As promised, here is part II of Crash Course: Pride and Prejudice!
As promised, here is part II of Crash Course: Pride and Prejudice!
(Ed.- I am beyond pleased to present the serial of the story A Singular Couple written by A Lady™. Jane meets the Angelus’ while in Bath and well, their friendship goes in a direction most unexpected. If you’re a fan of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, well, you can only guess where this goes. Check in every Thursday for a new chapter!)
August 20, 1805
Saint George Tavern, Batheaston, England
To the Master of Aurelius, Frankfurt, Germany
If you replied to my last letter at Bath, I have not received it. We are temporarily lodged at the most miserable little inn removed up the river from that town, awaiting our servants with the luggage so that we may continue on to Chippenham by daybreak and then we shall head by coach to Reading and our long, dreary way back to London. I so enjoyed Bath! Ignore the nay-sayers, it is not a wit less glamorous than its heyday. Our rooms on the Crescent had a commanding view over the pleasant town. There were balls and recitals almost every night. And the food! Rich, naïve, abundant and easily missed. (Though I did not care for the sulfur taint of the restorative waters everyone drinks.)
I know you’re waiting for me to tell you why we have suddenly departed, and are eager to hear that it is all Angelus’ fault. This conflict between the two men I hold most dear grieves me, Master. And moreso does it grieve me to give fodder to your side of the fire. But what is done is done!
Angelus, as you know, is fond of his projects, and in Bath he fastened upon a middle-class miss with dark, intelligent eyes and modest dress. When a few simple enquiries revealed that she had a large and devoted family, I begged Angelus off. I was not about to risk my comfortable holiday for some Clergyman’s family.
You can imagine how little the girl’s father being clergy dissuaded Angelus. He eagerly asked after all her family, no doubt hoping to uncover a nun or at least a choir-boy among her near relations. It seemed there was nothing to it but to arrange a believable ‘accident’ to befall her, and so I proposed a jaunt into the country to scrabble up and down hills. The young lady, a Miss Jane Austen, is fond of walks and had the excellent taste to take to me right away. I carefully arranged a trip south, toward the nearest rough country, where we were assured pretty prospects and dangerous drops.
That settled, I set about securing myself in her affections and her mother’s approval so she would be easily allowed to leave with us. Though the poor dear is approaching 30, I did my best to intimate I could find her a husband. I even tried to instruct her in beauty. Lord knows I passed for half her age when I was last healthy and alive. It’s all a matter of perception and good dressing. The girl, alas, turns charmingly scarlet whenever I suggest the slightest application of paint. She is quite pretty enough, but blind to it. The odds are not in a girls’ favor, these days. So few men to go around! She would surely not be a maid still if she had grown up in my native Virginia, where ladies were rare and men full of the passions of the frontier.
How can I describe a woman’s heart to you, dear Master? I arranged everything as a gift to my dear boy, but unforeseen circumstance changed everything. I actually became fond of Miss Austen.
At first I only found her refreshingly competent and intelligent. She was as interested as I am in clothes and fashion, and her experience as an amateur dressmaker meant she could talk on these subjects in a manner equal to my extensive experience. Then, as we visited her family, I saw her hide some small pieces of paper as we entered the drawing room. There are few things I love as much as a good secret, though I was prepared to face the disappointing evidence of a spinsterish romance. It was an easy matter to slip the papers out from under her blotter when attention was focused elsewhere. The dear thing was working on a novel! Revising something she called “Elinor and Maryanne”. What I read of it was quite good, though Angelus regards himself as the literary one and felt it was “just woman’s concerns”. I daresay you would say so as well, but how either of you, who are too much alike to ever admit it, could enjoy reading as a hobby and stick only to books that raise tedious questions like “What is death?” is beyond me. I rather like Miss Austen’s approach of exploring the answer rather than the question. I cornered the dear girl and forced her into giving us a reading of her latest work, which she has titled “The Watsons” and considers not very good. Artists! Always so fragile. And never my favorite meal, as you know. Give me a wealthy man, any day, thick and fat and on the decline from an active youth, with no strain of artistry anywhere in him.
But I digress. The full fact of the matter is we could not possibly dine on this young woman. Even if she were not a particular friend, nor a great artist, the fact is she has already one novel sold, and may have others in negotiation. You know the headaches associated with dining on anyone with any level of celebrity! But Angelus was not to be deterred. He started talking of turning the girl and having his very own “vampire novelist”.
Well, I had gone to all the trouble of arranging her abduction, it seemed the only thing to do was trust to providence, the girl’s charms, or Angelus being distracted. I added an abbey to our itinerary in hopes of the latter. Our driver was Wulfgar, and he certainly knows better than to obey Angelus when I tell him there is to be no “accident”. Well, I could see Angelus’ irritation rise as we passed promising drop-offs and dangerous turns without incident. “These roads are treacherous,” he said, more than once, glaring pointedly at Wulfgar’s back. Dear Miss Austen took it upon herself to reassure him! And she deftly turned the conversation to Angelus’ experiences of roads in France. What a charmer! Angelus is not too far removed from men in general when presented with an excuse to talk about himself.
