Presumption: An Entertainment: A Sequel to Pride and Prejudiceby Julia Barrett, Jane Austen
This witty sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice follows the fate of Georgiana Darcy, Mr. Darcy's younger sister, who must choose between two suitors, a well-placed navy captain and a brash young architect. Masterfully adapted to Austen's original nineteenth-century style, Presumption brings back to life the book's most memorable characters, the/i>/i>
This witty sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice follows the fate of Georgiana Darcy, Mr. Darcy's younger sister, who must choose between two suitors, a well-placed navy captain and a brash young architect. Masterfully adapted to Austen's original nineteenth-century style, Presumption brings back to life the book's most memorable characters, the Bennets, Darcys, Collins, and de Bourghs.
"An elegant emulation and continuation of Pride and Prejudice. . . . Jointly composed by two admirers of Jane Austen, the book often achieves crisp replication of her style. . . . Presumption shows how sequel-writing can, like parody, be a sharp exercise in literary appreciation."—Peter Kemp, Times Literary Supplement
Julia Barrett is a pseudonym for Julia Braun Kessler and Gabrielle Donnelly.
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An Entertainment A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice
By Julia Barrett
The University of Chicago PressCopyright © 1993 Julia Braun Kessler and Gabrielle Donnelly
All rights reserved.
If, as the prevailing wisdom has had it these many years, a young man in possession of a good fortune is always in want of a wife, then surely the reverse must prove true as well: any well-favoured lady of means must incline, indeed yearn, to improve her situation by seeking a husband.
Yet our own heroine found herself in the singular position of contesting this complacent assurance. Miss Georgiana Darcy, of Pemberley in Derbyshire, although beautiful, accomplished, and, moreover, an heiress to a considerable fortune, remained nevertheless, at the age of seventeen years, markedly disinclined to secure her future happiness by bestowing that fortune upon any one. Georgiana had reason.
It was not that she had never sought to fall in love, far from it. Once, she had dreamt of nothing other. But her first amorous venture had served only to dishearten her. Orphaned by the time she had completed her ninth year, and growing up an uncommonly pretty and winning child, she had been much accommodated by her only brother and loving guardian, Fitzwilliam Darcy. A series of governesses had taught her, and while they had invariably found her tractable, even compliant, this circumstance was maintained largely by none of their ever presuming to make so inconvenient a suggestion as that she do one single thing genuinely against her own wishes.
Alas, indulgence served her ill. At the age of fifteen, her head quite turned by the attentions of a dashing young officer named Lieutenant George Wickham, the son of her father's steward, our impetuous heiress eloped with him. Had not the affair most fortunately been discovered by her devoted brother, there is no telling the consequence.
The two, happily, were recovered in good time. Georgiana was returned to her beloved Pemberley, and her brother was able to console himself with the knowledge both that his sister was unharmed and that not one in the neighbourhood had any inkling of the disaster which had so nearly overtaken her.
Yet the incident served to check the high spirits of the young heiress. She had come to see the dangers hovering over too precipitous a flight into unrestrained passion. In truth, Georgiana now found herself much subdued. She feared her own romantic heart.
Now that she approached the full bloom of young womanhood, her appearance amply fulfilled every childhood promise. She was tall, her figure was formed, and her every aspect graceful. These attractions, augmented by her expectations, made Miss Darcy much solicited. But while enjoying ardent attentions from an enviable number of unexceptionable suitors, she refused to fix a serious gaze upon any. On all of them she smiled, to most was amiable, but to none held out serious promise.
Still, on this, the evening of her coming out into society, her anticipations were high; indeed, she had much pleasure to look forward to. Besides the never-failing joys of the dance, there was the agreeable company of her sister-in-law, Elizabeth; the arrival in the neighbourhood of the new relations Elizabeth had brought to the family; and, the certain admiration of young gentlemen from all over the county that was none the less welcome for her determination not to reciprocate it.
