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Mr Darcy, dreaming – fiction

Mr Darcy

Mr Darcy, dreaming.   By Rani Jhala

Rani Jhala

Last year I turned thirty. I was unmarried and worse had no prospect of marriage looming in the near future. I was not picky nor did I ever think that I was better than any of the men I had met. I just wanted a special man, my own Mr. Right.
From the moment I had read, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I knew what that Mr. Right would be like. Also with that moment, I had set myself up for a decade of disappointments. The boys I met at school, did not have ‘that quiet elegance’, the teenagers I met at University, treated me as an ‘equal and not as an object to worship. And the men that I came across in my working career, simply never turned up say “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
And so I led the life of a single woman, happy with my romance books, busy with my job and enjoying my time with my family and friends. That was until, one by one, they each got married and made it their prime occupation to find me a husband.
They each, knew of a man who was just right for me. And everyone made the same comparison, “He is just like your Mr Darcy” They were never anything like ‘my’ Mr Darcy.
For over five years I gave in to their pleas and met the men they introduced me to, but ultimately, I had enough. Enough of the eagerness in their voices, of the anticipation in their looks and of the sheer disappointment in their words, as they said “Oh well, back to the drawing board.”
The only person, who never got flustered, was my brother. And it was he that came up with the brilliant plan to dupe the matchmakers in my life. He booked me onto a tour aptly called ‘Twenty days in Jane Austen’s footsteps’. And on my return I was to create this fictitious long-distance relationship that was to stretch over the next five years and give me the much needed breathing space.
My trip to England was amazing. I got to see the little table Jane Austen sat at as she created her wonderful stories. I touched the doorway she had once walked through and I looked at the sky from exactly the place she would have stood at. I read the letters she had written and I looked at the volumes of her books that now graced the bookshelf.
And for the first time I saw the reality behind each of those wonderfully woven stories. The power of a woman to be able to create a perfect man in her imagination, and of her inability to find such a man in her own life! Yes she knew love, but marriage and motherhood remained at bay.
During the last days of the trip, I pondered on my own life. Would I have been happy with any of the men I had been introduced to in the past? Was I foolish to believe that somewhere, there was someone just for me or was I stupidly embracing a life of loneliness and pain?
I got my answer when we attended a series of plays in London. As I sat and watched an actor perform the role of Mr Darcy, another of Captain Wentworth and a third of Mr Knightley, the truth finally hit me. Jane Austen’s men were embodiments of decency and chivalry. They were honest, caring and just. They were protective and strong, yet each came with the usual human failings of jealousy, anger, pride and arrogance. But what set them truly apart was that they loved their heroines beyond anything and everything.
I realised then that I did not want Mr Darcy or Captain Wentworth. I wanted someone to come into my life and make me the reason for his existence. And I was determined not to settle for less. And until that man waltzed into my life, my brother’s little game sounded ideal.
At the end of the tour, I stayed with his girlfriend’s family in London. Her younger sister was to be my partner in crime. We became good friends almost form the time we were introduced but it was the quite man in the background that gave me a sense of the Deja vu.
The original plan did not involve the existence of a real love interest. I was to write the letters and she was to email them back to me but somewhere along the translation of this plan, things changed. She suggested that we use her cousin as the model for the photographs and to make things realistic, he would send the letter. It was also agreed that he would call me once a week, because that was what fiancés do.
And so we spent the next week making our fantasy real. We toured the city and took photographs. We researched the best love letters and copied lines from there and we spoke honestly about our personal dilemmas. I learnt from him that men too face the same social pressures.
Did we fall madly in love? Absolutely not but he and I did became very good friends. As I bid him goodbye I even felt that maybe I was leaving behind someone who given the chance could have meant more.
Back at home, I established my fictitious romance. I told everyone of this wonderful man that I had met and showed everyone the photographs. To make it even more authentic, I wore a diamond ring on my engagement finger. All asked the one question, “When is the wedding?” I gave them the same reply “We will decide the date after his visit at the end of this year.”
I had bought myself a year of peace or so I had thought. In the months that followed, a new game began. He would ring and I would take the call outside pretending to need privacy. I would carelessly leave his email open ensuring that everyone was aware of it. I constantly dropped photos from my handbag. I even brought bridal magazines and went through this whole charade of trying to pick the perfect wedding outfit. It actually was quite a lot of fun and I looked forward to his emails noting that as time went our carefully drafted letters were being replaced with his personally written ones. I could not complain, because his letters were far better than the ones we had drafted together.
Mr DarcyEverything was running to perfection, until one day, I stopped receiving his phone calls. His emails ceased as well and mine did not get a reply.
It took me a month of silence before I realised that I was missing more than a friend. I asked my brother if he had any idea of what had happened. His only reply was “Don’t worry sis, we will find someone else to write the letters.”
“Well you better, Valentine’s Day is next week. I need my ‘fiancé’ to send me roses otherwise no one will believe he exists anymore” I replied in anger but in my heart I knew what was really wrong.
The day before Valentine’s Day, and with no replacement found, I went and ordered a dozen long stem red roses and a huge box of chocolates and addressed it to myself.
When the doorbell rang on the morning of the 14th of February, I knew my order had arrived. Calmly I opened the door but instead of my twelve long stems, the man held a massive bouquet of a hundred beautiful blooms and instead of the local florist, there stood my fiancé.
And how could I say no to what he asked next, when he began with the words “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire …………”

