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Archive for the ‘Mr.Darcy’ Category

Gentle Readers, author Colette Saucier has written a description of her journey on writing Pulse and Prejudice, a vampire adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Those of us who are fascinated with the vampire myth can relate to her journey! You can find more information about Colette and her book on Colette Saucier.com

This is a story of Mr. Darcy, Lord Byron, and vampires.

I love Pride and Prejudice. I have read it so many times, I cannot even remember a time before it was not part of my consciousness. Of course, I like all of Jane Austen’s novels, but the story of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth speaks to me in a way the others do not. I do not believe I am alone in this, as it set the standard for every romance novel and romantic comedy since its publication 200 years ago: boy meets girl, boy likes girl, girl hates boy, girl and boy like each other, misunderstanding/outside forces tear them apart, reunion, reconciliation, happily ever after.

Quite a number of years ago, I had the misfortune of seeing what I refer to as the Pride and Prejudice mutilation, the 1940 film starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. Not only did they dress all of the Bennet girls as Southern Belles, Greer Garson was thirty-six. THIRTY-SIX! Three years older than Olivier. I won’t even go into the plot except to say they had no right to call it Pride and Prejudice. After that, I decided never again would I subject myself to any adaptation of my beloved Austen. I did not even see the BBC miniseries with Colin Firth when it premiered.

So what changed? First, I saw the movie Clueless. I enjoyed every moment of it, all the while thinking to myself, “This is Emma!” Sure enough, Amy Heckerling had updated my second favorite Jane Austen novel. Then, without knowing Helen Fielding had written it as a modern variation on Pride and Prejudice, I read Bridget Jones’s Diary. Well, after that, I had to see Colin Firth’s Pride and Prejudice, and now I had a face to go with my Mr. Darcy. Thus ended my boycott of all things not-quite-Austen.

All of this, of course, occurred some fifteen years ago. Although my mind had been opened to the possibilities, I had no intention of writing any Austen adaptations myself. Then a little book called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies took off like wildfire and landed near the top of the New York Times bestseller list. I have never been a zombie fan myself, but I did love the film Shaun of the Dead. When I stumbled upon the zombie book in my daughter’s bedroom, I knew it was a parody, and I had hoped its approach would be similar to that film. I had never heard of a “mash-up” before, but now I know I do not like them. The (co)author had taken the complete text of Pride and Prejudice and just stuck zombies and ninjas between the paragraphs. Not impressed. The zombie book did, however, introduce me to the genre of Austen adaptations and variations, and an addiction was born. I ate them up like potato chips. Some were good, some were horrid, but many I found completely delightful. All of them allowed me to continue my literary love affair with Mr. Darcy.

Now to back up a bit, somewhere in the middle of my multiple readings of Pride and Prejudice (actual Austen, not adaptations), I learned about Lord George Gordon Byron. I had read some of his poems over the years, but after seeing the film Gothic, I became more interested in the man behind the words. That he was portrayed by a young Gabriel Byrne didn’t hurt! This film depicts the summer night when Byron and his pal Percy Shelley gathered with friends in Switzerland and told each other ghost stories, one of which became Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

That evening also inspired John Polidori to write The Vampyre – the original gentleman vampire. Although I never cared for zombies or werewolves or other monsters, I have always been a vampire fan. (To all of those publishers who rejected my manuscript because they believed the “vampire trend is over,” allow me to say, vampires will never of out of style. They’re immortal, after all!) I refer to the sensual, suave, and seductive variety of vampire, or the tortured souls such as Gary Oldman’s depiction in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. That image of the mysterious and charismatic vampire originated that night in 1816 with Polidori and Lord Byron.

Austen’s Mr. Darcy struck me as a Byronic figure – intelligent but arrogant, sophisticated and cynical, introspective and conflicted. “That man of loneliness and mystery, Scarce seen to smile, and seldom heard to sigh.” (The Corsair, I, VIII) Knowing that Polidori had based his Vampyre on Byron cultivated in my mind the idea that Darcy as a character – as well as Pride and Prejudice as a whole – lent itself well to a vampire adaptation; however, when I looked, I could not find the adaptation I envisioned. Yes, someone had published a vampire “mash-up,” but I have already expressed my opinion on those. I also found a vampire sequel told in gothic style. Regina Jeffers had written a fascinating novel inspired by Pride and Prejudice with Mr. Darcy as dhampir, battling against vampires while resisting the urge to become one himself.

I needed something more. I wanted Mr. Darcy to be an honest-to-goodness neck-biting, blood-drinking, night-walking vampire who could be healed in the moonlight as in the Polidori story. I felt the story must be told from Mr. Darcy’s point of view to explore that Byronic Hero aspect of his nature, which we only glimpse in Austen’s narrative, and allow the curse of vampirism to reveal further depths of character – an outcast, suffering, jaded . Because this adaptation of Pride and Prejudice did not exist, I had no choice but to write it myself.

I threw myself full-force into researching Regency England, vampire folklore, and Pride and Prejudice itself. This paranormal adaptation had to remain faithful to Austen in style, plot, and characters. How would Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet react to vampires? That itself required a thorough analysis of Elizabeth to ensure in this adaptation she remained true to the original character under remarkable circumstances. The novel had to be historically accurate and free of any anachronisms. I wanted it to be as if Jane Austen herself had written the story of Mr. Darcy as vampire, and I think I have succeeded. Well, except I did add another section – Beyond Pride and Prejudice – to peek into the passion, lust, and desire between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy that simmers just under the surface in the original. Jane Austen teases us with hints of Darcy’s attraction to Elizabeth, and I could not leave that territory uncharted.

