Thank you so much for hosting me today at My Jane Austen Book Club! It’s always a pleasure to drop in.
Today I’d like to focus on some of the side characters in my book, Darcy in Wonderland, all of whom are of great interest to Janeites. While the story primarily focuses on the immediate Darcy family, particularly Mr. Darcy and Alice, many of our friends and foes from Pride and Prejudice receive mention, and some even play a major role in the plot, like Lady Catherine. She has had ample time in the spotlight over the past several days as I’ve done the rounds of the blogs, so let’s set that imposing grand dame aside and turn our attention to quieter members of the cast.
Mary Harding and Kitty Crawford
Austen was rather specific regarding the fates of some of her characters, and even though this is a rather unorthodox continuation, I have stuck to cannon as much as possible. For example, the fates of Mary and Kitty Bennet are clearly disclosed at the end of Pride and Prejudice, so I didn’t tamper with their destinies.
“The days passed quickly in a frenzy of preparations, visiting, and new arrivals, who swelled the numbers in the dining room. Elizabeth’s sister, Mary Harding, her husband, and their three rather grown children arrived from Hertfordshire two days before the ball. They traveled with the Collinses of Longbourn, who left their children at home. Kitty Crawford and four of her brood of nine did not descend upon Pemberley until the following day, as her husband, a clergyman, worked in a parish not far away. The halls of the great house veritably rang with the footsteps and laughter of children while the nights were marked by family gatherings in the drawing room, full of games, performances, conversation, and laughter. What did it matter if Mr. Collins was abysmal at cards? Under his wife’s skillful management, the former rector’s absurdities were never subjected on any single person for too long, and Bennet was often happy to partner him, finding his cousin just as diverting a source of entertainment as his grandfather had before him.”
|David Bamber as Mr Collins (Pride and Prejudice 1995)|
As you can gather from the above, Mr. Bennet has sadly passed by the time of our tale, and Charlotte and Mr. Collins are now well-ensconced at Longbourn. Familial ties and affection between Elizabeth and Charlotte ensure that the Darcys are still quite familiar with the Collinses, and I had quite a lot of fun imagining how the children of the latter might regard that of the former. Alice, as usual, can be counted on to tell it like it is, as in these respective scenes:
Alice took up the fan and gloves, and as the hall was very hot, began fanning herself. “Dear, dear! How queer everything is today!”
“You have never spoken a more certain truth, my dear.”
“Yesterday things went on almost as usual, except for Lady Catherine, and then there was the White Rabbit the day before yesterday,” she noted.
“He is most certainly not usual.”
“I am so glad you finally saw him, Papa.”
“I am not certain I can share your enthusiasm.” He sat forlornly upon the floor and cradled his head in his hands.
“I wonder if I changed in the night? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I am not the same, the next question is, ‘Who in the world am I?’”
“This is no time for the contemplation of philosophy, Alice.” Darcy’s weary voice was muffled behind his palms.
“Perhaps I have changed for Mabel? She knows so very little, and I do not seem to know the things I used to! Let me see: four times five is twelve, London is the capital of Paris, and Paris is the capital of Rome. No. That is all wrong!”
“It most certainly is!”
“Do you know the things that you used to, Papa?”
Darcy finally lifted his head. “I know four times five is twenty, but I admit things are so upside down that I might very well be convinced that London is the capital of Timbuktu. Nothing else is as it should be.”
“I know! I will try and say ‘How doth the little — ,” and she crossed her hands on her lap, as if she were saying lessons to Miss Williams, and began to recite:
“‘How doth the little lazy pug
Improve his fine physique,
While snoring all the day away
And nipping at my feet?’
“No, I’m sure those are not the right words!”
Alice’s eyes filled with tears. “I must be Mabel after all, and I shall have to go live in that poky little house and have next to no toys to play with, and, oh, ever so many lessons to learn!”
