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Archive for the ‘Margaret Dashwood’ Category

I’ve just been in Bath this last weekend and inevitably find myself wandering round the shops, which at this time of year is a real treat as there are all sorts of tempting gifts on offer with Christmas in mind. Jane Austen enjoyed a little bit of shopping too, if this next account is anything to go by. In 1811 she was staying with her brother Henry in Sloane Street to go through her edits on Sense and Sensibility. After Chawton village, London must have seemed to offer limitless choices. Here she is writing to her sister Cassandra and describes how she was tempted by the fabrics on offer, trimmings and stockings.
I am sorry to tell you that I am getting very extravagant, and spending all my money, and, what is worse for you, I have been spending yours too; for in a linendraper’s shop to which I went for checked muslin, and for which I was obliged to give seven shillings a yard, I was tempted by a pretty-coloured muslin, and bought ten yards of it on the chance of your liking it; but, at the same time, if it should not suit you, you must not think yourself at all obliged to take it; it is only 3s. 6d. per yard, and I should not in the least mind keeping the whole. In texture it is just what we prefer, but its resemblance to green crewels, I must own, is not great, for the pattern is a small red spot. And now I believe I have done all my commissions except Wedgwood.
I liked my walk very much; it was shorter than I had expected, and the weather was delightful. We set off immediately after breakfast, and must have reached Grafton House by half-past 11; but when we entered the shop the whole counter was thronged, and we waited full half an hour before we could be attended to. When we were served, however, I was very well satisfied with my purchases — my bugle trimming at 2s. 4d. and three pair silk stockings for a little less than 12s. a pair.

In Willoughby’s Return I wanted to show how exciting it would have been for a young Margaret Dashwood to arrive in London to stay with Marianne and the Colonel. Margaret is starting to attend dances and balls, and she has her own beau, Henry Lawrence, who calls to take her to Gunter’s tea-shop. When I was researching Willoughby’s Return, I visited the shopping areas that Jane Austen mentions in Sense and Sensibility in the area around Bond Street where it it still possible to imagine what it must have been like to go shopping in Jane’s day. Sadly, Gunter’s teashop is no longer in Berkeley Square, and much of it has been modernised. Here, in the following extract Margaret comes to London for the first time and is driven down the thoroughfare to admire the shops.
After travelling for three days with two nights spent in comfortable inns, Margaret felt tired but elated to find that they were entering London and being driven down Oxford Street at last, moments from their destination. Fascinated by everything she saw, marvelling at the shops on every side, Margaret exclaimed at all she witnessed. Watchmakers, silk stores, and silversmiths displayed their wares behind sparkling glass, illuminated by the amber glow of oil lamps. Exotic fruit and towering desserts in the fruiterers and confectioners formed a dazzling spectacle; pyramids of pineapples, figs, and grapes cascaded from porcelain epergne. Marchpane castles, rosewater creams, and fruited cake vied for attention on platters of every shape and size. And the crowds of people stretching across the wide pavements, the ladies gathered outside in admiration of the linen shops, draped with silks, chintzes, and muslins were a sight to behold; such fashionably dressed gentility as Margaret had never seen before.
Later on, Henry arrives to take Margaret for her promised visit to the famous teashop. They were interrupted by Henry’s arrival. He greeted them both with great cordiality and immediately applied to Marianne for permission to take Margaret out in his curricle.
“I hope you will grant this small wish, my dear Aunt Brandon,” he beseeched her, “We have a little time before the dinner hour and I promised Margaret I would take her to Gunter’s on our very first afternoon. There may not be another chance. My mother has gone to see her dressmaker and my father set off for his club as soon as he arrived, so you see, I would be left all alone and feeling very miserable if not for this opportunity to sample London’s supreme ices and your sister’s finest company.”
Marianne recognised the look in Margaret’s eyes, which begged her agreement to the scheme. Nodding her approval, she was amused to see them hasten out of the room with hardly a nod or a backward glance. As Margaret wrested her pelisse and bonnet from the arms of the waiting servant, giving no time to fastenings or ribbons, the front door opened as if conspiring to let them out as quickly as possible.
“Good day, Uncle Brandon,” shouted Henry, taking Margaret’s arm with a movement toward the iron railings and white steps as the Colonel passed through into the hallway. “Please forgive me for not stopping, but Miss Margaret and I have an appointment to keep.”
With barely a nod of his head or a curtsey from his friend, the pair escaped as Colonel Brandon started to open his mouth to acknowledge them. With a bemused expression he watched them mount Henry’s vehicle and drive away at a trot.
Henry’s route was not the most direct but all the more colourful for riding down New Bond Street so that Margaret should be able to see the very best of the shops from her wonderful vantage point. After the relative quiet of life in Devon and Dorset, she could not believe how noisy London was to her ears; not only the sound of rumbling carriages and carts, but the clatter of pattens on pavements and the distinctive cries of street sellers rang everywhere about. Henry pointed out the landmarks and shops, not failing to direct Margaret’s attention to any sight, which he thought might amuse or entertain. They were in high spirits as they trotted into Bruton Street.
“I’ll take you to Piccadilly and Hyde Park next time,” Henry announced, reining in his horse as they rapidly approached their destination. “Here we are arrived at Berkeley Square for your pleasure and there under the sign of the pineapple is Mr Gunter’s celebrated tea shop. Now, which is your favourite ice?”
“I have no idea,” Margaret admitted, “I really have little experience of exotic flavours such as I have heard Marianne describe.”
Helping her down from his equipage and taking her across the road to see the window of the shop with every variety of ice imaginable, Margaret was stunned into silence by the display. Glasses of fruit ice decorated with crystallised rose and violet petals, sugar baskets filled with painted paste flowers and artificial gardens with parterres of mousseline and gravel walks of sugar sand occupied every tier in the window. Pastilles de chocolat, curled wafers, and candied jonquils overflowed from bonbonnieres onto snowy cloths. But the centrepiece, a sugar turban on a tasselled cushion complete with flowers, crescents, and a tall, waving feather, made Margaret catch her breath with pleasure.