Thus, after fifteen years gestation, Pulse and Prejudice was born – an authentic vampire variation of the beloved classic. I hope I have written the paranormal adaptation others want to read as well.

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In 1993 Colin Firth starred opposite Jemma Redgrave (Lady Betram, Mansfield Park) in Chatsky, in which the hero of the play tells the truth and is mistaken for a lunatic.  It is amazing to see the images from that play,  for, since it is set during Regency times, Colin in full costume could easily be mistaken as Mr. Darcy, a role he would play two years later. Jemma played Lady Bertram in 2007′s Mansfield Park. Although the part was written against type (at the end of the film, Lady Bertram energetically unites Fanny with Edmund), her portrayal of that indolent lady was fresh and memorable.

Image @The AFirthionado Archive

To see more pictures of Chatsky and to read about the play, go to: The AFirthionado

Colin in 1993. Image @The AFirthionado Archive

Colin in 1995

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From the desk of Shelley DeWees…The Uprising.

If Elizabeth had not known better, she would have sworn he was deliberately throwing himself in her way, but she did know better. Whenever they were in company together, Darcy was usually cool and aloof, yet he chose to stare at her constantly, and with a level of intensity that had begun to make her uncomfortable. Sure such a handsome, wealthy, intelligent man, who was used to nothing but the very finest in society, could not deign to look upon a woman of her inferior station and circumstances in life unless it was to find fault; and, indeed, she knew he had found fault with her, almost from the very first moment of their acquaintance at the assembly in Meryton some weeks ago.”

A departure from P&P while still calling itself a re-telling, The Truth About Mr. Darcy is a middle-of-the-road revisit to the beloved land of Jane’s Hertfordshire….it’s not stupendous, it’s not terrible. It starts slow. It ends slow. But the middle is a moderately interesting take on Darcy and Elizabeth’s path to matrimony, with all its major ups (money money everywhere) and smallish downs (minor disagreements followed by make-up sex).

The back of the book poses a question to Mr. Darcy. Should he tell the truth about his old nemesis George Wickham in order to protect the good citizens of Meryton from Wickham’s lies and secrets? Well, in a word, yes. He should. And does within the first two chapters, employing a moment of self-truth that would, had it occurred in the original P&P, caused all measure of heartache and sadness to be averted. What to do now? Especially since Elizabeth immediately follows suit in working out her out neurosis with prejudice right away, denying his first proposal but agreeing to a courtship that she reasons (admirably and in a drastic departure from Ms. Austen’s typical character attributes) will help her actually know this guy, this supposed husband/lover/friend/parent/guardian person she’s to spend her life attached to. Thus, the relationship begins, burgeoning passions ensue, then the wedding, and before you know it the book is over.

It’s a lovely story in all actuality, and Adriani tells it well. There seem to be a lot of modern flavors working here, including the aforementioned “let’s get to know that dude over there before agreeing to marriage” thing and the departure from the “let’s not have any sexual contact before the big day” thing. Having always suspected that many people in Regency England were guilty of violations of propriety in the name of love and/or passion, I found that rather refreshing and, frankly, long overdue in Austen spin offs. That Adriani should take a modern view of relationships and graft it onto Darcy and Elizabeth I found impressive and inspiring! Go you, Ms. Adriani! The courtship is honest and communicative, and paves the way for many heartfelt conversations and even more heartfelt turns in the sack (which were all super sexy but got to be little gratuitous by the end).

Spoiler Alert in this paragraph:

The rest of the experience in The Truth About Mr. Darcy was good-ish, not great, not horrific. There was, however, one moment where my hand went to my forehead, accompanied by an outspoken “Oh come ON!” and an exasperated sigh when Mr. Wickham’s nature was explored. Not only is he a debt-ridden scoundrel mired in controversy, he’s a near-rapist, and one sly wink away from a serial killer. Really? I mean, he’s a snotty spoiled dandy, but a rapist? It seemed like the dichotomy of good vs. bad was just a wee bit overused, both with Wickham and with Mr. Collins, whose refused proposal sparks a deluge of conceit and even revenge. In The Truth About Mr. Darcy, it seems as though you’re either a shining paradigm of virtue or the scum on the bottom rung of the ladder of humanity. A little bit of creative character development would’ve been a better choice.

Still, Susan Adriani’s debut novel is not entirely without success. It’s well written and fairly engaging, sexy, and compelling in a conventional sort of way. Those of you gentle readers whose hearts go aflutter at the notion of revisiting P&P won’t be disappointed. If you’re on the fence about these sorts of things, you might be better off skipping this one.

Be aware that this book is for mature readers only.

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Inquiring Readers, Carolyn McDowall of The Culture Concept Circle has graciously allowed me to recreate Part One of her Two Part series. Find Part Two of Vanity Fair, but where is Mr Darcy? at this link.

Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously…pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us” … Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1811

William Hallett and Elizabeth Stephen by Thomas Gainsborough, courtesy National Gallery at London

By the close of the eighteenth century archaeological investigations in Europe and Egypt were revealing more and more about the ‘antique’ past. The expansion of knowledge about antiquity revealed that ancient artists and writers had been accustomed to free expression in their work, with religion and honour paramount to any society’s daily existence. This revelation began changing the social and moral values and concerns of the many English, American and European societies who were all now ardently in search of truth.

