there’s a man for every female reader in Austen’s novels.

Now that I’ve defended my sanity I’m off to read Mansfield Park.  Trust me, it never gets old.

Editor’s note: Isn’t it refreshing Janeites, that young people all over the world are reading Austen and getting it? This eloquent and observant analysis just made my day!

Author Bio:

Alyssa Palazzo is a 4th semester English major and Women’s Studies minor at the University of Connecticut.  Her latest work “Leaving the E-Herd for Face-to-Face Dating” was featured in the Hartford Courant.  When she is not stalking Jane Austen, she is working and blogging at UConn’s Long River Review.  You can follow her adventures at www.longriverreview.com

2007 – 2011 Alyssa Palazzo, Austenprose

Moorland Cottage Group Read @ Gaskell Blog starts today!

Moorland Cottage Group Read 2011 at Gaskell BlogThe amiable and talented Katherine of the Gaskell Blog is leading a group read of Mrs. Gaskell’s novella  Moorland Cottage. It starts today and runs through February 15, 2011. You can check out the full group read schedule.

Published in 1850, Moorland Cottage is a delightful story of a widow, her two children and her neighbors the Buxton’s. It was the inspiration for screenwriter Heidi Thomas’ plot line and characters featured in the mini-series Return to Cranford.

Katherine has posted the welcome and introduction to the event including this list to get you started. Please join us.

This is my first selection for the Gaskell Reading Challenge and will also fulfill one of my selections for the Classics Challenge by Stiletto Storytime.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Winner announced in the Naxos Audiobooks recording of North and South giveaway

© Austenprose. Thank you again to all the participants and commenters in the Elizabeth Gaskell Bicentennial Blog Tour on September 29th. The drawing for the unabridged Naxos Audiobooks recording of North and South has closed, and I am happy to announce the lucky winner is…

Annette who posted a comment on September 29th on Stiletto Storytime’s review of Sylvia’s Lovers.

Congratulations Annette. To claim your prize, please email me at austenprose at frontier dot com October 15th, 2010 with your full name, address and choice of format. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses or international download.

Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition, by Jane Austen, edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks – A Review

Just when I thought I had more editions of Pride and Prejudice than I should ever own up to, I will freely admit to just one more. After all, what Janeite could resist this tempting package? An unabridged first edition text; Annotations by an Austen scholar; Color illustrations; Over-sized coffee table format; Extensive introduction; And, supplemental material – all pulled together in a beautifully designed interior and stunning cover. *swoon* Where are my aromatic vinegars?

This new annotated edition appeals to modern readers on many levels beyond being a pretty package of a beloved classic. Austen is renowned for her witty dialogue and finely drawn characters, but not for her elaborate physical descriptions or historical context. When Pride and Prejudice was originally published in 1813, this brevity was accessible to her contemporary readers who assumed the inferences, but after close to two hundred years words have changed their meaning, insinuations and subtle asides have become fuzzy, and cultural differences from Regency to twenty-first century are worlds apart. Anyone can read Pride and Prejudice and follow the narrative, but it is so much more enjoyable if you can read it on an expanded level understanding it in social, cultural and historical context. Editor Patricia Meyer Spacks has not only added extensive notes on plot, characters, events, history, culture and critical analysis from a vast array of Austen and literary scholars, but added her own personal insights and observations from years of reading Austen and her experience as a college professor. From shoe roses to Fordyces Sermons to military floggings to the 19th-century meaning of condescension, readers will be informed and enlightened on every aspect related to the novel, the author and her times. In a nut shell, she has vetted great resources, gathered nuggets of knowledge and placed them at our feet.

As with all of Austen’s characters, this new annotated edition of Pride and Prejudice has its own charms, “frailties, foibles and follies.” Weighing in at over three pounds, and encompassing 464 pages of unabridged text and fine print margin notes, this book easily reigns as the most all-inclusive and well-researched editions of Jane Austen’s masterpiece that I have ever encountered. Considering that the elaborate annotation classifies it as a reference work in addition to a full text, it is quite puzzling that it lacks an index. In addition, the illustrations are expertly selected but sadly lost some of their refinement in the printing process, coming across dark and murky in places. However, I was pleased to see a list of further reading and illustration credits listed in the back of the book to encourage readers to “add something more substantial, in the improvement of [their] minds by extensive reading.

