Old Friends and New Fancies

by Sybil G. Brinton

Old friends and New Fancies is a real charmer of a Jane Austen “sequel” that is really 6 sequels for the price of one. The author, Sybil G. Brinton, incorporates important characters from all 6 Austen novels to essentially pair off 3 couples that were left unmatched in the original works. The story is pretty much based around Pride and Prejudice., her most famous and beloved novel, and whose gentle and shy Georgiana has long been the focus of the most speculation and spinoffs about her future. She is frequently paired up with Colonel Fitzwilliam, another well-liked character from the novel for whom Austen devotees wish a happy ending. And this is how this one starts off.

Brinton does an admirable job of maintaining the integrity of Austen’s characters, even while developing and maturing them. She brings much of Austen’s population, including the villains and the ridiculous but lovable, together in a natural believable way that never seems forced. Three of her heroines have become acquainted with each other and are well on the way to becoming fast friends. They like and esteem each other: Elizabeth Darcy, Elinor Ferrars, and Anne Wentworth. It was an amusement to me that Fanny Bertram And Emma Knightly are not included in this circle. As William, Fanny’s beloved brother, says, and I paraphrase, “ Fanny is very good, but she is very strict.” She does not make an appearance. Emma is in the book. Although happily married to Mr. Knightly, She regrettably hasn’t changed a bit.

“it was always a little difficult for Emma to realize that people had important affairs of their own; and that they should have had any existence apart from that which she had chosen to imagine for them”

In fact, she is, not surprisingly, due to her foolish and clueless matchmaking, the catalyst for a big misunderstanding regarding two of our main couples that causes much pain and heartache and drives much of the plot.

“Emma, though fond of Donwell, had grown weary of the neighbourhood, and took a keen pleasure in forming round her in London a large circle of acquaintances, whom she loved to entertain, and in whose characters and careers she took the deepest interest.”

Needless to say, those with whom she takes the deepest interest are those whom she can influence and manipulate, not those who can influence and elevate her. Enter Kitty Bennett.

Those who are very familiar with Austen’s novels will begin to notice that Brinton cleverly incorporates well-known scenes from the originals, only turned on their heads and put in a new light and context. I started to notice these inside joke-like Easter eggs about halfway through. I’m sure if I re-read the book, I would discover more.
The theatricals that caused so much trouble in Mansfield Park, are echoed by a game of charades produced and directed by Tom Bertram. Only this time, they are a lot of fun and stay firmly inside the line of propriety.
What does this exchange remind you of?

“Do, pray, Miss Bennet, come down!” exclaimed William, and several other persons joined their entreaties to his. “Do not try to do it; you will set your dress on fire—your sleeve is so dangerously near. Do let me help you down, lest you fall and hurt yourself.”

(Persuasion in Lyme)
And this?

“Miss Bennet! It is possible that you thought I was paying attentions to Miss Bennet? Miss Darcy, you cannot be serious. This is too frightful”

(Emma and Mr. Elton)
There is a conversation regarding the fickleness of sailors that echoes the debate that Anne has with Captain Bennick in Persuasion.
Kitty Bennett’s pining for the object of her affection recalls Marianne’s suffering in Sense and sensibility:

Though William’s avoidance of her during the latter part of the previous evening, his strange altered looks, and his embarrassed way of saying goodnight had undermined her hopes to such an extent that she had been all night facing the terrible desolation caused by the thought, “If he does not care for me after all,” yet she had not actually given all up in despair until the moment of hearing him leave the house. Some note, some message, might have arrived—might still arrive; but since parting from him, Kitty had not been able to quell the horrible fear that all was over.

Being almost 120 years closer to Austen’s time than we are, The tone and the style of Brinton’s writing is very similar. It does lack the sly wit, although there are some amusing exchanges. When Elizabeth is trying to repair a fractured romance, Darcy remarks,

“I know you are prepared to undertake herculean tasks in the interests of your friends, my dear, but when a man has been so decidedly repulsed, it is a delicate manner to heal the breach. I imagine your scheme would be straightaway to invite Miss Crawford here, and send them both off for a walk, with instructions to return in half an hour an engaged couple?”

Still reserved (shy?) Darcy has reluctantly agreed to host a ball at Pemberley. His feelings provide an insight into his and Lizzie’s relationship:

“…and not having altogether looked forward to the evening, he surprised himself by discovering how much, with Elizabeth at his side, he could enjoy both his own pleasure in entertaining guests, which he had not previously done on so large a scale, and also the pleasure of others who were important to him, Elizabeth, Georgiana, and the Bingleys.”

