Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bond Street, Sir Walter and Bow Windows!

We're going for a little stroll now, down to the end of Milsom Street to the row of shops which separate Burton and Bond Street. We will take the right fork down Bond Street - can you see Sir Walter Elliot? This extract from Persuasion is so funny, summing up the vain character of Anne Elliot's father.

Sir Walter thought much of Mrs. Wallis; she was said to be an excessively pretty woman, beautiful. "He longed to see her. He hoped she might make some amends for the many very plain faces he was continually passing in the streets. The worst of Bath was the number of its plain women. He did not mean to say that there were no pretty women, but the number of the plain was out of all proportion. He had frequently observed, as he walked, that one handsome face would be followed by thirty, or five-and-thirty, frights; and once, as he had stood in the shop in Bond Street, he had counted eighty-seven women go by, one after another, without there being a tolerable face among them. It had been a frosty morning, to be sure, a sharp frost, which hardly one woman in a thousand could stand the test of. But still, there certainly were a dreadful multitude of ugly women in Bath; and as for the men! they were infinitely worse. Such scarecrows as the streets were full of! It was evident how little the women were used to the sight of any thing tolerable, by the effect which a man of decent appearance produced. He had never walked any where arm-in-arm with Colonel Wallis (who was a fine military figure, though sandy-haired) without observing that every woman's eye was upon him; every woman's eye was sure to be upon Colonel Wallis." Modest Sir Walter!

Well, obviously you can't see Sir Walter - this is a photograph taken from last weekend - you can only see one of the five-and-thirty frights - yours truly! I'm not sure which shop Sir Walter was standing in, but you can see views both ways down the street.

I remember the first time I took my children to Bath when they were very small. My youngest was very quiet (most unusual) as we went down into the town. He was looking everywhere and was obviously engrossed, but he looked most put out. When I asked him what was the matter he said he thought that there would be carriages and everyone dressed like in Persuasion on the television. He was really disappointed. It hadn't occurred to me how much he had anticipated seeing his idea of a Regency world, but then I remembered how much he'd always said he would like to have a ride in a carriage. Fortunately, we managed to find the horse and carriage that does a little tour round Bath and he was quite happy then.

And here I am again, (my husband will do anything to avoid the camera, though I've managed to get a couple of sneaky ones to post at a later date) - I do love a bow window, don't you?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Elizabeth Bennet sets off for London and 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, March 8th, 1802
Lizzy set off for Hunsford today with Sir William Lucas and his daughter Maria. They are all gone to see how Charlotte does - I do hope married life is suiting her, but I would bet all my ivory fish that she has exchanged her glowing bridal fervour for a haunted countenance and a sombre disposition.
Most vexing is the knowledge that they are to break their journey in London to call on the Gardiners to see Jane and will, no doubt, find time to go shopping and have a pleasant evening’s entertainment at the theatre. How I long to go shopping in London. I can’t even get as far as Ware! When I am a married lady, my daughters will have numerous carriages at their disposal, at any time of the year, for travelling on any state of road and in any weather!!
I have had a letter from Emma N. inviting Kitty and I to a reception for Harriet on Saturday, as she is very keen to meet us and will have no other acquaintance in Meryton apart from her dear Henry and the Miss Harrington’s who are distant cousins. I do wonder if she looks like Isabella and I sincerely wish she is as much fun. Lord! I hope she is as handsome and agreeable.
On reflection I am convinced, that no matter what her physical attractions may or may not be, she must surely be a woman of fashion and sensibility. I will take care to dress myself in my best cambric muslin, crimson mantle and velvet bonnet!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Regency Splendour in the Assembly Rooms

I love any excuse for a research trip and a chance to escape a frantic and busy life, so when my husband suggested a trip to Bath at the weekend I was very excited. I thought I'd share some of the photos I took of the Assembly Rooms in Bennett Street, which are stunningly beautiful. It is so easy to imagine social gatherings taking place here in Jane Austen's time; you can hear the chatter and rustle of silk gowns just by looking into one of the rooms. The top photo shows the entrance, which some of you may recognise from the television adaptations of Persuasion.
The second shows one of the fireplaces in the Octagon room which is where card tables might be set up for those not interested in dancing and wishing to try their luck with a little gambling.
Lastly, is the Tea Room which was used primarily for refreshments and concerts. Meals were served throughout the day from public breakfasts to supper during dress balls. Food was laid out on side-tables and included such delights as sweetmeats, jellies, wine, biscuits, cold ham and turkey. Tea was the favourite drink, generally without milk, but occasionally with lemon or arrack (fermented cocoa).

In this extract from Jane Austen's Persuasion, Anne Elliot has met up with her old love, Captain Wentworth, at the Assembly Rooms. She has recently discovered that he is not in love with Louisa Musgrove and from the very recent conversation with him dares to hope that he may still have some feelings for Anne.

As she ceased, the entrance door opened again, and the very party appeared for whom they were waiting. "Lady Dalrymple, Lady Dalrymple!" was the rejoicing sound; and with all the eagerness compatible with anxious elegance, Sir Walter and his two ladies stepped forward to meet her. Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret, escorted by Mr. Elliot and Colonel Wallis, who had happened to arrive nearly at the same instant, advanced into the room. The others joined them, and it was a group in which Anne found herself also necessarily included. She was divided from Captain Wentworth. Their interesting, almost too interesting conversation, must be broken up for a time, but slight was the penance compared with the happiness which brought it on! She had learnt, in the last ten minutes, more of his feelings towards Louisa, more of all his feelings, than she dared to think of; and she gave herself up to the demands of the party, to the needful civilities of the moment, with exquisite, though agitated sensations. She was in good humour with all. She had received ideas which disposed her to be courteous and kind to all, and to pity every one, as being less happy than herself.

