Archive for the ‘Willoughby’s Return’ Category

I have two gifts today to giveaway!
Here’s the first for those lucky enough to own a Kindle:
Free on Kindle – December 16th – Jane Austen’s Birthday!
This offer is only open for one day so to claim your free copy make sure you download it on the 16th

My second gift is a choice of any one of my books!
i.e Choose one copy of either Searching for Captain Wentworth, Mr Darcy’s Secret, Willoughby’s Return, Lydia Bennet’s Story or Effusions of Fancy!

Let me know your preference in the comment box with a contact email. As before, the winners will be announced on Monday 17th December. Thank you for joining me this week with all your lovely comments!


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I am thrilled to announce that the Jane Austen Centre in Bath are now stocking my books in their online giftshop, and they have some signed copies of Lydia Bennet’s Story, Willoughby’s Return and Mr. Darcy’s Secret for sale.

Here’s an extract from Willoughby’s Return. Marianne Dashwood, now Mrs. Brandon, is giving a ball at Delaford Park in the hope of finding a suitable beau for her sister Margaret. Colonel Brandon’s sister Lady Lawrence and her husband Sir Edgar Lawrence have recently returned from France. Marianne thinks that their son, Colonel William Brandon’s nephew, Henry Lawrence, seems likely to make a good suitor for Margaret. However, in a strange twist of fate Mr. Willoughby who has returned to the neighbourhood also appears to be on friendly terms with this nephew, and before long Marianne is drawn into circumstances she can do nothing about. 

Marianne and Elinor

On the following Tuesday afternoon, Elinor and Marianne were sitting in the latter’s favourite room at Delaford, a small parlour with windows that looked toward the orchard and the mellow brick garden walls that enclosed it. The apple trees, heavy with fruit, gleamed crimson in the October sunshine, and the twisted mulberry tree, in one corner, associated forever in Marianne’s mind with those star-crossed lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe, was abundant with swelling purple berries.
The ladies were sat over tea and the conversation had taken a turn to the subject of Mr Willoughby, and all that had recently passed at Barton and Whitwell. Elinor was shocked to hear that he and his wife were in Exeter, but when Mrs Brandon confided that he was on terms of intimacy with Henry Lawrence also and that she had unwittingly invited him to the Delaford Ball, her sister was, for a moment, quite incapable of speech.
“I was coerced into inviting the Willoughbys to help Henry. I believe Mr Willoughby means to sell Allenham Court from what Sir Edgar hinted,” Marianne explained, “though Mrs Jennings’s intelligence is that Mrs Willoughby is ready to move in as soon as the alterations are done. Mama has written to me this morning, saying that poor Mrs Smith has only been buried these three days, but that there are already workmen inside the house, reports of furniture piled high outside and bonfire smoke over the village, like a funeral pyre!”
“My goodness me,” Elinor replied, her eyes round with astonishment, “they have not wasted any time. But surely Mr Willoughby has no need to sell Allenham? His wife is very rich, is she not?”
“Who can say? Sir Edgar did not specify Allenham, now I come to think on it,” Marianne continued. “Perhaps he wishes to sell Combe Magna.” She had not thought of it before, but she realised she could not bear the thought of John Willoughby living so closely to Barton. Was he really so insensitive? Had he been able to forget all that had happened between them, so much so that he did not care whether or not he lived on her mother’s doorstep?
“Surely he will not come to live so close to Barton,” said Elinor, as her thoughts mirrored Marianne’s own. “Whatever has dear William had to say on the matter?”
“It was so difficult to converse at first that we did not discuss what had gone on at Whitwell until yesterday,” Marianne sighed, shaking her head in remembrance. “William’s demeanour, so grave and aloof, frightened me, Elinor. I have never seen him in such an ill humour. Finally, it could be avoided no longer. I asked him if his sister knew anything of Mr Willoughby’s history, but of course he replied that Hannah and Edgar had been in France on their way to Italy when the first knowledge of Miss Williams’s predicament had arisen. Of course Brandon does not refer to myself in connection with Mr Willoughby, it is never discussed nor mentioned. It is as though the whole affair never happened.”
“Well, that is understandable,” Elinor said softly. “What does he intend to do now? Will he warn the Lawrences of Mr Willoughby’s character?”
“He says he cannot. William insists that this whole matter must be hushed up. He reasons that five years have passed since the unfortunate affair and that, as nothing further has been heard against the character of Mr Willoughby, that he is not in any position to besmirch it. William is too much the gentleman to behave in any other way, and besides, if he can be of use to Henry, he will do all he can.”
They were both lost in their own thoughts for a moment and then Marianne spoke again. “I believe Hannah to have been at school at the time when William and his first love attempted an elopement. Lady Lawrence is ignorant of that lady’s complete history after her abandonment, even if she does know of the existence of William’s ward. But William did not see that there was anything to be gained by his sister having any knowledge of Eliza Williams’s seduction by Mr Willoughby or the subsequent birth of the child. Of course Hannah and her husband were on the continent for many years at that time.”
“But surely William must think of his nephew Henry, and what if you are thrown together in circumstances not of your own making? What then?”
“William believes that when Willoughby realises the connection, which is probably done already, he is certain he will not show his face. His dealings with my nephew and his father are of a business nature, we will not have to meet socially.”
“I do not share your confidence, Marianne,” Elinor went on, “I think he will brazen out any meeting; he has already shown he is capable of such. And is William sure that Henry Lawrence can trust Willoughby in his business matters? I do not think he is to be relied upon.”
“We can hardly be his judge,” snapped Marianne, “we have had no dealings with him for the past four years. He is older and possibly wiser. Mr Willoughby is a man of consequence and respectably married. No one’s character is fixed for life, Elinor, perhaps we should give him the benefit of the doubt.”
Elinor did not know what to say. She was disturbed by the fact that Marianne was prepared to defend him in such a voluble manner. “Have you given some thought as to whether he is likely to accept your invitation?”
“Mr Willoughby will never show his face at Delaford Park, of that circumstance I am as certain as of the sun rising in the morning,” pronounced Marianne with feeling.
Elinor remained unconvinced. She had an awful feeling of foreboding, which no amount of reasoning could do away.

