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Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Bennet’

Laurel Ann from the fabulous Austenprose blog has very kindly invited me to guest blog as part of her Pride and Prejudice without Zombies Group Read. If you’ve not been keeping up with all the fascinating posts do head on over there – there’s something of interest for all fans of Pride and Prejudice. I was thrilled when Laurel Ann asked me if I’d write about the main hero and heroine of the novel especially as I’ve just finished a continuation of Pride and Prejudice.

Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy are perhaps Jane Austen’s most beloved characters. Pride and Prejudice was written more than two hundred years ago, yet these characters remain as fresh and irresistibly fascinating to us as they were for the first generations that read their tale, and remain the standard by which all other characters in a love story are judged.
So, why do we love them so much? Jane Austen tells their story through Elizabeth’s eyes so it’s easy to identify with this heroine who is lively, witty, and loveable as much for her faults as for her charms. We identify with her because we feel she is like us. She is capable of making mistakes, but having realised her errors, she changes and grows as a result. We see her character develop as the story enfolds.
The first time we really meet Elizabeth it is at the Meryton Assembly where the proud Mr Darcy is also in attendance with his affable friend Mr Bingley. There is a lack of gentlemen at the ball, and Lizzy has to sit out for two dances. Mr Darcy is seen to be behaving in a particularly disagreeable manner. He only dances with Mr Bingley’s sisters and ignores everyone else in the room. Everyone has heard that he is a rich landowner, but his wealth and power coupled with his anti-social manners only serve to make him appear arrogant. He doesn’t seem to care that his words may be overheard or that his speech is insulting. In fact, he is almost goading Elizabeth whom he has heard described as a pretty girl. He actually makes sure that Lizzy is looking at him before he speaks. It’s almost as if he wants her to hear, and make her aware that he can attract, and have any woman in the room.
“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.”
It’s a real put down, and as an unsurprising consequence, she dislikes him instantly!
At this stage, we also think he’s horrid, and I doubt there are many people who stop and wonder at the psychology behind his behaviour. It’s only when their relationship starts to develop that we think about the undeniable ‘chemistry’ between them, and question their attraction to one another from what seems such an unpromising start.
To our utter delight, Mr Darcy finds himself attracted to her even though he is determined to find fault with her, and when she refuses to stand up with him for a dance we rejoice at her opportunity for revenge. The lively banter that ensues between them is what makes their relationship so satisfying. In every respect, Elizabeth proves herself equal in intelligence. She is no simpering female. When they are thrown together at the Netherfield Ball, Darcy begins to enjoy Lizzy’s lively conversation and pert manners. Although she is determined to continue her dislike of him, she agrees to dance with him before she can help herself. The conversation that flies between them is an exercise in brilliant dialogue as each of them tries to better the other with a witty retort. Elizabeth is beginning to realize that however fixed her first impressions of Darcy seemed initially, her opinion of him is changing. She recognizes that they have similarities in their characters; they both like to think that they can use their intellect coupled with a wry sense of humour to win an argument or to make a point all meted out in an economy of language.
“It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy – I talked about the dance, and you ought to make some kind of remark on the size of the room, or the number of couples.”
He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say should be said. Very well. That reply will do for the present. Perhaps by and by I may observe that private balls are much pleasanter than public ones. But now we may be silent.”
“Do you talk by rule, then, while you are dancing?”
“Sometimes. One must speak a little, you know. It would look odd to be entirely silent for half an hour together; and yet for the advantage of some, conversation ought to be so arranged, as that they may have the trouble of saying as little as possible.”
“Are you consulting your own feelings in the present case, or do you imagine that you are gratifying mine?”
“Both,” replied Elizabeth archly; “for I have always seen a great similarity in the turn of our minds. We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the éclat of a proverb.”
“This is no very striking resemblance of your own character, I am sure,” said he. “How near it may be to mine, I cannot pretend to say. You think it a faithful portrait undoubtedly.

