Thursday, September 24, 2009

Willoughby's Return, a Sense and Sensibility Sequel - Colonel Brandon's first love

When we first meet Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility he is quickly established as Marianne Dashwood's admirer much to her dismay. At seventeen she considers the thirty five year old colonel to be past his prime: '...he is old enough to be my father; and if he were ever animated enough to be in love, must have long outlived every sensation of the kind. It is too ridiculous! When is a man to be safe from such wit, if age and infirmity will not protect him?"
When dashing Mr Willoughby appears on the scene Marianne retreats from the colonel's company altogether and takes as much opportunity to ridicule him alongside her lover. Her sister Elinor values Brandon's friendship and sensible conversation, she can see how much he is attracted to Marianne and knows that with the livelier Willoughby for a rival he does not stand a chance. She warms to him even further when she discovers a little about his past.

Elinor's compassion for him (Colonel Brandon) increased, as she had reason to suspect that the misery of disappointed love had already been known by him. This suspicion was given by some words which accidentally dropt from him one evening at the Park, when they were sitting down together by mutual consent, while the others were dancing. His eyes were fixed on Marianne, and, after a silence of some minutes, he said with a faint smile, "Your sister, I understand, does not approve of second attachments."

"No," replied Elinor, "her opinions are all romantic."

"Or rather, as I believe, she considers them impossible to exist."

"I believe she does. But how she contrives it without reflecting on the character of her own father, who had himself two wives, I know not. A few years, however, will settle her opinions on the reasonable basis of common sense and observation; and then they may be more easy to define and to justify than they now are, by anybody but herself."

"This will probably be the case," he replied; "and yet there is something so amiable in the prejudices of a young mind, that one is sorry to see them give way to the reception of more general opinions."

"I cannot agree with you there," said Elinor. "There are inconveniences attending such feelings as Marianne's, which all the charms of enthusiasm and ignorance of the world cannot atone for. Her systems have all the unfortunate tendency of setting propriety at nought; and a better acquaintance with the world is what I look forward to as her greatest possible advantage."

After a short pause he resumed the conversation by saying -

"Does your sister make no distinction in her objections against a second attachment? or is it equally criminal in everybody? Are those who have been disappointed in their first choice, whether from the inconstancy of its object, or the perverseness of circumstances, to be equally indifferent during the rest of their lives?"

"Upon my word, I am not acquainted with the minutiƦ of her principles. I only know that I never yet heard her admit any instance of a second attachment's being pardonable."

"This," said he, "cannot hold; but a change, a total change of sentiments - No, no, do not desire it, - for when the romantic refinements of a young mind are obliged to give way, how frequently are they succeeded by such opinions as are but too common, and too dangerous! I speak from experience. I once knew a lady who in temper and mind greatly resembled your sister, who thought and judged like her, but who from an enforced change - from a series of unfortunate circumstances" - Here he stopt suddenly; appeared to think that he had said too much, and by his countenance gave rise to conjectures which might not otherwise have entered Elinor's head. The lady would probably have passed without suspicion, had he not convinced Miss Dashwood that what concerned her ought not to escape his lips. As it was, it required but a slight effort of fancy to connect his emotion with the tender recollection of past regard. Elinor attempted no more. But Marianne, in her place, would not have done so little. The whole story would have been speedily formed under her active imagination; and established in the most melancholy order of disastrous love.

We later learn that the young lady in question is Colonel Brandon's first love who was forced to marry his brother against her will. Divorced and abandoned whilst the colonel is in India, on his return he is to discover that she has fallen into low company and living a life of sin. As she lies dying Colonel Brandon promises he will look after her three year old daughter, another Eliza, and he becomes her guardian.
When Willoughby later abandons Marianne for the wealthier Miss Grey we learn of another reason for his swift transfer of affection. Willoughby has met and seduced the Colonel's ward who has given birth to a daughter. He, in turn, has been disinherited by his benefactor as a result, and must now marry for money if he is to continue to enjoy the lifestyle he prefers.

Colonel Brandon is first attracted to Marianne because of the likeness she has to his first love. "Your sister, I hope, cannot be offended," said he, "by the resemblance I have fancied between her and my poor disgraced relation. Their fates, their fortunes cannot be the same; and had the natural sweet disposition of the one been guarded by a firmer mind, or an happier marriage, she might have been all that you will live to see the other be.
I cannot help thinking that this coupled with the fact that he maintains a close relationship with his ward and Willoughby's child would create certain tensions within their marriage. How would Marianne feel about the fact that she looks so similar to Eliza? Wouldn't a part of her always be questioning whether she is loved for herself alone, and be wondering if she is being compared to the grand passion of his youth? We know 'Marianne could never love by halves' and in my new book, Willoughby's Return, I explore this aspect of their relationship. Mrs Brandon is a passionate woman - she might even be jealous of her husband's first love, especially as she lives on in her daughter and granddaughter. The fact that both the colonel and Marianne have both been in love before provided me with lots of inspiration!

Willoughby's Return is published by Sourcebooks on November 1st 2009

Jane Odiwe

Monday, August 31, 2009

Mrs Jennings - Sense and Sensibility and Willoughby's Return

I love the character of Mrs Jennings in Sense and Sensibility. She can be relied upon to make the most unsuitable remarks and have our heroines Marianne and Elinor simultaneously fuming with indignation and blushing with embarrassment as the old lady teases them mercilessly. Mrs Jennings is a busybody with a good heart, anxious now that her own children are married to see everyone else united in the same state. Jane Austen introduces this wonderful character with a description.

