Comical Characters in Novels

The comical character in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice is Mr. Collins. He is pompous, overly pleased with himself, and filled with a sense of his own importance. He spouts inanities to anyone who will listen to him. Overawed by having been chosen by the haughty Lady Catherine de Bourgh to be the rector in her parish, he uses every opportunity to gush about her attention to him (invitations to dine at Rosings!), the size of the rooms in her mansion, the number of windows, and the price of the staircase and the fireplace! He bows and scrapes and hangs on her every platitude.

He is the heir to the Longbourn estate which is entailed (only a male can inherit it). He pays a visit to Longbourn with the intention of marrying one of the Bennet sisters. Having no doubts about his attractiveness, he is offended when his proposal to Elizabeth Bennet is rejected.

When Lydia Bennet elopes with Mr. Wickham, Mr. Collins hastens to Longbourn to offer his hypocritical condolences which do not mask his delight at the family’s downfall. Oozing insincerity from every pore, he assures them that they will never recover from disgrace.

He is the epitome of schadenfreude (the malicious enjoyment of others’ misfortunes). Mr. Collins: created for the reader’s amusement by an author with a satirical eye and a sharp wit.

What are some of your favorite comical characters in novels? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Perennials: A Picturesque Portrait

Breathes there anyone with a soul so dead,

Who would not admire a perennial bed?

Most of us start gardening too late in life. When we are young and sprightly, we have too many other interests. The middle years are taken up with furthering our careers and/or raising families, so that by the time we should be hitting our stride, our stride has turned into a totter; bones are creaking and backs are aching. The spirit might be willing, but the knees are weak. However, it’s never too late to start. Procrastinating about doing a project is like looking at a wheelbarrow; nothing will happen until we start pushing.

Planning a Large New Border:

Study the photos in gardening books then choose the layout and the plants you most admire within them. Like Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, we must use the “little grey cells” in order to choose the best plants. Picture this large border as a stage and like Cecil B. de Mille you’ll soon be directing a cast of hundreds.

Digging:

Roses are reddish,

Violets are bluish,

But they won’t grow in soil that’s glueish!

Gardening is 10% preparation and 90% perspiration; most of the latter comes from digging.

  1. Make sure the soil is soaked but not soggy.
  2. The tines of the fork should go in the full length. Large clumps should be broken up with the back of the fork or spade.
  3. Spread large amounts of compost, peat, and manure then dig again. The soil will become friable. (For a vivid example of this, read page 39 of Too Late for Regrets.)

Planting:

Place the plants in the area where the holes are to be dug. Move them around until you’re happy with the result. Container plants bought from the nursery might have become rootbound; tease out some of the roots and spread them out before planting. Water thoroughly, and make sure that any weeds appearing are eradicated promptly.

Sun-Loving Perennials

  • Aurinia (Basket of Gold) – low growing, mid-spring
  • Rock Cress (Arabis) – showy racemes of pure white, late spring. Ideal for rock gardens.
  • Centranthus Ruber (Jupiter’s Beard) – has upright stems bearing fluffy clusters of pink flowers. 2 feet, needs staking.
  • Rudbeckia (Goldsturm) – Black-eyed Susan. Stunning orange flowers with a black center. Shasta daisy makes a spectacular splash of white, mid-summer.
  • Coreopsis (Tickseed) – “Early Sunrise,” “Sunray,” charming yellow flowers at the end of wiry stems, 1-2 feet
  • Heliopsis (Helianthus) – False sunflower, long blooming, 2-3 feet. Plant at rear.
  • Phlox Paniculata (Garden Phlox) – “Eva Cullum,” exquisite clusters of deep pink flowers on sturdy stems, stake. 2 feet, mid-late summer.
  • Aster Frikartii – lilac daisy-like flowers, late summer
Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)

Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)

Stacys 1.5 Feet, Upright Stems

Stacys 1.5 Feet, Upright Stems

Achillea (Yarrow) "Paprika"

Achillea (Yarrow) “Paprika”

Aster Novae-Angliae

Aster Novae-Angliae

Sandwort, Early Summer, Low Growing

Sandwort, Early Summer, Low Growing

A Well-Planned Perennial Bed

A Well-Planned Perennial Bed

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)

Heroes in Novels: Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s Novel “Pride and Prejudice”

Mr. Darcy is not one of those heroes who rescues people from physical danger. However, he rescues the Bennet family from disgrace and loss of their good name. He is ashamed at the way he had proposed to Elizabeth Bennet, denigrating her family, thus insulting her. To make amends, he rescues the family from the shame of the elopement of Lydia Bennet with the dastardly villain, Mr. Wickham. Mr. Darcy pays off Mr. Wickham’s debts, ensuring that the marriage will take place and that the good name of the family will be restored. He does this anonymously with the understanding that his deeds will not be acknowledged. He wants no thanks or praise. Mr. Darcy–a gallant hero.

