Mightier Than The Sword, Miss Austen?

Is the pen mightier than the sword? Our heroes have their doubts.

Over beer at The Chawton Arms, they decide to take letter writing out of Miss Austen’s hands and into their own. Heaven help the recipients!

“Wentworth, really,” Fitzwilliam Darcy protested. “I’m surprised at you.”

“I’m a sailor, blast it,” Frederick Wentworth muttered. “And sailors can’t write!”

“They can curse, apparently,” said Darcy.

Captain Wentworth threw down his pen. “She knows that I cannot write! And yet here I am, struggling to pour out my heart.”

George Knightley strolled over. “Who knows you can’t write?” he said mildly.

“Your authoress, Miss Austen,” said Patrick McGillvary. “She’s making Wentworth write a letter to Anne Elliot. He figured he ought to get a head start, what with the dyslexia and all.”

Knightley drew up a chair. “Let’s see what you have. Perhaps we can help.”

Darcy lifted the page from the desk. “I CAN LISTEN NO LONGER IN SILENCE,” he read aloud. He looked up. “What, was Miss Elliot ranting at you?”

“It’s the Musgroves! They clack on about every little thing!” Wentworth said. “Blah, blah, blah. And Harville, whose tongue runs on wheels, must talk and talk with Anne. While I sit by, mute!”

“Brutal,” remarked Darcy.

He continued reading. “I MUST SPEAK TO YOU BY SUCH MEANS AS ARE WITHIN MY REACH.”

Admiral McGillvary put down his tankard. “Look, I can appreciate the attempt at artistic prose, but what is the point of saying this? Cut to the chase, man!”

“He’s got a point,” said Knightley.

Captain Wentworth crossed out the sentence.

“And that’s a spelling error.” Darcy pointed to the page. “YOU PIERCE MY SOUL should be YOU PIERCE MY SOLE.” He steepled his fingertips. “And women say we men need a dictionary.”

“Don’t we?” said Knightley.

“Not at all. Besides,” said Darcy, “I employ a secretary for that. Several of them, as a matter of fact. And,” he added, “you’re not the only sufferer, Wentworth. Miss Austen made me write a letter to Elizabeth Bennet!”

“She didn’t!” said Knightley. “I’d rather face lions than write to Emma Woodhouse! Did your secretary help?”

Darcy heaved a sigh. “He couldn’t. Miss Austen made me stay up all night to write it.”

“What is it with female authors and letters?” complained McGillvary. “Actions speak louder than words, as any man knows! We’d better have a look at yours, Darcy. Who knows what slop Miss Austen’s having you say.”

“In a minute,” Darcy said. “Listen to this. It’s pretty good. I AM HALF AGONY, HALF HOPE.”

“Oh, for crying out loud! Agony,” said Admiral McGillvary, “is an amputation at sea! With sharks circling the raft! Not a broken heart.”

“It’s only half agony,” Wentworth pointed out. “Fine. No agony.”

He took the letter from Darcy. I AM FEELING PRETTY BAD, he wrote. AND I’M KIND OF HOPING YOU’LL STOP TALKING TO HARVILLE, READ THIS LETTER, AND GIVE ME ANOTHER CHANCE. He looked up at Darcy. “How’s that?”

“Better. That’s man-English,” said McGillvary.

Darcy went back to reading. “I OFFER MYSELF TO YOU AGAIN…” He lowered the page. “Really, Wentworth. Ought you to beg?”

“But it isn’t–”

“Sounds like begging to me, my dear,” said McGillvary. “Continue,” he told Darcy.

“…WITH A HEART EVEN MORE YOUR OWN THAN WHEN YOU BROKE IT EIGHT YEARS AND A HALF AGO. Ouch,” Darcy added.

Admiral McGillvary was shaking his head. “Eight years,” he said. “Eight LONG years. All those shore leaves spent in your cabin sewing on buttons.” He elbowed Knightley. “Wentworth does a mean blanket stitch.”

But George Knightley was frowning. “Is it wise,” he said, “to offer oneself so forthrightly? Shouldn’t a fellow hedge a bit?”

Wentworth took up the pen. “Fine. No offering.” He wrote, YOU BROKE MY HEART EIGHT YEARS AGO.

“Eight LONG years,” McGillvary put in.

Wentworth underlined LONG. “How about this sentence? I HAVE LOVED NONE BUT YOU.”

“Seriously?” said Darcy. “There was no one else?”

Wentworth’s expression became mulish. “NONE. BUT. YOU,” he repeated.

“Impressive.”

“And even it it weren’t true, he can scarcely own it,” said Kinghtley. “What’s he going to say, I HAVE LOVED THREE OR FOUR, IN ADDITION TO YOU?”

