Colonel Brandon’s Diary by Amanda Grange is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility from Colonel Brandon’s point of view. His diary begins shortly before his father forces his ward, Eliza Williams, an heiress, to marry his eldest son — Colonel Brandon’s elder brother. James Brandon, as Amanda Grange names the Colonel, has been in love with Eliza ever since he can remember, and she with him. James Brandon has just arrived at Delaford from Oxford for his holidays. Ten days later he is banished to the home of his Aunt Isabella after attempting to elope with Eliza. James’s father intends her — or her fortune — for his elder son, and, until he gains his point, James is banished and Eliza is shut up. It only takes a month of unkindness and seclusion to break Eliza down and she is married to Henry. After such treatment, James is determined not to live off his father’s money, so he leaves Oxford and purchases a commission in the army, and, less than a year later, he finds himself “on a ship bound for the Indies”1. Soon after, James’s father dies. In India, James attempts to forget his tragedies. A letter from his sister, however, informing him that their brother has divorced Eliza2 brings it all before him again. December 9, 1782, he is again in England—“at last able to take some leave”3 —and devotes himself to finding Eliza. He finally finds her4 dying of consumption in a debtors’ prison. He pays her debts and cares for her until her death,5 and then takes guardianship of her only child, a little girl also named Eliza Williams. July 9, 1792, James is informed of the death of his elder brother, and leaves India for England for good. There he meets Marianne Dashwood and her family.6
Colonel Brandon’s back story is told in one chapter (S&S, Ch. 31) of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. In Colonel Brandon’s Diary, his back story is fleshed out to fill nearly half (about 3/7ths) of the book. On December 21, 1782, in the midst of his search for Eliza, Brandon is introduced to Sir John Middleton.7 In his August 26, 1796 entry is the first mention of the Dashwoods,8 who, at that point, have yet to arrive at Barton.
Much of the dialogue is, of course, simply lifted from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Some of her narration, including descriptions of places, is also lifted and presented as coming from Colonel Brandon. There are a few errors that come up in the transition. For example, when Edward Ferrars becomes engaged to Elinor Dashwood, Mrs. Jennings claims that she never connected his name with Margaret’s claim that her sister’s beau’s name began with an “F”. In Sense and Sensibility, on the other hand, it is stated, “With the assistance of his mother-in-law, Sir John was not long in discovering that the name of Ferrars began with an F. and this prepared a future mine of raillery against the devoted Elinor, which nothing but the newness of their acquaintance with Edward could have prevented from being immediately sprung.” (S&S, Ch. 18) After Edward’s visit, however “they had never dined together without his drinking to her best affections with so much significancy and so many nods and winks, as to excite general attention. The letter F—had been likewise invariably brought forward, and found productive of such countless jokes, that its character as the wittiest letter in the alphabet had been long established with Elinor.” (S&S, Ch. 21)
This is the second time that I have read Colonel Brandon’s Diary, and I actually enjoyed it a little more this time (in general, I do not particularly enjoy “fanfic”). It is not Jane Austen, but rather “fanfic”, however, as such, it is fairly good. It does not attempt too much, and is not overly dramatic or sentimental, but suitably restrained, as a man’s diary ought to be. Naturally, Amanda Grange gives Colonel Brandon and Marianne Dashwood rather more conversation than Sense and Sensibility implies that they have. She also has Marianne fall in love with Colonel Brandon before he proposes to her. One thing, though, that I thought was odd was that Amanda Grange has Colonel Brandon propose to Marianne on September 11, 1797 (the same day that that she has Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars marry) but does not have them marry until October 7, 1798 — over a year later. To appropriate a “silent ejaculation” of Mrs. Jennings’: “This is very strange!—sure he need not wait to be older.” (S&S, Ch. 39)
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from Colonel Brandon’s Diary by Amanda Grange (Thorndike Press, 2008), printed in the United States of America, Large Print edition.
1 March 24, 1779, p. 82.
2 May 24, 1781, p. 93.
3 December 9, 1782, p. 96.
4 June 27, 1783, p. 114.
5 August 15, 1783, p. 120.
6 September 9, 1796, pp. 158-162.
7 December 21, 1782, p. 109.
8 August 26, 1796, p. 151.