The Cajun Cheesehead Chronicles
by Jack Caldwell
The Austen Interviews – An Interview with Colonel Fitzwilliam
[Originally posted 04/28/2011]
JACK CALDWELL – Hello, everyone—Jack Caldwell here. We all know that Fitzwilliam Darcy is Jane Austen’s ideal man and the readers’ favorite gentleman. For this edition of The Cajun Cheesehead Chronicles, I’m pleased to interview the second most desired gentleman in Pride and Prejudice—
(DOOR SLAMS, THE SOUND OF RUSHING FEET, AND A CHAIR BEING MOVED ACROSS THE FLOOR)
CHARLES BINGLEY – Good day to you! Forgive me for being behind my time.
JC – I’m sorry, Mr. Bingley, but you’re not scheduled for today.
CB – What is this? I understand this is the interview of the second most important male figure in Pride and Prejudice!
JC – That’s not quite correct. I’m interviewing the fans’ “other favorite gentleman.”
CB – It is not the same thing? Oh, Colonel Fitzwilliam—I did not see you there.
JC – Mr. Bingley, I’m sorry you came here for no reason, but I have to ask you to excuse us.
CB – But that means— Oh, I see. (SOUND OF CHAIR MOVING AGAIN) I see I am not needed here. Forgive me for taking up so much of your time. I shall return to my club. Good bye to you, Mr. Caldwell, Colonel Fitzwilliam. (FOOTSTEPS LEADING AWAY, THEN THE SOUND OF A DOOR CLOSING)
JC – Ahem, back to my introduction. I have with me today the second most desired gentleman in Pride and Prejudice. I know I don’t need to say it, but let’s have a warm Austen Authors welcome for Colonel Fitzwilliam.
COLONEL FITZWILLIAM – Thank you, Mr. Caldwell. I say, I do not believe Mr. Bingley took that well.
JC – He’ll get over it. Colonel Fitzwilliam, I’d ask you to call me Jack, but I can’t, as I don’t know your first name in return. What is it?
CF – I cannot tell you that, sir.
JC – And why not?
CF – Because Miss Jane Austen did not grace me with one.
JC – No, she didn’t. That didn’t stop various authors from bestowing one on you. Let’s check my notes. You’ve been named Christopher, Henry, and Edward, just for starters, but the most popular name seems to be Richard. Is there any you prefer?
CF – Not really.
JC – The reason I bring up the matter of your name is that you seem a bit of a cypher.
CF – Is that so?
JC – Yes, sir. Jane Austen described you thusly: About thirty, not handsome, but in person and address most truly the gentleman. He entered into conversation directly with the readiness and ease of a well-bred man, and talked very pleasantly. His manners were very much admired. He possessed an informed mind. Not much there, wouldn’t you say?
CF – Not handsome, you say? Oh, well. At least I have the manners to hold a young lady’s attention.
JC – True, but perhaps you have a reason. You seemed to enjoy Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s company.
CF – I did. She was pretty, and we enjoyed some very pleasant conversation.
JC – Were you in love with her?
CF – I cannot say. I could not be in any case, being the younger son of an earl. Younger sons cannot marry where they like.
JC – Unless they like women of fortune, which I think they very often do.
CF – Our habits of expense make us too dependent, and there are not many in my rank of life who can afford to marry without some attention to money.
JC – So you would have pursued Miss Elizabeth if she had been rich?
CF – Again, I cannot say. It is not my story to tell.
JC – Exactly my point. You know, for a favorite character in Pride and Prejudice, you don’t have any character.
CF – What was that? (STANDS) How dare you insult me!
JC – Sorry, that came out wrong. What I meant was that given the lack of information about you, I’m afraid you’re nothing but a plot device in P&P.
CF – (SITS DOWN) Pray, explain yourself.
JC – Certainly. You only exist to move the plot forward. Elizabeth must discover that Darcy did indeed separate Mr. Bingley from her sister, Jane. You did that on your walk in the park at Rosings. To be honest, you’re a bit of a gossip.
CF – I cannot deny it.
JC – You also serve a secondary function of, by your example, showing how Darcy’s manners were deficient.
CF – He was a bit of a stiff, if I may use a modern term.
JC – I’ve got no problem with that. So, in brief, you’re nothing but a loud-mouthed plot device.
CF – It seems that I am. And the point of all this?
JC – Well, Austen fans’ admiration of you is all out of proportion to the contribution you make to the story. Really, in the short term, you make things difficult for Elizabeth and Darcy. Yet, without your blabbing, Elizabeth may not have been angry enough to forget all good manners and let Darcy have it between the eyes. That, in turn, got him to write the letter explaining his actions. It’s the turning point in the novel.
But the way you’ve captured the fans’ imaginations—particularly the female fans—one would think you’re one of the heroes of P&P. You’ve become Colonel Stud-Muffin.
CF – I assume that is a good thing.
JC – It is. But I think I’ve come up with a reason. It’s the adaptations’ fault—particularly, the 1995 version with Anthony Calf. You’re way too young and good-looking in that one.
CF – Yes, I was. I was pleased, in any case.
JC – I think a better job in the looks department was done in the 2005 Keira Knightley version with Cornelius Booth. As for personality, I turn to the 1980 BBC mini-series and Desmond Adams.
CF – I see that the adaptations cannot decide in what branch of the army I serve. In the 1980 and 1995 versions, I wear a red coat, which could be anything, from infantry to cavalry. But in 2005, I am in Light Dragoon/Hussar blue. Also, in both 1980 and 2005, I am too much in uniform. I should be in civilian dress, unless I am on duty or at a formal occasion.
JC – So what are you, sir?
CF – I have no idea, but I am glad to be the unattached stud-muffin of Pride and Prejudice. Ha! Someone has to do it.
Wait a moment—did not Miss Bingley, in your last interview, state she was getting a stud-muffin in THE THREE COLONELS?
JC – Yep. You’re one of the stars.
CF – Thank you. But does that mean you couple me with Caroline Bingley?
JC – No. Caroline gets a totally new character—Colonel Sir John Buford.
CF – Oh. That is well.
JC – You get Anne de Bourgh.
CF – WHAT? That sickly little thing? She is even less sketched out in P&P than I am!
JC – Hold on a second. Here’s a copy of THE THREE COLONELS. Read a bit of Chapter 9 and tell me what you think.
(SILENCE AS COLONEL FITZWILLIAM READS)
CF – Hmm … Oh! She has improved! Very well, I approve.
JC – Thank you, Colonel Fitzwilliam. And thank all of you for reading this edition of—
CF – HOLD IT! You send me to Waterloo?
JC – Yes, it’s the plot of the book. Jane Austen’s fighting men go to war. As I was saying—
CF – But you are the author famous for killing leading characters!
JC – I have that reputation.
CF – Are you going to kill me? Give me back that book!
JC – Now, now. We must keep some surprises.
CF – Are you going to kill me off?
JC – Maybe, maybe not.
CF – Oh, God, I’m going to die, I just know it! (SOBS)
JC – Until next time, [That’s right HERE] I’m Jack Caldwell of The Cajun Cheesehead Chronicles. There, there, Colonel!