Friday, February 29, 2008

Mrs Bennet

Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice is a mother with a mission. It is her sole object to have her daughters married well and she does all she can to achieve this end. At the beginning of Pride and Prejudice Mrs Bennet is keen for Mr Bennet to visit Mr Bingley, a rich neighbour who has recently moved to the area. Mr Bennet does not seem to strike up the acquaintance much to his wife's vexation. She speaks first.

"But consider your daughters. Only think what an establishment it would be for one of them. Sir William and Lady Lucas are determined to go, merely on that account, for in general, you know, they visit no new-comers. Indeed you must go, for it will be impossible for us to visit him if you do not."

"You are over-scrupulous surely. I dare say Mr. Bingley will be very glad to see you; and I will send a few lines by you to assure him of my hearty consent to his marrying whichever he chuses of the girls: though I must throw in a good word for my little Lizzy."

"I desire you will do no such thing. Lizzy is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good-humoured as Lydia. But you are always giving her the preference."

"They have none of them much to recommend them," replied he; "they are all silly and ignorant, like other girls; but Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters."

"Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such a way! You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion on my poor nerves."

"You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least."

"Ah! you do not know what I suffer."

"But I hope you will get over it, and live to see many young men of four thousand a year come into the neighbourhood."

"It will be no use to us if twenty such should come, since you will not visit them."

"Depend upon it, my dear, that when there are twenty, I will visit them all."

This is such a funny scene, especially when it is soon revealed that Mr Bennet intends to visit Mr Bingley without telling them!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Lydia Letters

New letters have just been discovered giving evidence of a correspondence between our lovely Miss Lydia and what appears to be a close acquaintance, Miss Lucy. The first must have been sent just at the time two certain gentlemen, a Mr Bingley and his friend Mr Darcy, were visiting Meryton.

My dearest Lydia,

La, it is uncommonly hot today and not at all the sort of weather for this time of year! I am so glad we are arrived at Brighton, for the sea breezes are refreshingly cool. I am writing to you on the scent of a RUMOUR! My mama’s lady’s maid heard from the footman, who heard from the valet of a visiting gentleman, who had stopped by to deliver a letter from Sir William Lucas to my papa, that your eldest sister Jane is practically engaged to a man of great good fortune. They said your mama said so, and that Jane had met him not a fortnight ago!

When last we spoke, we were lamenting the lack of eligible and handsome young men in Meryton. Indeed, your mama was always wondering aloud how she would manage to marry you all off.

How did Jane find anyone so well connected so soon? What is his name? What is he like, and where is he from? My mama begs me to ask you if he came alone or with a friend. And if so, what is HE like?

Do write me as speedily as you can. And, pray, tell me EVERYTHING! We are all agog with excitement.

Your affectionate friend,

My dearest Lucy,

La! I am so diverted to hear from you again but monstrous vexed to hear you are in Brighton where I should like to be. However, for all your unseasonable fine weather and seaside entertainments, I must tell you that I cannot envy you. Meryton was certainly very dull the last time we met but I write to you now with exciting news and gossip.

An entire regiment of soldiers are wintering here - can you believe it? Such dashing officers - such wonderful visions in scarlet! One can hardly step out into the High Street for bumping into a redcoat and they are most obliging!

However, I digress. You are quite right in supposing my mother to have been at her wit's end with regard to finding my sisters a husband, but the arrival of a Mr Bingley to the neighbourhood may soon put mama and Jane out of misery. He is from the North, is very rich and gentleman-like but not really to my taste, so I am very happy to see my sister quite smitten. Mr Bingley has taken Netherfield Park, which my mother thinks will do very nicely indeed - we have not known him a fortnight yet my sister danced four times with him at the Meryton assembly and has dined in company with him at least the same number. But for all this amusement I have to tell you his society is blighted not only by his horrid sisters but by the presence of his vile friend Mr Darcy, the most disagreeable man you ever beheld. Mama says he has ten thousand pounds but it seems to me that his money has not been of any help in making his disposition happy. I have never seen such a sour-faced countenance!