The delightful emotions were a little subdued, when on stepping back from the group, to be joined again by Captain Wentworth, she saw that he was gone. She was just in time to see him turn into the Concert Room. He was gone -- he had disappeared, she felt a moment's regret. But "they should meet again. He would look for her, he would find her out long before the evening were over, and at present, perhaps, it was as well to be asunder. She was in need of a little interval for recollection."

Upon Lady Russell's appearance soon afterwards, the whole party was collected, and all that remained was to marshal themselves, and proceed into the Concert Room; and be of all the consequence in their power, draw as many eyes, excite as many whispers, and disturb as many people as they could.

Very, very happy were both Elizabeth and Anne Elliot as they walked in. Elizabeth, arm-in-arm with Miss Carteret, and looking on the broad back of the Dowager-Viscountess Dalrymple before her, had nothing to wish for which did not seem within her reach; and Anne - but it would be an insult to the nature of Anne's felicity to draw any comparison between it and her sister's: the origin of one all selfish vanity, of the other all generous attachment.

Anne saw nothing, thought nothing of the brilliancy of the room. Her happiness was from within. Her eyes were bright, and her cheeks glowed; but she knew nothing about it. She was thinking only of the last half-hour...

Jane Odiwe

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Milsom Street, Bath

I had a lovely weekend in Bath and I took some photos to show you if you are not familiar with the lovely town. The first shows the view down Milsom Street looking down towards the famous pump rooms. The second shows the remnants of a sign above what was the circulating library, which I'm sure Jane Austen must have frequented.
Molland's confectionary shop in Milsom Street is where Anne Elliot (Persuasion) realises that Captain Wentworth has come to Bath. Anne has very recently learned from her sister and Admiral Croft that Louisa Musgrove is to marry Captain Benwick so Captain Frederick Wentworth is still a single, unattached man. Here is a short extract - if you can read this and not want to pick up the book straight away you have a stronger will than me!
They were in Milsom Street. It began to rain, not much, but enough to make shelter desirable for women, and quite enough to make it very desirable for Miss Elliot to have the advantage of being conveyed home in Lady Dalrymple's carriage, which was seen waiting at a little distance; she, Anne, and Mrs. Clay, therefore, turned into Molland's, while Mr. Elliot stepped to Lady Dalrymple, to request her assistance. He soon joined them again, successful, of course: Lady Dalrymple would be most happy to take them home, and would call for them in a few minutes.

Her ladyship's carriage was a barouche, and did not hold more than four with any comfort. Miss Carteret was with her mother; consequently it was not reasonable to expect accommodation for all the three Camden Place ladies. There could be no doubt as to Miss Elliot. Whoever suffered inconvenience, she must suffer none, but it occupied a little time to settle the point of civility between the other two. The rain was a mere trifle, and Anne was most sincere in preferring a walk with Mr. Elliot. But the rain was also a mere trifle to Mrs. Clay; she would hardly allow it even to drop at all, and her boots were so thick! much thicker than Miss Anne's; and, in short, her civility rendered her quite as anxious to be left to walk with Mr. Elliot as Anne could be, and it was discussed between them with a generosity so polite and so determined, that the others were obliged to settle it for them; Miss Elliot maintaining that Mrs. Clay had a little cold already, and Mr. Elliot deciding, on appeal, that his cousin Anne's boots were rather the thickest.

It was fixed, accordingly, that Mrs. Clay should be of the party in the carriage; and they had just reached this point, when Anne, as she sat near the window, descried, most decidedly and distinctly, Captain Wentworth walking down the street.

Her start was perceptible only to herself; but she instantly felt that she was the greatest simpleton in the world, the most unaccountable and absurd! For a few minutes she saw nothing before her.: it was all confusion. She was lost, and when she had scolded back her senses, she found the others still waiting for the carriage, and Mr. Elliot (always obliging) just setting off for Union Street on a commission of Mrs. Clay's.

Photo of the lovely Amanda Root in the 1995 version of Persuasion

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bath, Lacock and Lydia Bennet's Diary - News of Harriet's arrival!

I've just spent a lovely long weekend in Bath and the surrounding area and have been very busy taking photos which I hope you will all enjoy. I've got to sort out some technicalities, but I'll be posting soon on what I saw in Bath and Lacock in particular. In the meantime, here's that naughty Lydia with another diary entry.

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, March 5th, 1802
I am torn between feeling cross at the news that my sister Elizabeth has been invited on a jaunt to Hunsford and elated at the prospect of meeting Isabella’s sister Harriet, who is engaged to Colonel Forster. She is to arrive a week today, according to a letter received from Isabella this morning, and she is eager to make my acquaintance. I have heard so much about her from Isabella that I feel we are bosom intimates already; but as to her description I know very little. Isabella is quite a pretty girl, though perhaps she is not so fortunate as to be blessed with the beauty that we Bennet girls possess. Oh, I know it is immodest to say so, but it is the truth and the looking glass cannot lie! Her figure is good, but perhaps not as comely as it could be and despite my advice about taking a little cream with one's porridge, her poor legs might still be described as lucky. Lucky? Lucky they don't snap - I assure you, it's an expression I would never use, but 'Kitty Couldn't Give a Care' (as I call her) says it constantly! Well, I expect dear Harriet will be very lovely and I cannot wait to see how Colonel Forster behaves as a beau in love!!!

