Keep Calm and Read This: A Most Handsome Gentleman by Suzan Lauder

Keep Calm and Read This: A Most Handsome Gentleman by Suzan Lauder

It’s a holiday week here in the US, and that means it’s time to find a comfortable chair, a favorite beverage, and curl up with a good book or three. If you’re like me and love to read and reread about the Bennets, Darcys, and Bingleys (or at least one of the Bingleys), I have just the recommendation for your reading pleasure: A Most Handsome Gentleman by Suzan Lauder. This is a laugh out loud farcical comedy starring my favorite characters, but with a twist.

Elizabeth Bennet’s life is uncomplicated until she meets a quartet of new men: the haughty but handsome Mr. Darcy, the pert-with-a-pout Mr. Bingley, the confident and captivating Mr. Wickham—and then there is her father’s cousin, the happy man towards whom almost every female eye has turned.

Mr. Collins is HOT—well, incredibly handsome in Regency-speak—beautiful of face, fine of figure, elegant of air, his perfect clothing and hair matching his Greek god-like form. Unfortunately, when he opens his mouth, Elizabeth wishes he were mute. With affected servility and prideful self-conceit, he capitalizes upon his exquisite appearance and fixes on Jane Bennet as his bride.

Can Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy form an alliance to stop Jane’s suitors from issuing challenges—and will Elizabeth coax a smile from Mr. Darcy?

Here’s a sneak peek at a snippet of Chapter One from A Most Handsome Gentleman:

Bestselling Regency romance author Suzan Lauder delivers a hilarious Austenesque romance suitable for all readers of Pride and Prejudice. Grab your copy for a Thanksgiving reading treat!

 

 

A lover of Jane Austen, Regency period research and costuming, cycling, yoga, blogging, and independent travel, cat mom Suzan Lauder is seldom idle.

Her first effort at a comedy, A Most Handsome Gentleman is the fourth time Lauder has been published by Meryton Press. Her earlier works include a mature Regency romance with a mystery twist, Alias Thomas Bennet; a modern short romance Delivery Boy in the holiday anthology Then Comes Winter, and the dramatic tension filled Regency romance Letter from Ramsgate.

She and Mr. Suze split their time between a loft condo overlooking the Salish sea and a 150 year old Spanish colonial home near the sea in Mexico.

Suzan’s lively prose is also available to her readers on her blog, road trips with the redhead.

You can also find Suzan on Facebook, Twitter, and her Amazon Author Page.

 

And remember to always #ReadARegency!

 

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Keep Calm and Read This: Caroline’s Censure by Zoe Burton

Keep Calm and Read This: Caroline’s Censure by Zoe Burton

It’s my pleasure to welcome Zoe Burton to the blog this week. She’s a devout Janeite who brings us a generous sneak peek into book three of her sweet Jane Austen Fan Fiction series, Darcy Marriage. The title alone will make me purchase this book!

One newly married couple plus one troublemaking best friend’s sister equals a challenge to face.

Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy have already dealt with plenty of people who object to their marriage. Now they are faced with one more.

Caroline Bingley, Darcy’s best friend’s sister, has always wanted Darcy for herself. Now that he is married and can no longer be hers, she resents the new Mrs. Darcy and will stop at nothing to cause discord between the newly-wedded couple. When she hires someone to make it appear that Darcy is unfaithful, will Elizabeth believe his claims of innocence, or will she turn away from him and live a life of mistrust and heartbreak?

Caroline’s Censure is the third book in Zoe Burton’s Darcy Marriage Series. If you like catty villains, devoted heroes, and sweet romance, you’ll love this Pride and Prejudice novella variation.

Chapter 1

Elizabeth Darcy’s wide eyes sought out her husband’s as they rose to greet the newest visitor to Netherfield Park. The Darcys were newly-married, and had spent the previous few weeks visiting the estate, which was being leased by Fitzwilliam Darcy’s friend, Charles Bingley. Bingley’s sister, Caroline, had just sauntered in, unexpectedly and with derogatory comments to her brother about the house.

Darcy returned his wife’s look with a roll of his eyes. While Elizabeth had never met Bingley’s sister, Darcy had been avoiding her since almost the moment they became acquainted. Her current unpleasantly dramatic entrance, typical behavior on her part, was the reason. That, and the fact that she quite obviously set her cap at him the first time she met him. He wondered why she was here now, given what he knew about her current circumstances. Darcy reached for Elizabeth’s hand, laying it on his arm and squeezing it. If it were not the height of rudeness, he would seat them both; they ought to be comfortable while they enjoyed what was certain to be a spectacular performance from Caroline Bingley.

“Caroline, what are you doing here? Why are you not in Yorkshire?”

“Can a sister not visit her brother? I read your letter describing Netherfield and knew I must see the place for myself.”

“With no warning? How do you know I have a room for you?” Bingley shook his head. “Seriously, Caroline, if this were your home and someone did that, you would be angry. In any event, we will have to discuss it later. Come, greet the Darcys.” He gestured to the group of chairs and couches clustered in the center of the room.

Caroline’s sharp eyes had not missed that her brother’s guests were his friend and his friend’s sister. The other two were unknown to her, but based on her mode of dress, one was probably Georgiana Darcy’s companion. The other, Caroline could not begin to speculate on, but she could not like the way the ugly little thing stood so close to Darcy. Surely that is not his new wife? Why, there is not a fine feature in her face! I will put a stop to that immediately.

“I see them standing there! Mr. Darcy,” Caroline cooed, approaching him with a gleam in her eye as her hands reached out to clasp his unoccupied arm. “It is so good to see you again.”

Disengaging his arm from Caroline’s clutches, Darcy returned her greeting. He turned toward Elizabeth, intending to introduce her to Bingley’s sister, when Caroline interrupted.

“And Miss Darcy! My, how you have grown since last I saw you! I am delighted you are here! We shall have a merry time together!”

Georgiana Darcy blushed at Caroline’s rudeness, and her fawning. She was not confident enough to say what she liked…that she doubted they would have a good time and she was eager to see Caroline’s face when Elizabeth was introduced…so she simply smiled and nodded. With luck, she will turn her embarrassing attention elsewhere. When it became obvious that Caroline was going to continue speaking instead of asking for introductions to the ladies in the room that she did not know, Georgiana gathered her courage and, blushing, blurted out, “May I introduce you to Mrs. Annesley? She is my companion; she came to me a few months ago.”

Not one to miss the opportunity to ingratiate herself with someone of higher standing, even if it meant acknowledging that person’s servant, Caroline fixed a smile on her face and greeted her newest acquaintance before turning her attention back to Darcy.

“Mr. Darcy,” she began as she settled herself into the nearest sofa. “Come, sit here; tell me how you have been.”

Darcy’s mien, always serious, took on a harsher cast as his anger grew at Caroline’s slight of his wife. He opened his mouth to speak but shut it again when his friend spoke to Caroline.

“I am amazed at your rudeness, Sister. You sit as though there is no one else in the room to whom you need an introduction.” Bingley stepped from his position in the center of the room to stand on the other side of Elizabeth from Darcy. His position was as symbolic as it was practical. He had been out from under his sister’s thumb for months and had found the time apart rather freeing. He had come to realize how often and thoroughly she had run his affairs while they lived in the same house; he did not wish to return to such a situation. He needed her to see that he was his own man, one who knew right from wrong and would act according to his own wishes. “Darcy attempted, when you spoke to him before, to introduce you to Mrs. Darcy. You will stand and allow him to do so.”

Her sour look indicated to all Miss Bingley’s feelings about her brother’s edict, yet rise she did. Silently, she allowed the object of her former—and, if one were honest—current desires to introduce his wife. His wife! Caroline seethed inside, even as she curtseyed and greeted Mrs. Darcy with a weak smile and lukewarm words.

Caroline Bingley was Charles’ youngest sister and the baby of the family. Indulged by her parents, she was unused to being denied what she wanted, and what she wanted, from the first time she laid eyes on him, was Fitzwilliam Darcy. The wealthy and handsome Darcy was everything Caroline ever desired in a husband and was her way to raise her family above their tradesman roots.

Caroline’s father had worked hard to make certain his children had the funds set aside that would allow them to rise above their status and into the world of the landed gentry. It was her mother, however, who impressed upon a young Caroline the importance of moving up in society. Mr. and Mrs. Bingley had passed several years ago, but Caroline could still hear her mother’s voice in her ear, drilling into her the expectations of her parents. Caroline had taken those admonitions to heart and, after Mrs. Bingley passed, vowed to marry as high as possible.

