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The Darcys of Pemberley
Mr. Collins’s Last Supper
For Myself Alone
Return to Longbourn
- Breach of Promise: Setting the Story Straight
- You Never Forget How
- Double Dessert – or – What to Do With a Dozen Eggs
- Choosing a Genteel Profession
- Much Left to the Imagination – part 2
- Spring Garden Tour
- Much Left to the Imagination
- Analysis Paralysis
- Books Read Aloud
- View, ReView, & InterView
- Bits and Scraps
- Baby Blues or Blog Tour
- “Return to Longbourn” Launches
- Cover 3 Reveal
The weather was perfect on Saturday – dry, and neither too warm nor too cool – and I had decided on some outdoor exercise before dinner. Like every proper Jane Austen heroine, I’m very fond of a long walk. I even have a three-mile course through our woodsy neighborhood (partly on trails and partly on country roads) that I use regularly. So I had in mind an invigorating walk, not a bike ride, when my husband made the above statement.
I’ll admit I did not at first respond enthusiastically to his suggestion.
You should know that 1) it’s been easily 5 years since I’ve been on a bike, 2) our neighborhood is full of hills, and 3) I’m not as young as I used to be or as fit as I should be. Although I feel perfectly secure with my feet solidly on the ground, the idea of perching on a painfully narrow seat balanced atop a pair of perilously skinny tires filled my mind with dread. I was envisioning the embarrassment and disaster that would likely follow.
Naturally, when considering the question before me, I asked myself what would Jane Austen advise. It seemed her heroines were admired for having at least a measure of boldness and athleticism, within the constraints of the day (see related post Care to Take a Turn? ). Even the timid Fanny Price (quoted below) received praise and reward for plucking up the courage to try something out of her comfort zone.
“Ah, cousin, when I remember how much I used to dread riding, what terrors it gave me to hear it talked of as likely to do me good… and then think of the kind of pains you took to reason and persuade me out of my fears, and convince me that I should like it after a little while, and feel how right you proved to be, I am inclined to hope you may always prophesy as well.” (Mansfield Park, chapter 3)
(And you thought I wouldn’t be able to find an appropriate Jane Austen quote for a post about riding a bike. Ha! Okay, so Fanny was talking about riding a horse. Close enough.)
Then I was reminded how many times I refer to riding (horses again) in my own books, especially Return to Longbourn. In it Lizzy says, “There is nothing – or almost nothing – like a thrill of a good ride.” And then there’s this passage where Mary (much like in my situation) is unexpectedly invited/challenged by Mr. Harrison Farnsworth (master of Netherfield, and her employer) to take a ride with him:
” You must admit it is a fine day for riding.”
He was correct, maddeningly so; the weather could not have been more obliging, and it would be an ideal opportunity to consult about the children. She could not even beg off because of her dress, for the gown she wore was as serviceable as any summer riding habit. Besides, Mary told herself, it was a chance to brush up on her skills, so that she might be in better form for another day and for that other, more pleasant riding partner.
“Very well, then,” she said presently. “I will go if you wish it, although I must warn you that I am woefully out of practice.” …Mary could feel her own excitement building for this next adventure. She only hoped she would not be sorry for agreeing to it.
What could I do? I refuse to be shown up by Mary Bennet AND Fanny Price, so I likewise said ‘yes’ to the call of adventure. What’s more, I lived to tell the tale.
We rode about 8 miles. And I’m proud to say that I did pretty well, with only one minor mishap.
Does anybody remember progressive dinners? I’m not sure if people still do them. But it used to be that a group of friends (from church or whatever other group) would get together and, instead of eating a whole dinner at one home, they would all progress course by course from one home to another - appetizers at the first place, maybe soup at the second, then salad, the main course, and finally dessert.
That’s what this Summer Banquet blog hop is all about, except you can visit in any way you wish, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get your banquet in a logical order. One thing’s for sure, though; I’ve got the dessert course covered, and it all starts with a dozen eggs.
