A few weeks ago, I invited readers to submit questions for the characters in Jane Austen’s books. Today, Charles Bingley, Charlotte Lucas, and Fitzwilliam Darcy graciously respond to Joy Dawn King and Laura Hile.
Mr. Bingley, Mrs. King would like to know why you have allowed Caroline to continue to live with you after she has caused you and your beloved Jane so much grief.
Ah! My good friend Darcy told me of Mrs. King and her questions. I have long grappled with the conflict I feel concerning my sister, Caroline. My father talked to me before his death, solemnly emphasizing my duty towards both my sisters. I would be no better than John Dashwood if I turned her out, and we all know how he has fared with Austen fans. I would rather be seen as a lovable man who is too forgiving than one who ignores the needs of his family. Let us all hope that Caroline’s twenty thousand pounds will attract a husband soon. However, if it does not, both my angel, Jane, and I are willing to contribute another five thousand pounds to her dowry if it will expedite the matter.
Thank you, Mr. Bingley. Mrs. Collins, Mrs. King has a question for you as well.
Is fifty miles of good road enough of a distance to see the need to feather your own nest?
Oh, Mrs. King, you know that felicity in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. I would add that it is usually a matter of choice. I chose to marry Mr. Collins, and while there are times at which it would please me greatly to be fifty miles from him, I have resigned myself to the fact that I will be fifty miles from Meryton instead. As Elizabeth and Jane left soon after I did, I do not regret my decision at all. In fact, I have the comfort of seeing Elizabeth at least twice a year – once in Meryton and once at Rosings. We write each other often and make certain that we will be in those locations at the same time.
Mr. Darcy, Laura Hile asks you explain to us why you feel the need to consume a diet drink. She realizes that Jane Austen wrote you as being a proud man, but advises you to have a care. “Dear Jane also wrote Sir Walter Elliot, and we all know how anxious he was to maintain his figure. Has modern fame gone to your head? Or, er, waist?”
Well, Mrs. Hile, perhaps you should direct the question to Coca-Cola or Mrs. Helm. After all, Mrs. Helm bought said “diet soda,” and the soft drink manufacturer placed my name on the drink without my permission; they chose to put me on a “diet soda.” I think it was most presumptuous, as I have never, in any of my incarnations pictured above, needed to lose weight.
As to the second question, every woman appears to have a favourite Darcy whom they hold to be the paragon of all which is manly and attractive, and they become positively violent when faced with the idea that another actor might do the part as well. How could fame “go to my head” when I have no idea who I actually am? Each generation brings forth yet another Darcy with a different interpretation of my character and my appearance. I have heard of a mental problem which afflicts some people called “multiple personality disorder.” Perhaps that would explain why there are so many Darcys.
Indeed, Mrs. Helm herself told me that she chose to use a collage of the Darcy actors in order to avoid offending any of your gentle readers, though I must candidly admit that your comparison of my person to that of Sir Walter Elliot is highly offensive to me. (As a consequence, I have raised an eyebrow. You may picture that in your mind.) I am not at all like that gentlemen, though my valet takes great care with my appearance. I allow him to dress me as he likes in order to keep him content, for he is such an asset to me, and training a new valet to my exacting (but entirely reasonable) standards would be quite strenuous.