Hi readers! I am so excited to welcome the lovely Caitlin Williams to Austenesque Reviews today!! Caitlin’s Pride and Prejudice variations (Ardently and The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet) are amongst some of the most beloved and widely read in the genre and I am so incredibly glad she is gifting us with a third book this month!! (Can I get a woot woot?!?) Judging from the book blurb, it looks like this story may have a bit of tension in it between Elizabeth and Jane! That is something we don’t see very often! I’m so happy to be taking part in the blog tour for When We Are Married! I hope you enjoy Caitlin’s thoughtful and moving post about Jane and Cassandra.
Thanks Meredith for inviting me onto your blog today to launch When We Are Married.
This is a book which is as much about Elizabeth and Jane and their relationship, as it is about Darcy and Elizabeth. In Pride and Prejudice, those sisters love each other dearly. but in this variation, I have examined what might happen if there was a discord between them. And tried to imagine a case where a person’s normally loving disposition is corrupted by the crushing pain of rejection.
And because of that, I wanted to write something about sisters today. In particular, Cassandra and Jane Austen. Theirs seems to have been a devoted, loving, close relationship. They were together for most of their lives, bar the odd visit elsewhere, and Cassandra was a great support and a tower of strength to Jane. Cassandra was clearly devastated upon Jane’s death.
My friend, Christina Boyd posted this quote from a letter Cassandra wrote after Jane had passed away.
And today, I made a visit to Jane Austen’s house, which gives you a wonderful idea of how these sisters lived together and the strength of their bond. It inspired the little piece below.
Thank you, Meredith, for letting me share it,
I rise to find it is nearly seven o’clock. The sun is being kept at bay by the curtains, yet persists in trying to creep through a slim gap where they do not quite meet. When I pull them back, I am forced to put a hand up to shield my eyes for a moment. It seems too bright, but then it is July, so I suppose the dawn broke a good few hours ago.
I wash in warm water from a bowl on a table by the bed, and as I cleanse my skin of sleep, I examine the pattern on the china. There are swirls of blue around its edges, depicting flowers and birds, an object so familiar to me that I have failed to take proper notice of it for some time. The water must have been brought in while I slept; the maid having crept across the floorboards softly and silently while I slumbered.
How tired I always am lately, and for how many hours do I toss and turn in my bed before sleep finds me? How tangled in the covers do I get? My pillow is damp every morning. Everything itches and scratches when I first lay down at night, and I grow so uncomfortable in my own skin. My bones feel terribly heavy, as if they were fused together. Something keeps me awake, some distress, but at the moment I cannot remember what it is.
What do I have to bother me? I am always so happy, here at Chawton. I would be content to remain here forevermore, with my sister in a bed across the room from me, my mother down the hall, and our good friend Martha Lloyd up above us, secured in a neat little room on the third floor.
As I dress, needing no assistance, I look down at the gardens. Bees and butterflies are about the flowers, busy amongst the lavender—Jane will be just as busy too, I expect. Her bed is empty and does not look as if it has been slept in for a while. Though I hear no sounds from the piano and needlework is usually an evening pursuit. She is so good with needle and thread, so precise in her stitching. Indeed, the handkerchief I take with me now, as I go out of the room, bears my initials, having been sewn carefully onto the cloth by her own fair hand.
We take our exercise in the afternoons, walking in the gardens when the weather is not sogood, and across the fields at the back of the house when it is warmer and drier. She will be inside somewhere, but the house is so quiet, making me conclude Jane must be writing. I imagine her bent over her little table by the window. Dipping her pen, blotting her smudges, pausing between sentences to gaze up at the road outside. Though she looks out at Chawton, she will not see it. She will be blind to the people going to and from the smithy further up the road, and the children playing across the way will go unnoticed. She sees only her vistas, her own worlds, conjured up by her rich imagination. Oft times she will frown, when she is deep in thought, but it is always followed by a small smile, a quirk of her lips, and then she will hurry on again with her work, her pen moving quickly across the page once more.
I will look in on her, but will not speak. There will be no use talking to her now. I will get no sense from her. She will be absorbed by her characters, swept away by her story. She is often so distracted she will pour a cup of tea for herself and forget it soon after. It will sit by her elbow, growing cold. Such a waste. It is so expensive and if I were in charge of the tea cupboard, I would scold her for it, but that is her job—her responsibility, not mine. Though, oddly, I have the key for it in my pocket now and I shake my head and wonder why.
The door creaks as I push it open. It could be easily mended with some oil, a quick adjustment of the bolts and screws, but Jane, when we spoke of repairs long ago, gave me an impudent smile and insisted it remained in its noisy state. I soon realised why. It gives fair warning of visitors—of intruders into her other realms. If Mrs Potter or Miss Arnold should call unexpectedly, she can put away Mr Darcy or Captain Wentworth—tuck them away in their box and not be quizzed about them.
Though, now I think upon it, it has been a long time since she has hidden her work. She is recognised for it now, she is begun to be celebrated, her writing much lauded, as it should be. Then I remember that it is not only a long time since I have seen her hide her work, but an age since I have seen her doing any work at all. She was writing something a while back, Sandition I believe it is to be called. It will make me most glad to see her occupied with it once again.
Though as my eyes fall upon her little table in the corner, they fill with tears. She is not there. She has written her last. Her chair is empty, her pen is clean, and the lid on the pot of ink is tightly secured. The table is bare of papers, packed away months ago.
How could I have forgotten it all, her illness, our hopeless time in Winchester, with doctors and potions? Jane did not return home with us and never saw Chawton again; never laughed again at the wallpaper in the dining room which was hung upside down to disguise its missing flowers. My mind has played a cruel trick on me, taken me back to happier times for a while. I suppose it meant to be kind, to give me relief from my pain, but my grief only chokes me again, I feel it all anew. I go across to her table and stroke the surface, my fingers running across the grains in the wood, feeling every imperfection. How did she write such wonderful stories on such a small, uneven thing? And why was she not given time to write more?
The world shall miss my sister, Jane, but I shall miss her more – not just a writer, but a musician, a seamstress, a sister, a daughter, an aunt and a friend.
Oh my heart hurts just to think of the devastation Cassandra felt, these sisters truly were part of each other. Thank you for such a lovely tribute, Caitlin! I cannot wait to see what happens between Jane and Lizzy!
Connect with Caitlin
Caitlin brings 1 ebook copy of her new release, When We Are Married, for me to give away today to one lucky reader!
To enter this giveaway, leave a question, a comment, or some love for Caitlin below!
- This giveaway is open worldwide. Thank you, Caitlin!
- This giveaway ends July 28th!
My sincere thanks to Claudine Pepe and Caitlin Williams for making this blog tour possible!
July 21 ~ Austenesque Reviews ~ Guest Post Launch & Giveaway
July 22 ~ Of Pens & Pages ~ Book Review & Giveaway
July 23 ~ Just Jane 1813 ~ Book Review & Giveaway
July 24 ~ More Agreeably Engaged ~ Book Review & Giveaway
July 25 ~ My Vices & Weaknesses ~ Excerpt Post & Giveaway
July 26 ~ Babblings of a Bookworm ~ Book Review & Giveaway
July 27 ~ From Pemberley to Milton ~ Book Review & Giveaway