Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gowland's Lotion, Boils and Balls!

Lydia Bennet's Online Diary.
At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia's online diary starts just before Mr Bingley arrives and finishes where my novel, Lydia Bennet's Story, begins.

Friday, November 20th, 1801

The weather has been foul all day and we have not been able to move outdoors. Rebecca, our sweet maid, helped Kitty and I make a mask of egg whites and fuller’s earth for our complexions. Lord! how we laughed when it dried to a paste and then cracked, because we neither could look at the other without giggling. Mama’s bottle of Gowland’s lotion is half used and now hidden behind the wig stand on her dressing table but our skins are glowing and radiant!

Saturday, November 21st, 1801

It is still raining and despite our pleas, mama has forbidden us to go to Meryton today. She has suggested that we may catch a cold or worse and then infect Jane who is still in a delicate state. Moreover, she declared that she is not prepared to miss the ball to stay in and nurse invalids who are silly enough to go tramping through mud and dirt in pursuit of mere trifles such as shoe roses and velvet hairbands.
We haven’t had a glimpse of an officer for days now - I am sure they will think we have forgotten all about them and our promises to visit. How I wish I could write but I know nothing gets past Hill and she will only tell my mother and then we will be for it!! Besides, I am not sure I would wish Mr Wickham, Mr Denny or anyone else of our acquaintance to see the gargantuan boil that has sprouted on my chin during the night. Kitty professed that it must be lanced and chased me round the parlour with a hot needle for a full ten minutes this afternoon, until mama pronounced that we would be denied dancing and balls for a month together and be left behind on Tuesday with cold cuts and cold fires, if we did not desist and consider her nerves.

Lydia Bennet

Gowland's lotion was a preparation for the complexion that acted as a chemical peel. A recipe follows:

The formula sanctioned by the medical profession is to take of Jordan almonds (blanched), 1 ounce; bitter almonds, 2 to 3 drachms; distilled water, 1/2 pint; form them into an emulsion. To the strained emulsion, with agitation, gradually add of bichloride of mercury (in coarse powder), 15 grains previously dissolved in distilled water, 1/2 pint. After which further add enough water to make the whole measure exactly 1 pint. Then put it in bottles. This is used as a cosmetic by wetting the skin with it, and gently wiping off with a dry cloth. It is also employed as a wash for obstinate eruptions and minor glandular swellings and indurations.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Pride and Prejudice - It is a truth universally acknowledged...

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

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

Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.

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

Mr. Bennet made no answer.

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

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

This was invitation enough.

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

"What is his name?"


"Is he married or single?"

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

"How so? how can it affect them?"

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

Perhaps this is the most famous opening for a novel in the English language. Isn't it clever? Jane Austen sets the scene immediately, showing Mrs Bennet's ardent desire to have her girls married, whilst simultaneously depicting the Bennets' relationship and displaying their characters in a marvellously comic way. Mrs Bennet's impatience with her husband and Mr Bennet's teasing of his wife is shown in a wonderful exchange where he ignores her for the most part only to exasperate Mrs Bennet into abusing him for being tiresome. The illustration is by Charles Brock-I love the way Mr Bennet is sitting with his back to his wife, his nose in a newspaper. Her agitation is expressed in her attitude; she is clearly trying to gain his attention!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mr Bingley issues an invitation for the Netherfield Ball!

Lydia Bennet's Online Diary.
At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia's online diary starts just before Mr Bingley arrives and finishes where my novel, Lydia Bennet's Story, begins.

Thursday, November 19th,1801
The ball at Netherfield is set for Tuesday evening! I declare that I am the happiest girl in Hertfordshire - the prospect of dancing with all my favourite beaux is so thrilling that I do not know how I will ever sleep again.

Mama declared that the ball must be in Jane’s honour - she was so pleased that Mr Bingley had flattered her so much by bringing the invitation himself, although he had the misfortune of having his horrid sisters attending him.

Catherine and I must go into Meryton tomorrow to look in the shops and perchance pick a partner or two whilst out shopping!
I am happy for Jane, she is very excited at the thought of dancing with Mr Bingley all evening. Lizzy seemed unusually quiet and thoughtful this morning, but she cheered up considerably at the news of the ball. I think perhaps she was hoping to steal Mr Wickham’s attention the whole night, but unfortunately, her plans have gone awry. Cousin Collins promptly asked Lizzy for the opportunity of soliciting the first two dances, much to her alarm. I can hardly believe this stroke of good fortune - it will fall on me to have to open the ball with the dashing Mr Wickham!

Lydia Bennet

Monday, November 24, 2008

Supper and Cards with Aunt Philips and Mr Wickham

Lydia Bennet's Online Diary.
At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia's online diary starts just before Mr Bingley arrives and finishes where my novel, Lydia Bennet's Story, begins.

Wednesday, November 18th, 1801

Being the youngest of five daughters has nothing to recommend it, especially when one is suffered to endure the intimate proximity of one’s cousin in the close confines of a carriage. Jane, Lizzy and Catherine were handed in, crushing themselves together, so as to make it impossible to admit anybody else, and so I was compelled to sit between my sister Mary and Mr Collins, who talked at me without pause for breath all the way to Meryton.