Mrs. Jennings was a widow, with an ample jointure. She had only two daughters, both of whom she had lived to see respectably married, and she had now therefore nothing to do but marry all the rest of the world. In the promotion of this object, she was zealously active, as far as her ability reached, and missed no opportunity of projecting weddings among all the young people of her acquaintance. She was remarkably quick in the discovery of attachments, and had enjoyed the advantage of raising the blushes and the vanity of many a young lady by insinuations of her power over such a young man; and this kind of discernment enabled her soon after her arrival at Barton decisively to pronounce that Colonel Brandon was very much in love with Marianne Dashwood. She rather suspected it to be so, on the very first evening of their being together, from his listening so attentively while she sang to them; and when the visit was returned by the Middletons dining at the cottage, the fact was ascertained by his listening to her again. It must be so. She was perfectly convinced of it. It would be an excellent match, for he was rich and she was handsome. Mrs. Jennings had been anxious to see Colonel Brandon well married, ever since her connection with Sir John first brought him to her knowledge; and she was always anxious to get a good husband for every pretty girl.

The immediate advantage to herself was by no means inconsiderable, for it supplied her with endless jokes against them both. At the Park she laughed at the colonel, and in the cottage at Marianne. To the former her raillery was probably, as far as it regarded only himself, perfectly indifferent; but to the latter it was at first incomprehensible; and when its object was understood, she hardly knew whether most to laugh at its absurdity, or censure its impertinence, for she considered it as an unfeeling reflection on the colonel's advanced years, and on his forlorn condition as an old bachelor.

I couldn't wait to introduce Mrs Jennings into Willoughby's Return. It's such good fun to write a character who is always making completely inappropriate comments and leaves everyone blushing with her outspoken remarks - almost at every opportunity. This extract is from Willoughby's Return.

Mrs Jennings’s voice droned on in the background and Marianne hardly attended to a word she said. Her thoughts turned to Delaford. She wondered what William was doing. James would, no doubt, be tucked up in bed now; his dark curls tumbling over the pillow, his cherubic face flushed with sleep. It was hateful not to have said goodnight to him and she was missing him terribly. William would be in his study, reading his favourite poems, perhaps. She was quite lost in thought.
“…And Mrs Whitaker said that she is very dangerously ill, with only her faithful servants to nurse her,” Mrs Jennings continued. “Poor lady, no children of her own and no sign of the one who is to inherit. He who shall be nameless! You know to whom I refer, Mrs Dashwood.”
Marianne’s ears pricked up at the last declaration and guessed that the lady she spoke of was none other than Mrs Smith of Allenham Court, Mr Willoughby’s benefactor. Now Mrs Jennings was running through the list of Mrs Smith’s ailments and announcing, as if she were the apothecary herself, that it was certain she would be dead before the week was out. Allenham would be empty, a very sad business, or so she had thought at first. “Then I bumped into Mrs Carey, whose cousin had been shopping in Exeter this afternoon. Mary Carey had seen them with her own eyes!”
“I wish you would explain with a little more comprehension, mother. Whom did Mary Carey see in Exeter this afternoon?” begged Lady Middleton, who despite affecting disinterest was clearly anxious to hear a full report.
“Mr and Mrs John Willoughby, of course!”
Mrs Dashwood coloured on hearing this information and cast a glance at her daughter. Marianne was clearly mortified and her mother grieved for her. How could Mrs Jennings be so insensitive?
“Did you not happen to see them yourselves?” the old lady enquired, directing her attention at Marianne, whose blushes were now visible to even the most unobservant of the party. Mrs Jennings looked searchingly into Marianne’s countenance, which betrayed every emotion she was feeling, though her voice spoke her hot denial. Margaret was scrutinised next but the latter was unable to speak at all, so afraid was she of betraying the truth of the matter and upsetting her sister further.
“Well, what I want to know is why they are not up at the Court attending their cousin, said I, to Mrs Carey,” Mrs Jennings blundered on, “though I intimated that he had always been somewhat of a character not to be trusted and a very cold fish to boot. And this is not all, Lord bless me. Mrs Carey said that her cousin had been in the linen draper’s just half an hour later when she not only heard the reason why the Willoughbys are refusing to be put up at Allenham, but also received the most shocking news of all!”

Willoughby's Return is now available for pre-order on Amazon and will be released by Sourcebooks on November 1 2009. I am so excited!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Marianne Brandon - an extract from Willoughby's Return

“Have you not seen Mr and Mrs Willoughby since they married?” ventured Margaret, unconvinced by Marianne’s protestations.

Marianne looked out through the window. The rain had started in drips and drops and soon gathered pace running in large, wet rivulets, down the windowpane. She watched two raindrops slide down the glass, one chasing the other but never quite catching up. “I did see them once,” she replied in a quiet voice. “The Colonel and I were just married and had gone to London for the season. We spent the entire time together of course, but on one particular day, William had some business in town, of a nature that I was not to be a party to, and so it was arranged that we should meet in Berkeley Square, at Gunter’s tea shop.”

“How romantic! Are the ices as wonderful as they say?” demanded Margaret, taking a bite from a marzipan sweet, modelled like a cherry.

Marianne smiled. “They are, though I have to admit that on that occasion I was not to taste them. I had decided to walk to the tea shop, it was a fine day and even in London I prefer to walk about on foot. I knew William would be bound to be there before me, so I should not have to worry about being unescorted for long. But I could see no sign of him as I approached, though I looked everywhere, and then my attention was caught by the sight of a couple I recognised, seated in an open carriage underneath the maple trees. The autumnal day was very fine, the sun was shining and dappled light fell in golden shafts, like the colour of the turning leaves. Sophia Willoughby looked very happy swathed in sunshine with her husband at her side.”

