P&P Missing Scenes: Mr. Darcy’s Library by Diana Birchall — 27 Comments

  1. You’re right, Imelda – I was using an antiquated form of the word, but looking it up, I see it is way TOO antiquated to be accurate! See:

    “The modern form batiste or baptiste comes from a popular merge with the surname Baptiste, pronounced Batisse, as indicated by the use of the expressions thoile batiche (1499) and toile de baptiste (1536) for the same fabric.”

    They must surely have been spelling it batiste by Austen’s day. I’m gonna have to haul down the O.E.D. and check for sure!

  2. What a wonderful chapter this was for bibliophiles, romantics, and romantic bibliophiles. The pictures were also amazing. I loved the folding steps/chair, and I almost swooned over the pictures of those lovely old books. When I was a child, one of my mother’s elderly friends gave her many books from her library when she was breaking up house to move into an apartment. I still remember those beautiful leather bound volumes. A large section of the books was travelogues, and I was fascinated with them. Those books were all quite old then, and out of date, but I treasured them for years. I can almost remember the smell and feel of those lovely old books from the late nineteenth century. Thank you for a link to some cherished memories, and for a wonderful vignette of two beloved characters. I was starting to get P&P weary, but this reeled me back in!

    • Delighted to bits that you liked it, Mari. The folding steps are at Saltram, which I visited last summer, and some of the book pictures I took there; others are from Wimpole House. Much too little has been written about the magnificent library at Pemberley, but you HAVE to believe that it played a very big part in Mr. Darcy’s mind and heart. I wish I could have researched more – I got the ideas for the books from reading the catalogue of books Byron sold before he left England; I figured he and Darcy would have many of the same!

  3. So very lovely. I can just imagine Elizabeth’s pique because the weather was too poor for an eagerly anticipated walk. Darcy knows just how to bring her out of her mood…..books in the library. I love the chair that doubles as steps. Whoever thought of that? No steps in sight, but you can still reach the top shelves! Thank you for the pictures and this beautiful interlude.

  4. Thank you, Deborah! Wouldn’t you think the library was a centerpiece of Pemberley, and it would mean a lot to both Darcy and Elizabeth? Yet we seldom write about it. It’s a subject I’d love to explore much more, but only scratched the surface. As I said above, the stair/step is at Saltram, clever object that it is!

    • Monica, thank you, that means a lot to me! But Mr. Darcy’s Library seems to be an almost untouched subject in Jane Austen variation and sequel writing, and I have only explored it very slightly, considering how rich it is.

    • Thank you, Constance – I could have gone on and on, it was so much fun to think about the library at Pemberley. And I’m sure Mary will love a visit there!

  5. That was such a lovely episode. I have always imagined this couple sharing books. Your descriptions make it come alive. That chair is magnificent. I wonder what the value is? Obviously an antique. I am sure they don’t make that type of furniture any longer. I see those sliding ladders in large libraries now. A large home near us had such installed in their library. We don’t have a separate library so could not use such.

    Thank you for this on a Monday morning in Pennsylvania.

    • I’m happy you enjoyed it, Sheila! I always love it in Jane Austen’s novels when the characters talk about books, don’t you? So it’s fun to imagine a little more book talk. Yes, that chair/stair at Saltram House in Devonshire must be very old. Saltram was featured in the 1995 Sense and Sensibility as “Norland,” so it’s very Jane Austen!

  6. So lovely. The Darcys sharing a quiet moment introducing Elizabeth to the Pemberley library is not a scene often found in JAFF. I wonder, why does she call him Darcy instead of using his first name or a variation of it? I find it very odd.

    • Thanks, Kathy – I too want to read more about books and libraries in JAFF! As for Elizabeth calling him “Darcy,” I thought a lot about it and remembered that Jane Austen often calls him simply that (example: “Miss Bingley’s eyes were instantly turned towards Darcy”). Of course Elizabeth when speaking to him always calls him “Mr. Darcy,” but I dared to imagine she might relax the formality in private. Under no circumstances would I ever have her or anyone else call him “Fitzwilliam,” as is commonly done in JAFF; I think it is wrong. He is never, ever called that in P & P, except when formally signing a letter. Then I noticed a detail – LADY CATHERINE addresses her two nephews as “Fitzwilliam” and “Darcy”! (“How does Georgiana get on, Darcy?”) It’s true she’s rude, but then again she is FAMILY. So now that Elizabeth is family, I’m letting her use that level of intimate-speak. I may be wrong, but I think there’s a case for it, and I feel happier myself having Elizabeth call him Darcy than Fitzwilliam! (Lady Catherine calls Colonel Fitzwilliam, “Fitzwilliam”, which seems also to show that Mr. Darcy is not called that by family. (When she says ” “What is that you are saying, Fitzwilliam?” she is talking to the COLONEL! So yes, I’m pretty sure I’m right! 🙂