First published in Indian Link. See the original HERE

 

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There’s Something About Darcy Review

A Review of There’s Something About Darcy: by Gabrielle Malcolm

by Jane Austen Book Club reviewer, Lucie Rivet

Click here to buy There’s Something About Darcy from our online gift shop.

There's Something about DarcyHow excited I was when I opened this package, coming all the way from Bath into my Governors Bay mailbox, down-under. I had applied to review this book, and was so grateful to have been picked even though I live in New-Zealand.

Second source of joy: the cover. This bright pink is vibrant and the raised lettering and silhouette make holding the book a lovely and surprisingly tactile experience.

I read the first pages while on an inflatable device my very own Darcy bought for me so I can read in the lake swimming pool. (Believe it or not but my Darcy actually fell in the lake pool with a white shirt when he set it up for me so I can start my reading. I saw it as a sign.)

So, I started reading, and didn’t stop, for three hours in a row. It was like diving back into the worlds of my favourite writers of when I was a teenager: Jane Austen of course, but also Charlotte Brontë and Dame Daphne du Maurier.

I really appreciated reading what Doctor Gabrielle Malcolm had to say, she who had not only seemingly read these authors with great pleasure too, but also has a very impressive academic knowledge that she is sharing as she would with a friend – from one fan to another.

Never pompous, always so well documented and accurate (as far as I can tell), the author loves what you love, but you are also learning so much from her! And she does it in a fun and engaging way, always.

I was so interested for instance to learn how the Brontë sisters responded to Jane’s work, or just about Jane’s childhood, and where the influences to build Darcy’s character can be found. Finding out secret links between people and characters that you love is quite exhilarating!

Keeping on reading, I then discovered many books and authors I had never heard of. I’m French, and Pimpernel, for instance, is not a well known hero in France, as you can imagine.

I really appreciated the study of Darcy’s dressing habits, and all I’ve learnt about English fashion, customs, literature and history.

The chapter on the film adaptations is very pleasurable to read, and full of details and insight that made me want to watch them again, which we did, with even greater pleasure.

I was absolutely astonished about all the fan fiction Dr. Gabrielle Malcolm is mentioning. I confess I had no idea that there were prequels, sequels and adaptations that had been created by fans all around the world of pretty much all the Jane Austen novels. The author also shares with us the response of the community of “Janeites” to these attempts.

