The premise of The Longbourn Quarantine couldn’t be more perfect. In this story, as disease spreads over England, Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy are forced to flee from London towards Netherfield in an attempt to escape it. Unfortunately, as they get there, they realize the property has been vandalised and is inhabitable, being therefore forced to seek solace in Longbourn, where they will have to stay under a quarantine regime.
This will place in a very small space the Bennet family, Mr. Darcy and Miss Darcy, and Mr. Bingley and Miss Bingley, how perfect is that? Can you imagine how they will live together for 2 weeks in such a small space?
The Longbourn Quarantine is an interesting novella that will focus on how people react under difficult situations, and I liked the different bonds that were created between many characters, and to see Mrs. Bennet stepping up to the challenge. I also liked to see a less cheerful and somewhat fragile Bingley who needed the support of his friends. His character was probably my favourite character in the entire story because it felt real under the situation.
Because all these characters are confined in a small estate, and obviously during this dark time some tragedy reaches their door, they are forced to think on their actions and see their co-habitants under a different light, so we see all of them changing and improving their manners and attitudes. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are no exception and that is how we see them overcome their pride and prejudice.
I did like the premise and the fact that all characters find redemption throughout the story, but I would have liked to see them interact more with one another, and to witness more dialogues between them. We do see a lot of introspection, and even though that is nice to have in a story, in this novella it created a distance between the narrative and myself and I would have prefered to see the characters evolve based on their actions and dialogues then reading their inner thoughts. I love Don Jacobson’s writing style in the Wardrobe series, and all the historical references that mark his style, but in this novella I was expecting a more simple and cozy writing. Readers who do love to get inside these characters’ heads will enjoy this story which gives the reader a chance to get to know them better, so this might be a personal preference.
Despite those few quibbles I recommend this book, especially at this time, because readers may appreciate to see our dear characters facing the trials we ourselves have faced and are still facing during this pandemic. The Longbourn Quarantine is a character driven novella that will get you thinking about how precious life is and whose characters will surprise you. If you like introspective stories, this is for you 🙂
You can find The Longbourn Quarantine at:
and on Kindle Unlimited
I am excited to be visiting From Pemberley to Milton today as we explore my latest story: a novella, The Longbourn Quarantine. This tale explores the dynamics of the response to an epidemic and uses the themes and plots created by Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice. I believe that the universal nature of human behavior (it has been barely 200 years…a blink in time) supports imposing the present’s unfamiliar world onto a fictional context with which we are well-acquainted.
I am an eternal optimist. Even in plague time, I am convinced that the need to love and be loved, the desire to be of service to others, and the drive to respond to better angels remains and may become that much stronger. Confining a story’s characters to a specific setting—Longbourn and its environs—strips away much of the extraneous. Repetitive descriptions of Longbourn’s parlor become boring for a reader. Imagine being forced to reside in that chamber for a fortnight. Such a limitation will lead characters to ignore their surroundings: at least once Miss Bingley expresses her disdain. Instead, they will begin to focus on that which can evolve—the behavior of the other characters.
The general timeline places The Longbourn Quarantine in early-April 1812 in the Canonical gap between the Netherfield Ball and the Hunsford Visitation. The invasion of smallpox into town has prevented Darcy from traveling to Kent to attend to Lady Catherine. Elizabeth’s trip to Hunsford has likewise been canceled. Jane Bennet has been called home from the Gardiners to protect her.
I hope that you will enjoy this vignette written especially for From Pemberley to Milton. This is set in Day One of the Quarantine and occurs in the background of the latter portion of Chapter Six.
Longbourn, April 4, 1812
George Hill was not-well-pleased with how events were unfolding in Longbourn’s parlor. Of course, if the master, mistress, or any of the five young ladies had been asked the butler’s mood, they could not have offered anything in reply. The hereditary leader of Longbourn’s servant family—his father Silas had served both Mr. Richard and Mr. Samuel before passing the reins to his eldest—could only be described by family and visitors as being identical to any good steward of any house in the land: unflappable. Hill firmly believed that showing emotion that would draw attention to those in service to the Bennets would be unbecoming.
The events of the past several days—from riot to quarantine—had seen Hill calmly doing what he could to ensure the comfort of the manor’s residents. The mistress had efficiently sorted the four guests imposed upon them by Sir William. As headman, Hill had counseled the entire staff that tempers would be short as the great and the good rubbed on one-another in too-close quarters. He recalled tales told by his father of when Mr. Richard—the current master’s grandfather—housed ten officers of his company when they mustered at Longbourn. Then they marched off to Culloden to put paid to the Pretender’s aspirations. Of course, the gentlemen were none-the-worse-for-wear, used as they were to doubling up from their school days.