I often go into London just before the Christmas rush just to look at the window displays which is almost as much fun as shopping itself. Some of the large department stores like Fortnum and Mason, Selfridges, and Liberty’s have stunning displays. What are your favourite shops that you like to visit?

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Anyone who stops by to read my blog will know how much I enjoy researching for the books that I write. Willoughby’s Return is set in Devon, Dorset and London so I spent a lot of time reading about these places as they were in the 1800’s.
Marianne is married to Colonel Brandon and they are settled with one child at Delaford in Dorset with her sister Elinor and husband Edward Ferrars living nearby at the parsonage with their children. When Marianne receives news that her husband’s nephew is coming home from university, she gets very excited on Margaret’s behalf. Marianne thinks a ball will be the very thing to introduce Henry Lawrence to the neighbourhood (and her sister) and so promises to take Margaret shopping to Exeter, the nearest large town to Barton in Devon where Margaret lives in a cottage with her mother on the estate of Barton Park which belongs to Mrs Dashwood’s cousin, Sir John Middleton.
I found the wonderful painting above on a super site about Exeter which you can access by clicking on the link Exeter City Council Time Trail. You can travel through a model of the town made in 1820 amongst other things. The painting of Exeter High Street inspired the opening of one of the early chapters in Willoughby’s Return. I hope you enjoy the extract that follows.

They were set down by the square of the New London Inn, so that they could work their way down the High Street and not miss a single shop or market stall. Exeter was teeming with people and carriages, all seemingly unaware of the other as they set about their determined business. There were so many stalls with traders thrusting their wares under the girls’ noses as they attempted to pass, that there was scarcely any room to manoeuvre. Trays of sticky buns, held head high, wafted tempting smells of freshly baked treats. Panniers of ruby apples and yellow pears, swaying from the hips of ruddy-cheeked girls, scented the air with the perfume of a September orchard, whilst tiers of orange pumpkins arranged along the wayside impeded their every step. Waggons and carts rumbled down the street, piled high with sacks, boxes, barrels and packages. A flock of sheep were being shepherded by two small boys wielding sticks, along with a barking dog who leaped and snapped if any chanced to stray too far. Geese and ducks waddled in formation down the central thoroughfare as though they owned the road, as a young girl with a basket of eggs called out to passersby to try her goods. Marianne and Margaret wove their way through the teeming tapestry of market town life, calling to one another to look in a particular shop window or laugh at some amusing sight. They soon found themselves on the corner of Queen Street, close by their favourite linen drapers. On entering the shop, they found it to be as busy inside as out. Every mother and daughter in Exeter, it appeared, had chosen to arrive at the same time, all jostling for a chance to view the latest muslin, lutestring, and satin.

