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!

Host Your Own Afternoon Tea and High Tea

History of Tea and Tea Gatherings

Tea for Two

Tea for two.

One of the traditions inherited from the British Empire is afternoon tea. During the Victorian and Edwardian periods, the aristocracy gathered in the drawing room for this elegant ritual. Up until the First World War, ladies changed into fashionable tea gowns. The middle classes soon adopted this custom (though without the tea gowns). It was a civilized way to entertain friends. In the Regency and Victorian periods, exquisite sterling tea services were wrought by fine silversmiths in Britain. Plated silver soon followed, allowing those of more modest means to enjoy the same elegance. In nineteenth-century England, the pottery firm of Spode was the first to discover the formula for bone china–a mixture of bone ash and clay.

Pink tablecloth and tea set

Pink tablecloth and tea set.

High tea is not to be confused with afternoon tea. High tea was the working man’s early supper. The men worked long hours in the factories and mines, and when they came home they expected an early, substantial meal accompanied by their favorite brew-tea. This early supper consisted of some of the following items: shepherd’s pie, sausages, steak and kidney pie, hard boiled eggs, as well as thick slices of homemade bread. Fruit tarts rounded off the meal with a final “cuppa.” The mother presided over the teapot, which was replenished many times.

Tea in the Garden

Tea in the Garden.

The difference in the varieties of tea is determined by the region in which it is grown. At higher altitudes, the quality of the tea is superior because the cooler air matures the leaves more slowly. Below are some of my favorite teas and their corresponding regions:

  • Black fermented teas are grown in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) and in Darjeeling, India.
  • Early Grey tea was named for the second Earl. It is a blend of Darjeeling and China teas, scented with oil of bergamot (a citrus fruit). This is the tea mentioned on Page 61 of my novel, Too Late for Regrets.
  • Ooling teas are a blend of black and green teas.
  • Green teas are unfermented and are the most delicate of all. They are never served with milk.

Great fortunes were made by firms importing teas. The most famous of these is Twinings, whose history goes back centuries.

Are you planning on hosting your own tea party? If so, it’s important to know the following:

Tea on the patio.

Tea on the patio.

  • The host always makes and pours the tea for guests and should ask beforehand whether milk or lemon is preferred. A teaspoon of sugar further enhances the flavor.
  • Small children love tea parties. Dressed in their best clothes, the children’s manners are usually impeccable; even the youngest are somehow aware that they are participating in a special formal occasion.

    A lace tablecloth.

    A lace tablecloth.

As for the menu…

  • The sandwich, named for the Earl of Sandwich in the nineteenth century, is made from thinly sliced bread spread with a salmon or vegetable spread, then layered with thinly cut cucumbers. It is a staple of tea parties. The crusts should be removed and the sandwich cut into squares or triangles. Scones with jam and cream follow. A pound cake, meringues, or trifle can be added.
  • Pastries bought from a good bakery are perfectly acceptable, especially if they are arranged on a lovely plate.
  • All that is needed for a tea party is a table covered with a crisp linen, a simple arrangement of flowers, good china, and gleaming silverware.

What could be more pleasant than a tea party in the garden? Have you hosted your own garden party? What are some of your favorite tea party rituals? Comment below!

On Writing: Introducing a New Character

In Too Late for Regrets, I allowed Timothy and Elizabeth the luxury of developing their relationship in the first few chapters. Then I gradually developed Sir David Knightley’s character; the reader becomes aware of his importance in this story when he visits South Africa (page 97). Before flying back to the U.K., he sits in his hotel room thinking of Elizabeth. How he has adored her for so many years, his determination to marry her. He resolves to be more assertive with her when he next visits Hamilton City. Surely he will be able to persuade her and make his dream come true? When he meets Timothy and Elizabeth at the Botanic Gardens, it becomes obvious to him that this is no light romance. The sexual charge between Timothy and Elizabeth is palpable, and David mourns his loss.

“Elizabeth, why did you go for a walk that day?” (Page 112)

As he comes to know Timothy, David’s admiration for him increases. He admires Timothy’s keen intellect–his heroism and his devotion to his duties. When David realizes that Timothy is in danger of losing everything, he devises an ingenious plan to thwart the villain’s intentions.

David is an aristocrat and successful business man with a military background. He is a gentle man. What reader could fail to feel a fondness for him? Let me know what you think in the comments below!