I've some new updates on my website Austen Effusions about my new book, Mr. Darcy's Secret, including an extract.
The painting featured I did a while ago of Elizabeth and Jane Bennet. I often wonder how closely the relationship that these two heroines share is mirrored in Jane Austen's own life with her sister Cassandra.
In Mr. Darcy's Secret, the sisters are together again. Though they are not yet living within an easy distance of one another, we know that Jane Austen said that after twelve months Bingley and Jane settled in the next county.
Mr. Bingley and Jane remained at Netherfield only a twelvemonth. So near a vicinity to her mother and Meryton relations was not desirable even to his easy temper, or her affectionate heart. The darling wish of his sisters was then gratified: he bought an estate in a neighbouring county to Derbyshire; and Jane and Elizabeth, in addition to every other source of happiness, were within thirty miles of each other.
|My sister and I touring Chatsworth|
Jane and Bingley arrive for Christmas in Mr. Darcy's Secret. Lizzy takes Jane off as soon as she can so that they can talk. Here's a snippet of their conversation.
Lizzy took her sister’s arm with much affection and led her upstairs to her small private sitting room, which on her marriage had been one of the many surprises her husband had presented. She had always preferred the style of the past to what was currently in fashion, and everything within the cosy room had been chosen with that in mind. A richly coloured tapestry, glowing with hues of yellow and rose, green and sand, hung on one of the oak-lined walls. Crewel-worked drapes framed the Venetian window, whose glass panes reflected cheerful flames from the fire in the chimneypiece, to glimmer on blue delftware bowls of dried lavender scenting the air with a fragrant pot pourri. Much of the furniture consisted of pieces that had been in the Darcy family from Tudor times. A gilt-wood settee upholstered in ivory Genoa velvet and embossed with green pineapples was placed on one side of the fire opposite a Queen Anne love seat beautifully worked in needlepoint. Elizabeth’s writing desk sat before the window next to her books from Longbourn, housed in a handsome bookcase in the corner, the one exception to antiquity. With the addition of a scattering of useful tables and several exquisitely painted Dutch floral pictures in gilt frames, the whole scene suggested comfortable and easy elegance, a refuge from the demands of a busy life as mistress of Pemberley.
“Oh, Elizabeth, what a perfect room,” declared Jane as soon as they entered. “I’ve tried to imagine you sitting at your desk so many times, but I really did not do justice to this heavenly place in my mind. And now, when I am home once more, I can picture you sitting there before the window filling a page with your news.”
“Oh, do not talk of going home yet, Jane, when you have been here but five minutes; I cannot bear it. Come, sit down, I wish to hear everything you could not put in a letter.”
Jane laughed. “I do not know where to begin.”
“Oh, my dear sister, that does sound promising.”
“On which particular subject are you most curious, Lizzy?”
“There are so many. First, are you happy, Jane? No, do not answer such a stupid question. Happiness is radiating like sunshine on a summer’s day from every part of you. But tell me, is Charles everything you hoped he’d be?”
“I could not ask for a kinder husband.”
“And are you in love with him still?”
“I love him more than ever.”
“Lizzy, you are truly shocking! Whatever would Mr Darcy say if he knew quite how brazen the woman he married can be?”
“’Tis too late, I fear, Jane, he knows already. And I will confess to you, dearest sister, that I am quite delighted with my husband in every respect. And please forgive me, but my knowing such joy has only made me wish to discover if you too have found such happiness with Charles.”
Jane nodded and blushed, turning her head towards her sister with a smile. “Sometimes I feel so consumed by his affection that it almost frightens me. I do not know what I ever did to deserve such happiness, but I am so relieved to know you feel it too. But enough of such talk, you are making me blush. One thing I must ask you. In your last letter you said you had persuaded Fitzwilliam to write to Lady Catherine. Has there been any response?”
“Oh, yes! Lady Catherine has replied in her inimitable way; she is still refusing to visit, but I am sure she will come in time. Curiosity will get the better of her resentment, you’ll see.”
“Oh, Lizzy, you are of a stronger constitution than I am; I do not think I could handle a woman like that.”
“But you do and on a daily basis. Tell me, how does Caroline Bingley behave? Your letters paint such a generous description of that lady that unless she has undergone a complete character transformation, I am not entirely sure I can have any faith in what you have written.”
“Caroline is much improved, Elizabeth. But it does not mean to say that I have completely reformed our friendship in the old way. I do not bear grudges easily, but I believe it will take me a long time to allow her into my confidence again. However, she is very civil, and I will say is improving daily. I think she was quite surprised to find how reserved with her I became after Charles and I were married. And my dear husband has made it very clear from the start, without any unpleasantness, that I am the sole mistress of Netherfield Park. I daresay that is why we have been so fortunate to enjoy her absence from home this last week. She has been visiting her sister in London. No doubt, Louisa and Caroline had plenty to discuss on the subject of my marriage and my housekeeping.”
“If they have, and I think we may assume not a doubt of it, I hope the venom produced from their malicious tongues poisons them once and for all. Well, Jane, we do not have to be resentful, for we have the whip hand over those two embittered sisters.”
© Jane Odiwe Mr. Darcy's Secret February 2011