The one thing that I found a bit surprising, it is that the author gives away a lot of plot twists and endings and many pages are dedicated to summarising stories of books. And I’m not sure why because: either the reader has already read this book, and doesn’t need a summary, or he hasn’t read it yet, and then he wouldn’t want the twists to be spoiled.

So I confess I skipped bits and pieces here and there when I didn’t want to know the end of a story that I might enjoy reading some time. It is not a big problem though as the book is well structured and it is easy to know where to resume reading.

Overall I definitely recommend the reading of this book to anyone who loves Jane Austen’s world. Doctor Gabrielle Malcolm manages to reconcile being knowledgeable, reliable, engaging and fun. And that makes for a very special and enjoyable read.

****

Click here to buy There’s Something About Darcy from our online gift shop.

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Mr Bennet In Bath – Charles Nevin

Mr Bennet

MR BENNET IN BATH

Ladies and gentlemen, admirers of Jane and lovers of literature, I give you the true hero of Pride and Prejudice – and of possibly the entire Austen canon – Mr Bennet!

For who else can compare with the Sage Seer of Longbourn, that Witty King of Herts, that most rueful of husbands, fathers and philosophers?

Sometimes in BathNo character from the pen of Miss Austen is a mere cypher or convenient foil. Even the haughty stuff shirts and dissembling charmers have beguiling depths. But for rueful complexities, admirable strengths and regretful weaknesses, Mr Bennet is surely as alone as he likes to be in his library.

I have long been his admirer, mostly for the delicious wit, but it wasn’t until I decided to star him in a short story that I fully appreciated as rounded a character as you will encounter in fiction, portrayed by Jane with an affection that triumphantly survives her beady acknowledgement of his failings.

When the great crisis of Lydia and Wickham erupts it is the Austen wizardry to make his feebleness not only a surprise, but also to make us feel sorry for him. And how much more predictable it would have been to transform him into the hero of the hour! Not for the first time you wonder how close the Reverend George Austen is to Mr Bennet. And how being a father of a certain type yourself fosters your affection.

Whatever, I decided that he could certainly do with a bit more fun, and that there was no finer place to give it to him than Bath, where he has arrived – reluctantly, obviously – for a stay with his wife and daughters.

But first there is my account of his first visit, as a young man, which had at least one highly significant consequence. Among the characters he encounters are Dr Johnson, James Boswell and that notorious Bath highwayman, Sixteen String Jack Rann.

Mr Bennet
Charles Nevin

From there we move to his present day, and an escape from the back window of the house – unsurprisingly in Gay Street – and back down to the famous Pelican inn, which stood where now the Hilton Hotel stands in all its not universally praised modernity.

Obviously I cannot give too much away, but he does have a narrow escape from a fate even worse than having to make small talk with Fitzwilliam Darcy, take tea a deux with Lady Catherine de Bourg, or witness Mr Collins meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury.

I must also confess to another impudence: I have given Mr Bennet a first name! Gordon and Alan had their merits, but in the end I settled on Anthony, for the euphony.

So, apologies all round to all; but I also like to imagine the perceptible uplift of Mrs Bennet’s husband’s eyebrows at these liberties. And Miss Austen’s, together with, I hope, the trace of a smile.

Charles Nevin is an award-winning journalist, national newspaper columnist, author and humorist.

*Get a signed copy of Charles Nevin’s book here.*

 

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Ten things you might not know about Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility

As the anniversary of the publication of Jane’s debut novel approaches on October 30th, we bring you ten facts that you might not know about Sense and Sensibility!

 

1) Jane’s first full length novel was originally known as Elinor and Marianne and told its story through a series of correspondances. Cassandra recalls Jane reading this novel to her family some 15 years prior to the publishing of Sense and Sensibility, although it’s unclear how much the novel changed in the intervening period.

 

2) Jane is said to have strongly believed that one should only marry where there is genuine affection. It is suggested that Jane is writing autobiographically when Elinor Dashwood ruminates on “the worst and most irremediable of all evils, a connection for life” with an unsuitable man.