As for Lizzy going off in pursuit of pleasure - to tell the truth I do not care so very much for her dreary trip-she will be spending all her time with Charlotte and Mr Collins. Her evenings will no doubt be spent in dull discourse with them and his patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who will more than likely keep them all in their place by having Collins read to them from Fordyce’s sermons each night. No, I think I am most fortunate to be staying where I am for the present, with the prospect of some congenial female company and some sport at the officer’s expense.

Lydia Bennet

Photo of Luckington Court, location for Longbourn 1995

Friday, February 20, 2009

Lydia Bennet's Story - Review from Indiana Jane's Bookshelf

Monday, February 9, 2009
A review from India Jane's Bookshelf

Book Review: Lydia Bennet's Story
I'm kind of picky about Pride and Prejudice sequels or knock-offs. I loved Pamela Aidan's Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series. Other than that, most of them haven't passed muster.

I'm not a huge Austen fan, but I am an Austen fan. I won't likely notice if small details in the story don't jibe, but there is a certain feeling that needs to be present in a successful Austen sequel. And, as a historically-educated book freak, I hate anachronisms and the endowing of regency-era characters with modern sentiments.

So I always pick these books up with a dubious spirit. In fact, one of the two I brought home this time probably won't even be read after my daughter told me what she, Austen fan extraordinaire, had heard about it. But this book, Lydia Bennet's Story by Jane Odiwe is delightful.

It lets us into the head of Lydia, who is every bit as silly and naughty as we thought, and we see the events from her point of view. Maybe it is just because I was a very silly teen, but I found the depiction of Lydia's thoughts to be very realistic. I like the way the author didn't try to infuse Lydia with some modern sentiments that led her to behave in an unconventional way. She let her be what she was written as: a rather willful, silly, romantic twit.

The story that is added--the what came after--also fits the events of P&P and is true to the characters. It gave me a satisfying sense that yes, this could be how Lydia's story turns out. A most enjoyable read.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Efford House, Sense and Sensibility, 1995

Here are some photos from my collection showing the interior of Efford House where they filmed the 1995 version of Sense and Sensibility. As you can see I am no photographer! I can never get photos to look like the images I see - well, I wanted to keep a record and I thought you might be interested to see comparisons with shots from the film. The first shows the view through the doorway looking over the estuary - and here we have gorgeous Greg Wise carrying the equally lovely Kate Winslet up the path.

Here's the text from Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility.
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.

She thanked him again and again; and with a sweetness of address which always attended her, invited him to be seated. But this he declined, as he was dirty and wet. Mrs. Dashwood then begged to know to whom she was obliged. His name, he replied, was Willoughby, and his present home was at Allenham, from whence he hoped she would allow him the honour of calling to-morrow to inquire after Miss Dashwood. The honour was readily granted, and he then departed, to make himself still more interesting, in the midst of an heavy rain.

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.

The next two pictures show the same view - Efford House 2007 and Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet and Emilie Francois in a very elegant scene in 1995. I love the expressions on the faces of all three Dashwood sisters - each one bowled over by 'his manly beauty and more than common gracefulness' methinks!

Finally, the last two phots are not quite of the same view but show glimpses of the hallway and into the Dashwood's dining parlour. Mr Willoughby is calling on Marianne to enquire after her health. I thought it was very clever how in Emma Thompson's screenplay Willoughby presents Marianne with a bunch of wild flowers and contrasts this with Colonel Brandon's bouquet grown in a hothouse or greenhouse. Marianne is a romantic who delights in nature, so Willoughby's offering of wild flowers from the hedgerows would seem to her to be the superior gift.

From Sense and Sensibility

Marianne's preserver, as Margaret, with more elegance than precision, stiled Willoughby, called at the cottage early the next morning to make his personal inquiries. He was received by Mrs. Dashwood with more than politeness -- with a kindness which Sir John's account of him and her own gratitude prompted; and everything that passed during the visit, tended to assure him of the sense, elegance, mutual affection, and domestic comfort of the family to whom accident had now introduced him. Of their personal charms he had not required a second interview to be convinced.
Don't you think it the most romantic story that Greg Wise and Emma Thompson met on set during the filming and fell in love? They are married now with a daughter and also have a son who they adopted.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lydia nurses her Pride!

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, February 15th, 1802

Two events have occurred today to vex me beyond endurance.
I am a laughing stock, only to be pitied and I am more convinced than ever that I will die an old maid!
The first was a letter from my friend Isabella extolling the virtues and pleasures of love and affairs of the heart, which by all accounts she is surrounded as she has gone to Bath. I have received more descriptions of lovers than I ever want to read again and I expect she will receive an offer any day now. I am happy for her but it is so unfair! Other people have all the luck! If I should have the chance to go to Bath, I am sure I would find myself a husband but papa won’t even take me as far as St. Albans!!!
The other circumstance, which has been my great misfortune to have bestowed upon me, is the discovery by Kitty, (who I swear will never let it lie) of the identity of my sweet valentine. To my great shame he is no admirer of any consequence and Kitty plagues me with his name every time we cross paths. I have taken to avoiding her, I am heartily sick of her laughing about my ‘beau’ as she calls him. Oh! That I had destroyed the letter on first receiving it and never told her a word about the whole episode.
The perpetrator deserves to have his ears boxed for the presumption and I do not know if he will ever be forgiven. I have a good mind to tell papa! For no officer, captain or other acquaintance was the author of such romantic verse, it was Ned our stableboy, who copied out the verse he found in a pocket book! Rebecca, our sweet maid, is put out as she was not the recipient and I think it will be a while before he is allowed to chase her around the kitchen. I cannot begin to wonder what he meant by it!!

