I'm relieved and very happy to say that my publishers have taken my new book, Mr Knightley's Diary. I don't know when it will be out, but my guess is that it will be in the autumn.
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And here's an exclusive excerpt for readers of the blog!
This is taken from near the beginning of the book. Mr Knightley has just returned from London, and goes to visit Emma, following Miss Taylor's marriage.
Friday October 2nd
After the noise and grime of London, it is good to be home. I was struck anew with the beauty of Donwell Abbey, with its low, sheltered situation, and its avenues of timber. I left my horse in the stables and walked through the meadow and down to the stream. The light was fading, but there was still enough to see by and the low sunlight sparkled on the water. I thought of happy years spent fishing there with John, and I watched it as it trickled along.
I turned and walked back to the house, and was warmed by the sight of it. The west front was catching the last rays of light, which gleamed on the spires and arched windows. They brought out the detail in the carvings of birds and fruit, and I thought of the craftsmen who had made them centuries ago. After John’s town house, I welcomed the Abbey’s ancient walls, and its familiar sprawl.
I noticed that some of the furniture was becoming shabby, but I could not bring myself to think of changing it. Besides, the furniture in the drawing-room and dining-room is well enough, and visitors do not penetrate further than those two rooms.
I ate my dinner in solitary splendour, and afterwards I walked to Hartfield to give Emma and her father all the London news.
I found them about to play backgammon, but they abandoned their game as I entered the room. Mr Woodhouse fussed about my health, and the damp and the dirt, but I did not pay him much attention. Instead, I let my eyes wander to Emma.
I was struck at once by the difference in her. With her governess in the house, Emma had always seemed like a schoolgirl, but with Miss Taylor gone, she seemed more like a young woman. Miss Taylor’s absence will be good for her.
She was taking her new condition well. She could not but miss the company of Miss Taylor, but she was making an effort to be cheerful. Her face broke out in a smile when she saw me, and it elicited an answering smile from me.
She asked about her sister, and her nephews and nieces.
‘Did Isabella like the baby’s cap?’ she asked.
‘Very much. She said it had come just in time, as Emma had outgrown the last one.’
‘And did the boys and Bella like their presents?’
‘Yes, they did. John complained there was no present for him.’
‘I will have to make him a cap the next time you go to London!’ Emma said.
‘And how did the wedding go?’ I asked.
‘Ah! Poor Miss Taylor!’ sighed Mr Woodhouse, who, I fear, will be lamenting the marriage ‘til Doomsday. ‘She will miss us, I fear.’
‘We all behaved charmingly,’ said Emma. ‘Everybody was punctual, everybody in their best looks: not a tear, and hardly a long face to be seen. We all felt that we were going to be only half a mile apart, and were sure of meeting every day. Besides, it had an added matter of joy to me, and a very considerable one - that I made the match myself.’
So she is still claiming to have made the marriage, despite everything I can say to give her a more rational view!
‘My dear, pray do not make any more matches, they are silly things, and break up one's family circle grievously,’ said her father.
I could not help giving a wry smile at this novel view of marriage!
‘Only one more, papa; only for Mr. Elton. Poor Mr. Elton! You like Mr. Elton, papa. I must look about for a wife for him.’
I shook my head at her delusions.
‘Depend upon it, a man of six or seven-and-twenty can take care of himself,’ I told her.
Nevertheless, I find myself half hoping she will attempt it. I cannot make her see sense, but when she fails in this new endeavour, it will teach her that her powers are nothing out of the ordinary, and that she had better leave other people to manage their own affairs!
Mr Knightley's Diary can be pre-ordered from the publishers by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org