However, this sad start was soon forgotten as on entering my Aunt Philips's abode she immediately announced that Mr Wickham was in the house. As the gentlemen were not yet finished dining, we had to listen to Collins prattle on about Lady Catherine de Bourgh on whose Rosings estate our illustrious cousin has his living. We have heard it all before and I declare I am quite sick of him, I wish he would go back to Hunsford by the earliest poste chaise! I will never understand why my mother is being so tolerant and civil toward him. Surely she can see he has nothing to recommend him but a draughty old Kentish parsonage that I am sure none of us could possibly give a fig about. If he mentions the number of windows or the size of the chimneypieces at Rosings Park once more, I declare I shall gag Mr Collins with his clerical neckerchief!

I declare I love my aunt best of all my relatives, for she dedicated herself to his entertainment forthwith and endured his company and conversation all evening. At last the gentlemen presented themselves and we all fell under Wickham’s spell. It is clear that Lizzy admires him very much and managed to sit herself in the place where he would most likely have to seat himself - next to the only empty chair in the room!

“Miss Lydia, do you attend the Assembly Balls in Meryton with your sisters?” Mr Wickham asked as soon as my sister would allow, turning in his chair to give me his sole attention.

“I have only lately been frequenting them,” I replied, “but have enjoyed it all very much. Do you dance, Mr Wickham?”

“Lydia!” cried Lizzy, piping up before he had a chance to answer, “That is not a question that a lady asks a gentleman.”

“Please, Miss Bennet, there is no harm done,” he answered with great feeling. “As a matter of fact, dancing is one of my favourite occupations and if I may be so bold I should like to make a request. It would be my honour if the sisters who grace the room on either side of me should save a dance with me at their soonest convenience.”

How my heart fluttered at the thought. Lizzy then took every opportunity to turn the conversation round but she must have bored poor Wickham to death because I am sure I heard her mention Mr Darcy more than once. That will certainly frighten a beau away, talking of other men.

We had such a lively game of lottery tickets and I reclaimed all the fish I lost before supper and won many more with the benefit of having supped on hot white soup and almond cheesecake - such a lovely evening, marred only by my insufferable cousin Collins mercilessly droning on all the way home, apologising profusely about everything, except the fact that he was crumpling my poplin pelisse with his posterior!

Lydia Bennet

Illustrations: Mr Collins bowing before his patron, Lady Catherine de Burgh, A photograph of mother-of-pearl gaming fish of the type Lydia would have played with and used for betting in card games - from Donay Games

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lydia Bennet meets Mr Wickham!

Lydia Bennet's Online Diary.
At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia's online diary starts just before Mr Bingley arrives and finishes where my novel, Lydia Bennet's Story, begins.

Tuesday, November 17th 1801

A day that started out as a dismal business with papa foisting Mr Collins out of his study and inviting him to accompany my sisters and I on our walk into town, has taken a most pleasurable and unlikely turn. We walked into Meryton, Catherine, Jane, Lizzy and I, with Mr Collins talking incessantly all the way. However, such a treat was in store as we reached the High Street. On the other side of the way, we spied Mr Denny, accompanied by an extremely gentleman-like figure, nodding and bowing in our direction. Chancing to meet them as they turned back, Kitty and I crossed the road as if to admire a striped pink sarcenet in a window just in time as we 'accidentally' reached the same spot. The handsome man was introduced as Mr Wickham.

“And what are you doing in Meryton, sir?” I asked boldly before Elizabeth had a chance to correct me. “Are you to be a soldier like your friend here?”

He instantly gave me the fullest attention of his brown eyes and smiled directly into mine. “I have just accepted a lieutenant’s commission in the corps, Miss Lydia, I hope I shall do justice to my uniform and perform my duties well.”

“I feel certain he will do great justice to his uniform merely by wearing it,” I whispered to Kitty when a moment later he turned to stare at my sister Lizzy with that same wicked sparkle in his eyes.

“I cannot wait for the day when we shall see him swaggering down the High Street in his scarlet coat,” Kitty whispered back.

“Indeed,” I replied, scarcely able to suppress a giggle, “Mr Wickham’s muscular frame in tight breeches is a joy to observe.”

My sisters then took over all the conversation, (though I was pleased to see Mr Wickham could hardly take his eyes away from mine) until Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy appeared on horseback, the latter looking as ill-tempered as ever and the former having eyes only for Jane. Thankfully, they soon took their leave.

“We are to visit my aunt this morning, Mr Denny, will you be joining us?” I begged, jumping to his side and taking his arm. Mr Denny appealed to his friend.

“We would be very pleased to escort you, ladies, it would be our pleasure,” Mr Wickham announced, with a twinkle in his eye and a twirl of his cane.

Mr Denny and Mr Wickham escorted us to our aunt’s door, where very sadly, they made their bows. I am sorry to say they would not be invited in, even though my aunt entreated them from the parlour window.