“Did she see you?” asked Margaret, hardly daring to interrupt in case Marianne ended her tale too soon.

“I think she did, enough at least to wonder who I was. She stared long and hard until his curiosity was aroused. He looked round, Mr Willoughby raised his hat I remember, but I pretended I had not seen them and as soon as I could I turned the corner. William soon came alongside in the carriage; he had been going round and round looking for me. He had observed them from the window and very fortunately guessed I had taken a turn elsewhere.”

“How did you feel?” asked Margaret. She was very curious about the whole business between her sister and Mr Willoughby. She was very fond of Marianne’s husband, but her childish sensibility tended to dwell on the romanticism of the lovelorn, rather than on any pragmatic consideration. She had never been convinced that Marianne’s love for the Colonel was the same as it had been for Mr Willoughby and was impassioned by what she considered to be the tragedy of their situation. How could Marianne ever recover? She was sure she could not. And as for herself, she still felt a pang whenever she remembered Willoughby.

Marianne looked at her sister and immediately changed the subject. “You have not yet explained yourself. Whatever did you mean when you said you were in love with John Willoughby?”

Margaret stirred her coffee thoughtfully. “I do not suppose it was real love. I was very young, I know. But from the very first time we met him on High-Church Down, I was smitten. All my childish fantasies involved being carried aloft in John Willoughby’s arms. I am surprised you did not notice. I did not make such a nuisance of myself to be your chaperone, you know. I hung on his every word and when he looked in my direction or spoke to me, I thought I should die.”

Marianne sighed. “He certainly had an effect on every lady who came into contact with him. On some more than others,” she added ruefully.

“How is Miss Williams?” Margaret asked. She was aware of the history shared by the Colonel’s ward and Mr Willoughby, that they had run away together from Bath and of how he had abandoned her. She knew that Brandon had challenged Willoughby to a duel, though both had escaped the ordeal unscathed. And Margaret was fascinated by the idea that Willoughby had an illegitimate daughter who would by now be nearly five years of age.

“I have little to tell you except that William is very attentive to all their needs. I am afraid I know very little about them apart from the fact that they are settled at Wolfeton Fitzpaine, just out of Lyme. The Colonel is reluctant to speak on the matter and I am reticent to ask. I do not want to know about them, I assure you.”

“Are you not a little curious?” Margaret knew she was being terribly intrusive but she could not resist asking the question.

“What do I need to know that I am not already familiar with? They are banished to some quiet part of the country where I believe Miss Williams supplements her income by netting purses and the like. She must be a changed character, I think.”

“Do you not wonder about her daughter?” Margaret persisted tentatively, thinking that at any moment Marianne would cease her confidences and become a closed book on the subject.

Marianne paused to bite into a marchpane strawberry. She nibbled at it absently before abandoning the rest, dropping it onto her plate in agitation. “I confess that I do. William once told me that she bears a striking resemblance to her grandmother, as does her mother before her. The three Elizas: no doubt this one will be as troublesome as the other two! I am sure if I were Brandon, I would not be spending so much time and money on such undeserving creatures. No indeed; I should not abandon my own family so much for someone else’s.”

Margaret thought it might be wise to change the subject. Her sister was becoming most cross, and Margaret surmised that Marianne’s perceived indifference to the subject of the Williams’s household was not as impartial as she professed. She was clearly envious of any favour bestowed in Eliza’s direction.

Marianne did not like being reminded of Miss Williams’s existence. There were times when she was totally convinced of her husband’s love, when at last she thought she had triumphed over Eliza, but having since witnessed his expression as he fondly doted upon the painting hanging above the stairwell, she had no doubt that he still harboured longings for his lost love.

“Come, if you have finished your coffee we will go back to the shop and select the finest embroidered muslin, spangled with tinsel and I know not what,” Marianne announced brightly, determined not to linger on such thoughts. They gathered their belongings, wrapped themselves up against the weather and made for the door.

As Marianne reached for the handle, the bell clanged and the door was opened with full force, making her leap nimbly back to avoid being knocked over and injured in the process. Aware that whosoever was standing within the doorway was making no attempt to step forward or back to let her pass, Marianne quickly recovered herself to acknowledge the person. However, her composure was lost the instant she recognised the tall and imposing gentleman who stood before her.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Prior Park - A Beautiful Palladian Bridge

When I go to Bath I love to go to Prior Park - we usually walk from the city centre climbing ever higher with the occasional stop to take in the surroundings. You don't have to go far before you feel as if you are almost in countryside. There are lovely walks here and spectacular views over the city of Bath. From the National Trust: One of only four Palladian bridges in the world can be crossed at Prior Park, which was created in the 18th century by local entrepreneur Ralph Allen, with advice from 'Capability' Brown and the poet Alexander Pope. The garden is set in a sweeping valley where visitors can enjoy magnificent views of Bath. Recent restoration of the 'Wilderness' has reinstated the Serpentine Lake, Cascade and Cabinet. A five-minute walk leads to the Bath Skyline, a six-mile circular route encompassing beautiful woodlands and meadows, an Iron Age hill fort, Roman settlements, 18th-century follies and spectacular views.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Young Love - Willoughby and Marianne

In a romantic frame of mind today - here's a description of young love at its most besotted! The photo is from the film Sense and Sensibility with Kate Winslet (a perfect Marianne) and Greg Wise (Emma Thompson, you are such a lucky girl!) as Willoughby.

When he was present, she had no eyes for any one else. Everything he did was right. Everything he said was clever. If their evenings at the park were concluded with cards, he cheated himself and all the rest of the party to get her a good hand. If dancing formed the amusement of the night, they were partners for half the time; and when obliged to separate for a couple of dances, were careful to stand together and scarcely spoke a word to anybody else. Such conduct made them of course most exceedingly laughed at; but ridicule could not shame, and seemed hardly to provoke them.

Mrs. Dashwood entered into all their feelings with a warmth which left no inclination for checking this excessive display of them. To her it was but the natural consequence of a strong affection in a young and ardent mind.

This was the season of happiness to Marianne. Her heart was devoted to Willoughby, and the fond attachment to Norland which she brought with her from Sussex, was more likely to be softened than she had thought it possible before, by the charms which his society bestowed on her present home.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Jane Austen, the most wonderful writer that ever lived!

(16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817)
Thinking of Jane Austen especially today on the anniversary of her death. She could not have imagined how much her books would be treasured and loved by so many people over the next two hundred years!

Here is the letter Jane's sister Cassandra wrote to her niece Fanny on the event of Jane's death. It is one of the most beautiful and moving letters I've ever read and illustrates just how close the sisters were and what they meant to one another.
I am taking a short break from today - be back soon with more posts!

Winchester: Sunday.


Doubly dear to me now for her dear sake whom we have lost. She did love you most sincerely, and never shall I forget the proofs of love you gave her during her illness in writing those kind, amusing letters at a time when I know your feelings would have dictated so different a style. Take the only reward I can give you in the assurance that your benevolent purpose was answered; you did contribute to her enjoyment.

Even your last letter afforded pleasure. I merely cut the seal and gave it to her; she opened it and read it herself, afterwards she gave it to me to read, and then talked to me a little and not uncheerfully of its contents, but there was then a languor about her which prevented her taking the same interest in anything she had been used to do.

Since Tuesday evening, when her complaint returned, there was a visible change, she slept more and much more comfortably; indeed, during the last eight-and-forty hours she was more asleep than awake. Her looks altered and she fell away, but I perceived no material diminution of strength, and, though I was then hopeless of a recovery, I had no suspicion how rapidly my loss was approaching.

I have lost a treasure, such a sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed. She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow; I had not a thought concealed from her, and it is as if I had lost a part of myself. I loved her only too well - not better than she deserved, but I am conscious that my affection for her made me sometimes unjust to and negligent of others; and I can acknowledge, more than as a general principle, the justice of the Hand which has struck this blow.

You know me too well to be at all afraid that I should suffer materially from my feelings; I am perfectly conscious of the extent of my irreparable loss, but I am not at all overpowered and very little indisposed, nothing but what a short time, with rest and change of air, will remove. I thank God that I was enabled to attend her to the last, and amongst my many causes of self-reproach I have not to add any wilful neglect of her comfort.

She felt herself to be dying about half-an-hour before she became tranquil and apparently unconscious. During that half-hour was her struggle, poor soul! She said she could not tell us what she suffered, though she complained of little fixed pain. When I asked her if there was anything she wanted, her answer was she wanted nothing but death, and some of her words were: "God grant me patience, pray for me, oh, pray for me!" Her voice was affected, but as long as she spoke she was intelligible.

I hope I do not break your heart, my dearest Fanny, by these particulars; I mean to afford you gratification whilst I am relieving my own feelings. I could not write so to anybody else; indeed you are the only person I have written to at all, excepting your grandmamma - it was to her, not your Uncle Charles, I wrote on Friday.

Immediately after dinner on Thursday I went into the town to do an errand which your dear aunt was anxious about. I returned about a quarter before six and found her recovering from faintness and oppression; she got so well as to be able to give me a minute account of her seizure, and when the clock struck six she was talking quietly to me.

I cannot say how soon afterwards she was seized again with the same faintness, which was followed by the sufferings she could not describe; but Mr. Lyford had been sent for, had applied something to give her ease, and she was in a state of quiet insensibility by seven o'clock at the latest. From that time till half-past four, when she ceased to breathe, she scarcely moved a limb, so that we have every reason to think, with gratitude to the Almighty, that her sufferings were over. A slight motion of the head with every breath remained till almost the last. I sat close to her with a pillow in my lap to assist in supporting her head, which was almost off the bed, for six hours; fatigue made me then resign my place to Mrs. J. A. for two hours and a-half, when I took it again, and in about an hour more she breathed her last.

I was able to close her eyes myself, and it was a great gratification to me to render her those last services. There was nothing convulsed which gave the idea of pain in her look; on the contrary, but for the continual motion of the head she gave one the idea of a beautiful statue, and even now, in her coffin, there is such a sweet, serene air over her countenance as is quite pleasant to contemplate.

This day, my dearest Fanny, you have had the melancholy intelligence, and I know you suffer severely, but I likewise know that you will apply to the fountain-head for consolation, and that our merciful God is never deaf to such prayers as you will offer.

The last sad ceremony is to take place on Thursday morning; her dear remains are to be deposited in the cathedral. It is a satisfaction to me to think that they are to lie in a building she admired so much; her precious soul, I presume to hope, reposes in a far superior mansion. May mine one day be re-united to it!