It was not that Caroline had ever loved Darcy. She did not believe in love. Love was for unambitious fools who were satisfied with remaining where they were instead of advancing. She was not a fool. What Caroline had loved was Darcy’s status, and his income. She had found him rather dull as a person; he was always serious and stern and hated the social whirl that she thrived on. She had not been worried about these differences, since she could have worked on him after they were married and changed his feelings about society, thus ensuring she would not have been denied the thing she loved the most.

Caroline had been within reach of her goal, she thought, until this past spring, when she was involved in a public altercation with the daughter of a viscount at one of the premier social events of the season. Now, she was back in the south of England, after spending months in Yorkshire with her sister, brother-in-law, and aunt. She had arrived at her brother’s estate a few minutes ago. She was not impressed. Her brother’s voice as he gestured for her to sit was full of irritation.

“What do you mean by calling Netherfield a hovel? This is a beautiful estate!”

“It sits out in the middle of nowhere, Charles. There is nothing here. Have you seen that crossroads they call a town nearby? I daresay there is nothing fashionable to be found, much less purchased.”

“Well, Sister, it is a ‘country estate.’ Surely you did not expect a large population.” Bingley did his best to rein in his anger at Caroline’s presumption. “Why are you not in Yorkshire with our aunt? And, what about your suitor?”

“My suitor,” Caroline sniffed. “I do not know what Mr. Meade is doing. I could do far better than the likes of him.” Her eyes strayed to Darcy, then to the woman sitting beside him, narrowing to slits as she surveyed the well-dressed nobody. Choking back a sudden flood of tears and knowing she needed time alone to think about things, she suddenly stood. “I should like to refresh myself. I shall see you at dinner. You do serve dinner at the usual hour?”

“I do, but Caroline, I do not want to hear that you have berated my staff if your rooms are not ready for your use. You came here uninvited and unannounced, and made more work for an already very busy household. It is not your place to disrupt things. I should tell you that I have asked Mrs. Darcy to be my hostess and to run my house while she is here. If you remain at Netherfield after the Darcys leave, you are free to take over, but until then, it is my wish for her to continue as she has.”

Caroline kept her face as blank as possible at this news, but inside, she was seething. It was an insult for her brother to choose to allow that woman to remain in control of his house when he had a female relative to take over. Not wishing to cause a scene by speaking her mind in front of everyone, Caroline contented herself with a small smile and a curtsey before walking away.

Chapter 2

Caroline paced her bedroom, back and forth from door to nightstand, over and over again. Never one to suffer fits of nerves, she felt today as though she might come apart at the seams. Her mind was full to overflowing with thoughts and feelings.

Caroline had never been so humiliated as she had been in the spring, when she lost her wits and had a physical altercation with Miss Lavinia Pittman. The contretemps began with some verbal sparring, but deteriorated rapidly, culminating in violence. Caroline shuddered at the thought. The memory was still distressing to her. She maintained, however, that she was not the one who started it, and that she was, and remained, the injured party. The fact was, Caroline had been the first to put her hands to use in the argument. Not that anyone who witnessed it could pinpoint it. The ladies were pulled apart soon enough, and both left the ball. Caroline had removed herself from London soon after, claiming she had become a laughingstock.

She did not know what came over her; the viscount’s daughter had been arrogant, but Caroline knew well how to defend herself from that sort of thing. It was not even that Miss Pittman described Darcy in such glowing and intimate terms. Caroline was used to other ladies speaking of him in such a fashion. What had sent Caroline over the edge of reason was the other woman’s comment that Caroline was too far beneath Darcy to ever receive his notice, or that of any of his friends. To Caroline, those words were akin to waving a red flag before a bull. Before she knew what she was about, she had a handful of Miss Pittman’s hair and a bloody nose. She took herself off to Yorkshire to spend time with her aunt.

My aunt. Caroline sighed. Aunt Augusta had insisted that, since Caroline had made a cake of herself over a gentleman who had not wanted her, it was time she married someone who did. She made the point that if her niece had shamed herself and her family, she would not be able to make a good match in London, anyway. Caroline had finally admitted, reluctantly, that her aunt was probably correct. She definitely did not wish to return to London anytime soon, anyway, and she could not live with relatives forever. So, Aunt Augusta took her around to every local dinner and ball she could wrangle an invitation to, introducing her to all the single gentlemen and wealthy tradesmen she could find. Then, she insisted that Caroline entertain them when they came to call. Though she whined and complained, her aunt would not give way, and Caroline entertained. In the end, the only gentleman she did not drive away was Mr. Meade.

Mr. Albert Meade was an estate owner, and almost as rich as Darcy. He was older than Darcy, but could not be considered an old man by any stretch of the imagination. He was, Caroline had to admit, a perfectly acceptable match. Except, he was not part of the ton. He did not go to London for the season, ever. He was old money, there was no denying. His property had been in the family for centuries, possibly longer than Pemberley had belonged to the Darcys. But, Mr. Meade chose not to participate in London society, the one thing Caroline craved above all others.

Mr. Meade had proposed recently. Feeling that she had no other real options, as she was not welcome to stay with her sister and brother-in-law, the Hursts, and was not invited to rejoin her brother’s household, Caroline accepted.

Two days later, she ran. Leaving the house in the middle of the night, she walked the mile to the nearest post stop, hauling herself up into the coach without assistance and settling in between an elderly woman carrying a chicken and the hard wall of the conveyance. After three days of nonstop travel, she finally found herself at her brother’s leased home in Hertfordshire in a guest room at the farthest corner of the house.

With nothing to do for half a week but sleep and think, Caroline spent much time in contemplation. She had not left a note behind. She had not thought to. Her entire focus had been on leaving.

Caroline could not say for certain why she left her aunt and her betrothed in such a rush. All she knew was that she felt inside as though she needed to go in order to release the tight feeling in her lungs and calm the pounding of her heart. An animal need to get away had clawed in her and only now could she breathe fully again. She spent much of her time holding back tears, willing herself to remain calm and in control. However, seeing who was here and how Charles intended to treat her, she half-wondered why she bothered.

Mrs. Darcy. Caroline could not get those words out of her head; had not since she first saw the piece in the newssheet. The weeks-old paper her aunt received had contained a notice of Darcy’s marriage, but Caroline had insisted it must have been printed in error. Though she had initially denied it to herself, Caroline had known immediately upon entering Netherfield’s drawing room which unknown woman was she—never before had she seen Darcy so solicitous of any female other than his sister. It was clear to anyone who had an eye for fashion that, while her clothing was made of superior fabrics and excellent in quality, it was rather plain. No self-respecting lady of high society would be caught dead wearing a gown that lacking in embellishments. Her poor taste combined with an astonishing lack of beauty both marked her as below Mr. Darcy’s notice, or so Caroline thought, and beneath Caroline herself. She knew Mrs. Darcy to be a Hertfordshire native from the newspaper report of the marriage. Therefore, Caroline had no compunction in thinking of her in a derogatory fashion, referring to her mentally as that country chit.

Though Caroline railed to herself about the marriage and the unfairness of life, she knew there was nothing to be done. Darcy was lost to her. Her deep disappointment and the resulting tears of anger and despair were not going to help her get him back. As her aunt had stated, upon hearing Caroline’s loud denials of the marriage, once married, only death could separate a couple. Her aunt had warned her to forget Darcy and move on.

Caroline could not do that. While she knew that the couple was married forever, Caroline was determined to make them as miserable as she was, and to cause Darcy to regret his choice. She would quietly observe, she decided, and find things to use to that end. When a small voice in Caroline’s head asked her why she would do such a thing to someone she had only just met, Caroline pushed it away. She did not have to have a reason; she wanted what she wanted, and that was that. She had not been denied anything as a child, and had not denied herself as an adult. I do it because I can.

~~~***~~~

Caroline descended the staircase again just before dinner was announced. Exactly as she had planned, she was quiet much of the time and observant always. When she spoke, it was to inquire of Mrs. Darcy as to her origins, education, accomplishments, and connections. Mental notes were made as to the lady’s comportment and habits. Though Elizabeth appeared on the surface to be perfectly acceptable, Caroline found plenty of ammunition to use to demean her. However, she would not start this night. There was no point in making her brother angry right away. She would continue to gather information and begin her attacks in a day or two.

For the rest of the party, a quiet Caroline was a relief. Though she was tolerated because she was Bingley’s sister, and most of his guests humored her in her desire to be the center of attention, the meal was far more enjoyable when she did not speak.