Author Jane Austen lived in one of the most eventful, colourful and turbulent epochs in the history of England and Europe. The scenes of this extraordinary era were well recorded by many talented painters and sculptors of the day. In England this included the renowned painter Thomas Gainsborough.

In 1785, when Jane Austen was just 10 years old, he captured William Hallett and Elizabeth Stephen stepping out in style together for a morning walk. They were an elegant young couple, both 21 years of age and bound by their social status and the rules it imposed. They were due to be married in the summer of 1785.

They epitomize the stylish quality of the people who starred in Jane’s novels. He is discreetly dashing in a well fitting black velvet riding coat, an aspect of a gentleman’s costume that reflected his desire to be seen as ‘informal’, approachable, someone in touch with the political scene and social set of his day. He has the quiet confidence of a compleat gentleman.

She looks lovely in her softly floating silk dress, a smart black band accentuating her small waist and balancing perfectly with the simple black straw hat tied with a ribbon and feathers and placed at a jaunty modern angle on her very bouffant hair.

Strolling happily through a woodland landscape with an adoring dog at the lady’s heel they both appear full of hope in love and eagerly looking forward to a July wedding and a happy life together into the new millennium.

Cassandra's portrait of her sister, Jane Austen. National Portrait Gallery

One of Jane Austen’s peers, renowned Scottish author of romantic novels Sir Walter Scott (1771 – 1832) said of Jane (1775-1817) that he believed the secret of her success was that she had chosen to write about ‘ordinary people doing things that happen in every day life’.Born at Steventon, Hampshire on 16th December 1775. The seventh child and second daughter of a scholar-clergyman and rector of the small country parishes of Steventon and Deane, Jane Austen’s family were members of the wealthy merchant class on her father’s side and aristocrats on her mother’s side. She was brought up in a country rectory and was, from contemporary descriptions, without pretension, her demeanour more ‘in a homely rather than grand manner’. Another way of saying that she was plain.

Captain Wentworth (Rupert Penry-Jones)

She and her family enjoyed amateur dramatics in the barn, playing charades, literary readings and musical evenings. While her older brothers hunted and shot game her mother industriously managed a small herd of cows, a dairy and, as a woman of sensibility and of some station in life, looked to the wellbeing of the local poor. Her father, as a rector, was regarded as a ‘gentleman’. He was an affable, courteous man welcomed by all the local landed gentry, and their well off tenants, as was her brother Edward, who just happened to be the heir to his cousin Mr. Thomas Knight’s estates. This meant Jane was able to move comfortably out and about in society and become a respectable observer in the luxurious world of the leisured classes.

A Georgian Rectory

It seems that her family more than likely fell into a category of middling people, a term coined by literary wit and social commentator Horace Walpole on his return from the continent in 1741 “I have before discovered that there was nowhere but in England the distinction of being middling people. I perceive now that there is peculiar to us middling houses; how snug they are” The country gentry actively supported the ruling and upper classes by cultivating an ambience of politeness, a keen, though delicate sensibility, which was always balanced by displaying a great deal of practical common sense.

Their gentrification was reflected in how they dressed, dined, performed and were entertained, in a selection of social settings. They rotated from the socially competitive atmosphere of London’s elegant drawing rooms to the cheerful gaiety of Bath’s assembly’s room and they also enjoyed the more robust attractions of popular coastal resorts like Brighton, which were after 1792 was also frequented by the Prince Regent and his entourage.

They strove for aesthetic perfection urged on by their awareness of the ‘antique’, while striving to emulate the ideal – classical perfection, The classical ideal had flowed over into the landscape during the eighteenth century and small temples originally designed as refuges from the hot Mediterranean sun, became focal points of beauty.

View of the Hall at Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill 1788 Watercolour by John Carte

At the time of Jane’s birth Horace Walpole, for whom literacy mattered, was using decorative ornament inspired by a literary and pictorial interest in Gothic architecture at his house Strawberry Hill.

He and his peers benchmarked standards for excellence in taste and style well recognised by Jane and the burgeoning middle classes, who wished to emulate them.

Horry took what he liked and used it the way he wanted and his character seemingly enjoyed total satisfaction by ‘imprinting the gloomth of abbeys and cathedrals on one’s house.’

Godmersham Park.

Jane’s brother Edward Austen Knight eventually inherited the very gentrified Godmersham Park in Kent and two of her other brother’s Francis and Charles had distinguished careers in the British navy. Francis received a knighthood and the much coveted order of Bath and Jane’s brother Charles bought topaz crosses for his two sisters, going without to purchase them.

In the Christian understanding perfect love makes no demands and seeks nothing for itself, and this was the quality of the people that abounded in so many of the characters in Jane Austen’s life and in her novels. Jane enjoyed what she herself called ‘life a la Godmersham”.

Emma (Gwynneth Paltrow) and Mr Knightley (Jeremy Northam) dance

Her brothers hunted in Edward’s park, played billiards and entertained in a style that amused Jane. Writing from Godmersham in 1813 she commented “at this present time I have five tables, eight and twenty chairs and two fires all to myself”.