It was arranged that Marianne would drive over to Barton on Wednesday, two days prior to the ball, in order to collect her mother and sister. Margaret, who was in high spirits, had expressed her excitement about their invitation in a letter that had arrived on the very morning Marianne was to head into Devonshire. This news did not come as a surprise, but the remaining content of the letter disconcerted Marianne to a greater extent.

Barton Cottage,
October 7th
Dearest Marianne,
I can hardly believe that the day of the ball is almost upon us. I look forward to seeing my friends at Delaford. The prospect is too exciting! My gown arrived yesterday morning. Marianne, you will not believe how beautiful it looks, it has surpassed all my expectations. It fits me quite perfectly and Mrs Jennings has sent some silver ribbon and silk flowers for my hair that she bought in London and has been saving for such an occasion as this. Wasn’t that kind?
You will never guess whom I bumped into in Barton village yesterday when I went to collect the post. John Willoughby himself! He was very gentleman-like and kind, not in the least brusque as he was when we saw him in Exeter. He asked me how I did and enquired after Mother. He said he was sorry he had not been able to converse more when he saw us in Exeter but that the surprise of seeing us had taken away his power of speech. He especially asked to be remembered to you. I did not know that Mr Willoughby was acquainted with Henry Lawrence, and it was a great surprise when he said that he was very pleased to have been invited to the Delaford Ball. Can this be true? Has Colonel Brandon forgiven Mr Willoughby? I must admit that I was very surprised to hear about his invitation, but it did seem as if he was very keen to attend. I have not mentioned this to my mother or to Mrs Jennings as it seemed so very strange to me that you have not written of this in any communication regarding the ball. I thought I should mention it, however, but in any case I shall see you before you have time to pen a reply.
Believe me to be,
Your loving sister,
Margaret Dashwood

