Dear Darcy and Elizabeth

The pleasures of Pemberley may be dulled by the pressures of the in-laws, but remember - everyone has great expectations of you. Don't dash our romantic hopes

Now you are married, the time has come for a few words of advice. After a double wedding (which it seems unlikely Jane Austen would have intended - perhaps Mrs Bennet, when she declared triumphantly that she had "got rid of her two most deserving daughters" on the same day meant it as a figure of speech: there is something terribly unromantic in the sight of two men in cutaway coats next to their brides, rather like those Korean mass nuptials in a jumbo jet) you have gone to settle down and enjoy married life at Pemberley.

Enjoyment, as I fear you will discover, Elizabeth, is definitely not on the agenda. As the brides of the aristocracy learn to this day, to be mistress of a great house such as Pemberley and mother to children of a man of fortune such as Mr Darcy is a difficult role to sustain. You will have your work cut out holding your own; your spirit and wit may well diminish severely; and the deathless passion we all expect you to manifest to the end of your days may only too easily be replaced by a series of characteristics of which you would never have thought yourself capable - shrewishness, short temper and a strong desire to escape being just a few of them.

So, Darcy, in order to lessen the risk of your lovely Eliza becoming terminally depressed at having to cope with her in-laws, the daily menu at Pemberley and the long weeks of the festive season in which Lady Catherine de Burgh, your aunt, will be insufferably condescending to Mrs Bennet, here are a few tips.

Stop smouldering! Your admirers expect a sunny smile to light up your features once matrimonial bliss with Elizabeth is achieved - but the sad truth is that smoulderers, once they have picked up the habit, seem in general reluctant to let it go. Wasn't it your friend Bingley who said the sight of you at Pemberley on a dull Sunday evening was one of the most dreadful things he'd ever known? Try and lighten up and pretend to enjoy Mary Bennet's piano playing on Sunday evenings.

Also, do try to include Elizabeth in some of your decisions. It's one matter to order the felling of a forest or two, but quite another to ban your son from Pemberley for wild behaviour and the ingestion of liquorous substances, without so much as informing the boy's mother. Nor does it go down well to turn a blind eye to the turmoil among rural workers so prevalent in the more mature years of your marriage. Elizabeth, like most intelligent women, moves with the times and does not wish to see your tenants evicted even if they are burning your new machinery.

Elizabeth, we all wish you the greatest happiness in your new life. Once you have taken all the necessary precautions, like checking the housekeeper's potential and being so quietly and icily rude to Caroline Bingley that she never invites herself to Pemberley again, you will find the pleasures of the park, with its 10-mile circumference, most calming and reassuring. At least you can hide from the relatives there and I advise the erection of a small cottage where you can retire altogether on the occasion of Mr Collins's annual visit.

Most important, never forget you have married a Romantic Hero. Do not try to make jokes at his expense, for he will most certainly not be able to see them. And attempt to put out of your mind your father's doubts as to the suitability of the match. Mr Bennet said he feared you would enter "an unequal marriage", for you would not find it in yourself to respect Mr Darcy. This I am sure will not be the case. But the marriage - alas! - will be unequal in other ways.


The writer is the author of two sequels to 'Pride and Prejudice' - 'Pemberley', and 'An Unequal Marriage', published by Sceptre.

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