“That would be the other Austen chap,” said McGillvary. “The one our girls don’t write. What’s-his-name, Willoughby?”

“Or that brute Wickham,” muttered Darcy. And then he cried, “Hey!” because Wentworth had snatched a sheaf of pages from his pocket.

“Aha!” Captain Wentworth crowed. Grinning, he held aloft three closely-written sheets. “This must be your letter!”

“I–had a lot to say,” Darcy protested. “Kindly recollect that I was sleep-deprived.”

“Did you tell her that?” McGillvary said. “Deal is, if I were up all night writing a flaming epistle–for that’s what this is, Darcy–I’d want the woman to know. Here,” he said, and took the first sheet from Wentworth. “8:00 AM” he wrote below the date.

McGillvary began to read the first page aloud. “BE NOT ALARMED, MADAM.” He stopped. “Why bring up alarm?” he said. “Does Miss Bennet have a reason to be scared of this letter? For reasons other than length?”

“Be positive, Darcy,” Wentworth urged. “Think happy thoughts.”

“Don’t worry, be happy,” Darcy muttered, crossing out the paragraph.

Knightley was reading from the second page. “And what’s all this about her family?” he said. He read the offending sentence aloud: “THE SITUATION OF YOUR MOTHER’S FAMILY, THOUGH OBJECTIONABLE, WAS NOTHING IN COMPARISON OF THAT TOTAL WANT OF PROPRIETY–” His brows went up. “Eloquently said. If your intention is to offend the socks off your beloved!”

“But–” said Darcy.

“I know. You were sleep deprived. And under pressure from Miss Austen to be prosaic,” said McGillvary. “Just use plain English. Pretend you are writing to one of us. One of the guys.”

“One of the guys, one of the guys,” Darcy repeated under his breath. He drew forward another sheet.

DON’T GO ALL TO PIECES, ALL RIGHT? he wrote. IT’S NOT LIKE I’M GOING TO ASK YOU TO MARRY ME AGAIN. AND I DIDN’T GET THAT YOUR SISTER LIKES BINGLEY SO MUCH. NOBODY TELLS ME ANYTHING. AS FOR THE DEAL WITH YOUR FAMILY, IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT THAT YOUR MOTHER SUFFERS FROM–

Darcy looked up. “What does Mrs Bennet suffer from? Excess nerves?”

“Schizotypal Narcissistic Personality disorder,” supplied Knightly.

“Quite the addition to the Darcy gene pool,” said McGillvary. “Nice.”

Darcy grimaced and took up his pen. YOUR MOTHER, he wrote, IS A FREAK OF NATURE. AND I CAN’T—”

“—write that or you’ll be sued,” finished Knightley. He tapped the page with his index finger. “Nice little case of libel, right there. That family needs money, Darcy. And you’re a deep pocket.”

“So leave out the part about her family,” said Wentworth. “I would. Besides, the Bennets are nothing to the Elliots. Talk about a flaming freak circus—!”

“Very well,” grumbled Darcy. He cocked an eye at Knightley. “Wickham also needs money. Do I worry that he will sue me as well?”

“Most definitely,” said Knightley. “He trained as a lawyer, didn’t he? Odd how many Austen villains trained as lawyers.”

Meanwhile, Captain Wentworth had the third page. He labored to read, his brows knit together in a frown. Then he took a sharp breath. “He did what? Wickham did what to your sister?” Wentworth shouted. “And you let him live?”

Darcy colored up. “Wickham’s old father was loved by my family. So out of respect—”

“I don’t care,” cried Wentworth, “if the fellow was my father’s freaking best friend! Or MY best friend, for that matter! He kidnaps my sister with the aim to molest her, he dies. End of story.”

Admiral McGillvary took the page. “And he’s in the army, you say? Easy solution there,” he said. “Death by target practice. Oops!”

“I believe the term is Friendly Fire,” said Knightley. “Not all those killed in battle are trying to be heroes.”

“I know! Let’s lynch him now,” said McGillvary. “I’ve nothing to do tonight.” He turned to Captain Wentworth. “We’ve not had a good keel-hauling for some time.”

“What brutes these Navy types are,” Darcy said to Knightley.

But George Knightley was pulling on his gloves. “Works for me,” he said. “That Wickham fellow is holed up in London, right? John won’t mind putting us up.”

“But what about our letters?” Darcy protested. “They aren’t finished! What will Miss Bennet and Miss Elliot think?”

McGillvary shrugged on his overcoat. “You’re star-crossed lovers, man,” he said. “It’s destiny. Besides, those women have adored you and Wentworth all along. By now they regret not being nicer. They’ll like those letters. You’ll manage.”

“Manage?” said Darcy. “Is that what you did to win Elizabeth Elliot?”

McGillvary spread his hands. “Haven’t exactly won her yet, have I? Instead of a letter, I lied my head off. Not the best way to handle romance. Then again, my authoress isn’t Miss Austen. She’s worse. She’s a–”

Wrinkling his nose, McGillvary looked to Knightley. “What did you say Mrs Bennet suffered from? Skizo-freako-what’s-it disorder? Sounds about right.”

Knightley cast his gaze to the ceiling. “Don’t let’s go criticizing our authors,” he protested. “Miss Austen might be listening. I don’t mind hog-tying Wickham, or whatever it is we’re going to do. Miss Austen might even approve. But I can’t face writing a romantic letter to Emma! And it would be like Miss Austen to make me do it!”

Captain Wentworth clapped Darcy on the shoulder. “C’mon, old man, get your overcoat and hat,” he said. “We’ll pop our letters into a post box along the way. We haven’t got a ship, so keel-hauling is out. You ever see The Godfather, Darcy?”

The End

Happy Extravaganza to one and all!
Thanks so much for stopping by.

Sincerely,

Your friends from The Crown Hill Writers’ Guild

Laura Hile (Mercy’s Embrace series)
Susan Kaye (Frederick Wentworth, Captain series)
Barbara Cornthwaite (George Knightley, Gentleman series)
Pamela Aidan (Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series, Young Master Darcy)

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61 thoughts on “Mightier Than The Sword, Miss Austen?

    1. Susan Kaye

      Luthien ~ It was a hoot, and with Laura acting as scribe, it went along pretty well. I’m glad visitors are enjoying it.

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  1. Amanda Mauldin

    Good gracious! that’s the way to wake up. This is hilarious stuff, I love it! Please, please consider a spoof novel together. I would snap that up in a second.

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    1. Susan Kaye

      Amanda ~ Thanks for the encouragement. In the past our little comedies have not been ambraced so well. It’s nice to know that things cycle around and you like it.

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  2. Maria Grazia

    Still giggling! Brilliant piece. Loved the blend of Austen-styled and modern language. Loved how they tease each other. Only, I don’t think Wentworth is that … rough. I’ve always seen him as very gentlemanlike. Was I tricked by Miss Austen ?

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    1. Susan Kaye

      I am sorry that Wentworth is a bit jarring. He is, indeed, a guy. I think that Miss Austen did not intend to mislead with her portrayal of our dear captain, but to write him as he truly is would have been to admit that her brothers, were, a bit “rough.”

      Thanks for dropping by!

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      Sam, Anna, Felicia, Angie … I’m so glad you enjoyed this little romp with our heroes. Seems to me Jane had something to say on this subject. (*hunting for it*) Ah, yes. Here we are.

      “One cannot be always laughing at a man without now and then stumbling on something witty.”

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      A dangerous compliment to give a group of writers, Jan. 🙂 For we can go on. And on. And ON.

      Since I have my quotations notebook out, here’s one for myself. “The waste basket is the writer’s best friend.” (Isaac Bashevis Singer) Ha!

      Thanks again for the encouraging words!

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  3. Meredith (Austenesque Reviews)

    Ladies, simply amazing! What a special treat for everyone! I love each any everyone of these men and you all spoke for them superbly! I want a sequel and I want to see what they do to Wickham! Who will they go after next? William Elliot? LOL

    Thank you so very much for including this in Austenesque Extravaganza! I’m so pleased you all took part! xoxo

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      Meredith, the pleasure was ours. Such fun to take our guys out of the box. And I’m so happy to see that many enjoyed it.

      And now this. After you recover from the piece of work called “August” — for that’s what this Extravaganza has been for you, a Labor of Love — we hope you’ll consider hosting it again.

      Let’s see. By then, my fourth Mercy’s book will be out, and so will Barbara Cornthwaite’s second. That means all our heroines will be married. Perhaps they’ll have a few things to say? 🙂

      For as G K Chesterton said, “Marriage is an adventure, like going to war.” Ha!

      Thanks for your kind words,

      Laura

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  4. Jennifer G.

    Well, I read this first thing this morning (and so enjoyed it) and came back for a “second helping” tonight. It is very good. Must be why you 4 ladies are my “favorites” out there (I guess Jane really holds “first place” but you get the “currently alive” win!). This collaboration was very fun and witty and it was good to see the men “interact”. You all know your men very well. Wonder what the ladies would say if they had tea together!