Marianne folded the letter carefully. “I will not think about its contents now,” she thought, placing it inside her reticule, “I must concentrate on getting ready to make the trip to Barton. William must not know about this, it will not make any difference whether he knows of Margaret’s meeting with Willoughby or not. Neither will it be a good idea to have him worried about the matter before I set off and, with this news, he might even prevent me from going. No, some things are better left unsaid.”
She pulled on her bonnet and fastened her cloak about her shoulders, busying herself with the final preparations and instructions to the coachman. But despite all this activity, she could not eradicate certain parts of Margaret’s letter from her mind. “So Willoughby was sorry he had not been able to converse more when we saw one another in Exeter and he had asked especially to be remembered to me. I cannot help but smile at the thought that his manner was not quite as it had appeared.” She took her seat in the carriage and gave the signal to move off. The journey to Barton seemed to take an age. The settled weather of the last week had given way to rain and wind, the roads were muddy and the lanes become as dirt tracks. The coachman and his boy had to step down twice to push the carriage out of the mire and had made a wrong turning before they reached Honiton. Marianne felt unsettled by Margaret’s letter and though she could not believe that Willoughby had any intention of coming to Delaford to attend the ball, a part of her imagined that he might, after all, brazen it out. “But will he really wish to embarrass his wife? Surely Mrs Willoughby will refuse to attend when she understands the connection. It is not worth worrying about. I cannot think of such an unlikely event as the Willoughbys attending a ball at Delaford Park.”
Mood Board for Willoughby’s Return

They had just passed the turning for Stoke Canon and were within a half-mile of Allenham when
 Marianne first saw the pall of dark mist, rising in undulating columns. Even in the rain, the plumes of 
black smoke could be seen rising up above the grey clouds where torrents of water poured from the 
heavens. Seized by a sense of longing, Marianne experienced a feeling of great curiosity that was
impossible to override: consumed by questions that would not go away. She must and would take a look
 at the house. Urging the coachman to take the turn, the carriage set off down the lane, flanked on either
side by tall, dripping hedgerows, whose overhanging branches clawed and scratched the glass windows.
 She felt no alarm; after all, she had been down this bridleway a hundred times before. Trees, contorted
into the grotesque by the gales, twisted and entangled their boughs to form a dim tunnel over their 
heads. They made slow progress through the mud, which splashed the carriage up to the windows and
the horses to the tops of their tails. At last the track widened to reveal a pair of ornate gates opened to the
road like inviting arms, to swallow the coach as it rumbled to a standstill several yards from the house,
the ancient manor which even now had the power to arrest Marianne’s heart. There, to one side by the
outbuildings, were a series of huge bonfires, as had been reported, piled high with all manner of items.
Several trees worth of wooden planking, panelling, painted doors, and redundant furniture, blistering in
 the heat, were being consumed by the fire, licked to the bare bones by the rapacious flames. Beyond the
haze and smoke the house itself looked shut up, the shuttered windows like unseeing eyes, closed and
drawn. Only the main doors were ajar but there was no sign of life. Marianne felt it was the saddest
 scene she had ever contemplated: the violation of a home with her precious memories buried at its heart.
She did not think she could stay longer to witness such destruction. Banging on the roof to alert the
coachman, the wheels turned her carriage towards the gates once more before she looked back, as if in
final salute. A shutter moved. Someone looked down from an upstairs window. The unmistakable
silhouette of a gentleman threw back the remaining screen. Their eyes met and connected with lingering
recognition. Then he was gone. Marianne started; kneeling up on her seat to look out through the
window behind her, straining to see what she imagined might only have been in her head. She heard the
 coachman’s cry; he cracked his whip in frustration as they slowly rounded the last bend. The house
grew small. And then he appeared, running hard, his greatcoat flapping behind him, as though he
wished to catch her up. Should she stop the coach? She did not know what to do and was on the point

 of calling out when she saw that he had stopped to close the gates. John Willoughby stood, motionless, 
like a ghost. Marianne watched until he was out of sight, a lone figure staring after her.

