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Pride and Prejudice, Humor and Cynicism

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. Pride and Prejudice’s famous opening sentence sets the tone. Jane Austen contradicts the opening sentence in the first chapter by having Mr. Bennet question it. It is certainly not a “truth universally acknowledged.” It isn’t even a truth, much less accepted.

Jane Austen’s cynical tone is shown by many of her characters. Mr. Bennet utters what might have been her motto: “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

But Mr. Bennet also displays cynicism in other ways. When Elizabeth refuses to marry Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennet wants her husband to force her to do so, he says, “An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”

Later, Elizabeth wonders how much money it took to persuade Wickham to marry Lydia. Mr. Bennet says, “Wickham’s a fool if he takes her with a farthing less than ten thousand pounds. I should be sorry to think so ill of him, in the very beginning of our relationship.” He would be sorry to have his son-in-law be a fool. That is reasonable. What is not reasonable is that to show he isn’t foolish, his son-in-law must squeeze the maximum amount of money out of his bride’s relatives. Surely, Mr. Bennet isn’t sorry about that.

Mr. Darcy isn’t above a certain cynicism: “What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy! There is nothing like dancing after all. I consider it as one of the first refinements of polished society.” “Certainly, sir; and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world. Every savage can dance.” True, but even though Jane Austen wrote it over two hundred years ago, many still think dancing is refined.

But Jane Austen certainly was cynical when she described people’s actions. Miss Bingley isn’t as comical as some of the other characters, but she certainly had her moments. “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! …” No one made any reply. She then yawned again, threw aside her book, and cast her eyes round the room in quest for some amusement.

Mrs. Bennet contradicts herself so often that one wonders if she had any idea of consistency. Consider part of her speech to Elizabeth when she refused Mr. Collins’ offer of marriage: “…I have done with you from this very day. I told you in the library, you know, that I should never speak to you again, and you will find me as good as my word. … Nobody can tell what I suffer! But it is always so. Those who do not complain are never pitied.”

Another instance of Mrs. Bennet’s lack of logic about how she cares for her eldest daughter is shown here: “Well, my comfort is, I am sure Jane will die of a broken heart; and then he will be sorry for what he has done.” But as Elizabeth could not receive comfort from any such expectation, she made no answer.

Lady Catherine is not as stupid as some of the characters in Pride and Prejudice, but Jane Austen does have such gems as this: The party then gathered round the fire to hear Lady Catherine determine what weather they were to have on the morrow.

Mr. Collins has many funny moments, but one that stands out is this: “You ought certainly to forgive them, as a Christian, but never to admit them in your sight, or allow their names to be mentioned in your hearing.”

If anyone does not think Jane Austen was a great comedic writer, one approach is to use the same approach Elinor used in Sense and Sensibility: Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.

Finding a Co-Author

I met Summer Hanford in an online novel writing class at AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop in 2010. Every week, all the students emailed each other pages of their current novels and critiqued them in a live, online discussion. Summer and I stopped taking classes together sometime in 2013, but continued to keep in touch and seek each other’s opinions.

About a year later, I tried writing Jane Austen fan fiction. The short story, Pemberley Weddings, sold more than expected, so I wrote four more. Summer was reading my work and expressed an interest in getting into that kind of writing. I realized that Summer had skills that I lacked, so I asked her to try writing with me. It turned out better than I expected.

We have physically met only once. We talk on the phone infrequently. Most of our work is done by email and we email often.

I don’t know what makes a good co-author, but I like Summer’s writing. Her thrice born fantasy series has many interesting and likable characters. There were other writers I met at Allwriters who also wrote well, but I doubt I could work with them. Mainly, I didn’t like their characters, hence the draw of Elizabeth, Jane, Darcy and Bingley. I like to be able to see the viewpoint of the characters I write about, and I want to love my main characters. Yes, sometimes I can even relate to Mr. Wickham, and in the next story we are working on, the conclusion of our smoke and fire books, Mr. Darcy actually goes to Mr. Wickham for help. It is very near the beginning, so readers can find out about it in the sample.

We hope our readers are enjoying our partnership as much as we are.

Renata McMann

A New Editor

Renata McMann and Summer Hanford would like to introduce their new editor, Joanne Girard. It’s our belief that she will raise our work to a higher standard than ever. Mrs. Girard’s attention to detail and dedication to getting things right is exactly what our collaboration needs to keep writing the stories we love.

Mrs. Girard will be editing upcoming works and, over time, she will also make her way through our existing offerings. They will be re-released better than ever.

We’re very pleased Mrs. Girard has joined us and know she’ll be invaluable moving forward as we strive to create the best Fan Fiction we can. We appreciate all of our readers and hope this addition to our collaboration will increase their enjoyment of our work.

Look for our upcoming new releases, and for the addition of Joanne Girard as editor, identifying newly improved favorites.

Happily Ever After for Pride and Prejudice Villains

We have already published three stories that give villains a happy ending: Mrs. Bennet’s Triumph (a bonus short story found on this site as well as at the end of The Second Mrs. Darcy), Caroline and the Footman, and Mr. Collins’ Deception. We are currently working on Mary Younge (pun intended) and have plans for Lady Catherine’s Regrets. The story about Mrs. Bennet is a Pride & Prejudice variation. The others try to be largely consistent with the original but have a separate story within them.