~~~***~~~

The following afternoon afforded Caroline the chance to meet Elizabeth’s father, and two of her sisters. It was immediately apparent that Charles was smitten with the eldest of the Bennets, Jane. It was equally obvious that the family was not as high as they should be for Darcy to have aligned himself with them. Cynically, Caroline wondered just how Elizabeth Darcy got her husband to propose. She attempted to draw the younger of the sisters, Mary, into conversation, in order to worm out of her information about the circumstances of the Bennet family. Unfortunately for Caroline, Miss Mary found her manner to be arrogant and her questions impertinent and intrusive, and soon stopped replying altogether.

Once the Bennets had made their farewells, Caroline, uncaring that she had an audience, began to interrogate her brother about Jane. Charles, though, was not having any of it, and before she knew it, had whisked her out of the drawing room and down the hall to his study.

Allowing his sister to enter first, then locking the door behind him, Charles did not wait for her to sit before he began to speak. “Caroline, I do not know why you have come to Netherfield, but I must warn you now that my business is my own and I am not required to share it with you. You cannot come to someone’s home, uninvited, and expect the running of the place and all its secrets to be handed to you.”

Bingley strode to his desk, picking up a letter that had come in the morning mail. “I received this from Aunt Augusta. She says that you accepted an offer of marriage, and then disappeared in the night without so much as a note telling her where you had gone. Why? Thankfully for you, my aunt was able to concoct a story to explain your disappearance, or your reputation would be ruined. Again I ask, why? Why would you risk so much to come to a place you obviously do not like?”

“If I have no right to know your business, then you have no right to know mine,” Caroline sniffed, raising her nose in the air and looking past her brother’s head.

“There is where you are wrong, Sister dear. I hold your purse strings. I can supplement your funds, and I can restrict them. And, your betrothed must come to me for permission to marry you, and to gain my approval for your marriage settlement. I have every right to know what is happening with you.”

Caroline paled, not appreciating the reminder of who controlled her money. She opened her mouth, then closed it again, pressing her lips together and flattening them into a thin line. She shrugged, turning her head away from her brother.

“What? You have nothing to say?”

Silence.

“I will ask you directly, then. Why are you here and not in Yorkshire with Mr. Meade?”

More silence.

“Sister, if you do not tell me, I will withhold your funds until the day of your marriage. As a matter of fact, I will withhold all moneys, and you will marry without wedding clothes.”

Turning a scorching glare on Charles, Caroline finally gave in, confessing, “I do not know why I am here. I saw the announcement of Mr. Darcy’s marriage in the papers the day Mr. Meade proposed. He had come to visit in the morning, and asked me to marry him; and then in the afternoon, I read the notice. All I could think about was that I had banished myself to the hinterlands and lost my chance at the wealthiest gentleman I know.”

“Darcy would never have married you. I have told you this, many times. Never, under any circumstances. Even had he been disposed to think you a good marriage partner, your altercation with Miss Pittman would have put the notion out of his head.”

Caroline felt a sudden onset of tears, but forcibly kept them at bay. Swallowing hard, she replied, “I know! There is no need to remind me. He is married and as good as dead to me, or at least, to my prospects.”

“I am glad to hear you say this. I need not fear, then, that you intend to try to separate them?”

“Once married, always married; is that not what Aunt Augusta says?”

“She does,” Bingley confirmed. “I am happy you have heard her.” Bingley’s stance softened, and his voice gentled. “I wish for you to be happy, Caroline. I am proud of you for giving Darcy up. Now you need to get back to your life, and that means going back to your aunt’s and preparing for your wedding.”

Caroline nodded. Though she acquiesced to him, she seethed inside. I may not be able to separate Darcy from his legally married wife, but I can make sure they are not happy.

Pick up your copy of Caroline’s Censure right now!

 

 

Books one and two of the Darcy Marriage series are also available by clicking the graphics below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zoe Burton first fell in love with Jane Austen’s books in 2010, after seeing the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice on television. While making her purchases of Miss Austen’s novels, she discovered Jane Austen Fan Fiction; soon after that she found websites full of JAFF. Her life has never been the same. She began writing her own stories when she ran out of new ones to read.

Zoe lives in a 107-year-old house in the snow-belt of Ohio with her two Boxers. She is a former Special Education Teacher, and has a passion for romance in general, Pride and Prejudice in particular, and NASCAR.

Zoe is a PAN member of the Romance Writers of America, the Northeast Ohio chapter of the RWA, and the Beau Monde chapter of the RWA. She also belongs to the Jane Austen Society of North America, and JASNA’s Ohio North Coast chapter.

Join Zoe’s mailing list here and connect socially with Zoe by clicking the graphics below!

 

 

 

 

And remember to always #ReadaRegency!

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Horrid

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Horrid

There’s nothing like a good ghost story. Just ask Isabella Thorpe and Catherine Moreland.

“Dear creature! How much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read the Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.”

“Have you, indeed! How glad I am! What are they all?”

“I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocketbook. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.”

“Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?” ~Northanger Abbey, Chapter 6

Catherine is the one desperately hoping all the novels are horrid – and who can blame her? Things that go bump in the night, mysterious rattles, and ominous clinks and clanks are just the prescription for a good case of gooseskin. And Dearest Jane lists six stories to set the Gothic mood.

Horrid

Meaning “horrible, causing horror” is from c. 1600, from Latin horridus “bristly, prickly, rough, horrid, frightful, rude, savage, unpolished,” and from horrere “to bristle with fear, shudder.”

Of the seven horrid novels Isabella recommends to Catherine, The Castle of Wolfenbach was the most famous and widely read in its time. It has all the classic frightening tropes of the huge drafty and doom-ridden mansion, innocent heroine in danger, a scandalous family secret, and a final showdown between good and evil. Written by Eliza Parsons, it was published in 1793, and the world as this English novelist would know it was in turmoil. The French were beheading their king and queen – and with the start of the Terror that year, pretty much anyone else who opposed Robespierre – as well as starting fights with many other European countries. Those upstart Colonials had left the fold but still tormented their ancestors with growing exploration of the seas and lands of the world under their own independent flag and government. Russia and the Turks kept tangling.

No wonder an author felt inspiration to write of the perils of the innocent versus outright evils, both seen and unseen.

But it all begins with those darn noises.

“Catherine scaring herself with Udolpho,” Illustration of Northanger Abbey, artist unknown, 1833 Bentley Edition of Jane Austen’s Novels.

“What will become of me, unhappy as I am, where can I fly? who will receive a poor unfortunate, without family or friends? The little money I have will be soon exhausted, and what is to be the fate of poor Albert, who has left all to follow me!” Overcome with sorrow, she wept aloud. When, turning her eyes to the window, she saw a light glide by from the opposite wing, which her room fronted, and which Bertha had informed her was particularly haunted. At first she thought it was imagination; she arose and placed her candle in the chimney; curiosity suspended sorrow – she returned and seated herself at the window, and very soon after she saw a faint glimmering light pass a second time; exceedingly surprised, but not terrified, she continued in her situation: she saw nothing further. She at length determined to go to rest, but with an intention to visit every part of the house the following day. She got into bed, but could not sleep. About twelve o’clock she heard plainly a clanking of chains, which was followed by two or three heavy groans; she started up and listened, it was presently repeated, and seemed to die away by gentle degrees; soon after she heard a violent noise, like two or three doors clapping to with great force. Though unaccustomed to fear she could not help trembling.  ~The Castle of Wolfenbach, Volume One

Poor Matilda. Your story’s barely started and already the eeriness descends. Wasn’t it enough that you only ended up here because you have the mother of all creepy uncles (excuse the mixing of my metaphors, if you please):

From this time my uncle’s behaviour was to me unaccountable he was for ever seeking opportunities to caress me, his language was expressive of the utmost fondness, he praised my person in such glowing colours as sometimes filled me with confusion. In short, madam, not to tire you, within three months after his return I began to be extremely uneasy at freedoms I scarce knew how to repulse. One morning after dressing I went into the garden, a thing unusual with me at that hour, and going round a serpentine walk, which led to a summer house, I thought I heard voices there; I stopt at the back of it, which, as well as the front, had a door that opened into the garden, and plainly heard Agatha’s voice, saying, “I tell you, Sir, there is no other way, send Albert off for a few days, or turn him off at once, for he loves Miss Matilda as if she were his own child, and therefore we must get rid of him; but you are so long settling your mind – get into her room at night when she’s asleep, I’ll take care nobody comes there, or tell her roundly at once you are not an uncle to her – I would not longer stand upon ceremony.”