They behave for the most part as opposing forces that cannot help being attracted to the other. Elizabeth prides herself on reading the psychology of people – she likes to know what makes them tick. The infuriating thing is that she cannot make Darcy out, when she thinks she has the upper hand, he then seizes power to have the whip hand over Elizabeth.
Just as we imagine that the couple is warming toward one another, something happens to make Lizzy despise Mr Darcy even more. She witnesses his snubbing of Mr Wickham and when the latter claims that Darcy has mistreated him she dislikes him even more. Elizabeth is swayed by Mr Wickham’s charming manner and has no reason to doubt his word. Darcy’s general behaviour has prejudiced her view of him, and so she takes Wickham’s part.
One of the reasons we love Elizabeth is because she is fiercely independent and knows her own mind. When Mr Collins proposes, we know she should accept him, but she refuses to compromise on her principles being prepared to go against the wishes of her mother. Elizabeth knows her prospects to marry well are bleak due to her lack of a good dowry, and even though the likely outcome is that she will remain a spinster, she remains true to her beliefs unlike her friend Charlotte Lucas who ultimately marries Mr Collins. Elizabeth is determined to marry for love. We admire her because she is rebellious, but also because she recognizes her own faults.
Elizabeth is not impressed by Darcy’s wealth and position alone, his character is what interests her, and initially she thinks he is rather shallow when he judges women by their accomplishments alone. He obviously thinks no woman is worthy of his consideration unless she is ‘accomplished’ and when he says he knows of only a half dozen women like this Elizabeth retaliates.
“I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.”
It is the continual sparring between Elizabeth and Darcy that we especially enjoy. One of them says something designed to provoke the other, and we wait with bated breath to hear their reaction. Darcy responds to Miss Bingley playing a Scotch air on the pianoforte by suggesting that Elizabeth might feel the impulse to dance a reel. Lizzy knows this is a veiled insult – he’s already mentioned that ‘every savage can dance’, and reels are generally danced by the lower orders.
Elizabeth replies, “…You wanted me, I know, to say ‘Yes,’ that you might have the pleasure of despising my taste; but I always delight in overthrowing those kind of schemes, and cheating a person of their premeditated contempt. I have, therefore, made up my mind to tell you, that I do not want to dance a reel at all – and now despise me if you dare.”
Of course, Mr Darcy does not dare.
In order to fully understand Elizabeth’s character we must know something of the expected manners and customs of the time. Young women led sheltered lives amongst family members and had little freedom. Lizzy loves walking around Meryton and the surrounding area unchaperoned which at the time would have been seen as most inappropriate behaviour for a young lady. Walking through mud and jumping over stiles to visit her sister at Netherfield would not have been deemed as the correct way to conduct herself.
Darcy’s character is a composition in contrasts. On the one hand he exhibits reservations about the behaviour of certain Bennet family members, but Elizabeth’s own individual quirkiness and her efforts to go against convention only intrigue him. He likes what he sees as her athleticism, and when Miss Bingley tries to make Elizabeth appear less worthy in his eyes by pointing out her muddy petticoat, and the fact that he would not let his sister tramp about alone in the countryside, his increasing attraction to Elizabeth is observed when he remarks that ‘her eyes were brightened by the exercise.’
Mr Darcy famously refers to Elizabeth’s ‘fine eyes’, and indeed, Jane Austen uses eyes in many instances to show the growing attraction between the couple. Here are a few instances:
Their eyes instantly met, and the cheeks of each were overspread with the deepest blush.

Elizabeth could not help observing, as she turned over some music books that lay on the instrument, how frequently Mr. Darcy’s eyes were fixed on her.

