Monday, May 21, 2012

Matt Duffy: A Historian Discovers Austen

Welcome Matt Duffy to Darcyholic Diversions!

Hi, Darcyholics!  I am very happy to welcome Matt Duffy to Darcyholic Diversions today.  I have enjoyed getting to know Matt over the past few years.  He loves his history and his historical research assisted him in finding works of Jane Austen and our communities.  I hope you enjoy getting to know him. 

Upcoming Guest Posts Are As Follows:

May 22--Candy M. (So Little Time...)
May 25--Karen Cox
May 29--Jan Ashe
June 1--Kara Louise
June 5--Sharon Lathan
June 8--Gayle Mills
June 12--Shannon Winslow
June 15--Karen Wasylowski
June 19--Krista Bagley
June 22--Stephanie Hamm
June 26--Laurel Ann Nattress
June 29--Pam Dixon
July 3--Jennifer Petkus
July 6--Karen Aminada
July 10--Marilyn Brant
July 13--Meredith Esparanza
July 17--Lori Smith
July 20--Bernadette
July 24--Amy Pacifico Cecil
And Many more to come!

Comments on Matt's post will be entered into the monthly drawings here at Darcyholic Diversions. Entries will be based on comments on blog posts; but additional chances will be given for joining this site, tweeting this post, Joining this site as a member!, sharing this on Facebook or your blog, Friend me on Facebook, clicking 'like’ on Barbara Tiller Cole, Author's Facebook page, Join Darcyholic Diversions Facebook Page or following BarbTCole on Twitter.

A Historian Discovers Austen
I remember watching P&P 95 on a day off from school and said to myself, There has to be a fandom for this.  Sure enough there was. After a month of reading jaff at various sites I began writing. Unlike most JAFF readers and writers, I tend to put the historical aspects over the romantic or literary. 

Additionally, I do not feel confined by the traditional canon of Austen’s work. Why should I? Jane may have been writing satire of her society, but we have access to the whole historical record. It’s antithetical to my background as a historian to ignore it.   That is part of what kept me writing and reading JAFF. One never knew historical events or personalities would show up or how the author would build on it. One story in particular sticks out in my mind that epitomizes this. It was a piece incorporating the Cavendish family who spawned the dukes of Devonshire for the better part of the last three centuries and were among the richest families in England.  In fact, the duke in the late Victorian era was so comfortable in his position and so careless that he blew off a dinner appointment with the Prince of Wales. He simply forgot…   
In many respects, Darcy holds that same position in Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.  Rich beyond belief, intensely private, and secure enough in his position not to care about anything above what he considers worth his notice. Both characters, historical and literary, found mates later than most of their peers.
Coincidentally the Bennets are not quite as rich, but certainly as unsuccessful as the Cavendish political opponent, William Gladstone.  The effort for home rule in Ireland was as futile as the Bennets escaping the entail in theirs. Lets just say the humor between the british politicos was far more entertaining than Mary’s sermonizing...
I am willing to take some liberties if there is a sound and plausible historical reason for doing it. My first work Invasion of my Heart and Soul was filled with them.  It operates off the premise of the French attacking England instead of Russia in 1812 with a French aided Irish rebellion as well which had been a constant fear of the crown. Indeed, one had just been crushed 15 years before the story took place, in 1798.
As referenced above, I tend to avoid getting mired in canon in favor of the historical record.  One thing that has been a foremost influence of my writing is that Pride and Prejudice and Jane Austen’s other works were intended as satire of her society.  It is that reason I turn to the historical record. Yes, what she intended is important, but so are seeing what the realities of the time were. The lengthy Victorian era and Cassandra’s burning of her letters caused irreparable harm to our perceptions of the period. Only by turning to non-Janesque sources can we seek to rectify it.
Whether it is prize fighters keeping King Geo. IV’s wife barred from his 1820 Coronation or the price of gin in 1810, it is all fair game for inspiration. 
Imagine having to bow to this:

In addition to JAFF, I write non-fiction and poetry.


  1. Glad to see you here Matt! The historical perspective adds so much!


  2. Love your writing Matt. You certainly make things interesting.
    And I for one enjoy a historical fiction.

  3. Hey Matt! So glad to see you here! I have loved your stories so much and the historical elements just seem to add to that enjoyment. It's true that 'truth is stranger than fiction' and many of the customs in the Regency and Victorian eras were definitely strange!
    I have noticed that several authors of JAFF are adding historical elements and I enjoy each and every one. Thank you for opening up my mind to the historical side!

  4. I prefer historical accuracy in all my fics, but there is always something new to learn. I'm still grousing at Cassandra burning Jane's letters!

  5. I am with June!
    The good news is that you can fill the blank spaces those letters left. :)

  6. Matt:

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share with us here at Darcyholic Diversions, Matt! I enjoy knowing about your 'other' historical writings as well, as you know. And have enjoyed your stories (although I am not sure that anyone will be able to find them right now if I remember correctly?)

    Thanks for your friendship as well.


  7. I enjoyed reading your post and found it very informative and interesting. Thanks for sharing with us.