Read an Excerpt
More Letters from Pemberley, 1814â?"1819
a novel of sisters, husbands, heirs
By JANE DAWKINS
Sourcebooks, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Jane Dawkins
All rights reserved.
Pemberley Wednesday, 12th January, 1814
My dear Aunt Gardiner,
My pen might prefer to tell you that the demands of the Christmas festivities here at Pemberley allowed me not a minute to write, not even to a much loved Aunt. Indeed, a clever paragraph or two might even persuade you to feel sorry for me—but my heart will have none of it. I have neglected you abominably these past weeks, and any sorrow you have should be for yourself alone in having such a selfish creature for a Niece.
Let me assure you that we are all well. Jane and Mr. Bingley have left us and returned to The Great House on 27th last. (You have probably heard that my Sister is very well pleased with her new home and finds nothing to contradict our report to her last August. You and I may, I think, congratulate ourselves on our part in the business.) My Mother and Father, Kitty and Mary joined them yesterday. I flatter myself that their time at Pemberley passed not unpleasantly, and trust that they shared some of my own considerable pleasure at having our family together again.
But what of Mr. Darcy's pleasure, I hear you ask? Indeed, he bore the burden of a houseful of Bennets exceedingly well. If there were some days when he and Mr. Bingley (and sometimes my Father) were absent from home longer than might be expected, I did not notice it; if there were other times when Mr. Darcy and my Father removed themselves to the library for lengthy periods, let it just be said that Mr. Darcy has a high regard for my Father's opinion and would naturally wish to discuss with him continuing improvements and other matters of a bibliographical nature.
We have had some merry parties here and were joined at various times by Lady Ashton Dennis, the Mansfields, Norlands and dear Eleanor Steventon, who entertained us with stories—often at her own expense—about life in Bath (though I suspect the stories are more amusing in the telling than in the reality). The Daleys, sadly, were obliged to stay at home. Mrs. Daley's father has been confined to bed with a severe cold for several weeks and she is loath to leave him. Anna and Fanny Norland stayed with us almost a week, insufficient time for Kitty and Fanny to run out of conversation, which was often accompanied by peals of laughter. Anna and Eleanor also engaged in long conversations, though striking quieter, more serious notes.
Mr. Repton's alterations and improvements, within doors and without, advance very properly. In blessing us with a mild winter, Mother Nature has proved a fine accomplice to our work. My involvement in the building plans is very small, and I am not at all ashamed to confess that, notwithstanding Mr. Repton's fine water-colour renderings, I am quite unable to speculate on the result of his proposal to extend a line on the Ground Plan by a half-inch here, or to add a second line there, necessitating the removal of a third. He is particularly opinionated about prospects and aspects. When the former conflicts with the latter, he exercises great ingenuity (he modestly assures his audience) in devising plans to satisfy their contradictory needs. He feels strongly that aspect (and you should know that a south-eastern aspect is preferred!) is far more important than prospect. Are you not diverted? He is often at odds with the sun itself when its daily journey does not take quite the direction to show Mr. Repton's work to full advantage. Were it in his power, I have no doubt that he would wish to "improve" the sun also. Nevertheless, I have every confidence that Mr. Darcy and Mr. Repton know what they are about, and limit my own opinions to wall-coverings and curtains, plants and shrubs. A border in the enlarged kitchen garden is being cleared to receive currants and gooseberry bushes, and a spot has been found proper for raspberries. We shall not attempt to vie with Weldon Abbey and The Great House for the finest strawberries, much to the disappointment of Hopwith, the head gardener, who harbours a not-so-secret ambition to outdo them both.
Not without a little trepidation, I informed Mr. Repton that I could not do without a syringa, for the sake of Cowper's line: "Laburnum rich in streaming gold; syringa, iv'ry pure." We talk also of a laburnum. Fortified by his approbation, I further summoned my courage to object to the narrowness of the path which Mr. Repton's plantation has left in one part of the rookery. He has since examined it himself, acknowledges it to be much too narrow, and promises to have it altered. Such are your Niece's contributions to posterity!
It has struck ten; I must go to breakfast where I hope to have the pleasure of my Husband's company if he is returned from shooting. Yesterday, accompanied by Mr. Daley, he went out very early and came home like a bad shot, for they had killed nothing at all.
Yrs very affectionately, E. Darcy
Pemberley Saturday Day, 22d January, 1814
I am obliged to you for the samples for my sitting room, and for your valued advice. I am in agreement with your suggestion of the darker yellow silk brocade for the chairs, but my preference for the draperies is the lighter of the yellow, rather than the green. I understand your concern that the effect of too much yellow may not be entirely pleasing, but can assure you that I shall like it very well.
Mr. Darcy begs me to add that he leaves for Town on 4th April and will remain at Grosvenor Street for three weeks. He trusts it may be convenient for you to wait upon him there.