“Mrs. Bates, let me propose your venturing on one of these eggs. An egg boiled very soft is not unwholesome. Serle understands boiling an egg better than any body. I would not recommend an egg boiled by any body else; but you need not be afraid, they are very small, you see – one of our small eggs will not hurt you.” (Mr. Woodhouse, Emma)
One of my all-time favorite desserts is creme brulee, and a few years ago my family established serving it for Easter as our new tradition. It’s not that difficult to make. Here’s my recipe:
Heat 1 pint whipping cream over low heat until bubbles form around the edge of pan. Beat 4 egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar until thick (about 3 minutes). Beating constantly, pour heated cream in steady stream into egg yolks. Add 1 tablespoon vanilla and pour into 6 custard cups. Place cups in a baking pan. Add about 1″ boiling water around them. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Remove from water bath and refrigerate until chilled (at least 2 hours). Sprinkle each custard with granulated sugar. Place under broiler until sugar topping is melted and browned. Refrigerate briefly to set. Serve.
Here are the ones I made this Easter. And, yes, they were delicious! If you triple the recipe like I do, so you have enough to share with your family or friends, you will use a total of 12 egg yolks.
But what on earth are you supposed to do with all those leftover egg whites? The elegant – and yummy – solution presented itself when I discovered that making an angel food cake requires exactly that: one dozen egg whites! Together the two desserts make a perfect pair.
Heat oven to 375. Stir together 1 cup cake flour and 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar. Set aside. In large mixer bowl, beat 12 egg whites (1 1/2 cups), 1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar, and 1/4 tsp. salt until foamy. Add 1 cup granulated sugar, a little at a time, beating on high speed until meringue hold stiff peaks. Gently fold in 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla and 1/2 tsp. almond extract. Sprinkle flour/sugar mixture, 1/4 cup at a time over meringue, folding in gently. Fill batter into ungreased tube pan. Bake 30-35 minutes. Invert pan onto funnel and let hang until cake is completely cool.
Now turn your masterpiece into strawberry shortcake or anything you like.
So there you have it - my favorite trick to turn a dozen eggs into two delightful desserts. I hope you’ll give it at try!
Now, be sure to visit these other blog hop spots to meet some interesting people and discover more tasty treats:
- Random Bits of Fascination (Maria Grace)
- Pillings Writing Corner (David Pilling)
- Anna Belfrage
- Debra Brown
- Lauren Gilbert
- Gillian Bagwell
- Julie K. Rose
- Donna Russo Morin
- Regina Jeffers
- Shauna Roberts
- Tinney S. Heath
- Grace Elliot
- Diane Scott Lewis
- Ginger Myrick
- Helen Hollick
- Heather Domin
- Margaret Skea
- Yves Fey
- JL Oakley
- Shannon Winslow
- Evangeline Holland
- Cora Lee
- Laura Purcell
- P. O. Dixon
- E.M. Powell
- Sharon Lathan
- Sally Smith O’Rourke
- Allison Bruning
- Violet Bedford
- Sue Millard
- Kim Rendfeld
When I wrote ”part 1,” I didn’t intend a follow-up piece. But now I find that I must retract part of what I said then.
“I have to thank you, Miss Woodhouse, for a very kind forgiving message in one of Mrs. Weston’s letters. I hope time has not made you less willing to pardon. I hope you do not retract what you then said.” (Emma, chapter 18)
My original Much Left to the Imagination post was about how Jane Austen tells/shows us very little of the proposal scenes in her novels. For whatever reason, she leaves much (or in some cases, nearly ALL) to our imaginations. It works for her, and I don’t question her genius. But my contention was that a modern writer probably couldn’t get away with this, that readers today expect to be given all the juicy details.
Turns out that I’ve copied Jane Austen’s techniques more than I realized. I refer to the proposal scene I wrote (or didn’t write) for The Darcys of Pemberley.
Since it’s a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, Darcy and Elizabeth are already married. But the book also tells the story of the courtship of Miss Georgiana Darcy, so it’s the proposal to her I’m referring to. (As for who’s proposing, I wouldn’t wish to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t yet read it )
It’s a few years since I originally wrote this novel but, in the process of producing the audio version, I have now re-read it twice in the last week! That’s when it struck me how much I also left the reader’s imagination. Here’s a slightly edited version, also censored as to the gentleman’s name:
Whilst the contest for her future joy was being waged int he library, Miss Darcy sat at her pianoforte and played on, completely unaware that her whole world was about to change. She noticed when Mr. X entered the room yet she did not stop. She knew he liked to listen to her, and she was more inclined to play for him than talk to him just then. With that thought in mind, Georgiana felt her misfortune at being very nearly to the end of the piece. She soon finished, accepted the gentleman’s praise without a word, and was about to begin again when he prevented her. He took both her hands in his and gently turned her toward himself. To her total astonishment, he then dropped to one knee beside her.
“Dear Georgiana,” he began, “I am now at liberty to tell you that which has long been in my heart. Will you hear me?”
Although too overcome to speak in any case, Georgiana had not the slightest objection to hearing whatever Mr. X might wish to say to her on bended knee. She nodded her acquiescence, and he was sufficiently encouraged to go on. He commenced by describing the major revolution he had experienced in his feelings toward her over the last several months. He concluded with the fervent hope that she could in some measure return his earnest affection and consent to becoming his wife.
To suddenly find herself the object of Mr. X’s love was so wholly unexpected that Georgiana hesitated in her answer, not from indecision but from disbelief… Whilst her heart told her to consent instantly before she awoke from the dream in which she found herself, her mind called for a point of clarification.
“You say you have been in love with me for some time now, sir. If I am to believe you, you must explain something. Why have I never seen any sign of it, any change in your manner, any gesture or word of peculiar regard?…”
“Oh, my dear girl, if you only knew how difficult it has been for me to show so little when I felt so much. But I was honor-bound to speak to your brother before giving you any idea of my true affection… Now tell me, dearest Georgiana do you think in time you could learn to love me? Please say that I have some chance of winning your heart.”
With her one and only reservation very satisfactorily overcome, Georgiana gave the gentleman to understand that her heart in fact already belonged to him and to him alone.
Can you just picture it? I hope so, although not knowing the proposer’s identity may leave a pretty big hole in the image. As to how the modern reader has accepted this very-Jane-Austen treatment of a proposal scene, I can’t say that I’ve had any specific complaints about it. There are some who have commented that they wished I hadn’t wrapped things up so quickly at the end of the book; perhaps that’s what they meant in part.
Since then, I’ve written much more complete proposal scenes in For Myself Alone and Return to Longbourn. But there’s still something about the one above that I especially like. Maybe it’s because it IS so very Jane Austen in leaving something to the imagination!
Spring is my favorite season of the year. After a long, dreary winter - this past one made even darker by the loss of my father at the end of November – there is finally the promise of improvement ahead. The gloom has lifted, and the days are longer and brighter.
I don’t know what your weather has been like so far this spring, but we’ve had some stellar days here in Seattle, with temperatures actually making it into the 80′s a couple of times this past week! I think the contrast with the status quo (cool, gray, wet) makes us appreciate a sunny day in May all the more, which reminds me of a passage I wrote in a yet-to-be-published contemporary novel called First of Second Chances:
No one could resist an unseasonably warm March day, with everything bursting into bloom at once, least of all sun-starved Seattleites. It seemed outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds had only been awaiting this engraved invitation to emerge from their winter hibernations. Gail could appreciate the feeling. She had certainly weathered harsher climates elsewhere, but no place with more sodden, steel-gray days. It wasn’t so much the total quantity of water that fell from the sky, she decided, but the number of weeks and months it took to reach that total. That’s what grated away at your spirit. If the Inuit people had a hundred different words for the snow that constantly surrounded them, then the same should be true for the variations of Pacific Northwest precipitation. She’d noticed the forecast wasn’t given in black and white – rain, or no rain – but in more shades of gray: “partly cloudy, scattered showers, patchy morning fog,” and, her personal favorite, “drizzle.” No wonder that a clear blue sky was celebrated like a national holiday, especially in early spring.
Likewise, in Mansfield Park, Fanny Price only learns to truly appreciate the natural glories of spring provided by her adopted home when she is deprived of them by being sent away to Portsmouth.
