Lydia’s Diary: June 18
My 13th birthday. Received a guinea spending money – the first time. In previous years it has been but half a guinea. Also new shoes, shift, pelisse, and an evening gown in the low cut fashion – the latter essential to give breath space to my bosom which grows and grows. Saw my friend the apothecary yesterday – he says I am a finely formed young lady. He should know – for I overheard my Aunt Phillips declare Mr Pottykins had much experience of ladies when living in London.




August 15
Today I became a woman! At least in the eyes of Nature! It came suddenly but not entirely unexpected for my friend Katie had warned me in great detail about what every girl must endure when crossing (as she put it) the Jordan that separates childhood from the beginning of womanhood. I suppose it must be somewhat shocking and frightening for those little girls who have not been forewarned that there is more to life than playing with dolls. I was told nothing of such matters by Mamma, Lizzie or Jane. I was fortunate to have an experienced older friend such as Katie, and because of what I learned from her I was able to speak of it to Bessy – for she has always been more friend to me than our house maid. So when I felt the onset of what she calls ‘the curse of Eve’ I went immediately to her and she took care of me.



November 14
Mamma said, ‘Some men – and of course I am referring to men of some fortune – can overlook such ill-features in a young woman as plumpness, poor teeth, a sallow complexion. But a very large nose is an almost universal barrier to any kind of proposal – even of the £300 a year class! And Caroline, poor creature, has been singled out to inherit the Marples Monstrosity!’



Mr Delaney was a strange young man, it seemed to me. He talked a great deal as we waited to go up and down the room. Much of his conversation related to the newest fashions in Italy, France and London – he seemed to have a most detailed knowledge of the more intimate garments that ladies wear. But it was his first words that astonished me most.

‘My Mamma told me to approach you and ask for a dance.’

For a moment or two I was speechless. I could only reply, ‘And do you always have to do what your Mamma tells you?

‘Of course! Doesn’t everyone? Don’t you?’

My indignant reply was, ‘For Mamma, almost never! For my Papa, sometimes.’



I heard Mamma sniffle. ‘The Parson could have drowned my Lydia!’

‘That’s a very unlikely event,’ Papa snapped back. ‘At 14 she’s taller, and stouter, than all of our other girls. How she allowed a thin morsel of a man to disrobe her, I’ll never understand. Your life, Mrs Bennet, is devoted to securing husbands for all of our girls. I suggest that you speedily find one for Lydia as soon as it is allowable, and don’t concern yourself overmuch as to fortune – a thousand a year will do.’

‘But she’s the youngest!’ Mamma exclaimed.

‘But I suspect she is already the most in need of a man – a husband,’ Papa said.


‘Do business affairs keep your father away from home so long?’ Lydia asked.

Mr Delaney replied, 'Most certainly affairs kept him from home at one timehe had a passionate liking for certain kinds of Continental ladies. It was while indulging in one such affair that he suffered a fatal seizure.

‘That is so sad,’ I said, although I found it difficult to conjure up an image of the event.

He tittered. ‘Not so much for Papa, he was quickly past it all. I imagine he died a happy man! More distressing for the poor lady involved, I should think. Such an embarrassing contretemps!’



Parson Wellyboy did not say so, but I just knew that he was in alliance with Judas and thought Mary’s money was ill-spent – and whatever the Gospel says about forgiveness if the Magdalene came to our town the parson would have her swiftly whipped and in the stocks as a target for rotting vegetables.

I know if the Lord were to visit our parish Mr Wellyboy would seize Him by his coat lapels, wag a reproving bony finger in the Saviour’s face and berate Him for being criminally lax in His treatment of Sin. I once heard Papa tell Lizzie, ‘Mr Wellyboy is one of those creatures who delight in casting the first stone – first stones being the only sort with which they are familiar.’

On the way home from church asked for knowledge concerning whore, but as with fornication was hushed and shushed. Papa, who normally preaches that knowledge is good for mankind, threatened me with denial of food and banishment to the bedroom if I did not remain quiet. Most unusual for papa – the threats I mean, for such is not his nature.



I knew nothing of my forthcoming relationship with the de Bourghs until shortly before my marriage when my new husband-to-be showed me his list of wedding guests – and explained why Lady Catherine must be invited. As soon as I was alone I laughed and laughed. To think that at any social gathering where we were both present I would soon take precedence over the overbearing mistress of Rosings Park. Lady Catherine de Bourgh, a woman who never looked at man or beast without finding fault.

When I married for the second time part of the baggage that came with the groom, in addition to grieving, outraged relatives, were the Littlepint Castle ghost and a family curse. Most of the groom’s relatives said the wedding itself was proof the curse existed – and was as virulent as any curse known to man.
I met the ghost on my wedding night. I found her a much friendlier spirit than many of the still un-shrouded ladies of my acquaintance.