I must dash - Denny and Chamberlayne have just called -

Write again soon with your news,

Fondest felicitations,


'Lucy' is perhaps better known as Ms. Place from Jane Austen Today and Jane Austen's World. We've had a lot of fun putting these together. I hope you enjoy them!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Lydia Bennet and Mr Wickham

I hope you have all enjoyed the Pride and Prejudice adaptation that has just finished on TV in the US. I loved this version and I thought Julia Sawalha was a fantastic Lydia, petulant and precocious but still managing to be very funny! Adrian Lukis was perfect for Wickham too, just the right combination of charm and charisma to convince us in the beginning that he is an ideal partner for Lizzy but also imbued with a certain sleaziness, which soon shows us his true character. Poor Lydia cannot see this and believes herself to be in love with him. Whatever her faults, I could not let Lydia be miserable with Mr Wickham for the rest of her life - I had to find a happy ending for her in Lydia Bennet's Story!
Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet was a wonderful Lizzy and I'm sure most will agree that Colin Firth is unsurpassed as Mr Darcy. I think the on screen chemistry between these two is what sparked so many web sites, blogs and sequels to Pride and Prejudice in the years since its first airing. I remember talking to Ann Channon at Jane Austen's House in Chawton when this adaptation first came out. She said that the building could scarcely cope with the huge numbers of people that wanted to find out more about the author who had written Pride and Prejudice; they were inundated with visitors. One entry in the visitor's book made Ann laugh-they noted the house was very nice but asked 'where is Mr Darcy?'

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Elizabeth Bennet implores Mr Darcy to tell her how he managed to fall in love with her

As in all good love stories the hero and heroine come together at last. The following is an extract from Pride and Prejudice where Elizabeth and Mr Darcy have finally realised how much they are in love with one another and make their feelings known.

Elizabeth's spirits soon rising to playfulness again, she wanted Mr. Darcy to account for his having ever fallen in love with her. "How could you begin?" said she. "I can comprehend your going on charmingly, when you had once made a beginning; but what could set you off in the first place?"

"I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun."

"My beauty you had early withstood, and as for my manners - my behaviour to you was at least always bordering on the uncivil, and I never spoke to you without rather wishing to give you pain than not. Now, be sincere; did you admire me for my impertinence?"

"For the liveliness of your mind, I did."

"You may as well call it impertinence at once. It was very little less. The fact is, that you were sick of civility, of deference, of officious attention. You were disgusted with the women who were always speaking and looking and thinking for your approbation alone. I roused and interested you, because I was so unlike them. Had you not been really amiable, you would have hated me for it; but, in spite of the pains you took to disguise yourself, your feelings were always noble and just; and, in your heart, you thoroughly despised the persons who so assiduously courted you. There - I have saved you the trouble of accounting for it; and really, all things considered, I begin to think it perfectly reasonable. To be sure, you knew no actual good of me - but nobody thinks of that when they fall in love."

"Was there no good in your affectionate behaviour to Jane, while she was ill at Netherfield?"

"Dearest Jane! who could have done less for her? But make a virtue of it by all means. My good qualities are under your protection, and you are to exaggerate them as much as possible; and in return, it belongs to me to find occasions for teasing and quarrelling with you as often as may be; and I shall begin directly, by asking you what made you so unwilling to come to the point at last? What made you so shy of me when you first called, and afterwards dined here? Why, especially when you called, did you look as if you did not care about me?"

"Because you were grave and silent, and gave me no encouragement."

"But I was embarrassed."

"And so was I."

"You might have talked to me more when you came to dinner."

"A man who had felt less, might."