Mrs Dashwood and Margaret were ready to travel immediately. They had enough boxes and trunks piled up in the hall as if they were going for half a year instead of a few weeks. Marianne felt weary after her journey and was pleased to rest in front of a cheerful fire in the sitting room and glad, despite the eagerness of the other women, that they would not be travelling until the morrow. She was also grateful that on this occasion there was no mention of going up to the Park to see the Middletons and Mrs Jennings. She would be seeing them quite soon enough, she felt, for they were to come for a visit to Delaford, arriving on the eve of the ball and stopping a fortnight. Still, it could not be helped, and she hoped that it would all be to Margaret’s benefit.
Marianne had not expected to relate anything of the goings-on at Allenham Court or for the subject to be raised at all, so she was greatly surprised when Mrs Dashwood brought up the topic; not only of the poor deceased Mrs Smith but of Mr Willoughby himself.
“I wrote to you about Mrs Smith, did I not, Marianne?” Mrs Dashwood fussed about with the cushions on a chair, patting and plumping them and setting them straight.
Marianne noted that her mother did not look at her directly as she spoke. She waited to hear more.
“We had a visitor early this morning,” Mrs Dashwood said, pausing to take up her needlework to stitch furiously along a seam. Marianne could not help notice her mother’s agitation, or the colouring about her throat.
“Mr Willoughby came here,” said Margaret.
Still Marianne remained silent.
“I was determined to snub him for your sake, Marianne,” Mrs Dashwood continued, “but I think when I tell you all, you will see that it was quite impossible for me to be so unkind.”
“He was very charming,” Margaret added with enthusiasm. “Please don’t be cross, Marianne. He came to make amends.”
“What did he say?”
“Well, we were sitting after breakfast as we always do,” interrupted Mrs Dashwood, “and Tom came in to say Mr Willoughby had called. He said he was most anxious to see me. I could not refuse to see him but I was prepared to give him a piece of my mind. Well, he came in, looking quite as handsome as ever, in a dark brown coat to mirror those dark eyes to perfection and I was a lost cause from the moment he entered the room. Oh, Marianne, forgive me, but the years melted away and though I can never forgive him for his conduct toward you, please let me say this. He has suffered, truly suffered for his crimes. I believe he has regretted you since the day he severed the connection.”
“Did he say as much?” Marianne asked, rather astonished that such an intimacy had been established on so soon a reacquaintance.
“Not in so many words,” admitted her mother. “At least that was the impression he gave most earnestly. What did he say, Margaret?”
Marianne sighed. Her mother was always easily charmed and no doubt Mr Willoughby had eased his way back into her good books with little effort. Smiles and compliments had been his most likely method, thought she.
“He said that now he was coming back to the neighbourhood, he was sure that we would meet from time to time and he was most concerned that his past behaviour to our family might rightly prejudice us against him. He wanted to ask our forgiveness and apologise most profusely for what had happened. He said he knew there was probably little hope that we would ever accept him back as the friend he had once been, but that his dearest wish was to be able to meet with cordiality. However, he would be content if he could at least greet us in the street as we passed by. I think that was about the drift of it, wasn’t it, Mama?”
Mrs Dashwood nodded and her eyes appealed to Marianne for Willoughby’s forgiveness.
“He asked after you and wanted to know if you were happy,” Margaret added.
“I told him you were very happy, Marianne,” said Mrs Dashwood. “Indeed, because you are so settled and everything has turned out so much better for you, I did not think you would mind if he called on us occasionally. I did not have the heart to be cruel to the man. He seemed so genuinely to regret losing our friendship. I suggested he might call again and perhaps bring Mrs Willoughby.”
“Mother! How could you do such a thing,” Marianne shouted. “I cannot believe you could be so thoughtless. Have you forgotten William in all of this and the other business of Brandon’s ward?” Marianne could not bring herself to say Eliza’s name out loud. “You know how William detests Willoughby. He would have killed him when they met to duel if he had been able. Have you forgotten Eliza Williams and her child?”
“Mr Willoughby is keen to make amends to his natural child. He told me as much.”
“And William will never allow it,” Marianne cried, standing up and pacing to the window. “It is as well that we are going to Delaford in the morning.” She stared out at the landscape, the rolling hills and green valleys undulating before them. “Oh, goodness,” she started, “whatever will I do if he presents himself at the ball?”