 

3) Sense and Sensibility was published by Thomas Egerton on a commission basis. That is to say that the financial risk would have laid with Jane if the book had been unsuccessful .

 

4) To maximise his commission profit on the book, Egerton printed it onto expensive paper and sold the three volume tome for 15 shillings.

 

5) The first edition of Sense and Sensibility is estimated to have comprised of between 700 and 1000 copies.

 

6) Austen made the princely sum of £140 from sales of the first edition of Sense and Sensibility.

 

7) Very few people knew the author’s identity. Copies of Sense and Sensibility listed its author as A Lady and her subsequent books were attributed to The Author of Sense and Sensibility. It wasn’t until after her death that Jane’s name appeared on any of her books.

 

8) Dame Emma Thompson took five years to develop the screenplay for 1995’s big screen adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. Her work paid off though, as it earned her an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, along with a nomination for Best Actress. Emma remains the only person to win an Oscar for both screenwriting and acting.

 

9) The first French translation of Sense and Sensibility was written by Madame Isabelle de Montoliue, who had only a basic grasp of the English language. As such, this translation followed Jane’s original story only very loosely with key lines and even whole scenes changed.

 

10) The Prince Regent was one of the first purchasers of Sense and Sensibility, having bought a copy two days before it was first advertised. Jane despised the Prince, but agreed to dedicate her fourth novel, Emma, to him.

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Pride and Prejudice Adaptations: A Deep Dive Into a Controversial Topic

In this guest article by a lifelong Austen fan and recent visitor to the Jane Austen Centre, Maya Mehrara shares her opinions on the numerous TV and film adaptations of Pride and Prejudice.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that all true Austen-heads are obsessed with the most beautifully written love story of all time – Jane Austen’s one and only ​Pride and Prejudice. Don’t get me wrong – ​ her other novels are all lovely in their own right. However, for me, ​Pride and Prejudice ​has a special place in my heart. I remember the first time I read it like it was yesterday. I was ten years old, and the day that I first leapt into Lizzie Bennet’s fantastical story, my life changed forever. This sounds dramatic, but it’s true. I can honestly say that we were soul sisters from the start, and since that snowy December day in 2009, Lizzie Bennet and I have been best friends (even if it is only in my imagination). I like to believe that we are both witty, adventurous, and headstrong (to a fault). We fight hard, but we love harder. Every time I re-read her story; I feel like I am visiting an old friend that I have known forever. I will be eternally grateful to my nanny who first brought Lizzie Bennet into my world so many years ago. I will never tire of reading ​Pride and Prejudice, for it has brought me pure joy even in my darkest days.

Whenever I chat about Austen’s works with fellow Austen lovers, it becomes apparent to me that there seems to be absolutely no one who dislikes ​Pride and Prejudice. More specifically, there is no one who loves Austen who dislikes the book version of ​Pride and Prejudice. However, the real debate begins when I talk to fellow bookworms about the numerous film and TV adaptations of ​Pride and Prejudice. Most Austen-heads (including myself) have very strong opinions regarding the subject. From what I have gathered, most people either seem to love the BBC 1995 television version of ​Pride and Prejudice​ (in which Colin Firth famously portrays our iconic Mr. Darcy), or they love the 2005 Keira Knightley film version of our favourite novel.

I would like to finally settle this highly controversial debate on which version is better. I’m just going to say it – I truly believe that the 2005 film of ​Pride and Prejudice ​ is the best adapted version of the classic novel ever made. I feel that Keira Knightley is the only actress who has ever truly captured the essence of our beloved Lizzie Bennet on screen. To be completely honest, I never really loved the BBC version, and don’t even get me started on the absolute disaster that is the 1940 Laurence Olivier version of ​Pride and Prejudice… I promise that I am not all opinion and no substance on this subject. Therefore, I will explain the reasons why I feel that the 2005 version of ​Pride and Prejudice​ takes the crown.

