Several months ago, when author Shannon Winslow was still in the research phase of her just-released novel, she sat down with one of the principle subjects of her story. As it turned out, the lady was less that fully cooperative.
Winslow: Thank you for meeting with me, Lady Catherine. As you know, I am writing a novel entitled The Ladies of Rosings Park, and so naturally I wanted to speak to you, among others – to get your opinions and some background information. You understand.
LC: You are wise to come to me first, for I can save you a great deal of time. You shall find there is no need to speak to anybody else afterwards, because I can tell you what you need to know. I am very well informed.
Winslow: I don’t doubt that for a minute.
LC: Now, to begin with, I will set you straight about your title. What do you mean by ‘the ladies’ of Rosings Park, as if there were more than one? I am the mistress here. Certainly your title should more correctly be The Lady of Rosings Park or perhaps Portrait of an Illustrious Lady. That has a nice ring to it.
Winslow: I appreciate the suggestions, your ladyship, but I intended the title to include all the ladies who reside here – your daughter, Mrs. Jenkinson, and even Mrs. Collins at the parsonage in addition to yourself. I thought it would give a fuller picture to hear a variety of viewpoints.
LC: Indeed? I must say, Ms. Winslow, that you have a very strange notion of what constitutes a lady! Anne certainly qualifies, although I cannot imagine what she could tell you that I could not. Mrs. Jenkinson may have been considered a lady at one time, but her status has sunk very far since then. As for Mrs. Collins… Well, she is a very good sort of woman, but hardly on the same plane as my daughter and myself.
Winslow: I have no wish to quibble with you about class and titles.
LC: I should think not. After all, you admit to being an American. How could you possible know anything about class?
Winslow: Yes, well, shall we move on? It now occurs to me that I might very well have needed a different title for my book if your husband were still with us: The Ladies and Gentleman of Rosings Park perhaps. How I would have loved to interview Sir Lewis. Still, I plan to include him as much as possible – his relationship with yourself and your daughter, what influence his passing had on the course of events. That sort of thing. Can you give me any preliminary insights?
LC: The subject you propose, Ms. Winslow, is something I never speak of, so let that be an end to it. Besides, there is nothing worth telling there.
Winslow: I understand, your ladyship, and you have my deepest sympathies. Obviously your loss still grieves you a great deal. You must have loved your husband very much.
LC: My good woman, you may fish for information all you like, but I will not bite, however clever you think you are. The subject, as I said, is closed.
Winslow: As you wish. Perhaps Miss de Bourgh or Mrs. Jenkinson will be more forthcoming, more comfortable talking about Sir Lewis. I’ll see if either of them has anything to say.
LC: You will do nothing of the kind! I absolutely forbid it. Do I make myself clear?
Winslow: Perfectly, Lady Catherine. Let me just make a note of that. ‘No story. Nothing to tell.’ If you say so. Although I can’t help thinking of that line – from Hamlet, I believe. ‘Methinks the lady doth protest too much.’
LC: For your information, the line is ‘The lady doth protest too much, methinks.’ You shall not use Shakespeare against me, Ms. Winslow. Now move on to something else or this interview is over.
Winslow: Very well. I stand corrected. I can see I am no match for you, Lady Catherine. But what about Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Now there is a young lady with a sharp wit! Pretty too. No doubt she has turned many a gentleman’s head. I know she is only just recently arrived in the neighborhood, but have you not seen it for yourself?
LC: I can hardly be troubled to concern myself with such trivialities. Real gentlemen – exemplary young men such as my nephews Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam – will not be taken in by a pretty face or clever conversation. They may be amused with a girl like Miss Bennet for a time, but they will remember to act rationally in the end. They owe it to themselves and to their families to marry their equals or betters. Good breeding will win out; it always does. Mark my words.
Winslow: Good breeding and money, perhaps. From my research, I know that is considered a winning combination. How lucky for Miss de Bourgh that she has both. She will undoubtedly marry very well too. ‘Born to be a duchess,’ I have heard it said.
LC: You must have been speaking to Mr. Collins. I cannot fault him for thinking so, but we shall be satisfied with something less in rank and superior in every other way.
Winslow: You refer to Mr. Darcy, unless I miss my guess. I had heard that there was some kind of informal pact made years ago between you and your sister, but you can’t really consider such an antiquated sort of arrangement binding, can you? You are living in nineteenth century, after all, and according to my observations, young people tend to follow their hearts.
LC: I do not know what standards may apply where you come from, Ms. Winslow, but here young people understand how to do their duty. They accept that their parents know what is best for them.
Winslow: Do you believe that is always the case – that parents always make the best decisions for their children when it comes to matrimony?
LC: Of course! My daughter will marry Mr. Darcy, just as her mother and his arranged long ago. I expect they will be very happy together.
Winslow: As happy as you were with Sir Lewis de Bourgh, perhaps. That was an arranged marriage too, wasn’t it?
LC: Yes, but that is not… Oh, never mind. You thought I would not notice if you came sneaking in the back door, but I am wise to your tactics, Ms. Winslow. [Lady Catherine rises from her chair.] I warned you that any more attempts at extracting information on that subject from me would terminate this interview, and I am a woman of my word. Good day to you!
ABOUT THE BOOK
At first glance, Anne de Bourgh doesn’t seem a promising heroine. But beneath that quiet exterior, there’s a lively mind at work, imagining how one day she will escape her poor health and her mother’s domination to find love and a life worth living.
Now Anne finally gets the chance to speak her mind. But Lady Catherine demands equal time. Even Charlotte Collins and Mrs. Jenkinson get into the act. Chapter by chapter, these ladies of
take turns telling the tale from the moment Elizabeth Bennet sets foot in
Hunsford, changing everything. Is Anne heartbroken or relieved to discover Mr.
Darcy will never marry her? As an heiress, even a sickly one, she must have
other suitors. Does Lady Catherine gracefully accept the defeat of her original
plan or keep conniving? Will Anne’s health ever improve? And what really
happened to her father? Rosings Park
Complete in itself, this work expands The Darcys of Pemberley series laterally, beginning during the timeline of Pride and Prejudice and carrying beyond to reveal the rest of Anne’s story.
When a young lady is to be a heroine… something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way. (Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey)