Dear Jane Austen Advice Column,
My name is Frank Harrison. I am a medical doctor and have recently taken up a new post in the small town of Cranford where I assist the elderly Dr. Morgan by attending some of his numerous patients. Cranford is a bit of an oddity where the women reign supreme (not unlike amazons!), careless of new fashions and fearful of change. I've already had to rid my wardrobe of a particularly handsome red jacket because Dr. Morgan told me the ladies of Cranford would think it fanciful. But on the whole I had found the residents of Cranford very welcoming until today when many things unseen to my eye came to a head. Upon my arrival here one of my first visits was to the vicarage where I met Reverend Hutton and his lovely daughter Miss Sophy Hutton. She is an angel! and I was making strides to ask if I might court her when her young brother Walter fell ill and despite all of the methods of modern medicine I applied soon died. You may well imagine what a rift this caused between the young lady and myself and yet I loved her more each day. Quite a few months later Miss Hutton came to trust me again and I was bold enough to ask her father if I might court her. What happiness when he gave his permission! Our courtship was going on so well until this afternoon while attending the town's May festival, it came to the attention of the whole town that two other ladies felt themselves as good as engaged to me! Miss Tompkinson is a spinsterish young lady who lives with her sister in town and though I have attended her many times for palpitations and other maladies I was never aware of having shown her any other interest than that of a doctor to his patient. Likewise Mrs. Rose, who is my widowed housekeeper, seems to think that I have shown signs of love for her, which I never have done! The worst of the matter was seeing my dear Sophy stricken with horror at my supposed unfaithfulness and see her directed away by her father. I am in a state of shock from which I shall not soon recover! Please tell me dear sir or madam, what am I to do!?!
Desperate for advice,
Dr. Frank Harrison
For the Jane Austen Advice Column:
Lands Doc, what dashed horrid luck! There is a cursed shabby trick in that! But then women are the stupidest things in creation! There is no saying what a woman will do next, upon my word there is not! My friend Jones was in just such a predicament last year and lord only knows how he got out of it! Fancy an old woman like Mrs. Rose thinking you were interested in her! I would tell her she looks like an old witch and send her on her way! And as for Miss Hutton if she can not stand a bit of quizzing then have done with her! Now Miss Tompkinson, I'm sure there must be some money in that, must not there? But if she is dowdy then perhaps Miss Hutton is better for all her stares of horror! I've been dashed lucky to meet with an heiress myself, and she is the prettiest girl in the room. But, she will go on about this chap Tilney - a good figure of a man, well put together. But he's the sort of fellow that reads novels, and there's not been a tolerably decent one come out since Tom Jones, except The Monk, I read that t'other day, some spirit and brilliance in that. Women read such nonsense. If I were you I should sing to your Miss Hutton, or is it Miss Tompkinson? whichever is the heiress. Have you ever heard that old song "going to one wedding brings on another"?
By the by, are you in need of a horse? Here's my friend Sam Feltcher who has one to sell, a famous good road horse - fifty guineas. I have half a mind to buy it myself, but it would not suit my purpose. Upon my word! I must leave off for I promised to drive Miss Morland up Landsdown Hill in my gig. A famous good purchase by the way Curricle–hung, seat, trunk, sword–case, splashing–board, lamps, silver moulding, all complete; the iron–work as good as new, or better!
Your's &. etc.
Your predicament is much to be pitted. A man of your station and learning should not be treated with such disdain! But let me first address the disposal of you red jacket by saying I think it a very bad thing that so becoming an article of clothing should be thus thrown aside. As men of distinction we must appear to be in style, and never mind the opinions of the elderly and infirm.
As to your trouble I am quite sure that it could not be helped. When you are in a position of authority many people will vie for your attention. I have found this to be true since my daughter Elizabeth and I have taken up residence in Bath, each morning there is a pile of calling cards to be found from those who wish to be acquainted with us. Unfortunately many of them are beneath our notice. But we were not snubbed by Lady Dalrymple whom I'm sure you must have seen in town. Family connections are always worth preserving!
This Mrs. Rose sounds the worst of your admirers. I would urge you sir to untangle yourself from this old widow and seek the company of more genteel and well connected people. As I have often told my daughter an old widow living in Westgate buildings is nothing compared to your own family among the nobility of England and Ireland! The daughter of a country curate also seems somewhat beneath your notice, unless she be very beautiful. I have found that the worst of Bath is the number of plain women who seem continually to crowd the streets, in deed the number of plain women is out of all proportion! So pray, let the woman you marry be handsome. The "spinster" Miss Tompkinson may be the best choice if she is well connected and have a large income. What was her father? does his name appear in the Barontage? Choose your wife wisely sir or do not marry at all. I will only add please sir take care of your own complexion, a doctor, called out in all sorts of weather may grow as coarse and weather beaten as a sailor. I recommend the constant use of Gowland's lotions during the summer months.
Walter Elliot, Baronate
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Very Truly Your's,