They were confined for the evening at different tables, and she had nothing to hope, but that his eyes were so often turned towards her side of the room, as to make him play as unsuccessfully as herself.
When Darcy realizes he is so in love with Elizabeth that there’s no turning back, he asks her to marry him. His proposal is ungracious; he declares he is going against his own sense in asking her to be his wife. Lizzy, in true fashion throws his words and proposal back at him saying she cannot return his feelings, and declares her anger at the way he treated Wickham.
“…from the first moment, I may almost say – of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immoveable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”
We know that Elizabeth would be set up for life if she marries him but her principles are admirable. She is not going to marry a man simply because he is rich. She is prejudiced against him for the characteristics she deplores – his haughtiness, his pride, and because he has assumed that she will jump at the chance to be his wife. At this point Darcy is outraged. As far as he is concerned he thinks he is offering what any woman could possibly want to make their dreams come true – his estate at Pemberley, and his fortune. He also wants to put the record straight about Wickham. Darcy writes Elizabeth a letter, and this is an interesting illustration of his character. Why doesn’t he go and see her, to explain in person? Perhaps his pride prevents it. After all, she has rejected him. He may be good at a quick comeback, but he seems more reserved when it comes to expressing his feelings and thoughts. I think we begin to question whether his haughtiness is simply masking a real insecurity; perhaps he is reserved and a little shy in company. It maybe that his discomfort in society and his inability to be at ease in social situations makes him appear to be arrogant when this is not the case. We learn from Mrs Reynolds, his housekeeper, who has known him since he was a small boy that he is far from being an intimidating tyrant. She describes him as being good-natured, sweet-tempered and generous-hearted. Praise indeed!
In her turn, when Lizzy reads the letter with the explanation that Wickham tried to elope with Georgiana Darcy, her first impressions are questioned.
We see another side of Darcy when he and Elizabeth meet again at Pemberley. Mrs Reynolds’s warm appraisal, his changed manner, plus his beautiful house and grounds make Lizzy see him through new eyes. She is beginning to fall in love with him. He is pulling out all the stops to impress her. It’s clear he’s been thinking about what she said to him, and he is trying to change for the better. He is kind to her uncle and aunt, and does not display his former snobbishness toward them. Darcy goes out of his way to be sociable inviting them all to an evening party and introducing his sister.
After learning the truth about Wickham, Elizabeth realizes that there is always more than one way of looking at things. She comes to know the real Mr Darcy as he lets his guard down and when she discovers the quiet way in which he saves her sister Lydia from ruin hence making it possible for their eventual alliance, Elizabeth knows she has been wrong to judge him. Darcy falls in love eventually for all the right reasons – Elizabeth’s intelligence and lively ways have captivated him, and he enjoys the fact that she is not afraid of him or sycophantic toward him. They both change to suit the other because they really love one another unreservedly. Mr Darcy and Elizabeth both make mistakes, but try to put them right and because they admit to their shortcomings, we love them all the more!

Laurel Ann contributed this wonderful passage which shows so perfectly how Mr Darcy has changed for the better by the end of the novel. “Such I was, from eight to eight-and-twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You shewed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.” Mr. Darcy, Chapter 58

My novel, Mr Darcy’s Secret will be published by Sourcebooks in February, 2011. My editor just sent me the cover today which is beautiful – I’m so excited, and can’t wait to hold it in my hands!

After capturing the heart of the richest man in England, Elizabeth Darcy believes her happiness is complete until mysterious affairs involving Mr Darcy’s past, and concerns over his sister Georgiana’s own troubled path to happiness present Elizabeth with fresh challenges to test her integrity, honour, and sweet nature as she fights her old fears and feelings of pride and prejudice. However, nothing can daunt our sparkling and witty heroine or dim her sense of fun as Elizabeth and the powerful, compelling figure of Mr Darcy take centre stage in this romantic tale set against the dramatic backdrops of Regency Derbyshire and the Lakes amongst the characters we love so well.

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As promised, a very small extract from my new book, Mr Darcy’s Secret!

