Tuesday 11 October 2016

Mr Darcy, Faeries and Cowslips

It's my pleasure to welcome Brooke West and Beau North to the salon, with a tale of cowslips!


Thank you, Catherine, for hosting this stop on our blog tour and inviting Beau and me into your salon! 

If you have read The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy by now, then you understand why we are obsessed with cowslips! The cowslip scene (which I will spoil for you below -- you have been warned!) is one of the examples of how our Darcy’s hardships have transformed him. After working through his ordeal, Darcy begins to really look at the people around him and connect with them. He takes a small moment that many would have ignored and from that extrapolates a grand, romantic gesture to his beloved.

With their simple but undeniable beauty, cowslips are a fitting symbol for our Elizabeth. The cowslip is a common flower, sweet-smelling and low-growing but vibrantly colored and impressive in its profusion. They have been admired and used for centuries for their culinary, medicinal, and even magical qualities.

The flowers and leaves are mildly narcotic, which is why they have been used for making both a delicate wine and a calming sedative tea. I expect Darcy would attest to Elizabeth having an intoxicating effect on him!

Aside from medicinal purposes, the beauty of the cowslip has inspired some belief that the flower can imbue this quality on others. Nicholas Culpepper, a renowned 17th century English botanist, claimed that women could make themselves more beautiful by using a distillation or ointment made from the perennial. Indeed, it would not be an unusual ingredient to find in modern skincare due to the cowslip’s cleansing properties.

Cowslips were often associated with the faeries in England. Some say the faeries used the cowslips to become invisible, or that the presence of cowslips indicated the presence of faeries. In Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare invoked the cowslip as a favorite of the Fairy Queen, Titania:

And I serve the fairy queen
To dew her orbs upon the green.
The cowslips tall her pensioners be.
In their gold coats spots you see.
Those be rubies, fairy favors.
In those freckles live their savors.
I must go seek some dewdrops here
And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear

Conversely, cowslips also were used to protect one’s home and cows from faeries. Even as belief in faeries died away, rural folk would keep cowslips by their door to prevent unwanted visitors.

The supposed magical properties of these flowers align with the lightly supernatural element of The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy. I like to think that cowslips always remind Darcy of the days in Hunsford, and that the following scene, which occurs on Elizabeth’s first visit to Darcy House, is the first of many times Darcy fills his house with the delicate flowers in honor of Elizabeth: 

She curtsied and said his name in an unsteady voice. He would not allow the brevity of her greeting to deter him and he was determined to make her feel welcome in his home.

“Miss Elizabeth, I am pleased to see you among the party tonight.”

She did not meet his eye, focusing instead on the vase to his right. Every vase in the house was bursting with yellow cowslips, the only tribute he could give her without openly declaring himself.

“Thank you for inviting us,” she said in a subdued manner.

And thank you, Catherine and her loyal readers, for indulging us in talking about our latest collaboration, The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy. We look forward to hearing from you and your readers!

Meet the Authors
Beau North is the author of Longbourn’s Songbird and a contributor to the anthology Then Comes Winter. Beau is a native southerner who now calls Portland, Oregon home with her husband and two cats. She attended the University of South Carolina where she began a lifelong obsession with Literature. In her spare time, Beau is the brains behind Rhymes With Nerdy, a pop culture podcast and website, and a contributor at the San Francisco Book Review.

Brooke West is a contributing author to the anthology Then Comes Winter. Brooke has a naturally creative soul that pulls her into myriad artistic endeavors.  While writing fiction always has been her life’s passion, Brooke also finds joy in silversmithing, sculpting, and costuming. Between projects, she runs and practices yoga.  She lives in South Carolina with her fiancĂ©, son, and three cats.
Meet Brooke on Facebook, Twitter (@WordyWest and @BrookeWest), Goodreads and Amazon.


“He could no longer claim to be Fitzwilliam Darcy of Derbyshire, brother to Georgiana, master of Pemberley. In that moment, he was but a man. A man filled with more frustration than most souls could bear. A man torn asunder by his desperation, his fruitless dreams and desires.”
After Elizabeth Bennet rejects his marriage proposal, Fitzwilliam Darcy finds himself in the most unusual of circumstances. At first believing the extraordinary turn of events has granted him an inexplicable boon, he is eager to put the humiliating proposal behind him.
He soon discovers that he is trapped in the same waking dream with no end in sight and no possible escape. All that he holds dear—his name, his home, his love—remains ever out of reach. How will he find his way back to his normal life? Will one mistake haunt the rest of his days? It will take all of his fortitude to weather the storms of his strange new fate, and all of his courage to grasp the promise of his future.
 October 8/ My Jane Austen Book Club/Launch Post & Giveaway
October 9/ Just Jane 1813/Interview with Beau and Brooke
October 10/ Pemberley to Milton/Book Review & Giveaway
October 12/ Austenesque Reviews/ Excerpt & Giveaway
October 13/ Margie’s Must Reads/ Book Review & Giveaway
October 14/ Babblings of a Bookworm/ Book Review & Giveaway
October 15/ The Calico Critic/Excerpt & Giveaway 
October 16Obsessed with Mr. DarcyGuest Post 
October 17/ Diary of an Eccentric/Book Review & Giveaway
October 18/ My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice/ Book Review & Giveaway
October 19/ More Agreeably EngagedFitzwilliam Vignette 
October 20/ So Little Time… So Much to Read/ Excerpt & Giveaway

For readers who wish to vote in our The Many Faces of Fitzwilliam Darcycontest, the choices are shown below:
To vote for your favorite image of Fitzwilliam Darcy from the images shown above, go to The Many Faces of Fitzwilliam Darcy Contest Link. The winning image and the winner will be announced on October 20, 2016, at our last blog stop, So Little Time… So Much to Read.


Unknown said...

Thank you SO much for participating in our blog tour, Catherine! We are thrilled to be here!

Anji said...

Thanks for such an interesting post Beau and Brooke. I had no idea that cowslips had such interesting properties. We have quite a few growing and indeed spreading in our garden. They used to be such common wildflowers in the English countryside when I was growing up but sadly are comparatively rare nowadays.

Looking forward to reading more as the blog tour continues.

Demetrius said...

I knew Fitzwilliam in Yorkshire quite well once, living quite near and it being on the route to work. There was the Fitzwilliam Main Colliery, also Hemsworth. In July 1984 there was a splendid riot there which resulted in nine convictions. We like many others in the area had cowslips in the garden.

Christina Boyd said...

I had no idea about cowslips! And here I just thought they were a pretty flower. Thank you. Always an education here.

Christina Boyd said...

A pretty flower with an awkward name. Is it cows lips or cow slips? Things I wonder about...hmmm...;)

Mary said...

What a sweet and romantic statement,to have Darcy house filled with the wild flowers that remind him of Elizabeth. Sigh!

Sheila L. Majczan said...

That was interesting to learn about Cowslips. The lore is charming.

Just Jane 1813 said...

Thank you, Catherine, for being part of this tour. I really enjoyed this post and I love the significance of the cowslips in this story.

Dung said...

What an informative post! I never knew that about cowslips and faeries. Love learning something new!