10 January 2004

Fornicating with Mr Darcy

Not long after her extraordinary discovery of the lost sex scenes of Jane Austen, Arielle Eckstut went on radio to discuss her find. She was joined by the president of the Jane Austen Society of North America, and a mysterious academic called Dr Elfrida Drummond. Both listened, enthralled, as Eckstut recounted the moment when, in a 'grand manor' in Britain, she was battling to open an old window and accidentally dislodged a small wooden box that had been hidden there for almost two centuries.

Inside was something beyond imagining: pages and pages covered in an exacting hand, detailing sex scenes between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, Charlotte and Mr Collins, a not entirely successful encounter between Knightley and Churchill from Emma, and more. Austen, an author famed for her control over the unsaid, had apparently said it all, in explicit detail, but the scenes had been excised by a hidebound editor. Austen's heated correspondence with him was in the box, too.

A devotee of Austen's books, Eckstut was astonished and delighted by her discovery, and published a book, Pride and Promiscuity: The Lost Sex Scenes of Jane Austen. It was introduced by 'the most conservative of all modern Austen scholars', the Oxford-based Drummond, who announced that Eckstut had taken the accepted picture of the great author and turned it on its head. The radio station was inundated with calls from people wanting to find out more, and Eckstut was contacted by a doctoral student at Oxford University, who said he couldn't find Dr Drummond listed on the faculty records. Could Eckstut please supply him with contact details?

Very gently - though with some satisfaction - Eckstut pointed out to the young man that the radio program was broadcast on April 1. Dr Elfrida Drummond was, she explained, a fictitious character played by Eckstut's husband. Eckstut has indeed published a book of sex scenes between the most famous of Austen's characters, but it is a parody, 'a loving homage'.

Mr Darcy hadn't really 'put his hands on Elizabeth's breasts and pushed up each soft globe so that both were near escaping the rim of her chemise'. And Austen certainly didn't write about Charlotte dressing up in one of Lady Catherine de Bourgh's old dresses, giving Mr Collins a sound whipping while he crouched on all fours barking 'I have been very, very bad! May I please have another!'

Is nothing sacred anymore?

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