Your dear papa, your Uncle Henry, and Frank and Edwd. Austen, instead of his father, will attend. I hope they will none of them suffer lastingly from their pious exertions. The ceremony must be over before ten o'clock, as the cathedral service begins at that hour, so that we shall be at home early in the day, for there will be nothing to keep us here afterwards.

Your Uncle James came to us yesterday, and is gone home to-day. Uncle H. goes to Chawton to-morrow morning; he has given every necessary direction here, and I think his company there will do good. He returns to us again on Tuesday evening.

I did not think to have written a long letter when I began, but I have found the employment draw me on, and I hope I shall have been giving you more pleasure than pain. Remember me kindly to Mrs. J. Bridges (I am so glad she is with you now), and give my best love to Lizzie and all the others.

I am, my dearest Fanny,
Most affectionately yours,

I have said nothing about those at Chawton, because I am sure you hear from your papa.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Falling in love with Mr Willoughby!

Here are two Mr Willoughbys for your delight! Greg Wise and Dominic Cooper star in recent productions - I wonder which was your favourite?
After Marianne's accident when Willoughby scoops her up into his arms and carries her home the whole family are eager to learn about the handsome man who has behaved so gallantly. I love the way Jane Austen only gives us tantalising glimpses at Willoughby's character through Sir John Middleton's eyes. Willoughby is a good huntsman and rider and as far as Sir John is concerned there is no higher recommendation than a young man who enjoys sport and can dance all night. Of course hearing that Willoughby dances with elegance and spirit makes him all the more interesting to Marianne!

Sir John called on them as soon as the next interval of fair weather that morning allowed him to get out of doors; and Marianne's accident being related to him, he was eagerly asked whether he knew any gentleman of the name of Willoughby at Allenham.

"Willoughby!" cried Sir John; "what, is he in the country? That is good news, however; I will ride over to-morrow, and ask him to dinner on Thursday."

"You know him then," said Mrs. Dashwood. "Know him! to be sure I do. Why, he is down here every year."

"And what sort of a young man is he?" "As good a kind of fellow as ever lived, I assure you. A very decent shot, and there is not a bolder rider in England."

"And is that all you can say for him?" cried Marianne, indignantly. "But what are his manners on more intimate acquaintance? What his pursuits, his talents and genius?"

Sir John was rather puzzled.

"Upon my soul," said he, "I do not know much about him as to all that. But he is a pleasant, good humoured fellow, and has got the nicest little black bitch of a pointer I ever saw. Was she out with him to-day?"

But Marianne could no more satisfy him as to the colour of Mr. Willoughby's pointer than he could describe to her the shades of his mind.

"But who is he?" said Elinor. "Where does he come from? Has he a house at Allenham?"

On this point Sir John could give more certain intelligence; and he told them that Mr. Willoughby had no property of his own in the country; that he resided there only while he was visiting the old lady at Allenham Court, to whom he was related, and whose possessions he was to inherit; adding, "Yes, yes, he is very well worth catching, I can tell you, Miss Dashwood; he has a pretty little estate of his own in Somersetshire besides; and if I were you, I would not give him up to my younger sister in spite of all this tumbling down hills. Miss Marianne must not expect to have all the men to herself. Brandon will be jealous, if she does not take care."

"I do not believe," said Mrs. Dashwood, with a good humoured smile, "that Mr. Willoughby will be incommoded by the attempts of either of my daughters towards what you call catching him. It is not an employment to which they have been brought up. Men are very safe with us, let them be ever so rich. I am glad to find, however, from what you say, that he is a respectable young man, and one whose acquaintance will not be ineligible."

"He is as good a sort of fellow, I believe, as ever lived," repeated Sir John. "I remember last Christmas, at a little hop at the Park, he danced from eight o'clock till four, without once sitting down."

"Did he indeed?" cried Marianne, with sparkling eyes, "and with elegance, with spirit?"

"Yes; and he was up again at eight to ride to covert."

"That is what I like; that is what a young man ought to be. Whatever be his pursuits, his eagerness in them should know no moderation, and leave him no sense of fatigue."

"Aye, aye, I see how it will be," said Sir John, "I see how it will be. You will be setting your cap at him now, and never think of poor Brandon."

"That is an expression, Sir John," said Marianne warmly, "which I particularly dislike. I abhor every common-place phrase by which wit is intended; and 'setting one's cap at a man,' or 'making a conquest,' are the most odious of all. Their tendency is gross and illiberal; and if their construction could ever be deemed clever, time has long ago destroyed all its ingenuity."

Sir John did not much understand this reproof; but he laughed as heartily as if he did, and then replied, -

"Aye, you will make conquests enough, I dare say, one way or other. Poor Brandon! he is quite smitten already, and he is very well worth setting your cap at, I can tell you, in spite of all this tumbling about and spraining of ankles."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sense and Sensibility-Is going for a walk always a good idea?