I remain, my dear Sir, E. Darcy
Humphry Repton, Esq. Sloane Street London
Great House Saturday, 12th March, 1814
My dear Aunt Gardiner,
My beloved Sister begs me to inform you immediately of the arrival of Frederick Charles yesterday evening at eleven o'clock. Your Great-Nephew has a fine set of lungs, which he used to full effect as he announced himself to the world. We have so much cause for thankfulness: Mother and Child both safe, and Jane's bodily suffering only slight. Mr. Bingley is as overjoyed as a new Papa ought to be, and the proud Grandmamma has declared young Frederick the handsomest, healthiest, lustiest Newborn there ever was. She insists that Charlotte's Robert is nothing compared to Jane's Frederick, and she will surely waste no time telling Lady Lucas as much upon her return to Longbourn.
I return to Pemberley in a week. I wish I could accompany Mr. Darcy to Town next month, but it cannot be helped. As penance for abandoning an adoring Wife, I am preparing a long list of commissions for him to undertake on my behalf.
You will perhaps be surprised to hear that my Mother received a letter last week from Lydia (addressed to her here at The Great House) in which she longs to see her Mamma, her Sisters and her expected Nephew or Niece. She entreats Mamma to intercede with her Sisters and begs an invitation for herself and her dear Wickham to visit us all. You will certainly not be surprised to learn that since they have recently moved into new lodgings, naturally incurring various, unspecified expenses, would Mamma kindly ask Lizzy to send money for their travel expenses? (Indeed, sending a carriage for them is strongly hinted at, a hint immediately ignored by the Bingleys and Darcys.)
Moreover, Lydia's travel dress is so out of style that she has taken the liberty of ordering a new one, and feeling certain that her Sisters would not wish to be shamed by her appearance, she suggests that Jane and I share the cost. Sly, clever Lydia! In approaching our Mother, rather than addressing herself to Jane and me directly, she well knows that she is unlikely to be denied, though they will have to content themselves with travelling post.
All may yet work out well. They arrive at The Great House seven days hence, then she is to come to Pemberley (to which my Husband agrees) after Mr. Darcy has left for Town. Even Lydia accepts that it is impossible for Mr. Wickham to be received at Pemberley under any circumstances, but she gives us to understand that he will be continuing to Bath alone, returning to The Great House after two or three weeks. They will then return to Newcastle together to rejoin his regiment.
My Mother was only prevented from immediately sending for Kitty and Mary "for the very great pleasure of having my Girls together again" by the reminder that her eldest Daughter is in childbed, that her second Daughter's confinement is imminent, and that her Husband would thus be left entirely alone at Longbourn. A tearful moment followed wherein Mamma related how lonely and unhappy she is at Longbourn with three Daughters gone. The remaining two give her no pleasure at all. I was tempted to recall that just two years ago she was unhappy at having five unmarried Daughters at home, but since such a recollection would have distressed her even more, I for once followed Jane's example and said nothing.
Be assured of the love and regard of your affectionate Niece,
Pemberley Friday, 8th April, 1814
My dear Husband,
How glad I am to know that you are safely arrived at Grosvenor Street and that your journey was without incident. It was my fervent hope that this fine spring weather would accompany you to Town and I am thankful that the roads were dry and sound.
Thank you, I can think of no further commissions to add to my list. I shall, however, expect you to lay in a stock of intelligence sufficient to amuse me for a twelvemonth. Of course, gleaning such gossip for your dear Wife will entail attending dinner parties, theatre parties and all other manner of diversions and entertainments, but I trust that sacrificing your own inclination to dine at home and spend a quiet evening with a book before a good fire will not cost you too dearly. Should such a price be too high, however, even for a much-loved Spouse, pray content yourself with your books and the occasional company of my Uncle and Aunt Gardiner and know that your Lizzy will love you not one jot less!
Jane writes that she continues to make a good recovery, that our Nephew and Godson gets on well, that Mr. Bingley beams with fatherly pride. My Mother returns to Longbourn tomorrow; Lydia comes here following breakfast at The Great House. Mr. Bingley has graciously offered his carriage for the journey despite my assurance that you had ordered a carriage to be sent from here, but he insists.
A short letter announcing Georgiana's safe arrival at Rosings came on Tuesday last. I have been in hopes of a longer letter arriving each day since, but it is probably too much to expect and yet another indication of how much I miss her. Indeed, Pemberley is far too quiet (notwithstanding Mr. Repton's labourers) and in truth, I am heartily sick of being so long separated from my Dearest Life—today being the sixth day that you are gone from home!