Jane Austen wrote villains who were only slightly villainous. We’ve discussed Caroline Bingley and Mr. Wickham on this website. They are actually the most villainous of the Pride and Prejudice villains because they actively advanced their own interests at the expense of others. The other ‘villains’ are perhaps stupid and self-centered, but think they mean well.

We don’t know anything about Mrs. Younge. We don’t even know for certain that she was ever married, because sometimes women over twenty-five were given the title Mrs. even if they hadn’t married. Was she duped by Wickham? Was she a plant to facilitate Wickham’s marriage to Georgiana Darcy? If so, how could she trust him to give her a share of the money? Was she so enamored by Wickham that she was willing to ruin her career by helping him? How old was she? What was her background? How was she able to run a lodging house after being fired in disgrace? Our answer should appear in the summer of 2015.

Jane Austen didn’t create the Wicked Witch of the West or Hannibal Lector. She created people. How many rock stars have a little bit of Lady Catherine in them? They may even hire their own Mr. Collins, who is an overstatement of yes-men. Mrs. Bennet is an exaggeration, but how many mothers are frantically trying to do what they can to help their children? Jane Austen speaks to us because she saw human truth in her limited world which was, in her words:  “the little bit (two Inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a Brush, as produces little effect after much labour?”

Colonel Fitzwilliam

It can be postulated that Colonel Fitzwilliam served multiple purposes in Pride & Prejudice aside from his one, main, purpose: letting Elizabeth know that Darcy separated Jane and Bingley. These other function include:

  1. Fitzwilliam confirms Darcy’s statement about his sister, Georgiana, nearly eloping with Wickham. Although the actual confirmation is a slight reaction to Elizabeth’s teasing, Darcy’s willingness for Elizabeth to question Fitzwilliam offers further confirmation.
  2. He shows the reader that Darcy has relatives he need not be ashamed of. I don’t know if Darcy was embarrassed by Lady Catherine, but the reader doesn’t think highly of Darcy’s aunt or his cousin Anne.
  3. He shows that Darcy has a good relationships with a sensible person other than Bingley. There is an ongoing theme of judging people by the company they keep and Darcy keeps good company by choice.
  4. He show us that Elizabeth is attractive to a man of sense. From what we’ve seen in the novel, Elizabeth attracted Wickham, Mr. Collins, and a non-redeemed Darcy. That is not a very good collection of suitors.
  5. He shows that even a good man needs to consider money when marrying.
  6. He helps the reader realize how much Darcy is attracted to Elizabeth and sets up a nice scene where Elizabeth and Darcy banter entertainingly.

Colonel Fitzwilliam is an example of Jane Austen’s brilliance. He appears as almost a throw-away character, but manages to be very important to the story.

Caroline Bingley

Caroline Bingley is a character people love to hate. She’s often portrayed as a villain in Pride and Prejudice variations, but Jane Austen cleverly makes her only a mild villain. She lied to Jane Bennet, but most of her lies are difficult to pin down. She talked about people’s feelings, but she could be mistaken in those. Her claim that Mr. Bingley and Georgiana Darcy might marry is not entirely without foundation, since it is implied that Mr. Darcy considered that as a possibility.

Caroline Bingley is funny because she undermines herself. Sometimes she does so immediately, such as the following statement:

“Elizabeth Bennet,” said Miss Bingley, when the door was closed on her, “is one of those young ladies who seek to recommend themselves to the other sex by undervaluing their own; and with many men, I dare say, it succeeds. But, in my opinion, it is a paltry device, a very mean art.”

One has to ask if she is listening to herself.

When Darcy praises Elizabeth Bennet’s eyes, Caroline mockingly talks of Darcy’s marriage to Elizabeth with an emphasis on his dealings with her family. But Darcy controlled his attraction to Elizabeth very well until he saw her at Rosings, away from her family. In Darcy’s proposal, he talked about his struggle. He almost certainly thought that he could enjoy Elizabeth as a wife and only have infrequent contact with her family. Caroline’s talk of the marriage probably helped Darcy’s struggle, since it pinpointed the problem.

Caroline also pushes Darcy to say how attractive Elizabeth is, probably for the first time. Regardless of how many times he thought that, saying it in public probably helped solidify his feelings for Elizabeth.

Caroline’s attempt to attract Darcy in a positive way, by flattery and attention, has to be considered less than well-planned. He must be very used to both. Praising his writing? Asking him to include statements to his sister, when it would be permissible for her to write Georgiana directly? Telling him they are both above the company they keep, when he must consider himself well above her? Reading the second volume of a book when he is reading the first volume?

On the last, how about reading the first volume when he is not reading it, and talking to him about it? Wouldn’t that be more likely to attract his interest?

Summer Hanford and I wrote a short story called “Caroline and the Footman” which explores the possibility that Caroline Bingley’s actions are not caused by stupidity and not motivated to attract Darcy. We aim to shatter the Caroline Bingley villain motif, and turn what you thought you knew about her on its head. This story will come out in January, 2015.

