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Old Friends and New Fancies: An Imaginary…

Old Friends and New Fancies: An Imaginary Sequel to the Novels of Jane… (1914)

by Sybil Brinton

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A really enjoyable sequel to the Austen world. Quick predicable, but a fun time. ( )
  kbergfeld | Sep 24, 2014 |
After ploughing through a handful of Jane Austen spin-offs, good and bad, how could I possibly resist 'the first Jane Austen sequel ever created'? Published in 1913, obscure English author Sybil G. Brinton gathered together a select company of old friends and familiar faces from Jane Austen's novels, from the Darcys and Bingleys of Pride and Prejudice to Mary Crawford and William Price of Mansfield Park and the Wentworths of Persuasion, for what is partly a satisfying if obvious update on the original stories, but also a faithful and well-written romance in its own right.

Set three years after the happy conclusion of Pride and Prejudice, Brinton's sequel mainly concerns the Darcy family, including Lady Catherine, Colonel Fitzwilliam and Georgiana, and follows them from Bath to London to Pemberley, where they meet a host of secondary characters from the other novels. Respectful of Jane Austen's creations, Brinton adds little to the lives of the characters, beyond what Austen herself suggested in family letters and the obvious natural developments that occur after marriage - the Darcys have two children, barely mentioned, and the Bingleys have at least two sons, referred to near the end of the book.

Wherein lies my personal quibble with this sequel, which is otherwise a perfect complement to Austen's limited body of works. Parallel novels and pastiches of classic novels serve one basic purpose - to indulge the imagination of devoted readers by supplying fresh insight into beloved characters, whether by answering the tempting question of 'what happens next?', or revisiting old ground from a different perspective. I can appreciate both requirements, if the sequel is well-written, which this is. Yet no author could successfully fit all of the characters from six different novels, set at different times, into one seamless continuation, without losing either clarity or sympathy. Sybil Brinton does not try, and the result is a purely subjective interest in what I surmise to be her own favourite characters - Darcy and Elizabeth, the bashful Colonel and gentle Georgiana, and of course the ever-hopeful Kitty Bennet, next in line to be paired off; a nervous and repentant Mary Crawford from Mansfield Park, with Fanny's honourable younger brother William Price; and a round-up of the dullest supporting cast from Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Persusasion, and Sense and Sensibility. I was waiting with anticipation to read how my favourite families might have fared, but was sadly disappointed. Mr Knightley is referred to as 'grave', 'terrifying' and 'alarming', and only gets to speak in the next to last chapter, while his wife Emma has grown into a selfish Mrs Jennings figure; whereas Marianne Dashwood, seemingly not as well liked by Brinton as Elinor, is only mentioned in passing, and the poor Colonel has 'passed' altogether! Yet dependable and dutiful Anne Elliot-Wentworth of Persuasion has her praises sung from the rooftops, ridiculous Mrs Jennings of Sense and Sensibility is somehow more important to Elinor than her beloved sister, and all the women have become staid and sensible matrons, matchmaking their younger relatives. I haven't even read Mansfield Park and Persuasion yet, which is my own fault, but I wasn't interested in half of what was going on, and didn't care for the featured characters.

If, like Sybil Brinton, slow and steady wins the day for you, and Colonel Fitzwilliam is not just Darcy's less attractive cousin, or Georgiana his sheltered sister, then I heartily recommend Old Friends and New Fancies. Writing only one hundred years after Austen, and just before the social upheaval of the First World War, Brinton effortlessly captures the style and substance of the original novels. Both wordy and witty ('Nowadays it is the fashion to admire loudest what one understands least'), she understands perfectly the flawless elegance and acute observations of the writing that inspired her, and also adopts a few of Austen's dramatic devices - misdirected attentions, second thoughts, and even a sickbed reunion - which will delight Austen's fans. A livelier cross section of characters would have entertained me more, but perhaps I shall return to Brinton after reading Mansfield Park, and alter my opinion! ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Jan 15, 2011 |
Who was this mysterious Sybill G. Brinton? History records very little about her more than her dates of birth and death. She was childless and no known photograph of her exists! What a shame she never wrote anything else. I found her book to be delightful. All the major Jane Austen characters are back and no one, by the end of the book, remains single. Because this book was written in 1913 (says so on the cover), the turn of phrase and general style is much more like Jane's than anything these modern day Jane Wannabe's come up with. But being so much closer to our time, the prose is very comfortable for the modern reader. I found the book to be very pleasant and never ridiculous. I highly recommend this to any fan of Jane Austen. I thoroughly enjoyed it. ( )
1 vote Lesliejaneite | Dec 30, 2010 |
I admit it: I'm a purist. I view continuations, additions, and fanfictions with a skeptical eye; very few ever approach the brilliance of the original. I suppose it is natural to want the stories we love to continue, and because I've felt that desire myself I can forgive those who pick up the pen themselves to see to it. Before I say anything else, I'll freely confess my own inability do it creditably, and so I applaud Sybil Brinton's courage. She did not fail, though I would say the achievement is mixed.

