Hi friends! I’m so excited to share this fun author visit with you today! Actually, it isn’t quite an author visit, more of a retelling of an incident I had while reading Mark Brownlow’s new book – Cake and Courtship: Mr. Bennet’s Memoirs Book One. We hope you like it!
[Blurry, wavy image and harp music]
The Scene: While her husband (Mr. Bingley) is out of town playing for a band, Meredith Esparza decides to wait up for him and begins reading a new Pride and Prejudice variation from the point-of-view of Mr. Bennet titled, Cake and Courtship. Meredith is only a couple of chapters in when Mr. Bingley returns and they both turn in for the night.
During the night, Meredith begins to dream, and finds herself in what appears to be someone’s personal library. There are tall shelves lining the walls, heavy with many tomes. In the center of the room there is a desk, covered with stacks of books and documents. Sitting behind the desk in a comfortable armchair is an older gentleman, wearing glasses and perusing an open book he cradles in his hand. Half turned away from her, the man is so engrossed with his reading that he doesn’t immediately notice Meredith’s presence in the room. Since her mind was just filled with Mr. Bennet a few hours before, Meredith suspects that the man before her must be one and the same, but she isn’t sure.
She is curious to know if this man is indeed Mr. Bennet, so Meredith summons her courage and begins a conversation with him…
Meredith: Excuse me, I am so sorry to disturb you, but are you by any chance Mr. Bennet?
[The older man turns, dipping his head to look over his glasses at Meredith. He raises a single eyebrow, puts his book to one side, then leans back in his chair.]
Mr. Bennet: I am, indeed. You have me at somewhat of a disadvantage, young lady. I presume you are a friend of one of the girls? I really must pay more attention to their dinner conversation. It seems fashions have changed far more quickly than I imagined possible. Your attire is most… [he coughs] …novel. How may I be of service?
Meredith: Er…um…yes, I am somewhat acquainted with your daughters. I have heard so much about the tranquility and comfort of your library and the impressive collection of books you house here, that, as a book lover myself, I could not help wanting to catch a glimpse. Please forgive my boldness.
Mr. Bennet: There is nothing to forgive, dear lady, nothing at all. There can be no higher recommendation of a person’s character than a love of books. Unless, of course, you mean poetry or anything by that Fordyce fellow. Now, where are my manners? Do take a seat. [He motions Meredith to another armchair.]
Let me see if I might guess what would interest you most. Hmm…butterflies? No, I think it unlikely. Beetles, then? Perhaps dragonflies? No? Music!? I have a large collection of tomes that promise mastery of the voice and pianoforte. I bought them for my daughter, Mary. They are a little dusty, mind you.
Anyway, you have the right of it. This is a place of refuge. My books remain admirably silent on the topics of balls and bonnets; I have quite enough of all that in every other room, as you might imagine with five daughters. And now I also find myself plagued by talk of young gentlemen. The officers may keep the peace in Meryton, but they have quite the opposite effect in Longbourn. And there are bachelors not long arrived at Netherfield, too. Have you been to that great house?
Meredith: [Looks longingly at Mr. Bennet’s shelves of books, but decides instead to continue the conversation about the new gentlemen in the neighborhood.] I have not been to Netherfield, sir, but I have heard that there is a new tenant now residing there. Are you acquainted with the gentleman?
Mr. Bennet: Yes, Mr. Bingley is no stranger to me. Unfortunately, that is also true of his sisters. As for his friend, Mr. Darcy, well, Mrs Bennet does not like him, which almost endears him to me. But she is not alone in her opinion. Only Jane has anything pleasant to say about him, though she has something pleasant to say about everyone. My own impression is not yet formed, but I am wary of trusting any man who spends so much time staring stoically out of windows.
We have a Mr. Collins staying with us, too. Have you met him? [Meredith shakes her head.] Pray that you never do. Imagine the most humble, intelligent man of your acquaintance. Now imagine quite the opposite. Though he provides much amusement at dinner; you should see how he eats a boiled potato.
So many bachelors, eh? With all the fuss, I am glad my courting days are over. Though I find they may be less ‘over’ than I believed. You see…well, no, I do not wish to trouble you. But you strike me as an intelligent young woman, and married, too, if I am not mistaken? [Meredith nods.] Perhaps you might be able to help me with a matter?