Here are a couple of photos taken on the Flete estate of the house that was used in Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility and the surrounding area. This part of the country in South Devon close to the Erme estuary is very beautiful and there are some wonderful walks. The following extract from Sense and Sensibility involves a walk, leading us to a turning point in the book for Marianne - one, which will change her life forever!
The Dashwoods were now settled at Barton with tolerable comfort to themselves. The house and the garden, with all the objects surrounding them, were now become familiar; and the ordinary pursuits which had given to Norland half its charms, were engaged in again with far greater enjoyments than Norland had been able to afford since the loss of their father. Sir John Middleton, who called on them every day for the first fortnight, and who was not in the habit of seeing much occupation at home, could not conceal his amazement on finding them always employed.
Their visitors, except those from Barton Park, were not many; for, in spite of Sir John's urgent entreaties that they would mix more in the neighbourhood, and repeated assurances of his carriage being always at their service, the independence of Mrs. Dashwood's spirit overcame the wish of society for her children; and she was resolute in declining to visit any family beyond the distance of a walk. There were but few who could be so classed; and it was not all of them that were attainable. About a mile and a half from the cottage, along the narrow winding valley of Allenham, which issued from that of Barton, as formerly described, the girls had, in one of their earliest walks, discovered an ancient respectable-looking mansion, which, by reminding them a little of Norland, interested their imagination, and made them wish to be better acquainted with it. But they learnt, on inquiry, that its possessor, an elderly lady of very good character, was unfortunately too infirm to mix with the world, and never stirred from home.

The whole country about them abounded in beautiful walks. The high downs, which invited them from almost every window of the cottage to seek the exquisite enjoyment of air on their summits, were an happy alternative when the dirt of the valleys beneath shut up their superior beauties; and towards on of these hills did Marianne and Margaret one memorable morning direct their steps, attracted by the partial sunshine of a showery sky, and unable longer to bear the confinement which the settled rain of the two preceding days had occasioned. The weather was not tempting enough to draw the two others from their pencil and their book, in spite of Marianne's declaration that the day would be lastingly fair, and that every threatening cloud would be drawn off from their hills; and the two girls set off together.

They gaily ascended the downs, rejoicing in their own penetration at every glimpse of blue sky: and when they caught in their faces the animating gales of an high south-westerly wind, they pitied the fears which had prevented their mother and Elinor from sharing such delightful sensations.

"Is there a felicity in the world," said Marianne, "superior to this? Margaret, we will walk here at least two hours."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Two Colonel Brandons to set hearts aflutter!

Two Colonel Brandons for your delight! The top photo shows David Morrissey playing the part in the recent BBC adaptation - the bottom photo is Alan Rickman starring in the Emma Thompson/Ang Lee version. With these lovely examples of Colonels how did it take Marianne so long to realise where her heart lay?
In Sense and Sensibility Marianne first meets Colonel Brandon at Barton Park - home to the Middletons on whose estate the Dashwoods have kindly been given a cottage. Mrs Jennings, Lady Middleton's mother takes no time in asserting that the Colonel has fallen in love with Marianne and sets about teasing them both mercilessly. Marianne is less than impressed!

"...Colonel Brandon is certainly younger than Mrs. Jennings, but he is old enough to be my father; and if he were ever animated enough to be in love, must have long outlived every sensation of the kind. It is too ridiculous! When is a man to be safe from such wit, if age and infirmity will not protect him?"

"Infirmity!" said Elinor, "do you call Colonel Brandon infirm? I can easily suppose that his age may appear much greater to you than to my mother; but you can hardly deceive yourself as to his having the use of his limbs?"

"Did not you hear him complain of the rheumatism? and is not that the commonest infirmity of declining life?"

"My dearest child," said her mother laughing, "at this rate, you must be in continual terror of my decay; and it must seem to you a miracle that my life has been extended to the advanced age of forty."

"Mama, you are not doing me justice. I know very well that Colonel Brandon is not old enough to make his friends yet apprehensive of losing him in the course of nature. He may live twenty years longer. But thirty-five has nothing to do with matrimony."

"Perhaps," said Elinor, "thirty-five and seventeen had better not have anything to do with matrimony together. But if there should by any chance happen to be a woman who is single at seven-and-twenty, I should not think Colonel Brandon's being thirty-five any objection to his marrying her ."

"A woman of seven-and-twenty," said Marianne, after pausing a moment, "can never hope to feel or inspire affection again; and if her home be uncomfortable, or her fortune small, I can suppose that she might bring herself to submit to the offices of a nurse, for the sake of the provision and security of a wife. In his marrying such a woman, therefore, there would be nothing unsuitable. It would be a compact of convenience, and the world would be satisfied. In my eyes it would be no marriage at all, but that would be nothing. To me it would seem only a commercial exchange, in which each wished to be benefited at the expense of the other."

"It would be impossible, I know," replied Elinor, "to convince you that a woman of seven-and-twenty could feel for a man of thirty-five anything near enough to love to make him a desirable companion to her. But I must object to your dooming Colonel Brandon and his wife to the constant confinement of a sick chamber, merely because he chanced to complain yesterday (a very cold damp day) of a slight rheumatic feel in one of his shoulders."

"But he talked of flannel waistcoats," said Marianne; "and with me a flannel waistcoat is invariably connected with the aches, cramps, rheumatisms, and every species of ailment that can afflict the old and the feeble."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Photo Gallery - Jane Austen's Lyme

More photos of gorgeous Lyme!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Three Cups Inn at Lyme Regis - there have been two!

