Old Friends and New Fancies (a review)

A guest-post from Nancy Charkes, a JASNA-Vermont member who is also active in her ‘winter’ JASNA region of Eastern Pennsylvania:



Like Marianne, I believe that first attachments are forever, and cannot be superseded. So, once I fell in love with Jane Austen, no sequel, pastiche, or derivative, could interest me. Not for me the middle age of the Darcy marriage, or Jane Austen as Miss Marple, or a 21st-century chick waking up in the Regency period. The language was wrong, the irony was lacking, the bite was dulled. But along came Col. Brandon, or rather, Sybil Brinton. Truth be told, she came along nearly 100 years ago, but only recently did I discover her book in a contemporary reprint. Old Friends and New Fancies: an Imaginary Sequel to the Novels of Jane Austen was written in 1913 and republished in 2007 by Sourcebooks, Inc.

Old Friends bring together many of the main characters of all six novels as a social network of friends and acquaintances. From Bath to London to the great country estates in Derbyshire, people we know quite well are linked in a busy social life that is full of budding attachments, misunderstandings, and eventual reconciliations. The language is right, although lacking the subtle irony of Jane Austen. The voice is that of the observer, the storyteller.

Kitty Bennet, visiting her sisters Mrs. Darcy and Mrs. Bingley, sets her cap for William Price, who is home on shore leave, and visiting in the country. William, however, is attracted to Georgiana Darcy, who, out of friendship to Kitty, rejects Capt. Price’s addresses in spite of her own warm feelings towards him.

Col. Fitzwilliam, having been introduced to Mary Crawford in Bath, falls in love with her. His evident interest is, of course, subject to the arrogant meddling of Lady Catherine, with an almost fatal outcome. Besides, gossip reports that Miss Crawford is the constant companion of Sir Walter Elliot and his haughty daughter Elizabeth, and is almost sure to be soon the second Lady Elliot.

Along the way, Mrs. Jennings stirs the pot; there are balls at Pemberley and Desborough; reference is made to Darcy, Bingley, and Ferrars offspring. There are hunting mishaps, heroes, and a cameo of Emma Knightley. Elizabeth Darcy manages with good sense and astute understanding; Jane Bingley is calm, facilitating with kindness, and there are just the right number of weddings at the end.
[submitted by Nancy Charkes]