It is December 16 and that means it is Jane Austen’s birthday. Time to celebrate! Can you believe Jane is…..? No, I won’t be the one to reveal a lady’s age. Shall we say she is remarkably well-preserved for a woman of her mature years, and leave it at that?
Austen lovers all over the world – both the “real world” and the cyber/internet one – are celebrating this influential English novelist’s life. There are parties and giveaways galore! I am partaking in one that is hosted by Maria Grazia at My Jane Austen Book Club.
“An Austen Soiree” has now begun and EVERYONE is invited! Austenesque bloggers from all over the globe are participating in the festivities with prizes, sharing thoughts on Jane and her influence, and with quoting our favorite novel passages.
Naturally I chose Pride and Prejudice. The following passage from Chapter 58 is my absolute favorite. Why, you ask? Partially it is because after all the drama, angst, miscommunications, yearnings, heartbreak, and so on, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet finally have the heart-to-heart, honest, and open conversation necessary to clear the air and move them forward into Happily Ever After. However, a big reason why I love this passage is because Jane Austen brilliantly broke away from the detailed dialogue between the two central characters, diverting instead into semi-vague commentary that leave LOTS open to interpretation! As an author who is inspired to write “the rest of the story,” this tactic is highly advantageous.
Scene set up (in case you haven’t read the book in a while): Mr. Bingley has finally proposed to Jane. Lizzy is in turmoil over her feelings for Mr. Darcy, the “visit” from Lady Catherine, and the revelation by Lydia and Mrs. Gardiner as to Mr. Darcy’s part in the nasty Wickham affair. Finally he returns to Hertfordshire, and on a walk in the country Lizzy manages (on purpose?) to tarry behind so that she and Mr. Darcy are alone. Bravely, she opens the conversation–
“Mr. Darcy, I am a very selfish creature; and for the sake of giving relief to my own feelings, care not how much I may be wounding yours. I can no longer help thanking you for your unexampled kindness to my poor sister. Ever since I have known it, I have been most anxious to acknowledge to you how gratefully I feel it. Were it known to the rest of my family, I should not have merely my own gratitude to express.”
“I am sorry, exceedingly sorry,” replied Darcy, in a tone of surprise and emotion, “that you have ever been informed of what may, in a mistaken light, have given you uneasiness. I did not think Mrs. Gardiner was so little to be trusted.”
“You must not blame my aunt. Lydia’s thoughtlessness first betrayed to me that you had been concerned in the matter; and, of course, I could not rest till I knew the particulars. Let me thank you again and again, in the name of all my family, for that generous compassion which induced you to take so much trouble, and bear so many mortifications, for the sake of discovering them.”
“If you will thank me,” he replied, “let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you.”
Elizabeth was too much embarrassed to say a word. After a short pause, her companion added, “You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged; but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.”
Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances. The happiness which this reply produced was such as he had probably never felt before, and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do. Had Elizabeth been able to encounter his eyes, she might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt delight diffused over his face became him; but, though she could not look, she could listen, and he told her of feelings which, in proving of what importance she was to him, made his affection every moment more valuable.
They walked on, without knowing in what direction. There was too much to be thought, and felt, and said, for attention to any other objects. She soon learnt that they were indebted for their present good understanding to the efforts of his aunt, who did call on him in her return through London, and there relate her journey to Longbourn, its motive, and the substance of her conversation with Elizabeth; dwelling emphatically on every expression of the latter which, in her ladyship’s apprehension, peculiarly denoted her perverseness and assurance, in the belief that such a relation must assist her endeavours to obtain that promise from her nephew which she had refused to give. But, unluckily for her ladyship, its effect had been exactly contrariwise.
“It taught me to hope,” said he, “as I had scarcely ever allowed myself to hope before. I knew enough of your disposition to be certain, that had you been absolutely, irrevocably decided against me, you would have acknowledged it to Lady Catherine, frankly and openly.”
Elizabeth coloured and laughed as she replied, “Yes, you know enough of my frankness to believe me capable of that. After abusing you so abominably to your face, I could have no scruple in abusing you to all your relations.”
Aah! You have to love it! I know I sure do! Of course I latched on to Lizzy’s unknown but apparently lengthy explanation of her changed sentiments toward Mr. Darcy. And, I especially delighted in imagining how a man “violently in love” would “warmly and sensibly” express himself! In Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One I touched on the subject in the final chapter. In my current work-in-progress (set during the engagement period) I am covering the scene in greater detail. Very great detail! Here is a small sampling–
Once again Lizzy was breathless and mesmerized, captured by his eyes and the renewed thrills racing through her body at his touch. His eyes and fingertips reached her parted lips, feathering lightly.
“Elizabeth, please, may I kiss you?”
Unable to speak, she nodded faintly. As if in a dream of exquisite beauty, he lowered his head slowly while cupping her face with his strong yet tender hands. Instinctively her eyes slid shut with the first gentle pressure of his mouth brushing against hers.
Are there words adequate to describe what is indescribable?
His kisses were restrained, pure, and delicate; yet the sensations flowing through her body were torrential, dynamic, and astonishing. Simultaneous shivers and sighs of pleasure escaped their lips, Lizzy withdrawing an inch to meet his eyes.
“Is it supposed to feel so … incredible?”
He laughed softly and shook his head. “I would not know, but I believe it should.”
Without another word he claimed her mouth again, his kisses temperate as his hands traveled to her neck for soothing strokes. Of their own volition, her hands tentatively explored the muscular contours of his chest and shoulders, and then moved up to encircle his bare neck with fingers entwined in his hair. Instinctively her lips parted, the delicious pressure of his mouth glorious yet inexplicably increasing her yearning for more. Precisely what the more was that she craved, Lizzy did not consciously imagine, until he too parted his lips and ran the tip of his tongue across her bottom lip. Not sparing a particle of a second to analyze why this simple act felt unfathomably fantastic and spiraled her senses, she gave in to impulse, a faint moan escaping when she opened her mouth farther and hesitantly touched her tongue to his.
Fire ignited! It was sheer ecstasy!
Darcy groaned, the sound and vibration touching something buried inside Lizzy’s body that had never been awoken, and when he followed with a penetrating invasion of his tongue, that unknown something roared to wild life. The warmth and moisture and intimacy of this manner of kissing was beyond anything she had ever imagined or experienced. Yet rather than feeling overwhelmed or fearful, she yearned for even more.
Just a bit to whet your appetite! For the present, join in the birthday celebration with me and the list of bloggers noted at My Jane Austen Book Club. For this event alone I will be giving away ONE signed copy of my first novel, Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One. Leave a comment, sharing your thoughts on the passages above and/or your favorite Austen passage, or simply why you love the writings of Jane Austen. Or just wish her a happy birthday and continued long life!
Giveaway Deadline: December 18, Tuesday, at 11:59pm PST. Winner announced shortly thereafter.