Almost Persuaded: Miss Mary King, a Pride and Prejudice Short Story, by P. O. Dixon – A Review

Almost Persuaded Miss Mary King by P O Dixon 2013 x 200From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder:

Jane Austen’s works have given us countless characters to fall in love with: Elizabeth Bennet, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Catherine Morland, Henry Tilney, Anne Elliot, Captain Frederick Wentworth, and Elinor & Marianne Dashwood. Along with these major players, Austen sprinkles in minor personalities who play a very small role in the plot, leaving the full back story to our imagination. P. O Dixon has taken one these lesser-known characters, “the nasty freckle-faced” Mary King, and given her story a chance to be told in her latest short story Almost Persuaded.

Mary King is accustomed to being in the background. She purposely shies away from the social spotlight, but is always keenly aware of the goings on around her. She can’t seem to keep her eyes off of George Wickham from the time they first met. Unfortunately for her, he doesn’t seem to have reciprocated any of these feelings, and in fact, does not notice her whatsoever. All that changes, however, when Mary becomes the recipient of a ten thousand pound inheritance. Suddenly she has gone from being a wallflower to the center of the social universe. Now she goes from pining for Wickham’s attention to having more attention on her than she could ever have wanted. Will this inheritance prove to be the key to finally winning Wickham’s heart, or a curse that haunts her to be alone forever? Continue reading

Austen at Large: Vote for your Favorite Pride and Prejudice Bachelor

The bachelors of Pride and Prejudice

In thinking about Pride and Prejudice for the last couple of weeks, my mind has naturally wondered to the men in this novel, the single men particularly. As a young woman of 20, it is a subject that my mind often turns to. There are more young single men in this novel than any other that I can think of, and some of the best and worst. The men that jump to my mind as the bachelors of Pride and Prejudice are George Wickham, William Collins, Charles Bingley, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Fitzwilliam Darcy and the gang of militia officers that Lydia and Kitty run after. All these men offer the girls in the novel different things. Some offer love, some security, and the very best ones offer both. These 5 different men, I think, show a lot about relationships.

Rupert Friend as George Wickham, Pride & Prejudice (2005)Lt. George Wickham (son of Mr. Darcy’s stewart) is the dashing young man who flatters Elizabeth’s vanity by choosing to pay her attention. Elizabeth is not only flattered by him but she is also manipulated into believing his back story of his life and his history with Darcy. Wickham is dashing, smart and clever yet he has no fortune and does not have a steady work history (though he blames others for this). Wickham is probably the best looking bachelor and uses this to his advantage in the women that he tries to win. He is definitely a player as well in the novel, we see him or hear about him with many women including Georgiana, Elizabeth, Miss King and Lydia. This is not a very good track record for someone yet he still manages to get girls. Wickham is the dashing young officer that every girl dreams of and every mother loves until they find out his true colors.

David Bamber as Rev. Mr. Colins, Pride and Prejudice (1995)Rev. Mr. William Collins (Rector of Hunsford in Kent) thinks he is a big fish in a little pond. He comes to Longbourn for the purpose of choosing a wife. He is not a romantic though he offers his wife security. When he finds out that Jane is almost off the market he simply moves down the line to Lizzy, thus showing just how unromantic he is. (I have always wondered if Bingley was not in the picture if Jane would have married Collins or if Mrs. Bennet would have at least tried to get them together?). Mr. Collins is a buffoon to say the very least of his character. I think he is more in love with Lady Catherine than he is with Charlotte. In my class of 20 year old college students it was of course brought up that there was a “young olive branch” coming to the Collins family. And as my teacher point out, “there is only one way to get an olive branch!”. Life with Mr. Collins might not be grand but if a woman wanted to get out of her parents house it might he might seem like a good catch.

Simon Woods as Charles Bingley, Pride & Prejudice (2005)Mr. Charles Bingley (age 22, heir to £100,000)  is an interesting bachelor because he is so important yet we hear so little of him except through other people. After all he is introduced in the first page of the novel yet we rarely get a conversation with Bingley and his love Jane. I have always wondered what they were talking about at all those dinner parties and dances. Bingley is the “nice guy” though he is a little too easily lead by others I feel like. Bingley is wonderful guy who is rich and yet willing to love Jane and see past her family flaws and her lack of money. Bingley also stays in love with Jane when he is in London and separated. He is a wonderful bachelor but is perhaps there is still something lacking in Bingley, a strong spirit or a passion perhaps. It is hard to pinpoint though because he just seems so nice and caring.

