After finishing the first half of The Exile in May 2017, I was looking ahead to Part 2 of the book (essentially 1932-1944). But, something was nagging at me: the uncharted time sequence between 1892 when Part 1 ended and 1915 when Henry Fitzwilliam’s War had been set to explore the young Viscount’s behavior toward Kitty Bennet after she arrived through the Wardrobe in 1886.
A “bread crumb” providentially rose to the surface, perhaps in a sub-conscious answer to my quandary. I discovered it in a transitional chapter (written in early 2016) in “The Keeper” (Ch. XLII) where Mary is contemplating a letter she received from Lizzy who was traveling in Europe with Darcy. In it Elizabeth relates a tale about the time they had been spending with another party of British travellers at the Villa Diodati in Switzerland…Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Mary Godwin
Questions began to bubble up in my mind.
Notably: what would have inspired Mary Godwin’s story Frankenstein: The New Prometheus if it had been written in the Bennet Wardrobe universe during the summer of 1816?
In our world, her reading of Erasmus Darwin’s Zoönomia (1796) and a variety of scientific experiments particularly Darwin’s account of animating a piece of vermicelli stimulated her creative process.
But, in the Wardrobe universe, the Darcys were also present at the Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva that summer of 1816. Might not their attendance at Frankenstein’s birth imply that there had been some influence at the conception?
Godwin’s story envisioned the future but did so by placing the gothic tale using the tools of her modern world—the Industrial Revolution—familiar to her listeners and readers. In this she followed in the steps of Homer who, when composing his epic poems around 750 BCE, employed the structures of the Greek Dark Ages (1100-700 BCE) to discuss Mycenaean Greece which vanished about 1100 BCE.
Who within Godwin’s vicinity had the ability to suggest that future? Bennets had certainly used the Wardrobe to time travel since its creation in the early 1690s. But, Mrs. Darcy did not have the Wardrobe with her in Switzerland—that was secure in Mary and Edward’s rooms at the Kympton Parsonage. And, honestly, which account would Godwin have written if a mature Elizabeth had related a history of a trip to the future taken just days before the now legendary ghost story contest?
Fresh memories are too crisp to smudge into gothic horror.
But the foggy recollections of an adult relating dreamtime images from her childhood, that rise up at the edges of sleep, would provide ample fodder for a novelist.
And, so they did.
I needed to have Lizzy in 1816, still recovering from her miscarriage, relating dreams to Mary Godwin. How did she arrive at those ghostly images?
That is the center of “Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess,” a transitional novella that brings the Countess Kate Fitzwilliam and ten-year-old Lizzy Bennet into contact through the instrumentality of the Wardrobe…but in Edwardian 1907! The book will release within a sennnight or so.
Here is the Promotional Precis for the story.
Lizzy Bennet Meets The Countess
The universe was shaken once again on Midsummer’s Day in 1801. The Bennet Wardrobe’s door to the future was opened in the bookroom at Longbourn. This time the most impertinent Bennet of them all, Elizabeth, tumbled through the gateway. Except she left not as the grown women with whom readers have become so familiar, but rather as a ten-year-old girl who had been playing a simple game of hide-and-seek.
Which Where/When was her destination? What needs could a young girl, only beginning to learn to make her way in the Regency, have that could be answered only by the Wardrobe? Or were the requirements of another Bennet, one who began as younger, but had aged into a beautiful, confident leader of Society, the prime movers behind Lizzy’s journey? Is the enigmatic Lady Kate the force that shaped the destiny of Lizzy and her younger sisters left back in Hertfordshire? How do the visions of the future brought home by young Lizzy help shape her world?
Answers to these and other questions raised in the Bennet Wardrobe Series can be found in Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess. This is a medium-length novella (41,000 words) that considers a slice of time between the end of The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque in 1892 (Volume 2 of the Bennet Wardrobe) and the beginning of Henry Fitzwilliam’s War in 1915. And, after Lizzy is transported back to that bucolic summer day in 1801 proto-industrial Great Britain, Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess will carry all readers forward to what may be considered the greatest writers’ workshop in history. T’was at the legendary Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Geneva that Lord Byron gathered Mary Godwin (Frankenstein), John Polidori (The Vampyre) and Percy Bysshe Shelley for a vacation during the Year Without Summer. Oh, Fitzwilliam Darcy and his wife, Elizabeth, were there to act as catalysts that would transform vague ideas into timeless speculative fiction.