They were soon off again relieved to know that their destination was not far off. Little over an hour passed before they found themselves winding through an undulating road over low promontories and spacious bays, which gradually rose over the hills. From here Elizabeth grasped Fitzwilliam’s arm in excitement as Winandermere like a majestic river swept along in gentle beauty, the shores and hills as richly wooded as a pleasure ground. Here and there the land opened up through the landscape to the sight of some distant villa, a sign that society had even found its way to this remote corner of England. The weather was showery with sudden bursts of sunshine, the tops of distant mountains concealed in vapour ascending in grey columns. Hues of blue and purple enveloped the tops of hills, whilst lower down shades of olive and brown ranged over craggy heathland and wooded slopes, which appeared to fall into the water like soft, green velvet cushions.

Bellingham Hall came into view at last glimpsed through trees on a gentle eminence of the shore with the silver lake spreading before in all its translucent splendour, crowned beyond by the fells half obscured in clouds. An Elizabethan mansion built around a medieval tower sat in state like a Tudor queen with her richly embroidered skirts displayed on either side in folds of green gardens, both formal and wild, studded with the gold of daffodils. Imposing, but on a much smaller scale than Pemberley, Elizabeth knew immediately that she would feel at home here amongst the Jacobean furniture, the smell of polished oak and the magnificence of Spanish leather adorning the walls embossed with pomegranates, flowers and exotic birds. There seemed to be an endless confusion of winding passages, unexpected rooms, and at least two courtyards to navigate, as well as a breathtakingly beautiful Chinese drawing room hand-painted with peonies and butterflies.
Mrs Reynolds and some of her staff had arrived from Pemberley a couple of days before to ensure that everything was ready for the parties arriving. The house felt warm and comfortable with fires lit in the grates and bowlfuls of flowers filling the air with the scent of spring. In their bedchamber Elizabeth exclaimed with excitement at all she could see within the house and without.

“Are you happy, Mrs Darcy?” Fitzwilliam enquired, catching hold of her as she moved about the room looking into cupboards and drawers as animated as ever and showing no signs of fatigue from her journey.

Her expression told him all he needed to know as she allowed him to sweep her into his arms. The strength of his touch was most comforting and she allowed herself to sink into his embrace.

I’ve missed a little out here because it will give away too much of the plot – but here is how this little scene ends!

“I was just thinking how lucky I am to have a husband who brings me to witness the quiet delights of Westmorland instead of taking me to town. I am so very grateful to you, my darling; I could not have enjoyed myself half so much with all of London society, however diverting. To be here on our own, and with those we love is heaven, indeed. And to add to all of this, we have such beauty before us in every outlook.”
The views through their windows made her catch her breath with wonder. Veils of white mist hung over the lake and on the mountains yonder where the peaks iced with snow almost disappeared into the vapour. The rain had stopped and the day was turning fine; wisps of blue sky lit up by shafts of sunlight descending through the clouds were reflected in the water like an ethereal looking glass.

“I cannot wait to explore everywhere,” said Elizabeth. “Is it not a beautiful sight, Mr Darcy?”

“Indeed, I have rarely seen such beauty,” answered her husband, gazing into her eyes and planting another kiss on her lips.

“I am talking of the view,” she protested half-heartedly with a laugh as he pulled her yet closer.

“Oh, so am I, Mrs Darcy, so am I.”

The top picture is a print of Winandermere about 1810 – now known as Windermere, it is no longer such a quiet retreat as the Darcy’s would have known.
The photo is a view from a bedroom at Brantwood, John Ruskin’s house, overlooking Coniston Water.