Isn’t that sweet?
I enjoyed Brinton’s work thoroughly. It is probably the most authentic Austen pastiche I have ever read. Written in 1913, it is widely regarded as the first piece of Austen “fan fiction.” I was at times awestruck at what she was able to accomplish. I’m sure I am not the only Austen devotee to wonder about this mysterious obscure talent and regret this is her only work. I would recommend this book only to those very familiar with the books and/or movies.**4 out of 5 stars**

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

August 30, 2018

24 thoughts on “Old Friends and New Fancies

      • Be fun to write a movie script. I’ll bet it’s been thought of? I watched a bunch of the Gwenyth Emma, and I don’t think so…..it felt like a movie. 🙂 I think the 2009 one is it for me. I even love the way Emma and Harriet walk. You know what’s cool……when Mr.Knightley asks Harriet to dance and she goes tearing out on the floor and he holds her back.

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      • The 2007 Persuasion, I think I’ll watch it and enjoy it but not expect it to be better. This is what you were talking about: “At the end of the film, as she is about to kiss Wentworth (oh, come on, you always knew how it comes out), her mouth twitches like a bass zeroing in on a tasty side order of plankton as her face moves slowly toward its target.” 🙂

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      • I watched the 2007 Persuasion. For me, a lot of the 1995 one was superior but this one did the love part a lot more satisfyingly. I’m glad I’d seen the other so that I had a better idea what was going on. I better get back to it, I think she’s about to finish the kiss. 😉

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  1. I’ve been absolutely enthralled by all this and I’ve been in need of enthralling for a while. I can’t tell you what a pleasure this has been. What a treat!!!!

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    • If I’ve repositioned Jane Austen a little higher in your priorities in watching and maybe reading, I’m very pleased! I’ve been going to YouTube for some reviews and deeper background as well and I have you to thank for that!

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      • Oh good. I’ve learned so much. For instance the mail coaches traveled at 7 miles an hour, changed horses every ten miles and could go from one end of England to the other in 60 hours. These videos have all brought out the importance of letters and the mail….the little Night Mail video I sent you I sent because of the last line.

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      • There’s an overwhelming amount of fascinating stuff available now. Addictive too as you point out. I’ve sent this I’m sure or touted it at least because these are the last remnants of the society Jane was writing about, perhaps even some great grandchildren, and that summer of 1939 must have been something. Good stuff about the Kennedys, shared by people who knew them well. It’s nice some of them felt like they had a chance to pay their dues for having been so priviledged, during the war. Nice to hear people refer to Winston when they’re speaking of Churchill. 😉

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  2. I watched the Persuasion “Kiss Scene” again, the last 4 minutes, and perhaps nowhere else in cinema is there so much that is wonderful mixed in with the ludicrous. 😉

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      • I’m up to the summer of 1806 and the visit to Stoneleigh Abbey:

        “In the late afternoon, then,the coaches must have drawn up along the carriage sweep at the external staircase on the main west front…..”

        One thing I’ve learned…….I started out thinking Jane Austen was raised like the Brontes in a rural parsonage, but the Austens were much higher on the societal scale. I’m now appreciating more and more the pictures her writings present, and at the same time appreciating more what Emily Bronte managed to do with what she had.

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      • 17 pages to go and I don’t want it to end!!!! Her niece Caroline in May 1817:

        ‘She was in her dressing gown, sitting quite like an invalid in an arm chair, but she got up and kindly greeted us and then pointing to seats which had been arranged for us by the fire, she said “There’s….a little stool for you, Caroline”. It is strange but those trifling words are the last of her’s that I can remember’.

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      • Tonight in the nephew’s book I learned that Jane Austen said that Mr. Woodhouse lived for about two more years, that Jane Fairfax survived only nine or ten years and that the letters placed before her by Frank Churchill contained the word “pardon”. This reminded me of poor J K Rowling dealing with literally hundreds and hundreds of characters lives after Harry Potter ended.

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      • Right. These numbers are from an area I’m familiar with:

        Coastal Condos Residential properties sold in June 2022: 162 Average sales price: $677,657

        One factor of course is that they produce income and perhaps that apartment can’t be rented? What would you think for a week in that apartment, though, considering the provenance? $2,500 at least?

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      • One more thing and I apologize but I got nobody else who might be interested. In Lucy’s book there is mention of a hotel in one of the seaside resorts in the late 1700’s advertising they had stabling facilities for 500 horses!!! I can’t imagine the pandemonium.

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