I hope you enjoyed it!

Laurel Ann of Austenprose recently reviewed Willoughby’s Return as did Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine , Vic from Jane Austen Today and here’s a few more!

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Here are some pictures from my lovely weekend with P and P Tours. The sun shone, and the views were stunning! Everyone had a wonderful time – there’s nothing nicer than spending time with like-minded people! I did a reading from Willoughby’s Return, and I bet you can’t guess what film we watched on television. I slept like a dream – I like to think it was all the exercise I did, though I think the odd gin and tonic or glass of wine may have helped.

There are wildflowers everywhere – if you want to be Marianne for a day, this is the place to do it!

A side view of the house.

Here am I standing in the doorway of the house – notice the columns are not there-they were added for the film, as were shutters on the windows to give Georgian proportions.

In the room where Emma Thompson does her sewing and bemoans the price of beef!

Mrs. Dashwood sat here!

A view over the estuary.

Waiting for Willoughby to sweep me over the threshold!

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Thank you to everyone who joined in and left such lovely comments on my blog. My husband drew the name out of the hat today, and the winner of the signed copy of Willoughby’s Return is:



Can you please send me details of your name and address and I’ll post your prize.

Here’s a little extract from the book:

Colonel Brandon looked surreptitiously at his wife over the breakfast table. Three years on from the day they had wed had hardly changed his feelings toward her, although as he sat in secret contemplation on the matter, he swiftly acknowledged his regard for Marianne was altered in every way completely. His love for her was deeper and more passionately felt than it ever had been, he decided, and his covert glances at her over the coffee pot confirmed this in his look of sheer admiration. He watched her as she buttered a slice of toast and stirred her chocolate, before licking the fragrant cocoa from the silver spoon, her eyes closed to savour the moment.
“Marianne Brandon is a very attractive woman,” he thought, “her complexion as brilliant as when first my eyes beheld her, her smile still as sweet and in those dark eyes, her spirit and eagerness are as discernable as ever. Even the most disenchanted soul would call her a beauty.”
She looked quite contented as she daydreamed. Yet, he was disturbed by a sense that Marianne, for all her animation, was not as happy as she ought to be. Sometimes, as he watched her, he was aware that she was lost in her own thoughts, seeming to be somewhere else far away. He occasionally detected a want of spirits, discerning the escaping breath of a sigh from her lips; a sound so slight as to be hardly there at all, only perceptible to him. Any enquiries he made, however, as to her welfare, always had the immediate effect on Marianne’s composure, bringing a bright smile to her countenance once more. But there was something on her mind, he was certain. Ever since he had returned from Lyme there had been a feeling of slight distance between them but he knew she hated to talk about Eliza and Lizzy, or to hear about their life, so he had kept his silence on the subject.
“He hasn’t mentioned a word about his trip,” thought Marianne as she scraped the remains of chocolate from the bottom of her cup. “He does not wish to communicate his true interest in his other life, the one he shares with those who possess such a claim on his affections. I wish I knew how Miss Williams looks, if she is like her mother’s painting. And the child; she must be almost five years old now. Does she favour her mother or her father? But I cannot ask Brandon; I must pretend that I do not care about either of them. He would think me such an unworthy person if he could read my mind and know how I despise them for taking him away from me so often. But Elinor is right; I must bear it for his sake. And I must try harder not to think about his time spent with them and keep my counsel on the subject. After the last time when I said so much that I did not really mean, when I saw the look of hurt in his eyes, I cannot be so outspoken again.”
Marianne and Brandon from the film Sense and Sensibility
William longed to ask his wife on what she was reflecting. Indeed, any conversation would have been welcome. He wished he could talk to her about his fears for little Lizzy’s health but the last thing he wished was to upset her with any conversation of Lyme. He tried to catch her eye but failed. His reverie was disturbed by a knock at the door. James, accompanied by the nursemaid Kitty, ran into the room to jump upon his father’s knee. Marianne laughed, catching William’s eye at the same moment. He held her gaze in his and the look of love that passed between them brought a blush to Marianne’s cheek. She looked down to smooth the tablecloth with her slender fingers, aware of his lingering expression and feeling immense happiness that at last she had gained William’s full attention.
“Your mama is in very good looks today,” pronounced the Colonel to his little son, as if expecting him to understand his every word.
“William, do not tease so,” Marianne admonished with a smile, raising her eyes to his again, to be caught once more by a look that spoke of his most earnest feelings.