Anthony Calf as Colonel Fitzwilliam, Pride and Prejudice (1995)Colonel Fitzwilliam (younger son of an Earl & cousin of Mr. Darcy) is one of my favorite bachelors. He is charming, an officer (so he is in a red coat) and gentlemanly. He makes good conversation and comes from a good family. Colonel Fitswilliams only down fall is that he is a second son so that he cannot marry merely for love but also for money. I have always thought that he is one of my favorite guys in the novel just because of the openness he has with Elizabeth and how conversational and charming he is. He does not always bring good news to be sure, but he can openly talk with her which I think is important. Though he has good family connections and visits Rosing it does not seem to taint his understanding of the world or his pride or vanity. He is a complete gentleman, if only he was a first son! Plus he is in a red coat, and those look soo good!

David Rintoul as Fitzwilliam Darcy, Pride and Prejudice (1980)Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy (age 28, of Pemberley in Derbyshire with £10,000 a year) is the hero of the novel and what a man he is! He is smart, clever yet perhaps a little shy when it comes to meeting new people. He is proud but comes from a good family and has a good upbringing. He is a loving brother and his servants speak very highly of him. He is also giving and forgiving which is very important especially with Elizabeth. One of my favorite aspects of Darcy is that he changes in the end and sees how he was wrong before. At the beginning of the novel he is proud and arrogant but by the end he is more understanding and has changed for the better. Mr. Darcy is also able to keep up with Elizabeth in their banter back and forth with not only shows his wit but also his spirit though it seems a little suppressed she draws it out of him. Mr. Darcy as the hero of the novel is an amazing bachelor and we kind of wonder why he has not married before now (it is of course because he has not met Elizabeth yet!)

David Bark-Jones as Lt. Denny, Pride and Prejudice (1995)Colonel Forster & Co (the _shire Militia) The officers of the militia are Kitty and Lydia’s dream bachelors and we can see why. They are young, fun and wear dashing red coats. Yet they lack the maturity is similar to the girls that are chasing them. If I had to equate them to guys today I would say that they were frat boys who were interested in having a good time but who were not interested in settling down.

So gentle readers, who would you vote for? I think I might have to go for Colonel Fitzwilliam myself because I love red coats and yet I would want someone with a little more substance and conversation than just a normal officer. Bingley is too nice for me and though Darcy is wonderful, I would be happy to settle for his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam.

Until Next week,

Virginia Claire

Virginia Claire, our Austen at Large roving reporter is a college student studying English literature and history who just returned from her time studying abroad in Bath England and working as an intern at the Jane Austen Centre. She is the Regional Coordinator of JASNA North Carolina and a lifelong Janeite. She will be sharing her thoughts on all things Austen this semester and remembering her travels in Austenland.

Lydia Bennet’s Story: A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Odiwe – A Review

The true misfortune, which besets any young lady who believes herself destined for fortune and favour, is to find that she has been born into an unsuitable family. Lydia Bennet of Longbourn, Hertfordshire, not only believed that her mama and papa had most likely stolen her from noble parents, but also considered it a small miracle that they could have produced between them her own fair self and four comely girls – Jane, Elizabeth, Mary and Kitty – though to tell the truth, she felt herself most blessed in looks. Chapter 1

It was no surprise to me when I discovered that Elizabeth Bennet’s impetuous little sister Lydia had been honored with her own book, Lydia Bennet’s Story, only that it had taken so long for it to arrive on the Janeite bookshelf in the first place. Of all of Jane Austen’s characters in Pride and Prejudice, Lydia Bennet was one of the most intriguing creatures to recklessly flirt and scandalize a family; and for readers who enjoy a good adventure she is well worth her own treatment. In a bus accident sort of way, I have always longed to know more about her, and now we have been given our chance in this new edition available October 1st from Sourcebooks.

The novel can be categorized as a retelling and a sequel since the story begins about one third of the way into Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as Lydia’s older sisters Elizabeth and Jane are away from the family home of Longbourn respectively visiting the Collins’ at Hunsford and the Gardiner’s in London. The second half of the novel picks up after the conclusion of Pride and Prejudice when Lydia and her new husband George Wickham have moved to Newcastle. Interestingly, author Odiwe has chosen to tell the story by excerpts from Lydia’s journal supplemented by a third person narrative which Austen also employed allowing us the benefit of Lydia’s unbridled inner thoughts and a narrative of other characters dialogue and action to support it. A nice touch since both Austen’s and Odiwe’s Lydia are a bit over the top in reaction and interpretation of events, and the narrative gives readers some grounding for her breathless emotions.