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      Old hens? You’ve got that right, Eliane! I have learned from my sons that, when alone–and most especially when playing a video game together–men will talk nostop (even more than girls), belch, shout, and even giggle. Can Austen heroes be much different? Good thing video games weren’t invented … 🙂

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  5. V alerie R.

    Oh my goodness!! This was such a riot!! LOVED the story!!! I laughed so much and could just picture everyone as the story progressed. Thank you for giving us this fun glimpse of our favorite JA men!!

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  6. Sybil

    Hope you can see … well, imagine the smile you put on my face. Thank goodness that dear Jane kept our heros from writing their letters in guy talk. Really, I was laughting so hard I almost fell off my chair. Thanks!

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    1. Susan Kaye

      Yes, we are all thankful that Miss Austen kept the boys in check. “I’m really bummed” is nothing compared to “I am half agony, half hope.”

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    1. Susan Kaye

      They may have to make another appearance around Valentine’s Day. Candy and flowers can bring out the best or the worst in lovers.

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  7. Robin

    That was wonderful! What a fabulous idea to have some of the Austen heroes all together. Loved seeing more of my beloved Mr. Knightley (though I missed Colonel Brandon!). There should be more episodes like this! I’d love to read more about what mischief the heroes get up to!

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    1. Susan Kaye

      The Gentlemen of Austen get up to quite a lot when we ladies are not around to restrain them! But, we do our share of “things” as well.

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    1. Susan Kaye

      We thought you all deserved a break. We are not the most interesting bunch of ladies and the guys are so much more entertaining.

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  8. Suzan

    I agree, very clever. I enjoyed that so much. What a change that would have meant for our characters. Without those letters I don’t know as how I’d enjoy these novels as much. Wentworth’s of course is my absolute favorite. Put it in man language and it’s over….the romance is over truly.

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      Isn’t it something, in these cut-to-the-chase (or more crudely put, hop-in-the-sack) modern times, to see how Austen appeals to young women? Such restraint her heroes display, such quiet integrity and honor for the heroine! As you say, Suzan, this is true Romance, as displayed in the letters.

      Note to the modern male: We are rather weary of your man-English, dude.

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  9. Suzan

    I followed your site long before Meredith’s extravaganza but it’s so nice you’re on there. As well as Austen Authors….before they started also. I had Susan’s books way before any of that. Keep up the wonderful work.

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      You mean a piece featuring the villains for next year’s Extravaganza? Oh, yes.

      Let’s see. If we stick with the Austen novels we write, we’d be limited to Mr Elliot and Mr Wickham (Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice). Does Emma even have a villain? (Frank Churchill? Seriously? In a fight scene he’d go haring off to London to get a haircut. Or a manicure.)

      Readers claim otherwise, but they don’t fool me. I know how much we girls like a bit of violence! (Hero hammers villain in a most un-Austenlike way!) Captain Benwick breaks Mr Elliot’s nose in Love Suffers Long (Volume 4 or 5? I forget which), and Admiral McGillvary takes a swing at him in Mercy’s Embrace. Readers cheered!

      So, swords, pistols, or fisticuffs, Valerie? Eh, knowing how we clack on, we’ll slay the poor villains with WORDS. 🙂

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  10. Suzan

    Ooohhh I love it. I was trying to think how many nonheroes there were per se. There seem to be only 3 or 4 that really stick out there but there must be more. What about the ones we just don’t think of as much of anything? Mr. Hurst, Mr. Collins, Mr. Lucas, Sir William, Captain Harville or Bennick, more of Wentworth’s brother (I already like what you have), anybody in the neighborhood Elizabeth or Mary would have had eyes for? Musgroves, the Bertrams, Mr. Crawford – his Admiral uncle, Mr. Norris, Mr. Prices, The Tilneys, The Morelands – who does Catherine’s brother find after the disaster in Bath?, The Dashwood’s but they make me physically ill. That wearisome cousin Sir John or whatever his name is. All the Musgroves are relatively open for having more to their lives – even Mary,,,,cough, cough..Just a thought. So many great characters out there to grow on us.

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  11. Robin Helm

    That was too funny! Were you ladies sleep-deprived when you wrote it? My sisters and I are always much funnier when we are tired. I actually snorted at one point. Most unladylike.

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  12. Laura Hile Post author

    Eh, that would be me, Robin, as I did most of the writing. Sleep-deprived with too much coffee, you’ve got that right.

    And as well, too much ‘man-English’ from my three college-age sons and husband! For entertainment purposes, I made these fellows rather wordy. In real life, there’d be monosyllabic muttering!

    Thanks for the kind words!

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Why yes, we DO want a piece of your mind. ;-)

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