Young Master Darcy: A Lesson in Honour, by Pamela Aidan – A Review

Young Master Darcy: A Lesson in Honor, by Pamela Aidan (2010)Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder of Reflections of a Book Addict

Have you ever finished reading Pride and Prejudice and wondered how Darcy became so filled with pride and conceit?  Now, you might find your answer. Pamela Aidan, author of the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy is back with Young Master Darcy, a novella focusing on Fitzwilliam Darcy’s youth.

Young Master Darcy introduces us to a thirteen year old Darcy returning to Pemberley for the holidays after his first semester at Eton.  Upon his return, his father calls him into his study to share with him the bad news that his mother’s health is failing and that in all probability she will not recover.  Mr. Darcy tells Fitzwilliam that he expects him to take the news as a gentleman of his stature should, and not let it affect his duties as “Master Darcy.”

Now, I must trust you with some distressing news-a blow, really-but you are a young man now, Fitzwilliam, and know what is expected of a gentleman in regard to misfortune.”

Darcy, distraught with grief, decides to take a morning ride out into the village of Lambton.  It is there that he meets a group of children his age practicing for a play they will be putting on in the town square the night before Christmas.  Darcy, anxious to escape the high expectations of his privileged life, decides to join them while lying about his true identity.  He finds great comfort in his new role as a commoner.  He begins leading a double life as common village boy by day and privileged gentleman by night.  With his cousin Richard (later known as Colonel Fitzwilliam) and family coming for the holidays he knows it’s not long until this double life is revealed.  Will he be able to perform in the Christmas play with no one knowing, or he will his parents discover where he’s been spending all of his time and punish him?

Aidan has possibly created a new Jane Austen fan fiction trend in starting to delve into who these characters where in their youth.  Just the idea of reading about Darcy, before his pride and arrogance took hold, was appealing to me. However, despite my original excitement, the novella did fall a little short.

The most confusing part was the weaving of Darcy’s two lives.  On one side you have Darcy just wanting to act like a typical thirteen year old boy.  He wants playmates and friends that are his age and accept him not for his money, but for his personality.  On the other side you have “Master Darcy” living a lavish life with much expected of him.  It was this side that was a bit hard to believe.  It’s difficult to imagine that a boy who has been living such a privileged life for thirteen years does not know how to request a bath to be drawn, or the proper way to announce his plans for the day, as well as acting shy in front of the servants.  I found all of these things to require a bit too much of a stretch of my imagination.

We know from Pride and Prejudice that Darcy learns the ways of being a gentleman from his parents.  In this novella however, it’s the staff that are teaching him.  They coach him on the proper way to request things, and at one point tell him that he should send his compliments to his mother.  The character of “gentleman” Darcy was just too bizarre for me to accept.

On a more positive note, the storyline of the book is its best attribute.  There is a quote in Pride and Prejudice that seems to be where certain aspects of the storyline are drawn from:

I was spoilt by my parents, who, though good themselves (my father, particularly, all that was benevolent and amiable), allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing; to care for none beyond my own family circle; to think meanly of all the rest of the world; to wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own.

Darcy has multiple conversations with his mother where she stresses to him the importance of marrying someone of their own social class, as well as what will be expected of him and Georgiana as they mature.  This was very intriguing as we begin to see how Darcy became the man we are later introduced to in Pride and Prejudice.  Intriguingly, the ending of the novella seems to be the catalyst that cements Darcy’s ultimate future personality.

Pamela Aidan continues to excel at period details, characterization and language. Young Master Darcy is an interesting experiment in the exploration of our favorite Austen characters childhood. At 122 pages, it is short and sweet and I do encourage you to read it. It will be interesting to watch the world of Austen fan fiction to see if she has created a new trend in prequels.

3 out of 5 Regency Stars

Young Master Darcy: A Lesson in Honour, by Pamela Aidan
Wytherngate Press (2010)
Trade paperback (122) pages
ISBN: 978-0983103103

© 2007 – 2011 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose