Read Jane and the Man of the Cloth Online

Authors: Stephanie Barron

Jane and the Man of the Cloth

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Lavish praise for Stephanie Barren's
Jane and the Man of the Cloth
“Nearly as wry as Jane Austen herself, Barron delivers pleasure and amusement in her second delicious Jane Austen mystery…. Worthy of its origins, this book is a delight.”

Publisliers Weekly
If Jane Austen really did have the ‘nameless and dateless’ romance with a clergyman that some scholars claim, she couldn't have met her swain under more heart-throbbing circumstances than those described by Stephanie Barron.”

The New York Times Book Review
“Prettily narrated, in true Austen style … A boon for Austen lovers.”

Kirkus Reviews
“Historical fiction at its best.”

Library Journal
“The words, characters and references are so real that it is a shock to find that the author is not Austen herself.”

The Arizona Republic
“Stephanie Barron's second Jane Austen mystery … is even better than her first. … A classic period mystery.”

The News and Observer
, Raleigh, NC
“Delightful … captures the style and wit of Austen.”

San Francisco Examiner
“Loaded with charm, these books will appeal whether you are a fan of Jane Austen or not.”

Mystery Lovers Bookshop News
Please turn the page for more praise for Stephanie
Barron and her first Jane Austen mystery,
Jane and the
Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor
The highest praise for
Jane and tbe Unpleasantness
at Scargrave Manor
“Splendid fun!”

Star Tribune
, Minneapolis
“Happily succeeds on all levels: a robust tale of manners and mayhem that faithfully reproduces the Austen style—and engrosses to the finish.”

Kirkus Revieivs
“Jane is unmistakably here with us through the work of Stephanie Barron—sleuthing, entertaining, and making us want to devour the next Austen adventure as soon as possible!”
—Diane Mott Davidson
“Well-conceived, stylishly written, plotted with a nice twist … and brought off with a voice that works both for its time and our own.”

Booknews
from The Poisoned Pen
“People who lament Jane Austen's minimal lifetime output … now have cause to rejoice.”

The Drood Review of Mystery
“A light-hearted mystery … The most fun is that Jane Austen’ is in the middle of it, witty and logical, a foil to some of the ladies who primp and faint and swoon.”

The Denver Post
“A fascinating ride through the England of the hackney carriage … a definite occasion for pride rather than prejudice.”
—Edward Marston
“A thoroughly enjoyable tale. Fans of the much darker Anne Perry … should relish this somewhat lighter look at the society of fifty years earlier.”

Mostly Murder
“Jane sorts it all out with the wit and intelligence Jane Austen would display. *** (four if you really love Jane Austen).”

Detroit Free Press
ALSO BY STEPHANIE BABBON
Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor:
Being the First Jane Austen Mystery
Jane and the Wandering Eye:
Being the Third Jane Austen Mystery
Jane and the Genius of the Place:
Being the Fourth Jane Austen Mystery
Jane and the Stillroom Maid:
Being the Fifth Jane Austen Mystery
Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House:
Being the Sixth Jane Austen Mystery
AND COMING SOON IN
HARDCOVER FBOM BANTAM BOOKS:
Jane and the Ghosts of Netley:
Being the Seventh Jane Austen Mystery

Dedicated with love to my sister Cathy,
who always gave me the best books;
and to my sister Jo,
who taught me to read

Editor's foreword
When Jane Austen traveled to the Dorset coastal town of Lyme Regis in the late summer of 1804, she returned to a part of England she had first visited the previous year and that she is thought to have loved. She chose Lyme and its peculiar blend of fishermen, retired naval officers, and fashionable pleasure seekers for a pivotal passage in her final novel,
Persuasion,
published posthumously in 1818. Her affection for the town's steep streets and bracing Cobb (a stone breakwater encircling the harbor of the same name), the secretive wilderness called the Pinny and the high downs beyond, shines through the scenes she set down on paper over ten years after the action of this memoir.
For Jane and the Man of the Cloth
is exactly that—a memoir of Austen's detective adventures in Lyme in the late summer of 1804. Austen scholars have long been frustrated by their lack of knowledge about this period in her life, since only one letter written from the town survives in the collected correspondence. In that lengthy note to Cassandra, Jane talks of many people and events that will become familiar to the reader of the present volume. We listen as she discusses Mr. Crawford, with whom she had danced the previous evening at the Thursday night Assembly; the servant-man James and his lanthorn; Miss Armstrong; the Schuylers and the Honourable Barnewalis—“bold, queer-looking people, just fit to be Quality at Lyme”—and the mysterious man she names only as
Le Chevalier,
who divided the winnings of a card game with her mother. The details are tantalizing, because they are fragmentary—and yet powerfully suggestive of the richness of the author's visit to the Dorset coast.
At long last, the full story of Jane's extraordinary Lyme experiences may be shared with the world, in the form of this diary account, one of many discovered among the long-lost Austen journals currently undergoing restoration and editing in the United States.
1
Although the events Jane Austen describes in the following pages are surprising enough, it is possible that they serve to elucidate a personal episode in her life that has been the subject of much conjecture and debate. Years after Jane's death, Cassandra Austen, Jane's older sister and closest confidante, told her niece Caroline that the writer was involved in an unfortunate love affair with a clergyman whom she had met during a seaside holiday. The young man died or otherwise disappeared before an engagement could be formed, and since Cassandra was notoriously closemouthed regarding her sister's private life, neither the gendeman's name nor the exact history of the affair have come down to posterity. Various Austen family members recorded conflicting explanations of the episode—which Caroline Austen termed Jane's “nameless and dateless*’ romance—and the facts appear to have been garbled with time. It has been suggested that the clergyman's brother was a doctor, whom Cassandra visited years after Jane's death; or that the unknown suitor was in fact the Reverend Samuel Blackall, an acquaintance of Jane's for many years previous to this period. Constance Pilgrim, in her book
Dear Jane: A Biographical Study of Jane Austen
(Pentlands Press, Durham, 1971), goes so far as to suggest that the writer's mystery lover was Captain John Wordsworth, a naval officer and brother of the poet William Wordsworth, who was lost with his ship in 1805, and that they met in Lyme Regis as early as 1797—a theory described as “fanciful” by George Holbert Tucker, another Austen scholar. Some have asserted that Jane met the unknown clergyman while traveling with her family in Dorset during the summer of 1801; others place the encounter closer to 1804.
2

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