The Royal navy were winning great victories on the continent at the time. For the leisured classes in Jane’s novels the war was something that happened in the newspapers or far out at sea. Although her brothers were involved, many of these events seemed very remote and Jane and her peers continued to pursue their daily activities such as music, painting, playing games and writing with great enthusiasm comforted in the knowledge that England had the best navy in the world.

Trafalgar Chair, 1810, courtesy V & A Museum, London

The Duke of Wellington’s victories and Admiral Nelson’s death at the Battle of Trafalgar caused a nation to mourn as well as celebrate wildly for twenty years afterward. And all manner of goods were named for him including “Trafalgar chairs”, which along with the sofa table were two very popular pieces of furniture during the Regency period.

Rosewood Regency period Sofa Table c1810, courtesy Mallett Antiques, London

Country houses and their beautiful parks were not simply the expressions of a wealthy ruling class for Jane and her contemporaries. They represented an ideal civilization with a mixture of self-esteem, national pride and uncompromising good taste. For the rest of the population they reflected the unequal structure of a society where a third of the nation’s population faced a daily struggle to survive. From the monarch to the poorest of the land there was a pyramid of patronage and property. At the base of which in 1803 a third were the labouring poor, the cottagers, the seamen, the soldiers, the paupers and the vagrants who lived at subsistence level.

Jane’s letter to her sister Cassandra in 1799 highlights the point, when a horse her brother purchased cost sixty guineas and the boy hired to look after him four pounds a year. Those employed in service counted they lucky, but even in well off household’s service conditions were still fairly primitive. Jane said “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can”. The contrast of the battlefield and the ballroom are apt as a reminder of the powerfully opposed elements that made up the England into which Jane was born and in which she grew to maturity.

Beau Brummell - The Fashionable dress of a Gentleman

George, Prince of Wales, the future George IV was the very active, central focus of the style we now know as the Regency period. His personality was complex and he often indulged in fantastic flights of fantasy.

George, Prince of Wales in 1792

As a young man he had fair hair, blue eyes and pink and white complexion, and a tendency to corpulence. As he grew to maturity he gained considerably in popularity due to his good looks, high spirits and agreeable manners.

He was the darling of the fashionable world. George Bryan Brummell (England, 1778-1840) became the most famous of all the dashing young men of the Regency. He was not of aristocratic birth, but the son of the secretary to Lord North.(George III’s Prime Minister who played a major role in the American Revolution). Educated at Eton, the Beau became known as Buck and was extremely well liked by the other boys. He spent a short period at Oriel College, which has the distinction of being the oldest royal foundation in Oxford, dating from 1324.

Sartorial splendour - shades of Mr Darcy? (Colin Firth)

The Prince Regent was told that Brummell was a witty fellow, so he obtained an appointment for him in his regiment (1794). Brummell became a Captain of the Tenth Hussars and was constantly in the Prince’s company.

Military sartorial splendour...must be Mr Wickham! (Rupert Friend)

In the circles around the Prince he was known as a virtual oracle on matters related to dress and etiquette. As the new dictator of taste he established a code of costume.

A typical Regency outfit for day wear was a jacket cut away in front and with tails at the back. There was no waist seam, a feature present in Victorian coats. The open area around the hip had a distinctive curve pulling slightly around the waist.

Even more notably, the sleeves were particularly long and seated high on the shoulder. There are virtually no shoulder pads. Normally jackets had fabric-covered buttons. An exception was blue jackets with brass metal buttons–an association with military styles.

At night it was all sartorial splendour, rich textiles velvet, brocades, silks, all combined with a great deal of elegance, the costume for a gentlemen including a black coat.

Today we would say the Beau was very well connected, an important part of an influential network and a man to know.

Entrance Hall, Carlton House, 1819 by W.H.Pyn

It was in 1784 when the Prince of Wales took one look at Maria Fitzherbert standing on the steps of the Opera and fell instantly in love with her. He was totally besotted and would only attend parties and events if the hostess assured him Maria would be both there – and sat next to him!

Maria Fitzherbert

Following a dedicated and unsuccessful pursuit of Mrs. Fitzherbert, Maria was surprised one evening by a visit from some of the Prince’s men. They had found him weak and bleeding in his home Carlton House, whose interiors were among the wonders of the age.

They told her the Prince had tried to commit suicide and Mrs. Fitzherbert, accompanied by the Duchess of Devonshire, rushed to his side whereupon he persuaded Maria to marry him. In 1785 George, Prince of Wales Prince married Mrs. Fitzherbert (1756 –1837) a Roman Catholic who had been married twice before. The couple was happy and while society seemingly accepted the unconventional pair the marriage rocked court circles, which could not cope with the thought that a Prince might marry a divorced woman.

Bedford Square Brighton built 1801

Eventually the Prince would be forced to put her aside and it did not help his cause that his friend Beau Brummell, to whom Maria took a pronounced dislike, disapproved of the liaison.

Brighton-Marine-Pavilion

Initially the Prince spent a great deal of time and effort building Maria his bride a house nearby his home Carlton House in Pall Mall and decorating his own home. He ran up such huge debts the only way his father, the King would agree to help him out and pay them was if he put aside Maria and marry Caroline of Brunswick, for political reasons, which he did.

In 1793 George, Prince of Wales visited the seaside town of Brighton, and ordered the subsequent renovation of a small house he purchased from one of his footman. Architect, Henry Holland, well known for his refined Francophile tastes, fashioned it into a splendid marine villa with gentle curving bays, wrought iron balconies and long sash windows, and it was much admired and set a standard for marine villas for many years to come. Mrs. Fitzherbert and the Prince parted company upon the marriage to Princess Caroline, however following the birth of his daughter; the Prince recommenced his pursuit of Maria.

