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'Dear Diary'

Updated: Jan 31

A person writing with a quill pen.

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Author’s Note: This creative piece is a re-imagination of parts of the 2004 Oxford World’s Classics edition of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice.[1] It is one of a series I have written based on Austen’s novel. The concept for this piece was to take characters from the novel and put them in a different plot or situation. The diary format sprang to mind because I was already writing a reflective journal for a university module (Re-imagining Nineteenth-Century Literature). Elizabeth Bennett fell with ease into place as the obvious choice as diary owner.


‘Dear Diary’

Friday, 28 August 1840 – Four o’clock after noon

‘It is a truth universally acknowledged within the theatrical community of London, that any man possessing plentiful sums of money must be in want – nay, need – of a place of entertainment where they may part with some of it.’ So declares my mother, determinedly, and with constancy, as being conclusively the case.

‘My dear Elizabeth,’ she announced to me this very morning, ‘regardless of the small amount known of the propensities or opinions of wealthy men upon their first arrival in London and of those already living in our particular neighbourhoods, we – that is your father and I – and the owners of other theatres well known to us are all of one voice, “that the money of these men, Mrs Bennet, is preordained to become our rightful property as recompense for the essential public service we provide. We must continue to procure in their minds the desire and necessity to part with it at every opportunity!” ’

It is a marvel, dear Diary, that in these days of constant struggle and uncertainty, we manage still to attract such numbers to Luckington Theatre – our theatrical home – and to our burlesque extravaganzas. I feel, as do my sisters, especially Jane, being the eldest and most aware of matters of the world, that the winds of change are upon us. Are our days numbered? Oh, my sweet, reserved, and gentle Jane. The transfixed, rapturous gaze of men befall you and us, your sisters, each time we perform a musical travesty on stage of a renowned opera or drama, or some adaptation of a ballet. Little do they comprehend how the oft, albeit mildly, risqué style of our pastiche parodies piques your sensibilities; but still you perform. These men know so precious little. They understand nothing of our pride, but the sting of their prejudice can be keenly felt, and the dart can wound deeply when delivered. Low are we in the estimation of high society, who perceive us as socially inferior.

This very week, my sister Mary confided in me, ‘Lizzie, I have heard rumour that Lady Catherine de Bourgh, that snobbish, wealthy noblewoman, has put it about that our theatre is the carbuncle of London – a scourge on decent society.’ Mary is, if truth be known, of pedantic nature, but she is bookish and intelligent, and her observations seldom fall short of the mark. I and Mary were curious as to why this woman, so little known to us, would deliver such a scathing pronouncement. The veil of obscurity was lifted somewhat from my eyes when Lydia, my beloved but immature, loquacious, and self-absorbed sister declared that Lady Catherine’s ire had been got up by a visit to our theatre of her nephew, Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy, whom I recall had partaken of our pastiche pleasures more than once. To what vexation might Lady Catherine have laid claim if the full extent of her nephew’s patronage had been known to her! How she became aware of Mr Darcy’s visit is a puzzlement.

Sunday, 30 August 1840 – Three o’clock after noon

My entry of Friday gone was much longer than is habitually so; today I am weary and will record less than I might. Let it suffice to say something of my opinion of a certain wealthy gentleman, Master of Pemberley House, and nephew of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Well, after delivering our burlesque performance of Macbeth yesterday evening, a folded note written in a measured and intelligent hand intercepted me upon arrival at our dressing room, in which note Mr Darcy stated it would please him if I were to consent to join him and a friend at his table during the entr'acte before my next appearance on stage. Surprised, I nonetheless acquiesced. Dear Diary, I found him to be somewhat of an oddity – certainly intelligent and honest, but excessively proud and with a rather discourteous demeanour! There were several occasions when he sat stock still, speechless; I inwardly questioned why he had taken pains to summon me to him. I secured a more conversational footing with his friend, Mr Charles Bingley, a most genial gentleman who has purchased a nearby property of some note. Diary, he too is clearly wealthy, rather handsome, appears easy going and is blessedly insensible to class differences; what a contrast he is to Mr Darcy!

