Lizzy Bennet’s Diary continues below! I hope you are enjoying these extracts and thank you to everyone who has commented on the story so far.
If you’ve missed the other chapters, you can find them here:
There is also a discussion between myself and Janet Taylor on More Agreeably Engaged this week over how the Diary came about and how Janet came up with the covers! You can read it here.
Lizzy Bennet’s Diary
Extracts from the Journals of Miss Elizabeth Bennet
Longbourn, the 18th day of December
Mama continues to lament the loss of Mr Collins as a potential suitor, and has renewed her oft-repeated tirade over the unfairness of the entail. Meanwhile, Papa says he is well satisfied; he had long considered Charlotte one of the most sensible women of his acquaintance, and to see her now revealed as more foolish than his wife brings him no small level of gratification.
His humour has never been less to my liking. Though I knew Charlotte’s view of matrimony was not my own, I struggle yet with her decision to accept the hand of my cousin and can derive no amusement from this.
I fear for her peace of mind as she anticipates such a union, yet I doubt she shares my anxiety. There has been little opportunity for us to meet in recent days, and none without the presence of my cousin also, yet when we do, she appears content – perhaps even more so, for I suspect she is perfectly happy in her choice.
Longbourn, the 5th day of January
The Christmas period has passed, yet the air remains dry despite its coldness, and I have been able to partake of the season’s delights during my daily walks.
A new year has now begun, and with it has ended Mr Wickham’s marked preference for my company, for he has turned his attentions to Mary King. I bear this disappointment with fortitude and believe Lydia and Kitty feel his desertion more sorely than I.
On advising my Aunt Gardiner, she expressed some relief over this development and went so far as to question his delicacy in such a marked change when Miss King has so recently inherited. For myself, I do not believe it a want of delicacy but a want of fortune – if a lack of funds makes him unwise to court me, then surely he shows remarkable good sense in transferring his interest to someone in circumstances to the contrary? This, of course, satisfies my vanity as much as it does his purse!
I am, however, reassured my heart was but lightly touched, for I am not despondent. I begin to wonder if I shall ever fall in love; if someone as agreeable and handsome as Mr Wickham did not prevail, what hope is there for me?
Longbourn, the 13th day of January
Charlotte married Mr Collins last Thursday and they are gone today into Kent where they will reside at Hunsford Parsonage. She shall be greatly missed, and as she has been petitioning me most fervently to write often, I believe the sentiment to be returned.
Though our friendship has been somewhat strained these past weeks, I detected an anxiety in her parting words which hinted at the need for some constancy as she settles into her new situation, and out of fondness for what has gone before and a desire for her well-being, I am committed to continuing the acquaintance.
Jane continues at our aunt and uncle’s home in London. After much deliberation and gentle persuasion, she finally made a call upon Miss Bingley, and whilst she was greeted civilly enough, Jane hints there was something lacking in warmth of manner, but believes it may be the result of calling at an awkward hour.
Miss Bingley claimed she could not entertain her for long as Miss Darcy was due to arrive; of Mr Bingley she saw nothing, but Jane hopes when Miss Bingley returns the visit, she may bring news of him, if not the man himself to pay his respects.
This is most unfortunate. I begin to fear the sister will outwit the brother if fate does not take a hand. How I wish I were with Jane to aid her through this – she says little, but I believe she is feeling it acutely.
Mr Wickham’s interest in Miss King may soon be challenged, for Lydia returned from town earlier in great distress – the regiment, originally billeted to Meryton for the foreseeable future, is moving its encampment to Brighton in the Spring.
Longbourn, the 3rd day of February
Jane’s most recent letter brought little of cheer. It was some days before Miss Bingley troubled herself to return the call in Gracechurch Street – alone – and Jane admits it was not a success. Her manner was cold and reserved, and she stayed but ten minutes, claiming Mr Bingley was much occupied with D and his sister.
Upon taking her leave, there was no indication she wished a continuance of the friendship; and thus, Jane has seen neither sight nor sound of Mr Bingley and concludes his interest in her has waned and the acquaintance to be at an end.
How she bears this I know not, for I have only her letters to judge from – Aunt Gardiner is discretion itself, but reading between the lines I suspect Jane is not as animated as she would commonly be in Town, nor as content as her customary disposition dictates.
This affects me sorely. I do not believe Mr Bingley is aware of Jane’s presence there, nor do I consider him disinterested, but I can think of no solution to this dilemma. If his sister is so against the acquaintance and as scheming as I suspect, Jane is not her equal, innocent of guile as she is. Only by accident will Jane’s being there be revealed.
Longbourn, the 1st day of March
As of yesterday, the Regiment is gone – the loss of so many new acquaintance quite distresses Mama, as it does Kitty and Lydia; only Mary seems to relish the return to our former quiet way of living. Papa keeps to his library more than ever in his attempts to avoid Mama’s lamenting over lost opportunities, and I? I walk and walk for miles every day, keen to escape, though from what I know not.
Apparently, so Lydia informs me, Miss King has been removed to a relative in the north though we do not know the reason behind this.
I did see Mr Wickham before he departed for Brighton and was aware of some revival of his former interest – but I was not swayed in the assessment of my feelings for him. He will, however, always remain in my memory as a most pleasing acquaintance, whose company and conversations I have taken much enjoyment from.
I have today received another letter from Charlotte, where she repeats her petition of my waiting upon her at Hunsford. I am becoming more accustomed to the scheme; the days have become monotonous. My antipathy for Mr Collins has mellowed in his absence, and I am anxious to be in Charlotte’s company once more and see how she fares in the life she has chosen.
Hunsford, the 10th day of March
I am at last installed at Hunsford Parsonage. I passed an uneventful journey from Hertfordshire to Kent, stopping for refreshment at a coaching inn near Bromley, and arriving here in the early afternoon.
Charlotte looks well and seems most content with her new circumstances – indeed, it is a pleasant house, and the grounds are charming. Mr Collins is much as I remember him – his marrying one of the most level headed women in England may one day have an effect upon him, but it is clearly too soon for such hopes to be answered.
Charlotte’s small parlour is both homely and, above all things, private in situation, being located at the rear of the house, and I see clearly why she chose it. Mr Collins spends much of his time either writing sermons, sitting by a window affording a clear view of the road passing by the parsonage, or out in his garden, usually under his wife’s persuasion.
It appears it is one of his chief occupations to report to his wife all the comings and goings of the neighbourhood, but none more so than should Anne de Bourgh pass by in her phaeton, or even Lady Catherine herself in her carriage.
Hunsford, the 24th day of March
We are invited to Rosings Park to dine this evening – an honour I perceive I am to be most grateful for, even if my attire is somewhat lacking by Lady Catherine’s high standards. My finest dress remains sadly creased, so I shall trust to hope our host’s eyesight remains unharmed by the prospect of me in my poor second best.
I can hear Mr Collins hurrying us along, so I must lay down my pen. I doubt I will have much to record of the evening ahead, for I am sure I am too lowly to be of any interest to such a great lady, and therefore expect to participate little in the general conversation.
Hunsford, the 24th day of March… continued
I am perplexed to own I have passed a far more absorbing evening than anticipated, and not least of the reasons was the unexpected company, for D (of all people) is staying at Rosings as a guest of his aunt.
Doubtless the displeasure for D was the greater – he must surely have thought he had looked his last upon my mundane features when he escaped Hertfordshire! As for myself, my initial surprise was sufficient I almost addressed him as ‘D’ to his face.
He is accompanied by one Colonel Fitzwilliam, a cousin, I understand, and a very charming man, which is more than can be said of our hostess. Lady Catherine, for all her wealth and position, is sorely lacking in civility. Whilst I have little enough respect in general for Mr Collins, I find Lady Catherine’s condescending tone and manner towards him – and Charlotte also – unnecessary and impolite.
Rosings Park is a grand property; as we approached it from Hunsford, Mr Collins – whose store of compliments has yet to be depleted – was in raptures over its grandeur, the windows being the recipient of most of his praise until we reached the drawing room, whereby the splendour of the fireplace took precedence. For myself, I found it overly decorative and as far from a home as possible, with an excess of furniture and dark murals emphasising the oppressive air.
I suspect the intent of the over-ornamented interior is to intimidate, and Mr Collins seemed suitably cowed by its dimensions as he presented himself to his patroness, his posture so awkward as he greeted her, it was hard to discern his bow from a curtsey!
How shall I describe Lady Catherine? She is very grand in appearance, with her gown made of the finest satin and her fine jewels, and her air and countenance prove her to be much as described by Mr Wickham: she holds herself in high esteem, is proud and clearly considered our party as inferior company.
She could easily intimidate by merely raising a brow or pursing her thin lips; to be certain, she has a most imperious stare! As it was, I managed to maintain my composure, more fascinated by her precarious nest of a hairstyle, from which I half expected a bird to poke its beak.
Miss de Bourgh is pale and quiet. She bears no physical resemblance to her mother and must therefore favour her father’s side. As he has already passed away, I can only assume she inherited her poor health from him also. (To be certain, Lady Catherine gives one the impression illness would never dare venture an acquaintance with her.) Miss de Bourgh entered little into the conversation, exchanging a mere pleasantry with Charlotte and thereafter directing her few remaining words and many coughs to her companion, Mrs Jenkinson.
Our company was tolerated for a short while before being ushered into the dining room, an equally over-dressed and darkly intimidating space, no less for the abundance of uniformed footmen, for I declare there must have been one allocated to every seat!
At first, I congratulated myself upon my choice of placement – I could not have been further from D’s (or his aunt’s) company – but regrettably the lady had other ideas, and to my discomfort I soon found myself seated beside the gentleman. Then, it occurred to me he must also be irritated by the change in placement, and henceforth I derived more satisfaction from the alteration.
To my surprise, D actually initiated some conversation, and I took the opportunity of raising Jane’s visit to London, knowing full well he had not seen her, but hopeful of ascertaining some news of his friend, but then we were silenced by Lady Catherine’s voice.