Mr Collins has returned to Kent – but he goes with a matrimonial consolation prize in the shape of Lizzie’s friend, Charlotte Lucas. I met Katie in Meryton today and related the affair to her.

‘Within the space of three days Mr Collins professed love and proposed to two women!’ I said.‘More ram than man!’ she cried.

‘What do you mean by that?’

‘Any ewe will do when the ram has the urge,’ she said. ‘It is all a matter of convenience. As long as it is not minded to run away, the closest ewe will suit the ram’s purposes.’

I giggled. ‘I think the ram had a lucky escape on this occasion – he may well have found our Lizzie to be a wolf in ewe’s clothing – and may yet find it so with Charlotte Lucas.’



Another sleepless night – unfortunately not one wakeful minute of it due to Wickham’s clamorous demands for use of my body. Indeed, it is lack of such usage that is at the root of my restlessness.

Matters were not helped by Wickham’s vigorous snoring through the early hours – a nuisance which only briefly ceased when the church bells struck the hour or I gave him a vigorous prod with the point of my fan.
I hope this is not a true sample of what they call wedded bliss!


During the start of my more intimate relationship with Wickham, he was annoyed because I laughed. Affronted at my behaviour at what he considered to be a most tender moment, he asked, ‘Why are you laughing?’

I told him, ‘I am thinking of a Roman proverb. Initium est dimidium facti. Something my Papa translated for me.’

‘What is its meaning?’ he asked.

Once you’ve started, you’re half way there,’ I replied.

From his response I suspected Wickham had no sense of humour.

Oh!’ That was his only comment.



For most young women there is only one glorious highlight in the year they marry – the wedding, its anticipation, and consummation, one that never vanishes from the forefront of their minds. But every sensible young woman knows that a wedding is like a juicy spicy cake made of mystery ingredients: nibble it before the great day and all the eager anticipation aroused by heated imagination evaporates.

In the case of Wickham and myself I’d had more than a nibble – several large mouthfuls would better describe the situation.

The wedding itself was a very tasty affair, so to speak – but no more mysterious than a repeat order of beefsteak pudding! The elopement which led to our eventual exchange of vows in a London church was far more exciting than the day itself.



Lydia’s Diary: August 7
My cousin Emma Gardiner, who is 13, sat alone with me in the drawing room. She said, with smug satisfaction, ‘I heard Mamma and Papa say you have to stay here because you have done something very, very wicked.’
I smiled at her and said so sweetly, ‘And if you are very, very lucky you may have the good fortune to be equally wicked someday. I am afraid unless your figure and complexion improve you will need all the luck you can get!’

August 8
Scolded by uncle and aunt for my wicked remarks to Emma. It was not unexpected. Emma is one of those good little girls who tell their mothers everything. Hopefully, my remarks may prove a turning point in her life – she is a girl who is in need of turning points.



The Colonel turned to Wickham: ‘I should be aware – if you have an interest in Miss Lydia, she has a mutinous disposition!’

‘How can you say such a thing?’ I exclaimed as Wickham thanked the Colonel for his interest.

‘I was told it was so by your father,’ the Colonel said. ‘He thought it was because you were born in the year of the Spithead and Nore naval mutinies.’

‘I’ve heard something of those mutinies,’ I said. ‘What was the cause of them?’

‘The men claimed they were harshly treated – and deserved more pay.’

‘What happened to them?’

‘They got what they deserved, of course’ the Colonel said. ‘The leaders were hanged.’

For a woman of her age Lady Delaney had retained a remarkably fine figure – and much of its essential features were on display for everyone to see (and most particularly the gentlemen). She wore an off the shoulder skin tight silver ball gown reflecting the lights and giving prominence to every voluptuous feminine feature – in particular a vast bosom emerging like two white volcanic peaks from the tight laced confines of her bodice.

Lizzie whispered, ‘That lady seems like a very elegant man-eating fish seeking to find its prey.’ Papa disagreed. ‘More like a famished buzzard circling a flock of dozing pigeons.’



Lydia said, ‘Surely there should be no problem about the Delaney inheritance. I hear there are four sons and your oldest brother must have already succeeded to the title and the estates.’

‘Ah, but none of us are married, nor have we shown any inclination to do so.’ He tittered. ‘And that, my dear, is why my Mamma has ordered me to dance with you – for like my brothers I am being driven relentlessly around the Kingdom by my Mamma to find a wife. She thinks you have the look of the finest breeder in the room!’

