The Mere Beginnings of a Regency Tale

Never were there a kinder man than dear Mr. Barton, and never a kinder woman than his wife, Mrs. Lucy Barton. Such a couple was rare among those in country England. The majority of couples living in Hampshire were either ridiculously snobby or rich or so amazingly low in society that they appeared horribly crude. Of course this was not really the case. Couples like that were usually just very poor and as a result had terrible, annoying, busybody mothers, who influenced their sons and daughters so greatly that the unfortunate things actually become copies of their mamas.

Lucy Barton’s mother was one of these mothers. Her obsession with marrying off her daughters was frightening and she had a terrible competitive nature, always making sure she new the latest of gossip before her neighbours. Mrs. Clarke (yes, Lucy Barton used to be Lucy Clarke) was also prone to fits of flustering, blustering little spasms that seemed to creep all over her body. She blamed the anxiety and stress of having two unmarried daughters for her strange attacks of butterflies, but really it was all in her head.

In the beginning Mrs. Clarke had had four daughters and one son, though he was born a mute, and therefore thought incapable of good work or taking over Mr. Clarke’s estate when he died. Tom’s “illness”, as people liked to call it, left the Clarkes in a harsh and hopeless situation. It is but common knowledge in any part of England that land and money almost always passes to men and not to the poor females of society. So though all 5 of the Clarke women were blessed with intelligent thoughts and opinions of some form, they were not equally blessed with the wealth that they so rightfully deserved.

Mr. Clarke passed away in mid-July of 1792. It was the hottest summer Hampshire had ever seen. Everything seemed to sweat. Even the trees looked tired that year, their branches hanging limp and still in the breathless heat. “Is it not the hottest day of our lives?!” cried young Emma one sweltering afternoon. “To be sure, for I don’t think you have ever been as red as you are now” replied Anna, in the only way she knew how, mockingly and cruel. Lucy could not help but laugh a little as her sister rushed to the looking glass and began examining her reflection carefully, but as Lucy was Lucy, and therefore much too kind, she said in the gentle voice that she always used, “Oh Anna. You mustn’t tease. And your face is no redder than mine, Emy. Do come and sit down. It is much too hot to move about.” The girls had been lying about lazily in the living room for almost the entire day, each fanning themselves with their bonnets. This was with an exception of Margaret, the 2nd Clarke daughter, who thought it most vile to use the beautiful, bow-covered hats as mere fans. She sat in the corner of the room, quietly smiling to herself now and then, as she listened to Anna and Emma’s entertaining comments and conversations.

The Mere Beginnings of a Regency Tale

Jessica Penny

East Ballina, Australia

  • Artist

Artist's Description

A Jane Austen inspired piece of nonsense

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