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As it’s Easter and we are celebrating two hundred years of Sense and Sensibility this year, I’d like to offer a signed copy of Willoughby’s Return. Please leave a comment below telling me who your favourite character is from Sense and Sensibility. The offer will be open until May 1st, 2011, and is open to everyone!

Jane Austen wrote the following letter to her sister Cassandra when she was staying with her brother in London. She was there to edit Sense and Sensibility, and she tells her sister how she is getting on with the process of corrections. It seems the weather was hot – we’re also enjoying a spell of fine weather here in England.

Happy Easter! I hope you all have a lovely holiday!

Sloane St: Thursday (April 25).

I can return the compliment by thanking you for the unexpected pleasure of your letter yesterday, and as I like unexpected pleasure, it made me very happy; and, indeed, you need not apologise for your letter in any respect, for it is all very fine, but not too fine, I hope, to be written again, or something like it.
I think Edward will not suffer much longer from heat; by the look of things this morning I suspect the weather is rising into the balsamic north-east. It has been hot here, as you may suppose, since it was so hot with you, but I have not suffered from it at all, nor felt it in such a degree as to make me imagine it would be anything in the country. Everybody has talked of the heat, but I set it all down to London.
I give you joy of our new nephew, and hope if he ever comes to be hanged it will not be till we are too old to care about it. It is a great comfort to have it so safely and speedily over. The Miss Curlings must be hard worked in writing so many letters, but the novelty of it may recommend it to them; mine was from Miss Eliza, and she says that my brother may arrive to-day.
No, indeed, I am never too busy to think of S and S. I can no more forget it than a mother can forget her sucking child; and I am much obliged to you for your inquiries. I have had two sheets to correct, but the last only brings us to Willoughby’s first appearance. Mrs. K. regrets in the most flattering manner that she must wait till May, but I have scarcely a hope of its being out in June. Henry does not neglect it; he has hurried the printer, and says he will see him again to-day. It will not stand still during his absence, it will be sent to Eliza.
The Incomes remain as they were, but I will get them altered if I can. I am very much gratified by Mrs. K’s interest in it; and whatever may be the event of it as to my credit with her, sincerely wish her curiosity could be satisfied sooner than is now probable. I think she will like my Elinor, but cannot build on anything else.

