Writing a hero's diary, Henry Tilney - part 4
If you'd like to read the previous posts on this subject, then scroll down to 6th June, 21st June and 6th July
Here is the rough draft for the opening of Henry Tilney's Diary, as discussed in my previous post on 6th July
The opening scenes take place 9 years before the events of Northanger Abbey, which is why they are taking place in 1790
Friday 2 July
Frederick came home roaring drunk again this morning and demanded a thousand pounds from my father to cover his losses at the gaming tables. My father, no stranger to the first half of Frederick’s complaint, began roaring himself, and said that Frederick had disgraced the name of Tilney.
‘By God, boy! It’s the army for you. I’ve been lenient with you for long enough.’
Mama implored him to change his mind, saying that Frederick was too young to join the army, to which my father replied, ‘Eighteen? Too young? If anything it is too old.’ Then turning to Frederick he demanded, ‘Well, Sir, what have you to say for yourself?’
Frederick smirked and fell into a chair.
‘That the women will not be able to resist me in uniform!’
‘Puppy!’ roared my father.
‘Please, dear, do reconsider,’ implored my mother. ‘Frederick is the heir. He cannot go into the army. What will happen if he is killed?’
‘He’ll be killed if he stays at home. He’s forever putting his horse at breakneck jumps, and drunk or sober he’s been in more duels than any man I know.’
‘But think of the estate,’ said Mama; a concern which fooled no one, for she cares very little for the estate and a great deal for her firstborn son.
‘If Frederick is fool enough to get himself killed then Henry will look after it,’ shouted my father, who has not yet mastered the skill of normal conversation but continues to speak as though he is on a battle field.
Mama pleaded with him for some time but to no avail, and at last she left the room, closely followed by my father, who was still shouting his dissatisfaction with his eldest son.
If I had a taste to step into Frederick’s shoes I would be well pleased with the turn events have taken, but alas! I have no desire to inherit the estate. It is not well managed and I have no desire to spend my time trying to reclaim it from the brink of disaster.
‘Have a thought for me,’ I said to Frederick, as he staggered drunkenly to his feet. ‘I would much rather inherit the family living than the family estate, so take care of your neck. I do not want to see it broken.’
He smiled broadly as he lurched towards me, then he put his arm round my neck, told me I was his best friend and passed out on the floor.
Saturday 3 July
‘Inherit the estate? Oh no, my dear Henry, it would never do,’ said my sister Eleanor, laughing, as we strolled through the gardens this morning. ‘You could never play the part of a firstborn son. You are not nearly reckless or rakish enough.’
I've no idea if this opening will remain. I will edit it many times before it goes to the publisher, and I might change it completely, or begin the book elsewhere, but somehow I don't think so. It accomplishes a lot in a small space. It introduces us to Henry and his family and it gives us some indication of their personalities. It also sets the scene for later events, such as Frederick running off with another man's fiancee and General Tilney trying to make his children marry wealthy spouses.
Next time I'll be talking about the Gothic influence on Northanger Abbey and my thoughts on working the same influence into Henry Tilney's Diary.
Available books in the Austen diaries series are Mr Darcy's Diary, Mr Knightley's Diary, Captain Wentworth's Diary, Edmund Bertram's Diary and Colonel Brandon's Diary. They're available from bookshops or from Amazons including Amazon US and Amazon UK