Thank you, Maria Grazia, for welcoming me here today on the blog tour for my latest ‘Pride and Prejudice’ variation, ‘Miss Darcy’s Companion’, it’s always such a pleasure to be your guest! I am especially glad to be here this time because my post is about an extremely beautiful Italian aria, and I can’t imagine a better place to talk about it than on your blog.
Music played a great part in Jane Austen’s life and novels. Not only was it the major source of entertainment in an age where people had to create their own amusements, but it also was the main conduit for falling in love. Indeed, how could Jane Austen and her characters have flirted, courted and been courted without the delicious opportunities offered at balls and assemblies? How would Jane Austen have learnt the first joys and sorrows of falling in love, had she not danced with the dashing but all-too-practical Tom Lefroy? How much poorer would her novels be without the Netherfield ball or the ever so delightful scene where Elizabeth plays for the company at Rosings?
Music plays a great part in ‘Miss Darcy’s Companion’ too – and that’s because I was ever so fortunate to find an aria that worked really well with the plot. We all know it from the 1996 ‘Emma’ adaptation, from the wickedly entertaining scene where Frank Churchill stands up to join Emma at the piano, declares in song that he would love her till he died, and thus distresses Miss Fairfax and greatly vexes Mr Knightley (the way he shuffles in his seat and scowls is absolutely priceless!).
Who cares that Emma and Frank Churchill would have had to be time-travellers to know the words, because the English version, ‘Silent Worship’, was only adapted in 1928 from a much older aria? Why should the production be deprived of such a delicious scene just for the sake of historical accuracy?
I was not seeking to be historically accurate when I decided to use the original aria in ‘Miss Darcy’s Companion’. Rather, it was a question of gender. ‘Silent worship’ is about a gentleman’s unrequited love. But I was delighted to discover that the original, ‘Non lo dirò col labbro’ from Handel’s ‘Ptolemy’, can ever so movingly convey the heartache of both gentleman and lady. What it says, on strains of haunting music, is that although lips are sealed and ardent feelings cannot be openly expressed, they would still burn in keen, bright eyes and could be discerned, if one were to look closely.
Unlike ‘Silent Worship’ and the exquisite original, the English translation of ‘Non lo dirò col labbro’ does not flow smoothly. Unless we take some liberties with the text, the rhyme and rhythm are all wrong in relation to the music. But the scene it conjures is incredibly moving. We can easily imagine two people separated by the full width of a room, and also by all manner of caveats and conventions, yet even if their lips are sealed, their eyes speak volumes. Which, to me, is the very essence of Austen-inspired fiction.
Since the aria can so beautifully describe the feelings of a pining gentleman and a lovelorn lady, I was ever so glad to be able to use it from both angles. You will find it again in the sequel to ‘The Unthinkable Triangle’, which would hopefully be finished soon. But for now, please let me share an excerpt from ‘Miss Darcy’s Companion’.
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Read an excerpt
Read an excerpt
When had she become so deeply attached to Mr Darcy? How had she been so senseless to allow him to take such a firm hold over her heart? Insidiously, treacherously, her feelings had grown without notice, until one day she had found herself thoroughly caught in this wretched mire of yearning and despair. For she had no hope. No hope whatsoever. Even as Miss Elizabeth of Longbourn she could have scarce hoped to capture the interest of one who could make an alliance with the most illustrious houses in the land. What hope could she possibly nurture now, when she was nothing to him but yet another name in the wages ledger – one of the many souls in his employ?
She kept reminding herself of this heart-wrenching truth time and again, yet there was nothing to be done about it. She could not stop thinking of him, with the deepest agony of longing. Could not stop stealing surreptitious glances at his handsome face, as though it were not indelibly etched into her mind’s eye already. As though it were not burned into her heart. She could not look at his hands, even – beautiful hands, with long, firm fingers – without a forbidden thrill at the thought of how perfect life would be if they held her. Nor hear his deep voice without yearning to hear it again. To hear her own name on his lips. Not ‘Miss Bennet’, but ‘Elizabeth’. Whispering that he loved her. And her heart broke to know that day would never come.
And now he was gone. Had left Pemberley without warning the day after her foolish, foolish lapse of judgement. Whatever had possessed her to go into the music room in the dead of night and sing that song? He had claimed he had not heard her – but what if he had merely said as much to spare her the well-deserved mortification? What if he had actually heard the wretched words?
It was an Italian aria she had sung – not sung in truth, but falteringly whispered – but with his extensive knowledge of most things and his all-encompassing education, it was to be expected he had acquired a thorough understanding of that language. So he would have known what the words said: that even when lips were silenced and feelings could not be openly expressed, they would still burn in sparkling eyes and could be discerned, if one were to look closely.
He had looked closely that night in the music room. Had he seen the full truth in her eyes? Was that the reason for his abrupt departure?
Elizabeth frowned and stood, vexed with herself beyond endurance. Goodness, how highly she still thought of herself! What gentleman – however kind and noble – leaves his ancestral home to spare the feelings of his sister’s paid companion?
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I hope you enjoyed the excerpt, and that you’ll like the full story. Please take your chances to win a Kindle copy of ‘Miss Darcy’s Companion’, available internationally. Earn as many entries as you can in the rafflecopter form below. Thanks for stopping by and many thanks again, Maria Grazia, for having me as your guest!
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About the author
Joana Starnes lives in the South of England with her family. A medical graduate, in more recent years she has developed an unrelated but enduring fascination with Georgian Britain in general and the works of Jane Austen in particular, as well as with the remarkable and flamboyant set of people who have given the Regency Period its charm and sparkle. She has published six Austen-related novels:
v From This Day Forward ~ The Darcys of Pemberley ~ A Pride & Prejudice sequel
v The Subsequent Proposal ~ A Tale of Pride, Prejudice and Persuasion
v The Second Chance ~ A Pride & Prejudice – Sense & Sensibility Variation
v The Falmouth Connection ~ A Pride & Prejudice Variation set in Poldark territory
v The Unthinkable Triangle ~ A Pride & Prejudice Variation, where loyalty comes at loggerheads with love
v Miss Darcy’s Companion ~ A Pride & Prejudice Variation
They are available on all Amazon sites.
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