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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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I’m at the editing stage of my latest work in progress. Surely this has to be the most trying and difficult part of writing a book. It’s when I feel I’m completely on my own – and I feel a little bit lonely. I start to read it through, feel quite pleased with how it’s all going, and then the doubts start to creep in. That part doesn’t feel quite right – I remember when I was writing it that I thought I’d written something memorable, but no, it’s reading like a pile of pants as my youngest might say. OK, I think that’s better – then the next chapter doesn’t seem to work. Lizzy, would you really have said that? And Darcy, have I painted you a little too grave? Time for a coffee, I think, and didn’t I promise to phone someone? I waste an hour or two with important jobs that I convince myself couldn’t possibly be done at any other time before I sit down to work again. I’m in a ruthless mood! I start slashing away cutting out large chunks of text, hours of work that once seemed so right. There’s something wrong with the timeline and I suddenly realise that one event couldn’t possibly have happened. What I thought was careful planning and plotting has gone completely awry! This is when I start to write lists going over and over my notes and wondering how I’m going to resolve everything. It’s all going so horribly wrong. Back to the typescript – oh yes, I like this part, I’m happy, not even a pen mark on the next twenty pages. And, I wouldn’t admit it to everybody, but I actually laugh out loud at that bit – yes, I’m on a roll!!! Reward myself with a fat bar of chocolate. So the first hurdles were just a blip, I think, until I come to a bit of sticky re-writing that I just don’t want to do. Hold my head in my hands. The sun’s over the yard arm – a glass of wine will help, I’m positive – mmm, yes, lovely, things definitely don’t seem quite as bad now. I’ve done it at last, I’m satisfied it says what I want, but then, is it now too long? Could I cut it back a little? I’m reading again, nearly there, just another fifty pages and I’m finished – well, before I bring it out and start all over again!

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As they walked across the lawn towards the river, Elizabeth turned back to look again; her uncle and aunt stopped also: and while the former was conjecturing as to the date of the building, the owner of it himself suddenly came forward from the road which led behind it to the stables. They were within twenty yards of each other, and so abrupt was his appearance that it was impossible to avoid his sight. Their eyes instantly met, and the cheeks of each were overspread with the deepest blush. He absolutely started, and for a moment seemed immoveable from surprise; but shortly recovering himself, advanced towards the party, and spoke to Elizabeth, if not in terms of perfect composure, at least of perfect civility.

She had instinctively turned away; but, stopping on his approach, received his compliments with an embarrassment impossible to be overcome. Had his first appearance, or his resemblance to the picture they had just been examining, been insufficient to assure the other two that they now saw Mr. Darcy, the gardener’s expression of surprise, on beholding his master, must immediately have told it. They stood a little aloof while he was talking to their niece, who, astonished and confused, scarcely dared lift her eyes to his face, and knew not what answer she returned to his civil enquiries after her family. Amazed at the alteration in his manner since they last parted, every sentence that he uttered was increasing her embarrassment; and every idea of the impropriety of her being found there recurring to her mind, the few minutes in which they continued together were some of the most uncomfortable of her life. Nor did he seem much more at ease: when he spoke, his accent had none of its usual sedateness; and he repeated his enquiries as to the time of her having left Longbourn, and of her stay in Derbyshire, so often, and in so hurried a way, as plainly spoke the distraction of his thoughts.

At length every idea seemed to fail him; and, after standing a few moments without saying a word, he suddenly recollected himself, and took leave.

Pemberley was not a modern house judging from the sentence above taken from Pride and Prejudice or Mr and Mrs Gardiner would not be trying to guess the age of the house. We have already learned that the house has a long gallery where Elizabeth delights in seeing a portrait of Mr Darcy so it seems likely that the building has its origins in Elizabethan or Jacobean architecture.

The picture-gallery, and two or three of the principal bedrooms, were all that remained to be shewn. In the former were many good paintings; but Elizabeth knew nothing of the art; and from such as had been already visible below, she had willingly turned to look at some drawings of Miss Darcy’s in crayons, whose subjects were usually more interesting, and also more intelligible.