Mathematical Tiles on Regency House, Brighton

Maria was wary, however and upon asking the Pope for guidance she was informed that she was the only true wife of the Prince so she returned to him. Again the couple spent a lot of time entertaining at Brighton and London.

Sea Bathing England C19

Bathing in the sea had become very popular, with the Prince’s own physician recommending he bathe daily and bathing machines were set up especially for that purpose. All over Brighton, rows of small villas were built, echoing the Pavilion’s shape.

Some of the newly popular ‘seaside’ villas in Brighton were glazed with a smart material called ‘mathematical tiles’ which enabled villa houses to be built of less expensive brick and then ‘faced’. Introduced into the English architectural system after 1700 in England they were hung on buildings originally built of timber to give the appearance of higher quality brick walls. Today they are still not easy to recognise and are often mistaken for conventional brickwork. Black, glazed mathematical tiles are easy to discern, however, and may be seen at many locations in Brighton.

Chair designed by Thomas Hope, London in 1807 and made in 1892

Painted furniture and at wall decoration ‘Etruscan style’ at Osterley House. The interiors were designed by Scottish Architect Robert Adam
Interior arrangements whose design focus was based on classical order reached the height of its popularity through the neoclassical style of Scottish architect Robert Adam between 1760 and 1793. The expansion of the neo-classical style was fuelled in the last half of the eighteenth century because of the interests of English Grand Tourists in the new discoveries being made at Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy.

Etruscan room, Osterly House, Robert Adam.

Not only the shapes of the furniture were greatly influenced – for instance in the use of animal forms as supports for tables and chairs – but also the colour and decoration used for painted furniture, which was to be found in grand houses as well as much simpler gentry houses. Much of the charm of collecting such pieces lies in the rather primitive way the decoration was thought out and executed and many examples of very sophisticated simulated bamboo pieces were destined for important rooms.

Adam’s interiors could have easily been the inspiration for those of the formidable Lady Catherine de Burgh. Her country house Rosings in Pride and Prejudice was described by Jane as an interior of ‘fine proportion and finished ornaments’

Vanity fair, but where is Mr Darcy? – Part 2

Carolyn McDowall, April 2011 ©The Culture Concept Circle

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From the desk of Shelley DeWees…An interview with Karen V. Wasylowski, author of Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A Tale of a Gentleman and an Officer

About the book: The first ever Jane Austen BROmance from debut author Karen V. Wasylowski, Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A Tale of a Gentleman and an Officer is a truly original look into the life of Mr. Darcy. Butch Cassidy has the Sundance Kid, Felix has Oscar. Darcy has…Fitzwilliam! Readers of Pride and Prejudice know that Darcy and Fitzwilliam are thick as thieves and each other’s most cherished counsel. But as strong as their bond is, the two are still polar opposites! Darcy is quiet and reserved, while the vivacious Colonel Fitzwilliam is a confirmed bachelor whose military feats have made him a hero. Cousins, best friends, and sparring partners, Darcy and Fitzwilliam have always been there for each other.

To read Shelley de Wees’s refreshing review of this debut novel, click on this link to Jane Austen Today.

1.The problems faced by the characters in Darcy and Fitzwilliam are not quaint trifles by any means. Rather than being consumed by dilemmas of fashion or gossip or health, they’re instead met with huge setbacks and major trials of spirit. They encounter serious issues of social expectations, the solutions of which require lots of thinking and personal toil. What inspired you to write this way, especially in a genre that’s usually overrun with fluffy worlds of happiness and harmony?

First of all, thank you so much for saying that because that was truly what I wanted, to portray these men as real people, not Darcy the perfect romance hero and Fitzwilliam the affable side kick, nor did I want the women to be just caricatures of femininity. Real life is a struggle, very often between men and women, and that is so much more interesting to me than ball gowns and Almacks. There is a saying that life is what happens while we are busy making other plans and that’s the truth. Love and family can bring ecstasy and make you crazy, and sometimes all at once.

2. I really admired the way Lady Catherine De Bourgh was portrayed. Witty and stubborn yet refreshingly aware of her surroundings, your representation of her was one of the more ambitious ones in Austenesque literature. What motivated you to develop her so fully?

I loved writing Lady Catherine. I could say outrageous things that made no sense. As head of the family she feels she has the right, no the obligation, to infuriate these two men and interfere in their lives because, in her eyes, they are still horrid boys. She means well, she really does, and she’s the voice of the older generation that never can quite come to terms with the younger one. In my head Judy Dench starred as Lady Catherine, looking outraged at Fitzwilliam’s filthy boots or explaining procreation to Lizzy. Judy Dench was brilliant in my head.

3. When you’re not writing or volunteering, how else do you spend your time? Do you have any other hobbies?

No, not really. We live in Florida and that’s a pretty laid back lifestyle. Eating out is a hobby here, sleeping late. I love writing but I’m not disciplined in the least and I don’t feel much confidence yet. At any moment I think I’ll never create another scene or another word and that is scary, but exhilarating.

4. Tell us about the process you engage in when you sit down to write. Do you need complete silence, or do you write in the bedroom while throwing wild parties in the livingroom? Do you stick to a schedule? Do you prefer to write barefoot? Any other weirdness you’d like to share for the sake of our fascination?