There is an article in the Times today which tells of a young boy's attempt to save the Three Cups Inn in Lyme Regis - pictured left. Thank you Laurel Ann of Austenprose for the alert! Although the article states that Jane Austen stayed here, there was in fact another earlier Three Cups Inn which was further down Broad Street - the original building was burnt down in 1844 and then re-built in its present position according to the Austen expert and author Maggie Lane. As Jane died in 1817 she couldn't have stayed at the present inn. I have seen a print of the original position of the Three Cups Inn when I was drawing the map for Maggie Lane's book, Jane Austen and Lyme Regis and this was clearly used as inspiration for Philip Gough's illustration below. The Three Cups is the yellow building on the left. It is thought this was also most likely to have been the inspiration for the inn in which the party from Uppercross stayed when they visited Lyme.
From Jane Austen's Persuasion:
After securing accommodations, and ordering a dinner at one of the inns, the next thing to be done was unquestionably to walk directly down to the sea. They were come too late in the year for any amusement or variety which Lyme as a public place, might offer. The rooms were shut up, the lodgers almost all gone, scarcely any family but of the residents left; and as there is nothing to admire in the buildings themselves, the remarkable situation of the town, the principal street almost hurrying into the water, the walk to the Cobb, skirting round the pleasant little bay, which in the season is animated with bathing-machines and company; the Cobb itself, its old wonders and new improvements, with the very beautiful line of cliffs stretching out to the east of the town, are what the stranger's eye will seek...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Jane Austen Treasures!

I thought you'd like to see these treasures - a collection of lace, bonnet, gloves, glasses and ivory counters that belonged to Jane and the Austen family. They are on display in the museum at Lyme - donated by Mrs Diana Shervington. I was lucky enough to hear this fascinating lady speak at a conference in Lyme a few years ago. She brought along some other pieces from her collection - I particularly remember a strikingly beautiful red feather cockade that Jane wore in her bonnet and thinking that this was no accessory for a shy, retiring country spinster. Mrs Shervington was most generous with her time and gave a really entertaining talk on her illustrious ancestor - she is descended from the Knight family. Full of humour and with so many stories to tell I couldn't help thinking that I had come face to face with Jane herself. She will be giving a talk at the museum in Lyme at 11 am on 30th June 2009 - for a full list of events in Lyme please click here
The glasses apparently belonged to Jane's mother. The lace and gloves are exquisite and so very tiny - the Austen women must have had very delicate hands. The counters are the type used in card games as mentioned in Pride and Prejudice - 'Lydia talked incessantly of lottery tickets, of the fish she had lost and the fish she had won'. The small sticks of ivory and bone are used in a game called spillikins where each player has to remove them one at a time by using a hook without disturbing the rest of the pile.

The alphabet letters reminded me of this passage from Emma by Jane Austen.

"Miss Woodhouse," said Frank Churchill, after examining a table behind him, which he could reach as he sat, "have your nephews taken away their alphabets - their box of letters? It used to stand here. Where is it? This is a sort of dull-looking evening, that ought to be treated rather as winter than summer. We had great amusement with those letters one morning. I want to puzzle you again."

Emma was pleased with the thought; and producing the box, the table was quickly scattered over with alphabets, which no one seemed so much disposed to employ as their two selves. They were rapidly forming words for each other, or for any body else who would be puzzled. The quietness of the game made it particularly eligible for Mr. Woodhouse, who had often been distressed by the more animated sort, which Mr. Weston had occasionally introduced, and who now sat happily occupied in lamenting, with tender melancholy, over the departure of the "poor little boys," or in fondly pointing out, as he took up any stray letter near him, how beautifully Emma had written it.

Frank Churchill placed a word before Miss Fairfax. She gave a slight glance round the table, and applied herself to it. Frank was next to Emma, Jane opposite to them - and Mr. Knightley so placed as to see them all; and it was his object to see as much as he could, with as little apparent observation. The word was discovered, and with a faint smile pushed away. If meant to be immediately mixed with the others, and buried from sight, she should have looked on the table instead of looking just across, for it was not mixed; and Harriet, eager after every fresh word, and finding out none, directly took it up, and fell to work. She was sitting by Mr. Knightley, and turned to him for help. The word was blunder; and as Harriet exultingly proclaimed it, there was a blush on Jane's cheek which gave it a meaning not otherwise ostensible. Mr. Knightley connected it with the dream; but how it could all be, was beyond his comprehension. How the delicacy, the discretion of his favourite could have been so lain asleep! He feared there must be some decided involvement. Disingenuousness and double-dealing seemed to meet him at every turn. These letters were but the vehicle for gallantry and trick. It was a child's play, chosen to conceal a deeper game on Frank Churchill's part.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Willoughby's Return - An old lover is back!

I've just been sent my full cover design for my new book Willoughby's Return which I love. Here is the blurb on the back cover to give you a little flavour of what is to come! Willoughby's Return will be published in November 2009 - to find out more please click here

An old lover is back,
determined to make trouble…
In Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, when Marianne
Dashwood marries Colonel Brandon, she puts her heartbreak
over dashing scoundrel John Willoughby behind her.
Three years later, Willoughby’s return throws Marianne
into a tizzy of painful memories and exquisite feelings
of uncertainty. Willoughby is as charming, as roguish,
and as much in love with her as ever. And the timing
couldn’t be worse—with Colonel Brandon away and
Willoughby determined to win her back, will Marianne find
the strength to save her marriage, or will the temptation of
a previous love be too powerful to resist?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Granny's Teeth on the Cobb!

There are several sets of steps along the Cobb but these known as Granny's Teeth are some of the oldest. I have to say they are very scary to negotiate when coming down off the top particularly when there is a high wind blowing. Anyway, I made it as you can see!
Below is the extract from Persuasion where Louisa Musgrove is flirting with Captain Wentworth. She wants to be 'jumped' down the steps - an opportunity to hold his hand and feel his hands about her waist most likely. It all ends in tears as you will see.

