Work in Progress: Jane Austen and Lord Byron, a play by Diana Birchall — 45 Comments

  1. I wouldn’t imagine that Jane will stay in the same room as Lord Byron and listen to his nonsense. I think they would talk about her characters and plots from her novels, his literary pursuits and poetry and works written by their contemporaries.

  2. Byron actually liked sensible women, it’s just that they were hard to find in the regular London circles. Did you mention the part where he invited her to dinner w/ de Stael and she turned him down? I imagine they would have found something they could detest together, the Regent was always handy for that sort of thing.

    • Yes, de Stael is elsewhere in the play, Mathilda! I’m sure they could have talked about a great many other things (including the Prince Regent) – if only they really had met. But…

  3. I would have pictured Jane not as prim but more forceful in her opinion. ( politely put of course )
    As for Byron, to me, he was spot on. I always pictured him as being forthright in speech but always in a genteel way.

    Will you have this work offered in a performance play or just for reading pleasure?

    Definitely interesting reading! Thanks for sharing

    • Thank you, Carol! I think the stuff he was saying made her clam up a bit. Well, I’ve had a few of my plays performed or read, with another coming up in the fall, but nobody’s asked for the Byron one. Maybe now they will. 🙂

    • Loren, it could have happened – they had the same publisher, a doctor in common, Henry Austen mingled with people who knew Byron, and they were even known to have been at the same art exhibit. So if it didn’t happen, it SHOULD have! At least I think so. 🙂

  4. I’ve actually read two other authors put Byron and Austen in the same story. Both portrayed Jane as intrepid enough to hear out anything Byron would say and him possessing something more than the flamboyant man he gave the public eye.

    Austen was an observer of people and their behaviors so I could definitely see her as absolutely fascinated by Byron. Just as Byron had the capacity to see that people wear facades and he would know after reading her books not to dismiss Austen out of hand. I could see him saying outrageous things just to provoke her into letting her true self out to play.

    Enjoyed your play excerpt, Diana!

    • Thank you, Sophia. Even if it didn’t happen, like you, I really think they would have been fascinated by each other. That’s why I couldn’t resist. I would be very grateful if you can remember titles of any stories you read about them both. I’d like to read them!

      • Here are the names of those books. Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron by Stephanie Barron (mystery). Jane Austen Bites Back by Michael Ford (Paranormal Modern trilogy) In the second book, they are a bit more than just acquainted and neither are human just to give fair warning. 😉

  5. Diana, your Byron is spot on in his inability to hear what he does not wish to hear! And his wife as Fanny Price! Perfection. As for Jane Austen – I find it hard to think of her as prim. She may say all the proper things in the appropriate situation, but from her letters, I suspect she was difficult to shock. I wish we could see her thoughts as well in your play!

    I wish I could be there for the performance. I hope you’ll have it videotaped.

    • Thank you, Abigail! I don’t see her as prim either, but I think she’d have handled this situation the way she did. How she talked or wrote of it within her family would be another story!

      I hope somebody will perform or read my Byron play sometime – that would be very cool!

  6. Diana, I truly enjoyed your snippet. I’d love to read the entire play when it’s finished, or better yet, see it performed. The idea of Mary and Henry Crawford doing the deed is something that has never, ever entered my mind. I don’t think I’ll read Mansfield Park in quite the same way anymore! But you may have something there. I think you’ve channeled into Byron quite well. Seems totally plausible. Thank you for something to think about.

    • Thank you so much for your comments, Sheila. Never meant to ruin Mansfield Park for anybody. 🙂 I do hope I can get the play read somewhere, there’s nothing more fun than having that happen!

  7. Diana,
    This was a pure treat to read! Loved the humor, Byron’s outrageous behavior, Austen’s reaction and the beautiful setting. I can only guess at what Jane might be thinking during such a conversation, but I’d bet that while she would very well have behaved so properly in public, she was taking pages of mental notes to share with her sister Cassandra and plotting out the descriptions of future characters based on what she witnessed in Byron’s actions, LOL.