Reason #1
Keira Knightley portrays all of Lizzie’s characteristics effortlessly – she is witty, kind, playful, and yet serious when she needs to be. She emphasizes the deep love Lizzie has for her family and her unique relationship with Charlotte. Keira Knightley depicts how Lizzie is quite stubborn and often misjudges people without realizing it (like someone else we know), but she also emphasizes how Lizzie can recognize her faults. Overall, Keira Knightley’s interpretation of Lizzie is how I have always pictured her, need I say more?

Reason #2
In the BBC version of ​Pride and Prejudice, the portrayal of a character that bothered me the most was (you guessed it) Jennifer Ehle’s version of Lizzie Bennet. First of all, I feel that Ehle’s portrayal of Lizzie was way too serious and stoic! I didn’t see any of Lizzie’s wit and playfulness being depicted at all! Unlike Keira Knightley, her performance lacks character depth and variety. I found her portrayal of Lizzie made her seem somewhat arrogant and empty.

Reason #3
Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy— I truly believe that was one of the best casting decisions ever made. I feel that he played Mr. Darcy to a T! When I see other actors play Mr. Darcy, I often see them fall into the trap of playing him as a heartless, arrogant jerk who hates people and does not display his true feelings for Lizzie until the last five minutes of the movie. However, because Matthew Macfadyen is an extraordinary actor, he did the exact opposite of this. He managed to portray Mr. Darcy as a man who seems arrogant and distant but is actually quite loving and somewhat shy (when it comes to talking about what’s in his heart). I believe that Matthew Macfadyen accurately portrays all sides of Mr. Darcy in his performance, and I think that no other actor could have played Mr. Darcy better.

Reason #4
I know that many people will be offended by this, but I’m just going to say it. Colin Firth just looked constipated as Mr. Darcy for six episodes straight. I know many Austen-heads love him and have cardboard cut-outs of him, but can you really say I’m completely wrong in my observation?

Reason #5
The cinematography alone is unmatched, incredible, and awe-inspiring. The score for the film does not get nearly enough credit; Jean-Yves Thibaudet’s music is simply heavenly, and perfectly aids in telling the story of ​Pride and Prejudice.

Need I go on? For all these reasons listed, the 2005 film version of ​Pride and Prejudice​ is my favourite adaptation of Jane Austen’s renowned novel. However, as much as I love this movie, I am a true bookworm at heart. I can say with complete confidence that there is nothing I love more than curling up underneath a huge weeping willow tree on a sunny day and leaping into the world of early 19th century England. Experiencing Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy’s love story over and over again is truly magical.

 

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Only a Novel – A review from our Jane Austen Book Club

Only A Novel a review - Jane Austen Book Club Review

A Review of Only A Novel: The Double Life of Jane Austen by Jane Aiken Hodge

by Jane Austen Book Club reviewer, Eliza Shearer

Click here to buy Only a Novel from our online gift shop.

Jane Austen was one of the literary geniuses of her age, a classic author whose work is recognised worldwide and who has become a household name. She was also an unmarried woman with a fierce sense of privacy and an often precarious financial situation. Jane Aiken Hodge’s latest book, Only a Novel: The Double Life of Jane Austen, investigates Austen’s fascinating double life to answer the eternal question: who, exactly, was Jane Austen?

 

All biographies of Jane Austen have to meet the challenge posed by the destruction of much of the author’s correspondence. Aiken Hodge’s is no exception, but she makes excellent use of the documentation available. She deftly weaves what remains of Austen family letters and other historical documents with extracts, events and characters in the author’s surviving novels and minor works. The result is engrossing, even for those already familiar with Jane Austen’s letters and other books about her life.