Eew. Just eew. Because of her uncle’s unnatural affections, Matilda fled and became the guest of the Count of Wolfenbach – it’s his titular castle. After meeting a mysterious lady and her servant, all manner of evil breaks out in more noises, murder, and fire; Matilda hikes up her skirts and leaves for France. It’s there, while staying with the Marquis de Melfort, that Matilda learns more of the mysterious lady of the castle, Countess Wolfenbach, who had been held prisoner in her marriage for nineteen. Not even the caretaker’s wife knew of her existence.

Illustration from an original editon of The Castle of Wolfenbach, Volume 1, Page 66, artist unknown.

A short time after I received a very melancholy letter. “Pity me, my dear sister, for I am miserable – I cannot deny my attachment to the most deserving of men: he has been rejected with contempt by my father, and yesterday I was commanded to receive Count Wolfenbach as my destined husband! I hate, I detest him – he is morose, savage, sneering, revengeful – Alas! what am I saying? this man may be my husband O, my dear sister, death is far preferable to that situation.”

That Count of Wolfenbach was a peach, but let’s not forget about Matilda’s uncle. He discovers her in France…but she’s also discovered by a love interest. A doomed-to-be-unrequited love interest, that is. He’s also a Count, a younger Count, named de Bouville, and not that Count, named Wolfenbach. Here’s where taking notes helps keep it all straight.

This was enough for the unhappy girl – down she dropt, and had not the Count [de Bouville] been attentive to her motions, and caught her in his arms, she must have fallen to the ground. Every body was alarmed, and crowded round her, the Marchioness particularly so; she was carried into another room, the Count still supporting her, and followed by his sister. It was some time before she returned to life. The first objects that struck her, was the Count holding her in his arms, the Marchioness on her knees, applying salts, and Mademoiselle De Bouville pressing her hand. ‘O, madam!’ cried she, eagerly and trembling, ‘he is come he is come.’ ‘Compose yourself, my love,’ said the Marchioness, ‘no one is come that can hurt you.’ ‘Yes, yes,’ answered she, hardly knowing what she said, ‘ ’tis he, he will carry me of, he will take me from you.’

Her friend still endeavoured to sooth and calm her spirits. The Count and his sister were surprised; they saw there was some mystery, but forbore any enquiries.

It was some time before she was perfectly restored: they urged her to return to the company – she felt a repugnance, ‘I fear that Miss – ‘ ‘Fear nothing, madam,’ interrupted the Count; ‘you have friends who will protect you with their lives.’ She looked at him with an expression of gratitude, but said nothing. She arose, and with feeble steps attended her friends into the saloon.

Mademoiselle De Fontelle officiously came to congratulate her return. The amiable De Bancre felt real concern, and expressed it with feeling, and without exaggeration.

Matilda, sensible of the kindness of her friends, and ashamed of the observation she had attracted, tried to acquire new spirits; but it was an endeavour only; her eyes were incessantly turned towards the door, she dreaded every moment she should see her uncle enter, and nothing could exceed her joy when the evening closed and they were seated in the Marquis’s carriage.

‘O, madam! O, Sir! ’tis assuredly my uncle – he will know where I am, and tear me from you.’ ‘Do not afflict yourself, my dear Miss Weimar,’ answered the Marquis; ‘if it should be him, he shall prove his pretensions before he gets any footing here, much less take you from our protection.’

Poor Matilda thanked him with a grateful heart, and retired to her bed, but not to sleep: her mind was greatly disturbed, ‘What a poor creature I am,’ cried she; ‘no father, brother, or protector, not even the clothes I wear my own property; if this man, this uncle claims, who can dare detain me? What are the evils which may befall me – whatever becomes of me, I will not embroil my friends. Happy, happy Miss De Bouville!’ said she, ‘you have a mother, a brother to protect you! Such a brother! what an amiable man! O, I never knew my wretchedness ’till now, that I am humbled to the dust!’ Under these melancholy impressions she past the night, and when morning came was in a high fever.

The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli, 1781, Detroit Institute of Arts.

One thing the perceptive reader notes very quickly is Matilda’s predilection for falling ill with fevers at the slightest bit of personal turmoil. Since we know this is a Gothic drama, we can predict many such turmoils, and thus many such fevers. It’s somewhat of a paradox in her character, because she has the fortitude of an ox concerning rattling midnight chains and the bloody murder of servants, but the mere mention of her uncle’s name or sight of a handsome Count de Bouville ushers in the vapors. Her newfound friends – the Marquis and Marchioness de Melfort – support and protect her, and so decide to depart for London; Matilda expresses a desire to adjourn to a convent but is persuaded otherwise upon learning they are to meet Mrs. Courtney, whom the Countess of Wolfenbach has proclaimed in letters to be her protectoress. But there’s a surprise, and Matilda recognizes the Countess as the mysterious lady she stumbled upon when investigating the spooky tower at Wolfenbach castle. Unfortunately the Count also discovered that innocent meeting:

“Wretch,” cried he, “you have broken your oath with me, and therefore mine is no longer binding – prepare to die.” Despair had given me courage – I was no longer the poor weak creature he had entangled some years before; my spirits returned, “Strike, barbarian, and complete your crimes, I fear not death, it will free me from all the miseries you have heaped upon me; but I will not suffer under imputed guilt – I have broke no vows, I have kept the fatal oath you extorted from me in the hour of terror.” “How dare you persist in falsehoods,” cried he; “you have had a woman here – you see and converse with Joseph daily; dare you deny those charges?” “I do not,” answered I, “but still I have preserved my faith; the woman came here by accident, unawed by the terrors Joseph and I endeavoured to inspire, but she knew not who I was, nor any thing relative to my situation, and goes from hence in a few days: as to Joseph, the poor fellow, when he brings my provisions, enters into a little chat with Margarite, and sometimes I speak to him, and where is the mighty crime? You must know your diabolical secret is too well kept, or I need not be here in your power.” He paused a few minutes, then withdrew to the window, and spoke to the man in a low tone; they came again towards me, and I expected instant death, but they locked the doors, and stopping the mouth of poor Margarite, dragged her out of the room, still locking the door after them. The apprehensions I was under for that poor creature, overcame the courage I assumed, and I swooned; how long I was deprived of my senses, I know not, but I recovered by cold water they threw in my face. “O, what have you done with my poor nurse?” “She is safe from betraying secrets,” replied he: “come, madam, put on your clothes, and I shall bestow you safely too.” “If you design my death,” said I, “let me die here.” “Do as I command,” cried he, furiously, “or I shall carry you off as you are.” I threw on my clothes, as well as my terror would permit; meantime he broke the locks of my cabinet, although he could have had the keys, took out what valuables belonged to me; and then taking me between them, they led me through a long subterraneous passage, till we came out through a thicket to the skirts of the wood; it was but faint star light; I saw two horses fastened; I was immediately put upon one, though I made some resistance expecting they intended carrying me into the thick part of the wood, and murder me there, – and I still think it was so designed. The man held me fast; we passed a small cottage, but all was quiet, and soon after entered another part of the wood, when suddenly the Count’s horse fell and threw him over his head; he lay motionless; the man who held me rode up to him; he did not move. “I must see what hurt he has,” cried he; and jumping off, left me on the horse; at the same instant I gave him a kick, and the animal set off full speed through the wood. I must inevitably have been killed, had it pursued its way through the thickets, but providentially he made towards the road, and being tired, slackened his pace. Unable any longer to support the fatigue; my head giddy, and dreadfully galled with the saddle, I slipped off on a small hillock, on one side, and lay quite exhausted, expecting every moment to be overtaken and murdered. I had been there but a few minutes before a carriage appeared, with two or three horsemen; I uttered a cry; the carriage stopt – a servant came up, “Who are you – what is the matter?” said he. I replied, feebly, “An unfortunate woman, escaped from being murdered, for God sake save me.” The man went to the carriage, it drew up, the door was opened, and I was put in. The sudden joy added to the terror and fatigue I had gone through overpowered my senses, and I fainted….

Lady Blanche Crosses the Ravine Guided by the Count and Saint Foix (a scene from The Mysteries of Udolpho) by Nathaniel Grogan, National Gallery of Ireland.