And, reactions and emotions are what Lydia Bennet is all about and why I believe many may be intrigued by her. Just based on the fact that she is the youngest of five daughters raised by an indolent father and imprudent mother, one could be inspired to write psychological thesis on all the mitigating factors in her environment that contributed to her personality! However, what Jane Austen introduced Jane Odiwe has cleverly expanded upon picking up the plot and style without missing a beat. Not only are we reminded that thoughtless, wild and outspoken Lydia is “the most determined flirt that ever made herself and her family ridiculous,” we begin to understand (but not always agree) with her reasoning’s and are swept up in the story like a new bonnet bought on impulse. Oh, to be but sixteen again without a care in the world except the latest fashions, local gossip, and which officer to dance with at the next Assembly are a delightful foundation for this excursion into Austenland that is both an amusement and a gentle morality story.

Even though author Odiwe succeeded in delivering a lively rendering of an impertinent young Miss bent on fashion, flirting and marriage, she missed her opportunity of a more expressive title which should have read something like ‘Lydia Bennet’s Romantic and Sometimes Naughty Adventures’! Not only is Miss Lydia a professional flirt approaching Beck Sharpe of Vanity Fair’s territory, she gets to travel to Brighton, London, Newcastle and Bath and have a few escapades along the way. Her determination to follow her latest flirtation George Wickham to Brighton and then infamously elope with him is renowned. Her unchecked impulses continue as the novel progresses through their patched up marriage and her new life in Newcastle where her husband has sadly grown tired of her and moved on to the next romantic tryst. Months pass, and after visits with her sisters Elizabeth at Pemberley and Jane at Netherfield, the reality of her husbands faults and her rash decision to marry him became soberly apparent.

Wednesday, October 27th

I feel so wretched I think I might die. All my hopes of making George love me have been completely dashed. In my heart I known this is not the only time I have been deceived; the rumours I have heard are more than gossip. Misery engulfs me…I had imagined that life would be so perfect with George, but I now know that my marriage is a tarnished as the copper pans in my kitchen.

No, there is only one way to deal with this problem. There is nothing I can do but forgive him. I am far too proud to have anyone catch a sniff of scandal and am determined to carry in as though nothing has happened. After all, surely most me are tempted at one time or another. The risk of sending him running off into his lover’s arms is great, and I do not want that above anything else. My heart might be broken, but it is not irreparable.

And later, her hopes are entirely dissolved.

Monday, May 2

…There are few to whom I would admit these thoughts, and on days like this, when I am consumed with sadness for what might have been, I find it hard to be at peace. For my own sake, I keep up the pretence that I am giddy and lighthearted as ever; I would not give the world the satisfaction of knowing anything else-in my heart, I am still the young girl who believes that perhaps my husband will realize that he has been in love with me all along and cannot do without me. But, I suspect, my longings are in vain.

How it all turns out for the young lady from Longbourn in Hertfordshire, I will not say. However, I will only allude that the concluding adventure of the most determined flirt to ever make her family ridiculous, might make Jane Austen smile. Lydia Bennet’s Story Adventure is rollicking good fun with a surpise twist. Now that my hope of a novel about her has come to fruition, it can only be surpassed by Lydia Bennet the movie. Imagine what folly and fun would ensue. La!

Rating: 4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Lydia Bennet’s Story, by Jane Odiwe
Sourcebooks, Landmark
Trade paperback, 352 pages
ISBN: 978-1402214752

Giveaway

Leave a comment by October 31st. to qualify in a drawing for a new copy of Lydia Bennet’s Story, by Jane Odiwe. The winner will be announced on November 1st.

Further Reading

  • Review of Lydia Bennet’s Story at Publishers Weekly
  • Review of Lydia Bennet’s Story by Random Jottings of a Book and Opera Lover
  • Review of Lydia Bennet’s Story by Janeite Kelly at Jane Austen in Vermont blog
  • Review of Lydia Bennet’s Story by Ms. Place (Vic) at Jane Austen Today
  • Article by author Jane Odiwe about Lydia Bennet’s Journal at Jane Austen Center online Magazine
  • Interview of Jane Odiwe by Ms. Place (Vic) at Jane Austen’s World
  • Visit author Jane Odiwe’s blog – Jane Austen Sequels by Jane Odiwe
  • Visit Lydia Bennet’s Journal online

Pride and Prejudice: “What sort of a girl is Miss Darcy?”