Old Friends And New Fancies, published in 1913, is the first attempt at a sequel to Jane Austen's body of work — and probably one of the most ambitious to date. In it Brinton brings together the main characters from all six of Austen's novels, adding a few of her own here and there. The story focuses on several key characters, whose adventures and misadventures in love are explored until we reach the happy ending requisite to this type of work.

Honestly, I'm still trying to decide what to think of it. It was just such a strange experience, to have Austen's various worlds collide in one enormous story. It is interesting which characters are portrayed favorably and which aren't. Emma, for instance, is still fumbling around trying to match up the wrong people and is entirely oblivious to what's really happening — not a sympathetic character at all! While quasi-villains like Mary Crawford are suddenly upgraded to full-fledged heroine status, romantic misunderstandings and all. Still trying to digest that one... it was hard to accept her apparent transformation.

There is a sense of crammedness, of Brinton trying to make room for everybody in her recreation. Austen peopled her novels with such a varied cast of wonderful characters that it would be impossible to include them all and give each sufficient stage time. It's fairly obvious who Brinton's favorites are.

Every now and then the language is reminiscent of Austen, and in a few places it is particularly good. Overall there are no dreadful blunders on that score. But in other places I noticed the elegance of Austen's prose simply isn't there, and there is little that is really memorable in the phrasing, insights, or relational dynamics.

I do appreciate Brinton's note at the beginning, part of which states:

The difficulties, as well as the presumption, of such an undertaking, are alike evident; but the fascination of the subject must be our apology to those who, like ourselves, "owe to Jane Austen of the happiest hours of their lives."

With an apology like that, how can we be angry at Brinton? She didn't include anything inappropriate to Austen's period, characters, and moral tone, which is not such a given as one might think in books that continue the stories of Austen's characters. Indeed, most of the stuff being churned out nowadays with the "Austen-sequel" label on it is nothing more than soft-core porn, Regency style. Bleccchh.

I think I'll need to read this again before I can form a definitive opinion. It is only at great cost that purists unbend; I am sure other purists in the room will comprehend the concession. A brave attempt, Ms. Brinton, and one that is not altogether unsuccessful as an amusing diversion for Austen's many devotees. ( )
5 vote atimco | Dec 16, 2010 |
I loved this charming book. It brings all of her characters together in one story. It is amazing to see what this author things the characters would do and who the single ones married. This is a lovely book. ( )
  BarbsReviews | Jul 26, 2010 |
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In this little attempt at picturing the after-adventures of some of Jane Austen's characters I have made us of the references to them which she herself made, and which are recorded in Mr. Austen-Leigh's "Memoir."

More grateful acknowledgments than I can ever express are due to my friend Edith Barran, without whom this book could not have been written.

The difficulties, as well as the presumption, of such an undertaking, are alike evident; but the fascination of the subject must be our apology to those who, like ourselves, "owe to Jane Austen of the happiest hours of their lives."
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There is one characteristic which may be safely said to belong to nearly all happily-married couples – that of desiring to see equally happy marriages among their young friends; and in some cases, where their wishes are so strong and circumstances seem favourable to the exertion of their own efforts, they may even embark upon the perilous but delightful course of helping those persons whose minds are as yet not made up, to form a decision respecting this important crisis in life, and this done, to assist in clearing the way in order that this decision may forthwith be acted upon.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 140220888X, Paperback)

The first Jane Austen sequel ever written!

Originally published in 1914, this charming and original sequel to the novels of Jane Austen intertwines the lives of the most beloved characters from all six Austen novels with new characters of the author's devising. Inventive matchmaking leads numerous pairs of lovers through the inevitable (and entertaining) difficulties they must encounter before they are united in the end.

Old Friends and New Fancies is a gratifying read for any Jane Austen enthusiast.

"This is the ultimate Jane Austen sequel....Virtually all the characters left standing at the end of the novels-most particularly the unmarried ones-must all meet up... Broken engagements will follow, a few false trails and threatened unacceptable matches must be endured before the Forces of Good prevail." -Charles Wenz, Life Member of the Jane Austen Society

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:03 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Originally published in 1914, this charming and original sequel to the novels of Jane Austen intertwines the lives of the most beloved characters from all six Austen novels with new characters of the author's own devising. Inventive matchmaking leads numerous pairs of lovers through the inevitable (and entertaining) difficulties they must encounter before they are united in the end. The first Jane Austen sequel ever written!--From publisher description.… (more)

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