The Set Up:
I have long admired your expertise in matchmaking. As your dear friend at Donwell Abbey, you confided to me your matchmaking schemes before your marriage to Mr. Knightly. I am astonished at your cleverness. You boasted to me of your matchmaking skills and that they are a matter of joy to you. I realize that you are naturally gifted in conjuring love matches. A true imaginist as the novelist, Jane Austen, would say. You have orchestrated so many of them beginning with the marriage of your former governess, Miss Taylor to Mr. Weston.
I know that your matchmaking is more than fortune telling or a lucky guess. Perhaps you can divulge your talent. When we sat together after the picnic at Box Hill, I was overcome by your excellent matchmaking plans. Now I am burning with impatience to know the secrets to your success. You see, I have fancied myself writing a novel. Remember how fun it was discussing the adventures of Evelina by the author, Miss Burney? How our hearts pounded in terror at The Mysteries of Udolpho by Mrs. Radcliffe!
With high spirits, I have begun my own matchmaking novel with Gothic overtones, but alas, I am vexed at my efforts and require your assistance. You have excellent tastes! And a most romantic imagination! My heroine, Serena, has such a sweet countenance but she is also an ambitious bluestocking. What virtues shall I give her? My hero, Myles, is a bewitching bachelor. A handsome man but a bit of rake. What manners shall I give him?
During the high point of my tale, my characters attend a masquerade ball with haunting music where gossip is the game and calling cards the prize. During a lull in the dancing, Serena escapes to the library and becomes lost in the great castle. Myles finds her whereupon they are chased through the dark passages by villainous apparitions.
Although my hero and heroine have sensible feelings towards each other, I need them to develop a tenderness for each other and reach a finer understanding so that they may have their own happy ending and be united in wedlock. You are skilled with observing every look and word which betrays the heart. What contrivances shall I use for them to cherish a most tender affection for each other?
Help me to imagine their courtship. Where should the marriage proposal take place? Should it be prefaced by a letter or a poem? Or, foreshadowed by a charade or some other word play? What clues shall I provide for my characters to discover a delicacy of feeling?
Should the engagement be long or short? What about the wedding? Should it be a fashionable one during the morning in a church? Or, a very private one at night, perhaps in a drawing room by means of a special license? Or, a country wedding? Or perhaps something scandalous, like an elopement to Gretna Green?
I beg of you, please, be sincere with me. Persuade me of the right way to fasten an arrangement of the heart. I await your quick discernment.
Miss Vonnie Alto