Whatever Happened To? If you are a Janeite, you may already know about Sybil Brinton’s 1913 publication – Old Friends and New Fancies – that continues the lives of characters from Austen novels.
Mimicking Austen’s language, the story opens with…
“There is one characteristic which may be safely said to belong to nearly all happily married couples – that of desiring to see equally happy marriages among their young friends; and in some cases, where their wishes are strong and circumstances seem favourable to the exertion of their own efforts, they may even embark upon the perilous but delightful course of helping those persons whose minds are as yet not made up, to form a decision respecting this important crisis in life, and this done, to assist in clearing the way in order that this decision may forthwith be acted upon.”
Brinton creates the lives of some of Austen’s characters as they live on, adding other new “fancies” from her imagination, with the ploy of marrying off some of the minor characters from Pride and Prejudice – Georgiana Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Elizabeth’s younger sister, Kitty. If you are a devotee of Jane Austen, you will recognize Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy as well as Emma Woodhouse (Knightly), Mr. Knightly, and Elinor Dashwood, among others. They all seem to know each other in Brinton’s world, and all maintain their Austen characterizations – Lady Catherine de Bourg is as interfering and ornery as ever; Emma is still a matchmaker; Anne of Sense and Sensibility continues to gossip.
Throughout the story, Brinton maintains not only Jane Austen’s language and style, but also stays true to her tone. The characters act as you would expect them, if they had met across novels. The story makes sense only if you’ve read Austen’s body of work. At times, the new characters confuse the machinations; it’s not always easy to keep everyone straight – even when you know the “old friends.”
A friend gave me this book, knowing that I am a Jane Austen fan. Old Friends and New Fancies is not Austen, but it is clever – easy reading and a nice diversion if you are a Janeite.
Today is Jane Austen’s birthday – what better way to celebrate.