In the gallery there were many family portraits, but they could have little to fix the attention of a stranger. Elizabeth walked on in quest of the only face whose features would be known to her. At last it arrested her – and she beheld a striking resemblance of Mr. Darcy, with such a smile over the face as she remembered to have sometimes seen when he looked at her. She stood several minutes before the picture in earnest contemplation, and returned to it again before they quitted the gallery.
I think the last time I visited Haddon Hall I was a little girl and I had only dim recollections. It is a beautiful example of a manor house dating from the 12th century, but one which feels distinctly Elizabethan. I couldn’t quite imagine the Darcys here – there are no later additions to the house after 1700, and in fact the house lay dormant from that time until 1920 when the 9th Duke and Duchess of Rutland restored the house and gardens. But if Jane Austen did visit Derbyshire might she have seen Haddon Hall ( it is a large, handsome, stone building, standing well on rising ground,) and imagined Elizabeth and Darcy living there – we’ll never really know! Haddon Hall was used for some of the scenes in the latest adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, notably the chapel and the dining room.

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When walking around Chatsworth there is so much to see that it’s difficult to know where to look first. In the painted hall alone which is the first major space you encounter there are statues and paintings galore all vying for your attention. Most incredible is the painted ceiling showing the apotheosis of Julius Caesar as a demi-god, which tends to overshadow everything else. They do provide mirrors to hold so that you don’t have to get a crick in your neck! I’m always fascinated by these ceiling paintings in great houses and wonder what it must have been like for the poor artists who worked on them day in and day out – a truly remarkable feat. The photo to the left shows the painted ceiling above the Great Stairs which are also shown in this post. High up on the walls are coloured paintings in the style of Verrio’s ceiling. There are three sculpted figures by Caius Gabriel Cibber brought in from the garden in 1692 and busts placed in the niches. There are also grisaille panels painted on the walls lower down to resemble sculpture. The ceiling shows the Goddess of Earth, Cybele, in her chariot, with figures in two corners representing the four continents.


Wood carving features prominently in the State Dining Room – this photo shows the work of Samuel Watson and Lobb, Young and Davis, the team of carvers from London engaged by the first Duke. Remember to look up when walking around Chatsworth because there is always some incredible sight to see.
Finally, I know I’m always talking about food on my blog, but I had to show you the meringue I had in the restaurant. I felt very naughty eating all that sugar and cream, but we were just about to go outside and walk it all off in the gardens!

I had to include this extract from Pride and Prejudice – Lizzy is looking round Pemberley and the housekeeper points out two portrait paintings – miniatures of two gentlemen she knows very well.

On applying to see the place, they were admitted into the hall; and Elizabeth, as they waited for the housekeeper, had leisure to wonder at her being where she was.

The housekeeper came; a respectable-looking elderly woman, much less fine, and more civil, than she had any notion of finding her. They followed her into the dining-parlour. It was a large, well-proportioned room, handsomely fitted up. Elizabeth, after slightly surveying it, went to a window to enjoy its prospect. The hill, crowned with wood, from which they had descended, receiving increased abruptness from the distance, was a beautiful object. Every disposition of the ground was good; and she looked on the whole scene – the river, the trees scattered on its banks, and the winding of the valley, as far as she could trace it – with delight. As they passed into other rooms these objects were taking different positions; but from every window there were beauties to be seen. The rooms were lofty and handsome, and their furniture suitable to the fortune of their proprietor; but Elizabeth saw, with admiration of his taste, that it was neither gaudy nor uselessly fine; with less of splendor, and more real elegance, than the furniture of Rosings.

“And of this place,” thought she, “I might have been mistress! With these rooms I might now have been familiarly acquainted! Instead of viewing them as a stranger, I might have rejoiced in them as my own, and welcomed to them as visitors my uncle and aunt. But no” – recollecting herself – “that could never be: my uncle and aunt would have been lost to me; I should not have been allowed to invite them.”

This was a lucky recollection – it saved her from something like regret.

