At last I have made a genuine start on what will become my 12th novel: Mr. Knightley in His Own Words! So today I want to share the Prologue with you, to give you a taste of where I’m heading and get your reactions. It may not be quite what you expected, but hopefully you’ll be intrigued.
The thing is, this won’t be simply a retelling of Emma from Mr. Knightley’s point of view (although that’s part of it). As with my other two hero’s stories (Fitzwilliam Darcy in His Own Words and Colonel Brandon in His Own Words), it’s going to include a lot of new information – prequel story, major events from Mr. Knightley’s early years that shaped who he is and why he thinks/behaves the way he does. So without further ado, here is the Prologue as it now stands:
Mr. Woodhouse is my hero and always shall be. This profession will no doubt come as a great surprise to some, especially to his more recent acquaintances, for he may not appear heroic in any way.
Mr. Woodhouse is now a somewhat elderly man with what I will call habits of gentle selfishness. He is not autocratic or demanding. On the contrary, he is mild mannered and the soul of charity itself. It is simply that he wishes to keep those he cares about near to him and cannot reconcile himself to change of any kind. These predilections seem so obvious and natural to him that he can never suppose there to be any good reason for other people to feel differently. Why should anybody wish to marry? It is so disrupting to the family circle. Why should anybody choose to leave Highbury, when it is not to be supposed that there is a more comfortable place in the world? I have heard him say as much.
His scope of interest has contracted over the last fifteen years to where his view now rarely reaches beyond his own village and the nearest concerns of himself, his two daughters, and a few intimate friends. Moreover, his valetudinarian propensities have in this same period taken a firmer grasp on him. Mr. Woodhouse is afraid of, if not of his own shadow, then certainly the threat of an unwholesome piece of cake and a chill draft.
But it was not always so. No, I have known him all my life, and I remember him as the man he once was, the mentor and champion of my youth. Do not mistake me; he was never by nature brave-hearted or bold. There was at least one time, however, when he faced up to a formidable foe to see that right was done. This is true heroism, not that one has no fear but that one is willing to go into battle anyway. Mr. Woodhouse did that, and he did it for me. I can never forget the priceless service he rendered those many years ago. It is for that I honor him still.
I owe him everything, perhaps even my life. So as long as I have breath, I will be his grateful servant and faithful friend. I will do my best to see no harm comes to him or to anybody he cares for. I will put his needs and wishes above my own in every case – even when it is most painful, as it is now. For the sake of that longstanding debt I can never repay, and respecting certain promises made, I will deny myself as long as… Well, as long as it is necessary.
It would be tempting to say, “Oh, but things are different now. Circumstances have changed. One must not feel bound to promises made twenty years ago.”
Yes, many things have changed in that time – it would be easier if they had not – but Mr. Woodhouse’s wishes remain the same. Therefore it is my clear duty to keep my promise to him, even now. If there is one thing a man can and always must do, it is his duty.
So what do you think? Are you surprised to discover that Mr. Woodhouse will play such a critical role in Mr. Knightley’s story? Are you curious about Mr. K’s early life and interested to read more? Or do you think I’m headed in the wrong direction? Give me benefit of your opinion!
“Poor Miss Taylor! I wish she were here again. What a pity it is that Mr. Weston ever thought of her! …A house of her own! But where is the advantage of a house of her own? This is three times as large. And you have never any odd humours, my dear… Randalls is such a distance.” (Emma, chapter 1)