‘How disgusting!’ I said. ‘I am not long turned 13 – and have no interest in breeding on behalf of you, your mother or anyone else. I’ll not start thinking and talking about such things as marriage and husbands – and certainly not breeding as you put it – until I’m 15 or 16. Just as my sisters do – and Mamma, of course.’ But I felt compelled to add, ‘Although my thoughts might turn in that direction somewhat earlier if a handsome young gentlemen of fortune should take my fancy. Or me his.’

James bowed. ‘I do apologise if I have been too forward. I can still hardly believe you to be so young – you are such an extremely tall, mature and well formed lady.’

I returned his bow. ‘I thank you for the compliment, if such it is. But I still think it extraordinary that you and your Mamma seem to regard young English ladies as some kind of cow.’

‘I had not thought in such crude terms,’ he replied. ‘But even if it is so we are no different from every royal family in Europe, as well as the nobility.’


Lydia said, ‘It reminds me of what Mr Pottykins, my friend the apothecary, says of breeding cows. He says contented cattle make the best breeding cows. I suppose that whatever wives you and your brothers select on behalf of your Mamma and the Delaney posterity will need to be of the contented kind.’

As we were coming to the conclusion of our dance I saw that Lizzie was without a partner and talking to Mamma and Papa.

‘I think the young lady you should have approached in the first place is my older sister Lizzie,’ I said. ‘In respect of age and temperament she would suit you very well. She has a very placid nature – some people might even say at times she verges on the bovine.’

‘Bovine?’ James asked.

Cow-like – it was something the apothecary taught me,’ I replied. ‘I think if you dance with Lizzie she will be most interested in any proposals you may have to make.’

They did dance and Lizzie had a face like thunder. I thought the glares like lightning bolts she sent in my direction were such that they would pierce my breast. I managed to avoid being alone with her for several days and so escaped a tongue lashing. But I did find it necessary to change seats at the dining table after twice being surreptitiously kicked in the shins. The smile stayed fixed to Lizzie’s face as she mounted her undercover guerrilla attacks on my legs.


Jane and Lizzie nodded firmly as I said, ‘The very idea of buying, selling and owning human beings is horrid to all right-minded people.’

Uncle William grinned. ‘I have observed that although you are all for the abolition of slavery you have a mighty fondness for chocolate, sugar, coffee and cheap cotton goods.’

‘What is the connection?’ I asked.

‘Without slaves there would be no cheap cotton goods – and coffee, sugar and chocolate would be for kings and courtiers. Are you prepared to surrender your luxuries so that slavery everywhere is abolished?’


Uncle William roared with laughter as though he had suddenly seen the point of a joke. ‘I came within an inch of losing what is most precious to a man – the family jewels. It was a piece of grapeshot that almost removed them!’

‘How did that happen?’ Papa asked.

‘I was in the head when it happened.’

‘The head?’

‘The ship’s privy. I was just finishing my business there and was reaching down to pull up my britches when there was an explosion, a whistling sound and a hot wind blowing between my legs, then another crash as a hole appeared in the hull wall in front of me.’

‘Good heavens!’ Papa said.

‘Heavens is right,’ Uncle said. ‘I thought I was heading for Heaven’s gate – I certainly leapt high enough in that direction.’

‘You were not injured physically, then – it was only your dignity that suffered,’ Papa said.

‘Not quite – that grapeshot was white hot, and passed so close it singed my bristles – if you understand me.’

‘Do take more of this brandy – the memory of your narrow escape seems to have unnerved you. You are quite pale!’



Our flute tutor seemed nervous, but came and stood to one side. I moved in front of him, opened my arms in silent invitation and held my flute in the ready position. In order to reach my hands his body moulded with mine, his arms enfolded my bosom as his hands moved to demonstrate the fingering. That recently discovered strange warmth surged through my body and I cried out: ‘Oh, Mr Prinkston!’

With that he uttered his first sound since the start of the lesson. ‘I do beg your pardon!’ he squeaked, a note of fear in his voice. As he went to remove his arms and move away I swiftly trapped one arm against my bosom, turned and clasped him tight against me then drew him with me to the couch, he moaning piteously all the while, ‘Oh, Miss Lydia, what are you about? Oh, Miss Lydia, what are you about?’

I made no response for arousal had made me breathless and I felt any simpleton would be aware of what I was about.



Wickham wrote: Many people will assume that I played the villain and that the seduction of Lydia was my doing alone. It is true that when we first came to Brighton I had considered a dalliance with Lydia. She is after all a beautiful, energetic girl – no, a woman, whatever her age! – and I felt from the beginning an attraction to her.

In public Lydia is, by and large, a sweet, sometimes decorous, young lady. In private, I have had difficulty maintaining my dignity as a male – for her hands often seem everywhere at once, and stemming their swift advances is as difficult as catching hold of a snake – while at the same time avoiding a bite from its fangs.

