The July issue of The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Celebration here on My Jane Austen Book Club is dedicated to Lucy Steele. Lovely and talented writer Laurie Viera Rigler - Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict - has turned into a kind (and patient!) reporter and interviewer and met Lucy to ask her what we all always wanted to know.
For 200 years, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY's Lucy Steele has been universally acknowledged as the villain in the Elinor/Edward/Lucy love triangle…or is she? For the first time ever, Lucy has agreed to an exclusive interview in which she hopes to set the record straight.
LVR: Miss Steele, thank you for agreeing to do this interview.
LUCY: I am Miss Steele no more. I am Mrs. Robert Ferrars.
LVR: Sorry, Mrs. Ferrars. When you were still Miss Lucy Steele, you were secretly engaged to Edward Ferrars, your husband's brother, for four years. It was a long and difficult engagement, with Edward's prospects uncertain and the burden of secrecy great. Could you tell us why you stayed engaged all those years?
LUCY: Perhaps you do not understand my position. I was a dependent young lady without fortune or connections. It was bad enough that my sister Anne and I were already living off the charity of my uncle Pratt and our other friends. It would be worse to give up a prize catch like Edward. And let us be frank, Anne's chances of marrying were nil. It fell to me to secure our future.
LVR: Did you love Edward?
LUCY: La! What a question. I had no notion that anyone's impertinent curiosity could exceed my own.
LVR: Well, it is a fair question, Lucy. And you did agree to reveal all.
LUCY: Ah, well. We are as close as sisters already, an't we? And so here is what I say about love: It belongs to the romances of a circulating library, not to a girl with no portion and no prospects.
LVR: But how did you feel about Edward?
LUCY: Feel? I knew he would provide me a settled home, for I believed that his mother would never throw him off completely.
LVR: You haven't answered the question.
LUCY: He was pleasant enough when he wished to be, though he did have a tendency towards gloominess that was not very agreeable.
LVR: Not exactly the romantic picture you painted for Elinor. And so you did realize that he no longer loved you?
LUCY: I take back my words about us being as close as sisters, for no sister would be this cruel.
LVR: You mean crueler than leaving your own sister behind without seven shillings to her name while you ran off to get married?
LUCY: You should know better than to believe a word Anne says. Why, she likely squandered her money on a new pink gown, because Dr. Davies said he liked the color. Poor, stupid girl.
LVR: You did know that Edward no longer loved you, didn't you.
LUCY: You will persist in this! The only thing I knew is that the laws of honor forbade a man to break his engagement. If the man cried off, the gossips would whisper that perchance the lady was ruined. Tis a pity these conventions do not stand in your time.
LVR: Why did you torment Elinor by boasting of Edward's affections for you?
LUCY: I beg your pardon, but it was Elinor who tormented me, not the other way round. And why is it, I might ask, that it is always the woman who must be at fault?
LVR: I didn't say that—
LUCY: How would you feel if you had pledged the best years of your youth to a gentleman, only to hear that he was so marked in his preference for another that your own relations had made it a standing joke? Of course Sir John and Mrs. Jennings could not possibly know of my engagement, which is why I made it my business to acquaint the lady—Elinor, that is—with the secret I had never before breathed to a soul.
LVR: Aha! You have as much as admitted that you knew he loved Elinor.
LUCY: I admit nothing of the kind. How was I to know that all was not just the mistaken fancy of Sir John and Mrs. Jennings?
LVR: Then what about the letter you wrote Edward, informing him that you had gone off and married his own brother, Robert Ferrars?
LUCY: Ah, yes. No letter was ever more delightful to write.
LVR: Didn't you tell Edward, in that letter, and I quote: "I scorn to accept a hand while the heart was another's"?
LUCY: And you present evidence as if I was a prisoner in the dock. But you, madam, are no judge. If you will know, it was only when Robert Ferrars told me of his brother-in-law John Dashwood's belief that Edward loved Elinor that I knew it must be true. And thus I knew it was right to let Edward go.
LVR: That and the fact that Robert, not Edward, was now heir to the Ferrars fortune.
LUCY: So now I am not only the tormenter of Elinor, but a fortune hunter, too? And what was Edward but a deceptive scoundrel who made love to one lady whilst pledged to another? The former being his own sister's sister-in-law, and the other the niece of his tutor? Where is the honesty, the decency, the delicacy of feeling in that?
LVR: Most would admit that Edward's behavior makes him a somewhat troublesome hero.
LUCY: And so he is merely a "somewhat troublesome hero" while I am "artful and selfish"? Or, as Mrs. Jennings so kindly phrased it, a "worthless hussy"? I do believe this interview is at an end, madam.
Laurie Viera Rigler is the author of the time-swapping novels CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT and RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, which are available in North America (Plume), the UK (Bloomsbury), and Italy (Sperling & Kupfer). Her short story, INTOLERABLE STUPIDITY, will appear in the upcoming anthology of Austen-inspired fiction entitled JANE AUSTEN MADE ME DO IT (Ballantine). She can be found at her online home, janeaustenaddict.com, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
GIVEAWAY - Laurie is offering two copies of RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT to two winners. To enter, please post a comment here with your thoughts and don't forget to add your e-mail address. This giveaway is open internationally and ends July 31st.