Volume Two begins here, and we learn the unstoppable and immoral uncle has followed the party to England…along with the young Count de Bouville. Two ladies are especially discontent with this, as they have designs on the young Count themselves – Madame de Fontelle and Mrs. Courtney. When her uncle stirs up enough trouble with the authorities to exert guardianship over Matilda, the young Count professes mad love and proposes. It’s all too much for our soon-to-be-feverish heroine. It’s a scene surprisingly reminiscent of the first proposal dialogue exchanged between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, for all its “despite our disparate circumstances in station” and “in situations such as this it is the established mode to express a sense of obligation.” Matilda even hid from the Count, as did Elizabeth from Darcy.

She so carefully shunned him, that it was not easy to find her alone; but the morning, when it was intended to return in the evening to London, chance afforded him an opportunity. The Marchioness, Matilda, and the Count were in the garden; the Marquis came to them and requested to speak a few words to his Lady; She disengaged her arm from her companion, and went with him to the house. Matilda turned with an intention to follow; the Count took her hand, ‘Let me entreat you, madam, to pursue your walk; I wish to speak a few words, on an affair of consequence, that will not detain you long from your friends.’ She trembled, and without speaking, suffered him to conduct her to an alcove at the bottom of the garden. They were both seated for a minute before he could assume courage to speak, at length, ‘I believe from the first hour I had the happiness of being introduced to you, my admiration was very visible, but it was that admiration which a beautiful person naturally inspires, I knew not then it was your least perfection. Your story, which the Marquis related, convinced me you had every virtue which should adorn your sex, joined with a courage and perseverance, through difficulties which might do honor even to ours. Since I have been admitted a visitor in this house, I have been confirmed in the exalted opinion I entertained of your superiority to most women, and under this conviction I may justly fear you will condemn my presumption, in offering myself and fortune to your disposal.’ ‘How, my Lord,’ cried Matilda, recovering from her confusion, and interrupting him, ‘do you consider who and what I am? ‘Yes, madam,’ replied he, ‘I have already told you, I think you one of the most perfect of your sex, and as to any other consideration ’tis beneath my notice: if you will deign to accept of me, it shall be the study of my life to make you amends for the injustice of fortune, who blindly bestows her favors on the unworthy.’ ‘You will pardon me, my Lord,’ said she, ‘for interrupting you a second time, but I cannot suffer you to proceed in error; I entreat you, therefore to hear me with patience, and believe that the sentiments I express are the genuine feelings of my heart, from which no persuasions, no temptations shall ever make me depart. I acknowledge, with a grateful mind, the honor you offer me is far beyond any expectations I can ever form in life, and such as affords me both pride and pleasure, that I am not deemed unworthy your esteem. At the same time, although you can generously resolve to forego the respect you owe to yourself and family, my duty to myself obliges me to remember it: without family and connexions, without even a name -perhaps the offspring of poor, or still worse, of infamous parents, brought up and supported by charity; shall I intrude myself into a noble family, contaminate its lustre, reflect indelible disgrace on the author of my undeserved elevation, and live despised and reproached, as the artful creature who had taken advantage of your generosity and compassion? No, my Lord, permit me to say on such terms I never would condescend to be the wife of a prince. I shrink at my own littleness; I am in a state of obligation for my support, but I never will incur my own contempt, by deserving it from others. My mind is indeed, I hope, superior to my situation: I will preserve a rectitude of principles under every evil that may befall me; those principles impel me to avow, with the greatest solemnity in the face of heaven, that under the disgraceful circumstances in which my fate seems enveloped, I never will be yours.’ ‘Hold, hold, madam,’ cried the Count, endeavouring to interrupt her, ‘great God! what have you vowed!’ ‘What duty to myself and you required of me,’ said she; ‘and now, my Lord, let this subject never be renewed. If it can afford you any consolation,’ added she, softened by the disorder and distress of his appearance, ‘be assured, my Lord, that as I never can be yours, I never will be another’s; and if my happiness is as dear to you as yours will ever be to me, you will from this moment cease to think of me but as an unfortunate girl, deprived of all power to return obligations, and therefore with too much pride and spirit to receive them, but from this worthy family, where I conceive it no disgrace to hold myself dependent.’

As she ended these words she rose. ‘Stop one moment, madam,’ exclaimed the Count; ‘unless you would drive me to madness, afford me one gleam of hope, distant as it may be: your cruel vow precludes me from bliss, yet tell me, too lovely Matilda, that you do not hate me, that if -‘

‘Ah ! Sir,’ said she, involuntarily, ‘hate you ! Heaven is my witness, that did my birth and rank equal yours, it would be my glory, to accept your hand; but as there exists not a possibility of that, I beseech you to spare me and yourself unnecessary pain; from this instant determine to avoid me, and I will esteem you as the most exalted of men.’

Without giving him time to reply, she darted like lightning towards the house, leaving him overwhelmed with admiration, grief, and despair.

Of course she woke up ill the next morning.

Tormented all night by the distress of her situation, she arose unrefreshed, pale, feeble and agitated.

And with the return of the desire to depart for a convent in France, especially since Madame de Fontelle had been secretly gadding about England, spreading lies and rumors all and sundry about Matilda, and ruining her reputation before anyone even knew who on earth she was. Plus Mrs. Courtney now has a tendre for the young Count, since he was polite to her; despite his embarrassing public displays of affection for Matilda, Mrs. Courtney resolved to have him fall  and of course that must mean he’s in rapturous love with her forthwith.

Mrs Courtney was good-natured, not from principle but constitution; she hated trouble of any sort, therefore bore any thing, rather than have the fatigue of being out of humour; she was polite and friendly, where she had no temptation to be otherwise; in short, she had many negative virtues, without any active ones. Such was Mrs Courtney, when she appeared in this book first. All men were indifferent alike, ’till she saw the engaging Count; a few interviews decided her fate; she found she loved to excess, and hated Matilda in proportion; she discovered his partiality in her favor, long before it was publicly known, and fought to recommend herself to his notice, by paying attention to his favorite; but finding all her endeavours ineffectual, she began to dislike the innocent object of her jealousy, and was casting about in her mind how to get rid of her, when Matilda unexpectedly declared her intention of going into a convent. The Count’s subsequent behaviour, his public declaration and protestations, were mortifying circumstances, ’tis true, but she depended upon time, absence, and her own endeavours, to conquer a passion he could not but look upon as hopeless. The Countess, so many years secluded from the world, at first felt only the warmest gratitude to Mrs Courtney and her brother, for their generous protection; but the polite attention, the mark’d kindness of Lord Delby, inspired her with the most perfect esteem for him, -and though, from the melancholy circumstances which attended her early prepossession, her heart was dead to love, she yet experienced all that partiality in his Lordship’s favor which her heart was capable of feeling.

Meanwhile, all is well at the convent, and Matilda gets on famously with the Mother Superior. The Marquis receives a letter from the German government stating evil Count Wolfenbach is dying and wishes to make amends to his wife, so they depart. That’s the lurking uncle’s cue to bring his incestuous self to the convent and demand Matilda accompany him by boat to Germany. But first, pirates!

“Flora Encounters Varney in the Summer House,” illustration from Varney the Vampyre; Or, The Feast of Blood, by James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest, 1845-47.

“You are now safe in my possession,’ said he [her uncle]. ‘I am sorry you made force necessary; but you must be convinced ’tis now in vain to contend with me.” Matilda sat stupidly gazing at him; but the vessel beginning to move, she turned very sick: without any female on board to assist her, she was compelled to let him place her on the bed; and then requesting to be alone, he retired, and left her to her own very painful reflections.

All hope of assistance from the Marquis was now at an end; she knew not the place of her destination; she saw no probability of escaping from Mr Weimar; yet she felt an unconquerable repugnance to become his wife -a man capable of such duplicity and cruelty; ‘O, no!’ cried she, weeping, ‘sooner will I plunge into a watery grave than unite myself for life to a man I must hate and despise.’ She continued extremely sick and ill. They had been two days at sea, when she was alarmed by an uncommon noise over her head; voices very loud, and every thing in much agitation: soon after she heard the firing of guns, and Mr Weimar entered with an air of distraction. ‘I am undone,’ cried he, ‘unfortunate girl; you have been my ruin and your own, but I will prevent both.’ He instantly drew a large case knife, stabbed her and then himself. At the same instant a number of strange men burst into the cabin, Weimar’s friend with them. The Turks, (for they were taken by a Barbary Corsair) highly enraged with the bloody scene before them, were about to dispatch Weimar, who lay on the floor, when Matilda faintly cried, ‘Spare him, spare him.’ One of them who understood French, stopped their hands: he ordered him to be taken care of, and approached Matilda, who, growing faint with loss of blood, could with difficulty say, ‘My arm.’ The clothes being stript off, it was found the wound was indeed through her arm, which being laid across her breast, received the blow which he was in too much confusion to direct as he intended. The humane Turk soon staunched the blood; and having with him necessaries for dressing wounds, he sent on board his own ship for them, and a person who could apply them. He requested the lady to make herself easy, no insult should be offered to her person. Meantime Weimar was carried on board the Turkish vessel, and carefully guarded. His wound was a dangerous one, and the person who drest it gave but little hopes of his life; it continued however in a fluctuating state ’till their arrival at Tunis.

Matilda was out of all danger, but a prey to the most dismal apprehensions of what might befall her.

I placed my bets on Matilda developing a fever here…but no! Instead her rotten uncle confesses from his sickbed that Matilda is actually the daughter of Countess Bernitti, who to this day lives with all her family in Italy. And since the corsair is coincidentally unhappy in his piratical profession, he promises to deliver Matilda to her mother. She writes a letter to her friends, the Marquis and Marchioness, and they happen to relay its contents to the lovelorn Count de Bouville; he has managed to escape both Mrs. Courtney and Madame de Fontelle by removing to Bath, where not even the waters have relieved his anguished heart. I recommend he take a fever.

Ah! thought he, where is the modest retiring sweetness of Matilda? Where those unaffected charms -those natural graces of her deportment? Never shall I meet with a woman that I can admire or love, after knowing that lovely girl, whose very virtues preclude my happiness. He was in one of these reveries when the letter from the Marquis was delivered to him. The happiness of his friends gave him infinite delight; but how changed were his emotions on reading the postscript: his rage exceeded all bounds; he determined to leave Bath instantly. ‘I will hunt the villain through the world,’ cried he; ‘I will find her, if she is on earth, and no power shall ever take her from me again. O, Matilda! too scrupulous girl, you have undone us both, and ruined my peace for ever.’ He called his servants, and ordered the necessary arrangements for leaving Bath that night.

It’s to be a continental pursuit instead!

The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich, 1817, Kunsthalle Hamburg.

It would be tedious to follow the Count thro’ his journey. He made all possible enquiries through the different towns, without obtaining any information. He arrived at Mr Weimar’s; they had not heard from him since he left England. Disappointed and mortified, he went from Switzerland to Vienna, and from thence to the villa of the Countess. He was received with transport. The Countess eagerly exclaimed, ‘She is found, we have a letter -O, such good news !’

The Count had hardly patience to go through the ceremony of introduction, before he begged to know the good news!

The Marchioness had two days before received the letter Matilda had written from Tunis -she gave it him to read.

Matilda had briefly given an account of her voyage and arrival at Tunis, the civilities of the captain, and dangerous state of Mr Weimar. She mentioned, that she had reason to suppose she was descended from a noble family, in Naples; that a short time would relieve her doubts; and, at any rate, she would write again, if not join them, in a very little while.

Lovers, who are ever industrious to torment themselves, would perhaps, like the Count, have conjured up a thousand fears to distract their minds. ‘Is this all your good news?’ cried he, ‘alas! I see little to depend upon here; “she has hopes” she belongs to some noble family, -a scheme of that villain Weimar’s, to keep her easy ’till he recovers; besides, what dependence can be placed on a corsair? Ah! if these are all your hopes of safety, they are small indeed.’

Wait – it seems he’s contemplating a fever after all! Something must distract him because despite his dogged quest for his One True Love, all his friends manage to get to Matilda first. It’s a somewhat anticlimactic scene for our poor hero.

They were just seated at the dinner-table when the Count De Bouville’s name was announced. The Marchioness gave a cry of joy; the knife and fork dropped from Matilda’s hand, and it was with difficulty she kept her seat when he entered the room. The Marquis introduced him to the strangers as his particular friend: as they had never heard his name mentioned, they received him with the politeness due to that recommendation only: but when he advanced to Matilda she changed colour, and trembled so violently as to attract her mother’s observation, although she was too attentive just then to speak, for the Count’s agitations were visibly greater than hers; he bowed upon her hand and said a few words, but they were not intelligible. The Marquis hurried him through the rest of the company, and then placed him between Lord Delby and himself, saying, ‘Now, if you please, let us have our dinner; I put a negative to all compliments and question for this hour to come -’tis plain we are all very glad to see each other.’

Yes, we must suffer through several pages of dinner and surreptitious looks, bedtime ruminations, an entire evening of sleep, and morning ablutions before we get to the predictable denouement.

The Count seized this moment to know his doom. He besought her attention for a few moments, briefly ran over the affair between Mrs Courtney and him, as a mere Bagatelle, without wounding the lady’s consequence. His distress and pursuit of her through France, Switzerland, Germany, from thence to Tunis and back again. He described the fervency of his love and the tortures of suspence; called upon her in the tenderest manner, to remember the time when she had said, ‘If her rank and fortune equalled his, she would, with pleasure, give him her hand.’ “And now, madam,” added he “that hour so much wished for by you, though of little consequence in my estimation, when thrown into the scale with unequaled merit and dignity of mind; that hour is arrived, deign, my beloved Matilda, to tell me, if I still can boast a share in your esteem; tell me, if I may presume to hope, that, however changed your situation, your heart, faithful to your other friends, has not withdrawn itself from him who lives only for you, and depends on you for happiness or misery in extreme?”

Matilda endeavoured to assume a composure she did not feel, for after the conversation with her mother she thought she was not at liberty to act for herself. Being silent a few moments she replied, “Believe me, Sir, my heart is still unchanged, still the same grateful and affectionate sentiments predominate in my mind: the Count De Bouville possesses my esteem, if possible, more than ever, for my obligations to him are increased; but -I have a mother; no longer mistress of my own destiny, she must determine for me. I will not scruple to confess, that it will be to me the happiest moment of my life, if my duty and affection to her coincide with your wishes.”

And they all lived happily ever after, in Paris.

Thus, after a variety of strange and melancholy incidents, Matilda received the reward of her steadiness, fortitude, and virtuous self-denial. A consciousness of performing her several duties ensured her happiness; and when she wrote her beloved Mother St Magdalene the happy conclusion of her adventures, “From you,” said she, “I learned resignation, and a dependence on that Being who never forsakes the virtuous; from you I learned never to despair; to your precepts and prevention I am indebted for not taking the veil; and I trust, called into an elevated situation, I shall ever remember the unfortunate have claims upon the hearts of those whom God has blessed with affluence; and that, through your means, reserved to experience every blessing of life, I shall feel it my duty, by active virtues, to extend, to the utmost of my abilities, those blessings to others less fortunate than myself.”

Notorious, 1946, starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman.

I agree with the author’s verdict of virtuous self-denial, but I can’t quite commend our heroine for steadiness or fortitude. Her situation swung wildly like a storm-tossed sea (she was on the run somewhere and from someone for nearly half the story), and fortitude denotes some strength of character that I just can’t fathom in Matilda. I will allow that she endured her trials, but had she a bit more backbone I would have liked her more.

I can’t help but declare this to be a thoroughly horrid (as in its modern definition meaning disagreeable) horrid novel. Perhaps it loses a bit in the distance between the 18th and 21st centuries, but as I prefer suspense and implications over gore and obvious gags, I had hopes it would be one for the keeper shelf. Alas, it was not meant to be.

And I wonder at the title of this story, as the castle barely figured in the first dozen pages of the novel.

That flibbertigibbet Isabella Thorpe let me down in her recommendation.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bow-Wow

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bow-Wow

I love doggies. All shapes, sizes, and breeds. No wonder I’ve developed an affinity for the Regency era. Simply Google “Regency era dogs” and your screen will be inundated with pages of images (just a paltry 525,000 results). My fondness for dogs naturally lent itself to a fondness for Lady Bertram in Mansfield Park, my least favorite Austen novel.

To the education of her daughters Lady Bertram paid not the smallest attention. She had not time for such cares. She was a woman who spent her days in sitting, nicely dressed, on a sofa, doing some long piece of needlework, of little use and no beauty, thinking more of her pug than her children… Mansfield Park, Chapter 2

Portrait of Sylvie de la Rue by Francois van der Donckt, 1810, Groeninge Museum, Bruges.

She is a simple woman of a fairly simple mind, but doggedly (sorry, not sorry) devoted to her precious Pug. Not counting Edward and his ambiguous feelings, surely no one paid Fanny so great a compliment as Lady Bertram:

And still pursuing the same cheerful thoughts, she soon afterwards added, “And I will tell you what, Fanny, which is more than I did for Maria: the next time Pug has a litter you shall have a puppy.” Mansfield Park, Chapter 33

Bow-Wow

The childish name for a dog.

