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Pride, Prejudice and Sherlock Holmes.

May 22, 2015 07:48PM
A close inspection of Jane Austen’s classic, by fiction’s greatest detective, the veritable Sherlock Holmes. Be prepared to be astounded as the tale unfolds. Elementary, my dear Austen!

Chapter One.

Sherlock Holmes, with no particular cases requiring immediate attention, put down his newly bought copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and thoughtfully filled his pipe with tobacco. He looked across at Doctor Watson, who was idly perusing a newspaper in an armchair by the fire.

“Watson, have you ever read this Pride and Prejudice book? he asked, pausing to light his pipe, and Watson looked up and glanced across at him.
“Hmm, can’t say I have Holmes. What about it?”

“Damned unusual story. It intrigues me in what it doesn’t say as much as what it does. Lend me an ear for a while and I’ll explain. Holmes picked up the book and turned a few pages:

“Speaking broadly from what I’ve learned and not worrying too much about horology yet, at the time of Jane Austen’s writing of her fictional tale of manners, Pride and Prejudice, the title was to initially have been First Impressions, incidentally, Fitzwilliam Darcy is a twenty - seven year old, very rich young man who resides in a grand estate called Pemberley, in Derbyshire, here in England, and appears to also own a house in the fashionable area of London. He is unmarried and his parents are both deceased; his father, five years previously so to the time of the story. The elder Darcy appeared very wealthy but untitled and Fitzwilliam Darcy’s mother was a certain Lady Anne. We will later find that Darcy has a sister of sixteen years, Georgiana, who resides away from home, currently in parts southern, but that is for later. Our Mr Darcy also has a rich aunt, his mother’s sister, who lives in, or near to, Westerham in Kent, in a palatial estate called Rosings Park. “

Holmes peered across at Watson who had put down his newspaper. Satisfied that he had his friends attention he continued:

"Now, this Darcy chap has friends in a Charles Bingley and, through him, his two sisters, and the husband of the elder one, a Mr Hurst, a man of little consequence in the tale except that he likes to play cards and is a specialist in eating breakfasts and not doing much else. Darcy, the two Bingley sisters and Mr Hurst all appear to hold themselves in high self-esteem, based on wealth and social position. Darcy firmly believes, based on his upbringing, that he is a truly superior being, and above almost all of those around him. Later, we will also learn that this belief, rather than a developed character fault, has been ingrained in him almost since he was old enough to walk and talk. In the tale he seems so aloof from everyone as to appear never to associate with lady friends in a romantic way, or, Bingley apart, many male friends either. How very odd at twenty seven, Watson? Has he led a very sheltered life or are there some untold of skeletons in his cupboard? Is he a man of mystery? In his somewhat very closeted-seeming worldly exile, presumably mainly self imposed, he appears as unrestrained, master of all he surveys and answerable to no one. His pride in his and his family’s achievements, wealth and social superiority allow him to believe himself in an upper class almost akin to royalty . He must talk to people sometimes, I suppose, but his chat circle appears very select indeed. Possibly, he sometimes takes a stroll around the portraits of his ancestors in the august corridors of Pemberley and shouts abuse at them to relieve his feelings. They obviously can’t answer back, although rumour has it one once did. Gave him quite a turn until he realised he was looking at a mirror”

Holmes raised a smile as Watson barked a laugh at the fictitious witticism. Holmes took a long pull on his pipe and blew the smoke upwards. He tapped the book in front of him:

“As the story unfolds, we know little of Darcy at all, previous to his attending a country dance assembly in Meryton, a small village cum market town, some three miles from an estate called Netherfield Park, just recently leased by his friend Bingley, another wealthy young man from the north of England, who invited him there. We will also, later, find out that Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, a widow of the late Sir Lewis de Bourgh, resides in an equally grand estate in Kent and is very rich and also shares the same airs of hauteur as her nephew. We may wonder at the start, Watson, why both he and she are rattling around in huge houses like a pair of peas in a barrel, but maybe that’s none of our business, I suppose? These things happen, apparently. Both his and her homes are large enough to hold society balls, in we presume. This Lady Catherine woman has a sickly daughter who is almost a recluse, seemingly rarely venturing beyond the grounds of Rosings Park where she indulges in a daily gallop around the herbaceous borders in her pony and trap, or “phaeton”, to be strictly correct. We don’t and won’t know the name of her pony, but “Unicorn” sounds feasible in a fictional tale, ha ha! Darcy’s aunt, we also later find, is under the somewhat misguided impression that he is engaged to her daughter, although that particular rumour appears not to have surfaced on the Meryton information network at the onset of the story. Now for some observations from points I jotted down because they intrigue me. Take note Watson and see how they strike you!”

Holmes put down his pipe and picked up a list he had put together in his journal. He read a few lines to himself then nodded.

“The first impressions the Meryton locals get of Fitzwilliam Darcy via our narrator, are those of a tall, handsome young man of fashion who, within minutes of his arrival ignites a rumour amongst them that he is immensely rich and his estate yields some ten thousand pounds per year, quite a staggering sum at the time. Now remember, neither the Bingleys or Darcy had ever visited Meryton before the story opens. They were strangers and… What?”

