Parody is a sincere form of flattery. That's certainly meant to be the case in this instance. Some years ago, when I was writing revue sketches for the Edinburgh Festival, it occurred to me that, for all the subtleties of Jane Austen's prose and the complexity of her characters, they weren't subjected to every aspect of the human condition. So I imagined an exchange between Miss Bennett and Mr Darcy which might confront a fairly typical issue which young lovers frequently have to face.
It went as follows:
MR DARCY: Why, Miss Bennett, to be sure. I wonder that I find you here in the withdrawing room on such a splendid morning.
MISS BENNETT: Ah, Mr Darcy. I beg that you should not ask that I walk again with you in the garden for our exertions of yesterday evening have quite wearied me.
MR DARCY: In truth, I must confess to some fatigue myself. And yet I own that I much prefer those after-dinner pastimes to retiring for whist at your Aunt’s table.
MISS BENNETT: Oh indeed, indeed, Mr Darcy. But I fear that their consequences may be other than those you have led me to anticipate.
MR DARCY: Why, my dear Miss Bennett, whatever is it that ails you?
MISS BENNETT: Alas, I know not, save that of late I have experienced much difficulty in tolerating breakfast and have oft had occasion to withdraw to the closet beyond the withdrawing room, there to disgorge in a most helpless and piteous manner all that I have partaken of at table.
MR DARCY: Oh my goodness! My dear Miss Bennett. How disconcerting. I never heard any thing so abominable.
MISS BENNETT: I am exceedingly gratified by your concern. It is indeed a most disagreeable pursuit, and, moreover, the unpleasantness is exacerbated to almost intolerable proportions by a wholly incomprehensible deterioration in the efficacity of the lumbar regions of my anatomical dispositions so that forbearance from the audible bemoaning of my ill fortune is not easy of maintenance.
MR DARCY: What?
MISS BENNETT: I get backache.
MR DARCY: Oh. Is it then perhaps that the moon has run to its last quarter and that that affliction by which all young ladies are with such tiresome regularity beset is upon you?
MISS BENNETT: I think not, Mr Darcy. For it is now some thirteen weeks since I last suffered that indignity.
MR DARCY: Thirteen weeks? But this can only signify gestation and work for the apothecary.
MISS BENNETT: I fear your observations are only too pertinent.
MR DARCY: I am nonetheless perplexed as to how such a situation could have come to pass, for I have, each evening, without fail, made use of that cylindrical configuration of finely-wrought India-rubber which is intended to be the receptacle for those substances whose overflow is occasioned by our pastimes. But, dear lady, since it appears that it is indeed I who am responsible for your present woeful condition, reputation and honour hang by a thread. It is evident to me what steps I must take.
MISS BENNETT: Oh yes, Mr Darcy. What steps?
MR DARCY: Bloody great big ones. I shall emigrate.