T’was clear that Longbourn’s patience and reputation as a hospitable home would be tested over the next fortnight.
Hill had seen good guests and bad pass through the manor’s front door. He found that neither group paid much attention to him. Of course, that might have been because he was Longbourn’s butler, and gentry instinctively treated senior staff—their own or not—with a degree of deference. Mayhap the silver on his roof or the lines on his wife’s face reminded visitors of their elder relatives, at least enough so that they subdued their most abusive inclinations. However, they often reserved offensive behavior—nothing of which Mrs. Bennet on her worst days would ever match—for the maids and the footmen, those younger and weaker than they.
Well-mannered company tended to be invisible to the staff. Those who acted otherwise in Longbourn’s precincts were rare enough that the exceptions were well-noted.
Mr. Bennet’s distant cousin, the vicar Collins, had spent several weeks beneath Longbourn’s eaves after last year’s harvest. He reserved his obsequious comments for the young ladies and Mr. Bennet. However, this man of God also found the time to bully Cook’s kitchen skivvy and importune more than one of the upstairs maids. Mrs. Hill found it necessary to speak to the mistress who slipped a few shillings into the hands of the offended parties and suggest that they spend time with their families.
Miss Bingley, on the other hand, had managed to avoid overstaying her welcome at Longbourn last year through the simple expedient of rarely joining her brother when he and Mr. Darcy called at the house. Yet, when she condescended to accompany the gentlemen, she invariably found ways to reduce Sarah to tears through spiteful critiques of the maid’s attentiveness and speed.
Now, however, the ginger-haired poseur—George Hill was proud to serve a long-established gentle house and disdained those who tried to hide their roots in trade—was forced to do that which she previously had not. She was required to spend time as a guest at Longbourn. Every lesson Miss Bingley had been taught demanded that she politely deal with her hostess. She also had to bear up at the edge of the twin whirlwinds that were Miss Kitty and Miss Lydia. She was not holding up well under the assaults to her pretensions. Hill took some comfort from the lady’s discomfort.
Hill had earlier chalked her up as a woman who needed to prove to herself that she was worthy of the lofty social standing to which she aspired. Her problem, in Hill’s opinion, was that, unlike the young Miss Frances Gardiner who wed the master and left her roots in trade behind, Miss Bingley was wealthy. The mistress was at heart a humble woman who recognized that she had improved her station beyond all expectations through her marriage. On the other hand, Netherfield’s former hostess was living proof that wealth could purchase neither manners nor taste.
And, today’s tableau proved that.
Evidence that the good man’s choler was up appeared on his long cheeks as he—at least for Hill—stormed into the kitchens startling his wife and Cook. The red stain was not the beguiling tint that had graced Miss Bennet’s countenance last autumn when Mr. Bingley called. No, this was the angry hue of a sunrise lifting itself above the greyish mist driven by southeasterly winds racing from Iberia across Biscay to crash against Devon and Cornwall.
The butler dropped into a chair at the servant’s table with an exasperated sigh. He had neglected to fully close the kitchen door, allowing the beautiful sounds of Longbourn’s pianoforte to waft in. While the three adults loved Miss Mary as if she were their own, t’was clear that another was at the keyboard given the entrancingly elegant sound.
Hill closed his eyes and allowed the waves of notes wash over him in a partially successful effort to calm his soul. “That t’is what true beauty t’is about. ‘eaven must be short an angel, what with the grace Miss Darcy puts into that music.”
His wife gave a knowing nod to Cook and laid a sticky bun on a small plate and placed it and a cup of coffee before her husband. Alma Hill, like George, long had been in service to the Bennets: ever since she followed her mistress from Meryton’s High Street to the solid brick mansion alongside Longbourn Lane.
“There, now, George. Set’le yerself,” she said, her Hertfordshire “Rs” rolling from the depths of her throat, “Ye need hae that cuppa. Lucky for ye, Miss Lydia hae nay been through the kitchen yet or that bun’d be long gone.”
Hill grumbled around the buttery layers of the pastry, “I’d trade this treat if we could send that red-headed witch ta Lucas Lodge!”
Mrs. Hill waited patiently and husbanded her own cup. She knew that, given time, her man would come to the point.
