A few years ago, I read Persuasion for the first time. I had seen both film adaptations several times and knew the story rather well. I think I saw the humanity of Wentworth more in the films. I have Facebook posts chronicling my falling in love with him in the book. However, as we came to the end, the wheels came off the wagon.
I think it’s totally understandable that a man could be attracted to another lady in the presence of his former betrothed. Of course, the fact that he falls back in love with the same woman that broke his heart before is what makes the love story so sigh-worthy. I could quite forgive Captain Wentworth of attraction to another lady before coming back to Anne. I’m the same woman who can forgive Edmund Betram for loving Mary Crawford before realizing Fanny is the better woman.
However, what I stumble over is the much-beloved letter from Wentworth. He admits he’s never loved anyone else. We can assume that he never had a relationship with another lady that went as far as it did with Louisa Musgrove, as he was honor-bound to her and it was only her choice to marry another that kept Wentworth free for Anne. That says he intentionally went out of his way to feel more–or pretend to feel more–with Louisa simply because Anne was present. There’s a word for that.
This is Merriam-Webster’s definition of Resentment:
: a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury
It’s not sweet or cute or swoon-worthy. Wentworth wished ill will toward Anne. Well, fine. He was mad and, dare I say it, entitled. But then we have this issue:
Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant.
Captain Wentworth is telling Anne that he never stopped loving her, even when he was resentful. How is that love?
If he expressed only his loyalty, I would be fine. He had never courted another lady, if he had never considered marriage again since her then maybe he would have a point (but that smacks more of bitterness and fear than enduring love). However, he writes his love never died. There is plenty of proof in the letter and the rest of the book to argue that he wasn’t aware of his enduring love until after the debacle with Louisa. What bothers me, though, is that in this moment when he is addressing his poor actions, he says “it’s okay because I always loved you.” Perhaps this is him attempting to find some silver lining to his actions. Maybe he means fate or the luck on which his career has always rested has smiled upon him once again and despite his jerky actions toward Anne, she still loves him, and despite his trying to push her out of his mind, he still loves her. However, I am left dissatisfied since it is Jane Austen and I feel as though she can articulate it better and I don’t find Wentworth socially and romantically inept like say Darcy or Knightley.
He’s not the only one I have a problem with at the end of the book. I take more issue with Anne. However, that will be for another post.
What do you think? Can you wish someone ill and still love them? Can you be full of resentment and also full of love? Could it be, the Austen hero everyone thinks of as the emblem for mature and lasting love was actually a manipulative jerk who wouldn’t apologize for it?
Today is my fourteenth wedding anniversary. My husband and I are soon coming up on a time when we have been married longer than we were ever single. We got married at 19. We were utter babies and very few dollars to our name. However, we had a lot of love and commitment and I’m still convinced nothing would have been easier if we had waited.
Both of us were forced to grow up quick. I was the oldest of four kids and the child of a single mother. We lived in utter poverty and would have had nothing without public assistance, churches, and the unfailing aid of friends. My mother cleaned houses and after awhile there were a few businesses and doctor’s offices she cleaned in the evenings. I often made dinners, did homework help, baths, and bedtime for my siblings. I had known instability and insecurity in life. I had seen real ugliness. And I knew real happiness when it was in front of me.
My husband’s mother died when he was eight years old. His grieving father focused on work to cope. My sister in law is sixteen years older than my husband and had just started a family of her own. My husband’s aunts lived far away. Eventually, my father in law remarried for a few years. Before that marriage and again after it, my husband was often alone and raising himself. I can’t say I knew any other sixteen year old boys who could cook their own dinner.
From our age, you would probably assume we were high school sweethearts, but we weren’t. We did go to the same high school. Well, I moved to it when I was fifteen. He was in band and I was in chorus, so we were in the same “orbit” but didn’t have any classes together that first year. The next year, I have one vague memory of him as the band and chorus classes had a group trip to Universal Studios in Florida.
At the end of that year, however, there was an event which I clearly recall. There was a banquet for the fine arts classes at the end of term. The graduating seniors gave what they called superlatives to the junior class. Just like one would find in a yearbook, there were things like “Most likely to…” My husband won an award for “most likely to quit the football team to rejoin the band.” In a world where it seemed everyone would rather be the jock than the nerd, my interest was piqued. However, I was in my Willoughby Phase and summer was starting. It was just something that interested me, nothing that I thought about romantically.
When school started again, my Willoughby had proved himself which would have usually made me ripe for some rebound interest. Instead, my personal life came to an absolute head as my brother’s drug addiction (he was only fifteen) came crashing down around us. I remember my senior year of high school as one in which I tried so hard to keep up the appearance that everything was fine and under control while it felt like my world was ending. I took two AP level classes that year–which was a lot for my school. We only offered five (one was available junior year only) and it was strongly discouraged to take more than one. There were times when I had been up all night as my brother raged in the house and I had to walk to the local 7-11 to get the police because it was faster than calling 911. There was even a time when I couldn’t take it anymore and walked several miles to my mom’s friend’s house. Lizzy Bennet’s three miles in muddy petticoats has nothing on me in high heel boots in below freezing weather with a thin coat and it being after midnight. I finished the school year by staying at that friend’s house. It was arranged for me to visit family in Florida for the summer. I couldn’t wait to start college in the fall. I just wanted to start my adult life. Romance was the last thing on my mind.
Throughout the year, I started to notice the man who became my husband seemed interested in me. However, he hardly ever spoke to me. Oh, I have a few memories. There was the time he told me that he (and a friend!! Mustn’t forget the wingman who was at his side) voted me prettiest eyes and smile for the yearbook. He ran away before I could do so much as gape. There was the time he donated blood for part of our AP Government class. He’s deathly afraid of needles. By the end of the day, as most of us music nerds hung out in the band room after school, he was looking pretty pale. I offered him my leftover lunch which seemed to perk him up. Oh, there was the hug he asked for on Senior Night of marching band (I was in the band too by then). I remember the odd feeling of jealousy as I watched a HAREM (yes, an actual harem) of girls come his locks into these ridiculous puffy balls (and not like the now “cool” man bun) to fit under his marching band hat. Most importantly, there was the time he left his friends to come and talk to me as I sat alone on a bench waiting for my mother. I was reading A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks. He happily let me gab about the book.
As time drew on, I thought I could tell he was interested in me. I even journaled about it in my AP English notebook. I wasn’t sure if I should make the first move or if I should even go out with him. I wasn’t sure I wanted anything serious. I wasn’t sure if he was anything like the type that I was interested in (thank heavens not since Willoughbys aren’t really a good type to have). The teacher encouraged me to just try one date. It seems so basic now! Hahaha. Oh to be seventeen again!
I started trying to drop hints. I would go to him for homework help. I would talk about action movies playing and ask if he was interested in seeing them. Then there was my very own Mr. Collins who would just not take a hint. Saying no to an underclassman asking me to prom (when he couldn’t attend on his own) would probably mean I’m also not interested in dating him in any other fashion, right? However, Mr. Collins was a bit persistent and I can’t blame him for that. I wasn’t ever afraid of him, but I did see the possibility to ask a big, tall guy to walk me to class. It worked like a charm in getting Mr. Collins to leave me alone. However, the big, tall guy still didn’t ask me out. Sigh.
Finally, he asked me to prom. Unfortunately, I had other plans and had to say no. He ran away before I could say more. I agonized all weekend long. When we returned to school, I invited him to a church banquet that was held in honor of the graduating seniors each year. That year, I was the only senior, so it was really just for me. He said yes. A few days later, we planned to talk on the phone to arrange things. He never called. Then I tried calling him and got no answer. I tried several times over the weekend. I thought he lost interest! I was spitting mad by the time I saw him again. It turns out, his grandfather had died. Thank goodness I had minded my tongue.
We finally talked on the phone and I mentioned upcoming plans with a friend to go to a place with mini golf, go karts, batting cages, and some arcade games. He asked if he could come. In hindsight, I should have probably run that by my friend who suddenly became the third wheel. Oops! He beat the pants off us in mini golf and air hockey, although he did try to make it even by getting on his knees. He’s over a foot taller than me, so that made us nearly even height.
A few days later was our official first date. You know…if it can be a first date surrounded by 250 people and nearly all of them strangers to him. Now, I appreciate how nervous he must have been but was clueless to it then. After the banquet, a friend had an “after party” sort of thing at her house. However, we mostly split up between our friends. More oops. However, we did get a private good bye (just a platonic hug–or at least platonic on my side).
The next day, I flew to Florida for the summer. He called me every day. He emailed me several times a day. He even called me the day he got his wisdom teeth cut out and he was not supposed to be talking. We talked about everything. I learned he believed in ghosts. His favorite color was hunter green. One of his favorite subjects in history was the Titanic. He knew far more about the American Civil War than our teacher did. He opened my eyes to a different point of view on many things.
It was lovely to get to know him long distance. By the time I returned to Virginia in mid-August, though, I was ready to get to know him in person. We went on a date or two before I was invited back to his house. There was a moment where I was on his porch while he had gone inside for a moment. He came back out and called my name and I swear, the world stopped for a minute. I think I knew I was in love then. It was like I wanted to hear him say my name for the rest of my life.
Oh, but I couldn’t admit it was love then. I couldn’t TRUST. We were inseprable from about that time onward, but I held out. He was ready to say the big L word long before me. I told him I had been hurt before. I told him I couldn’t trust. Bless the man for being patient with me. Whenever he wanted to say he loved me but knew I wasn’t ready to hear it, he would just squeeze my hand.
I suppose most would say I got over that fear pretty fast. By the end of September I was willing to say I loved him and by the middle of November we were officially engaged. At the time, though, it felt like forever as I tried to work past my reasons for distrust.
His family totally disapproved of the engagement and me in particular. What annoyed us the most is the very people who made him become an adult long before his years, suddenly wanted to treat him like a child. I suppose I understand it all more now. I surely hope my children are not mature enough to get married at 19. I hope they haven’t had to be adults in children’s bodies for years by the time they reach a legal age.
Our thirteen month engagement was not without difficulties. Neither has our fourteen year marriage. I thought I loved him when I walked down that aisle. I thought I knew we would handle anything life threw at us and that I could always count on him. Now, I truly know I can. He has seen me at my absolute worst. He has been the calm in my storm. He has held me when I was lonely and broken, wiped my tears when I cried whether he understood them or not. I could describe the ways I have born his ego or moods but it is nothing compared to what he has done for me.
When we married, I thought he was Mr. Darcy. Now, I see shades of Mr. Knightley. He is far wiser than me. I see bits of Mr. Tilney. He can always make me laugh. He is my Colonel Brandon after Willoughby broke my heart. There are pieces of Edward Ferrars and his quiet reserve. Like Edmund, he has been my champion when others have not understood or respected me. Just as Captain Wentworth proved his enduring love for Anne, so has my husband proven his love for me.
I’m a very blessed lady and know that I have the best man out there. Neither one of us are perfect, but we make it work. Of all the love stories I have written, my favorite is my own. My perfect Jane Austen hero is my husband, a combination of all of them.
It’s not until Chapter Six that the Dashwood ladies leave Norland, their home of about ten years, and make their way in the world without the benefit of a husband and father. In terms of story structuring, this is the inciting moment. The women leave and nothing will ever be the same again. Every story needs such a moment.
This is a little later than most modern-day writers structure their stories. In the first five chapters of Sense and Sensibility, we meet the two protagonists, their mother, younger sister, half-brother, and sister-in-law. Oh, and Elinor falls in love. That’s not a small thing or anything.
However, it is not the loss of their father that makes the girls lose their innocence. Neither is it Elinor falling in love. No, it is this permanent estrangement from the home which symbolizes the last time they were happy, content, and care-free. Every thought must be different now and not because their father is dead or they’re in love. I don’t mean to say these things didn’t affect them–how could they not? I only mean to point out that it is the severing from this relationship to a house that is the turning point.
It’s worth noting that the move to Barton Park comes through Mrs. Dashwood’s family. They are now to be like sojourners in a land where Dashwood means nothing. For the very first sentence we read is that the Dashwoods had long been settled in Sussex and they are now to live in Essex. In a world where having the right name could open doors for you, it means something that these women have no protector in truth and their name offers none in his stead. This should shame John Dashwood more than anything.
While all the departing women felt the loss of Norland, it is Marianne who displays her emotions the most clearly.
“Dear, dear Norland!” said Marianne, as she wandered alone before the house, on the last evening of their being there; “when shall I cease to regret you!—when learn to feel a home elsewhere!—Oh! happy house, could you know what I suffer in now viewing you from this spot, from whence, perhaps, I may view you no more!—And you, ye well-known trees!—but you will continue the same. No leaf will decay because we are removed, nor any branch become motionless although we can observe you no longer!—No; you will continue the same; unconscious of the pleasure or the regret you occasion, and insensible of any change in those who walk under your shade!—But who will remain to enjoy you?”
In addition to being the inciting moment, this passage shows very clearly Marianne’s issue. She is not crying that she will miss memories of family. She is not saying she will miss the comforts of a large house and all the securities and luxuries that went with it. She is not complaining about the difficulty in going so far or expressing anxiety or fear of the unknown. No, she will miss trees! She knows she ought to miss Norland and its grounds are worthy of praise but somewhere along the way has gotten it in her head that it is merely the leaves and branches she will miss. All the while she congratulates herself on openly displaying her emotions and ardently feeling them at some spiritual plane in which Elinor cannot comprehend.
Let me translate that for you. She is faking it. The sorts of things she is trying to espouse were popular in the era. Jane Austen wrote on the cusp of the Romantic Era (characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical.) William Wordsworth might have written about wandering as lonely as a cloud or rejoicing at a field of daffodils but I do not think he missed all genuine human emotion at the loss of connection with people in preference to nature.
Trust me, I’ve moved a lot. I’ve hardly ever missed a house or a tree as much as I missed the people or memories in the house. Now, I’m aware as anybody that some people just feel different than others. The irony, however, is that Marianne holds herself as an authority on feelings. If others don’t feel as she does they must be heartless. Keep telling yourself that, Mar. Does it make sense to ask others to feel about trees the way you do? Does it not make more sense that they would miss their father, their home for ten years, good memories? Something tangible about human interaction?
Now, I don’t hate Marianne. I am merely pointing out what her fatal flaw is. It is as though she takes a page from Mr. Darcy’s book. She was given good principles–the Romantic works are not wrong in and of themselves. She borrows from Emma–better to be without wits than to misapply them! Like Catherine Morland, she has allowed literature to over-influence her. It gets even worse under the direction of Willoughby much like Catherine’s understand suffers at the hand of Isabella.
Why all this focus on Marianne at the story’s inciting moment? Well, Elinor doesn’t really evolve as a character. She moves just an inch or two but it is Marianne that has the real transformation. Elinor’s romantic conflict is presented earlier in the story and seems to resolve last but it is Marianne who is in real danger of become a victim to sensationalism. In future posts, I will delve more into the story structure but if you know the story, I bet you can guess what each highlight from the three-act structure above is.
Halloween is in just a few days, so it seems fitting to make this Tuesday Trivia about the book in which Jane Austen satirized gothic novels. Let me know if you knew any of the factoids below about Northanger Abbey!
Northanger Abbey was published posthumously in 1817 in a two-volume set with Persuasion.
It was completed for publication in 1803, making it her first work that she attempted to publish.
Jane Austen was 28 when this work was originally completed.
It was originally titled Susan.
Although purchased for publication, it was never printed until after her death.
The publisher resold the book to Austen’s brother, Henry, in 1816 for the same price it was originally sold.
Austen made changes in 1816-1817, including renaming the heroine.
The working title during this time was Catherine.
The 1817 set with Persuasion was the first time any of her works bore Jane Austen’s name.
I had previously read and remembered these tidbits but I had forgotten that it was the first work bearing Jane Austen’s name. Was any of this new information to you?
I bet you know a few of Jane Austen’s opening lines. Critics will tell you the first sentence of a novel is crucial, even in a world where readers are browsing in the book stores and picking up books at random less and less. Today’s online buyer will typically select the genre and category before they start browsing. Then the cover and the blurb will entice. Some buy without reading a sample, but many others do. Experts say that the purpose of the first sentence is to convince a reader to read the second and then the third and so on.
I would argue that reading the first sentence is important to begin the emotional journey the reader has with the characters. In the 21st century, characters is what sells a book, not the setting or theme.
How does Jane Austen hold up to that demand?
Sense and Sensibility: The family of Dashwood had been long settled in Sussex.
Pride and Prejudice: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
Mansfield Park: About thirty years ago Miss Maria Ward, of Huntingdon, with only seven thousand pounds, had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, of Mansfield Park, in the county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised to the rank of a baronet’s lady, with all the comforts and consequences of an handsome house and large income.
Emma: Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.
Persuasion: Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect, by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents; there any unwelcome sensations, arising from domestic affairs changed naturally into pity and contempt as he turned over the almost endless creations of the last century; and there, if every other leaf were powerless, he could read his own history with an interest which never failed.
Northanger Abbey: No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine.
Lady Susan: MY DEAR BROTHER,—I can no longer refuse myself the pleasure of profiting by your kind invitation when we last parted of spending some weeks with you at Churchhill, and, therefore, if quite convenient to you and Mrs. Vernon to receive me at present, I shall hope within a few days to be introduced to a sister whom I have so long desired to be acquainted with.
Well, if you can see that very few of Austen’s books begin with anything that connects to a character, let alone the protagonist, what is the purpose of her opening lines?