He frowned enquiringly across at Watson who was holding up a finger.

“What time, Holmes? You say, “at that time. .Where are we historically?”

“Ah, yes, sorry about that. The year is around the end of the Napoleonic wars, so eighteen fifteen or so? Anyway, to continue: Even more staggering is, where did that personal information about his wealth get to the locals from? A man never before seen or even heard of in the area, Watson? There must have been an early version of the British Intelligence Service , militia division, of course, in operation at that time with an operative disguised as a butcher, baker, or candlestick maker spying from the wings. No one even knew Darcy was coming to the Assembly till he actually arrived there, yet somehow the village network had all the relevant details of his status. How could that be Watson?

“Why Militia Holmes?” interrupted Watson with a puzzled frown .

“ Because that’s what the story tells us Watson. Meryton is hardly London or any of the main coastal seaports, and militia are mainly reservists who watch things on the home front and keep the peace locally in rural areas. This tale, as you will see, needs a few regimental types strutting about in their finery, but they’re all militia, not regular army. We’ll come to that later. Now then, the locals. Very odd in that the rumour also surfaced that twelve ladies and seven gentlemen were supposedly arriving; a number that resolved into Bingley, two sisters one with husband and Mr Mysterious himself. From a supposed nineteen people down to five? We’ll just have to allow for local exaggeration and servant gossip for that, I suppose, but it is rather odd. Darcy had only arrived that day or so from London. This news even overwhelms the fact that his friend, Charles Bingley, also being a very rich man of some five thousand pounds per year, was the catch of the season till he arrived. This Darcy chap seems so reclusive that he would hardly discuss his affairs with anyone, least of all people he had never met. Just how much wealth new visitors have seems a very relevant, indeed a total priority factor in how interesting they are: Jane Austen’s introductory statement to the story, listen to this Watson, is: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”, although somewhat humorous, and undoubtedly tongue-in-cheek, from the author, actually indicates clearly what we are to expect from Pride and Prejudice as a theme, that is, that both gentlemen are immediate prime targets in the marriage market, before a highly polished riding boot or gleaming dancing shoe has even alighted on the Meryton mud. Seems hardly safe for young men to leave their homes anywhere near the hot-bed of romance and gossip that is Meryton, if they fit the “universal” truth criteria.”

Holmes allowed himself a smile and broke off as a tap on the door announced Mr Hudson with afternoon tea. This was duly poured and the lady exited the room. He picked up his pipe and lit it again before resuming his conversation:

“Initially, local interest now focuses on a seemingly socially reluctant Darcy, who, whilst his friend Bingley mixes freely with his new neighbours and happily shows his dancing techniques, pleasant manners and favours amongst the young ladies, adopts a reserved and somewhat uninterested attitude to the assembly folk in general. Appearing to be a retiring person almost to the status of a Trappist Monk, he stays with his close company, dances just a couple of sets with the Bingley sisters –which must have been a lot of fun given his general demeanour - and keeps very much to himself, showing little or no interest in any of the locals and not encouraging conversation or introduction. Without formal introduction, behavioural guidelines of the time state no contact can feasibly be made without offending codes of social conduct. Not dancing when young ladies are without a partner is tantamount to excommunication from Mrs Bennets twenty-four-family circle, Christmas card list. Ah, but I should perhaps mention here that the Bennet family, a central core of the tale, comprise of a father, mother and five female daughters. The mother, as tradition dictates amongst the upper middle-class families of the time, is very determined to marry off her daughters at any and every opportunity. We shall know more of them later, but meanwhile, staying with Mr Darcy: When Bingley presses him to dance, and even suggests a partner for him- declaring her very pretty and offering to do the introducing - Darcy states the young lady, in question, a total stranger, is tolerable but isn’t handsome enough to tempt him to dance. Now even though that is ungentlemanly Watson. his statement can hardly be taken as anything more than this since even amongst the marriage-hungry mothers’ guild, talk of romance with a lady he had never even spoken to would be just a little premature, but it bodes ill for him in the popularity stakes because, despite it being remarked upon to Bingley, the eagle-eared young lady just happened to overhear him say it. In short, he wasn’t interested in dancing, but he then put himself in a further bad light with the readers, by declaring it would be a punishment to stand up with any of the ladies present. Oh, dear, Watson. That cannot be taken in any way as less than insulting. Bad mistake Mr Darcy. Unfortunately, although the said young lady didn’t catch that remark and it wasn’t uttered in anyone’s hearing except Bingley’s, the citizens’ committee seem prone to mass disapproval of him anyway. The young lady put the story around of what she did hear amongst her friends and his goose was well and truly cooked.…”

“Well, bad form, granted, Holmes, but not a hanging offence surely?