Tonight especially, she had a further aim: since the unfortunate incident with the young officer, her brother had grown stern, and she was eager to demonstrate to him just how much improved had been her cast of mind in the two years that had intervened. Although inexperienced, she had never been foolish and, sobered by the loss of her illusions, she had resolved to address her failings. In this endeavour she had found herself with an ally in the person of her brother's new bride.
The arrival of Elizabeth Bennet at Pemberley had seemed to Georgiana to bring with it an alteration in the very air of that great house. Rooms which had for so long been silent, were now filled with laughter. Her brother was more often there, his presence most happily felt: under his beloved's tutelage, Darcy's demeanour was perceptibly altered. He smiled more easily and was even heard, on occasion, to laugh out loud. His sister observed this change in awe. She scarcely dared herself to address him in the insouciant manner to which Elizabeth was accustomed; but nevertheless drew comfort from the knowledge that he was after all capable of levity.
Georgiana, remembering her many long years of solitude, or, at best, the company of one or another governess, could not but rejoice at the change. And, as she watched and listened to ever more adventurous sallies upon her brother's person, she conceived for their perpetrator an admiration which only grew as their friendship progressed.
It was in the midst of such musings that she was surprised by the appearance of their subject herself, who just then came to the door in her dressing gown.
'Well, my dear Georgiana,' cried Elizabeth Darcy, 'are you prepared to be hailed as quite the most charming and loveliest creature the neighbourhood has ever been privileged to behold?'
'Dear sister,' said Georgiana in some surprise, 'Surely, you cannot think Derbyshire is so deprived of beauty that I could ever be thought so?'
'Nonsense,' was her reply, 'a young woman on her coming out into society is always described thus – she is the loveliest creature ever seen. Depend upon it, I have been to many such occasions and I have never heard any young woman granted a lesser estimation, no matter how plain or graceless she may be.'
'If that be the case,' replied Georgiana smiling, 'I shall arrange to be just as beautiful as you say. It appears that this evening, the task is accomplished easily enough.'
'You, Georgiana, need exert yourself but little at any time to be admired. Nature has granted you enough already; more would be profligate. What a fine ball this evening's shall be. I expect you shall dance every dance; your dressmaker, I see, has looped up your gown for the cotillion.'
'I am quite prepared for any circumstance, dear Elizabeth. Sir Edward Stanton so enjoys the old dances, but his son, George, prefers the Boulanger, while Richard Brook dearly loves a reel. I shall answer to all.'
'So young and yet so dutiful,' cried Elizabeth. 'Can the young men of Derbyshire have an idea of their good fortune tonight? But beware, Georgiana: too ready a compliancy, and a man is apt to assume dullness.'
'Let him assume what he may,' returned Georgiana. 'Dear Elizabeth, I shall dance and allow myself to be admired by every eye if that can give the company pleasure. I should hate to disgrace my brother and you by being uncompanionable. But I am not in love; and do not, I pray, require me to fall hopelessly so, to pledge myself to one, and one alone, all in the course of an evening's entertainment.'
'I could hardly demand that, sister,' laughed Mrs Darcy. 'When I think upon it, advice on hasty judgements from myself would surely be of little consequence. Having done everything quite wrong on one such an occasion, I can only wonder at my own present good fortune.'
And secure in her mind about her young friend's disposition, while yet speculating about what the evening would bring, she returned to her own quarters to dress.CHAPTER 2
The master of Pemberley had himself only just returned from business affairs in London, bringing with him a young architect. Pemberley, although possessed of all the grace that age and loving maintenance could provide, was nevertheless in constant need of attention and Darcy had long sought to find a rare artist who was capable both of appreciating its qualities and of resisting the temptation to improve upon them. Such a one, he was assured, was James Leigh-Cooper. Although not yet thirty, the young man had distinguished himself in several important houses, and Darcy, who had admired his accomplishments for some years, was pleased to have at last secured his services.
Having settled his visitor comfortably into his own quarters, he returned confidently to domestic matters. He had departed for the City secure in the knowledge that the arrangements for Georgiana's ball were in excellent hands, and that whatever obstacles might not occur, his dear Lizzy would be there to surmount them.
