Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

I thought I’d share a few photos of Bath at Christmas starting off with Laura Place and Pulteney Bridge. As you can see it was a very rainy day, which immediately brings to mind one of my favourite couples, Captain Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot, from Jane Austen’s Persuasion –

It was beginning to rain again, and altogether there was a delay, and a bustle, and a talking, which must make all the little crowd in the shop understand that Lady Dalrymple was calling to convey Miss Elliot. At last Miss Elliot and her friend, unattended but by the servant, (for there was no cousin returned), were walking off; and Captain Wentworth, watching them, turned again to Anne, and by manner, rather than words, was offering his services to her.

“I am much obliged to you,” was her answer, “but I am not going with them. The carriage would not accommodate so many. I walk: I prefer walking.”

“But it rains.”

“Oh! very little. Nothing that I regard.”

After a moment’s pause, he said: “Though I came only yesterday, I have equipped myself properly for Bath already, you see” (pointing to a new umbrella); “I wish you would make use of it, if you are determined to walk; though I think it would be more prudent to let me get you a chair.”

She was very much obliged to him, but declined it all, repeating her conviction, that the rain would come to nothing at present, and adding, “I am only waiting for Mr. Elliot. He will be here in a moment, I am sure.”

She had hardly spoken the words when Mr. Elliot walked in. Captain Wentworth recollected him perfectly. There was no difference between him and the man who had stood on the steps at Lyme, admiring Anne as she passed, except in the air and look and manner of the privileged relation and friend. He came in with eagerness, appeared to see and think only of her, apologised for his stay, was grieved to have kept her waiting, and anxious to get her away without further loss of time, and before the rain increased; and in another moment they walked off together, her arm under his, a gentle and embarrassed glance, and a “Good morning to you!” being all that she had time for, as she passed away.

I bought my umbrella in Bath, and very pleased with it, I am too! It was a very cold, wet evening, but fortunately that meant we were able to take lots of photos without there being too many people about. I’ll post more over the next few days – I hope you enjoy them.

Laura Place (bottom left photo) was where Lady Dalrymple and her daughter, Miss Carteret, took a house for three months in Persuasion. Sir Walter Elliot was keen to renew the connection to these illustrious relatives. He and his daughter Elizabeth were very taken with their cousins on re-acquaintance, but Anne could see that her father’s interest was purely to satisfy his own vanity, boasting of the family connections to anyone who would listen.

They visited in Laura Place, they had the cards of Dowager-Viscountess Dalrymple, and the Honourable Miss Carteret, to be arranged wherever they might be most visible; and “Our cousins in Laura Place” – “Our cousins, Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret,” were talked of to every body.


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Happy Christmas everyone!

I’ve recently finished writing Mr Darcy’s Secret, which is to be published by Sourcebooks. Here’s a small extract with a festive theme. Elizabeth Bennet is married to Mr Darcy and is welcoming her family for the Christmas season to Pemberley for the first time, not without some trepidation!

Christmas Eve and the arrival of the Bennets and Bingleys to Pemberley marked the official start to the festive season. Elizabeth was pleased and surprised at her own feelings on firstly welcoming her parents and two of her sisters, Mary and Kitty, to her new home. For all her newfound happiness and exultation in the success of her marriage, she had not realised until coming face to face with them again, how much she had missed them. It was especially heartening to see her papa again and as he hugged her until she thought she might have no breath left, her feelings took her by surprise. The resulting misting of her eyes she quickly brushed away before his notice provoked a comment.

“I am very glad to see you, Elizabeth, and for this invitation from you and your husband, we are very grateful,” he said, standing back at arm’s length to admire the daughter he loved best. “I have missed you and it does my heart good to see you looking so well.”

Mrs Bennet was, for once, struck quite dumb on their entrance into the hall and did not utter a syllable for the first ten minutes. Her eyes darted everywhere, alighting on the marble floors, staring at the grand curving staircases, the statues in the niches and the paintings adorning the walls and the ceiling. She looked almost frightened and had such an appearance of stupefied shock upon her countenance that Lizzy felt quite concerned.

“Are you quite well, mama?” asked Elizabeth, taking her mother’s hand and rubbing it between her own. “Indeed, you do look very tired. But the journey is such a long one, I know. Come inside and get warm by the fire.”

Mrs Bennet shook her head and spoke at last. “I am astonished, Lizzy. I knew Pemberley must be a great house, but I never expected this; not in all my born days did I expect to see such opulence, such finery! The floor alone must be worth a mint, not to mention the gilded balustrades, the paintings and statues, the drapes, the chairs and settees, and I know not what. And this is only the hall! Lord bless me! I shall have to sit down. And as for the grounds, I thought Christmas would be over before we arrived, so long did it take to get from the road to the house. What a prospect! The finest house, the grandest park, the most magnificent hall that I ever did see. What a pity that Lydia cannot be with us to see it. I know she would have loved to see Pemberley, and dear Wickham too. I’m sure he would have enjoyed seeing his former home.”

“But, mama, though I admire your feelings of benevolence in consideration of Mr and Mrs Wickham’s lack of invitation,” observed Mary, who loved to reflect and sermonize on the folly of others, “in my opinion, such deliberation is ill conceived. If you dwell for just one moment on the real likelihood of such a summons to our misguided sister and her husband from Mr Darcy who we know to be a rational man, you must also know it to be highly improbable.”

“Oh, Mary, hold your tongue. Mrs Wickham can come to Pemberley whenever she likes, whatever you might think on the matter,” rejoined Mrs Bennet loudly, with an expression of exasperation.

Mrs Gardiner advanced quickly to reach Mrs Bennet’s side to greet her and divert the course of conversation just as Mr Darcy entered the hall to welcome his guests. He had thought it prudent to allow Elizabeth a little time with her parents and sisters before he came on the scene. His manners were as impeccable as ever and Mrs Bennet became quite girlish in her manner at his attentions, patting her curls and looking at him under her lashes. When Lizzy was able she could not resist catching her husband’s eye, raising her own heavenwards. She felt such a mixture of pride and love for all that he represented to her, the man who in disposition and talents suited her to perfection.

No sooner were the Bennet family installed dispatched to become acquainted with their rooms over which Mrs Bennet was soon exclaiming, not only at the size, but also at the number assigned to them, than Elizabeth’s sister, Jane Bingley, her husband, and his sister arrived. Never was a reunion more joyful between two sisters who adored one another and who had never before in their lives been separated for so long. Jane still had the glow of a new bride about her and Lizzy was overjoyed to see Bingley again. Elizabeth was not so pleased to see Mr Bingley’s sister Caroline, who had in the past been the cause of a temporary rift between Jane and her husband during their courting days, not only separating them but informing Jane of her wish that her brother be married to Miss Darcy. But she received her with much civility, which in the circumstances was highly gratifying, as she recalled with a certain glee that Caroline had at one time fancied that she might take on the role of the mistress of Pemberley herself. How very satisfying it was to be addressed by Caroline Bingley as Mrs Darcy.

“My dear, Mrs Darcy, how splendid it is to see you again. It is exceedingly kind of you to invite me to Pemberley for Christmas, which, as I am sure you have heard is always unsurpassed in both hospitality, and by its splendour.” She turned to Mr Darcy who was regarding her with what Elizabeth had come to recognise as the expression he reserved for those he could not tolerate; a look of polite indifference, but happily, undetected by the person on whom it was bestowed. “Oh, Mr Darcy, we have enjoyed one or two merry Christmases together, have we not? Such parties and balls, that I have been quite spoiled forever. I do not think I shall ever enjoy such entertainments again. But, forgive me, Mrs Darcy, you are hosting a grand ball on the morrow, are you not? What felicities we shall enjoy, I cannot wonder. Do you remember, Mr Darcy, when Reynolds fetched out the old fancy costumes from the attic and we dressed up? I thought I should die laughing when I saw you as Robin Hood and I was Little Bo-Peep, as I hark back. What fun we had. Do you recall, Georgiana? You were the sweetest lamb, all in white with a pink ribbon on your tail.”

Miss Bingley, having found a willing listener in Georgiana immediately led her away talking at the top of her voice about the wondrous parties of the past.

Elizabeth was starting to feel quite sick with nerves at the prospect of the coming ball. She did so want it to be a success and whispering into Mr Darcy’s ear when the others were busily engaged in directing the servants with their luggage, said, “Oh dear, do you suppose we should have had a fancy costume ball?”

To which came the rapid answer, “Absolutely not. The whole idea was of Miss Bingley’s engineering and I loathed every minute of it. I absolutely forbid fancy costume balls to be held at Pemberley ever again!”

I hope you and your families all have a wonderful Christmas and holiday season and wish you a very happy and prosperous New Year!
Jane Odiwe

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Jane Austen was born on this day, 16th December in 1775.

The little imagining that follows is a picture, a glimpse into life at Steventon, written from Jane’s point of view as she remembers carefree, summer days and a birthday with her cousin, Eliza de Feuillide.

It is the smells and sounds of Steventon that I most recall, the particular fragrances and resonances peculiar to my beloved home of twenty-five years. Returning home from time away with my sister I remember the glow of feeling at the familiar scene as the coach sweeps through the carriage drive to halt before the red-roofed Rectory surrounded by sloping meadows sprinkled with elm trees. Passing under rose-covered trellis into the hall, the sound of noisy, clattering boys and raucous laughter deliciously combine into a pot-pourri of memories sharper now than ever. The joy of coming home again to see my father running out into the hall to greet us surrounded by clamouring pupils, his beautiful hair as white as a silver fox and those soft, hazel eyes expressing the love he always bore for us is a picture that immediately springs to mind. My mother’s welcome is a brisker affair when she chooses to make an appearance at last, yet loving nevertheless, as she enquires after our relatives.

I’m running upstairs at the first opportunity. I’m not really at home until I’m back in the rooms that we share, Cass and I. Oh, such delights await me, my pens and paper on my desk, my pianoforte and the painted press with my books above. Striped curtains at the windows match the summer sky outside and the papered walls within. The wonder of lying on my bed, blue-checked curtains drawn about me to keep out the draughts and those I do not wish to find me. Hidden under the bed is my box of delights, all my writing to date. I fetch it out hauling it onto the coverlet disturbing the dust lurking below to sparkle in sunlit clouds like powdered diamonds. Opening the heavy lid with impatient fingers I can’t wait to fetch my scribblings out, to glance through the familiar pages. I enjoy a feeling of greeting old friends as I stroke the papers one by one, stopping to read a draft, laughing at another or exclaiming over something that needs to be written again is a pleasure as satisfying as any worldly sensation and surpasses any other amusement. Am I a little vain to think they are diverting? But, truly, I am convinced of being quite a comic genius and of their merit!

CASSANDRA was the Daughter & the only Daughter of a celebrated Millener in Bond Street. Her father was of noble Birth, being the near relation of the Dutchess of —-‘s Butler.

How I long to write something more substantial, a full-length novel with a little more shade like those from the circulating library or in my father’s bureau. Well, I am determined to do so some day soon.
The sun feels warm. It is good to be home for the summer with the thought of long days bright with light and heat. To run wild, play cricket, and roll down the slope at the back of the house without a care. The garden is my retreat, the arbour my refuge – a heavenly place for private moments and for sharing intimate conversations. To spend time with my darling Henry, my dearest brother of all my sweet brothers, I have looked forward to above everything else.
The garden in June calls me and so I float as in a dream back downstairs past my father’s study and the back kitchen to the sunny side of the house and run down through the strawberry beds to the sundial. I turn to wave at my father framed in the window as he sits at his table, and see him look up with a smile pleased to be distracted from the corrections of the last Latin lessons of young boys.

My sister Cassandra is sitting in the garden with a visitor, Mr Thomas Fowle, who is an old friend and past scholar of the Steventon school that my father and mother supervise between them. Cassie, at fourteen, is already something of a beauty and I suspect young Tom’s calling is not only to pay his respects to my parents and brothers. His admiring glances directed at my sister are amusing for me to watch. He makes a comment about the coral necklace at Cassie’s throat. Her fingers fly to her neck. Stroking the beads she is all too aware of his lingering expression, her discomposure flooding her cheeks in carmine blushes to match the wild strawberries snug in the flowerbeds. At twenty two Mr Fowle cuts a dashing figure, one that my young brother Charles clearly admires. He is pulling at Tom’s arm demanding yet another piggy-back by his hero who does not seem to notice so engrossed is he in my sister’s conversation and her modest looks.
I wander along further away from the house. Birds chatter and chirp in the branches above hidden amongst the foaming elder flowers, pungent and intoxicating. Spruce firs in the avenue scent the air with pine recalling Cowper’s words to my mind –

‘…the stock-dove unalarm’d,
Sits cooing in the pine-tree nor suspends
His long love-ditty for my near approach.