Sense and Sensibility rapidly opens with the death of the patriarch and the history of wills which leaves the females in such dire straits. We know they will soon have to leave Norland–unless their brother asks them to stay. Elinor then meets and falls in love with Edward and there’s a shred of hope that the distress of losing their father will lead to an unexpected blessing. The real turning point in the story happens when they leave Norland. There’s no going back. Life is going to be nothing like it was before. In this case, the opening sentence sets up the old world and lets us know that it is likely to forever change. Austen suggests the conflict of the story (how do Elinor and Marianne make their way in the world once they are no longer privileged and sheltered at Norland?) from the very beginning.
Again, in Pride and Prejudice, we get the crux of the conflict immediately. Whoever thinks any wealthy unmarried man must be interested in marriage is full of both pride and prejudice. Suggesting it is a universal truth tells us that our characters will be working in a world where this is the basic assumption. We can only expect that any sensible character we would bother liking would reject such a ludicrous idea. However, what will be the ramifications for rejecting such a societal truth? In the end, the interesting fact is that while Elizabeth Bennet wasn’t exactly husband hunting, did she ever consider that a man might be tired of the game? Did Mr. Darcy ever consider that not every lady was playing it as well? Both of them claim to reject the “truth” presented at the beginning and yet they unintentionally prove it.
Mansfield Park gets trickier. Is there a conflict introduced in the first line? No. Is a character introduced? Yes, but she ends up being no one of consequence to the story. In fact, she’s arguably the character with the least impact. The thought of that never ceases to delight me. What is Jane Austen attempting to tell the reader with this beginning sentence? One, it was unlikely that this Maria Ward would obtain the status she did. Very few people live as an island. No, they have relations. These lower relations are now thrust into a baronet’s orbit. We must read the second sentence to gain more information.
She had two sisters to be benefited by her elevation; and such of their acquaintance as thought Miss Ward and Miss Frances quite as handsome as Miss Maria, did not scruple to predict their marrying with almost equal advantage.
Ah. Yes, the relations we previously guessed at are sisters. Sisters that are just as beautiful as the first. Did they marry well? If they did not what was it about Maria Ward that gave her advantage? What became of these sisters? We are told this whole thing happened about thirty years ago so what does all of this mean about the present? It is not exactly a gripping opening but does the job in making the reader ask questions and need to read to find the answers.
Jane Austen has famously claimed in a letter that no one will like Emma Woodhouse as a heroine except herself. Here we do meet a character. However, we are told she has nothing to vex her. She seems to have every blessing in life. Let us recall that the typical heroine of the era was more like Fanny Price–innocent but at a disadvantage in some way. The Dashwood sisters and Elizabeth Bennet both suffered financially compared to those that would judge and demean them. Now, we have a woman with every reason for joy and contentment. We can expect she will either have all of that taken away or should be a paragon of virtue with an endlessly charitable heart so we won’t hate her. However, that’s not the Emma Woodhouse we get. Instead, we are told in the fifth sentence that Emma has real evils. She gets her own way and thinks well of herself. The reader can see these are unlikable traits and the added description of pretending as though they are great flaws prejudices the reader even more, in my opinion. What will make the reader continue? Curiosity and a desire for the lady to get her just desserts? Kind hopefulness that even a rich lady can learn to have a more charitable view of the world? We are told what to think about Emma…and yet we are not so certain. The uncertainty impels us to continue. This fits all the more as some literary critics consider Emma the precursor to a mystery novel. The central question in that framework is “Who can Emma marry?” whereas the opening sentence makes us wonder “Who is Emma really?” People are always more than the sum of their appearances to others.
In Persuasion, we meet Sir Walter Elliot and how well he thinks of his family legacy. Personally, reading the sarcasm about the baronetage hooked me as a reader. I love a book that begins by poking fun of someone or something. I dearly love a laugh! As the chapter continues, we learn that Sir Walter’s family lacks a crucial thing: an heir of his body. We also learn the youngest daughter has married but the two elder ones have not. We then learn that the family is in debt and will need to leave this ancestral home and pride of place. While we do not understand what the conflict of the story is yet, we know the cause of it is this misplaced pride. Ah, but the family is going through a change. Surely they will amend their views and whatever it has cost the heroine will be reversed! Do you see where Austen sneaks in the fact that it won’t be as simple as that? Cleverly, by exposing Sir Walter as so ridiculous in caring about his position in the world, Austen tells the reader that merely reversing the family’s position will not fix the problem for any sensible person doesn’t care about that. It won’t be enough for someone to see that the heroine’s family must no longer have their pride–even if they were capable of letting it go–for that was not the root of the problem on the other side. She slyly tells us there is a dual conflict. Once we get to know Captain Wentworth, it’s easy to see how that’s the case.