I have to say I look forward to life with Lydia with very mixed feelings – for as I have already indicated during our stay together in London I have found her carnal appetites grow apace. I am already exhausted – and wonder what my future is to be!

There are times when I feel that I am a fawn closely stalked by a leopard in heat!



Mrs Calhoun said, ‘I should much like to have been able to end my life knowing that my children would inherit Highdene. It is the name of my estate.’ She sighed. ‘It has been in branches of my family, the Rochelles, since Saxon times.’

‘I’m surprised that the Normans didn’t take it from you!’ I said.

She smiled. ‘We survived more dangers than that over the centuries. The secret is to choose the right side – and in the case of civil war have family members supporting both causes. This ensures that when fighting ceases and some family members sadly dangle at the end of a rope, or lose their heads under an axe, others celebrate and hold on to most of the family’s inheritance. It also helps to have always had a steady supply of crafty courtiers dance attendance on those holding the keys to power!’




Mrs Calhoun said, ‘My ancestors took nothing with them to the Holy Land – but they made sure they returned home well rewarded for their efforts on behalf of the church. A family member who remained at home at that time was the local bishop. He invented the sale of plenary indulgences long before the Popes in Rome thought of the idea as a means of raising funds. My ancestor believed charity ought to be confined to home – and so he funnelled a great deal of money to the family.’

‘What happened to him?’

‘When so little money was paid into church funds the ecclesiastical authorities ruled the bishop was guilty of heresy. And so he was burned.’

‘How awful!’

‘I suppose so,’ Mrs Calhoun said. ‘But I believe being burnt at the stake was once regarded as a natural hazard for clerics, much as a soldier now accepts shooting is a distinct possibility.’

Han said, ‘My mother – despite her profession – was a daughter of the samurai, the military elite. She felt suicide would cut my bonds of obligation to her and thus freed me to leave Japan. The method she used – plunging a short blade into her belly – is a traditional and honourable way to kill oneself.’

Mrs Calhoun, a soldier’s wife with a fair knowledge of military matters, including wounds, exclaimed, ‘That would have been a most painful and lingering death.’

‘She had a friend to help her – again a tradition associated with seppuku ritual suicide,’ said Han. ‘It is the duty of the friend to ensure that the agony of the suicide is not prolonged. To do this the friend uses a long sword to cut off the head of the suicide. On this occasion it was Asano. He cut off my mother’s head.’
Asano was not in the room with us else I am sure we would have been regarding him with somewhat horrified expressions.

Han gave a small, bemused smile, as though finding the reaction something she had expected. ‘Asano is a warrior – but a kind and gentle man. It was his kindness and gentleness that enabled him to undertake the honour of helping my mother to die quickly. At such times, there is no horror in the blade of a sword – only mercy, when swift, and perhaps honour.’



Han said, ‘But in general, where women must balance physical weakness against the stronger men, who also usually have an assumption of overall superiority, there exists a state of war – even if undeclared. For the weaker contestant, the woman, her greatest weapons are her natural cunning – and the use of her bodily arts. And most of her weapons must be kept skilfully hidden, camouflaged, to prevent a man recognising a woman’s strength.

Weapons are doubly effective when hidden from sight or are not perceived to be weapons.

‘Flattery, when skilfully applied, is an important weapon in any woman’s armoury. Sustaining the act of virility can be achieved by skilful use of potions, body – mouth and hands – persuading a lover he is virile even after his manhood is flip flop flopping. A woman must keep control over her own physical and sexual emotions, while at the same time persuading a man she cannot ever resist his virile approaches. She must surrender to his wooing and then compliment him at all times on his abilities in public and private.’




‘In the East Indies, especially in the island of Bali, women are commonly taught from a very early age that the more they can please a man – the more they can subtly control him. There the women have achieved remarkable physical control of their bodies. They begin training when they are young girls.’

‘How do they do that?’ I asked, very intrigued.

Han said, ‘It is a somewhat crude but effective method of giving a woman perfect control of her body – so that she can, if she chooses, give delight to husband or lover.’

‘It sounds disgusting – not the effect, but the means employed,’ I exclaimed.

Han smiled. ‘Each society has its own view of what is acceptable and what is not. Orientals believe many Europeans have disgusting habits.’

She added, ‘Some Oriental women can keep sexual congress going for an enormous length of time – it is the dream of many men – especially weak men, those treated unfairly by Nature with regard to their physical endowment, or those who are less virile, who suffer from what we call in Japan the soft candle sickness’

‘Is that a painful illness?’ I asked in my ignorance.

Han laughed. ‘Not in a physical sense – the injury is usually to the pride of the sufferer. A soft candle is not firm – it droops. Like the membrum virile that is no longer virile.’



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