Well, I knew he hadn’t accepted my judgment of the situation by half, but I did not except him to whisk Miss Austen from my side the minute we stepped down from the carriage! We were near a small promontory and hoped to walk to a nice view – Wulfgar had heard tell we could see as far as Glastonbury Tor. I turned to retrieve my reticule from the seat, and saw naught but Miss Austen’s skirts fluttering in the wind as Angelus carried her off! I had to fell him with a sharp kick to the flies of his deerskin trousers, and admonish him right in front of her. As it was, the poor woman nearly fell to her death from the hilltop as Angelus dropped her. And I do so hate to scold in front of others! Angelus knows this. A lady should present the image of being completely without temper to all but her family. I fear my reputation in Bath is utterly ruined. And Miss Austen, whose friendship could have provided me with years of joy and entertainment, ran off through the woods, securing her own transport back to town from a nearby sheep-farmer.
I did not even get to admire the view. Angelus is sleeping in the carriage-house today and I shall see to it he eats nothing but livestock until we are safely returned to London. I know you have enjoyed this account of his disappointment and punishment, and that gives me some small satisfaction. I have let him run too loose on the leash, up until now. Henceforth I will take a firm hand in his plans, and teach him how to arrange a proper “project”. Surely somewhere in England I can find a nice novice for him – some special girl with no great intellectual prospects. But not for a while yet. I shall not forgive him if Bath is even less fashionable by the time I can return there as my own daughter.
I will write again when we have more permanent lodgings.
With Warmest Regards,
While we may be overwhelmed with chocolate hearts, flowers, and romantic dinners, Valentine’s Day is not a modern holiday. The origins of the holiday stretch back nearly two millennia beginning with the Romans and the feast of Lupercalia, held from February 13 – 15, an often bloodied affair that included, debauchery, lawlessness, and women standing in line to get beaten since it was thought to produce fertility,
In the third century CE, it is believed Emperor Claudius II executed two men, a year apart, both named Valentine, on February 14. These men were later martyred by the Catholic church and February 14 was declared St. Valentine’s Day. Apparently, Pope Gelasius I decided to mix Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia, to get rid of the pagan influence, and the day became less about martyred saints and drunken lawlessness but of feasting, love, and fertility.
To muddle things up some, during the same period the Norman’s were celebrating their own feasts of love and fertility, Galentine’s Day. It is often thought what we know as modern Valentine’s Day stems from the juxtaposition of those two holidays.
Handmade Valentine’s Day cards were all the rage in the middle ages and even Chaucer mentions the holiday in his work. Fast forward hundreds of years and the time of Shakespeare, the giving and receiving of Valentine’s Day cards and token were in full effect and the holiday is made mention in Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet:
To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
By the time we get to the Georgian era, Valentine’s Day, in addition to the celebration of love, fertility, and matchmaking, also became a popular day for weddings. Baked goods and herbal tinctures were also produced to invoke love. Cards were also mass produced and given. According to a The Ipswich Journal article dated February 23, 1805:
On Valentine’s Day the General Two-penny Post Office received 80,000 letters – an increase from last year of 20,000. The amount of 80,000 letters is 686£ 13s 4d.
So what about Valentine’s Day and Jane Austen herself?
That’s the interesting thing. After much research, I could not find any quotes from any of her books directly mentioning the holiday nor any stories or tidbits how she celebrated the holiday, if at all. I would assume she and Cassandra, along with her brothers, probably participated in the sending and receiving cards. We know Jane had a long list of admirers and it would seem likely one of them sent her a card.
To be sure while there doesn’t seem to be hard evidence Jane participated in the holiday we do know she celebrated love and romance heavily through her books. Some of the quotes attributed to Jane on modern Valentine’s Day cards are taken such as
I could go on but I’m too busy swooning.
Fast forward a few decades later, and while Jane may seem a bit demure on the holiday, the Brontës most certainly was not.
“Give me my flesh and blood lover, and I’ll leave all the Sir Herberts and Valentines to you — if you can find them.” The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
A lovely story goes the Brontë sisters, in 1840, were all given valentines by William Weightman, a local clergyman, sending the cards anonymously, who gave the cards with individual poems not out of love but out of kindness and good nature. The sisters worked out who the card bearer was and wrote a collective poem back to Weightman. The exchange was repeated again in 1841 but there does not seem to be evidence of the sending and receiving of the cards after that. However, considering the sisters’ fiery nature, I would not be surprised if more cards were exchanged with other suitors.
While compared to Austen’s work, the work of the Brontës seems damn near pornographic. And like Austen’s work, they have produced some of the best quotes on love in the English language.
Happy Valentine’s Day and here’s to finding someone worth swooning over.
Crash Course is a YouTube channel of short videos, about 10 minutes each, that gives you, well, a crash course of a topic. Run by the brothers John Green (author of The Fault in Our Stars) and Hank Green (co-creator of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries) (and collectively as the Vlog Brothers), Crash Course is intended as a supplementary guide for middle-grade and high school students on a wide variety of topics from math and science to literature and the arts. (The Green brothers found via a recent survey 60-70% of their viewers were not in education or in school.)
Last week, the Green brothers released a Crash Course on Pride and Prejudice in two parts. The first part covering the story, Jane’s biography, and a brief history of the era. Part two will cover more in-depth topics such as the socioeconomics of being young, single, and female in the Regency era. What I really enjoyed about part one is it makes the novel accessible to those unfamiliar with Austen’s work as well as provides the history behind the novel which is often missing in the discussion.
Part one is available below and I’ll post part two once it becomes available!