She longed to inquire of the housekeeper whether her master were really absent, but had not courage for it. At length, however, the question was asked by her uncle; and she turned away with alarm, while Mrs. Reynolds replied, that he was, adding, “But we expect him tomorrow, with a large party of friends.” How rejoiced was Elizabeth that their own journey had not by any circumstance been delayed a day!

Her aunt now called her to look at a picture. She approached and saw the likeness of Mr. Wickham suspended, amongst several other miniatures, over the mantlepiece. Her aunt asked her, smilingly, how she liked it. The housekeeper came forward, and told them it was the picture of a young gentleman, the son of her late master’s steward, who had been brought up by him at his own expence. “He is now gone into the army,” she added; “but I am afraid he has turned out very wild.”

Mrs. Gardiner looked at her niece with a smile, but Elizabeth could not return it.

“And that,” said Mrs. Reynolds, pointing to another of the miniatures, “is my master – and very like him. It was drawn at the same time as the other – about eight years ago.”

“I have heard much of your master’s fine person,” said Mrs. Gardiner, looking at the picture; “it is a handsome face. But, Lizzy, you can tell us whether it is like or not.”

Mrs. Reynolds’s respect for Elizabeth seemed to increase on this intimation of her knowing her master.

“Does that young lady know Mr. Darcy?”

Elizabeth coloured, and said – “A little.”

“And do not you think him a very handsome gentleman, ma’am?”

“Yes, very handsome.”

“I am sure I know none so handsome; but in the gallery up stairs you will see a finer, larger picture of him than this. This room was my late master’s favourite room, and these miniatures are just as they used to be then. He was very fond of them.”

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We were very lucky to be staying in Beeley because it is a short walk to Chatsworth. We set off across fields and over a bridge finding the river on the other side and following it all the way. It was a lovely sunny day when we first did the walk and signs of spring appearing in green shoots on the trees and primroses and daffodils in the hedgerows really lifted our spirits.
This extract fromDerbyshire UK website gives us some information about the river on which Chatsworth sits. The River Derwent, some 50 odd miles in length, is the longest river in Derbyshire. Apart from its short passage through the City of Derby it is a completely rural river, finally joining the River Trent just south of Derby. The Derwent’s source is at Swain’s Greave on Howden Moor on the flank of Bleaklow Hill.

The river Derwent soon flows into the first of 3 large reservoirs, built in the early part of the 20th century to satisfy the growing demand for water from the expanding cities of Derby, Nottingham, Sheffield and Leicester. Howden was the first to be built ( 1901-12 ), Derwent followed ( 1902-16 ) and work then began on the largest, Ladybower, in 1935. It took 10 years to complete Ladybower and the historic villages of Derwent and Ashopton were lost in the process. A whole village was created to house the men and their families who had built the early dams, which was colloquially known as ‘Tin Town’ because of it’s corrugated roofs. Its official name was Birchinlee and it housed over 1000 inhabitants at one time.

At Mythorn Bridge, the river Derwent is joined by the river Noe which rises on Mam Tor and flows through the Hope Valley. Flowing on between Win Hill and Lose Hill, the Derwent is soon augumented by waters from Crowden, Grinds Brooks and Jaggers Clough. The river flows on to Hathersage and then turns south again to flow in a wide valley flanked by gritstone edges through the villages of Grindleford, Froggatt and Calver before reaching Baslow. At Calver it flows beneath an 18th century bridge. Calver Mill was first built in 1785, utilizing the power of the Derwent, but destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1805 when it became a thriving cotton mill employing a large number of local people. It finished producing cotton in 1923 and has had a number of uses since then, including the role of Colditz Castle in the television series, Colditz. It has now been developed into modern flats.

In Baslow at Bridge End, the river Derwent is spanned by a charming, 17th century, 3 arched bridge, beside which is a little stone shelter built for the toll collector. The river Derwent then flows through the grounds of Chatsworth Park, the home of the Duke of Devonshire, in a beautifully landscaped setting, to be joined by the River Wye at Rowsley, coming in from Bakewell.