"How unlucky that you should have a reasonable answer to give, and that I should be so reasonable as to admit it! But I wonder how long you would have gone on if you had been left to yourself! I wonder when you would have spoken, if I had not asked you! My resolution of thanking you for your kindness to Lydia had certainly great effect. -- Too much, I am afraid; for what becomes of the moral, if our comfort springs from a breach of promise? for I ought not to have mentioned the subject. This will never do."

"You need not distress yourself. The moral will be perfectly fair. Lady Catherine's unjustifiable endeavours to separate us were the means of removing all my doubts. I am not indebted for my present happiness to your eager desire of expressing your gratitude. I was not in a humour to wait for any opening of yours. My aunt's intelligence had given me hope, and I was determined at once to know everything."

"Lady Catherine has been of infinite use, which ought to make her happy, for she loves to be of use. But tell me, what did you come down to Netherfield for? Was it merely to ride to Longbourn, and be embarrassed? or had you intended any more serious consequence?"

"My real purpose was to see you, and to judge, if I could, whether I might ever hope to make you love me. My avowed one, or what I avowed to myself, was to see whether your sister were still partial to Bingley, and, if she were, to make the confession to him which I have since made."

"Shall you ever have courage to announce to Lady Catherine, what is to befall her?"

"I am more likely to want time than courage, Elizabeth. But it ought to be done; and if you will give me a sheet of paper, it shall be done directly."

"And if I had not a letter to write myself, I might sit by you, and admire the evenness of your writing, as another young lady once did. But I have an aunt too who must not be longer neglected."

All together-aahhhhhhh!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pride and Prejudice, Lizzy and Darcy

This is the scene where Mr Darcy makes his most unwelcome proposal to Elizabeth Bennet. She is making it very clear that she is less than impressed with his offer.
Elizabeth answers:

"In such cases as this, it is, I believe, the established mode to express a sense of obligation for the sentiments avowed, however unequally they may be returned. It is natural that obligation should be felt, and if I could feel gratitude, I would now thank you. But I cannot -- I have never desired your good opinion, and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly. I am sorry to have occasioned pain to any one. It has been most unconsciously done, however, and I hope will be of short duration. The feelings which, you tell me, have long prevented the acknowledgment of your regard, can have little difficulty in overcoming it after this explanation."

Mr. Darcy, who was leaning against the mantlepiece with his eyes fixed on her face, seemed to catch her words with no less resentment than surprise. His complexion became pale with anger, and the disturbance of his mind was visible in every feature. He was struggling for the appearance of composure, and would not open his lips till he believed himself to have attained it. The pause was to Elizabeth's feelings dreadful. At length, in a voice of forced calmness, he said --

"And this is all the reply which I am to have the honour of expecting! I might, perhaps, wish to be informed why, with so little endeavour at civility, I am thus rejected. But it is of small importance."

Oh, go on, don't stop there, read that chapter again or better still, the whole book!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Brighton Encampments

After war was declared against the French in February 1793, several military encampments were set up along the south coast.Over the following years the fields surrounding the area became enormous tented army camps filled with Militia from all over the country.
A plan of the first encampment was printed on the fabric of a lady's fan, which was probably produced as a souvenir and can still be seen in Worthing museum.
The Prince of Wales, who was the Colonel in Chief of the 10th Light Dragoons had a tent far superior to any ever seen before on a battlefield. It had several ante rooms and even a kitchen. The newspapers often reported that the Prince took his duties very seriously, suggesting he did his share of night watch. However, his comfortable home often tempted him to abscond and on 2nd September 1793 a huge storm swept away many of the tents leaving those who rushed to his rescue to think they need not have bothered.

The 1794 encampment was on top of Brighton's Race Hill.When a message came to say that the French had landed on the seashore, panic ensued and the soldiers rushed down to the beach to defend the coastline. As they appeared in unfamiliar uniforms, the fishermen and bathing women set about them mistaking the soldiers for the enemy. It turned out the message had been nothing but a false alarm, sent by the Prince who thought it would be a huge joke.
'Brighton Camp' was written in 1796 and became a popular song and dance of the day. I imagined Lydia Bennet hearing it played by the military fifes and drums during parades.