Beautiful, sumptuous and satisfying, Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition is a monumental achievement that should be on the top of your holiday wish list and considered one of few editions available to be esteemed truly accomplished.

5 of of 5 Regency Stars

Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition, by Jane Austen, edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (2010)
Hardcover (464) pages
ISBN: 978-0674049161

© 2007 – 2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Jane Austen and the ‘father of the novel’ – Samuel Richardson

Gentle readers: Last week I reviewed Lynn Shepherd’s new Austen inspired mystery Murder at Mansfield Park. Not only is she an accomplished novelist, she is a distinguished Samuel Richardson scholar with a new book Clarissa’s Painter: Portraiture, Illustration, and Representation in the Novels of Samuel Richardson, published by the venerable Oxford University Press. Richardson was Jane Austen’s favorite novelist and I could not pass up the opportunity for Lynn to chat about his impact on her writing and the English novel. This is her generous contribution. Enjoy!

What influence did Samuel Richardson have on novels like Mansfield Park?

Jane Austen’s biographers often have to resort to guesswork and speculation about many aspects of her life, but there’s one thing we do know, and that’s who her favourite author was. According to her nephew, James-Edward Austen-Leigh, her knowledge of Samuel Richardson “was such as no one is likely again to acquire . . . Every circumstance narrated in Sir Charles Grandison, all that was said or done in the cedar parlour, was familiar to her; and the wedding days of [characters like] Lady L. and Lady G. were as well remembered as if they had been living friends.”

Richardson is a literary hero of mine, too, and I always think it’s sad that so few people read him nowadays. Not only because Clarissa, in particular, is one of the great masterpieces of European literature, but because it’s only by reading Richardson that you really understand the tradition Austen was writing in, and where she got some of the inspiration for her books.

So who was Samuel Richardson?

Academics and critics have been arguing for years about who wrote the first English novel. Some argue for Defoe and Robinson Crusoe, others for Fielding, but I’ve always been a firm supporter of Pamela, which Richardson published in 1740.

Pamela is a novel-in-letters, written by a young serving-maid to her parents, in which she describes her master’s attempts to seduce her. But as the subtitle (‘Virtue Rewarded’) suggests, all’s well that ends with a wedding. It sounds pretty standard stuff now, but at the time it was a publishing sensation.  There were 5 editions by the end of 1741, with an estimated 20,000 copies sold. It was also the first book to have what we would now call a ‘promotional campaign’. As a printer himself, Richardson employed all the tricks of the book-trade, including newspaper leaders and celebrity endorsement, and may even have encouraged the publication of a pamphlet that denounced the novel as pornographic, which certainly had a predictably healthy effect on sales!

But if it was Pamela that was ground-breaking, Richardson’s next novel, Clarissa, is the one that really established a new kind of prose fiction in English. This, like all Richardson’s books, is an epistolary novel, and it’s worth remembering that when Austen first put pen to paper seriously herself, she chose exactly this form – first in Lady Susan, and then in Elinor & Marianne, the first version of Sense & Sensibility. Clarissa is the story of a young woman who’s tricked away from her family by the libertine, Robert Lovelace, and eventually raped. The story evolves through two parallel correspondences – Clarissa’s with her friend Anna, and Lovelace’s with his confidant Belford. The depth and subtlety of the psychological characterisation is extraordinary, and you can see immediately why Henry Austen says his sister was such an admirer of “Richardson’s power of creating, and preserving, the consistency of his characters.” However, Clarissa is undeniably a very long read, so if you’d like a taster first, I recommend the BBC adaptation starring Sean Bean. It’s quite old now, but really worth taking a look at.