 

Aiken Hodge paints a rich picture of the turbulent and rapidly changing times of the Regency. She succinctly but effectively provides context on politics, society, religion, leisure, education, social customs, fashion and many other topics, and links them back to Austen’s work. She makes Austen’s idyllic childhood in Steventon Rectory come to life, detailing the Austens’ family dynamics and their silly sense of humour. What Aiken Hodge calls “Austen-nonsense” would prove to be a fertile ground to Austen’s signature balancing act of irony and romance. The book also dissects Austen’s Juvenilia and highlights the first buds of what we find in her more mature works.

 

The book does an excellent job of covering Jane Austen’s creative process and her evolution as a writer, with the ups and downs that come with any creative endeavour. It also looks at how Austen’s work reflects the events the author experienced at the time of writing. It is not always a straightforward exercise, but Aiken Hodge manages it convincingly.

 

It takes until the last third of the book for Aiken Hodge to begin to address the question of who Jane Austen really was. After the publication of Pride and Prejudice, when word of her authorship began to circulate, Austen had to face the dilemma of fame versus anonymity. As much as she was proud of her status as published author of some success, she had an evident desire to lead a quiet existence. Aiken Hodge provides a vivid portrait of the author’s struggle to reconcile both.

 

A particularly enjoyable theme in Aiken Hodge’s book is the source of Jane Austen’s inspiration for her stories. It is a fact that Austen’s beloved sailor brothers influenced her naval characters, such as Captain Wentworth. Those familiar with the writer’s life will also know that her charming and flirtatious cousin Eliza Hauton, married to a French count first and Austen’s brother Henry later, would inspire Mary Crawford, and to a lesser extent, Lady Susan.

 

However, Aiken Hodge goes well beyond the customary facts and excels at providing Easter eggs for Janeites. The connections she draws between fact and fiction are many. A scandalous story about a Mrs Powlett who elopes with a viscount inspires Mansfield Park; an impoverished widow of her acquaintance provides the raw material for Emma’s Miss Bates; a pompous man of the cloth may well be the spark that lit Pride and Prejudice’s Mr Collins. But beyond anecdotal encounters, the book looks at how Jane Austen “took the painful grit of experience and transmuted it into her pearl.” Aiken Hodge masters the art of pinpointing the difficulties, the humiliations, the sadness and the disappointments in the author’s life that her work would inevitably reflect.

 

Aiken Hodge’s book is a delightful read. She has an evident love for her subject and is not afraid to go beyond what is generally known about Austen. She also does not shy away from controversies, such as a suspected spiritual crisis when Austen was in her thirties and the interpretation of the writer’s will as a “text for feminists.” One may agree or disagree with some of her conclusions, but they are impeccably researched, admiringly exposed and beautifully written.

 

At the same time, this is no light read. Aiken Hodge has rightly opted for contemporary spellings for the historical sources and has kept away from footnotes and additional referencing, but the book is dense in facts and names. It would be superb if future editions included an Austen family tree, because it is easy to get lost after the first dozen nephews and nieces, not to mention the second marriages. Having said that, the effort in following the comings and goings of the many members of the Austen clan is amply rewarded. Aiken Hodge has written a remarkable biography that is likely to become a work of reference those who admire Jane Austen’s work and are intrigued by her genius.

****

Click here to buy Only a Novel from our online gift shop.

About the reviewer:
Eliza Shearer has been an admirer of Jane Austen’s work since she picked up a battered copy of Sense & Sensibility in the local library when she was a thirteen. A member of Austen Authors and the Scottish branch of the Jane Austen Society, Eliza enjoys long walks in the countryside near Edinburgh (that sometimes result in muddy petticoats). Eliza’s first novel in her Austeniana series is Miss Darcy’s Beaux, and her second, Miss Price’s Decision, is due to come out in Autumn.
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Jane on Marriage – An Exclusive Extract from “Be More Jane” by Sophie Andrews

Are you more Marianne than Elinor, Lydia rather than Lizzy? Be More Jane will teach you to address life with more sense and less prejudice, taking useful lessons from the novels and letters of Jane Austen. Times may change, but many of our problems remain the same. Sophie Andrews, a young Janeite, knows from personal experience that in times of trouble, or just on matters of friendship, family and love, answers are to be found in the pages of Miss Austen’s novels!