I would not be the first to point out that the traditional heroine of a gothic novel looks more like Eleanor Tilney than Catherine Morland. Austen laughingly points this out right away. Well, if Catherine is not the traditional heroine then who is she? Like Emma, we are introduced to the heroine right away and told what to think about her. It is no wonder that Austen’s working title for this story was Susan and then Catherine. Unlike Emma, we are given a sympathetic view of Catherine. We can’t help but want her to do well in life, even if she doesn’t so desperately deserve it as other heroines do. I think in this way, Northanger Abbey fits as the most modern story. Today’s books quickly introduce the protagonist and convinces us why we should care about him or her. As the story continues, we can see how Mr. Tilney has what Catherine lacks in life and how she can lift his spirits and encourage his sense of humor while preventing him from falling into cynicism.
Lady Susan‘s opening line immediately exposes her selfish and manipulative way. The reader instantly wonders how this family will survive her visit and what this woman will continue to attempt to gain from it.
I have postulated that present-day readers prefer to learn about one of the protagonists . Experts have claimed that the opening line makes the reader continue reading. In some cases, Austen’s lines expose the conflict (S&S, P&P, P). In others, she introduces a character (Emma, NA, P, LS). Another possibility is exposing the setting or theme of the book (S&S, P, LS). Mansfield Park is Jane Austen’s least popular book and by examining the opening line, we might see why. Although it compels the reader to continue to make sense of the importance of the first line it does not introduce a character we can have an emotional reaction to. It does not present a conflict or theme. It’s worth noting that many critics think Mansfield Park is Austen’s greatest work but I would argue that it is also her most subtle. The indifferent beginning continues throughout the work and the true meaning of Austen’s themes, the conflict, the very reason why Fanny is the heroine and not one of her cousins or Mary Crawford all remain mostly hidden in the same way someone may miss the importance of the book’s opening line.
In conclusion, opening lines are pretty crucial for a book. However, a book may be well-written without having a strong opening–if that serves the author’s intent. I like to think that Jane Austen was not surprised when fewer people enjoyed MP than they did her other works. I imagine she knew not many people would see all her deeper meanings and she wanted them to remain hidden as she opened the story in such a way. On the other hand, to become a popular book, you must have a memorable opening. Critics may think Mansfield Park is the superior story but more readers will know Pride and Prejudice‘s opening line.
I was watching the 2009 production of Emma the other day when I realized Pride and Prejudice is the only Jane Austen story in which the primary male and female characters do not go on an excursion together. Of course, in each scenario there are annoying people amongst them. It made me wonder what it would be like for the Bennets and the Bingley group to go on an outing together. Could you imagine Caroline having to sit in a carriage with Lydia for hours?
Thus I began researching to find a suitable place in Hertfordshire to send our beloved Pride and Prejudice characters. However, I also wanted to post about it for today’s theme. I knew it had to be “wacky.” After a few hours, I found Scott’s Grotto in Ware. It’s about 4 miles from Hertford, which I tend to use as my base for Meryton. I’ve read somewhere, now lost to my memory, that it’s a possible inspiration for Meryton.
Scott’s Grotto is not just any grotto. And for those that don’t know, a grotto is a cave. Think Ariel’s grotto from the Little Mermaid. I am a bit biased on the topic of grottoes as I grew up in a town called Grottoes and, if I may say, we have the best caverns in the US. If you ever find yourself in Virginia, be sure to stop by Grand Caverns.
Back to Scott’s Grotto. It’s the largest in England. Built into the chalk hillside, it has six chambers and is 65 feet long and 30 feet below the surface. There are connecting passages and the area is complete with air and light shafts. Its walls are covered with sea shells, colored glass, and stones. It was made by John Scott, an 18th century Quaker who also wrote poetry and owned the property of Amwell House in which the grotto is located. Scott also had other romantic items in his garden, including a gazebo. From 1779 to 1787, Scott recorded 3,000 visitors to his grotto. Famed writer Samuel Johnson visited in 1773 and called it a “fairy hall.”
Upon Scott’s death in 1783, the estate was inherited by his only daughter, Maria. She married a wealthy Quaker named John Hooper. Unfortunately, when she died in 1863 the property was divided up. The grotto was repaired in 1990s. Both the house and the estate are under management of the Hertford Regional College.
So…how will I work this grotto into a story? You’ll just have to come back and see! 😀