Sir Charles Grandison

The interesting point about that last quote, though, is that it’s actually about Sir Charles Grandison, Richardson’s last, longest, and least interesting book. All the same it was undeniably Austen’s favourite, and the one that had the most direct influence on her literary technique. As the critic Marilyn Butler has said, “Sir Charles Grandison contributed more than any other single book to the tradition of social comedy… which Jane Austen inherited.” Again and again, you can see Austen using characters and episodes from Richardson, and re-working them for her own purposes. If you’re interested there’s an excellent book on this whole subject by Jocelyn Harris called Jane Austen’s Art of Memory.

The parallels between Grandison and Mansfield Park, in particular, are especially interesting. Both books deal with similar themes, like marriage, education, and the relationships between parents and children, but there are also some striking similarities between many of the characters, notably the respective heroes and heroines – Fanny Price and Harriet Byron, and Edmund Bertram and Sir Charles. For example, both Fanny and Harriet are either literally or effectively orphans, who are adopted by a much richer family: as a result they both acquire two ‘sisters’ and a ‘brother’ they rapidly fall for, even though the man himself is in love with someone else entirely.

There’s no question that Austen loved Sir Charles Grandison, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t prepared to send it up gently. Isabella Tilney famously calls it an ‘amazing horrid book’, and sometime in the 1790s Jane and her niece Anna worked together to turn Richardson’s million-word novel into a ten-minute comic play for the family to perform. Though that’s rather easier than it sounds, because so little actually happens in Grandison: Sir Walter Scott recalled an old lady telling him she always chose to have that book read to her, because “should I drop asleep in course of the reading, I am sure, when I awake, I shall have lost none of the story, but shall find the party, where I left them, conversing in the cedar-parlour.”

One reason I mention this is because it’s something I always say to people who say you should never tinker with a literary classic like Austen, whether by writing sequels or pastiches, or creating new versions based on her works, like my own Murder at Mansfield Park. It’s useful to remind ourselves that Jane Austen did exactly the same thing, using Richardson both as the source text for a youthful skit, and – more seriously – as an important inspiration for her mature novels.  On that basis I think she’d be flattered that nearly 200 years after her death, so many of us still turn to her books to find inspiration for new work of our own.

Fast facts about the ‘Father of the Novel’

  • Born near Derby in 1689, Richardson was married twice and had six sons and six daughters, of whom only four girls survived.  His education was limited, but he became an extremely successful printer in London, not putting pen to paper on his own account until he was 50.
  • At the age of 13, Richardson was making money writing love-letters for young women he knew, an experience he claimed gave him his knowledge of the female heart.
  • When the villagers of Slough read of Pamela’s wedding in the newspaper they ran the church bell in celebration.
  • You can actually read Clarissa in ‘real time’, starting on January 10th, and finishing on December 18th.

They said…

“This Richardson is a strange fellow. I heartily despise him, and eagerly read him, nay, sob over his works in a most scandalous manner.” Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

“If you were to read Richardson for the story, your impatience would be so much fretted that you would hang yourself. But you must read him for the sentiment, and consider the story as only giving occasion to the sentiment”.  Samuel Johnson

He said…

“I thought [if Pamela were] written in an easy and natural manner… [it] might possibly introduce a new species of writing, that might possibly turn young people into a course of reading different from the pomp and parade of romance-writing”

Want to find out more?

There are good basic introductions to Richardson and his novels here:

The site below is also really interesting. Richardson didn’t just publish the first English novel, but the first illustrated novel too. He took advantage of Pamela’s runaway success by issuing a lavish ’collector’s edition’ two years later (though there were pirate illustrated versions before that). Richardson went to great expense to commission his own illustrations from two of the leading book engravers of the time. It’s fascinating to see him using these images as a way of ensuring that readers only saw ‘his’ version of Pamela the demure and virtuous heroine, and not – like many of his contemporaries, including Henry Fielding – “a pert little minx, whom any man of common sense or address might have had on his own terms in a week”!

Lynn Shepherd studied English at Oxford, and later went on to do a doctorate on Samuel Richardson, which has now been published by Oxford University Press. She’s also a passionate Jane Austen fan, and has just published Murder at Mansfield Park. You can visit her website and follow her on Twitter as GhostingAusten.

‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Elizabeth & Darcy: The Iconic Romantic Couple

Gentle Readers: in celebration of the ‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’ event over the next month, I have asked several of my fellow Jane Austen bloggers to share their knowledge and interest in Austen’s most popular novel. Today, please welcome guest blogger Jane Odiwe from Jane Austen Sequels blog and author of Lydia Bennet’s Story and Willoughby’s Return who shares with us her extensive knowledge of Austen’s memorable characterizations of her hero and heroine, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Watch for Jane’s new Pride and Prejudice sequel Mr. Darcy’s Secret* to be released in February 2011 by Sourcebooks.

Thank you Laurel Ann for asking me to guest blog today!

Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy are perhaps Jane Austen’s most beloved characters. Pride and Prejudice was written more than two hundred years ago, yet these characters remain as fresh and irresistibly fascinating to us as they were for the first generations that read their tale, and remain the standard by which all other characters in a love story are judged.

So, why do we love them so much? Jane Austen tells their story through Elizabeth’s eyes so it’s easy to identify with this heroine who is lively, witty, and loveable as much for her faults as for her charms. We identify with her because we feel she is like us. She is capable of making mistakes, but having realised her errors, she changes and grows as a result. We see her character develop as the story enfolds.

The first time we really meet Elizabeth it is at the Meryton Assembly where the proud Mr Darcy is also in attendance with his affable friend Mr Bingley. There is a lack of gentlemen at the ball, and Lizzy has to sit out for two dances. Mr Darcy is seen to be behaving in a particularly disagreeable manner. He only dances with Mr Bingley’s sisters and ignores everyone else in the room. Everyone has heard that he is a rich landowner, but his wealth and power coupled with his anti-social manners only serve to make him appear arrogant. He doesn’t seem to care that his words may be overheard or that his speech is insulting. In fact, he is almost goading Elizabeth whom he has heard described as a pretty girl. He actually makes sure that Lizzy is looking at him before he speaks. It’s almost as if he wants her to hear, and make her aware that he can attract, and have any woman in the room.

“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.”

It’s a real put down, and as an unsurprising consequence, she dislikes him instantly!

Continue reading at Jane Austen Sequels

Further reading

Upcoming event posts

Day 22   July 24   Swag winners announced

*Mr. Darcy’s Secret, by Jane Odiwe: After capturing the heart of one of the richest man in England, Elizabeth Darcy believes her happiness is complete until mysterious affairs involving Mr Darcy’s past, and concerns over his sister Georgiana’s own troubled path to happiness present Elizabeth with fresh challenges to test her integrity, honour, and sweet nature as she fights her old fears and feelings of pride and prejudice. However, nothing can daunt our sparkling and witty heroine or dim her sense of fun as Elizabeth and the powerful, compelling figure of Mr Darcy take centre stage in this romantic tale set against the dramatic backdrops of Regency Derbyshire and the Lakes amongst the characters we love so well. (beautiful watercolor illustration of Darcy and Lizzy above is by ©Jane Odiwe as well!)

Pride and Prejudice: Group Read – Chapters 57-61: Summary, Musing & Discussion: Day 20 Giveaway

“But, Lizzy, you look as if you did not enjoy it. You are not going to be missish, I hope, and pretend to be affronted at an idle report. For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?” Mr. Bennet, Chapter 57

Quick synopsis

Elizabeth reflects upon the meaning of Lady Catherine’s visit. A letter arrives from Mr. Collins strongly warning Elizabeth not to enter into an unsanctioned engagement with Lady Catherine’s nephew. Mr. Bennet thinks it highly amusing and absurd that Mr. Darcy is interested in his daughter. Darcy returns and renews his affections. Elizabeth accepts his present assurances with gratitude and pleasure. Darcy admits his pride and Elizabeth humbled him into changing. She tells Jane who is incredulous and thinks she is joking. She tells her father and he is incredulous. The couple confess all to each other. Lizzy teases that he liked her because she was impertinent. Lady Catherine’s actions had removed any of his doubts and gave him hope. Elizabeth writes and informs Mrs. Gardiner. Happy is the day that Mrs. Bennet got rid of two of her daughters.

Musings

It was a rational scheme, to be sure! but from what the report of their engagement could originate, Elizabeth was at a loss to imagine; till she recollected that his being the intimate friend of Bingley, and her being the sister of Jane, was enough, at a time when the expectation of one wedding made everybody eager for another, to supply the idea. That Narrator, Chapter 57

Lady Catherine departs in a cloud of anger after her battle of words with Elizabeth leaving the victor wondering how she had been informed of Mr. Darcy being on the brink of proposing. Being very inquisitive, Elizabeth runs through all the options and decides it is her sister Jane leaking info to her fiancé Mr. Bingley. I think Austen is being so true to human nature through her heroine. After a big blow up, most women need to deconstruct to understand feelings and rationalize  facts. Whom among us has not done the exact thing with their girlfriends? Elizabeth, being the “conceited independent” discusses it with herself like a sleuth sorting out the facts and suspects. When Mr. Collins’ letter arrives warning Mr. Bennet against his daughter entering into an engagement with Lady Catherine’s nephew, the Lucas’ are fingered. Elizabeth will not know the truth until the man himself informs her, and of course Austen supplies a nice ironic twist to it that which I will mention a bit later. Mr. Bennet’s reaction to Mr. Collins’ is classic. He finds only the amusement in it and cannot fathom any truth to the rumor. “Had they fixed on any other man, it would have been nothing; but his perfect indifference, and your pointed dislike, make it so delightfully absurd!” His reaction is just. Elizabeth has not shown or shared with her family her preference for him, only her previous dislike. Elizabeth’s reply softens his resistance to her entering into a match without love. She does love him and that is enough for her father to give his consent.

“You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged; but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.” Mr. Darcy, Chapter 58

Upon his return to Hertfordshire, Darcy soon informs her of his feelings with one of Austen’s most memorable lines (for me). At this moment, both of their lives hang in the balance. We are on pins and needles even though we know the outcome. He has put himself at her mercy. Her decision will decide their fate. He has applied himself in an open and nonthreatening way. All of his pride and arrogance has subsided. What a different man this is before her. Her reaction in the face of an important life decision is quite different than the first time around and in alignment with his tone and openness.

Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances. The happiness which this reply produced was such as he had probably never felt before, and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do. The Narrator, Chapter 58

As with most life altering events, one is numb and unable to speak. “They walked on, without knowing in what direction.” Ha!

Done. Huzzah! Love prevails and we only have the lover’s tête à tête to tie things up neatly. They both make important confessions; Darcy more so. Elizabeth wants him to forget the past, especially the circumstances that prompted him to write the “Be not alarmed, madam” letter.

“But think no more of the letter. The feelings of the person who wrote and the person who received it are now so widely different from what they were then, that every unpleasant circumstance attending it, ought to be forgotten. You must learn some of my philosophy. Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 58

As if Darcy confessing his love and previous faults was not enough, Austen really pushes the contrition and absolution thing farther than we could ever expect from any man. This next line may be the reason why Mr. Darcy is the romantic icon of the ages.

“Such I was, from eight to eight-and-twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You shewed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.” Mr. Darcy, Chapter 58

Swoon. This, I believe, is so appealing to women because what man ‘DO’ we know who would confess his love, bare his soul, and tell you that you have made him a better man? I haven’t met one yet. Do they exist? It seems too much to expect of any one person. Men don’t think that way, at least in my experience. You know – the Venus and Mars thing. I believe that Mr. Darcy is so appealing because he does admit his faults and change for the sake of the love of a woman. He may have been Austen’s fantasy, but she sent him out into the world and he is now everyone’s ideal.

“You are joking, Lizzy. This cannot be! — engaged to Mr. Darcy! — No, no, you shall not deceive me. I know it to be impossible.” Jane Bennet, Chapter 59

Elizabeth shares her news with Jane, her dearest friend who knows her best in the world, and she thinks she is joking with her. “And do you really love him quite well enough? Oh, Lizzy! do anything rather than marry without affection.” (Shades of Jane Austen advising her niece Fanny Austen Knight on her own love and romance in the future.) And in proper Austen style of following a character revelation, she supplies us with a joke.