Once inside, Mr Collins was introduced to Aunt Philips, but I do not think she knew what to make of him. He would keep talking nonsense, hardly pausing for breath between apologies for everything and nothing. Indeed I do not think any of us know what to make of him, though I think my sister Elizabeth is beginning to realise what he is about! His former inclination for Jane seems to have turned into a passion to be at Lizzy's side. There was no mistaking it, he would keep following her around the room! It seems my mother's hints to him about an engagement between Jane and Bingley have turned not only his footsteps, but his heart towards Elizabeth.

I could not bear watching him or listening to his dull discourse a minute longer - I soon turned the conversation round to the subject of the delightful stranger. “Wickham is such a gentleman, aunt, he would not come in because he has not been formally introduced. He is so good-looking, do not you agree? I think him one of the most handsome men I ever set eyes on!”

Everyone laughed, though Aunt Philips was forced to agree wholeheartedly, adding that she had heard of Wickham’s commission and promising that my uncle would call to invite him to dine tomorrow with the officers. We are invited too, for an evening party, a game of lottery tickets, and a hot supper with all the officers! What a prospect! I do not know what I shall wear, I am most anxious to look my best.

Lydia Bennet

Illustrations: The same scene where Lydia Bennet and her sisters meet Mr Wickham, illustrated by H. M. Brock (top) and C. E. Brock (bottom)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mr Collins arrives from Hunsford

Lydia Bennet's Online Diary.
At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia's online diary starts just before Mr Bingley arrives and finishes where my novel, Lydia Bennet's Story, begins.

Monday, November 16th 1801

Our cousin, Mr Collins, a hideously dull and ugly clergyman, arrived today. He is twenty five, but indeed looks much older and every time he opens his mouth, it is to deliver a sermon, or at least that is how it sounds to my ears. Mama declared privately that he is here to look over his possessions and chattels, for she says he will turn us all out as soon as my father is pronounced dead, as he is to inherit our Longbourn estate. I have taken steps to ensure that our paths will not cross very often. After dinner, it transpired that HE DOES NOT READ NOVELS and read from a set of Fordyce’s Sermons to my incredulous horror! I know I was more than a little impolite when I interrupted him, and though my sisters protested against it, I could see perfectly clearly how relieved they were that he did not carry on.
I announced my intention of visiting Aunt Philips on the morrow to enquire after Mr Denny and find out when he is due back from town. I do not think I shall have time to call on my dear friend Isabella, nor do I wish to inflict my earnest relation on her good person.
It has been noted that Mr Collins stares at Jane with a great deal of admiration.

Lydia Bennet

Photo: Guy Henry playing an excellent Mr Collins in the hilarious Lost in Austen

Illustration of the Bennet family by Hugh Thomson

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Historical Novel Society, A Review for Lydia Bennet's Story

There is a review for Lydia Bennet's Story from the Historical Novel Society in this month's issue of their reviews magazine.

The flirtatious Lydia Bennet, the youngest sister in Pride and Prejudice, is the heroine of this delightful Jane Austen sequel....The narrative is interspersed with Lydia's diary entries, which are hilarious. Lydia matures quite a bit through the course of the novel and at the end is no longer the self-centred flirt she was at the beginning. The author makes this transition gradual and quite believable. The new characters are all very much in th spirit of Austen. I highly recommend this book to fans of Jane Austen or Regency romances.

Vicki Kondelik

Taken from their web site:

This is THE best place to find out about new historical fiction.

'The Historical Novels Review is where I find out what’s happening in the historical fiction market.' – Carole Blake, Blake Friedmann Literary Agency.

'I've just read Solander - it's a triumph!' - Bernard Cornwell.

The Historical Novel Society, founded in 1997, promotes all aspects of historical fiction. We provide:
Support and opportunities for new writers,
Information for students, booksellers, and librarians,
A community for authors, readers, agents, and publishers.

Membership provides many benefits: we welcome anyone who is enthusiastic or curious about the genre. Because the society is such a strong and supportive community, membership is a great value.

The society publishes the quarterly Historical Novels Review magazine. The Historical Novels Review aims to review every new work of historical fiction released in the USA and the UK. Selected titles from Canada and Australia are also reviewed, for a grand total of over 800 reviews per year. It is the only magazine of its kind, the best and most complete guide to the latest historical fiction in the world.

The society also publishes the twice yearly magazine Solander. Solander features interviews with current authors (Cecelia Holland, Wilbur Smith, Diana Gabaldon) as well as retrospectives on the great names of historical fiction (Georgette Heyer, Alfred Duggan, Rosemary Sutcliff, Mary Renault). We also publish original fiction by new and established authors (Michel Faber, Elizabeth Chadwick).

Click here to find out more about the Historical Novel Society

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An unexpected carriage comes to Longbourn

Lydia Bennet's Online Diary.
At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia's online diary starts just before Mr Bingley arrives and finishes where my novel, Lydia Bennet's Story, begins.

