Work in Progress!

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)

About Shannon Winslow

author of historical fiction in the tradition of Jane Austen
This entry was posted in excerpts, Jane Austen, Jane Austen Quotes, Shannon Winslow, Shannon Winslow's writing, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Work in Progress!

  1. Gaylene Ridgewell says:

    I love this and am definitely intrigued. Not nearly enough ‘Emma’ spin offs so look forward to this one

  2. Brenda S Cox says:

    I like it! I’m quite intrigued wondering how Mr. Woodhouse could ever have been a hero to Mr. Knightley!

  3. wendym215 says:

    Reblogged this on Site Title and commented:
    This is going to be great he’s another of my favorite male Charaters in Austen books I can’t wait for thid

  4. wendym215 says:

    This going to be great he’s one of my favorite male characters in attendance works….he’s up there with Fitzwilliam Darcy….can’t wait for this to come out

  5. Vicki T says:

    Lol… are making us work for our understanding! Seriously, how many know what the word valetudinarian means???? I’ve never seen the word in all my readings! Kudos! I think this is going to be great! He’s the most mysterious, not intentional I believe, of all our leading men. I may have forgotten, since it’s been awhile since I read this or watched the movie, but what do we know of his past, or family background? Curious to know the circumstances with Mr Woodhouse playing such an important role in his younger life. It had to have something to do with doing the right thing, as this was an important thing between Emma and him.
    I’m looking forward to this!!!!!

    • Haha! The “v” word is right there in Emma, chapter 1, and I figured the context would reveal the meaning without having to resort to a dictionary. 😀
      We’re told almost nothing about Knightley’s past – much less than Col. Brandon even. We don’t know how or when either of his parents died, for example. We only know it must have been early on, since Emma says K has “always been your own master.” So very few clues for me, but lots of room to be creative!

      • Vicki T says:

        Lol, well now you know I just skip over words I don’t understand obviously. Because it never registered.

      • Kelly says:

        Keep the rarely-used words! English is such a rich language, and we don’t use nearly enough of it’s potential. Can’t wait to read/listen to (audiobook fan) more!!!

      • I love long/interesting/obscure words, and I get to indulge that when writing in this time period! Glad you’re liking the book so far, Kelly. I hope you’ll check out some of my others while you’re waiting, all available in audio. I’m a huge audiobook fan too! 😀

    • Marie H says:

      Just getting to read this now. A good beginning! I confess I’m not a big Emma fan, but my favourite part of that book is definitely Mr. Knightley. I’m keen to see how you will bring even more to interest to his good character.

      • We think alike, Marie! Emma’s not my favorite, but Mr. Knightley is the best part! Isn’t it clever of me to find a way to spend all my time with him? Glad you like this excerpt!

  6. Cindy Schmidt says:

    Shannon, I’m intrigued. I want to know what this service was, how Mr. Woodhouse was different when younger. Looking forward to finding out!

  7. Carol OBrien says:

    I like this direction! It would explain why he is on such familiar terms with Mr Woodhouse and Emma. Keep going!!

  8. Diane Ferguson says:

    I’m intrigued. I would read the heck out of that.

  9. Ann Wilson says:

    You had me at Jeremy Northam. He was a wonderful Mr. Knightly. I wanted to keep reading; this is lovely so far. I want to know what happened to Mr. Knightly and how Mr. Woodhouse helped him. And what’s the promise?

  10. sheilalmajczan says:

    I look forward to reading this. Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate.

  11. Martha says:

    This is lovely. I got teary eyed already!

  12. noagnes says:

    I love this, Shannon! I’m not usually a fan of “retellings from the other POV” but I might make an exception for this one because I really wish to see how you perceive Knightley and especially this background story he has with Mr. Woodhouse!

    • I’m glad to hear it! I agree that there has to be more than just a simple retelling from an alternate POV. That’s not enough value added. I always include a lot of new scenes and information in mine, expanding on what we know and filling in what we don’t know. While you’re waiting for this one, I hope you’ll check out my others, if you haven’t already read them. 🙂

  13. Meg Patterson says:

    I’m hooked! I’ve always respected Knightly as fine man. He was tough on Emma, because she needed it, but oh so gentle with fragile characters like Mr Woodhouse and Miss Bates. Keep going, Shannon. I want to know what forces fashioned his character to “resist the proud and give grace to the humble”.

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