“Your mother grew up in that house, so you had best not let her hear you disparage it. I assure you that you most certainly are not Mabel Collins, Alice! No more am I her father. Now do stop speaking such nonsense and let me think.” He stood up and began to pace.
She looked at him with lip aquiver. “But, Papa, are you certain you are not Mr. Collins?”
“Quite certain,” he assured her.
“Well, that is a relief,” and with that relief, her attention was free to wander to other matters.
“‘Tis a queer shaped little creature, is it not, Papa?” Alice observed. “It holds out its arms and legs in all directions, just like a starfish.”
The baby grunted in response to this description.
“Don’t grunt,” scolded Alice. “That is not a proper way at all of expressing yourself.”
The baby grunted again.
“Perhaps there is something the matter with it, Papa?” Alice asked anxiously.
Darcy, not overly pleased with his burden, lowered the bundle to gaze at the baby’s face. “Good Lord!” he cried. “It has a snout!”
Alice peered at it inquisitively. “I do not like the look of it at all, but perhaps it was only sobbing? No. There are no tears. If you are going to turn into a pig, my dear,” she said seriously, shaking a scolding finger at it, “then we shall have nothing more to do with you. Mind now!”
“Of all the day’s absurdities, this is the worst,” Darcy said, though he was really quite relieved not to have a baby in his care. He put the pig on its legs and let it wander into the woods, still wearing its bonnet. “I will not carry that thing home. We have ourselves to see to.”
Alice watched as it quietly trotted off. “If it had grown up, it would have made a dreadfully ugly child, but it makes a rather handsome pig, I think.” As they continued walking along, she maintained this theme. “I think there are quite a few children I know who might be improved as pigs. The Collins boys might do very well, if only one knew the right way to change them — look, Papa!” she suddenly cried out, startled, and pointed to the Cheshire-Cat sitting on the bough of a tree a few yards off.
The Wickhams and Fitzwilliams
|Adrian Lukis as George Wickham (Pride and Prejudice 1995)|
The Wickhams must have some mention, though I’ve followed the example of the Darcys and paid them as little mind as possible. Their single reference is in the following passage, in which we also learn of the fate of Colonel Fitzwilliam. As you will see, and despite my intentions, Lady Catherine will insist on her share of the conversation. She just keeps barging in:
“So who else can we expect at your ball, Ellie?” Rose asked eagerly, once there was a promising lull in the conversation.
“All the local families are coming — ”
“They would not miss it for the world,” Bennet drawled.
“ — and all the family — ”
“All the family?” Helen asked wearily.
“All the near relations, except the Wickhams — ”
“Let us be thankful for small blessings,” Rose grinned.
“ — and the Fitzwilliams, obviously.”
“They are not crossing an ocean for a birthday party?” Bennet asked sardonically. “Why did you even send the invitation? They can’t have even received it yet.”
“I sent it,” Ellie said tersely, irritated at all the interruptions, “because I knew Cousin Anne would appreciate being included. Of course, I never expected they should come.”
“Especially not when you invited her mother,” Rose said with a candid shudder, earning her a quelling glance from Elizabeth.
“Mrs. Shuttling said that is why she and Cousin Richard moved to India in the first place: to escape Aunt Catherine,” Alice added.
“Alice! You know better than to listen to the servants’ gossip, let alone repeat it,” laughed Rose, her delighted grin taking the sting out of the rebuke.
Lady Georgiana Wyldor
|Eleonor Tomlinson as Georgiana Darcy- Death|
Comes to Pemberley
While Georgiana Darcy receives a fair share of attention in the book, as is her due, I’m sorry to admit that I failed to provide her with any dialogue. She does, however, have an appropriately exalted future, which the next two excerpts detail:
“Would I not?” Darcy retorted, then looked at his wife questioningly. “You do recall Georgiana will be here Saturday?”
“I do. She is not counted amongst the invading hoards. Pemberley is her home.”
“I thought it was Everingdale.”
“One of her homes.”