Most of the time I need silence; anything on the television in the family room will bother me and I sit at my desk and marvel at the amount of female screaming there is on television – very disturbing on many levels. Other times a car could backfire in the family room and I wouldn’t hear it. There is no rhyme or reason. I have no schedule at all, spend a great deal of time ‘getting ready’ which means I play computer chess, and solitaire, I check Facebook, answer e-mails, go into the chat rooms, read the fan fiction sites, see if anyone left a nice compliment for one of my stories there, etc. After about an hour of this I feel ready to start. And then the phone rings – I get angry, grumble that I’m being disturbed, and the whole process begins again. It’s amazing I finished a book at all.

5. Are you working on anything new? Any more beguiling tales of love and intrigue we should know about?

Well, to tell you the truth, I have two books started. One covers the time before Darcy and Fitzwilliam, centering on Lizzy and Darcy and how they coalesce into a single unit as it were. I imagine it was quite a process for him to really understand her family and for her to adjust to his status. Their differences were vast, and I don’t think we, two hundred years later, can truly appreciate how difficult their adjustment must have been. I also want to show the effects of the war on Fitzwilliam and how years of warfare had attacked his spirit, causing his slide into the sort of debauched lifestyle he was living at the beginning of Darcy and Fitzwilliam.

The second book then is the period after Darcy and Fitzwilliam. It involves their children and all the blessings and madness that go with parenthood and getting older. Only heaven knows if either book will see the light of day but it is fun to be with my boys again. I told my husband, “You know it’s like I know what goes on in their heads.” He looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Karen, you are their heads.” I had forgotten. They are that real to me.

6. Finally, is there anything else you’d like to say?

I’d like to thank Deb Werksman and Sourcebooks Landmark for publishing Darcy and Fitzwilliam. No agent would even consider me – I wasn’t a famous name, nor a celebrity. So, I defied all logic and sent my manuscript directly into the publisher who gave me my chance. It proves that if you really love what you are doing and if you have faith in it, anything is possible. Never give up.

Karen Wasylowski

About the author Karen V. Wasylowski: Karen is a retired accountant and CPA. This is her first novel. She and her husband spend much of their free time volunteering with charitable organizations in their community. Karen and her husband live in Bradenton, Florida.

About the interviewer Shelley de Wees: This is Shelley de Wees’s first interview for this blog. She has written five reviews for me – three for Jane Austen’s World and two for my other blog, Jane Austen Today. Shelley also oversees her own blog, The Uprising, which features vegan recipes. Yum. She lives in the northern U.S. I shiver just thinking about the cold at this time of year.

Image of the author taken from My Jane Austen Book Club.

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Inquiring Readers: This is the second of four posts to Pride and Prejudice Without Zombies, Austenprose’s main event for June/July – or an in-depth reading of Pride and Prejudice. My first post discussed Dressing for the Netherfield Ball. This post discusses the dances and etiquette of balls in Jane Austen’s era. Warning: the film adaptations get many dance details wrong.

Dancers, Rowlandson, 1790's

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 …” Mrs Bennet about Mr. Bingley at The Netherfield Ball.

The English ballroom and assembly room was the courting field upon which gentlemen and ladies on the marriage mart could finally touch one another and spend some time conversing during their long sets or ogle each other without seeming to be too forward or brash. Dancing was such an important social event during the Georgian and Regency eras that girls and boys practiced complicated dance steps with dancing masters and learned to memorize the rules of ballroom etiquette.

The Five Positions of Dancing, Wilson, 1811

Balls were regarded as social experiences, and gentlemen were tasked to dance with as many ladies as they could. This is one reason why Mr. Darcy’s behavior was considered rude at the Meryton Ball- there were several ladies, as Elizabeth pointed out to him and Colonel Fitzwilliam at Rosings, who had to sit out the dance.

“He danced only four dances, though gentlemen were scarce; and, to my certain knowledge, more than one young lady was sitting down in want of a partner.”

Mr. Bingley, on the other hand, danced every dance and thus behaved as a gentleman should.

Ladies had to wait passively for a partner to approach them and when they were, they were then obliged to accept the invitation. One reason why Elizabeth was so vexed when Mr. Collins, who had solicited her for the first two dances at the Netherfield Ball, was that she’d intended to reserve them for Mr. Wickham. Had she refused Mr. Collins, she would have been considered not only rude, but she would have forced to sit out the dances for the rest of the evening.

A Broad Hint of Not Meaning to Dance, Gillray, 1804

The only acceptable excuse in refusing a dance was when a lady had already promised the next set to another, or if she had grown tired and was sitting out the dance. Elizabeth could offer neither excuses at the start of the ball, and thus was forced to partner with Mr. Collins.

At a ball, a lady’s dress and deportment were designed to exhibit her best qualities:

As dancing is the accomplishment most calculated to display a fine form, elegant taste, and graceful carriage to advantage, so towards it our regards must be particularly turned: and we shall find that when Beauty in all her power is to be set forth, she cannot choose a more effective exhibition – The Mirror of Graces, 1811

Real Life in London

It was also extremely important for a gentleman to dance well, for such a talent reflected upon his character and abilities. Lizzie’s dances with Mr. Collins were causes of mortification and distress.

