In which the Bennet Wardrobe’s place in the hierarchy of English/British magical transportation devices is discussed. (Composed by the author to understand the underlying functions of the Wardrobe.)
Humans have traditionally found security in dim and enclosed spaces, from the caverns of 150 generations ago to more modern architectural innovations like the closet. These have one common thread…they are sealed off and dark, safe; wrapping a person seeking sanctuary in a womblike cocoon and capable of transporting one to other worlds—real or imaginary.
So, it came as little surprise to me when I discovered that the closet’s predecessor, the wardrobe, offered similar properties. Just as a child may inherit a mother’s nose or a father’s eyes, the closet may carry the special properties held by what had once been a fixture throughout the homes of the well-heeled classes of post-Restoration Britain and ancien regime France. With the Industrial Revolution, wardrobes eventually became quaint relics of days-gone-by. But, they did not lose their capacity to transport users across time or space.
Professor C.S. Lewis incisively revealed the power of the wardrobe with his groundbreaking Chronicles of Narnia. The knowledge of this capability stunned post-World War II audiences. Further research discovered other avenues over and through which properly attuned mortals and immortals could pass.
Ms. Rowling highlighted the unique nature of the flue network used by witches and warlocks in the Harry Potter series. Another excellent study of Britain’s magical transportation network can be found in Susanna Clarke’s discussion of the King’s Roads that were hidden behind Britain’s mirrors in her stunning work, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Another important mode of magical transport akin to the King’s Roads is the wonderful looking glass described by Mr. L. Carroll.
The British King’s Roads were rooted in pre-Roman and medieval powers obscured after the 15th Century. The powers of the wardrobe in the late 18th Century may have been a response to a need arising from the disuse (either because they were blocked by the Raven King or because they became too dangerous) of the King’s Roads.
While Wardrobes were not a perfectly safe mode of travel, they, none-the-less, seemed tamer. Potter’s more modern and dependable flue network (splitching aside) may have been implemented by Britain’s magical beings as, with the introduction of the closet, the wardrobe passed from common use and availability.
Even so, each network had its own properties and rules that governed its use. Lewis, for instance, explored the “need based” nature of the wardrobe. For the children of wartime Britain, they had to escape from the horrors of the events that swept over them. Hence, the doorway to Narnia led to another world where these youngsters had complete agency over themselves as the heroes in the epochal battle between good and evil.
The Bennet Wardrobe has been discovered to be equally potent, but in a different manner. Rather than transporting users to another world, this remarkable cabinet discerns the true needs of the Bennet user and ascertains what is required to meet that need. Then the Wardrobe transports the Bennet to a future time where that requirement can be fulfilled, but only to a frame of reference upon wardrobe’s timeline—a point in time and space where the wardrobe itself exists.
You will note that I have specifically written “the Bennet user” or “the Bennet” when referring to those seeking to move through time using the Bennet Wardrobe. Because of its unique construction, the Wardrobe is attuned to the peculiar vibrations of those born in the lineage of Mr. Christopher Bennet, the first Bennet Master of Longbourn Estate, Meryton, Hertfordshire. No non-Bennet has ever directly taken advantage of the properties of the Wardrobe. Mrs. Fanny Bennet could only use the Wardrobe to hang a pelisse or store a hat—if Mr. Bennet would have allowed her into the library!
Imagine that a specific Bennet genome descendent—Lydia Bennet Wickham, for example—entered the wardrobe at Darcy House in late June 1815 with an unconscious need to understand the concept of her husband’s “glorious death” at Waterloo. This runs headlong into a number of particular circumstances.
First: the rules of the Wardrobe prevent any time travel to the past. Lydia could not be transported back one week, let alone to Belgium.
Second: as stated above, transport can only be accomplished to a future iteration of the cabinet itself. This brings us to the next difficult fact.
No battles have been fought on British soil since Culloden in 1746. This forces a conflict with the first two restrictions just noted. Casting our eyes forward from 1815, there have been no clashes in the British Isles (with the exception of guerilla attacks during the conflict for Irish Independence in the 1910s-20s and the air war during the Blitz in 1940) to the present day. So, if the Wardrobe remained in Britain, Lydia could never be transported to a point in her future to learn the nature of a soldier’s life and death.
But, the Keepers of the Wardrobe have moved, and with them, so, too, has the Wardrobe. Research indicates that the Wardrobe, after 125 years in the Longbourn library, was subsequently relocated several times. Of greatest interest is a period during which the Wardrobe crossed the English Channel. Its time as an expatriate extended from just after WWI through the end of WWII in 1945. At that time, it was moved back to post-War London and today it rests in the fashionable Canary Wharf residence of its current Keeper.
Returning to Lydia Wickham: upon contact with her hands, the cabinet would intuit that Lydia’s need could not be answered in any time frame prior to World War II. In this case, Lydia would be transported from the Wardrobe in the Regency-era Darcy House to its version in 1940s wartime Deauville, France.
Readers may now wonder if Lydia was moved some 150 miles and well over 125 years into the future, could another Bennet accomplish the same identical journey? Of course that is possible, but so unlikely that anyone would have the same mental wiring as Lydia any more than the same need to learn a particular lesson that such an outcome would be improbable. If Jane (or Lizzy or Mr. Bennet, for instance) used the portal, it would uniquely respond to their thoughts and emotions. Unless their unconscious need centered on Lydia herself (e.g. I need to see/help/be with Lydia.), the possibility of them being transported to occupied France would have been remote.
While there are many rules that govern the use of the Bennet Wardrobe, there seem to be two that are superior to all others.
The first is that there can be no travel to the past—the before that transpired prior to the moment of use. Yesterday remains as unreachable as two centuries ago. This will prevent altering the present by doing what Hiro Nakamura of Heroes imagined when he said “too many butterflies.”
The second rule is more mechanical. This is the “the cycle.” Once a Bennet has travelled to the future, they either must remain in that future or return to the original cabinet in the past from which they departed. Using the hypothetical involving Lydia: if she was transported to 1940 France and stayed one year into 1945, she would still, by this rule, return to the point and place in 1815 (in the same instant) whence and where her journey began. To an observer in the room, Lydia would vanish from sight outside of the Wardrobe to immediately step from the inside, somewhat older, maybe wearing different clothing, and possibly (hopefully?) acting differently.
A final point, based upon the comment above “wearing different clothing,” travelers can and do move non-vivified items from the present to the future and from the future to the present. Otherwise, every Bennet would land in the Wardrobe in the manner in which they were born. Talk about breaches of propriety!
There is more…much more…but perhaps this it is best revealed by a history of the Wardrobe as it assists Bennets in the here/now by sending them to the where/when.