“Margaret, what do you think of that one?” Marianne asked, pointing to a fine white mull draped in the window, embroidered with gold thread, which glimmered in the sunlight.
“It is very beautiful,” sighed Margaret, “but I fear it will cost the earth!”
“I have not brought you here to discuss finances,” Marianne scolded, “I have promised you a ball gown of the highest quality and that is what you shall have!”
“But there is a very good white satin laid out on the counter which would make a very pretty gown. And though I must admit the mull is quite the most divine gauze I have ever seen, I could do very well with the other.”
Margaret could see the shopkeeper deep in conversation with a very smartly dressed young woman who was ordering yards of the glossy fabric which waved like the sea over the counter, rippling over the edge onto the floor. The elegant plumes on her grey hat were nodding as she talked. There was quite a queue forming, the mother before them muttering under her breath at the time it would take to get to the front, as her daughter complained that there would be no satin left if the lady preceding them was any indication to go on. Another assistant appeared to alleviate the restless crowd and at last they moved forward.
“Let me indulge you this once, Margaret,” Marianne insisted. “Henry Lawrence will be used to seeing women of his acquaintance attired in the very finest clothes; I cannot have you look anything but your very best.”
“Very well,” laughed Margaret, “so long as you promise not to speak of that man again. I am well aware you have married me off to him and I am certain that he and I will never suit.”
“How can you say such a thing? I have heard he is a very handsome man, cultured and charming. Every report declares him to be just the sort of gentleman you like.”
“There has never been a man yet who has had the power to engage my heart.” Margaret picked up a pair of long kid evening gloves from the display by the window. She turned them over but was not really examining them at all. She was lost in thought, wondering if she should confess her folly to her sister. Marianne was engrossed on the other side, in admiration of a bolt of crimson velvet, but declared it as being too dark for such young skin.
“Actually, that is not entirely true,” Margaret persisted, although not understanding quite why she was willing to confess her old, childish fantasies.
Marianne turned, all astonishment. “Tell me, Margaret, who is this paragon, this nonesuch, this nonpareil?”
“Do you promise not to reprimand me if I dare tell?” Margaret looked into her sister’s eyes, and then sighed. “Oh, it is so silly, I wish I had not said a word. It was just a youthful infatuation. What will you think of me? You will be very cross with me.”

I mentioned in the extract that Marianne and Margaret were set down by the new London Inn. I chose this location because Jane Austen had mentioned it in Sense and Sensibility. It’s the wonderful part of the book where we are fed certain intelligence which we later find out is not quite all it appears to be! Here is the extract where one of the servants, Thomas, reports who has seen outside the New London Inn.

“I suppose you know ma’am, that Mr. Ferrars is married.”

Marianne gave a violent start, fixed her eyes upon Elinor, saw her turning pale, and fell back in her chair in hysterics. Mrs. Dashwood, whose eyes, as she answered the servant’s inquiry, had intuitively taken the same direction, was shocked to perceive by Elinor’s countenance how much she really suffered, and in a moment afterwards, alike distressed by Marianne’s situation, knew not on which child to bestow her principal attention.

The servant, who saw only that Miss Marianne was taken ill, had sense enough to call one of the maids, who, with Mrs. Dashwood’s assistance, supported her into the other room. By that time, Marianne was rather better, and her mother leaving her to the care of Margaret and the maid, returned to Elinor, who though still much disordered, had so far recovered the use of her reason and voice as to be just beginning an inquiry of Thomas as to the source of his intelligence. Mrs. Dashwood immediately took all that trouble on herself: and Elinor had the benefit of the information without the exertion of seeking it.

“Who told you that Mr. Ferrars was married, Thomas?”

“I see Mr. Ferrars myself, ma’am, this morning in Exeter, and his lady too, Miss Steele as was. They was stopping in a chaise at the door of the New London Inn, as I went there with a message from Sally at the Park to her brother, who is one of the postboys. I happened to look up as I went by the chaise, and so I see directly it was the youngest Miss Steele; so I took off my hat, and she knew me and called to me, and inquired after you, ma’am, and the young ladies, especially Miss Marianne, and bid me I should give her compliments and Mr. Ferrars’s, their best compliments and service, and how sorry they was they had not time to come on and see you – but they was in a great hurry to go forwards, for they was going further down for a little while – but howsever, when they come back, they’d make sure to come and see you.”

There is a very interesting history of the New London Inn which can be found on this fascinating site Exeter Memories. Sadly, it was demolished in 1936 to make way for the cinema. The postcard below shows the inn as the hotel it later became in the 1920’s. The print above is from the 1800’s.

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To celebrate Valentine’s Day, here is a snippet from Willoughby’s Return. I wanted this book to be as much Margaret’s story as Marianne’s and I thought it high time she started to enjoy herself by attending balls and meeting young men. Colonel Brandon’s sister and family have recently returned to Whitwell and his nephew, Henry Lawrence, back home from university, is introduced to Margaret for the first time at a ball at the Brandon’s home, Delaford.

The gong rang out, calling the weary dancers to rest awhile and replenish their energy. All the guests hurried off to the dining room, where tables were set, groaning under the weight of a magnificent spread. The musicians laid aside their instruments and dashed to the servant’s hall for a glass of negus and a bowl of soup. Colonel Brandon ushered his guests, Sir Edgar and Henry Lawrence, to his table, where much to her great delight, Margaret already sat, with her mother, the Middletons, and Mrs
Jennings. There was such a hubbub and frenzied bustle about the room as people found their chairs and struck up conversation.

