When you write in a world built by another, you face various challenges. For example, you can never hope to match the genius of the original.
Although…one reader insists my writing is better than in Pride and Prejudice. I take the opinion with a pinch of salt because:
- That reader is my mum
- And my mum’s never read Pride and Prejudice
Anyway, listening to Kim Wilson talk on Love in the Shrubbery – Gardens in Jane Austen’s Life & Works last summer led me to take the Mignonette challenge. In a letter to her sister, Cassandra, dated May 29th, 1811, Jane Austen wrote (original spelling):
Some of the Flower seeds are coming up very well-but your Mignionette makes a wretched appearance.-Miss Benn has been equally unlucky as to hers; She had seed from 4 different people, & none of it comes up.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Reseda alba, grown successfully from seed on a Viennese balcony in the early summer of 2021:
I like to think this small victory over the Austen family (and the unfortunate Miss Benn) would be regarded by Jane herself as something only the small mind of Mr Collins would consider a worthy triumph. But we who follow in her footsteps must take our successes where we find them.
The whole episode reminds me of the curious nature of history. A Regency woman pens an innocent letter to her sister and, 210 years later, her words prompt a middle-aged man in Austria to get unaccountably excited about a small flowering plant on his 6th-floor balcony.