Our party went off extremely well. There were many solicitudes, alarms, and vexations, beforehand, of course, but at last everything was quite right. The rooms were dressed up with flowers, &c., and looked very pretty. A glass for the mantlepiece was lent by the man who is making their own. Mr. Egerton and Mr. Walter came at half-past five, and the festivities began with a pair of very fine soals.
Yes, Mr. Walter – for he postponed his leaving London on purpose – which did not give much pleasure at the time, any more than the circumstance from which it rose – his calling on Sunday and being asked by Henry to take the family dinner on that day, which he did; but it is all smoothed over now, and she likes him very well.
At half-past seven arrived the musicians in two hackney coaches, and by eight the lordly company began to appear. Among the earliest were George and Mary Cooke, and I spent the greater part of the evening very pleasantly with them. The drawing-room being soon hotter than we liked, we placed ourselves in the connecting passage, which was comparatively cool, and gave us all the advantage of the music at a pleasant distance, as well as that of the first view of every new comer.
I was quite surrounded by acquaintances, especially gentlemen; and what with Mr. Hampson, Mr. Seymour, Mr. W. Knatchbull, Mr. Guillemarde, Mr. Cure, a Captain Simpson, brother to the Captain Simpson, besides Mr. Walter and Mr. Egerton, in addition to the Cookes, and Miss Beckford, and Miss Middleton, I had quite as much upon my hands as I could do.
Poor Miss B. has been suffering again from her old complaint, and looks thinner than ever. She certainly goes to Cheltenham the beginning of June. We were all delight and cordiality of course. Miss M. seems very happy, but has not beauty enough to figure in London.
Including everybody we were sixty-six – which was considerably more than Eliza had expected, and quite enough to fill the back drawing-room and leave a few to be scattered about in the other and in the passage.
The music was extremely good. It opened (tell Fanny) with “Poike de Parp pirs praise pof Prapela”; and of the other glees I remember, “In peace love tunes,” “Rosabelle,” “The Red Cross Knight,” and “Poor Insect.” Between the songs were lessons on the harp, or harp and pianoforte together; and the harp-player was Wiepart, whose name seems famous, though new to me. There was one female singer, a short Miss Davis, all in blue, bringing up for the public line, whose voice was said to be very fine indeed; and all the performers gave great satisfaction by doing what they were paid for, and giving themselves no airs. No amateur could be persuaded to do anything.
The house was not clear till after twelve. If you wish to hear more of it, you must put your questions, but I seem rather to have exhausted than spared the subject.
This said Captain Simpson told us, on the authority of some other Captain just arrived from Halifax, that Charles was bringing the “Cleopatra” home, and that she was probably by this time in the Channel; but, as Captain S. was certainly in liquor, we must not quite depend on it. It must give one a sort of expectation, however, and will prevent my writing to him any more. I would rather he should not reach England till I am at home, and the Steventon party gone.
My mother and Martha both write with great satisfaction of Anna’s behaviour. She is quite an Anna with variations, but she cannot have reached her last, for that is always the most flourishing and showy; she is at about her third or fourth, which are generally simple and pretty.
Your lilacs are in leaf, ours are in bloom. The horse-chestnuts are quite out, and the elms almost. I had a pleasant walk in Kensington Gardens on Sunday with Henry, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Tilson; everything was fresh and beautiful.
We did go to the play after all on Saturday. We went to the Lyceum, and saw the “Hypocrite,” an old play taken from Molière’s “Tartuffe,” and were well entertained. Dowton and Mathews were the good actors; Mrs. Edwin was the heroine, and her performance is just what it used to be. I have no chance of seeing Mrs. Siddons; shedid act on Monday, but, as Henry was told by the boxkeeper that he did not think she would, the plans, and all thought of it, were given up. I should particularly have liked seeing her in “Constance,” and could swear at her with little effort for disappointing me.
Henry has been to the Water-Colour Exhibition, which opened on Monday, and is to meet us there again some morning. If Eliza cannot go (and she has a cold at present) Miss Beaty will be invited to be my companion. Henry leaves town on Sunday afternoon, but he means to write soon himself to Edward, and will tell his own plans.
The tea is this moment setting out.
Do not have your coloured muslin unless you really want it, because I am afraid I could not send it to the coach without giving trouble here.
Eliza caught her cold on Sunday in our way to the D’Entraigues. The horses actually gibbed on this side of Hyde Park Gate: a load of fresh gravel made it a formidable hill to them, and they refused the collar; I believe there was a sore shoulder to irritate. Eliza was frightened and we got out, and were detained in the evening air several minutes. The cold is in her chest, but she takes care of herself, and I hope it may not last long.
This engagement prevented Mr. Walter’s staying late – he had his coffee and went away. Eliza enjoyed her evening very much, and means to cultivate the acquaintance; and I see nothing to dislike in them but their taking quantities of snuff. Monsieur, the old Count, is a very fine-looking man, with quiet manners, good enough for an Englishman, and, I believe, is a man of great information and taste. He has some fine paintings, which delighted Henry as much as the son’s music gratified Eliza; and among them a miniature of Philip V. of Spain, Louis XIV.’s grandson, which exactly suited my capacity. Count Julien’s performance is very wonderful.
We met only Mrs. Latouche and Miss East, and we are just now engaged to spend next Sunday evening at Mrs. L.’s, and to meet the D’Entraigues, but M. le Comte must do without Henry. If he would but speak English, I would take to him.
Have you ever mentioned the leaving off tea to Mrs. K.? Eliza has just spoken of it again. The benefit she has found from it in sleeping has been very great.
I shall write soon to Catherine to fix my day, which will be Thursday. We have no engagement but for Sunday. Eliza’s cold makes quiet advisable. Her party is mentioned in this morning’s paper. I am sorry to hear of poor Fanny’s state. From that quarter, I suppose, is to be the alloy of her happiness. I will have no more to say. Yours affectionately,