Meredith: I can easily imagine with so many new bachelors in the neighborhood that there is indeed quite a fuss. What matter do you require help with? I would be happy to aid you in any way.
Mr. Bennet: A gentleman friend of mine has asked for my assistance in winning the heart of an independent young lady of some wealth. My experience of such matters is, well…let us say it lies in a past I do not care to remember, at least not without first indulging in a few more glasses of port. And so I am obliged to learn the rituals once again for his sake. I dare not trouble my family with the matter – there would be no end of silliness. But perhaps you might have some advice on how he should set about the task? Where is my pen? I shall take notes!
Meredith: [Chuckles at the idea of Mr. Bennet asking her for courtship advice.] Ah, well. Perhaps you could tell me a little bit more about this gentleman friend of yours first. What is his situation? How well acquainted is he with the young lady?
Mr. Bennet: Ah, therein lies our problem. He is not acquainted with this lady at all. [Meredith’s eyes widen] Quite…you might well consider him foolish in his hopes and affections, but we are all fools in love, no?
John has spent the last years overseas, untouched by English society, so lacks connections or the confidence of a large estate. I wonder if he lacks sense, too, given his belief that I may be able to help him. But there is a history with his family. [Mr. Bennet grows quiet for a moment, his pen-free hand half-reaching toward the port and sponge cake on his desk.]
My friend is amiable enough. Rather like Mr. Bingley, but with fewer exclamation marks in his conversation. The estate near Gloucester suffers from the family’s absence and John is more painter than landowner. But I am fond of him. How do you think he might best impress a young lady? Wealth? Position? Character? Perhaps the way he ties his cravat?
[Meredith is about to answer when there is a knock at the library door.]
Unknown Person: Mr. Bennet! Mr. Bennet!
Mr. Bennet: A moment, please! Ah, it seems Mr. Collins has lost none of his impeccable timing. Is there to be no peace? You know, this pen gives me an idea. What with John and Mr. Bingley, the girls and all that is going on, perhaps I should record the events of Longbourn for posterity. Now, what should I call my efforts? [His eyes rest momentarily on the cake by his side.] Anyway, you had best make yourself scarce before Mr. Collins comes in. [Mr. Bennet looks about the room.] Hello? Young lady? How uncommonly strange…
[A strong jolt startles Meredith awake. It appears that the idea of encountering Mr. Collins was so unpleasant that she accidentally woke herself up from sleep as if in a nightmare. Sorely disappointed that she cannot continue her conversation with Mr. Bennet and ask more about this newcomer John and his affairs of the heart, Meredith decides to seek the answers to satisfy her curiosity immediately… Grabbing her handy book light, Meredith settles back into bed with Cake and Courtship: Mr. Bennet’s Memoirs Book One, despite the fact that it is 3:30 in the morning.]
What do you think of Mr. Bennet? I cannot wait to see more of Pride and Prejudice from his point-of-view! And what about John? A new eligible man in the neighborhood – what kind of stir will that cause? Or not cause as his heart seems to be already engaged!
My sincere thanks to Mark Brownlow for his brilliant responses in this character interview! It was so much fun for me to work on this together!
Connect with Mark
Mark Brownlow is a British-born writer living in Vienna, Austria. His debut novel, Cake and Courtship, is a Regency romance narrated by Pride and Prejudice’s Mr Bennet. He has also written a novella, The Lovesick Maid: a cozy mystery set in Jane Austen’s fictional village of Hunsford. You can find Mark at LostOpinions.com, where he is known for his reimagining of classic literature as emails. When not writing or teaching, he watches costume drama and football (though not at the same time).
In conjunction with his visit to my blog, Mark is giving away a prize to one lucky reader – the winner can choose either a paperback copy of Cake and Courtship: Mr. Bennet’s Memoirs Book One OR a box of Viennese chocolates! This may be a hard decision!! Look how lovely those boxes look!
To enter this giveaway, leave a comment, a question, or some love for Mark!!
- This giveaway is open worldwide. Thank you, Mark!
- This giveaway ends March 9th!
To learn more about Mark Brownlow and his new release: Cake and Courtship: Mr. Bennet’s Memoirs Book One visit any of the other stops on his tour!