Thursday, 17 September 1840 – Nine o’clock before noon

Please forgive the long interlude since my last entry. Such news! Kitty was most excited at breakfast, gushing about the arrival of the ––Regiment to the barracks south of us; she appeared fit to burst with excitement, as did Lydia. They are both so girlishly enthralled by any officer in his uniform. Father admonished them both, particularly Catherine as the older of the two, for their incessant babble, calling them chattering finches before repairing to the sanctity of his study. Kitty said she had it on good authority that some of the officers would be attending our performance this Saturday coming.

Saturday, 19 September 1840 – Late evening

Such a day was had by us all today! I have much to say! We were all anticipating – myself included – the arrival of the evening and our performance of an operetta to an audience that would include officers from the newly arrived ––Regiment. Before I share that tale, dearest Diary, let me recount to you a most peculiar event of the day before, which I have not had time to record ‘til now. The day commenced propitiously. In the morning, we were graced with an unexpected visit from my mother’s brother, Mr Gardiner, and his good lady wife. They are both so caring, capacious of heart and possessed of sound common sense that I am always much rejuvenated in spirit whenever they visit. To cap all, my dear friend Charlotte Lucas came by unannounced. It was a joyful reunion, although the excitement was rather too much for mother, who declared that the convergence in time and place of so many unanticipated callers was a taxation on her poor nerves, and that we were all dispossessed of compassion. Father was in a mood of mischief and commissioned his sardonic sense of humour to irritate her still further. He really is a scoundrel at times!

It was then at about one o’clock after noon that a gentleman called to see father, who had been expecting him. Well, I knew him not, but mother was most willing to dispel any absence of knowledge on that account, no doubt still feeling the sting of father’s sarcasm. ‘It is Mr William Collins,’ she announced, ‘your father’s distant cousin. He is a clergyman. Let the truth be out; he is the heir presumptive to Luckington Theatre – our theatrical home – it is entailed to him. Do you now discern the full import of my endeavours to seek a suitable, mutually advantageous union of interests with the owners of other theatres – why I pursue them like potential suitors? It is to safeguard our futures, Elizabeth dear. None of you, our daughters, or your issue, can ever inherit Luckington Theatre. We have no male heir. Mr Collins could, in time, take all.’ My heart was panged to see mother so distressed.

And what news of this Saturday’s performance? Well, it is late; I am tired, and time is short. Suffice to say it was a most illuminating evening! I met a handsome and charming young militia officer by the name of George Wickham, who showed me much favour with his time and attention. There was a most strange occurrence, however; Mr Darcy was in attendance once again, and upon observing Mr Wickham, appeared quite put out. He gave every appearance of knowing him. What might have transpired between both is presently a mystery to me.

Addendum: I have returned, dear Diary, weeks later, to record a brief entry concerning Mr Collins. In meeting with him frequently since his first visit, I have concluded he is a pompous, sycophantic, and somewhat idiotic man! He put a proposal of marriage to me, which I most assuredly declined, although such a union might have vouchsafed the future of our theatre. However, I discovered he made a similar proposal of marriage to Charlotte some little while later, which she has accepted! These are strange times indeed, not made less so than by my discovery that Mr Collins has a connection to Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who is his patroness!

Sunday, 20 September 1840 – Late morning

I am utterly fagged after the events of yesterday! I laugh at having once heard father say to mother of us, their daughters, ‘Not one of them has much to commend them. They are all senseless and uninformed like other girls; but Lizzy has somewhat more of cleverness than her sisters.’ If he were to see me now, he would not consider me the most intelligent and sensible of the five Bennet sisters, and certainly not quick-witted!


[1] Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).


Citation for this post (MHRA - Modern Humanities Research Association). Please use:

Priestley, James, ‘Dear Diary’, Dear Diary, 2022 <> [accessed D/M/Y]

(Insert the word 'accessed' and the date you did so in the brackets)


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