Lydia Bennet

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lydia's Valentine

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.

February 14th, 1802

Rebecca the housemaid came to our door this morning with a breakfast treat of rolls and a cup of chocolate. She set down the tray, put more coal on the fire and then stood before the bed looking for all the world as if she bore it on her shoulders.
“Begging your pardon, Miss Lydia,” she whispered, looking about her as if she expected us to be intruded upon at any moment, “Forgive me if I have done wrong, but I thought it would be best not to hand this over to you in front of your mother and father. I found this letter addressed to you lying on the hall carpet, just poked under the door. I hope that’s right, miss,” she added, and took from her grubby pocket, a letter, sealed with red wax.

“Oh, Rebecca!” I exclaimed as I took in the seal that was formed into the shape of a heart. “Do stay. If you promise not to breathe a word, I shall read it to you.”
Kitty chose this moment to awake and as I produced the letter with a flourish and waved the heart under her nose, she squealed, expressing both her excitement and dismay at never having had any valentine ever profess his love on paper and asserted that she probably never would.

The seal was carefully broken to reveal a poem written in miniature script and decorated with a border of hearts pricked out with a pin.

Oh! Thou unkind one! prithee tell
Why thus from me, in haste, you go?
None else can love thee half so well,
Then do not, do not leave me so.
If fate ordains that we must part,
And I must ev’ry joy resign;
Then grief will quickly break that heart,
Which, while it throbs, shall still be thine.

“It must be from Captain Carter!” shrieked Kitty. “It can be no other. Oh, Lydia, he must love you very much to take the trouble to write and tell you.”
“How can it be the Captain, Kitty?” I cried, despairing at her stupidity. “He has just got engaged, as you well know, and besides, I can distinguish his handwriting and this is not it. In any case, I cannot imagine Richard Carter pricking out a decoration to save my life!”
“Unless he had a hand in its making,” chimed in Rebecca who had been staring mute and afraid to speak lest we sent her away.
“And if not, then it must be from someone else!” Kitty exclaimed, grabbing the letter and peering intently at the handwriting. “I swear there is something familiar about this writing, but I cannot think why that should be. I feel sure I have seen it somewhere before.”

We are all intrigued but I am certain that this proclamation of love has nothing to do with Captain Carter and has come from another quarter. How I am to find out I do not know but, I shall be most careful to observe the manners of all my gentlemen acquaintances when next in Meryton. No doubt my valentine will give me a sign. I must admit this little escapade has cheered me up beyond measure and I feel most excited at the prospect of a valentine beau!

Lydia Bennet

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Card for Valentine's Day

...he was exactly the man who, in disposition and talents would most suit her.

In chapter fifty of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth Bennet is beginning to think that she made a mistake when she turned down Mr Darcy's proposal. Her feelings towards him have changed and she can only contemplate on the fact that if he knew of her heart's transformation he would consider he had won a victory.

What a triumph for him, as she often thought, could he know that the proposals which she had proudly spurned only four months ago, would now have been gladly and gratefully received! He was as generous, she doubted not, as the most generous of his sex; but while he was mortal, there must be a triumph.

She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her. His understanding and temper, though unlike her own, would have answered all her wishes. It was an union that must have been to the advantage of both; by her ease and liveliness, his mind might have been softened, his manners improved; and from his judgment, information, and knowledge of the world, she must have received benefit of greater importance.

Here's a card for Valentine's Day. I hope you like it - it shows Jane Austen sitting at her little desk at Chawton cottage on her brother Edward Knight's estate writing Pride and Prejudice. She's nearly finished her novel and she's enjoying a moment of triumph as she reads through the passage above. At any moment she may be covering her work when she hears the creaking door that tells her when someone is coming. Quick, Jane, I can hear someone coming. Oh, it's only Cassandra and she knows exactly what you are doing. What a relief - there's a little more time before anyone else will come downstairs, so hurry up and finish for all those generations of Janeites waiting to read your wonderful book.

The Excessively Diverting Blog Award for Jane Austen Sequels Blog

I am extremely honoured to have been awarded an Excessively Diverting Blog award from Austenprose in collaboration with Jane Austen Today. Thank you very much, you made my day!

Taken from Laurel Ann's blog - The aim of the Excessively Diverting Blog Award is to acknowledge writing excellence in the spirit of Jane Austen’s genius in amusing and delighting readers with her irony, humor, wit, and talent for keen observation. Recipients will uphold the highest standards in the art of the sparkling banter, witty repartee, and gentle reprove. This award was created by the blogging team of Jane Austen Today to acknowledge superior writing over the Internet and promote Jane Austen’s brilliance.

Now it's my turn to nominate 7 very worthy blogs:

1. Jane Austen's World

Vic Place's blog is unsurpassed in excellence on research in Jane Austen's time and I can't tell you how many times I have referred to it, not only for interest but for info - this was a must!