I'm lonesome since I crossed the hill, and over the moor and valley,
Such a heavy thought my heart do fill, since parting with my Sally.
I seek no more the fine and gay, for each does but remind me,
How swift the hours pass away, with the girl I left behind me.
With the girl I left behind me.

There were regular encampments at this time between the years 1793-1803 and Jane Austen must have thought there could be no place more likely to tempt her wayward character, Lydia Bennet.

'She saw herself the object of attention to tens and to scores of them at present unknown. She saw all the glories of the camp-its tents stretched forth with beauteous uniformity of lines, crowded with the young and gay, and dazzling with scarlet; and to complete the view, she saw herself beneath a tent, tenderly flirting with six officers at once.' From Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Jane Odiwe

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Jane Austen at her desk

Jane Austen's wonderful writing has inspired me to write and paint; and as a consequence I have 'met' many people from all over the world. The internet is a wonderful thing! I do hope you will have a look and add your views too!

I hope you like this painting of a young Jane sitting at her desk. I imagine that she is writing 'First Impressions' in this painting, the first draft of the book that became such a favourite of us all - Pride and Prejudice. Sitting at a desk in the blue dressing room at Steventon she gazes out upon a wintry landscape; soft feathers of snow are falling from a charcoal sky. Perhaps Cassandra will come in to demand to hear the next instalment or if little neice Anna is playing she will hear the merry peals of laughter from the sisters as Jane reads out her favourite passages. Jane looks lost in thought. Does she dream of Mr Darcy?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Donkey riding and sea bathing in Brighton

I often use paintings or prints as a starting point. When I was writing Lydia Bennet’s Story, this print presented me with an idea for a scene between Lydia and Mr Wickham.
Donkey riding was a very fashionable pursuit at this time and most popular with ladies; tours in a donkey cart could be taken out to the village of Rottingdean. This fad did not last long, the donkeys were soon replaced by ponies, which the ladies preferred.
Sea bathing was also popular as might be expected and was recommended as a health giving exercise. Ladies and gentlemen bathed in designated areas, firstly entering a bathing machine to change into a flannel gown before descending the steps to be ‘dipped’ in the water by the ‘dipper’.

There’s plenty of dippers and jokers,
And salt-water rigs for your fun
The King of them all is ‘Old Smoaker’
The Queen of ’em “Old Martha Gunn”.

The ladies walk out in the morn,
To taste of the salt-water breeze;
They ask if the water is warm,
Says Martha, “Yes, Ma’am, if you please.”

Old Brighton rhyme.

Here is an extract from the ‘Morning Herald’ August 28th 1806.

The beach this morning was thronged with ladies, all anxious to make interest for a dip. The machines, of course, were in very great request, though none could be run into the ocean in consequence of the heavy swell, but remained stationary at the water’s edge, from which Martha Gunn and her robust female assistants took their fair charges, closely enveloped in their partly coloured dresses, and gently held them to the breakers, which not quite so gently passed over them. The greatest novelty, however,….was in a Gentleman undressing himself on the beach, for the purpose of a ducking, in front of the town, attended by his lady, who sans diffidence, supplied him with napkins, and even assisted him in wiping the humid effects of his exercise from his brawny limbs, as he returned from the water to dress.

It is very typical of Lydia that she makes this comment on the view from her room at the Ship Inn where she is staying with her friend Harriet Forster.
'How wonderful is the sight of the sea, its sound so delicious on the ear and its vast waters swimming with gentleman bathers! We have rooms overlooking the water; which provide the most excellent looking post! It is heaven, indeed!'

Sunday, February 17, 2008

In my dreams!

My lucky friends in the US are watching Pride and Prejudice again, the lovely version with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.
I thought I'd share a birthday card my daughter made for me a while ago - it makes me laugh whenever I look at it!