Sunday, November 15th 1801

We were all surprised after coming home from church, by the arrival of a carriage we did not immediately recognise. In it were Jane and Lizzy, come home in Bingley’s equipage to rule the roost again and mither me beyond endurance. Papa seems very pleased about the affair but my mother does not, and I join her in thinking that my elder sister should have made more effort to secure her engagement to Mr Bingley. I am sure I would not be so tardy and would by now have marched him up the aisle. I never did see the attraction in Mr Bingley, which is just as well, because I feel sure had I made a play for him, the poor man would not have been able to resist me. I shall have to give Jane a hint if she is not to be left on the shelf, poor thing. I would hate to see her miserable if she could not marry the man she so desperately loves. Still, I'm sure I cheered her up with my news and I could not resist hinting to everyone that Colonel Forster is to be married!

Lydia Bennet

The photograph shows a needlecase by Trinita Marr. Her designs are inspired by the Regency and the work of Jane Austen.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Colonel Forster has some surprising news!

Lydia Bennet's Online Diary.
At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia's online diary starts just before Mr Bingley arrives and finishes where my novel, Lydia Bennet's Story, begins.

Saturday, November 14th 1801

What a delightful day we have spent and what news I have to tell. If I were not sworn to secrecy, I might burst with the delicious knowledge of it all. We set forth into Meryton as soon as ever we could and found our friends in tremendous good spirits. As we approached the steps of Mrs Nicolson’s elegant lodgings, Colonel Forster emerged from the door, followed closely by Isabella, who was wishing him farewell. He clasped Isabella’s hand in his, raised it to his lips, bowed and set off jauntily down the High Street, declaring that he would call again tomorrow.

Once inside, I quite forgot myself and begged to know what had caused such animation in the manner of Colonel Forster.
“I have a younger sister Harriet,” Isabella began, “who was at school with Colonel Forster’s sister, Jane. Harriet has often been in the habit of staying with the Forster’s at their house in Bath. During the summer, Colonel Forster was inclined to spend a lot of his time accompanying his sister and mine to all kinds of amusements in and around Bath. They live in Sydney Place you know, opposite the celebrated gardens and this is the best part, for it has turned out to be the scene of their romance!”

“Colonel Forster and your sister Harriet?” Kitty and I cried in unison together.
Isabella nodded. “The gardens are very romantic and the musical concerts are second to none. There is nothing like music for stirring the senses and there are many dark corners where a maid might be begged for a kiss! Besides, I have seen Henry’s name written so many times in my sister’s letters these last months that I was not at all surprised. I think I knew she was in love before she did.”

“And is there anything else to tell?” I asked, eager for more of this sweet tale.

“Well, they have written to each other everyday since the Colonel came to Meryton and two days ago Henry proposed to my sister by letter and she accepted him by return of post. They hope to be married in the spring.”

“How I long to meet your sister, what a romantic story, fancy the Colonel being in love!” I cried.

We are so excited at the thought of a wedding and a new bride in Meryton!

Lydia Bennet

Illustrations: Temple by Jane Odiwe, Photograph of a bridge in Sydney Gardens, Bath, An old print showing a Regency proposal

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Jane Austen's account of a November ball in 1800

In November 1800, Jane Austen was a month short of her 25th birthday. The following is a much edited letter, written to her sister Cassandra but I particularly love her description of the ball and more particularly the images that are conjured up by the descriptions of the people who attended.
The lovely illustrations are by Philip Gough from Sense and Sensibility.

Steventon: Thursday, November 20, 1800.


Your letter took me quite by surprise this morning; you are very welcome, however, and I am very much obliged to you. I believe I drank too much wine last night at Hurstbourne; I know not how else to account for the shaking of my hand to-day. You will kindly make allowance therefore for any indistinctness of writing, by attributing it to this venial error.

Your desiring to hear from me on Sunday will, perhaps, bring you a more particular account of the ball than you may care for, because one is prone to think much more of such things the morning after they happen, than when time has entirely driven them out of one's recollection.

It was a pleasant evening; Charles found it remarkably so, but I cannot tell why, unless the absence of Miss Terry, towards whom his conscience reproaches him with being now perfectly indifferent, was a relief to him. There were only twelve dances, of which I danced nine, and was merely prevented from dancing the rest by the want of a partner. We began at ten, supped at one, and were at Deane before five. There were but fifty people in the room; very few families indeed from our side of the county, and not many more from the other. 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.

There were very few beauties, and such as there were were not very handsome. Miss Iremonger did not look well, and Mrs. Blount was the only one much admired. She appeared exactly as she did in September, with the same broad face, diamond bandeau, white shoes, pink husband, and fat neck. The two Miss Coxes were there: I traced in one the remains of the vulgar, broad-featured girl who danced at Enham eight years ago; the other is refined into a nice, composed-looking girl, like Catherine Bigg. I looked at Sir Thomas Champneys and thought of poor Rosalie; I looked at his daughter, and thought her a queer animal with a white neck. Mrs. Warren, I was constrained to think, a very fine young woman, which I much regret. She has got rid of some part of her child, and danced away with great activity looking by no means very large. Her husband is ugly enough, uglier even than his cousin John; but he does not look so very old. The Miss Maitlands are both prettyish, very like Anne, with brown skins, large dark eyes, and a good deal of nose. The General has got the gout, and Mrs. Maitland the jaundice. Miss Debary, Susan, and Sally, all in black, but without any stature, made their appearance, and I was as civil to them as their bad breath would allow me.

