Elizabeth’s forecast created much amusement, and Miss Crawford said, “Everything I hear beforehand of Lady Catherine is very alarming to a stranger like myself. I shall have to have caught a bad cold before her reception next week, for I shall not have the courage to appear and play.”
“Oh, no, Miss Crawford, you must appear,” said Darcy. “We are all too bad, with our jokes about her, for really she means to be very kind. But we have got into shocking ways since my wife married into the family.”
“On the contrary, I think I have educated you all admirably.”
(from Old Friends and New Fancies, pages 31-32)
Written in 1913 and published the following year, Old Friends and New Fancies is considered the first-ever Jane Austen sequel. Sybil G. Brinton manages to believably bring together characters from all six of Austen’s novels to create happily-ever-afters for several secondary characters. The book centers on the romantic ups and downs of Georgiana Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam (Pride and Prejudice), whose broken engagement in the first chapter leads to some awkward moments as they try to find true love elsewhere. Colonel Fitzwilliam and the happily married Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy make their annual visit to Bath, where Lady Catherine de Bourgh mingles with characters from the other novels.
Mrs. Robert Ferrars and Anne Steele (Sense and Sensibility) are desperate to gain Lady Catherine’s approval, and their loose lips churn up events that Mary Crawford (Mansfield Park) would rather forget, separating her from the man she loves and making her vulnerable to the attentions of the obnoxiously vain Sir Walter Elliot (Persuasion) as he seeks a beautiful, well-to-do second wife.
Meanwhile, Kitty Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) is living it up in London as the protégé of Emma Knightley (Emma), who still fancies herself a matchmaker. Back at Pemberley, Elizabeth and Georgiana warn Kitty not to assume the subject of her infatuation will make her an offer of marriage, but that doesn’t stop Kitty from confiding in the obnoxiously gossipy Mrs. Jennings (Sense and Sensibility) — a move that threatens her happiness and that of Georgiana.
Nearly every important character in Austen’s novels is at least mentioned in Old Friends and New Fancies, with a list included at the beginning of the book for reference. Although I had to pay attention to follow the mingling of the characters, I never felt lost or overwhelmed. I’m glad I waited until I finished all of Austen’s novels before delving into this one, but I suppose you could still follow and enjoy it with at least a working knowledge of Austen’s plots and characters.
Bringing together characters from six novels is very ambitious, but Brinton makes it seem easy. The characters meet in believable circumstances and forge convincing relationships, and Brinton deftly knits together numerous plot threads into a story that captivated me from the very beginning. The story branches out from two endearing but struggling characters, Georgiana and Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Brinton has fleshed them out so that they truly do feel like old friends.
Old Friends and New Fancies is one of the best Austen sequels I’ve read so far. I had so much fun revisiting these characters and imagining a world where they could all live together. If you’ve ever wondered what might happen if characters from one Austen novel hopped into the pages of another, you’ll definitely want to get your hands on this book.
Disclosure: Old Friends and New Fancies is from my personal library.
© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.