2. Light, Bright and Sparkling

Diana Birchall's blog on her exploits past and present are always an entertaining and informative read. Diana is the author of the fabulous Mrs Elton books and Mrs Darcy's Dilemma.

3. Sue Wilkes

Sue is an author and creative writing tutor. Her blog is a fascinating mix of social history and literary biography which are her specialities. Janeites will know Sue's work from the Jane Austen Centre's Regency World Magazine. Look out soon for a wonderful book from Hale on Regency Cheshire.

4. Historical Romance UK

I nominate this on behalf of all the other authors I have had the pleasure to blog with, and for their excellent writing coupled with meticulous research and their sense of humour.

Jane Austen in Vermont

5. Deb Barnum and Kelly McDonald, Regional Coordinators for the Vermont Chapter write this blog and there is always something of interest, whether scholarly or fun.

6. Becoming Jane

Whilst I didn't buy completely into the film that inspired this blog, I always find thought provoking posts here, along with some very excellent research and study on the lives of Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy.

7. History Undressed Eliza Knight's historical blog - as she says - history can be fascinating, sexy, intriguing and altogether delicious. A super resource for all things historical!

Congratulations recipients. Please claim your award by copying the HTML code of the Excessively Diverting Blog Award badge, posting it on your blog, listing the name of the person who nominated you, and linking to their blog. Then nominate seven (7) other blogs that you feel meet or exceed the standards set forth. Nominees may place the Excessively Diverting badge in their side bar and enjoy the appreciation of their fellow blogger for recognition of their talent.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lydia Receives a letter with Vexing 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, February 6th, 1802

This morning I received the following missive:

My Dearest Lydia,

I hope this letter finds you well and in most excellent spirits as I am myself most fortunate to possess. It has been such a long time since we last saw each other and I have so much to tell you. I hope you will forgive me for not writing sooner but I have had so much to do at home that I have not had a spare moment for correspondence, but for what was most pressing. You will be surprised that you have not heard my news from our mutual friend, Isabella, but I swore her to secrecy until I could have the pleasure of relating all to your own dear self.

I am writing to tell you of my engagement which is to be officially announced tomorrow. Lydia, I am sure you will congratulate me when I tell you that Captain Carter and I are to be married! I am afraid that you will not be so very surprised to hear this as it must have been quite blatantly clear to all except the most partially sighted observer that the Captain and I have been in love for some time. It is so very hard to keep these affairs secret when you are bursting with the feelings that dear Richard and I have for one another and I fear there were many occasions when we were not so discreet as we should have been. There were one or two matters which had to be straightened out before we could announce our love to the world, but that being done, and there being no other impediment to our nuptials, we have decided that a long engagement is quite out of the question. We are to be married next week, at the earliest opportunity. Dear Richard is so impatient for us to be wed! The naughty man insisted I have a ring made especially with a ruby inherited from his poor, dead mother. I was quite taken aback, I can tell you, at such a jewel - it's quite as big as a hen's egg - but I am sure it can be altered to make a suitable adornment for my ring finger.

My father has offered us a house on his estate and as I come into my money next month there hardly seemed any point in putting things off. The Captain is so ardent, I am sure I never knew such impatience in a man - and I adore him for it! I am sure you have noticed his absence from Meryton and I thought you should be the first to be able to account for this mystery to all our beloved friends. Please write to me soon, I long to hear your thoughts,

Your affectionate friend,
Diana Cavendish

I am at a loss to describe the emotions that engulfed me on the first reading of this little tale; Kitty gasped with incredulity when she read the letter as I knew she would. We are both decided that its author is proud and smug, not to mention an embroiderer of the truth.
We have sent a letter offering polite felicitation at her news. I am sure she will not care two straws whether she receives our congratulations or not, as surely her only motive for informing us in the first place was to brag of her catch and tell us of the vulgar love token the Captain has bestowed upon her.

She is welcome to him!

Monday, February 9, 2009

What was happening in Jane Austen's World in 1795?

We've had some very wintry weather of late, which inspired this painting of Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra. They are walking in the snow near their first home, Steventon Rectory, in Hampshire.

When Jane Austen was nineteen, the winter of 1794/95 was exceptionally severe with very cold conditions setting in on Christmas Eve. The cold was most intense during January, the coldest on record. A rapid but temporary thaw, accompanied by heavy rain began on the 7th February, which resulted in much flooding across large areas of England - much as we seem to be experiencing at present. The severe cold returned after February 12th, and continued well into March with more snow.

For some time Jane Austen had been writing short pieces for the amusement of her family and attempted a novella, Lady Susan. She was possibly just starting work on the book that was to eventually become Sense and Sensibility, and which her sister remembered was first entitled Elinor and Marianne. Perhaps the bad weather spurred Jane on with her writing, especially when snow would have made it difficult to get about. Well, it's a lovely thought to think of her sitting at her desk watching the snow fall through the window as she dreamed up Mr Willoughby, Edward Ferrars and Colonel Brandon!

We are introduced to the Dashwood sisters in the first chapter. Their father has died and Austen shows us the girls' personalities by their reactions and behaviour. Someone has to keep the household together and cope with callers and guests. Whilst watching her mother and sisters indulge in their grief Elinor gets on with the job.

Elinor, this eldest daughter whose advice was so effectual, possessed a strength of understanding, and coolness of judgment, which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be the counsellor of her mother, and enabled her frequently to counteract, to the advantage of them all, that eagerness of mind in Mrs. Dashwood which must generally have led to imprudence. She had an excellent heart; her disposition was affectionate, and her feelings were strong: but she knew how to govern them: it was a knowledge which her mother had yet to learn, and which one of her sisters had resolved never to be taught.