Her manners are questionable, her rude interruption followed by a most brusque examination of the accomplishments of my sisters and myself. She wished to determine what talents we possessed and, bearing in mind D’s opinion on the subject, I refused to give him the satisfaction of prevarication and openly owned how few we had!
My amusement when she called Mama a slave to our education was hard to suppress, but when she moved on to criticising my sisters and I for all being out and demanded to know my age, my patience had run its course; my response had the effect of silencing her, and I was able at last to turn my attention to my cold soup.
After our meal, we returned to the drawing room, and as Lady Catherine held court with her nephews, I amused myself with studying the cages of exotic birds in one corner of the room. There were species there known for their ability to form words, and I wondered if they had been trained to compliment her ladyship in the absence of her curate!
Lady Catherine herself called me from such speculation, and I was thereafter obliged, much against my will, to perform at the instrument (and on such a beautiful pianoforte, though little used, I suspect). I do wonder if their lack of musical ability precludes the de Bourgh ladies from that short list of accomplished women known to D.
I shall not abuse these pages by claiming to have played well, or even competently. My performance was little other than perfunctory, but as no one professed any interest in relieving me, I persevered for what remained of the evening and can only hope there are no repercussions upon my listeners’ ear drums on the morrow.
D and his cousin, the Colonel, joined me for a short time, and a brief discussion ensued over the former’s unwillingness to participate in the dance at the Meryton assembly. D claims his lack of talent in making polite conversation with strangers prevents him from seeking new acquaintance (and, it would appear, enjoying himself).
However, my poor display this evening reminds me I do not practice what I preach. My recommendation to him of practicing the art succeeded in silencing him and sending him off – but I am fortunate he did not have the presence of mind to point out, ought I to follow my own counsel, my playing might be all the more bearable to hear.
All this besides, I found the Colonel to be an agreeable and good-natured man, and one whom I should not be sorry to know more of. Lady Catherine and her daughter make for an interesting study in character, and D – well, much as I dislike the man, I must be honest and own his presence does enhance what was becoming a rather mundane visit. I am certain we shall find plenty to differ upon in the coming days, and as such I relish my next opportunity to be disagreeable in D’s company.
Hunsford, the 30th day of March
Life has settled into a pattern. We see little enough of Mr Collins, what with his parish work and keeping watch for the ladies of Rosings. If perchance an opportunity to bow, scrape, and proffer his compliments has not arisen by mid-morning, he sets off to walk to Rosings to pay the same. Lady Catherine, so Charlotte tells me, calls upon them at Hunsford periodically, where she will dish out advice on whatever occupation they are currently engaged upon and find fault with as much as is possible in the short time she is there. Charlotte maintains her ladyship is a very attentive neighbour; I consider her meddlesome and interfering.
I had the misfortune to meet with D in the Park again. Lady Catherine has kindly permitted me to walk there should I wish, and my favourite place is an open grove bordering the parkland, a nicely sheltered path beyond the lady’s scrutiny. I chose to make my preference for this small part of the estate known to D, assuming it would secure my solitude; as such, I was rather surprised to see him there on more than one occasion. Moreover, I was as much displeased by discerning his approach earlier as by his decision to turn and accompany me. I can only assume his manners overruled his inclination – fortunately, before we had taken many paces, Colonel Fitzwilliam joined us and his presence was never more welcome, for D uttered no more than two words the entire length of the ensuing ten minute walk.
Hunsford, the 2nd day of April
I have received a further letter from Jane, who is soon to return home. Charlotte is gone to the village with Mr Collins, and as there is no time like the present, I will fetch my letter writing materials directly.
Jane’s letter is complete – though not without some little delay – and the servant has taken it away.
Barely had I penned her name when D appeared – unannounced and seemingly in a hurry over something or other.
I confess I have never spent a more mystifying and awkward five minutes in my life. He had little to impart, was clearly ill at ease and mangled a perfectly good pair of gloves almost beyond recognition.
Had Charlotte not made a fortuitous return, I know not how the discourse, if one could call it such, may have proceeded… oh! I see now! I do believe that D was actually… but surely not? Could he truly have been attempting the art of practising conversation?
He must be desperate for someone to practice upon if he chose me as his object, though with sense, I can see he would make little headway if he used Miss de Bourgh. She would perhaps be better for practicing the art of silence upon, and in that he is fully versed and without need of exercise.
Hunsford, the 8th day of April
On the morrow, we attend church for the Easter service. Though this will not be my first taste of Mr Collins’ talent for praising our Lord, I suspect he intends to be particularly fulsome in his delivery of a lengthy sermon, one of adequate solemnity for such a significant occasion. To be certain, he has practiced in his study most assiduously this evening and for many hours! My dear Charlotte, who has already perfected the art of discretion in her marriage, has advised me to secure a good night’s rest, and I detect this to be her way of ensuring I remain alert and in control of all my faculties at the appointed time!
To be continued next week in Chapter Five, when Lizzy Bennet’s Diary moves to a regular posting slot on Sundays going forward.
All images of Darcy and Elizabeth have been produced by the lovely Janet Taylor of JT Originals, as have the two ‘covers’ for the story.