The Misses de Balleroy by Henri-Francois Riesener, between 1805-1815, Columbia Museum of Art.

Regency England was mad for dogs. Regency ladies, especially, kept their tiny little canine companions close, if the sheer number of portraits of ladies and their dogs is any indication. I know dog fighting was also a popular “entertainment” of the time, but I shall “let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” I shall dwell on a small selection of doggies, great and small.

Frederica, Duchess of York by Peter Edward Stroehling.

According to the Georgian Index, Regency England’s top dogs were English Bulldogs, Collies, Dalmatians, Great Danes, English Foxhounds, Greyhounds, English Mastiffs, Newfoundlands, English Pointers, Pomeranians, Poodles, Pugs, Curly Coated Retrievers, Spaniels, and Terriers.

Jane Fleming, Countess of Harrington by Peter Edward Stroehling, year unknown, Thirlestane Castle.

Jane Austen’s World has a thorough and sometimes difficult-to-read post about Georgian Era dogs, illuminating the wide variety of roles occupied by canines: from faithful companion to hunting champion to paid entertainer to abandoned garbage-scavenger in the slums. I won’t retype her findings here, but it is a must-read for the curious.

Le Bon Genre, No. 35. Le Chiens a la Mode.

Dogs even made their mark in the fashion world.

Observoateur des Modes, No. 454, Bureau, rue Feydeau, No. 20. Modes Parisienne.

Winter Carriage Dress, La Belle Assemblée, 1818.

I’ll close with a few more favorites discovered in my massive Google search.

The Rev. and Mrs. Thomas Gisborne of Leicestershire, 1786, by Joseph Wright of Derby.

Good Companions by Vittorio Reggianini, private collection.

The Pet by Vittorio Reggianini.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Jaw-Me-Dead

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Jaw-Me-Dead

Several weeks ago, a Word of the Week featured the quotes of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. I received this hilarious Twitter shout-out from Dolores of Course:

Anytime a person is impelled to Jane Austen, it’s a good thing. My goal this week is to invoke the urge toward Sense and Sensibility; specifically, Mrs. Charlotte Palmer, and her incessant chatter, and her husband’s priceless reactions to it.

And really, does one need an excuse to watch a period version of Dr. House?

Jaw-Me-Dead

A jaw-me-dead is a talkative fellow; jaw being speech, discourse.

Mrs. Charlotte Palmer is a giggly, silly, chatterbox…but also essentially a nice person. Just like her mother, Mrs. Jennings, she loves gossip – and sharing it as soon as possible with all her friends. Mr. Palmer, on the surface, is a dour sourpuss whose only conversation seems to be one-liners delivered in passive aggressive rebuttal of his wife’s pronouncements. He’s quiet where she is exuberant. When the action moves to his home, we see he is really serious and concerned about the health of his guest (Marianne) and his family, and that his acerbity is more posture than truth.

Mr. Palmer’s role as straight man to his wife’s Jaw-Me-Dead is pure entertainment.

Mrs. Palmer was several years younger than Lady Middleton, and totally unlike her in every respect. She was short and plump, had a very pretty face, and the finest expression of good humour in it that could possibly be. Her manners were by no means so elegant as her sister’s, but they were much more prepossessing. She came in with a smile, smiled all the time of her visit, except when she laughed, and smiled when she went away. Her husband was a grave looking young man of five or six and twenty, with an air of more fashion and sense than his wife, but of less willingness to please or be pleased. He entered the room with a look of self-consequence, slightly bowed to the ladies, without speaking a word, and, after briefly surveying them and their apartments, took up a newspaper from the table, and continued to read it as long as he staid.

Mrs. Palmer, on the contrary, who was strongly endowed by nature with a turn for being uniformly civil and happy, was hardly seated before her admiration of the parlour and every thing in it burst forth.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 19

Only look, sister, how delightful every thing is! How I should like such a house for myself! Should not you, Mr. Palmer?”

Mr. Palmer made her no answer, and did not even raise his eyes from the newspaper.

“Mr. Palmer does not hear me,” said she, laughing; “he never does sometimes. It is so ridiculous!”

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 19

“But indeed you must and shall come. I am sure you will like it of all things. The Westons will be with us, and it will be quite delightful. You cannot think what a sweet place Cleveland is; and we are so gay now, for Mr. Palmer is always going about the country canvassing against the election; and so many people came to dine with us that I never saw before, it is quite charming! But, poor fellow! it is very fatiguing to him! for he is forced to make every body like him.”

Elinor could hardly keep her countenance as she assented to the hardship of such an obligation.

“How charming it will be,” said Charlotte, “when he is in Parliament!–won’t it? How I shall laugh! It will be so ridiculous to see all his letters directed to him with an M.P.–But do you know, he says, he will never frank for me? He declares he won’t. Don’t you, Mr. Palmer?”

Mr. Palmer took no notice of her.

“He cannot bear writing, you know,” she continued–“he says it is quite shocking.”

“No,” said he, “I never said any thing so irrational. Don’t palm all your abuses of languages upon me.”

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 20

“Mr. Palmer will be so happy to see you,” said she; “What do you think he said when he heard of your coming with Mamma? I forget what it was now, but it was something so droll!”

After an hour or two spent in what her mother called comfortable chat, or in other words, in every variety of inquiry concerning all their acquaintance on Mrs. Jennings’s side, and in laughter without cause on Mrs. Palmer’s, it was proposed by the latter that they should all accompany her to some shops where she had business that morning…

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 26

Nothing was wanting on Mrs. Palmer’s side that constant and friendly good humour could do, to make them feel themselves welcome. The openness and heartiness of her manner more than atoned for that want of recollection and elegance which made her often deficient in the forms of politeness; her kindness, recommended by so pretty a face, was engaging; her folly, though evident was not disgusting, because it was not conceited; and Elinor could have forgiven every thing but her laugh.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 42

He came, examined his patient, and though encouraging Miss Dashwood to expect that a very few days would restore her sister to health, yet, by pronouncing her disorder to have a putrid tendency, and allowing the word “infection” to pass his lips, gave instant alarm to Mrs. Palmer, on her baby’s account. Mrs. Jennings, who had been inclined from the first to think Marianne’s complaint more serious than Elinor, now looked very grave on Mr. Harris’s report, and confirming Charlotte’s fears and caution, urged the necessity of her immediate removal with her infant; and Mr. Palmer, though treating their apprehensions as idle, found the anxiety and importunity of his wife too great to be withstood. Her departure, therefore, was fixed on; and within an hour after Mr. Harris’s arrival, she set off, with her little boy and his nurse, for the house of a near relation of Mr. Palmer’s, who lived a few miles on the other side of Bath; whither her husband promised, at her earnest entreaty, to join her in a day or two; and whither she was almost equally urgent with her mother to accompany her.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 43

Emma Thompson’s faithful and Oscar-winning adaptation of Sense and Sensibility in 1995 showcases the quirky banter of the Palmers to perfection. How many of us could keep our cool and droll sense of humor in the face of such a steadfast Jaw-Me-Dead as Mrs. Palmer?

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Distracted Division

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Distracted Division

To appropriate a popular meme, ‘one does not simply Google arguing Regency couples’ and find any art for one’s blog post. When in doubt, fall back on that other internet savlo, ‘What Would Jane Do?’

She’d write about it so that I could have illustrious quotes for this week’s post. That’s what she did. Truly, few couples bicker as well as the Bennets.

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?”

Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.

“But it is,” returned she; “for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it.”

Mr. Bennet made no answer.

“Do not you want to know who has taken it?” cried his wife impatiently.

“You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.”

This was invitation enough.

“Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week.”

“What is his name?”

“Bingley.”

“Is he married or single?”

“Oh! single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!”

“How so? how can it affect them?”

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” replied his wife, “how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them.”

“Is that his design in settling here?”

“Design! nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he may fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes.”

“I see no occasion for that. You and the girls may go, or you may send them by themselves, which perhaps will be still better; for, as you are as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley might like you the best of the party.”

“My dear, you flatter me. I certainly have had my share of beauty, but I do not pretend to be any thing extraordinary now. When a woman has five grown up daughters, she ought to give over thinking of her own beauty.”

“In such cases, a woman has not often much beauty to think of.”

“But, my dear, you must indeed go and see Mr. Bingley when he comes into the neighbourhood.”

“It is more than I engage for, I assure you.”

