Before there was a single man in possession of a good fortune at Netherfield, there was a single man in want of a wife in London. His name was Wickham and he was bent on marrying himself into as much wealth as he might contrive, preferably to the detriment of the man who had destroyed all his prospects in life – the man known as Darcy of Pemberley. In Pride and Prejudice, everything hinges on a letter which Mr. Darcy gives Elizabeth – a letter setting forth all his dealings with Mr. Wickham. These facts, supplied by Austen herself, are at the heart of Follies Past. The novel begins at Pemberley, at Christmas, almost a year before the opening of Pride and Prejudice. It follows young Georgiana Darcy to London, to Ramsgate and to the brink of a perilous elopement. Upon opening the pages of Follies Past, readers will begin to feel as though it was penned by the masterful hand of Jane Austen herself. Crafted with all the skill of a trained linguist, this jaunty excursion into a flawless Regency England gives readers all the joys, the wit, and the drama of their beloved Pride and Prejudice. Existing characters are just as Austen wrote them, and the story, the manners, even the syntax all conform to her standards and idioms. As well as some exciting new characters and a sweet and touching new love story, readers will discover delightful surprises from more minor characters such as Anne de Bourgh and Mrs. Younge. The prefect prequel to England’s favourite book, this is a novel for true Austen fans.
Mr. Darcy ushered his guests directly into the parlour, where the rest of the party was assembled in the large but cozy room. Immediately upon their entering, Mr. Darcy’s formidable aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh called out to them.
“Bring them here,” she demanded. “I must have the honour of first introductions, followed by Anne, and then Georgiana, and then the Colonel. I do not approve of the relaxing of formal obligations, you know, and I see no reason to deviate from them in this case.”
Lady Catherine was seated by the fire and showed no intention of rising to greet anyone, though she was not prevented by age or infirmity from doing so. Her figure was tall and straight, and though weathered by age and indignation, her features were still strong, and retained some of the beauty of her youth.
Mr. Darcy replied to her tersely. “There has never been any suggestion of doing otherwise, Aunt.” He directed the new arrivals towards Lady Catherine. Lady Catherine’s imposing stare betrayed more consciousness of superior rank than any real superiority of mind, manners or taste. She found nothing in Caroline Bingley to inspire either alarm or praise. Her dress and her hair were suitable, but no more than suitable. She was nothing to her Ladyship’s own daughter and Lady Catherine proceeded to disregard her for the remainder of her stay, excepting of course those moments when her Ladyship’s conversation required either an audience or an object.
“Anne must be next,” she instructed, gesturing towards her daughter, who was seated beside her. Mr. Darcy forced a smile and turned to a demonstrably unimposing creature, almost hidden behind Lady Catherine, whom he introduced as his cousin, Miss Anne De Bourgh. Anne did not get up from her seat.
“And then Georgiana, and then the Colonel,” Lady Catherine continued loudly to direct the proceedings to the obvious irritation of her host. On the introduction of Georgiana, who was only fourteen and shy even for her age, Caroline was overjoyed. Although she had not initially factored the girl into her plans, she immediately saw the advantages of an intimate acquaintance with her. As Mr. Darcy’s ward and beloved sister, here was just the vehicle Caroline wanted to contrive her way into his heart — if she were not already firmly established there. Georgiana did not seem a difficult conquest. The elder girl mistook the purity of the younger girl’s heart for a ready and undiscerning affection, and the hesitancy in Georgiana’s manner led Caroline to believe that her opinions could be easily dictated. She did not account for the powers of perception and discernment which Georgiana possessed.
When Caroline was presented to her, Georgiana did not instantly dislike her, but was quick to note the condescending nature and forced intimacy of their first conversation. When Colonel Fitzwilliam, Mr. Darcy’s cousin, had been introduced, Caroline returned to Georgiana. “I am so very pleased finally to make your acquaintance, Miss Darcy,” Caroline began. “I have been longing for the pleasure of it more than you know. Ever since I heard that Mr. Darcy had a sister and that I should have the privilege of spending four weeks in her gracious company, I have been most anxious to make your acquaintance. As you may be aware, I have a sister from whom I am usually inseparable and she could not join us at this time. Therefore, I shall depend upon you for companionship these two fortnights, and I very much hope I shall not make too tedious a job of it.”
Here Lady Catherine could not suppress a remark, as, in fact, she never could. “If you had all come to Rosings for Christmas as I suggested,” she chided, “there would be plenty of young ladies in the neighbourhood to keep any of you from loneliness. Here in the North, however, you do not have the benefit of society so much as we do in the South.”
Caroline, agape at this insult against the hospitality of her host, looked about the room and noted the wide eyes and open mouths of several other guests. She turned to Mr. Darcy to see his reply, but none was forthcoming. It was long since he had heard anything his aunt said. Her conversation had something of diminishing returns. The more there was of it, the less value it had, and it was always in ample sufficiency, several times over. Caroline, thinking to make herself agreeable with an obsequious reply, curtseyed in Lady Catherine’s direction and was opening her mouth to speak when she was spared the task by the grace of her young new acquaintance. Taking her brother’s lead, as she did in all matters of propriety, Georgiana left her aunt to her own musings and responded instead to Caroline, with a humility that was lost on her guest.
“Miss Bingley, it is I who am grateful of your company,” said Georgiana softly. “You know, my brother is always thinking of what most pleases me, and I have never known him to be wrong in anything. Therefore, I trust your presence here will bring me the greatest possible joy. I only hope I shall acquit myself tolerably of my duties as hostess. May I begin by showing you to your room? Your journey must have fatigued you, and I have taken the liberty of having some small refreshment laid out for you there.” Caroline tilted her head in acquiescence, and the two girls disappeared together down the corridor. The three men retired to the library, and Miss de Bourgh and her mother continued their elevated silence beside the fire.”
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About the Author
Melanie Kerr studied linguistics, English and theatre at the University of British Columbia and law at the University of Alberta. She is a regular attendee at meetings of her local chapter of JASNA, and has numerous times arranged for large groups of Canadians to join her in attending the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England. Kerr is a reckless lover of clotted cream, a staunch defender of the semi-colon and a fierce opponent of unpleasant music. She wooed her current and only husband with false promises of skill at word games and eternally good hair. She lives in Edmonton, where she raises her two sons, sews her own Regency costumes, runs a Jane Austen Fun Club, blogs on all things old and English, endeavours to take over the world and occasionally practices law. Follies Past is her first novel.