Mr. Collins slightly out of step

“Mr. Collins, awkward and solemn, apologising instead of attending, and often moving wrong without being aware of it, gave her all the shame and misery which a disagreeable partner for a couple of dances can give. The moment of her release from him was exstacy.”

A gentleman could not ask a lady to dance if they had not been introduced. This point was well made in Northanger Abbey, when Catherine Morland had to sit out the dances in the Upper Rooms in Bath, for Mrs. Allen and she did not know a single soul. Mrs Allen kept sighing throughout the evening, “I wish you could dance, my dear, — I wish you could get a partner.” Mr. Tilney was introduced by Mr. King, the Master of Ceremonies in the Lower Rooms, to Catherine, who could then dance with him. At Rosings, when Mr. Darcy explained to Lizzie that he danced only four dances at the Meryton Assembly ball because he knew only the ladies in his own party, she scoffed and retorted: “True; and nobody can ever be introduced in a ball room.”

Because a ball was considered a social experience, a couple could (at the most) dance only two sets (each set consisted of two dances), which generally lasted from 20-30 minutes per dance. Thus, a couple in love had an opportunity of spending as much as an hour together for each set.

A gentleman, whether single or married, was expected to approach the ladies who wished to dance. Given the etiquette of the day, Mr. Elton’s refusal to dance with poor Harriet at the Crown Ball in Emma was rude in the extreme, but Mr. Knightley performed his gentlemanly duty by asking that young lady to dance (and winning her heart in the process).

A lively dance at Almack's

Regency dances were extremely lively. The dancers were young, generally from 18-30 years of age, and they did NOT slide or glide sedately, as some recent film adaptations seem to suggest. They performed agile dance steps and exerted themselves in vigorous movements which included hopping, jumping, skipping, and clapping hands.

Depending on the dance formation and steps, a gentleman was allowed to touch a lady and hold her hand (and vice versa, as shown in the example of Mansfield Park 1999 above and in the image below).

Allemande

The couple had many opportunities to converse or catch their breaths when they waited for others to finish working their way down a dance progression.  The ability to carry out a conversation was considered very important, as Lizzie pointedly reminded Mr. Darcy:

“Elizabeth … took her place in the set, amazed at the dignity to which she was arrived in being allowed to stand opposite to Mr. Darcy, and reading in her neighbours’ looks their equal amazement in beholding it. They stood for some time without speaking a word; and she began to imagine that their silence was to last through the two dances, and at first was resolved not to break it; till suddenly fancying that it would be the greater punishment to her partner to oblige him to talk, she made some slight observation on the dance. He replied, and was again silent. After a pause of some minutes, she addressed him a second time with:

“It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy.—I talked about the dance, and you ought to make some kind of remark on the size of the room, or the number of couples.”

He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say should be said.

“Very well.—That reply will do for the present.—Perhaps by and by I may observe that private balls are much pleasanter than public ones.—But now we may be silent.”

“Do you talk by rule then, while you are dancing?”

“Sometimes. One must speak a little, you know. It would look odd to be entirely silent for half an hour together, and yet for the advantage of some, conversation ought to be so arranged as that they may have the trouble of saying as little as as possible.”

The dances that would have been danced at the Nethefield Ball were:

The English Country Dance

The characteristic of an English country dance is that of gay simplicity. The steps should be few and easy, and the corresponding motion of the arms and body unaffected, modest , and graceful. – The Mirror of Graces, 1811

Country dances consisted of long lines of dances in which the couples performed figures as they progressed down the line.

When a dancer was too tired to do steps, she would have been considered no longer dancing at all, as with Fanny in Chapter 28 of Mansfield Park:

“Sir Thomas, having seen her walk rather than dance down the shortening set, breathless, and with her hand at her side, gave his orders for her sitting down entirely.”

Rather than everyone starting at once, dances would have called and led off by a single couple at the top; as that couple progressed down the set other couples would begin to dance, then lead off in turn as they reached the top, until all the dancers were moving. Jane Austen occasionally got to lead a dance, as she mentioned in a letter of November 20, 1800, to her sister Cassandra:

“My partners were the two St. Johns, Hooper, Holder, and very prodigious Mr. Mathew, with whom I called the last, and whom I liked the best of my little stock.”

This could lead to very long dances indeed (half an hour to an hour) if there were many couples in a set” – What Did Jane Austen Dance?

The Cotillion


The cotillion was based on the 18th-century French contradanse and was popular through the first two decades of the 19th century. It was performed in a square formation by eight dancers, who performed the figure of the dance alternately with ten changes.

The rapid changes of the cotillion are admirably calculated for the display of elegant gayety, and I hope that their animated evolvements will long continue a favourite accomplishment and amusement with our youthful fair. – The Mirror of Graces

The minuet.

The Devonshire Minuet

This dance had grown almost out of fashion by the time A Lady of Distinction wrote The Mirror of Graces, and it is conjectured that Jane Austen must have danced it in her lifetime.

Boulanger

Boulangers, or circular dances, were performed at the end of the evening, when the couples were tired. Jane Austen danced the boulanger, which she mentioned in a letter to Cassandra in 1796: “We dined at Goodnestone, and in the evening danced two country-dances and the Boulangeries.”

Quadrille

Note: the Quadrille and the waltz would not have been danced at the Netherfield Ball. Jane did mention the quadrille in a letter to Fanny Knight, which was dated 1816. And the waltz would not have been regarded an acceptable dance in 1813. It is doubted that Jane ever waltzed. The reel might have been danced at the Meryton Assembly, or at a private dance given by Colonel Foster and his wife, for instance, but it would probably not have been featured at the Netherfield Ball at the same time as a country dance.