These three weeks will be the longest separation we ever yet endured, but I am resolved to meet this trial with cheerful resignation. All my happiness and satisfaction in life date from the day of our betrothal, but since joy and affliction are dispensed by the same divine providence, let us trust that good sense will direct me to submit to the one as well as the other. (I fear I lack the courage to express these sentiments aloud, only in a letter am I able to open my heart without embarrassment. Is this perhaps the meaning of the saying that true intimacy thrives on separation?)
Please accept the affectionate love of a heart not so tired as the right hand belonging to it, and know that you are always in the thoughts of your loving and devoted Wife,
Pemberley Wednesday, 13th April, 1814
My dear Georgiana,
Take heart! Your Brother is yet in Grosvenor Street but I feel confident he would wish me to tell you that your marriage to Colonel Fitzwilliam will be arranged and will take place according to your wishes. As your Aunt, Lady Catherine is naturally at liberty to make suggestions. Remember, however, that you are under no obligation to accept them. Do not distress yourself, my dear Sister. I know that it is against your (and the Colonel's) easy-going, sweet temperament to contradict or disappoint others, especially members of your own family, but in this particular circumstance you are both at liberty (indeed, I would go further and say you are obliged) to listen to your own hearts to avoid the even greater unhappiness of disappointing your own good selves.
With your permission, I will venture a suggestion of my own: Listen to Lady Catherine's instructions and orders, and thank her for her interest and concern without further comment or acceptance. Although my own acquaintance of your Aunt is limited, I feel certain this will suffice. Should she offer personally to see to it that such-and-such is done, I know your Brother would wish you to inform your Aunt that he is undertaking all arrangements for your nuptials, and that she should address herself to him. (As a self-acknowledged arbiter of good taste, it is strange, is it not, that Lady Catherine is not aware that the old fashion of festivity and publicity at weddings is quite gone by, and is universally condemned as showing the bad taste of former generations, but pray do not mention it.) Above all, do all in your power to keep up your spirits, my dear Georgiana, for the want of spirits is the greatest misery.
Thank you, I am in good health. Thank you, too, for your compliments to my Sister, Lydia. Be assured that Jane and her little one do very well. Young Frederick repays the affection and love constantly showered upon him with smiles and a variety of delightful gurgles. I beg you will convey my respects to Lady Catherine, my regards to Colonel Fitzwilliam, and know that I am always your loving Sister,
Pemberley Saturday, 16th April, 1814
My dear Aunt Gardiner,
How glad I am to have the very real excuse of wanting to thank you promptly for your most welcome letter, thus allowing me to withdraw to the peace of my own room with a clear conscience on this rainy morning. Lydia declares herself bored (not for the first time since she arrived here). My suggestions that she read a book from the library, re-acquaint herself with the piano in the music room, or take up some needlework from the poor-basket (since she had brought none of her own) meet with vacant stares and a toss of the head. She spends her time walking about the house and banging doors, or ringing the bell for a glass of water.
I had earlier written suggesting she might want to bring books and needlework to Pemberley, which prompted the following reply: "You distress me cruelly by your request, Lizzy. I cannot think of any books to bring with me, nor have I any idea of needing them. I come to you to be talked to, not read to, or to hear reading. I can do that at home!"
Married life has changed my Sister but little. The pretty, empty-headed, vain girl is a little older, but marriage has not made her any more mature or sensible: that lively personality, which was found so engaging by many, is now tempered by an unpleasing air of discontent. There is not a conversation to be had in which she does not relate how she and her dear Wickham have been ill-used by the world, how unlucky they are, how unfair everyone is. I regret to say she does not confine such thoughts to private conversations when we are alone. It is fortunate that our acquaintance is too well-mannered to betray any surprise at her indiscretions, and the servants pretend not to hear, but I feel all the embarrassment of her loose tongue.
Mr. Darcy assures me that with Wickham an officer with the regulars, their income ought to be sufficient for them to live as they please if they are careful. Of course, they seldom are. As might be expected, Mr. Wickham is as full of easy charm and compliments as ever. All that was uncomfortable in our first meeting at The Great House soon passed away, leaving only the interesting charm of remembering former Meryton acquaintances. He departed for Bath much sooner than planned, staying at The Great House barely one week. Thus, he remains in Bath with a party of fellow officers an entire month. Lydia professes not to mind, indeed, one might almost imagine that she encouraged his change of plan. She assures us that her dear Wickham is in great need of rest and that the change of scene and the air at Bath will do him a power of good. She also hinted that perhaps his luck at the gaming tables might change for the better. His adieux were not long; and they would have been yet shorter, had he not been frequently detained by the urgent entreaties of his fair one that he should go. At length, however, he drew on his gloves with leisurely care and set off with a happy air of real conceit and affected indifference.
Excerpted from More Letters from Pemberley, 1814â?"1819 by JANE DAWKINS. Copyright © 2007 Jane Dawkins. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.