“It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 59

Much has been discussed about this line. Was Elizabeth mercenary or so moved by seeing how un-prideful and un-ostentatious Pemberley was that she fell in love with its owner? This is a toss-up for me. I am inclined to say both, leaning on the later. When she arrived at Pemberley her feeling for him had softened since their last tumultuous first proposal scene and his subsequent letter. Seeing his home and listening to his servants praise him changes her even more. When he arrived and his civility matched his surroundings, she was amazed. So yes, she was swayed by seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley, but not entirely for financial reasons. Now she must convince her sister who she has shared almost all of her secrets with that she does love him.

And, then the same incredulous reaction from her father!

“Lizzy,” said he, “what are you doing? Are you out of your senses, to be accepting this man? Have not you always hated him?” Mr. Bennet

“I do, I do like him,” she replied, with tears in her eyes; “I love him. Indeed he has no improper pride. He is perfectly amiable. You do not know what he really is; then pray do not pain me by speaking of him in such terms.” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 59

He offers his consent, with this poignant caveat. “My child, let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect your partner in life. You know not what you are about.” One wonders at this line the full extent of the back story of why Mr. and Mrs. Bennet married. We are never told, but if Lydia’s personality and impulsiveness are similar to her mother’s, one can project the outcome.

Ok, so chapter 60 does seem like overkill to me, but I still read it and weep. Best line for me.

“I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.” Mr. Darcy, Chapter 60

And the mystery of how Lady Catherine was informed of her nephew’s serious interest and possible proposal to Elizabeth are revealed by a primary source, Mr. Darcy himself. The irony of it is that if Lady Catherine had not been officious and superior, they may not of had the means of re-uniting. So, her trip to visit Elizabeth and exact her promise not to marry her nephew had the exact opposite effect of her initial motive. Another Austen reproof checked off the list.

“Lady Catherine’s unjustifiable endeavours to separate us were the means of removing all my doubts.” Mr. Darcy, Chapter 60

Elizabeth writes to her aunt Gardiner to tell her the news of their engagement. She is such a tease she cannot just flatly state the facts. Ha!

“But now suppose as much as you (Mrs. Gardiner) chuse; give a loose to your fancy, indulge your imagination in every possible flight which the subject will afford, and unless you believe me actually married, you cannot greatly err. You must write again very soon, and praise him a great deal more than you did in your last.” Elizabeth Bennet, Chapter 60

And we come to the final denouement where Austen wraps up all the loose ribbons with bits of irony and amusement. The novel opened with Mrs. Bennet fretting over her five unmarried daughters and by the last chapter she has seen three of them married. The business of her life is almost complete.

Happy for all her maternal feelings was the day on which Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters. The Narrator, Chapter 61

Austen adds a closing passage for most of the minor characters. Georgiana is happy with her new sister, Kitty’s situation and deportment improves with the influence of her two elder sisters social standings and connections, Lydia and Wickham out spend their income and his “affection for her soon sunk into indifference: her’s lasted a little longer; and in spite of her youth and her manners, she retained all the claims to reputation which her marriage had given her.” I have often wondered if Austen was slyly implying that Lydia would cuckold him. ;-)

Ah, and Miss Bingley. She cannot be forgotten and is given her reprove as well.

Miss Bingley was very deeply mortified by Darcy’s marriage; but as she thought it advisable to retain the right of visiting at Pemberley, she dropt all her resentment; was fonder than ever of Georgiana, almost as attentive to Darcy as heretofore, and paid off every arrear of civility to Elizabeth. The Narrator, Chapter 61

And ending on a happy note of gratitude and regard “towards the persons (Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner)who, by bringing her into Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting them” Elizabeth and Darcy ride off into the sunset. (in a barouche-landau of course)

Finis

‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Day 20  Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of the Dover Classics  edition of Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen by leaving a comment stating if you think chapter 60 is overkill gushing or which your favorite quote is from the novel by midnight, Saturday, July 24th, 2010. Winner will be announced on Sunday, July 25th. Shipment to continental US addresses only. Good luck!

Upcoming event posts

Day 21   July 16   Mr. Darcy & Elizabeth Bennet
Day 22   July 24   Swag winners announced