To all of those who don’t follow The Elegance of Fashion, an amusing competition event is being held whereby we are given a plea of help from a fictional character, and must reply in the voice of another. Unfortunately, I’ve only just discovered her wonderful blog and this event, so I am entering the final stage; however, this was really fun! I hope you enjoy reading my three attempts (to make up for not entering before!).
Dear Jane Austen Advice Column,
My name is Frank Harrison. I am a medical doctor and have recently taken up a new post in the small town of Cranford where I assist the elderly Dr. Morgan by attending some of his numerous patients. Cranford is a bit of an oddity where the women reign supreme (not unlike amazons!), careless of new fashions and fearful of change. I’ve already had to rid my wardrobe of a particularly handsome red jacket because Dr. Morgan told me the ladies of Cranford would think it fanciful. But on the whole I had found the residents of Cranford very welcoming until today when many things unseen to my eye came to a head. Upon my arrival here one of my first visits was to the vicarage where I met Reverend Hutton and his lovely daughter Miss Sophy Hutton. She is an angel! and I was making strides to ask if I might court her when her young brother Walter fell ill and despite all of the methods of modern medicine I applied soon died. You may well imagine what a rift this caused between the young lady and myself and yet I loved her more each day. Quite a few months later Miss Hutton came to trust me again and I was bold enough to ask her father if I might court her. What happiness when he gave his permission! Our courtship was going on so well until this afternoon while attending the town’s May festival, it came to the attention of the whole town that two other ladies felt themselves as good as engaged to me! Miss Tompkinson is a spinsterish young lady who lives with her sister in town and though I have attended her many times for palpitations and other maladies I was never aware of having shown her any other interest than that of a doctor to his patient. Likewise Mrs. Rose, who is my widowed housekeeper, seems to think that I have shown signs of love for her, which I never have done! The worst of the matter was seeing my dear Sophy stricken with horror at my supposed unfaithfulness and see her directed away by her father. I am in a state of shock from which I shall not soon recover! Please tell me dear sir or madam, what am I to do!?!
Desperate for advice,
Dr. Frank Harrison
REPLY FROM MR TITE BARNACLE JUNIOR, OF THE CIRCUMLOCUTION OFFICE
'Little Dorrit' (2008)
To a Dr Harrison,
Oh, I say! Now, look here, Dr Harrison. Upon my soul you mustn’t just barge into the place saying you want to be advised.
It’s not anything about— Wanting to Know— or that sort of thing, is it? No, no, it’s not? You want to be advised, you say? No, no, no, that simply will not work. You have no right to come this sort of move.
Look here. Egad, you haven’t got any appointment. Oh no. You really are going at it at a great pace, you know.
Then, look here, is it private business? If it is, you oughtn’t write to us. But I say! Is this public business? If it is, I tell you what! I’ll forward this letter on to the Secretarial Department next door. Here are some forms to fill in.
Upon my soul, you mustn’t just barge into the place saying you want to be advised, I do advise. That’s not the way to do it.
Mr T. Barnacle Jr.
REPLY FROM MARIANNE DASHWOOD (Before she fell for Col. Brandon)
'Sense & Sensibility' (2008)
I write to you with the utmost urgency so that you may follow my words of instruction directly and end this poor, beautiful girl’s misery.
Let me be clear, as opacity cannot be tolerated in times of life and death; you have been a deceitful man and betrayed the trust of a girl with youthful innocence, whom may never see any light in this world again. Do you not see what damage you have caused with your recklessness? A woman’s first love should be treasured indeed and you have caused havoc within her heart. The once peaceful sea within her chest has now evolved into a hurricane of storms. You say that you have not come to be in this position by choice. Well then, sir— and I use that word with utter disdain as I waver on the point of your having a gentleman’s soul, mind or character,— if that is true, in order to reverse this perhaps irrevocable mess, you must consult with her at once and admit your love in the most passionate of ways. I recommend you recite to her a favourite poem of yours— you must carry around Shakespeare’s Sonnets which you have read to her, if you are her true lover, to be sure— for there is little more that a girl with a soft heart could wish for and she will surely forgive you if she loves you as a lover should.
As for the other deluded, old fools, you must dismiss them immediately without any hint of sympathy. You must not worry yourself on their behalf; those past the age of seven-and-twenty can never feel or hope to inspire affection again. Particularly the widow, she must be deranged from the death of her first love, poor soul. I hope I die before my love, that way I will never have to endure the pain of living and breathing without them, weighed down by the pain of grief. If they continually persist, ignore them entirely. I would recommend elopement with your sweetheart, and perhaps you could find a pretty church somewhere in Scotland surrounded by wild flowers. That would be best.
Sending my warmest regards to the young lady,
P.S. Apologies for the holes which I have eroded into this parchment and for my hurried handwriting; however, in the seriousness of this emergency, the heart of the matter is more important than the façade, indeed, is it not?
P.P.S. I enclose within my letter a sonnet which I think would be highly suitable to recite by memory to your love.
REPLY FROM MR WICKHAM
'Pride & Prejudice' (1995)
My dear friend, Dr Harrison,
I am afraid that you have got completely the wrong end of the stick! Sir, if I cried out for help whenever there was a mishap between two lovers, I would be a gentleman of leisure, with no need for a profession! If anything, you now have the upper hand. Love is like a game of cards, you must pick and choose carefully until you hit the jackpot. Strike too early and you may lose all; bet too little and you may gain nothing; time the bullet perfectly and you just might make the kill.
I can say with complete confidence that having all of this attention amongst the female sex is making yourself as a suitor become even more desirable. Being a celebrity in your village should be used to your utmost advantage. Flirt to make the “indifferent”— or so they say— jealous. The more you play, the richer those who are “indifferent” will be. You have clearly come thus far in winning the real prize— who, as I have no doubt in your being a sensible gentleman, must be worth her weight in gold,— since she is already showing signs of trepidation. All you have yet to do is flirt with the other women until they start to swoon to the ground upon seeing your handsome face, and wait for your future wife to beg you to take her in to your humble abode and marry her immediately. She will not care about any other woman, only that she is the one you have chosen. She will be grateful to you everyday and her parents will be ecstatic that you have made their previously emotionless daughter so joyful, allowing you complete access to her dowry.
If all else fails, Harrison, elope with her— or take her hostage,— then order family or anybody who cares in the slightest to pay immediately so that you may be married, or else lead the family further into scandal. Alternatively, an inside source tells me that the British red uniform lies very well over in the minds of the New World’s finest, richest ladies. The gambling is also said to be reputable over there.
Thanks for reading! I’ll let you know how the short-listing goes!