It was sad to Fanny to lose all the pleasures of spring. She had not known before what pleasures she had to lose in passing March and April in a town. She had not known before how much the beginnings and progress of vegetation had delighted her. What animation, both of body and mind, she had derived from watching the advance of that season which cannot, in spite of its capriciousness, be unlovely, and seeing its increasing beauties from the earliest flowers in the warmest divisions of her aunt’s garden…(chapter 45)
Nothing says spring to me like the early flowers: daffodil, camellia, magnolia, and rhododendron. And, when the threat of frost is gone, even my tropical house plants get to move outdoors. My potted Plumeria tree and Bird of Paradise plants will spend the next few months on my patio, near my goldfish pond.
So, please make yourself at home, and take a virtual stroll though my garden. Hope it brightens your day!
Progress Report: Yay! I’m happy to say that I have officially broken out of my “analysis paralysis (see previous post).” I’ve made momentous decisions this past week about my audio books, the result of which is that I now have two amazing narrators under contract and three of my books in production. So, sometime this summer, you will be able to read Mr. Collins’s Last Supper, The Darcys of Pemberley, and Return to Longbourn in audio format! How cool is that?
Speaking of audio books, I’m currently rereading Sense and Sensibility in that format, and I’m nearly to the end. I have to admit that I’d forgotten how much Jane Austen left to the imagination in what should be the climactic scene – Edward’s proposal to Elinor. Here’s what she writes about it:
His errand at Barton, in fact, was a simple one. It was only to ask Elinor to marry him… How soon he had walked himself into the proper resolution, however, how soon an opportunity of exercising it occurred, in what manner he expressed himself, and how he was received, need not be particularly told. This only need be said; that when they all sat down to table at four o’clock, about three hours after his arrival, he had secured his lady, engaged her mother’s consent, and was not only in the rapturous profession of the lover, but in the reality of reason and truth, one of the happiest of men.
So, she tells us exactly nothing, leaving everything to our imaginations! As I said, I’d forgotten this, although I’ve read the book at least half a dozen times. The proposal scene I remember, exists only in my mind (and in the movies). In Northanger Abbey, when Henry Tilney bears his soul to Catherine, it’s the same – strictly narrative generalities. And we aren’t given much more to go on with Darcy’s proposal (the second, successful one) and Elizabeth’s acceptance. He simply says, “My affections and wishes are unchanged.” Then, we are told, Elizabeth…
…forced herself to speak, and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change, since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances.
In Persuasion, Captain Wentworth isn’t even in the room when he makes his profession of love to Anne, since it’s done by letter (although, what a letter!). The most completely portrayed proposal scene in all Austendom come courtesy of Mr. Knightley in Emma.
“My dearest Emma,” said he, “for dearest you will always be… I cannot make speeches… If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more…But… you understand my feelings and will return them if you can…”
Even though Mr. Knightley expresses himself pretty completely, Emma – What did she say? Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does.
I don’t know if Jane Austen truly believed these intimate moments were often better left to the reader’s imagination, that the rest “need not be particularly told.” Or was it that she had so little experience in this area that she felt she could not write it convincingly. She was famous for never attempting any kind of scene of which she could have no personal knowledge. And, although she was proposed to once – by unappealing family friend Harris Bigg Wither – perhaps he botched the job and left her with no suitably inspirational source material!
Somehow we don’t mind these omissions in Jane Austen, but I don’t think a contemporary author could get away with leaving so much only to the imagination. Today’s readers generally expect to be privy to all the details, to be eyewitnesses to the big moment when the hero and heroine finally get together, to revel in every glorious word and expression. We can probably all agree that being invited to the wedding is nice too. The more difficult question is how much to show beyond that, how much of what goes on behind closed doors. On that topic, opinions range far and wide.
But that is a subject for another day.
What’s your opinion? Have you ever wished Jane Austen had given us a little more to go on? Would you be satisfied (or feel cheated) if a modern author showed you no more of the romantic climax than we see in Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility? How much do you think should be left to the imagination?
PS – Since I originally wrote this, I’ve discovered I copied Jane Austen’s technique more than I realized. For an update, read Much Left to the Imagination – part 2.