Death Comes to Pemberley

Joanna Biggs writes:

The night before the ball, Lizzy, Darcy, the Bingleys, their handsome lawyer friend Henry Alveston, Colonel Fitzwilliam and Georgiana, Darcy’s sister (with whom both Alveston and the colonel are in love) eat together. There is a storm outside, and reports are circulating that two maids have seen a ghost in the grounds. The ghost is believed to be the mother of an under-gardener at Pemberley who was hanged for poaching; she had cursed the Darcy family then killed herself a week after her son’s death. Austen’s Pemberley, a fine country house (Lizzy falls in love after seeing it for the first time), is turned into the gothic pile of the Cluedo board: will it be the colonel, in the library, with the candlestick? Lizzy foresees doom: ‘Here we sit at the beginning of a new century, citizens of the most civilised country in Europe, surrounded by the splendour of its craftsmanship, its art and the books which enshrine its literature, while outside there is another world which wealth and education and privilege can keep from us, a world in which men are as violent and destructive as is the animal world.’ And the animal world is coming up the driveway.

(LRB 5 January 2012)

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