In this brilliant extract from “Be More Jane”, Sophie channels her inner Lydia Bennet while examining marriage in Jane Austen’s time! If you’re like to read more, you can pick up a copy signed by Sophie Andrews by clicking here!


 

Jane on Marriage

“A woman is not to marry a man merely because she is asked.” Emma

Wise words from the financially independent Miss Woodhouse, but unfortunately, this was often the most sensible course of action in Jane Austen’s time. Love in marriage, though desirable, was a luxury. For many women, denied the opportunity to work or to inherit property, marriage was essential to gain financial security or better their social status.

Upper class women might have to accept a proposal from a man they barely knew and had never had a private conversation with, other than perhaps during a dance or two! Arranged marriages and marriages of convenience are still commonplace in some cultures today, but many of us are lucky enough to have the freedom to choose whom we marry, and to expect that love will come first.

When considering Jane Austen’s six main novels, all but one of her heroines face the need to find a husband as soon as they can, in order to secure their own future and sometimes that of their relations too. Poor Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice is mocked for excessive eagerness and lack of subtlety in her matchmaking, but the urgency to marry off her five daughters is more forgivable when you consider her constant fear of losing the family home to their cousin Mr Collins, Mr Bennet’s entailed heir.
Continue reading Jane on Marriage – An Exclusive Extract from “Be More Jane” by Sophie Andrews

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Coming Soon: There’s Something About Darcy

There's Something About Darcy

There’s Something About Darcy

You heard it here first! We’re delighted to announce that this November will see the publication of a new non-fiction book all about Austen’s most famous hero, Mr Darcy, and just why he is so adored.

There's Something About Darcy

The new book by Gabrielle Malcolm will be called There’s Something About Darcy – and indeed there is, something very special. He is enigmatic, difficult, and gallant. He is passionate, ardent, and gentlemanly.

For a character invented by the unmarried daughter of a Hampshire clergyman in the early 19th century, his longevity, popularity, and his global appeal, are staggering. From an unpromising start at the Meryton Assembly he now lives on in the hearts and imaginations of millions.

The foundation of the book ‘There’s Something About Darcy’ was the popularity of the ‘I <3 Darcy’ merchandising at the Jane Austen Centre. When I witnessed the enthusiasm with which tourists and fans snapped up the bags and badges, visible around the city, I knew that here was a topic and a history worth investigating. Follow the story with me, for some surprising twists and turns, and some unexpected companions along the way.

I want us to share in what makes Darcy so exciting and enchanting, and discover how the story of the character can bring us closer to the imagination and creativity of our beloved Jane Austen.

Gabrielle Malcolm

You can join the conversation and share what you love (or hate!) about Darcy on social media with the hashtag #Darcymania ahead of the book’s release. A release which, incidentally, will see the Jane Austen Online Gift Shop able to offer signed copies of Malcolm’s great new read.

If you can’t wait until November to find out more about the book, then we hope that you’ll enjoy reading the extract below from There’s Something About Darcy.

***

INTRODUCTION

In the autumn of 1995, a quiet cultural revolution took place, first in the UK and then around the world. It was quiet because it mostly concerned the emotions generated from private reading habits. It was quiet because it arose from Sunday evening television viewing. And it was quiet because it was almost exclusively driven by the reading and viewing habits of women.

Writer and journalist Helen Fielding was one of the first to pick up on this at the time. Through the lens of her column in The Independent newspaper, ‘The Diary of Bridget Jones’, she scrutinised the week-by-week run of a six-part BBC TV period drama series awaiting the moment the two leading characters would ‘get off’ with each other. Bridget Jones started life as a caricature of a thirty-something single woman steeped in self-absorption, self-criticism and self-scrutiny – from the number of calories consumed to the size of knickers required in any given social situation. She evolved over the weeks, months and subsequent years into a character that came to lead the vanguard in modern reinterpretations of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813).