Mary said that I looked very well last night. I wore my aunt's gown and handkerchief, and my hair was at least tidy, which was all my ambition. I will now have done with the ball, and I will moreover go and dress for dinner.

We had a very pleasant day on Monday at Ashe, we sat down fourteen to dinner in the study, the dining-room being not habitable from the storms having blown down its chimney. Mrs. Bramston talked a good deal of nonsense, which Mr. Bramston and Mr. Clerk seemed almost equally to enjoy. There was a whist and a casino table, and six outsiders. Rice and Lucy made love, Mat. Robinson fell asleep, James and Mrs. Augusta alternately read Dr. Finnis' pamphlet on the cow-pox, and I bestowed my company by turns on all.

The three Digweeds all came on Tuesday, and we played a pool at commerce. James Digweed left Hampshire to-day. I think he must be in love with you, from his anxiety to have you go to the Faversham balls, and likewise from his supposing that the two elms fell from their grief at your absence. Was not it a gallant idea? It never occurred to me before, but I dare say it was so.

Farewell; Charles sends you his best love and Edward his worst. If you think the distinction improper, you may take the worst yourself. He will write to you when he gets back to his ship, and in the meantime desires that you will consider me as

Your affectionate sister, J. A.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bingley promises a ball!

Lydia Bennet's Online Diary.
At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia's online diary starts just before Mr Bingley arrives and finishes where my novel, Lydia Bennet's Story, begins.

Thursday, November 12th, 1801

I have been provoked beyond belief. Mama insisted that we break our engagement with our dear friends, and accompany her to Netherfield Park to visit Jane. It is so very vexing and I do not know when I will forgive my sister for being ill. How she could choose to be unwell at such a time is plaguing in the extreme. Have sent a servant with a note to Meryton - I do hope we will be excused our indisposition and not be snubbed!

Jane looked in perfect good health, but our mother urged maintenance of her present situation. With the apothecary‘s collusion and Mr Bingley’s insistence, the matter was settled. Kitty and I were forced to sit with the company within the breakfast parlour but as nobody took the slightest notice of us, we were able to miss most of the tedious discourse. I recollected that Mr Bingley had promised to throw a ball as soon as he had settled at Netherfield and communicated this fact to Catherine in what I hoped were audible whispers. We drew up a list of partners, although in truth, I could only think of one name with whom I wished to dance. The thought of dancing with Captain Carter is vastly exciting! Should he become overheated betwixt a Limerick jig and a Brighton waltz, I will certainly take a turn with HIM in the moonlight.

I reminded Mr Bingley about his promise and I must have charmed him, for I am to name the day of the ball! We have to wait until Jane is better, but in any case we cannot have a ball without Captain Carter who has gone to town, and I said as much, adding that I will use my influence with Colonel Forster and shame him into hosting a ball too.

Lydia Bennet

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Two Reviews for Lydia Bennet's Story from Bath

I've had two lovely reviews from Bath this week, the first from Joceline Bury of Jane Austen's World Magazine and the second from The Bath Chronicle, Bath's own newspaper.

Joceline Bury says 'Jane us a heroine who is remarkably likeable...Lydia's diary... a catalogue of frivolity - reveals a great sense of fun, an engaging lack of self-pity and an unerring eye for a good-looking chap ...(Odiwe's) technique of interspersing third person narrative with 'diary extracts' works particularly well as a way of counterpointing the disastrous events in Lydia's life with her indomitable optimism and spirit.'

There is also a competition in the magazine to win three copies of my book. If you'd like to enter you can subscribe to the magazine by clicking here
The new format magazine is just the right size to pop into your handbag and has some very interesting articles:

Credit Crunch: Austen Bank Goes Bust
Pride and Prejudice - The New Musical
Lost in Austen: Hugo Rifkind on the TV series
Christmas in Regency England

The above are just a few examples of what's to be found in this month's issue, plus there is news from JAS and JASNA, as well as being sumptuously illustrated throughout.

Next from Bath's own newspaper,'The Bath Chronicle' comes this review.

A new twist in the tale for Austen's Lydia

Jane Austen fans are in for a treat with Jane Odiwe's sequel to Pride and Prejudice detailing Lydia Bennet's story.

Lydia, the thoughtless, conceited younger daughter who was only interested in flirting with officers and getting married before her sisters, has a chance to redeem herself in this novel.

Creatively interweaving the narrative with extracts from Lydia's diary, the reader begins to understand her actions and the motives of others.

In part one Jane Odiwe focuses on Lydia's description of the events which take place in Pride and Prejudice.

In part two where Austen's novel leaves off, Jane and Elizabeth are happily settled in their estates while Lydia is finding life hard with her husband, the dashing-but-deceiving George Wickham.

Throughout the book new friends are introduced and old ones are revisited against a vivid background of Regency England.

In Bath, all the familiar haunts from Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are revisited; the Pump Room, the Upper Rooms, Queen Square and even Gravel Walk.

An unexpected twist brings about a happy ending for Lydia.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Jane Bennet is unwell!