Marianne's abilities were, in many respects, quite equal to Elinor's. She was sensible and clever; but eager in everything; her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting: she was everything but prudent. The resemblance between her and her mother was strikingly great.

Elinor saw, with concern, the excess of her sister's sensibility; but by Mrs. Dashwood it was valued and cherished. They encouraged each other now in the violence of their affliction. The agony of grief which overpowered them at first, was voluntarily renewed, was sought for, was created again and again. They gave themselves up wholly to their sorrow, seeking increase of wretchedness in every reflection that could afford it, and resolved against ever admitting consolation in future. Elinor, too, was deeply afflicted; but still she could struggle, she could exert herself. She could consult with her brother, could receive her sister-in-law on her arrival, and treat her with proper attention; and could strive to rouse her mother to similar exertion, and encourage her to similar forbearance.

Margaret, the other sister, was a good-humoured, well-disposed girl; but as she had already imbibed a good deal of Marianne's romance, without having much of her sense; she did not, at thirteen, bid fair to equal her sisters at a more advanced period of life.

Devonshire Romance in Sense and Sensibility

This scene from Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility shows Devonshire through Marianne Dashwood's eyes. Marianne sees romance in every twirling leaf and believes that every day is fair. The fact that every one else can see that the day is less than fine shows how easily 'blinded' Marianne can be by her sense of reality. Practical Elinor, her elder sister, has no wish to get wet and sensibly stays inside. Margaret is of a similar disposition to Marianne and they delight in the day. Of course this scene is set for her meeting of Willoughby. For Marianne, could there be a more romantic encounter?

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

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

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

Margaret agreed, and they pursued their way against the wind, resisting it with laughing delight for about twenty minutes longer, when suddenly the clouds united over their heads, and a driving rain set full in their face. Chagrined and surprised, they were obliged, though unwillingly, to turn back, for no shelter was nearer than their own house. One consolation however remained for them, to which the exigence of the moment gave more than usual propriety; it was that of running with all possible speed down the steep side of the hill which led immediately to their garden gate.

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.

The first three photos are from my own collection taken when I stayed at Efford House on the Flete Estate. The last shows Willoughby (Dominic Cooper) offering his services to Marianne (Charity Wakefield) from the latest adaptation of Sense and Sensibility

Friday, February 6, 2009

Barton Cottage makeovers

Both versions of the recent adaptations of Sense and Sensibility, (1995 & 2008) are different interpretations of Jane Austen's book, but I enjoy them very much. I am always interested to see how film-makers and designers convey the settings as well as all the lovely costumes. What a great job that must be, to come up with the concepts for places like Barton cottage and Delaford Park and to go looking for the actual locations. I'm sure, like me, you've probably been on holiday and thought how a particular place might make an excellent alternative for a place you've read about in the book.
That said, the film and programme makers do tend to take liberties with Jane Austen's original ideas. Let us look at what she says about Barton Cottage. At the beginning of chapter six we get a description.

The first part of their journey was performed in too melancholy a disposition to be otherwise than tedious and unpleasant. But as they drew towards the end of it, their interest in the appearance of a country which they were to inhabit overcame their dejection, and a view of Barton Valley as they entered it gave them cheerfulness. It was a pleasant fertile spot, well wooded, and rich in pasture. After winding along it for more than a mile, they reached their own house. A small green court was the whole of its demesne in front; and a neat wicket gate admitted them into it.

As a house, Barton Cottage, though small, was comfortable and compact; but as a cottage it was defective, for the building was regular, the roof was tiled, the window shutters were not painted green, nor were the walls covered with honeysuckles. A narrow passage led directly through the house into the garden behind. On each side of the entrance was a sitting room, about sixteen feet square; and beyond them were the offices and the stairs. Four bed-rooms and two garrets formed the rest of the house. It had not been built many years and was in good repair. In comparison of Norland, it was poor and small indeed! -- but the tears which recollection called forth as they entered the house were soon dried away. They were cheered by the joy of the servants on their arrival, and each for the sake of the others resolved to appear happy. It was very early in September; the season was fine, and from first seeing the place under the advantage of good weather, they received an impression in its favour which was of material service in recommending it to their lasting approbation.

We get the impression of a small, neat house - hardly the romantic vision of the tumbledown cottage by the sea that is depicted in the latest BBC adaptation. Of these two comparisons I think Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility comes closest; but in a way, I think both cottages help to provide the contrast between their present situation and that of Norland Park. This is where I'm prepared to forgive a lot of departure from the books in their interpretation; a film-maker is making decisions based on the visual impact, feeling and style that he wants to convey.

Once the house is found the designers go to work on changing it to suit the style of the era. It's fascinating to see the before and after photos of both Barton Cottages. If the designers have done their job well we really believe that the Dashwood family are living there. Part of the magic of adaptations like these is becoming swept up in another world and time, and I think, on the whole, they do their job exceedingly well.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Kathryn L Nelson, Pemberley Manor

My friend, the author Kathryn L. Nelson dropped by on her travels to see me on her way to Puerto Rico - lucky girl! We had a lovely afternoon discussing all things Jane and much else besides. It really was a flying visit - we were rather hoping the snow might prevent her from getting her plane the next day so that she could stay a little longer. There were delays caused by the weather, but eventually her plane left Heathrow for warmer climes.