  7. This chapter brought me out of an anxious mood and made me smile. Oh, to sit and read in Pemberley’s library when the weather does not allow walks in the gardens–what felicity!!

    And that dear library-step chair! Although it does not look overly comfortable;I would prefer a sofa before the fire as well–along with all of the amazing books to choose from! Chaucer is one of my favorites; I studied all his work in graduate school where I specialized in medieval literature. 🙂

    Such a wonderful, wonderful missing scene, Diana–I really needed Darcy and Elizabeth’s love and light this morning. Thank you!!

    Cassandra 🙂

    • Cassandra, thank you so much! No one who has written a story could ever wish anything better than to hear that it brightened up somebody’s mood. How wonderful is that! You sure brightened up mine.

  8. Wonderful! It conjured up all the amazing libraries I’ve seen photos of and glimpsed in movies. To me, the most beautiful room in any house! The photos of the bookshelves with the wonderful leaded glass almost made me swoon, as well as the very clever step-chair. Some variant of that design is seen today, but nothing so elegant! I loved this chapter, and both Elizabeth and Darcy’s delight in the books.

  9. I am so glad you liked it, Julie – I love libraries too, and what could be more wonderful than Mr. Darcy’s Library, I beg to ask?! I figured a few people would like a visit – I just wish I knew more about the libraries of great gentlemen and how they were used. I hope Saltram doesn’t mind my including the chair, but I was very charmed by it, too!

  10. I enjoyed it and liked the bringing in of new-fangled comfy things for the rich in the era. But ever being difficult I wonder what they really would have read. I grant Radcliffe, but I think it might have been modern (18th century) history or travel books or polemics — or maybe periodicals like the Sherbourne Mercury. Yes the latest novel too. People loved memoirs by this time — say about the revolution, something from Switzerland?


    • Thanks, Ellen – I would LOVE to know what they really read, wouldn’t you? I should have consulted you beforehand in more depth, I suppose, but I guess I got enough books into what is just a little scene. You know, every time I finish one of these I just want to go on and on…

      Well, about memoirs and Switzerland – I did have Lizzy mention Wollstonecraft’s letters from Sweden! 🙂

  11. I imagine that library smelled wonderful. I love the smell of books. It must have been a real treat to have a library like that in a place as cold and gloomy as Derbyshire can be in the winter. Lovely scene!

  12. I never thought about the library’s smell, TLeighF, but I bet it did smell lovely…I guess I’d imagine it smelling like the log fire, mmm. I wish we could all visit Pemberley’s library! Thanks for commenting.

  13. Really enjoyable! The library sounds divine — all those books bound with beautiful covers, I’m guessing better made than many of the books today! I especially liked the description of all the many comfortable places to sit in the large room and curl up with a book. I would have also thought that the Pemberley library could also have been a solitary, kind of lonely place for Darcy before Elizabeth was there to share it with him. Thank you!

    • That’s it exactly, Kathy. Remember how Mr. Bingley says, “I do not know a more awful object than Darcy, on particular occasions, and in particular places; at his own house especially, and of a Sunday evening, when he has nothing to do.” Jane Austen is putting out a banner to signal the reader: “There is a man who needs to get married, and to an entertaining wife!” So what was once the scene of his loneliness and boredom, the library, is now the scene of his cozy readings and chats and cuddlings with his wife. The library at Pemberley is truly the heart of the house, and of Darcy – or anyway it is at the heart of his intellect, which is most important to this man. So that’s why I’m surprised there hasn’t been more study or fictionalizing about Darcy’s library…the heart of his life. Glad you enjoyed the story, thanks for commenting.

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