Lydia Bennet's Online Diary.
At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia's online diary starts just before Mr Bingley arrives and finishes where my novel, Lydia Bennet's Story, begins.

Wednesday, November 11th, 1801

Jane got drenched through yesterday and is now feeling far from well. My mother is very pleased that she is thrown together with Mr Bingley and I’ve half a mind that she hopes that gentleman is visiting my sick sister in her bedchamber.

Lizzy decided to visit Jane at Netherfield, so Catherine and I seized upon the opportunity to escape home at our earliest convenience. We made haste as fast as we could in order that we may see something of Captain Carter and said goodbye to Lizzy at Meryton.

We called on Mrs Nicolson (one of the officer’s wives) and found a merry party gathered in her parlour. Colonel Forster and Captain Carter, with Mr Denny, Mr Pratt and Mr Lansdown were sat in conversation with the lady and gentleman of the house and two of her friends, a Miss Isabella Fitzalan and a Miss Diana Cavendish who are visiting their old school friend for the winter.

Sadly, the gentlemen were just about to take their leave but Mrs Nicolson insisted that we stay to enjoy an introduction to her friends.

“Have you known Mrs Nicolson long?” asked Isabella. “She is so pleased to have made new friends in Meryton so quickly.”

“No, it has not been our pleasure to have met with Mrs Nicolson more than once before at Lucas Lodge,” I replied, “but we feel we have known her for ever, do we not, Kitty?”

“Emma is an adorable creature,” cried Diana, “we were all at school together and forged such friendships as will never leave us, I am sure. We are so pleased to be visiting her in Meryton and to be within such close proximity to all the officers is quite delightful!”

“Yes,” exclaimed Isabella, “and if I know you, Diana, it will not be long before you have lost your heart to a redcoat.”

“We could not believe our luck when the soldiers arrived, could we, Kitty?” I said. “They are all so handsome and charming. Indeed, we cannot wait until the next ball. I do hope you are going to be staying a while to enjoy some dancing with us.”

Isabella smiled. “Why, yes, indeed. Diana is determined to dance with as many of the officers as she can and has her eye on one already, I think.”

Diana blushed scarlet and declared it to be a falsehood, but added, “I cannot deny that I wish to dance with some of the officers, they are such dashing young men.”

As long as she leaves Captain Carter to me, I thought, she can dance with them all!

Mrs Nicolson has invited us to call on them all tomorrow and Isabella and Diana have promised to invite some of the officers. What fun to have such like-minded creatures on our doorstep!

A servant has called at Longbourn this afternoon with the news that Lizzy is staying at Netherfield too! It seems Jane cannot do without her and so Lizzy’s clothes have been despatched. If only we could be as sure of sending Mary there with the certain knowledge of her incarceration, Kitty and I would be in high spirits and resplendent solitude indeed!
I am transported with elation at the prospect of seeing Isabella and Diana again on the morrow!!

Lydia Bennet

Illustrations: Jane Bennet by Jane Odiwe, Pride and Prejudice frontispiece by H.M. Brock

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Beautifull Cassandra.

Jane Austen by Jane Odiwe
Jane Austen was writing from a very early age. Her family kept some of her early pieces, one of which was this comic 'novel' believed to have been written between the years 1787-90, when Jane was aged between 12 and 15 years old. I think it really illustrates well her sense of humour which was to become integral to her writing later on.



Dedicated by permission to Miss Austen.


You are a Phoenix. Your taste is refined, your Sentiments are noble, & your Virtues innumerable. Your Person is lovely, your Figure, elegant, & your Form, magestic. Your Manners are polished, your Conversation is rational & your appearance singular. If, therefore, the following Tale will afford one moment's amusement to you, every wish will be gratified of

Your most obedient
humble servant



CASSANDRA was the Daughter & the only Daughter of a celebrated Millener in Bond Street. Her father was of noble Birth, being the near relation of the Dutchess of ...'s Butler.


WHEN Cassandra had attained her 16th year, she was lovely & amiable, & chancing to fall in love with an elegant Bonnet her Mother had just compleated, bespoke by the Countess of ..., she placed it on her gentle Head & walked from her Mother's shop to make her Fortune.


THE first person she met, was the Viscount of ..., a young Man, no less celebrated for his Accomplishments & Virtues, than for his Elegance & Beauty. She curtseyed & walked on.


SHE then proceeded to a Pastry-cook's, where she devoured six ices, refused to pay for them, knocked down the Pastry Cook & walked away.


SHE next ascended a Hackney Coach & ordered it to Hampstead, where she was no sooner arrived than she ordered the Coachman to turn round & drive her back again.


BEING returned to the same spot of the same Street she had set out from, the Coachman demanded his Pay.


SHE searched her pockets over again & again; but every search was unsuccessfull. No money could she find. The man grew peremptory. She placed her bonnet on his head & ran away.


THRO' many a street she then proceeded & met in none the least Adventure, till on turning a Corner of Bloomsbury Square, she met Maria.


CASSANDRA started & Maria seemed surprised; they trembled, blushed, turned pale & passed each other in a mutual silence.


CASSANDRA was next accosted by her freind the Widow, who squeezing out her little Head thro' her less window, asked her how she did? Cassandra curtseyed & went on.