“That should bring the tally up to seven, I believe. How many homes does Wyldor need? Anyway, he can’t have Pemberley, for it is presently occupied.”
She laughed, “Foolish man!”
“Insults now, is it? Come to bed so that I might convince you to shower me with compliments instead.” He stood up and pulled her into his arms.
“You know I adore you,” she murmured, “even when you are foolish. Perhaps particularly when you are foolish.”
“I shall dwell on your adoration.”
“You were young once, were you not, Lady Catherine?” Alice interrupted, unable to extend her few years of training in etiquette so far as to pay attention to anything but the drama unfolding before her.
“Do not be impertinent, Alice!” her aunt rebuked, not quelling the young girl’s curiosity a jot in the process.
“I should imagine you were rather proud when you were Ellie’s age,” Alice went on.
“I was Lady Catherine Fitzwilliam! I had a right to be proud.” The grand dame pronounced the words majestically before turning her head again to Ellie and resuming her discourse. “This ball will be the prefect occasion to observe your deportment so that we may correct it where needed before your début. It was a very good notion of your parents,” she begrudged. “I believe I suggested something similar when Lady Wyldor had her presentation.”
“But Ellie is Miss Darcy of Pemberley,” Alice said. “Not a capital letter ‘l’ Lady, but the neighbors all think that is something worth being proud of, anyway.”
“You are very young and live in a small society,” Lady Catherine retorted. “Do not interrupt me again.”
“Come along, Alice,” said her mother, rising. “I will see you to bed.” …
As they climbed the stairs to the nursery, Alice asked her mother, “Why should rank make you different? Aunt Georgiana is a Lady with a capital ‘l’, but she does not command everyone about like Lady Catherine.”
“Some people, usually those who do not feel very good about themselves in other areas, cling to their rank for solace. Your Aunt Georgiana is not so insecure that she need behave so.”
“Is it because she is only Lady Wyldor and not Lady Georgiana?”
“No. It has nothing to do with where she began in life and everything to do with how she chooses to conduct herself within it.”
|Kelly Reilly as Caroline Bingley|
Pride and Prejudice (2005)
I very much enjoyed supplying Caroline Bingley with a fitting fate, though it is only referenced in passing:
“Mother tells me Uncle Charles’s sister gave you a rather difficult time when you were all young and eligible.”
“Yes. Mrs. Lucas, Caroline Bingley as she was then, was quite persistent in her pursuit of me. It was exceedingly awkward, I can assure you.”
“I can only imagine,” he laughed.
“Here is something to think of: had I not been willing to endure the society of one friend’s vile sister, I might never have met your mother.”
I imagine the lady having eventually settled for the young Mr. Lucas only after alienating all her associates in town and finding herself less than welcome in her siblings’ homes. It seems an appropriate comedown for such an infuriating character, though I do think it is a rather kinder match than the one I endowed her with in my first book, First Impression: A Take of Less Pride and Prejudice (spoiler alert: I married her off to Wickham).
|The Bingleys in Pride and Prejudice 1995|
As envisioned by Austen, the Bingleys make their home on an estate within thirty miles of Pemberley, an easy distance with good roads, and the two families remain close and intimate. What Austen likely did not plan is the notion that, upon her husband’s death, Mrs. Bennet would also find this new estate a most convenient location in which to take up residence. In this last excerpt, we not only check in with all the aforementioned, but also several of the other characters I’ve reintroduced to you today. We also, thankfully, finally take our leave of Lady Catherine:
Due to their unexpected houseguest, the Bingleys and Mrs. Bennet did not depart Haverton until later than originally planned, finally arriving the very morning of the ball with word of Lady Catherine’s progress.
“Such a difficult patient I never met with before!” Mrs. Bennet remarked as soon as she was comfortably seated in the drawing room. “Thank goodness Jane has such a way with her, for I can do nothing that does not set her to hollering so loud as to shake the foundations, and very good foundations Haverton has, too.”