“To you and I, perhaps not Watson, but to these jolly husband hunters, a very serious breach of social etiquette. In Mrs Bennet's eyes He was supposed to fall in love with someone and propose marriage on the spot. The fact that he didn’t know them was of no consequence. These females seemed relentless in their pursuit of wealthy, potential husbands. Here’s a good word for you Watson, “slighted”. Very offensive thing to be accused of, what?. Anyway, the forbidden word “slighted” is hissed venomously by the young lady’s mother, who seems to take offence that one of the newcomers hasn’t already proposed to her daughters despite seeing them for at least a couple of hours. This is insupportable. Do they not know that a gentleman once wrote one of her daughters some very pretty poetic lines when she was but fourteen years old ? That might be a cause for some concern with a lot of fathers in this age,Watson, but hey-ho. Anyway, how annoying. She immediately makes plans to cross Mr Darcy off her social calendar as soon as she gets home. It must be said Watson, that Mr Darcy doesn’t seem to be worrying particularly. The young lady thus “slighted” one Elizabeth Bennet, second eldest of five daughters, and the main female character of the tale, is somewhat affronted, since leaving a lady without a partner at such dance occasions, besides igniting Mrs Bennet’s ire, is also held as unbelievably bad mannered. Miss Bennet however, soon relates the incident amongst her fiends with a carefree laugh and a gay dismissive wave of a lace-gloved hand. We are told she makes light of it, yet in conversation with her close friend, one Charlotte Lucas, next day, states her pride has been mortified. At this time she vows publicly never to trot a gavotte, reel, jig or even a Boulanger, with the despicable gentleman who was so disdainful of her charms . Since Mr Darcy, at twenty seven years old, has so far effectively remained single, one can most probably assume that fact will not cause him any great loss of sleep at this particular time in events.”

“Good Lord Holmes, a chap isn’t safe to roam abroad in this Meryton place!”

“Thus it would seem Watson. Tis but a small market town yet a veritable hive of romantic activity, it appears. To press on: The said young lady’s mother, we realise from reading, is a somewhat hysterical seeming person and a woman of unbalanced and somewhat silly views, who, besides constantly complaining of her “poor nerves”, insists Elizabeth has been slighted and instigates a campaign of dislike against Darcy amongst the local sewing circle, the main topic of conversation it seems being directed solely at his lack of manners for not expressing any desire to become acquainted with the mothers and daughters of the village (in other words, herself and family) and thus possibly be a fair target for marriage). Not a brilliant start Sir! Mrs Bennet’s good humour is somewhat restored when the charming Mr Bingley dances not once, but twice with her eldest daughter Jane. Unlike his po-faced friend, Bingley is a real rug-cutting, gay caballero with a bonhomme air and a charming manner. Get ready to publish the wedding banns! Romance is in the air and marriage must surely follow. Deck the halls with boughs of holly, tra-la-la-la-la…..…la-la-la-lah…...and all this being mentally arranged in Mrs Bennet’s fanciful imagination.”

Watson shook his head, laughed and replenished his cup from the teapot on the tray.
“I’m a little surprised at your choice of book, Holmes. Very high-society, and not a villain in sight!”

“Be patient Watson, all will be revealed. Now then, although a total stranger and just a guest of new neighbour, Bingley - who himself was paying a first visit to the assembly - within a short time Darcy is thus declared totally unfit for the locals to trouble themselves with and is mentally ostracised from their interest. That is serious stuff; a little like the local gentleman’s club black-balling a stranger because he comes from Wigan and he wouldn’t lend somebody a pen. Darcy is, after all, just a friend of the loveable Mr Bingley and will probably soon disappear, hopefully never to return to Meryton. In short, he is a man of no consequence, a persona non-grata. Mrs Bennet eventually returns home happy and with but one target in mind, the new tenant of Netherfield Park, as a son-in-law . Bingley nee Bennet has a nice ring to it, preferably a diamond one. Ten thousand a year lost, but five still alive. Prospects are still good.”

Watson reached into his waistcoat pocket and pulled out his half-hunter pocket watch which he consulted.

“And so, to an appointment for me Holmes. Your dialogue, though interesting, must wait for later I’m afraid. Time waits for no one, and my charming dinner companion for this evening is no exception.” Watson rose, stretched and went off to prepare for his evening.

Holmes pick up a pen and made another note in his journal.

Pride, Prejudice and Sherlock Holmes.

Jim G.MMay 22, 2015 07:48PM

Re: Pride, Prejudice and Sherlock Holmes.

Shannon KJune 01, 2015 07:38AM

Re: Pride, Prejudice and Sherlock Holmes.

Jim G.MJune 01, 2015 01:54PM

Re: Pride, Prejudice and Sherlock Holmes.

Lucy J.May 24, 2015 07:15AM

Re: Pride, Prejudice and Sherlock Holmes.

mpinneyMay 23, 2015 07:15PM

Re: Pride, Prejudice and Sherlock Holmes.

ShannaGMay 23, 2015 04:03PM

Re: Pride, Prejudice and Sherlock Holmes.

Kim W.May 22, 2015 11:05PM


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