A QUARTER of a mile brought her to her paternal roof in Bond Street, from which she had now been absent nearly 7 hours.


SHE entered it & was pressed to her Mother's bosom by that worthy Woman. Cassandra smiled & whispered to herself "This is a day well spent."


Illustrations by Jane Odiwe: A portrait of a young Jane Austen, A teacup, Jane Austen at her desk

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Elizabeth Bennet refuses Mr Darcy!

Lydia Bennet's Online Diary.
At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia's online diary starts just before Mr Bingley arrives and finishes where my novel, Lydia Bennet's Story, begins.

Friday, November 6th, 1801

We attended an evening party at Lucas Lodge tonight. Kitty and I were never without a partner - my satin slippers are worn into shreds! I wore my sprigged muslin with a pink ribbon sash and was delighted with my looks as were several gentlemen of my acquaintance. Captain Carter admired my gown excessively, indeed, he scarce took his eyes off me for the entire evening. I declare he is quite smitten!
Mr Darcy spent all his time staring at Elizabeth.

He had the audacity to ask her to dance but I am glad to note that she refused him. Jane and Bingley spent the whole evening looking into one another’s eyes - mama has them married off already and is planning the happy event.

Sunday, November 8th, 1801

After church, Kitty and I visited Aunt Philips to become more acquainted with some of the officers. Mr Denny and Mr Pratt are so sweet and Captain Carter is so dashing, I think it likely I may fall in love with him, although Catherine insists that as she is my elder she is entitled to have first choice and has declared that she is in love with him. I do not care what she says, for his partiality is very clear to me. I think Captain Carter is one of the most handsome men I have ever set eyes on!

Tuesday, November 10th, 1801

Any hopes of meeting with Capt. C were dashed when Jane received a note from Miss Bingley, asking her to dine with her and her sister Louisa and informing her also that Charles Bingley and the gentlemen were to dine with the officers. Jane was not allowed the carriage and made to go on horseback, for my mother thought as rain looked imminent this would keep her at Netherfield for the night. Sometimes, my mother displays a remarkable and devious level of cunning behaviour, quite beyond what one would expect. I daresay my hints to her will have given her some ideas. Poor Jane had not been gone long when the heavens opened and it seems there is no end to the deluge.
Mama fetched out the workbox and Kitty and I were given papa’s shirts to mend. What does he do to fray his cuffs so? He should refrain from scribbling curt messages to me with ceaseless errands to the wine merchant. That might remedy his chafed sleeves. Lord! How tiresome it is to sew. When I am married, I shall not make my daughters demean themselves in such a fashion. Besides, because it was so dark with rain, we were forced to squint so much that I should not be surprised if I were prematurely blinded as a consequence!
We do not expect to see Jane back again this evening. Mama’s plan is to succeed.
How I long to see Capt. C.
Mrs Lydia Carter - there - that looks very well!

Lydia Bennet


Lydia in sprigged muslin, Jane Odiwe
Elizabeth, Sir William Lucas and Mr Darcy by Charles Brock
Jane Bennet on horseback in the rain by Charles Brock

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Review for Lydia Bennet's Story from Reader's Respite

The reviews are still coming in - I am very grateful for them all. I'd like to thank Michele for this one at Reader's Respite

Lydia Bennet's Story: A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Odiwe
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Book Source: Sourcebooks, Inc.

It is my greatest desire to fall in love and catch myself a husband, yet, whilst I am truly proficient in the art of becoming enamoured, so far finding my partner in life eludes me, however vigilant I have been in the endeavor.
Lydia Bennet's Story

As a true Jane Austen fan, I had until recently shunned all attempted "sequels" to any of Ms. Austen's great works. Fearing disappointment, I did not want to sully what to me is the perfect novel: Pride and Prejudice. As it turns out, I need not have worried. The term "sequel," I am happy to report, has no application whatsoever to Jane Odiwe's delightful novel, Lydia Bennet's Story.

The novel explores the life of Lydia, the youngest and arguably most insipid Bennet sister. What if Lydia wasn't as vapid as many surmised? What if she was just a silly young girl who made the typical mistakes of the young?

Author Jane Odiwe, thankfully, makes no attempt to be Jane Austen. Writing in third person with occasional glimpses into Lydia's diary, Odiwe brilliantly takes a supporting character from a classic tale and uniquely makes it her own. Lydia is presented as a normal teen-aged girl with normal teenage concerns and immaturity and the unfortunate luck to cross paths with that infamous 19th-century player, Mr Wickham. This doesn't mean she isn't endearing: quite the opposite. After all, it's difficult not to identify with thoughts such as

Mr Wickham will NOT be forgiven for his behaviour, though I can think of nothing else, playing over the scene in my head with a different ending each time. I now know just how I should have behaved and what I should have said which is vexing in the extreme.
Lydia Bennet's diary, Lydia Bennet's Story

By the end of the story, Lydia's actions were quite forgivable in my eyes. She made mistakes many of us can sympathize with, having made many of them ourselves, albeit in a different century. Over-weening pride - an allusion to the novel from which she springs - only compounds her misjudgments.