How well she had adapted to her new-found duties as mistress of Pemberley had given him the profoundest of pleasure. Her intelligence, her quickness of wit, her playfulness, which had first won his affection despite himself, were in evidence as they had always been; but now they were augmented by the dignity inherent in her superior position. Always, he had loved her; now he could also delight in her serenity.
Elizabeth, for her part, greeted her husband warmly and with all the affection of a truly loving heart. In their brief time together he had become for her everything she could have hoped. Now she wondered at her own first notions about him. He, forbidding or proud? Never! He was surely the gentlest, the most generous and the most agreeable of men. No one in possession of good sense could but recognize it.
'Well, Mrs Darcy,' said the prompter of these tender thoughts so soon as he arrived, 'and are we all quite ready for the festivities of the evening?'
'Perfectly, thank you,' replied she. 'Mrs Langham has taken to bed with the tooth-ache; the jellies are not yet set; and Arthur has brought word that the musicians are delayed at Eaton. So everything is proceeding as well as may be anticipated by anyone foolish enough to give a ball.'
'And my sister? How does she do?'
'Tolerably well. She is ready and willing, I assure you, for whatever the evening can bring. Who knows,' with a conscious look, 'but what someone might be drawn to admire her fine eyes?'
Darcy could not but smile at this reminder of what it was that had at first brought Elizabeth to his notice.
'Are Georgiana's eyes fine?' was all he said, however. 'I really had not observed.'
'That,' she replied playfully, 'is because you are her brother and not her suitor. I consider myself lucky indeed to have but sisters. What may have been an affliction for my father, was certainly of benefit to the vanity of the rest of us. Had you been my brother, you surely would have been impervious to any charms I may have possessed.'
'Perhaps you are right, Lizzy,' he smiled, 'but what I have most certainly taken note of are the material improvements in the demeanour of that young lady since she has had the advantage of your company. Evidence of my sister's high spirits, I had already seen, but as I look upon her now, I glimpse something other, a good sense, a lack of frivolity. With your good offices, she is, I do believe, becoming a credit to her sex.'
The lovers continued this way together in their discussion of Georgiana, reiterating their pleasure at her new seriousness. Had she not begun to study more diligently, apply herself better at her needlework and at the piano? Darcy delighted to see not only his sister's development but his own Elizabeth's influence upon it. He saw her hand in every application, in each improvement, and his happiness knew no restraint. But, a man in love, and so new to the joys of marital bliss, can hardly be expected to make the most incontestable judgements. Fitzwilliam Darcy was no exception.
For Mrs Darcy, the new life at Pemberley was not without its difficulties. With her marriage, Elizabeth Bennet, a handsome, intelligent, but virtually dowerless young gentlewoman, had found herself quite unexpectedly the mistress of a large estate and the possessor of enormous wealth. The sudden acquisition of title and position, happy as such a circumstance may be, will inevitably bring with it to any sensible young woman a variety of hazards. In short, Elizabeth had had to learn to live with unmitigated good fortune.
Her father was a gentleman possessed of a good-sized property in Hertfordshire; but Darcy's circle until then had been far higher born than she. They represented the pick of the English aristocracy; her only claim to title was Darcy's boundless admiration.
She was far too discerning not to have seen from the start that others at Pemberley were aware of her modest beginnings. She had immediately observed the raised eyebrows and secret smiles of the coachmen, the butler, the housemaids and the other servants, all accustomed to receiving their orders from those far grander than the daughter of a mere country gentleman.
The neighbourhood, moreover, had been, she knew, too eagerly awaiting her coming. She was a perfect supplement for any gossip that might be lacking in the county and she knew that there were those anticipating any awkward act, or inapt gesture. She was illiberal enough to determine not to oblige them; but still, the knowledge could not but disturb.