“But consider your daughters. Only think what an establishment it would be for one of them. Sir William and Lady Lucas are determined to go, merely on that account, for in general, you know they visit no new comers. Indeed you must go, for it will be impossible for us to visit him, if you do not.”

“You are over-scrupulous, surely. I dare say Mr. Bingley will be very glad to see you; and I will send a few lines by you to assure him of my hearty consent to his marrying which ever he chooses of the girls; though I must throw in a good word for my little Lizzy.”

“I desire you will do no such thing. Lizzy is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good humoured as Lydia. But you are always giving her the preference.”

“They have none of them much to recommend them,” replied he; “they are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters.”

“Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion on my poor nerves.”

“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least.”

“Ah! you do not know what I suffer.”

“But I hope you will get over it, and live to see many young men of four thousand a year come into the neighbourhood.”

“It will be no use to us if twenty such should come, since you will not visit them.”

“Depend upon it, my dear, that when there are twenty I will visit them all.”

Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three and twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character. Her mind was less difficult to develop. She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 1

Distracted Division

Husband and wife fighting.

Mr. Bennet was among the earliest of those who waited on Mr. Bingley. He had always intended to visit him, though to the last always assuring his wife that he should not go; and till the evening after the visit was paid, she had no knowledge of it. It was then disclosed in the following manner ….

“When is your next ball to be, Lizzy?”

“To-morrow fortnight.”

“Aye, so it is,” cried her mother, “and Mrs. Long does not come back till the day before; so it will be impossible for her to introduce him, for she will not know him herself.”

“Then, my dear, you may have the advantage of your friend, and introduce Mr. Bingley to her.”

“Impossible, Mr. Bennet, impossible, when I am not acquainted with him myself; how can you be so teasing?”

“I honour your circumspection. A fortnight’s acquaintance is certainly very little. One cannot know what a man really is by the end of a fortnight. But if we do not venture, somebody else will; and after all, Mrs. Long and her nieces must stand their chance; and therefore, as she will think it an act of kindness, if you decline the office, I will take it on myself.”

The girls stared at their father. Mrs. Bennet said only, “Nonsense, nonsense!”

“What can be the meaning of that emphatic exclamation?” cried he. “Do you consider the forms of introduction, and the stress that is laid on them, as nonsense? I cannot quite agree with you there. What say you, Mary? for you are a young lady of deep reflection I know, and read great books, and make extracts.”

Mary wished to say something very sensible, but knew not how.

“While Mary is adjusting her ideas,” he continued, “let us return to Mr. Bingley.”

“I am sick of Mr. Bingley,” cried his wife.

“I am sorry to hear that; but why did not you tell me so before? If I had known as much this morning, I certainly would not have called on him. It is very unlucky; but as I have actually paid the visit, we cannot escape the acquaintance now.”

The astonishment of the ladies was just what he wished; that of Mrs. Bennet perhaps surpassing the rest; though when the first tumult of joy was over, she began to declare that it was what she had expected all the while.

“How good it was in you, my dear Mr. Bennet! But I knew I should persuade you at last. I was sure you loved our girls too well to neglect such an acquaintance. Well, how pleased I am! and it is such a good joke, too, that you should have gone this morning, and never said a word about it till now.”

“Now, Kitty, you may cough as much as you choose,” said Mr. Bennet; and, as he spoke, he left the room, fatigued with the raptures of his wife.

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 2

“Oh! my dear Mr. Bennet,” as she entered the room, “we have had a most delightful evening, a most excellent ball. I wish you had been there. Jane was so admired, nothing could be like it. Every body said how well she looked; and Mr. Bingley thought her quite beautiful, and danced with her twice. Only think of that my dear; he actually danced with her twice; and she was the only creature in the room that he asked a second time. First of all, he asked Miss Lucas. I was so vexed to see him stand up with her; but, however, he did not admire her at all: indeed, nobody can, you know; and he seemed quite struck with Jane as she was going down the dance. So, he enquired who she was, and got introduced, and asked her for the two next. Then, the two third he danced with Miss King, and the two fourth with Maria Lucas, and the two fifth with Jane again, and the two sixth with Lizzy, and the Boulanger –”

“If he had had any compassion for me,” cried her husband impatiently, “he would not have danced half so much! For God’s sake, say no more of his partners. Oh! that he had sprained his ankle in the first dance!”

“Oh! my dear,” continued Mrs. Bennet, “I am quite delighted with him. He is so excessively handsome! and his sisters are charming women. I never in my life saw any thing more elegant than their dresses. I dare say the lace upon Mrs. Hurst’s gown –”

Here she was interrupted again. Mr. Bennet protested against any description of finery.

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 3

“This was a lucky idea of mine, indeed!” said Mrs. Bennet, more than once, as if the credit of making it rain were all her own. Till the next morning, however, she was not aware of all the felicity of her contrivance. Breakfast was scarcely over when a servant from Netherfield brought the following note for Elizabeth:

My dearest Lizzy,

I find myself very unwell this morning, which, I suppose, is to be imputed to my getting wet through yesterday. My kind friends will not hear of my returning home till I am better. They insist also on my seeing Mr. Jones — therefore do not be alarmed if you should hear of his having been to me — and excepting a sore throat and head-ache, there is not much the matter with me.

Yours, &c.

“Well, my dear,” said Mr. Bennet, when Elizabeth had read the note aloud, “if your daughter should have a dangerous fit of illness, if she should die, it would be a comfort to know that it was all in pursuit of Mr. Bingley, and under your orders.”

“Oh! I am not at all afraid of her dying. People do not die of little trifling colds. She will be taken good care of. As long is she stays there, it is all very well. I would go and see her, if I could have the carriage.”

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 7

“Oh! Mr. Bennet, you are wanted immediately; we are all in an uproar. You must come and make Lizzy marry Mr. Collins, for she vows she will not have him, and if you do not make haste he will change his mind and not have her.”

Mr. Bennet raised his eyes from his book as she entered, and fixed them on her face with a calm unconcern which was not in the least altered by her communication.

“I have not the pleasure of understanding you,” said he, when she had finished her speech. “Of what are you talking?”

“Of Mr. Collins and Lizzy. Lizzy declares she will not have Mr. Collins, and Mr. Collins begins to say that he will not have Lizzy.”

“And what am I to do on the occasion? — It seems an hopeless business.”

“Speak to Lizzy about it yourself. Tell her that you insist upon her marrying him.”

“Let her be called down. She shall hear my opinion.”

Mrs. Bennet rang the bell, and Miss Elizabeth was summoned to the library.

“Come here, child,” cried her father as she appeared. “I have sent for you on an affair of importance. I understand that Mr. Collins has made you an offer of marriage. Is it true?” Elizabeth replied that it was. “Very well — and this offer of marriage you have refused?”

“I have, Sir.”

“Very well. We now come to the point. Your mother insists upon your accepting it. Is not it so, Mrs. Bennet?”

“Yes, or I will never see her again.”

“An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. — Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”

Elizabeth could not but smile at such a conclusion of such a beginning; but Mrs. Bennet, who had persuaded herself that her husband regarded the affair as she wished, was excessively disappointed.

“What do you mean, Mr. Bennet, by talking in this way? You promised me to insist upon her marrying him.”

“My dear,” replied her husband, “I have two small favours to request. First, that you will allow me the free use of my understanding on the present occasion; and secondly, of my room. I shall be glad to have the library to myself as soon as may be.”

Not yet, however, in spite of her disappointment in her husband, did Mrs. Bennet give up the point. She talked to Elizabeth again and again; coaxed and threatened her by turns. She endeavoured to secure Jane in her interest; but Jane, with all possible mildness, declined interfering; and Elizabeth, sometimes with real earnestness, and sometimes with playful gaiety, replied to her attacks. Though her manner varied, however, her determination never did.

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 20

If you’ve never met the magnificent ‘Bickering’ Bennets, please do.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Waspish

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Waspish

Bitter and rancorous feelings can twist even the prettiest countenance or heart into an ugly thing. Some are more predisposed than others to unkind thoughts and actions, while others are warped by circumstance and hardship. Whatever the cause, the results are as nasty as the names: harpy, shrew, witch, harridan.

Waspish

Peevish, spiteful.

When I think waspish, I immediately conjure two images: Lady Catherine de Bourgh and the Real Housewives of *insert city here.* No one likes to be the object of tittle-tattle or meanness, but many like to be in on the hearing and observation of it, and television has brought the most specious, intriguing, and sometimes salacious news and imaginings straight into our homes.

When a stroll through the interwebs turns up Jane Austen/RHOetc. mashup, well, heaven help us.

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.