Chatsworth is mentioned by name in Pride and Prejudice, but whether Jane ever visited Chatsworth or the Peak District we do not know for sure. Jane was familiar with a certain number of great houses already and I’m sure she used her imagination to conjure up Pemberley. As much as we like to think we might be able to find Pemberley House in Derbyshire I think it far more likely that Mr Darcy’s abode was invented from many influences and experiences. Here’s a short extract from Pride and Prejudice.

The time fixed for the beginning of their northern tour was now fast approaching, and a fortnight only was wanting of it, when a letter arrived from Mrs. Gardiner, which at once delayed its commencement and curtailed its extent. Mr. Gardiner would be prevented by business from setting out till a fortnight later in July, and must be in London again within a month; and as that left too short a period for them to go so far, and see so much as they had proposed, or at least to see it with the leisure and comfort they had built on, they were obliged to give up the Lakes, and substitute a more contracted tour, and, according to the present plan, were to go no farther northward than Derbyshire. In that county there was enough to be seen to occupy the chief of their three weeks; and to Mrs. Gardiner it had a peculiarly strong attraction. The town where she had formerly passed some years of her life, and where they were now to spend a few days, was probably as great an object of her curiosity as all the celebrated beauties of Matlock, Chatsworth, Dovedale, or the Peak.

Elizabeth was excessively disappointed; she had set her heart on seeing the Lakes, and still thought there might have been time enough. But it was her business to be satisfied – and certainly her temper to be happy; and all was soon right again.

With the mention of Derbyshire there were many ideas connected. It was impossible for her to see the word without thinking of Pemberley and its owner. “But surely,” said she, “I may enter his county with impunity, and rob it of a few petrified spars without his perceiving me.”

I think it’s interesting that Jane did not want to write a description of Derbyshire in this next extract – perhaps she felt she did not know the area well enough to write about it – the place she writes about is Lambton which is her invention. Again, some people have suggested that she was thinking of Bakewell here, but there is no firm evidence that Jane ever stayed in Bakewell, even though my sister and I enjoyed staying there some years ago and stood looking out from the Rutland Arms Hotel with thoughts of the fact that Jane might have once stood there herself! Here’s the extract from Pride and Prejudice where Jane first mentions Lambton.

It is not the object of this work to give a description of Derbyshire, nor of any of the remarkable places through which their route thither lay: Oxford, Blenheim, Warwick, Kenelworth, Birmingham, etc., are sufficiently known. A small part of Derbyshire is all the present concern. To the little town of Lambton, the scene of Mrs. Gardiner’s former residence, and where she had lately learned that some acquaintance still remained, they bent their steps, after having seen all the principal wonders of the country; and within five miles of Lambton, Elizabeth found from her aunt that Pemberley was situated. It was not in their direct road, nor more than a mile or two out of it. In talking over their route the evening before, Mrs. Gardiner expressed an inclination to see the place again. Mr. Gardiner declared his willingness, and Elizabeth was applied to for her approbation.

“My love, should not you like to see a place of which you have heard so much?” said her aunt; “A place, too, with which so many of your acquaintance are connected. Wickham passed all his youth there, you know.”

Elizabeth was distressed. She felt that she had no business at Pemberley, and was obliged to assume a disinclination for seeing it. She must own that she was tired of great houses; after going over so many, she really had no pleasure in fine carpets or satin curtains.

So it would seem that Elizabeth may well have visited Chatsworth and some of the other houses like Blenheim or the castles at Warwick and Kenilworth. Whether Jane Austen did is another matter but I’m sure she would have done her research and read about houses and their grounds in the area. Perhaps she was inspired by these descriptions or by stories from other family members who had visited them.
Chatsworth is presently undergoing a huge restoration project so it is difficult to take photos without seeing some of this taking place. It is lovely to know that the house will be preserved for future generations who, like me, have found inspiration within its walls and beyond.

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