Darcy's aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, was openly abusive and Anne de Bourgh dutifully followed her mother's lead. Others of their set, their compassion aroused by the indignity of the family's being obliged to admit among them one who had been married merely for love, made their displeasure as keenly felt. Too often Elizabeth encountered coldness, if not genuine ill-will.
Her natural high spirits inclined her to seek some consolation by laughing at her position and the folly of some of her neighbours. But her attempts to lighten her burden did not always succeed. In the privacy of her splendid quarters, she often succumbed to tears. Her attachment to Hertfordshire and her friends and family there was strong; and while, in the past, the eccentricity of her father, and the uncertainty of temper and meanness of understanding of her mother, had caused her concern and even irritation, now she remembered only the dear familiarity of both. Even the recollection of her sisters' boisterous conduct now seemed sweet to her. What had once appeared excessive frivolity, she could recognize as only the pardonable whims of gaiety and youth. At this flattering distance, Longbourn was attractive indeed.
Her miseries she kept well hidden. Darcy, she was determined, would see none of her tears. She would make her own way in his household and in his country, and if she wept, she would do so alone.CHAPTER 3
Among Darcy's circle was one whom he esteemed in particular, Sir Geoffrey Portland. A close friend of his father's, Sir Geoffrey had never failed the younger man during even the most trying times of his parents' loss. For Darcy, he had indeed replaced his father, if not in the son's affections, then certainly in the everyday practice of parenthood.
Darcy relied upon him for advice and counsel, nor had he ever approached him in vain. Left to care for a much younger sister before he himself had come of age, he truly believed that without Sir Geoffrey's support he would have found himself overwhelmed by the task. Situated as his friend was at a convenient distance, he could turn to him with each successive domestic mishap, and none was judged too small to be considered, although throughout the county Sir Geoffrey's consequence was substantial. Darcy admired him prodigiously, and moreover, he loved him.
Sir Geoffrey's property, Denby Park, was a grand estate no lesser than Pemberley itself. In his gardens, the most particular of gentlemen could wander at will, secure in the assurance that nowhere would he encounter a sight disquieting or unlovely. There were vast sweeps of parkland, great lawns running down to the water's edge, views across the river to the encircling woods and beyond them the embracing hills. Sir Geoffrey had years earlier sought out Capability Brown to add all the conveniences of the modern age to the house and gardens that had been in his family since before the Restoration. The result was harmony both without and within, one of Sir Geoffrey's most cherished comforts. Indeed, for years it had been almost his only comfort.
Childless, and a widower himself, his preoccupations had been too often engaged not in the future but with his family's splendid past. He was a handsome man, of noble bearing and a haughty mien, which often gave the impression that he considered himself above the company of others. In truth, this impression was far from false since his standards were exalted, and there were few in his opinion who rose to them. But the orphaned young Darcys had aroused his sympathies and brought him to know emotions he had never before encountered. For his old friend's children, he had abandoned reserve. He loved them as his own.
He had but lately returned from Antigua in the West Indies, where he had gone on family business, and though he had there been informed of his godson's marriage, he had yet to make Elizabeth's acquaintance.
His anxieties about Darcy's bride were not negligible, and stemmed mostly from a letter he had received while abroad from Lady Catherine de Bourgh. His friendship with Her Ladyship had been long enough established for him to discount in large part her estimation of almost any circumstance. But in one matter above others, he had always found her to be trustworthy; that of social standing.
Excerpted from Presumption by Julia Barrett. Copyright © 1993 Julia Braun Kessler and Gabrielle Donnelly. Excerpted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.
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Meet the Author
Julia Barrett was the pseudonym adopted by Julia Braun Kessler (1926-2012) and British-born novelist Gabrielle Donnelly in the writing of Presumption, An Entertainment, a sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Julia Braun Kessler then continued on her own (as Julia Barrett) with three more continuations of Jane Austen's works: The Third Sister, A Continuation of Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen's Charlotte: Her Fragment of A Last Novel, Completed, and the forthcoming, Mary Crawford: or, Revisiting At Mansfield Park.
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