Second Note: The movies have it all wrong. According to the author of this post on Capering and Kickery, “Real Regency Dancers Are Au Courant

Along with the peculiar notion that dance figures from the 17th century are useful for the early 19th century comes the even more peculiar notion that entire dances of that era are appropriate. Regency-era dancers were not interested in doing the dances of their great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents, any more than today’s teenagers are. Dances like “Hole in the Wall” and “Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot” were written in the late 17th century. Their music is completely inappropriate for the Regency era. Their style is inappropriate. Their steps are inappropriate. There is no sense in which these dances belong in the Regency era. Loving obsessions with these dances make me want to cry at the sheer ignorance being promulgated by the people who keep putting these dances in movies.”

More on the Topic

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Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, which SourceBooks is now republishing for international distribution, takes place in an age of change, just as Queen Victoria is coming to the throne in 1837. Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, they of Pride and Prejudice fame, are now middle-aged. He is balding, she is an anxious mother, but they are still a charming, witty and fortunate couple, who know their happiness – until they make the mistake of inviting the two daughters of Mrs. Darcy’s profligate sister Lydia to visit at Pemberley…and trouble begins. The Darcys’ sons are far too interested in the young ladies; the younger, Cloe, is a faultlessly modest creature, but the elder, Bettina, is another pair of gloves entirely, and her flamboyant career includes a shocking turn on the London stage…Diana Birchall, Author

As I finished reading this satisfying and entertaining novel by Diana Birchall, I knew that all was right with Jane Austen’s world again. Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are still deeply in love; their children will find some measure of happiness; and the rest of Jane Austen’s characters are living out their lives much as we suspect they would.

Elizabeth was too wise to take either her husband’s love or his wealth for granted, and she never forgot to exult in all her manifold sources of happiness. It is impossible for human nature to be altogether without worry or pain, however, and Elizabeth’s anxieties were all reserved for her children.

At the start of the novel, Elizabeth Darcy, a matron in her forties and mother to Fitzwilliam, Henry, and Jane, receives a letter from her sister, Lydia Wickham. In reaction to the hardships Lydia describes, the Darcies invite the two oldest Wickham girls, Bettina and Cloe, for a protracted visit to Pemberley. This action sets the plot in motion. Before the generous-hearted Darcies realize what has happened, their eldest son Fitzwilliam, whose preference for horses far outweighs his common sense, has run off to London with the brazen Bettina. Shades of Wickham’s and Lydia’s ill considered elopement! Everyone is appalled when they do not marry, except for Lydia who doesn’t see why a 10-minute ceremony “should signify.”

Meanwhile, Henry, the second and more sensible son, has fallen for sweet and proper Cloe. He proposes to her, but deeply mortified by her sister’s actions, the penniless Cloe seeks a position as a governess.

As these events unfold, we meet Pride and Prejudice’s familiar cast of characters. Mr. Collins is as intolerable as ever. Due to the unfortunate circumstance of Mr. Bennet’s long and healthy life – and his desire not to shuffle off his mortal coil too soon – both the Collinses have become fractious from waiting. Charlotte has grown increasingly irritated with Mr. Collins in their tiny cottage crammed with furniture and their half dozen children.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh is still overbearing, and the early death of her only daughter Anne has not diminished her dislike of Elizabeth. Lydia seems not to have grown wiser at all, despite having raised a family in poverty and her disappointment with Mr. Wickham, a dissipated wastrel. Mary is a widow who has taken care of the aging Mr. Bennet since Mrs. Bennet’s death. Kitty as Mrs. Clarke, a minister’s wife, has turned into a sour childless woman. Having taken second place to Lydia in her younger years, she now feels inferior to Elizabeth and Jane, who married well. The book’s subplots echo many of Jane’s other novels, and one feels a comfortable familiarity with these characters as the novel progresses.

Ms. Birchall does not disappoint her readers. The plot is fast paced, and the story believable. “My primary interest in writing Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, which I did years before the booming proliferation of romantic sequels,” she says, “was in employing something as similar to Jane Austen’s original language as might be possible for an American writing two hundred years later. In other words: not possible at all! However, I have steeped myself in her prose, reading the novels not tens, not hundreds, but thousands of times over a thirty year period, and among many other things, Jane Austen proved to be the best writing teacher any author could have.”

My only (minor) quibble with the book is that it is not long enough. I would love to have read more scenes with Mr. Darcy and his wife in them. Diana is also known for her humor, and her wit was in too short supply. Had the book been longer, I believe we might have been treated to more sparkling and scintillating dialog. I have one final quibble: Diana describes our fabulous fifty-something Mr. Darcy as balding. I beg to differ, Ms. Birchall. Please take a look at this photo of a lovely man at 48, in which not a single follicle seems to be challenged. Could Mr. Darcy not have had a similar set of hair?

More about Diana Birchall:

Her Jane Austen-related novels, Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma and Mrs. Elton in America, were both published by Egerton Press, a small English company, in 2004, and her pastiche/satire In Defense of Mrs. Elton was published by the Jane Austen Society in the US, UK and Australia in 2000. Her “day job” is as the literary story analyst at Warner Bros Studios in California, reading novels to see if they would make movies. She is also a ballet dancer and has taken classes most of her life.

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