Kathy's book, Pemberley Manor, is being reprinted with a beautiful cover by Sourcebooks, and she has a fantastic review over at Reading Romance Books blog.

I love Kathy's writing style and thoroughly enjoyed Pemberley Manor. I know she's writing another book, but sadly it's not (at least for us) another sequel. Maybe she'll get to another one next time, I hope so!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Simple Pleasures and the Delights of Snow!

We were snowed in yesterday! It's a rare occurrence for London to see such heavy snowfall - there must have been at least six inches, which arrived steadily from Russia the night before last and all day yesterday. We were all marooned at home; so snowballing was the order of the day! Sitting by the fire afterwards, cosy with mugs of hot chocolate I did think how lucky I was to have all my family with me to enjoy such a wintry treat.
In the afternoon with my jeans tucked into my boots, I trudged round to see a friend who had been forced to close her nursery for the day. She, like me, loves to see the snow and we spent a wonderful couple of hours in her sitting room watching the flakes fall from a violet sky, a warming sherry in hand!
Simple pleasures are just the best!

Did someone mention writing and why wasn't I getting on with it? Well, they were all snowed in at Pemberley, too, so I've left them all sitting by the fire!

Monday, February 2, 2009

What people are saying about Lydia Bennet's Story - Reviews


Odiwe emulates Austen’s famous wit, and manages to give Lydia a happily-ever-after ending worthy of any Regency romance heroine.

Foreword Magazine

Odiwe’s Lydia is as wild and reckless as readers of Austen’s novel could imagine. It is satisfying to see a plausible description of their relationship and lifestyle during their marriage, and the few glimpses readers are offered of Elizabeth, Darcy, and other original characters is faithful to the original.
Her new acquaintances are interesting and well developed, and Wickham is just as scandalous as ever. The ending will be a complete surprise.

Publisher's Weekly

In this pleasant addition to the growing microgenre of Austen knockoffs, Odiwe pays nice homage to Austen’s stylings and endears the reader to the formerly secondary character, spoiled and impulsive Lydia Bennet... devotees will enjoy.

Jane Austen's Regency World Magazine

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.'

The Bath Chronicle.

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. 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.

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

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 the spirit of Austen. I highly recommend this book to fans of Jane Austen or Regency romances.

Jane Austen Today

Lydia Bennet’s Story: A Sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by Jane Odiwe is a fun and spirited romance. Simply know that when you purchase this novel, you will be transported to Brighton and London and all their Regency charms, and revisit some of your favorite Pride & Prejudice characters.

Jane Odiwe has a knack for describing the settings in her narrative, and writing in Lydia’s breathless tone in the journals. I enjoyed the book, much to my surprise. I only say this because I generally don’t read sequels. This one was entertaining, and had me turning the page to find out how the story ends.


...what Jane Austen introduced Jane Odiwe has cleverly expanded upon picking up the plot and style without missing a beat. Not only are we reminded that thoughtless, wild and outspoken Lydia is “the most determined flirt that ever made herself and her family ridiculous,” we begin to understand (but not always agree) with her reasoning’s and are swept up in the story like a new bonnet bought on impulse. Oh, to be but sixteen again without a care in the world except the latest fashions, local gossip, and which officer to dance with at the next Assembly are a delightful foundation for this excursion into Austenland that is both an amusement and a gentle morality story.

How it all turns out for the young lady from Longbourn in Hertfordshire, I will not say. However, I will only allude that the concluding adventure of the most determined flirt to ever make her family ridiculous, might make Jane Austen smile. Lydia Bennet’s Story Adventure is rollicking good fun with a surpise twist. Now that my hope of a novel about her has come to fruition, it can only be surpassed by Lydia Bennet the movie. Imagine what folly and fun would ensue. La!

The Jane Austen Centre web site

New friends are introduced and old ones are revisited with grace and charm. Romances are concocted, and hearts are won and lost against a vivid background of Regency England. Brighton is brought forth in all its gaudy splendor; a whole camp full of soldiers with balls and parties every night. Newcastle becomes a real place, far more than just a northern banishment; a seaside city full of full of merchants and warehouses, shops and gossips. In Bath, all the familiar haunts from Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are revisited; the Pump Room, the Upper Rooms, Queen's Square and even the Gravel Walk, so often the trysting place of young couples.

With an unexpected plot twist the story of young Lydia rapidly comes to its satisfying conclusion. Readers will not be disappointed by the creative way the author brings justice to all. Lydia's story is thoroughly entertaining. Despite the illicit nature of the Wickham's relationship at first, readers will find the matter delicately handled with no reason to blush. Lydia's voice is sweet and lively. Hers is not a nature to be weighed down by care or sorrow. A greater understanding of her nature and situation brings the reader a new compassion for her and an admiration for her overcoming spirit.

Lydia Bennet was, indeed, born to an extraordinary fate, and I, for one, am grateful to Ms. Odiwe for sharing her story.


I've just finished this book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Lydia was lively and fun, just as she is in Pride and Prejudice, and there were some appearances by the Darcys and the Bingleys as well as the rest of Lydia's family.
Lydia's story starts at Longbourn. It's written as a novel, but every now and again the narrative is interspersed with Lydia's journal entries, which provide interest and novelty. The tone is very bright and lively, just like Lydia, and her journal entries are very funny. I often laughed out loud, which is not something I do with many books.
It's a funny book, written with a detailed knowledge of Pride and Prejudice, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Diary of an Eccentric

Odiwe's writing style made me feel almost as though I were actually reading Austen. I had to remind myself it was a sequel several times.