The trigger for this revolution in popular culture, and the object of Fielding’s scrutiny, was of course the broadcast of the new BBC TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, which unexpectedly sent reverberations around the world that still echo today. It was the product of the dovetailing of a specific group of talents: the genius of Jane Austen, the inventiveness of scriptwriter Andrew Davies and the vision of television director Simon Langton, together with a sterling cast headed by Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth.

One particular scene became etched on the popular consciousness: when Mr Darcy (played by Firth), strides across a field, a wet shirt clinging to his body. Awkward, yet utterly masculine, he strode right into the hearts and dreams of millions.

The result was a television event that has had no serious rivals since, and the birth of an epoch of unprecedented Austen fandom, for the author and her hero. Austen is now unique amongst period novelists in that she occupies a place in contemporary twenty-first century fan culture that very few modern writers can rival. Austen’s creations, particularly Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy, are as much a focus of today’s online fan culture as, for example, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter characters and the Star Wars or Dr Who universes.

The idea for this book came to me when I was waiting at a bus stop in Bath. Next to me stood a young woman carrying an ‘I <3 Darcy’ tote bag. I tracked this item down to the Jane Austen Centre shop, just off Queen’s Square. That was my introduction to the notion that there was a demand for Austen and Darcy related things that went beyond the novels and their adaptations. When I heard that Chatsworth House in Derbyshire had to put away the bust of Matthew Macfadyen as Darcy (from the 2005 film version) because visitors kept kissing it, I decided that this urge ought to be investigated.

The fascination with Darcy has grown into a mania, and this book will examine why that is. Darcy now appears in innumerable guises: in fist-fights on screen, slamming his Ferrari into gear in the pages of a romance novel, running a digital media company in San Francisco, as a vampire, a heart surgeon, a neurosurgeon, and even slaying zombies in films and graphic novels. He is especially favoured in the now classic trope of a man emerging – dripping wet – from a lake or pond, wet shirt clinging to his body. Even actors who have never played Darcy use this as a kind of shorthand for masculine gorgeousness. Benedict Cumberbatch, star of Sherlock for the BBC and Dr Strange in the Marvel Universe, appeared in a charity photoshoot in 2014 as a ‘sexy wet ’n’ wild’ tribute to Firth as Darcy.

Time travel fantasies undertaken to meet Darcy, updated sequels to Pride and Prejudice, modern adaptations and even dragon-taming versions of Darcy (as in Pemberley: Mr Darcy’s Dragon, Longbourn: Dragon Entail, Netherfield: Rogue Dragon, a three-book series by Maria Grace, White Soup Press, 2016–2018) populate the thriving genre of Jane Austen fan fiction. This is probably one of the most telling and revealing aspects of Austen’s modern-day popularity – the huge, ever-increasing, concentrated output of fan fiction. These are stories – mostly circulated online, but many published in print through independent channels – that are based on Austen’s original narratives and characters. They explore alternative plotlines, are told from an individual character’s perspective or explore ‘what if?’ scenarios that test the much-loved characters in new and dramatic ways. The figure of Darcy dominates these alternative re-tellings of Pride and Prejudice, demonstrating how vivid, personal and meaningful are the relationships between readers and writers of Jane Austen fan fiction, the author and her creation.

The Darcy we know today has a 200-year history behind him. And beyond that history are the influences that might have operated on Austen to create him. He has moved from being the secondary character to Elizabeth, her love interest, to influence later heroic creations. He is now an archetype that defines a whole strand of characters in fiction, drama, media and popular culture. These are identified by a single name – Darcy.

So, what is it that Austen delivers for readers and viewers that turn them into such fans, and superfans, of her novels, her characters and of Darcy in particular? This book will search for some answers to this, and in doing so explore the origins of the character, the depiction of him in the novel and the legacy of his influence.