Greetings, Maria Grazia! Thank you for hosting a stop on The Red Chrysanthemum Blog Tour. You suggested a discussion of writing Mr Darcy or about the letters that propel the plot forward. There is one person in both my novel and Pride and Prejudice who has strong opinions about correspondence, so I took the liberty of prevailing upon him to post in my place. Thankfully, for once his return message was sent in a timely manner!—
Mr. Thomas Bennet
November 1, 2013
Dear Maria and your kindly readers,
It has not escaped my notice there are some amongst you who do not hold me in a favourable light. Whatever faults you attribute to me are probably deserved. It is true, I am not a patient husband, and prefer the solace of my own company to the noisy antics of my two youngest daughters. Of my middle daughter, I readily confess myself at a loss as to how to encourage Mary to expand her small-mindedness. However, I accept credit—there is no blame—for how brilliantly my two eldest daughters have managed their lives. Whilst with Jane it can only be said her mother and I managed not to mar what was from infancy a sweet and happy nature, with Elizabeth I am proud to say I protected her from her mother’s excesses and supported Lizzy’s every inclination to improve herself through the knowledge of nature and extensive reading.
Dear Lizzy…so much of her courtship by Fitzwilliam Darcy—although the term courtship hardly suits their early acquaintance, but more nimble writers than myself and Mrs Beutler have cast about in vain for a better one—happened away from Longbourn. I really only learnt the particulars of it in letters. As Mrs Beutler’s tells it, I first became aware that Mr Darcy’s regard for my daughter was other than I had assumed through a letter from my brother-in-law, Edward Gardiner. He is a sensible man with a perceptive wife. His observations of Mr Darcy first alerted me to his change in manner from the haughty aloof man he gave himself out to be whilst in this neighborhood.
Further information from other sources revealed the existence of a letter Mr Darcy gave to Lizzy whilst she visited in Kent, and to this day I have not been blessed with the opportunity to relieve my curiosity by reading the whole of it. I am given to understand Mr Darcy went on at great length on several topics of concern to my daughter, and managed to thereby acquit himself of some (but not all) transgressions to civility of which Lizzy accused him.
Consequently, you may be assured of my surprise to have an express from the man, which told of his reacquaintance with Lizzy in Derbyshire. Jane and I rather neatly managed to deflect any interest Mrs Bennet might have in such a letter but it was a near thing. My estimation of Darcy was never so high nor so low as he was regarded by others in Hertfordshire. I sensed there was a great deal about him that wanted revealing before a true likeness of his character could be drawn.
From the distance of Longbourn we had the distinct impression Lizzy and Mr Darcy were working at cross purposes, too much so for anything like an understanding to be reached. But one detail did prove telling. Mr Darcy was made gun shy by Lizzy’s refusal in April. For an otherwise confident man, who made whatever improvements to his manners Lizzy demanded, he was still at heart a rejected suitor. He wanted to be sure of her by knowing she was sure. Jane said Lizzy gave him a hiding, so honestly, who could blame him?
It is not my purpose to tell Mrs Beutler’s story on her behalf, but there are one or two details which might want clarification. First, many noble actors have recreated the role of Fitzwilliam Darcy. Mrs Beutler could not explain to my satisfaction modern modes of communication, but she did, in her attempt at instruction, mention repeatedly a young man, Colin Firth. From what I glean from the matter, there are many men nearly his equal, but it would be well to affix some rendering of his likeness in a location where it may be glimpsed often as you read Mrs Beutler’s book.
The similarity of an actress, Miss Jennifer Ehle, to my daughter Elizabeth is mysterious in its veracity. Were I not a Christian man, I might suggest there is some truth to the concept of reincarnation. But let us not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment by debating religion. Nor do I know who or what a BBC is. I am merely bid to suggest you envision the 1995 production of my family’s history as you read.
Last, for my own part I would warn you that Mrs Beutler, being a married lady, does not scruple to describe certain aspects of the post wedding initiation into marital relations of my daughter as Mrs Darcy. A father should not like to know these things and indeed, I do not. However, I am told Mr Darcy uses his knowledge of such matters to later embarrass my wife in Lizzy’s defense, and it is well that some one, somewhere, is able to do so. He says what he says for his own amusement, to bedevil my wife’s poor nerves, and if I cannot resist doing this myself, how am I ever to dissuade so superior a son-in-law from doing so as well? In Fitzwilliam Darcy my daughter finds a better champion than I ever was.
And so I close, hoping I have enticed you to read Mrs Beutler’s version of how my daughter Miss Elizabeth Bennet came to be Mrs Darcy. I think there are few who would not approve.
With best regards,
“ Pride and Prejudice” and the language of flowers…
When Fitzwilliam Darcy leaves the inn in Lambton after a tense but fruitful visit with Elizabeth Bennet, her words cultivate his hopes. “Less naturally amiable tempers than Mr. Bingley’s have found ways to forgive you.” Has she excused his flaws of character and errors in judgement? While dining at Pemberley, Elizabeth is confounded when Darcy says of her scent, “Now I find I am more fond of lavender than ever… certainly even more fond of it than I was in, say, April.” Has he pardoned her intemperate assault on his pride?
As her esteem blossoms into love and his desire flourishes into devotion, the meanings of every leaf and petal allow Elizabeth and Darcy to express emotions too vulnerable to speak aloud. But can messages in fronds and leaflets save their fragile hearts when scandalous news arrives from Longbourn?
Perhaps flowers do not always say it best.
About the Author
Linda Beutler is an Oregon native who began writing professionally in 1996 (meaning that is when they started paying her...), in the field of garden writing. First published in magazines, Linda graduated to book authorship in 2004 with the publication of Gardening With Clematis (2004, Timber Press). In 2007 Timber Press presented her second title, Garden to Vase, a partnership with garden photographer Allan Mandell. Now in 2013 Linda is working with Meryton Press.
Linda lives the gardening life: she is a part-time instructor in the horticulture department at Clackamas Community College; writes and lectures about gardening topics throughout the USA; and is traveling the world through her active participation in the International Clematis Society, of which she is the current president. Then there's that dream job--which she is sure everyone else must covet but which she alone has-- curator of the Rogerson Clematis Collection, which is located at Luscher Farm, a farm/park maintained by the city of Lake Oswego. They say to keep resumes brief, but Linda considers Garden With Clematis her 72,000 word resume. She signed on as curator to North America's most comprehensive and publicly accessible collection of the genus clematis in July 2007, and they will no doubt not get shut of her until she can be carried out in a pine box.
And now for something completely different: in September 2011, Linda checked out a book of Jane Austen fan fiction from her local library, and was, to put it in the modern British vernacular, gob smacked. After devouring every title she could get her hands on, she quite arrogantly decided that, in some cases, she could do better, and began writing her own expansions and variations of Pride and Prejudice. The will to publish became too tempting, and after viewing the welcoming Meryton Press website, she sent her child before the firing squad. Luckily, the discerning editors at Meryton Press saved the child from slaughter, and Linda's first work of Jane Austen-esque fiction, The Red Chrysanthemum, is ready for publication.
Linda shares a small garden in Southeast Portland with her husband, and pets that function as surrogate children. Her personal collection of clematis numbers something around 230 taxa. These are also surrogate children, and just as badly behaved.