    • Thank you very much, Marilyn! I think that what Jane Austen would have been thinking durnig (or after) such an encounter, would make a whole nother play!

  8. Jane Austen as a witch! Love it! I love the idea that Byron doesn’t dismiss her as Charlotte Bronte does. He clearly appreciates her qualities, and that makes him come across as astute, too. An enjoyable read, Diana. Good luck with the rest of it.

    • Thank you, Monica. I can’t believe Byron wouldn’t have appreciated her. I enjoyed calling her a witch though, it’s so absurd!

  9. I am glad he acknowledges her as an accomplished author. I believe she would’ve wanted to study him, but eventually would turn it towards their writing.

  10. I do not think Jane could be shaken. Scandal is throughout her books so she was no stranger to what people are capable of. I think she would find Byron amusing and interesting.

    • Schilds, I totally agree with you. I believe she would have behaved in a polite, ladylike way, but she would have been intensely interested!

  11. Very interesting! I don’t know that much about Byron, but have heard about his rumored private life. I’m guessing he enjoyed his notoriety and in your dialog, I find him trying to be flamboyant as possible, as if to see how shocking he can be. But they talk so much about Mansfield Park that clearly he’s indicating that he’s read and really thought about her book which I would think Jane Austen as a fellow author must appreciate. Until he seemed to veer off into alluding to his personal demons.

    I also believe that day to day life wasn’t always as proper as portrayed in books of the time (or lived so closely by society’s rules) so I doubt Jane would have been truly shocked by whatever Byron could say to her. (But that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t have been thinking “Ewwww!” while talking to him and I felt she did a good job bringing his ramblings on that topic to a close.) Had they actually met, maybe she would have found some way to introduce a real reprobate into a future story with some Byron-like tendencies?

    • Interesting comments, Kathy. Even though she would be unlikely to discuss improprieties with Byron, how could she help finding him interesting? She used some pretty hardened and even Byronic reprobates in her stories, such as Willoughby and Wickham, but imagine how much farther she could have taken them if she’d known Byron! Or would she? She made heroes out of Edward and Edmund, after all. I leave it to yourself to determine!

  12. Thanks so much for sharing this scene. I read the previous scene you had posted and was so curious what the meeting would be like. I can’t say that I imagined this! I read it while waiting in line for morning coffee and had to stop myself from laughing out loud because people were starting to look at me funny.

    • I wish you could see me, TLeighF, grinning ear to ear! I was worried that it wasn’t funny enough! Really I have concluded, at an advanced age, that Jane Austen knew what she was talking about when she had Mr. Bennet say, “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn.” Often quoted, and seems trivial, but as so much in Jane Austen…profound! Thanks so much for telling me about that laugh.

  13. Jane Recoils

    Jane Austen said, Look here, Mister.
    I won’t hear such talk of your sister.
    You’re joking, I’m sure.
    But I do you adjure
    Not to say such things as you’ve kissed her,

    Or used her in even worse fashion.
    What a horror would be such a passion!
    The thought turns my face quite to ashen.

    Because I’m a sharp raconteur,
    It appears, My Lord, you infer
    That I have, like you,
    A debauched world view.
    But from this idea I demur.

    I am not like those of your set;
    I don’t drink to excess, nor bet,
    Nor quiz people through a lorgnette.

    Though I love to laugh at the high-flown,
    There are limits to what I condone.
    Whene’er I lambaste,
    I still use good taste.
    The crass, in me, is unknown.

    And so, Dear Sir, my wish is
    That you save your louche tales for the vicious,
    As I find them far from delicious.

  14. Oh, I love it, Diana ~ Byron and Jane together ~ delightful. Thank you so much. ~ Cheers ~ Elizabeth MacGregor-Kirkcaldy.

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