“I think the walls of Haverton will stand well beyond Lady Catherine’s time with us, Mother,” Bingley assured her, with a wink and smile at Jane and Elizabeth, who were sitting beside one another on the sofa opposite.
“Jane is a blessing,” Mrs. Bennet went on. “So patient and caring! It is a very good thing Lady Catherine broke her leg at Haverton and not Pemberley, for you would not handle her half so well, Lizzy.”
“I am sure I would not,” Elizabeth readily replied. “There are very few people who have the goodness of heart that allows them to maintain a sweet temper with a cantankerous charge.” She squeezed Jane’s hand. “My dear sister is one of them.”
“There is nothing I have done that anyone would not do,” said Jane modestly. “‘Tis easy to forgive a temper when one knows it springs from being in pain.”
“Well, as you are so peacefully resigned to her visit, I shall not feel guilty about being grateful she is your responsibility and not ours,” Elizabeth laughed.
“Who says we are peacefully resigned?” interjected Bingley.
“And she most certainly is your responsibility, Lizzy!” Mrs. Bennet went on. “She is your connection, and when this business of Ellie’s ball is over and done with, I think you ought to come to Haverton and take over her care.”
“That is not necessary, Mama,” Jane said. “Let Lizzy have this time with her family. Lady Catherine is no great burden.”
“Perhaps I can return with you and be some help,” said Mary. “John can manage without me for a while.”
“Harrumph!” said Mrs. Bennet. “I don’t see how it is your responsibility any more than Jane’s!”
“As her rector of old, I feel a special, perhaps even sacred, responsibility to Lady Catherine de Bourgh, my former patroness. My dear Charlotte and I can undertake to return with you to Haverton,” Mr. Collins said to Bingley with a formal bow. “Longbourn stood firm and stout for many years under my predecessor’s guardianship. It can surely manage a few weeks in the hands of my boys.”
Noting the look of panic on Charles’s face, Charlotte quickly interjected, “You forget, my dear, your very important role in the community just now as we prepare for the summer festival. I do not think they should care to be without your guidance.”
Mr. Collins frowned. “Very true.” He turned back to Bingley. “I am afraid I spoke too hastily and must rescind my offer. I cannot be spared from Meryton at this time.”
“No apologies necessary,” he replied, relieved to be free of this additional encumbrance upon his household. “My sister often writes to me of your many contributions to the community.”
“I am sure she does,” smirked Charlotte, well versed as she was in Mrs. Lucas’s many complaints against Mr. Collins.
I realized in the course of writing this post that I quite unconsciously (and unconscionably) entire neglected the Gardiners in my story. My apologies to that good couple and their surely exemplarily children. They undoubtedly remain close to the Darcys and are frequent and welcome guests at Pemberley.
Thank you again, Maria, for allowing me to visit today and blab on, much longer than I had intended, about the many happenings in this new book. I’ve had a delightful time.
About the book
Twinkle, twinkle, amber cross! For a chain, it’s at a loss. Heavy links or simple loop, Do not dunk it in your soup.
The worlds of beloved authors collide as Fitzwilliam Darcy, Jane Austen’s immortal hero, finds himself thrust into the topsy-turvy world of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. Many years have passed since Elizabeth Bennet became mistress of Pemberley, and the Darcys’ six children stand testament to their enduring love. As the eldest prepare to enter the world, Alice, the youngest and most intrepid of the brood, ensures that life at Pemberley never grows dull. Her curious mind and penchant for mischief often prove trying, but never more so than when her father follows her down a mysterious rabbit hole, disrupting his orderly world in ways never before imagined. A treat for the young and the old, Darcy in Wonderland is both an adventure and homage to two of literature’s greatest minds.
“Ever since reading First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice in 2010 I have been impressed with Alexa Adams’s knack for emulating Jane Austen’s witty and ironic voice. I love her narrative asides, sharp social commentary, and humorous observations.” - Austenesque Reviews