J. A.

Give my love particularly to my goddaughter.
Miss Austen, Edward Austen’s, Esq.
Godmersham Park, Faversham.

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It wouldn’t be fair to neglect someone as important and dear to  us  as  Jane Austen  on her birthday.  She was born on 16th December 1775, it’ll be 235 years next week. We owe so many immensely pleasant moments to her that we decided she deserved a great B-day celebration.  My Jane Austen Book Club and other bloggers and Austen dedicated writers are going to have a blog party in her honour. You are all invited to join us on our “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JANE!” event on Thursday December 16th. Who will be there? Where is the party going on?

1.     Adriana Zardini at  Jane Austen Sociedade do Brasil 
2.     Laurel Ann at Austenprose 
3.    Vic Sanborn at  Jane Austen’s World 
4.    Katherine Cox at November’s Autumn 
5.     Karen Wasylowski at Karen Wasylowski 
6.     Laurie Viera Rigler at Jane Austen Addict Blog Jane Austen Addict 
7.      Lynn Shepherd at her blog Lynn Shepherd 
8.      Jane Greensmith at Reading, Writing, Working, Playing 
9.      Me! Jane Odiwe at Jane Austen Sequels 
10.  Alexa Adams at First Impressions First Impressions 
11.  Regina Jeffers at her blog Regina Jeffers 
12.  Cindy Jones at First Draft 
13.  Janet Mullany at Risky Regencies 
14.  Maria Grazia  at  My Jane Austen Book Club 
15. Meredith Esparza Austenesque Reviews 

You’ll find Happy Birthday posts and tributes to Jane Austen on all these blogs on December 16th with the HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JANE  logo created by Adriana Zardini (JASBRA)  just for the occasion. Lovely, isn’t it? Visit all the blogs on December 16th and leave your comments + e-mail address to have lots of  chances to win one of the wonderful gifts we are giving away:
Books –  1 signed copy of…
1.     Willoughby’s Return by Jane Odiwe
2.     Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
3.     Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
4.     Murder at Mansfield Park by Lynn Shepherd
5.     Intimations of Austen by Jane Greensmith
6.     Darcy’s Passions: Fitzwilliam Darcy’s Story by Regina Jeffers
7.     First Impressions. A Tale of Less Pride  and Prejudice  by Alexa Adams
8.     Jane and the Damned by Janet Mullany
9.     Bespelling Jane Austen by Janet Mullany

Other gifts:
1.      Austen bag offered by Karen Wasylowski
2.     DVD Pride & Prejudice 2005 offered by Regina Jeffers
3.     Package of Bingley’s Tea.  (flavour  “Marianne’s Wild Abandon” ) offered by Cindy Jones
4.     DVD Jane Austen in Manhattan offered by Maria Grazia
5.     3 issues of Jane Austen Regency World offered by Maria Grazia

Giveaways will end on the 23rd.  Winners will be announced on My Jane Austen Book Club

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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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