I'm glad to you stopped by my blog during your blog tour, Ms. Cresswell. It is great to have you visit.
The final instalment of the Highbury trilogy, Dear Jane narrates the history of Jane Fairfax, recounting the events hinted at but never actually described in Jane Austen’s Emma.
Orphaned Jane seems likely to be brought up in parochial Highbury until adoption by her papa’s old friend Colonel Campbell opens to her all the excitement and opportunities of London. The velvet path of her early years is finite, however and tarnished by the knowledge that she must earn her own independence one day.
Frank Weston is also transplanted from Highbury, adopted as heir to the wealthy Churchills and
taken to their drear and inhospitable Yorkshire estate. The glimmer of the prize which will one
day be his is all but obliterated by the stony path he must walk to claim it.
Their paths meet at Weymouth, and readers of Emma will be familiar with the finale of Jane and
Frank’s story. Dear Jane pulls back the veil which Jane Austen drew over their early lives, their
meeting in Weymouth and the agony of their secret engagement.
We know from Jane Austen that Mr Knightley is some sixteen years older than Emma. Their relationship is a peculiar one; in some ways they are as close as siblings. Mr Knightley has no compunction about speaking to Emma very directly. He is, we are told, one of the very few people who presume to see faults in her. He makes himself at home at Hartfield, calling there almost every day without invitation. We can presume that he has seen Emma at her worst, as well as at her best. Depending upon your view of Emma Woodhouse it seems either amazing or inevitable that Mr Knightley should fall in love with her.
I enjoyed imagining their relationship when Emma was still a child. Here she is eleven years old. She and Mr Knightley and others have been invited to drink tea at the vicarage.
Mr George Knightley stood by a far window – well away from the fire – and turned the pages of an atlas for Miss Emma Woodhouse. ‘Good evening Miss Bates,’ he said as that lady entered the room, and to pre-empt the protracted monologue usually attendant upon her arriving anywhere, added, ‘won’t you join us? Emma, move to one side to make room for Miss Bates on the window seat. I am just putting Miss Emma right on a question of geography,’ he said. ‘I cannot let her go on in her mistaken belief that the Peak District is in Wales.’
‘Goodness me now, Miss Woodhouse,’ Miss Bates said, settling herself happily on the seat, ‘that would be a lamentable error to make if one were travelling in that direction. Upon my word! To set out for the one and arrive at the other! What a pickle!’
Mr Knightley pointed to the atlas. ‘Look, Emma,’ he said, ‘the Brecon Beacons, the Cambrians, the Snowdon Massif – all in Wales, but not the Pennines.’
Miss Emma pouted and folded her arms. ‘It does not matter where they are, since I have not been to them,’ she said.
‘Jane has been,’ Miss Bates said, ‘to both, if I am not mistaken. The colonel and Mrs Campbell are so very assiduous in their care. Jane has been all over! Lyme, which is in Dorset, you know, and Derbyshire,’ she looked a little uncertain, ‘that, I think, is in the Pennines, is it not Mr Knightley?’
Emma gave a little snort of laughter. Mr Knightley moved his foot and pressed the toe of her slipper with it. ‘One certainly could not traverse one without touching the other,’ he said. ‘I am very pleased to hear that Miss Fairfax is being given such opportunities. If I had my way all young ladies,’ with a significant glance at Emma, ‘would benefit in similar fashion. Young ladies can become very insular when they remain in one place.’
‘Oh! Jane is exposed to a wide range of places,’ Miss Bates cried, ‘and experiences, too; the theatre and exhibitions of curiosities. She wrote of a menagerie… let me think… perhaps last December. I shall have to go and re-read her letters. I keep them all, you know Mr Knightley. I have them all in a box, right from the very first. One a week for three years that is… oh! Ever so many! My box is quite full, you can imagine!’
‘Emma, how many letters might Miss Bates have? Can you calculate? I am sure Miss Taylor has taught you arithmetic.’
‘Oh,’ said Emma, ‘she attempts it, but I am always able to divert her on to more interesting subjects.’
‘She ought to be firmer with you,’ Mr Knightley said with a frown, closing the atlas and restoring it to a shelf.
‘Girls have no need of arithmetic,’ Emma declared.
‘Girls who are seamstresses or cooks use arithmetic,’ Mr Knightley chided. He indicated the maid who at that moment brought in the supper. ‘Susan Bright used arithmetic just now when she cut up that cake. How else could she have made twelve such equal slices?’
‘I shall never need to sew clothes or cook,’ Emma said archly. ‘We have Searle to cut our cake. If I were ever likely to sink so low I suppose I should have to learn, but that is a distant prospect.’
‘Jane can add things up in her head as quick as lightning,’ Miss Bates said. ‘She has her own allowance, you know. The Campbells encourage both the girls to keep their own accounts. She has a little pocket book with the figures written in such neat columns; shillings and pence, of course. The allowance does not stretch to pounds; that would be too much.’ She gave a little trill of laughter, to show the absurdity of such a notion. ‘Nobody expects it. Jane does not expect it. She does not expect anything! They are so very good.’
‘As to a shilling here or there,’ Emma arched her eyebrows, ‘for a person like Jane Fairfax, I quite see the necessity, but it is of no moment to me. I know there are twenty shillings to a pound but I would have to multiply that by thirty thou…’
‘Emma!’ Mr Knightley said sharply, ‘that is a vulgar and disgusting observation. Go and sit with your sister. Miss Bates and I can converse more pleasantly without you.’
Emma slipped off the seat, ‘Very well,’ she said grumpily. ‘I will leave you to deliver a piece of news which I am sure will interest Miss Bates very much.’
About the Author:
Allie Cresswell was born in Stockport, UK and began writing fiction as soon as she could hold a pencil.
She did a BA in English Literature at Birmingham University and an MA at Queen Mary College, London.
She has been a print-buyer, a pub landlady, a book-keeper, run a B & B and a group of boutique holiday cottages. Nowadays Allie writes full time having retired from teaching literature to
lifelong learners. Most recently she has been working on her Highbury trilogy, books inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma.
She has two grown-up children, two granddaughters and two grandsons, is married to Tim and lives in Cumbria, NW England.
You can contact her via her website at www.allie-cresswell.com or find her on Facebook.
Thank you, Allie Cresswell for visiting More Agreeably Engaged and sharing your excerpt. It was a pleasure having you stop by. I enjoyed seeing Emma as an eleven year old. It was interesting reading the discourse between Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Miss Bates. This sounds like a good book. I hope to read it soon and learn more about Jane Fairfax. I wish you the best with this release and the rest of the Highbury trilogy. Please visit again when each of the other two are released.
Thank you, Serena Cox, for organizing the blog tour.
The giveaway is for one copy of Dear Jane, by Allie Cresswell.
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