Then it began, pouring out of him like a double-batch cake in a small pan. “I know ye be jugglin’ lit torches with ev’ry chamber filled and bed linens needin’ refreshin’ ‘n th’ like. So I put Jimmy Foote ta use fetchin’ an’ carryin’ in th’ parl’r.
“That Miss Bingley—an’ I wag’r thut she be a Miss fur a ver’ long time—wrinkled that pointy nose of ‘ers ‘as ‘e passed by. Then ta n’bdy in partic’lar, but she made sure she were lookin’ ta the hearth where the mistress sat, she let loose complain’ ‘ow in town th’ grooms know ta stay out in the stables whur th’ ‘orses’ stink covers up ‘other objectionable odours!’
‘Now Jimmy is a young feller an’ is well-aware whut a man ‘oo works ‘ard smells like. None ‘o us got our church baths on Satiddy thanks to those louts from ‘ertford and St. Albans. T’aint as if ‘e was paradin’ about like ‘e was some town dandy. ‘e was doin’ ‘is job…the one the master pays ‘im ta do…an’ th’ one that ‘elps that woman hae her tea ‘ot and ‘er biscuits crisp!
“But, nay, she embarrasses ‘im in front of all o’ our ladies. I t’wasn’t sure, but I relieved ‘im of the tea tray afore ‘e ‘ad an unfort’nat accident right next ta that Bingley woman. Sent ‘im off ta cool down with John Coachman.
“If she thinks Jimmy smells of the stables, then, by God, let him give ‘er ‘er money’s worth!”
“George, ye sound like one o’ those frog Jacobins, ‘oo upset the nat’r’l ord’r back in ’92!” Alma gently chided knowing that if her husband could vote for Longbourn’s Member, he would follow Mr. Bennet’s lead and support the government.
Hill chuckled as her gibe deflated the last of his ire. “Ah, ye be the best ‘o women, Alma Hill. T’was jest openin’ th’ windows ta air out, so ta speak. Th’ two o’ you,” taking in both Mrs. Hill and Cook at a glance, “got th’ best ears in Meryton.
“Let us finish up afore ‘erself wonders why thur be no ‘ot cross buns so close ta Easter we be.”
The three bent themselves to the senior servants’ prerogative of drinking hot coffee sweetened with some of Cook’s baking sugar. Then their peace was interrupted when James Foote bustled through the back door, a small boy in tow.
“Sorry ta bust in like this,” the young man exclaimed, “but Timmy ran o’er from Lucas Lodge. Got a lett’r from town that were ‘anded o’er th’ barricade. Mr. Angelo sent it ta Sir Will’m.”
In his hand he held a missive, its edges and corners besmirched in black ink.
Hill unconsciously rose to his feet: Mrs. Hill and Cook following suit. This they did in respect for the news such a letter bore. Black meant but one thing.
“T’is addressed to Mr. Bingley.”
Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years. His output has ranged from news and features to advertising, television and radio. His work has been nominated for Emmys and other awards. He has previously published five books, all non-fiction. In 2016, he published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series—The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey, novel that grew from two earlier novellas. The Exile is the second volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series. Other JAFF P&P Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” and “The Maid and The Footman.”
Jacobson holds an advanced degree in History with a specialty in American Foreign Relations. As a college instructor, Don teaches United States History, World History, the History of Western Civilization and Research Writing.
He is a member of JASNA-Puget Sound. Likewise, Don is a member of the Austen Authors collective (see the internet, Facebook and Twitter).
He lives in the Seattle, WA area with his wife and co-author, Pam, a woman Ms. Austen would have been hard-pressed to categorize, and their rather assertive four-and-twenty pound cat, Bear. Besides thoroughly immersing himself in the JAFF world, Don also enjoys cooking; dining out, fine wine and well-aged scotch whiskey.
His other passion is cycling. Most days from April through October will find him “putting in the miles” around the Seattle area (yes there are hills). He has ridden several “centuries” (100 mile days). Don is especially proud that he successfully completed the AIDS Ride—Midwest (500 miles from Minneapolis to Chicago) and the Make-A-Wish Miracle Ride (300 miles from Traverse City, MI to Brooklyn, MI).
You may contact him through the following social media:
Meryton Press would like to offer one ebook copy of the Longbourn Quarantine to one of my readers. The giveaway is international an open until the 3rd of September. To apply to it all you have to do is comment on this post and let us know what you thought of the vignette 🙂
Good Luck everyone!