Centre Stage Off Stage: Imagining Austen’s Children

Please welcome this guest post and giveaway from Jenetta James!

Centre stage off stage: Austen’s children and how we might imagine them now

Babies and children pop up all the time in fan fiction but in Jane Austen’s original works, the littlest characters are frequently off stage, the world beyond the nursery door seeming rather a closed book. Several of the children who populate Austen’s novels are not even given names – the Gardiner children in Pride and Prejudice being among them. In Emma, Isabella Knightley’s brood and the Musgrove children in Persuasion do have names but as characters they do not progress much from a haze of cotton dress clad scamps whose existence is measured out in terms of his it impacts upon their parents.

This is in contrast with much of fan fiction where there are many characterful infants playing a more obvious role. Partly this is due to the fact that many of the books in question are sequels. If a writer is focussing on Darcy and Elizabeth as a married couple, what is more natural but to think about what their young family might look like.

The reality is that the modern conception of childhood is completely different to that which pertained in the regency period. It is hard now to imagine babies being fed by wet nurses and children whose nannies were their main focus in the home. It is still harder to imagine fathers playing very minimal and formalised roles in the lives of their children.

But does that mean that the babies and toddlers who abound in fan fiction are somehow wrong or out of place? I don’t think so. Jane Austen’s children are important; she just presents them in a manner redolent of her age. It is one of the roles of fan fiction to tease out existing but disguised themes from canon, and so it is in this case: let’s throw open that nursery door…


One lucky participant will win a copy of Jenetta’s book Suddenly Mrs. Darcy! All you have to do to be considered is 1) be a pre-registered participant of Roof Beam Reader’s Austen in August event and 2) leave a comment on this post saying you’d love a copy! Note: This giveaway is open until 10pm CST on September 1st and is available to International participants

About the Book:

25273436Elizabeth Bennet never imagined her own parents would force her to marry a virtual stranger.

But when Mrs. Bennet accuses Fitzwilliam Darcy of compromising her daughter, that is exactly the outcome.

Trapped in a seemingly loveless marriage and far from home, she grows suspicious of her new husband’s heart and further, suspects he is hiding a great secret.

Is there even a chance at love given the happenstance of their hasty marriage?

About the Author:

71H8Albq25L._UX250_Jenetta James is the nom de plume of a lawyer, writer, mother and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society.

After graduating, she took to the law and now practises full time as a barrister. Over the years she has lived in France, Hungary and Trinidad as well as her native England.

Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing and playing with Lego. Suddenly Mrs Darcy is her first novel.

Thanks, Jenetta, and good luck to all entrants! 

10 Comments on “Centre Stage Off Stage: Imagining Austen’s Children

  1. It has struck me that children are very present in JAFF and I always read it as proof that Darcy and Lizzy had an unusual Regency upper class marriage…love, children, tenderness etc.
    Thanks for the giveaway! Mrs Bennet forcing a marriage to Darcy is so much preferable to a marriage to Collins.


    • It certainly is although of course that would be an interesting variation…! thank you for reading & commenting Theresa


  2. I enjoy the attributes some JAFF authors give to the off spring. Oh but I pity the children fathered by Mr Collins. Poor things. And Darcy’s always have at least one cerebral, handsome son with dark curls and a daughter with sparkling verve like Elizabeth.

    I own a copy of “Suddenly Mrs Darcy” so please don’t enter me in the giveaway–let someone else the chance to win. I just wanted to have my share of the conversation.


    • That is true Christina – there are a lot of cerebral sons in the imagined Darcy children… thank you for reading & commenting


  3. It really is crazy to think of the differences in how we perceive childhood today versus how children were treated in Austen’s day. It’s always fun to read fan fiction that takes her characters and gives them a parental identity — something we never get to see in the novels themselves.

    I would love to win a copy of “Suddenly Mrs. Darcy!” The premise sounds so intriguing.

    Thanks for hosting the giveaway!


  4. If you don’t count Margaret Dashwood as a child then there is only one child character in Jane Austen that springs to my mind and that is the child in Austen’s unfinished work ‘The Watsons’. Emma Watson dances with him in a really sweet little scene. I suppose child characters may have detracted attention from the main storyline in the books, but when I read ‘The Watsons’ I found myself wishing that there had been children in the other books too.

    Please don’t enter me for the giveaway, I’m not registered and I’ve read ‘Suddenly Mrs Darcy’ already. 🙂


    • I had been “not counting” Margaret on the basis that she is a young teenager but of course that in itself is a total anachronism and shows my own age rather than Austen’s… I loved the Watsons & know what you mean – I thin children is one of the main ways that fan fiction can meaningfully expand upon the original… thanks for reading & commenting:-)


  5. People of the Regency period would be shocked at our children these days. 😉 I would love to win a copy of Suddenly Mrs Darcy. Thanks for the chance!


  6. They would certainly be shocked at mine:-) thank you for reading & commenting & your interest in Suddenly Mrs Darcy, Jenetta


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