Dear readers, have you ever known anyone who was not a hero in the obvious sense, but radiated heroism in his or her daily actions? I’d love to hear about your everyday heroes in the comments below!

Jane Austen – An Appreciation

While I am not a scholar or expert on Jane Austen, I am an appreciative reader. It’s remarkable to think that the novels she wrote 200 years ago are still relevant today. The human condition hasn’t changed; jealousy, spitefulness, gossip, hypocrisy, and rumor mongering are the traits still prevalent in today’s society.

How was she able to capture all these characteristics while living in a vicarage within an isolated village? She had no formal education, but with the encouragement of her brilliant father she started to read at an early age. She devoured books, and as a young woman she became a master of the English language.

This branch of the Austen family was poor. However, they were upper class; many of their relatives were gentry and aristocrats.

When Jane and her sister Cassandra visited these relatives at their large estates and grand houses, they were exposed to a wide variety of people in these social settings. Balls, dinners, card parties, and picnics were the settings for many of her novels.

With her satirical eye and sharp wit, Jane observed and made mental notes. When she returned to the vicarage, she used this knowledge in her novels.

The family also visited Bath, the beautiful town with its exquisite architecture, its squares and crescents. Here was another opportunity to study the foibles and peculiarities of the gentry and leisured classes. Balls and concerts in the great assembly halls, the constant parade of elegantly dressed men and women–all were grist to her mill. Everything she wrote about is still pertinent in today’s society.

And the mothers–oh, those mothers! Vying with each other, scheming to ensure that their daughters would capture the most eligible (and rich) bachelor.

The famous first sentence in Pride and Prejudice says it all: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

A hundred years from now, when all the bestsellers of today are long forgotten, Jane Austen’s novels will still be read and enjoyed.

Do you have a favorite Jane Austen novel? Who is the classic author that continues to inspire your work today? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Villains in Novels

In Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice, Lady Catherine de Bourgh is considered by most readers as comical. However, she is also the villain. Haughty and arrogant, she looks down her nose at anyone who doesn’t measure up to her aristocratic standards.

When she hears rumors that her nephew, Mr. Darcy, is engaged to Elizabeth Bennet, she sets out in a huff to confront Elizabeth at her home (Langbourn). When she arrives, she imperiously bids Elizabeth to walk with her in the garden. She demands to know whether these rumors are true.

Elizabeth tells her: no, there is no engagement. Her ladyship is pleased.

“And will you promise never to become engaged to him?”

But feisty Elizabeth is more than a match for her; she’s had enough of her ladyship’s interference and tells her in no uncertain terms that who she becomes engaged to is her business and no one else’s. She will make no such promise.

Lady Catherine is incensed, telling Elizabeth that by marrying her nephew she would be quitting the sphere in which she had been brought up. “On the contrary,” Elizabeth replies, “Mr. Darcy is a gentleman. I am a gentleman’s daughter; so far we are equal.”

“True,” says her ladyship, “but who are your uncles and aunts?”

Whatever her connections are, Elizabeth ripostes, if Mr. Darcy does not object to them, why should Lady Catherine object to them?

“Mr. Darcy is engaged to my daughter,” says Lady Catherine.

“If that is so,” Elizabeth replies, “you can have no reason to suppose that he would make an offer to me.”

Elizabeth walks back to the house, Lady Catherine following behind her–still ranting.

Before entering her carriage, she delivers a devastating and comical one-liner. “I am seriously displeased!”

Have you ever had someone try to break up you and a significant other? Comment below with your thoughts and experiences!

On Writing: Villains in Novels

As in most novels, there is a villain in Too Late for Regrets. I don’t want to reveal the plot, so I’ll say no more. But the reader will spot this villain immediately. At the top of my list of  favorite villains in literature is Mrs. Danvers in Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca.”

Mrs. Danvers is the embodiment of evil; spiteful, manipulative, and filled with hatred for the second Mrs. de Winter. This innocent and inexperienced young girl is thrust into a situation which she is unable to handle. Mrs. Danvers, soft spoken and persuasive, convinces the girl that Max de Winter was obsessed with the beautiful Rebecca and is brokenhearted at her death. However, it is Mrs. Danvers who is obsessed with Rebecca. She wants to oust the young girl from Manderley, thus keeping Rebecca’s memory alive. Mrs. Danvers’ last tragic act destroys her and Rebecca’s legacy.

Can readers share with us their favorite villains?