I know not everyone enjoys Pride & Prejudice sequels; there are a lot of them out there. But if you like Jane Austen and her heroines, I recommend Lydia Bennet's Story. Lydia Bennet is not a name that comes to mind when thinking about Austen's heroines, but Odiwe's story of Lydia's adventures shows her strength and shows that there's more to the flighty Bennet sister than meets the eye

Reader's Respite

The term "sequel," I am happy to report, has no application whatsoever to Jane Odiwe's delightful novel, 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 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!


Jane Odiwe has given Lydia Bennet a plausible backstory that, if it doesn’t redeem her, at least gives her the benefit of the doubt; and a happier ending than one would expect, and happier than the cynical Janeite might think she probably deserves.
...absorbing and well-written, sexy without being explicit, and like the best of such alternative-viewpoint Austen paraliterature, we get a new, thoughtful, and sympathetic perspective on a well-known, well-loved classic.

Savvy, Verse and Wit

Lydia Bennet's Story does not miss a beat, Odiwe has a strong command of Austen's language, style, and characters, but she puts her own flare on the wild maven that is Lydia.
Readers of Jane Austen and Austen enthusiasts will enjoy this novel, but even those readers looking for a fast-paced "romance" will enjoy Lydia Bennet's Story.

The Reviewer

I loved this book. I fully expected to hate this book. I expected to finish it and thank my lucky stars that I only had one Austen related book on my desk. I was sad when this book ended.


A Wonderful Austen Sequel

I enjoyed Lydia Bennet's Story immensely. It was a fun story with everything I love about good Regency fiction - good writing, plenty of period descriptions and background information that lend authenticity, and romance that is exciting but not over the top. Odiwe did an excellent job of staying true to Austen's style while creating new characters and plots to make the story fresh and interesting. She also gave me a new appreciation for the character of Lydia. In an age of numerous Austen sequels, this one is definitely worth reading.

Diary of an Eccentric

I recommend Lydia Bennet's Story. Lydia Bennet is not a name that comes to mind when thinking about Austen's heroines, but Odiwe's story of Lydia's adventures shows her strength and shows that there's more to the flighty Bennet sister than meets the eye.

Book Zombie

Lydia Bennet’s Story is not only a terrific story but also a wonderful example of Jane Odiwe’s talent at character development. With just a bit of background she has transformed Lydia into a character worthy of her own novel. I believe this is a fantastic Austen sequel, because it changes nothing of the original Austen creations, instead it digs deeper and adds more personality to a secondary character creating a story line that veers in another direction.

Pictures and Conversations Austen's stories, the plot always takes a backseat to tone and wit. Lydia Bennet's Story is no different. While some of the comments are more ribald than dear Jane would have penned, Odiwe really captures the playful social commentary that Austen loved to present.

Library Queue

Lydia Bennet's Story is a fun Regency period read. It was a little naughty for me in some parts, complete with heaving bosoms, but overall I found it enjoyable and true to the Austen spirit.

Once upon a Romance.

Lydia Bennet's Story gives great insight into Lydia's character and spins an entertaining tale of Lydia's life. Lydia Bennet's Story is an entertaining story, which shows Lydia in a sympathetic light. Ms. Odiwe does something, that I thought nearly impossible--redeem Lydia Bennet.

Reading Romance books

...entertaining to read. Lydia learned from her folly and matured somewhat, though not changing in essentials. I was happy to see that things ended ideally for her.

Book Blogger's Diary

The author nicely makes use of existing material on Lydia Bennet to incorporate, and later expand on, in her own style to craft a story that's overall fun and makes for light, entertaining reading.

Random Jottings

Jane Odiwe has caught Lydia's gushing, breathless manner beautifully in those parts of the book which are purporting to be her diary.

Jane Austen in Vermont

And how rich that Austen’s flighty Lydia becomes Odiwe’s ‘fish out of water’ in the very first sentence of the first narrative chapter: ‘The true misfortune, which besets any young lady who believes herself destined for fortune and favour, is to find that she has been born into an unsuitable family.’ A stronger opening has seldom been set down on paper. Lydia’s self-contention of being a child snatched from noble parents at birth nicely sets up the story to come, positioning the reader firmly on Lydia’s side.


From the first chapter to the very last page, paragraph,even sentence....I was enthralled. The conversations, descriptions of characters, clothes, scenes... all are brought to life so well that I got completely wrapped up in this new world.

I loved this book from its first page - Ms Odiwe's writing is so descriptive - it sends you back to the Regency World in all its sensuous detail.

I only got this book at Christmas and read it within two days as I could not put it down!

I really enjoyed reading `Lydia Bennet!' Jane Odiwe has beautifully captured Lydia's giddiness and zest for life in this sparkling Regency romp. Fans of the period can rest assured Jane has done her research carefully. There are some nice touches of humour, and watch out for the surprise `twist' - I nearly jumped out of my chair!

What a delightfiul story. Full of Regency detail and Jane Austen style.

The "piece de resistance" is the twist to the plot at the end which readers should keep to themselves!

I'd recommend this book for people who enjoy Jane Austen's novels and especially for those who like the Masterpiece Theater adaptations of said novels.

Excellent book. Took it on holiday for the duration. Lasted one day. Could not put it down.