Jane Odiwe

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Stopping for Refreshment

In 1801 a coach leaving London for Brighton at seven o'clock in the morning would stop for its passengers at Sutton by nine o'clock. A glass of Miss Jeal's 'smoking hot' elderberry wine would form the fortification at the next stop followed by lunch at Reigate. At Handcross strong liquors were handed out by the landlord and then a 'grand halt' at Staplefield Common meant dinner. Rabbit pudding was the favoured dish and by the time passengers had enjoyed a further drink, another two hours would have passed by. Tea was taken in Patcham before the last leg of the journey. The coach arrived in Brighton at seven o'clock.
There were several routes to Brighton from London and coaches did become much faster in time, mainly because the roads became better and the new routes avoided hills which the passengers had previously to walk up. Well, they had to do something to burn off all their meals!

Jane Odiwe

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Old Ship Inn, Brighton

When Lydia arrives in Brighton with Harriet and Colonel Forster they put up at the Ship Inn. I decided it would be more interesting to have them in a hotel where they might come across other characters, rather than just staying in lodgings and of course, the sea view from here and the ever changing scene from the bow windows enthralls our heroine. The Old Ship Hotel on King's Road is the oldest in Brighton, dating back to 1559 and is still there today, although it has altered over the years. It was so called because it was in part constructed from old timbers of a vessel. The chief posting and coaching inn of Brighton during the Regency period, the town's post office and assembly rooms were also to be found here. Mrs Fitzherbert as head of a team of lady patronesses, organised private subscription balls in a similar manner to Almack's to which the fashionable set thronged.
It is from here that a dramatic turning point of Lydia Bennet's Story happens and Lydia is set on a course which will change her destiny forever. More information about Brighton's history can be found on
Jane Odiwe

The Old Ship Hotel

Monday, February 4, 2008

Hoddesdon - a Hertfordshire coaching town

Hoddesdon was an important coaching stop in the nineteenth century, boasting 30 coaching inns at one time, some of which are still preserved today. Although Jane Austen did not specify where Lydia and Kitty met their sisters on their return to Longbourn I decided this bustling market town would make an appropriate place.

'It was the second week in May, in which the three young ladies set out together from Gracechurch Street for the town of -- -- , in Hertfordshire; and, as they drew near the appointed inn where Mr. Bennet's carriage was to meet them, they quickly perceived, in token of the coachman's punctuality, both Kitty and Lydia looking out of a dining-room upstairs.' Extract from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

An old photograph of the Bull Inn with an upstairs window seemed perfect for my idea of the George Inn - I could picture the girls trying to attract the attention of likely passers by.

'We entered the George and were shown a commodious dining room just fit to receive our sisters, by a ‘glad-eyed’ serving boy with a hideously long chin and ordered some platters of cold meat and sallad to be brought up at midday. We ventured into the High Street, where, despite Kitty’s scolding, I could not resist a chip and satin bonnet with a plume of green feathers on the top, although it has to be said that as soon as I had made purchase of the hat, it became a very ugly object. Kitty, not to be outdone, spent the rest of our money on a tortoiseshell hair comb and a piece of lace trimming and so the problem of how to pay for the awaiting repast at the inn soon arose. However, it immediately occurred to me that Jane and Lizzy would, (no doubt,) be flush from receiving a generous pocket allowance from our affable uncle and be pleased to lend the money for the food, so thoughtfully and kindly ordered on their behalf by their dutiful sisters.
By midday, having run out of money and with no familiar beaux to abuse, we returned to the George to sit by the window and spent an amusing half hour trying to catch the eye of and waving at the sentinel opposite, who ignored all our gesticulations and marched up and down, when he became troubled at losing his resolve.' Diary extract from Lydia Bennet's Story

Whilst researching the history of the inn and the area I came across a ghost story and a murder which managed to weave their way into quite a different story that the serving boy tells in an attempt to frighten the girls.
Lydia is only mildly amused!