There was too much wind to make the high part of the new Cobb pleasant for the ladies, and they agreed to get down the steps to the lower, and all were contented to pass quietly and carefully down the steep flight, excepting Louisa: she must be jumped down them by Captain Wentworth. In all their walks he had had to jump her from the stiles; the sensation was delightful to her. The hardness of the pavement for her feet made him less willing upon the present occasion; he did it, however. She was safely down, and instantly to shew her enjoyment, ran up the steps to be jumped down again. He advised her against it, thought the jar too great; but no, he reasoned and talked in vain, she smiled and said, "I am determined I will": he put out his hands; she was too precipitate by half a second, she fell on the pavement on the Lower Cobb, and was taken up lifeless! There was no wound, no blood, no visible bruise; but her eyes were closed, she breathed not, her face was like death. The horror of that moment to all who stood around!

Captain Wentworth, who had caught her up, knelt with her in his arms, looking on her with a face as pallid as her own, in an agony of silence. "She is dead! she is dead!" screamed Mary, catching hold of her husband, and contributing with his own horror to make him immoveable; and in another moment, Henrietta, sinking under the conviction, lost her senses too, and would have fallen on the steps, but for Captain Benwick and Anne, who caught and supported her between them.

"Is there no one to help me?" were the first words which burst from Captain Wentworth, in a tone of despair, and as if all his own strength were gone.

"Go to him, go to him," cried Anne, "for heaven's sake go to him. I can support her myself. Leave me, and go to him. Rub her hands, rub her temples; here are salts: take them, take them."

Captain Benwick obeyed, and Charles at the same moment disengaging himself from his wife, they were both with him; and Louisa was raised up and supported more firmly between them, and everything was done that Anne had prompted, but in vain; while Captain Wentworth, staggering against the wall for his support, exclaimed in the bitterest agony --

"Oh God! her father and mother!"

"A surgeon!" said Anne.

He caught the word: it seemed to rouse him at once; and saying only - "True, true, a surgeon this instant," was darting away, when Anne eagerly suggested -

"Captain Benwick, would not it be better for Captain Benwick? He knows where a surgeon is to be found."

Every one capable of thinking felt the advantage of the idea, and in a moment (it was all done in rapid moments) Captain Benwick had resigned the poor corpse-like figure entirely to the brother's care, and was off for the town with the utmost rapidity.

As to the wretched party left behind, it could scarcely be said which of the three, who were completely rational, was suffering most: Captain Wentworth, Anne, or Charles, who, really a very affectionate brother, hung over Louisa with sobs of grief, and could only turn his eyes from one sister to see the other in a state as insensible, or to witness the hysterical agitations of his wife, calling on him for help which he could not give.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Jane Austen's letter from Lyme with pictures of the house where she stayed

Here are some pictures of me standing outside one of the houses that Jane Austen is believed to have stayed in at Lyme. Pyne House is on the main High Street of the town not far from the beach. As I was standing waiting to have my photo taken someone actually came out of the front door - needless to say I was a bit embarrassed! Here are some extracts from Jane's letter written from Lyme to her sister Cassandra.

Lyme, Friday, September 14th 1804.

My dear Cassandra, - I take the first sheet of fine striped paper to thank you for your letter from Weymouth, and express my hopes of your being at Ibthorp before this time. I expect to hear that you reached it yesterday evening, being able to get as far as Blandford on Wednesday. Your account of Weymouth contains nothing which strikes me so forcibly as there being no ice in the town. For every other vexation I was in some measure prepared, and particularly for your disappointment in not seeing the Royal Family go on board on Tuesday, having already heard from Mr. Crawford that he had seen you in the very act of being too late. But for there being no ice, what could prepare me?

You found my letter at Andover, I hope, yesterday, and have now for many hours been satisfied that your kind anxiety on my behalf was as much thrown away as kind anxiety usually is. I continue quite well; in proof of which I have bathed again this morning. It was absolutely necessary that I should have the little fever and indisposition which I had: it has been all the fashion this week in Lyme.

We are quite settled in our lodgings by this time, as you may suppose, and everything goes on in the usual order. The servants behave very well, and make no difficulties, though nothing certainly can exceed the inconvenience of the offices, except the general dirtiness of the house and furniture, and all its inhabitants. I endeavour, as far as I can, to supply your place, and be useful, and keep things in order. I detect dirt in the water decanter as fast as I can, and give the cook physic which she throws off her stomach. I forget whether she used to do this under your administration. The ball last night was pleasant, but not full for Thursday. My father staid contentedly till half-past nine (we went a little after eight), and then walked home with James and a lanthorn, though I believe the lanthorn was not lit, as the moon was up, but sometimes this lanthorn may be a great convenience to him. My mother and I staid about an hour later. Nobody asked me the two first dances; the next two I danced with Mr. Crawford, and had I chosen to stay longer might have danced with Mr. Granville, Mrs. Granville's son, whom my dear friend Miss A. offered to introduce to me, or with a new odd-looking man who had been eyeing me for some time, and at last, without any introduction, asked me if I meant to dance again. I think he must be Irish by his ease, and because I imagine him to belong to the honbl. B.'s, who are son, and son's wife of an Irish viscount, bold queer-looking people, just fit to be quality at Lyme. I called yesterday morning (ought it not in strict propriety to be termed yester-morning?) on Miss A. and was introduced to her father and mother. Like other young ladies she is considerably genteeler than her parents. Mrs. A. sat darning a pair of stockings the whole of my visit. But do not mention this at home, lest a warning should act as an example. We afterwards walked together for an hour on the Cobb; she is very conversable in a common way; I do not perceive wit or genius, but she has sense and some degree of taste, and her manners are very engaging. She seems to like people rather too easily.