Georgiana Darcy

Georgiana Darcy is an important character in Pride and Prejudice, although she doesn’t have a single line of dialogue. As a writer of Pride and Prejudice variations, I have tried to speculate on what she was like. As is usually the case, I started with what Jane Austen tells us about her.

Wickham persuaded Georgiana to elope with him, which supports his contention he devoted hours to her amusement. His statement of her being proud we can dismiss along with his other lies about the Darcys. Miss Bingley describes her in glowing terms, but that can likewise be dismissed, since she was trying to ingratiate herself with Mr. Darcy. Mrs. Reynold’s description of her working on her accomplishments is probably true, since it is consistent with other sources.

When the reader actually meets her, she is shown to be very shy rather than proud. Jane Austen wrote a paragraph about Georgiana after Elizabeth marries Darcy, but it gives us relatively little information about her character, except that she was unsure of herself.

Georgiana could simply be shy, but she could be shy and rebellious. Her initial willingness to elope with Wickham says that she didn’t always follow the rules. She knew she was doing something wrong and her brother would disapprove. Presumably, her governess, Mrs. Younge, encouraged her on that, but she was no more willing to stand up for what she knew was right than she was willing to stand up to Miss Bingley criticizing Elizabeth, which was one of the few of Georgiana’s actions Jane Austen described.

In Georgiana’s Folly, Summer Hanford and I tried to show Georgiana as a rebellious teenager. Her relationship with her brother isn’t as perfect as it is sometimes portrayed.

Was Wickham Evil?

“[Wickham had] vicious propensities… [and] his life was a life of idleness and dissipation.” From Mr. Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth.

To answer that question, we have to list those things that are known about him.

He went into debt. These debts were both gambling debts and debts to merchants. The gambling debts were debts of honor, and thus not legally recoverable. The debts to the merchants in Meryton and Brighton were much more serious in Jane Austen’s time than today, because he could go to debtor prison.

He slandered Mr. Darcy. He certainly was guilty of that, and Darcy could have sued him for damages. Of course, Wickham didn’t have any money to pay Darcy.

He tried to elope with a fifteen year old heiress. This looks worse from a modern perspective than from the time. Mr. Wickham and Georgiana Darcy could legally marry in Scotland. He also had the consent of the person who was in charge of Georgiana. Mrs. Younge wasn’t Georgiana’s legal guardian, but was entrusted to her care. Her encouragement of the elopement gave Wickham some legitimacy.

He ran off with a sixteen year old. Again, this was less serious in his day than now. I don’t claim to know the law on this issue, but the fact that Mr. Darcy couldn’t get Lydia Bennet to leave Wickham suggests there were no legal issues here. Also, Lydia’s mother was happy with the marriage. The fact that the Bennets’ neighbors accepted Lydia and Wickham once they were married suggests that they didn’t consider Wickham too evil for this act.

As villains go, Wickham is very mild. Darcy said he had vicious propensities, but at the time Jane Austen wrote, “vicious” meant “immoral, corrupt. The word then did not have the connotations of ferocity or aggression that it has now.” [The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, edited by David M. Shapard, 2004, page 369.] It is easy to believe that he was guilty of “idleness and dissipation,” but that came from a man who hated him. A less prejudiced observer, Mrs. Reynolds, called him very wild. Wickham certainly wasn’t a good man, but calling him evil does not seem to be justified.

…except that he caused pain to our favorite fictional characters, Darcy and Elizabeth.

Order of Publication

This is a list of Renata McMann Pride and Prejudice variations, from most current to oldest. This list is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a guide to what order these variations should be read in. As they are Pride and Prejudice variations, they are all distinct and independent stories which stand alone. Therefore, there’s no right order to read them in.

The exception to this is the short story collection, which contains all five of the variations written by Renata alone, including: Heiress of LongbournThree Daughters MarriedThe Inconsistency of Caroline BingleyAnne de Bourgh Manages and Pemberley Weddings. Reading both the short story collection and the five individual short stories would be redundant.

Written by Renata McMann and Summer Hanford:

Foiled Elopement

Believing in Darcy

Her Final Wish

Miss Bingley’s Christmas

Epiphany with Tea

Courting Elizabeth

The Fire at Netherfield Park

From Ashes to Heiresses

Entanglements of Honor

Pride and Prejudice Villains Revisited – Redeemed – Reimagined: A Collection of Six Short Stories

Lady Catherine Regrets

A Death at Rosings

Mary Younge

Poor Mr. Darcy

Mr. Collins’ Deception

The Scandalous Stepmother

Caroline and the Footman

The Wickham Coin Series Books 1 & 2

Elizabeth’s Plight (The Wickham Coin Series Book 2)

Georgiana’s Folly (The Wickham Coin Series, Book 1)

The Second Mrs. Darcy 

Written by Renata McMann:

Five Pride and Prejudice Variations: A collection of Short Stories

Heiress of Longbourn

Three Daughters Married

The Inconsistency of Caroline Bingley

Anne de Bourgh Manages

Pemberley Weddings

Journey Towards a Preordained Time