Sunday, July 06, 2008

Writing a hero's diary, Henry Tilney - part 3

You can find previous posts about the writing of Henry Tilney's Diary on 6th and 21st June.

One of the most difficult decisions for me when I write the diaries is, Where should I start? In Mr Darcy's Diary I started with Darcy sending Georgiana out of London for the summer and then discovering that she was about to elope with Wickham. In Mr Knightley's Diary I started at the same point that Emma starts, with Emma's governess about to marry. In Captain Wentworth's Diary, Edmund Bertram's Diary and Col Brandon's Diary I started with the backstory, taking Wentworth back to his first meeting with Anne, Edmund back to his first meeting with Fanny and Brandon back to his first love affair with Eliza.

With Henry Tilney's Diary I was planning to start it with Henry going to Bath, just previous to his first meeting with Catherine, but when I read the last page of Northanger Abbey again I realised I wanted to start the book much, much earlier. This is the passage that made me change my mind:

The anxiety, which in this state of their attachment must be the portion of Henry and Catherine, and of all who loved either, as to its final event, can hardly extend, I fear, to the bosom of my readers, who will see in the tell–tale compression of the pages before them, that we are all hastening together to perfect felicity.

The means by which their early marriage was effected can be the only doubt: what probable circumstance could work upon a temper like the general’s? The circumstance which chiefly availed was the marriage of his daughter with a man of fortune and consequence, which took place in the course of the summer — an accession of dignity that threw him into a fit of good humour, from which he did not recover till after Eleanor had obtained his forgiveness of Henry, and his permission for him “to be a fool if he liked it!”

The marriage of Eleanor Tilney, her removal from all the evils of such a home as Northanger had been made by Henry’s banishment, to the home of her choice and the man of her choice, is an event which I expect to give general satisfaction among all her acquaintance.

My own joy on the occasion is very sincere. I know no one more entitled, by unpretending merit, or better prepared by habitual suffering, to receive and enjoy felicity. Her partiality for this gentleman was not of recent origin; and he had been long withheld only by inferiority of situation from addressing her. His unexpected accession to title and fortune had removed all his difficulties; and never had the general loved his daughter so well in all her hours of companionship, utility, and patient endurance as when he first hailed her “Your Ladyship!”

Her husband was really deserving of her; independent of his peerage, his wealth, and his attachment, being to a precision the most charming young man in the world. Any further definition of his merits must be unnecessary; the most charming young man in the world is instantly before the imagination of us all.

Concerning the one in question, therefore, I have only to add — aware that the rules of composition forbid the introduction of a character not connected with my fable — that this was the very gentleman whose negligent servant left behind him that collection of washing–bills, resulting from a long visit at Northanger, by which my heroine was involved in one of her most alarming adventures.

Here is a backstory indeed! One that involves a second love affair, that of Eleanor and her Viscount. Given that Eleanor and Henry are very close, it must have formed part of their conversations together at the time, and I saw that this would be a very good way for me to explore the relationship between the two siblings.

Then I realised that if I was going to explore the relationship between Eleanor and Henry I would also like to explore the relationship between Frederick and Henry.

It has some similarities to the relationship between Tom and Edmund Bertram. The older son, the heir, is in both cases a hopeless case, indulging in the usual heir-like pastimes of getting drunk, gambling and womanising. The younger son is in both cases destined for the church.

But there the similarity ends, because whilst Edmund is a serious young man, Henry Tilney is witty and light-hearted, almost a male version of Lizzy Bennet.

I decided I wanted to capture the family dynamics in the first few diary entries. Next time I'll be posting the rough draft of these entries so I hope you'll come back and read them!

Amanda Grange

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

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