During the course of my merry internet travels, I happened upon this beautiful portrait of a young Regency woman and immediately thought of Miss Georgiana, the younger sister of Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. The peaceful countenance and the shy repose is so gentle and demure, recalling the young Miss Darcy as she is eventually revealed in the novel. The portrait is of Kitty Packe, (nee Hort) painted by Sir William Beechey (1753-1839) circa 1818-1821. She married Charles William Packe of Prestwold Hall, Leicestershire in 1823. The painting now resides at the Oklahoma City Art Museum, though according to their website is unfortunately not on view. It is disturbing to think of Miss Georgian tucked away in some storeroom, not worthy of being on view to the public! This painting deserves a prominent position in a grand room in an English manor house. It saddens me to think that England’s national treasures are sold away from their heritage, and then not displayed. Well, now on to happier thoughts. 

And what sort of girl is Miss Darcy really like? The character of Georgiana Darcy is a bit of a mystery to the heroine of Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth Bennet, and the reader. From the very first volume of the novel Elizabeth hears reports of Miss Georgiana from various sources, favorable and otherwise depending who is telling the tale. When Elizabeth is staying at the Bingley’s residence of Netherfield Park during her sister Jane’s illness, we first learn in chapter eight of Miss Georgiana as she is mentioned in conversation with Mr. Darcy by Caroline Bingley and we given our first hints at her physical description. 

“Is Miss Darcy much grown since the spring?” said Miss Bingley; “will she be as tall as I am?”  

“I think she will. She is now about Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s height, or rather taller.”  

“How I long to see her again! I never met with anybody who delighted me so much. Such a countenance, such manners! and so extremely accomplished for her age! Her performance on the pianoforte is exquisite.” 

This favorable description, mind you, is from a source that Elizabeth finds influenced by a desire to please Mr. Darcy rather than praise its subject. Later we hear a completely different story when Mr. Wickham describes Georgiana to Elizabeth in chapter 16. 

“What sort of a girl is Miss Darcy?” He shook his head. “I wish I could call her amiable. It gives me pain to speak ill of a Darcy. But she is too much like her brother — very, very proud. As a child, she was affectionate and pleasing, and extremely fond of me; and I have devoted hours and hours to her amusement. But she is nothing to me now. She is a handsome girl, about fifteen or sixteen, and I understand, highly accomplished. Since her father’s death, her home has been London, where a lady lives with her, and superintends her education.” 

Disparity of opinion is a theme that runs throughout the novel. Elizabeth is given two accounts of one event or person from two different sources. Which one will she believe? Is Miss Darcy as extremely accomplished as Miss Bingley touts her to be, or is she the very, very proud and forgetful childhood friend that Wickham wishes Elizabeth to find fault with, — as he does? 

So Miss Darcy remains in Elizabeth’s mind as proud and arrogant as her brother until a surprising dialogue with the Pemberley housekeeper Mrs. Reynolds in chapter 43, who shows Elizabeth a very different side to Mr. Darcy and his sister.  

“And is Miss Darcy as handsome as her brother?” said Mr. Gardiner.  

“Oh! yes — the handsomest young lady that ever was seen; and so accomplished! She plays and sings all day long. In the next room is a new instrument just come down for her — a present from my master; she comes here to-morrow with him.”  

Another opinion is presented that Georgiana is accomplished. Well, Elizabeth has heard this all before, holding her doubts in suspense for a bit longer until she has the pleasure of being introduced to Georgiana by her brother at the Inn at Lambton in chapter 44. She can now judge for herself and know the value of the two diverse opinions that she has been presented. 

Miss Darcy was tall, and on a larger scale than Elizabeth; and, though little more than sixteen, her figure was formed, and her appearance womanly and graceful. She was less handsome than her brother; but there was sense and good-humour in her face, and her manners were perfectly unassuming and gentle. Elizabeth, who had expected to find in her as acute and unembarrassed an observer as ever Mr. Darcy had been, was much relieved by discerning such different feelings. The Narrator, Chapter 44 

As Austen turns the table of belief and disbelief for our heroine one more time, part of the mystery surrounding the true nature of Miss Georgiana is dispelled. Elizabeth who has been making judgments on people throughout the novel based on others accounts and opinions is now faced with the truth in her own eyes, and believes it. Georgina is not an acute and unembarrassed observer (proud and arrogant) as she supposed. Much to her (and our) astonishment, it is quite the contrary.

Further reading