Shaded under their outstretched arms, the giant guardians of the Rectory form a cool colonnade to the terrace walk and the gate beyond. Sitting down upon the bench I give in to the pleasure of listening to the swinging scrape of the weathercock high on the end of a long, white pole, as it moves to and fro in the warm breeze and watch the faded ribbons Cassandra plaited at its base snap and flutter.

What shall I write of next – comedy or tragedy, of love or poetry? The possibilities flow along in my mind like the hedgerows winding and curling along the edge of the rolling meadows. Within their secret lanes of copse-wood and timber those who wish to steal from view may walk and talk, whisper and converse without the world knowing of their existence. My near presence is not observed on the other side and it is here that I sometimes snatch parts of the most interesting conversations, not that I care to eavesdrop, you understand. Henry and my cousin Eliza choose to walk this way sometimes skirting the fields quite alone. I watch them disappear arm in arm through the gate to the Wood Walk overhung by tall, magnificent elms knowing that my company will not be required. They whisper and laugh, their heads bent toward the other, enraptured.

My earliest recollection of Eliza is at Steventon in the best parlour decorated in gleaming winter greenery of laurel and holly, a perfect foil to her slender, white arms lit by candlelight as her fingers fly over the keys of a borrowed pianoforte; her voice sweet and lively as she sings. My sophisticated French cousin was a revelation – French by her marriage to Count de Feuillide and French in the adoption of that country’s ways from spending much time at the Court – she captivated and entranced us all.

I was just eleven; Christmas was almost upon us when Betsy (as my father called her) arrived fluttering into our lives like an exotic, bejewelled bird along with her small boy, Hastings, and her mother, my Aunt Hancock. Presents for everyone, extravagant treats were lavished upon us along with Betsy’s exuberant embraces to bring a blush to my brother Henry’s cheeks. A wonderful set of books written in the French tongue bought especially for my birthday made my heart sing – leather bound; white paper, crisp and uncut, lay within!

Eliza’s upbringing, a cosmopolitan concoction of growing up in India, France and London was of endless fascination to me and she readily satisfied all my curiosities and questions about her time spent in such different surroundings to mine. India was a land of exquisite spices, textures and fragrances – curry leaves, coriander and cumin, sandalwood, jasmine, and attar of roses. Parcels of scented, flowered chintz, white muslin and brocaded silks made my mother gasp with admiration and my father shake his white head in wonder. France was described in terms of fairy tale imaginings, of far away princesses and chateaux – silver gauze, white lilac, feathers and ribbons gleaming in diamond-sprinkled tresses tall as the towers of the petit Trianon.
Eliza’s portrait describes a young woman at ease in the French court at this time showing her delicate features, an elfin beauty with large, dark eyes. Dressed in white, trimmed with ribbon, she is the epitome of fashion with her cascade of hair caught by a loop of the same blue ribbon on top of her head. But her serious expression does not convey the Eliza I remember, a girl who laughed at life with a perpetual twinkle in her eye! I loved Eliza, indeed, we all fell under her charms! My brothers were all captivated by her charisma, her flirtatious manners, and other worldliness. James and Henry, in particular, were mesmerised, quite entranced by the faerie enchantment that cast its spell during the following winter of 1787.

I seem to remember that it was James’s idea to put on a play, though I am certain that Eliza put forward the first suggestions for particular choices. ‘The Wonder’ was decided upon after much debate and long after my father’s tithe barn had already been fitted up with wooden flats, a green baize curtain and a row of candle footlights.
I watched my brothers court Eliza in turn.

Copyright Jane Odiwe 2009
Jane Austen’s birth – Jane Odiwe
Miniature Eliza de Feuillide
Blindman’s Buff- Jane Odiwe
Jane Austen – Jane Odiwe

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