Every little party was talking nineteen to the dozen, piling plates with cold meat and hot pies, sweets and sorbets, filling glasses with ice cold wine. Everyone had so much to say and wanted to say it all at once. The sound of chattering, braying, prattling, and screeching, punctuated by howling laughter or tittering giggles, added to the delirious atmosphere.

Henry took his seat next to Margaret. “This evening is surpassing all my expectations,” he whispered, smiling into her
eyes. “This is so much fun, do you not agree, Miss Dashwood?”

“I do, indeed, Mr Lawrence,” she replied. “I am enjoying myself very much, though I would more so if I felt we were not under so much scrutiny. Do not look now, but we are being observed.”

“Let me guess, Miss Dashwood,” he responded, “Lady Middleton and her sweet mother are watching us and, no doubt,
trying to catch the essence of our conversation. Hmm, let me see. I must give them something on which to ponder and discuss.”

He selected a dish of pink, heart-shaped marchpane and, taking one between thumb and forefinger, proffered it toward her,
proclaiming in an audible voice for all to hear, “Miss Dashwood, may I offer my heart? Pray, do not leave me in suspense, I beg
you. Do not break it, but take it and devour it whole!”

Margaret felt mortified, especially when she saw Lady Middleton exchange knowing glances with Mrs Jennings. Everyone laughed when Margaret refused to take the heart and even more so when Henry begged again and it was only when
Mrs Jennings spoke that the table fell silent.

“Colonel Brandon, where is your dear wife? Has she not come in to supper? I cannot think where she can be and for that matter, I cannot recall when I saw her last. I hope she is not ailing; she did look a trifle pale after the last dance. Bless my soul, but I must say it is probably wiser that she sit down more often.”

Margaret looked about the room and, in so doing, caught her sister Elinor’s solemn expression. They had each perceived
the hints that Mrs Jennings was making and knew their sister would be far from pleased. But apart from that neither of them
could see Marianne and both recognised the solicitous mien in the other.

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In Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, Margaret Dashwood, the youngest sister has a minor role. We learn in chapter one that she was a good-humoured, well-disposed girl; but as she had already imbibed a good deal of Marianne’s romance, without having much of her sense; she did not, at thirteen, bid fair to equal her sisters at a more advanced period of life.

At thirteen Margaret is too young to be ‘out’ and we only see glimpses of her as she observes her sisters’ behaviour. She does not miss a trick; telling Elinor that she thinks Marianne is engaged because she has witnessed Mr Willoughby stealing a lock of her hair. I love the following extract, which shows how keenly Jane Austen observed the foibles of the young.

Margaret’s sagacity was not always displayed in a way so satisfactory to her sister. When Mrs. Jennings attacked her one evening at the Park, to give the name of the young man who was Elinor’s particular favourite, which had been long a matter of great curiosity to her, Margaret answered by looking at her sister, and saying, “I must not tell, may I, Elinor?”

This of course made everybody laugh; and Elinor tried to laugh too. But the effort was painful. She was convinced that Margaret had fixed on a person, whose name she could not bear with composure to become a standing joke with Mrs. Jennings. Marianne felt for her most sincerely; but she did more harm than good to the cause, by turning very red, and saying in an angry manner to Margaret, –

“Remember that whatever your conjectures may be, you have no right to repeat them.”

“I never had any conjectures about it,” replied Margaret; “it was you who told me of it yourself.”

This increased the mirth of the company, and Margaret was eagerly pressed to say something more.

“Oh! pray, Miss Margaret, let us know all about it,” said Mrs. Jennings. “What is the gentleman’s name?”

“I must not tell, ma’am. But I know very well what it is; and I know where he is too.”

“Yes, yes, we can guess where he is; at his own house at Norland to be sure. He is the curate of the parish I dare say.”

“No, that he is not. He is of no profession at all.”

“Margaret,” said Marianne, with great warmth, “you know that all this is an invention of your own, and that there is no such person in existence.”

“Well, then, he is lately dead, Marianne, for I am sure there was such a man once, and his name begins with an F.”

My new book, Willoughby’s Return, starts three years after S&S finishes and at eighteen going on nineteen, I thought it was time to give Margaret a heroine’s role. Her story is intertwined with that of Marianne’s who encourages Margaret to follow her heart.

Willoughby’s Return, a Sense and Sensibility Sequel to be published by Sourcebooks Fall 2009

Jane Odiwe

Illustrations:
Willoughby cutting Marianne’s hair by Brock

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