Finding the perfect Jane Austen quotes to use as the preludes to my stories increases the joy I feel when crafting a new Pride and Prejudice retelling. The following is one of my favorites and one I can never read without chuckling.
“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.”
A central idea behind writing Bewitched, Body and Soul was the notion that Mrs. Bennet may indeed have been on to something.
“Mind you, my dear, a girl likes to be crossed in love a little now and then. It is something to think of and gives her a sort of distinction amongst her companions,” Mr. Bennet teased as he fiddled with his gold pocket-watch. The middle-aged, silver-haired patriarch was far less inclined to fret over his eldest daughter’s sufferings as vigorously as did the women of Longbourn Village. For goodness sake, they were some of the silliest creatures in all of England! This latest calamity—marked by the lack of spirit shown by his first-born daughter Jane, the refusal on her part to take her meals with the family, and the general disregard of all that once mattered to her—had gone on long enough.
“I dare say Jane is more than a little crossed,” said Mrs. Bennet, her annoyance obvious. “Why, the way Mr. Bingley and his party fled Netherfield Park on the heels of what I was sure would be a proposal of marriage to the poor girl, has rendered her a laughing stock in the neighbourhood.
“I can imagine their jeers. ‘There goes poor Miss Bennet, with all her beauty, yet abandoned … practically left waiting at the altar for Mr. Bingley.’
“Oh, how shall she show her face again? I am afraid the dear girl is destined to a life of spinsterhood … despite my good efforts to find a husband for her.”
Mr. Bennet rubbed his brow. How nonsensical. With such a mother, it was no wonder his daughters were such frivolous creatures. He opened his mouth to make light of her sentiments as regarded the neighbours’ gossip when the door opened.
If twenty-odd years of marriage had taught him anything, it was to welcome the sight of his second eldest, and by far, his favourite daughter whenever his wife went on in that way. Mr. Bennet silently applauded Elizabeth’s timely arrival.
“A life of spinsterhood, Mama? Which of your five unfortunate daughters do you speak of now?”
“I might as well be speaking of any of you, save Kitty and my Lydia. However, I speak at this moment of Jane. I dare say she did little, if anything, to encourage Mr. Bingley. The way he looked at her, I am sure it would not have taken much for him to propose marriage. This wretched situation brings to mind a similar event several years back when that delightful young man from town showed a keen interest in her. As I recall, he wrote her some lovely poetry—” Her voice trailed off as her face echoed a look of nostalgia.
“Surely, Mama, you cannot blame Jane for Mr. Bingley’s lack of consideration. Jane loves him. I am sure of it. One needed only to spend time with her in his company to attest to that fact. Mr. Bingley is a fool not to perceive her true worth.”
“A fool he may be, but it is hardly a consolation. Better a fool for a son-in-law, than no son-in-law at all.” Mrs. Bennet narrowed her eyes on her daughter. “And do not think for one moment that your rejection of Mr. Collins’s hand reflects kindly upon you, Miss Lizzy.”
“Mrs. Bennet, I commend my Lizzy for rejecting Mr. Collins.”
“Indeed. The two of you can take great comfort in going against my adamant wish that Lizzy should accept Mr. Collins. At the least, I might have seen one of my daughters settled by now. Alas, Lizzy, your so-called friend, Charlotte Lucas, put an end to that hope.”
“Mama, you know I bear Charlotte no ill-will for having accepted Mr. Collins’s offer of marriage. Charlotte is practical. She merely acted in the best interests of her family.”
“The best interests of her family you say. What of your own family? Are the Lucases more worthy than our family of the security afforded by a daughter well-settled, married to the heir of Longbourn, no less, owing to that ridiculous entail?”
“My dear Mrs. Bennet, you shall not place the liability of our family’s fate at Lizzy’s feet.”
“I should say not, Mr. Bennet. I am afraid the burden of finding suitable husbands for our daughters rests upon my shoulders alone. To have suffered the loss of not one but two future sons-in-law, I know not how I shall recover from such a misfortune.” The aggrieved mistress of the manor, whose countenance hinted of her former good looks, gathered her mending and stood to quit the room. “Take heed, Miss Lizzy, for you shall expect no help from me in securing another gentleman as your future husband. You are quite on your own in that regard.
“I suggest you take my brother and sister up on their invitation to stay with them in town in Jane’s stead. Then you might stand a decent chance. I only wish my Lydia or even Kitty had such opportunity.”