The underlying seriousness of the follies of youth notwithstanding, the novel is lighthearted enough for enjoyable read and I was quite pleased to discover that it may be considered a stand-alone story, meaning that one need not be an Austen aficionado nor even to have read Pride and Prejudice in order to enjoy this book. If, however, you are a serious Austen fan and are loath to try reading one of the many "sequels," you can safely set aside that fear in this instance and sit down with a very enjoyable tale. Happy reading!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Willoughby's Return

My new book which is a Sense and Sensibility sequel has a new title, Willoughby's Return, a tale of irresistible temptation'. It is to be published by Sourcebooks next autumn, so I am very excited about that! Here's a little taster:

When Marianne Dashwood weds Colonel Brandon both are aware of the other’s past attachments; Marianne’s grand passion for the charming but ruthless John Willoughby and Brandon’s tragic amour for his lost love Eliza. Three years on Marianne is living with her husband and child at Delaford Park, deeply in love and contented for the most part, although Marianne's passionate, impulsive and sometimes jealous behaviour is an impediment to her true happiness. News that John Willoughby and his wife have returned to the West Country brings back painful memories for Marianne and with the demise of Mrs Smith of Allenham Court comes the possibility of Mr Willoughby and his wife returning to live near Barton and the surrounding area of Devon and Dorset, a circumstance which triggers a set of increasingly challenging, yet often amusing perplexities for Marianne and the families who live round about.

I do not think there is another of Jane Austen's anti-heroes who receives such a promising and lengthy description as Mr John Willoughby, which instantly conjures up a picture of a gallant suitor. I have italicised the parts which refer to his looks and manner in Chapter nine of Sense and Sensibility when we are first introduced to him. No wonder Marianne was completely smitten by him!

They set off. Marianne had at first the advantage, but a false step brought her suddenly to the ground, and Margaret, unable to stop herself to assist her, was involuntarily hurried along, and reached the bottom in safety.

A gentleman carrying a gun, with two pointers playing round him, was passing up the hill and within a few yards of Marianne, when her accident happened. He put down his gun and ran to her assistance. She had raised herself from the ground, but her foot had been twisted in the fall, and she was scarcely able to stand. The gentleman offered his services, and perceiving that her modesty declined what her situation rendered necessary, took her up in his arms without farther delay, and carried her down the hill. Then passing through the garden, the gate of which had been left open by Margaret, he bore her directly into the house, whither Margaret was just arrived, and quitted not his hold till he had seated her in a chair in the parlour.

Elinor and her mother rose up in amazement at their entrance, and while the eyes of both were fixed on him with an evident wonder and a secret admiration which equally sprung from his appearance, he apologized for his intrusion by relating its cause, in a manner so frank and so graceful, that his person, which was uncommonly handsome, received additional charms from his voice and expression. Had he been even old, ugly, and vulgar, the gratitude and kindness of Mrs. Dashwood would have been secured by any act of attention to her child; but the influence of youth, beauty, and elegance, gave an interest to the action which came home to her feelings.

His manly beauty and more than common gracefulness were instantly the theme of general admiration, and the laugh which his gallantry raised against Marianne received particular spirit from his exterior attractions. Marianne herself had seen less of his person than the rest, for the confusion which crimsoned over her face, on his lifting her up, had robbed her of the power of regarding him after their entering the house. But she had seen enough of him to join in all the admiration of the others, and with an energy which always adorned her praise. His person and air were equal to what her fancy had ever drawn for the hero of a favourite story; and in his carrying her into the house with so little previous formality, there was a rapidity of thought which particularly recommended the action to her. Every circumstance belonging to him was interesting. His name was good, his residence was in their favourite village, and she soon found out that of all manly dresses a shooting-jacket was the most becoming. Her imagination was busy, her reflections were pleasant, and the pain of a sprained ankle was disregarded.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Whole Regiment of Soldiers!

Lydia Bennet's Online Diary.
At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia's online diary starts just before Mr Bingley arrives and finishes where my novel, Lydia Bennet's Story, begins.

Thursday, October 29th, 1801

Kitty and I ventured into town this morning on our Aunt Philips' intelligence of the latest news concerning the arrival of a whole regiment of soldiers! The streets were lined with girls, mamas and matrons alike from the surrounding neighbourhood and as our eyes beheld the uniformed youth marching down the High Street, there were shrieks of joy heard all around. We were not disappointed, line upon line of handsome soldiers and debonair officers strutted along the thoroughfare, a blaze of scarlet and gleaming gold buttons. I do not know when I have ever felt so happy, especially when I caught the eye of several officers as my huzzahs reached their ears and my blown kisses caught their attention.
Such visions of manliness, I swear Kitty and I did not know where to look first! The militia is to be quartered throughout the winter and Uncle Philips has promised to visit them all! Captain Carter has already been introduced - we spied him over the way, swaggering along in a red coat with the Colonel of the regiment, delectably good looking and with such a fine figure! I think the Captain one of the most handsome men I ever set eyes on!

Mrs Lydia Carter - there, that looks very well!!!

Lydia Bennet