C.S. Lewis, in his 1958 lectures on the BBC
identified four types of
love governing positive human interactions:
Storge: Empathy Bond
Philia: Friend Bond
Eros: Erotic Bond
Agape: Unconditional Love.


I have discovered that the Bennet Wardrobe
operates in the service of other Loves:
Exagoras Agapis: Redemptive Love.The Fifth Love drives us to become better
versions of ourselves.


Yet, ’twas Reinhold Niebuhr who identified
the ultimate and Sixth Love:
that which forgives.Such love makes all human life possible.
May we all find
Synchotikí agape.

I have been deep in the Bennet Wardrobe for over three months. Remastering all eight books occurred after my previous publisher released me from my contracts in the spring. This allowed me to revisit the books to bring into play what I had learned since I first wrote them.

What has hit me the strongest is how the Wardrobe’s Universe—no, AUSTEN’S Universe—is driven by love. But I see a critical difference between what is traditionally assumed by fans of Austen’s work and those in the Austenesque world.

The Canon reads as love stories. It is a truth universally known that Austen’s stories, be their moods found in drawing room comedy or gothic mystery, are at their heart, romances, love stories. What drives those stories are the unique character traits of the paired protagonists: Lizzy Bennet, impertinent; Fitzwilliam Darcy, proud; Fanny Price, loyal; Edmund Bertrand, reticent; and so on. They faced temptation, fought it, and prevailed to step onto that bright high meadow that was their transcendent love.

Or, as C.S. Lewis characterized it 150 years after Austen, agape.

As noted in the opening stanza (see above) of my symphonic treatment of Volume Six of the Bennet Wardrobe Series, Lewis articulated The Four Loves with agape being the highest form. Sometimes I wonder if Lewis sat with Austen’s six completed volumes at his elbow diagramming when the main characters moved from one to the other. His book is a thin volume but an essential reference for every Austen and Austenesque reader. The Four Loves does, I am convinced, allow a reader to appreciate Austen’s mastery of the human condition more deeply.

We are creatures driven by a search for love and a profound desire to be loved.

I am not suggesting that one progresses linearly from Storge through Philia and Eros into Agape. On the contrary, while one may lead to another, Lewis’s Four Loves are conditions. Each identifies a state of being. One does not act on Eros; one is in Eros. This does not detract from them. These four are expressing and categorizing without judgment. Taking these conditions, we can understand the real and fictional world about us.

Darcy and Bingley are in Storge. They are friends who complement each other, filling personality gaps like puzzle pieces snapped together. They are simpatico. However, as Austenesque writers perceive, that empathy can only survive so much of Miss Bingley’s abuse. With Colonel Fitzwilliam, Darcy is in Philia, another form of friendship which, as the Greek shows, is more freighted with meaning than its pale English counterpart. Philia is brotherhood. The subcontext of that word accurately describes the relationship between the two men.

All too often, modern readers confuse Eros with the sex act. Yes, the contemporary meaning of the word erotic hurries us down that path. However, Eros, in the Lewisian sense, is softer. It covers the undeniable physical attraction between compatible couples. In Emma, Miss Woodhouse and Mr. Knightly dance about Eros. Both deny the attraction they feel. Both rush to engage in a wide range of other activities—metaphorical cold showers—to avoid confronting what Miss Austen shows us as plain as day. It is only when they succumb and leap from the cliff separately to join hands and accept Eros that they rise into Agape. The same underlying current carries Darcy and Elizabeth, Fanny and Edmund, and Elinor and Edward forward.

However, the Four Loves remain conditions, very nice ones, but conditions, nevertheless.

In the Wardrobe, I uncovered two forms of active love: Exagoras Agapis, Redemptive Love, and Synchotikí agape, Forgiving Love. The Fifth and Sixth Loves become the primary plot drivers throughout all eight volumes (a Seventh—Sacrificial Love—is identified in retrospect in a later book to explain the elevation of the Countess into the china-blue Guide).

Redemptive Love is both self-love as well as a love for another. Exagoras Agapis pushes us to become the best versions of ourselves. Thus, in The Countess Visits Longbourn—and later in Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion—when Wickham realizes that (horrors!) he has fallen in love with his wife, he embarks on a new path that leads from the exile in Newcastle to heroism at Waterloo. He dives deep to understand what shaped his personality—I refuse to accept that his fate was to be a cad from birth—and how he can make amends. Wickham redeems himself and enjoys its fruits by basking in Lydia’s loving him for himself and not what she imagined him to be.

Other characters—like Darcy and, yes, Elizabeth—do the same in Canon. They reflect and uncover their faults. Then they, in a Pilgrim’s Progress way, rise past them. Only then can they garner the fruits of Agape.

The Sixth love—Synchotikí agape—requires less explanation. Unless our characters first forgive themselves, they can never accept the forgiveness of others. See Wickham in Soldier’s Portion, where he can only begin honestly by offering compensation to the people of Meryton after he genuinely repents and accepts his iniquity. Anne Elliot forgives herself for her inability to stand up for herself. Once she does that, she can again be open to Wentworth’s new love offered in forgiveness of her earlier rejection. 

While not Austen, the Sixth Love is shown by Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.

Active Love, articulated in the Fifth and Sixth, is the boat sailing toward Agape throughout Austen. Time and again, her characters do the hard work of forgiving themselves—and others—as part of their path to redemption. These loves were the ley lines along which all my Bennet characters skated in the Wardrobe and upon which they continue to glide in my subsequent work.

The Sixth Volume of the Bennet Wardrobe Series rejoined my catalog on August 29. It is available on Amazon along with the previous five volumes, which build to this tale. Please enjoy this excerpt from the 2023 Remastered edition of The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament, where Mr. Bennet finally comprehends the impact of his emotional detachment on his wife.

US Amazon Link to The Avenger


The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament is ©2018 by Donald P. Jacobson. All rights reserved and published in the United States of America.

Chapter Thirteen

The path up Oakham Mount’s slope was not taxing as it gradually rose away from Longbourn’s fields and wound gently through the ancient deciduous woodland. The undergrowth along the rolling slopes bore testament to the benign neglect that had been the watchword for the last two decades. The economic calamities before and after the most recent war had dictated different priorities for the current master of Longbourn. That six-year cataclysm had been a great winnowing that had stolen away and never repatriated tranches of young men who might otherwise have been put to work by a competent forester clearing away the brush and juvenile trees that burdened the hump. Thus, the timberland had undertaken what it always had: exercising its arboreal privilege of entropy by reclaiming what Man had sought to turn to another purpose.

To a twentieth-century observer, the two figures toiling up the slope would have appeared to be actors stepping directly from the sound stages at Gainsborough Studios in Shepherd’s Bush. Their quaint and stifling garb—she in a long-sleeved muslin gown, gloves, and a broad-brimmed straw sunbonnet, and he decked out in pantaloons, waistcoat, and topcoat as well as his planter’s hat—were redolent of a sesquicentennial celebration honoring Jervis’s great victory. The summer heat simmered in full intensity above the leafy canopy. However, the couple was shielded from its glaring worst by shadows thrown by massive branches flying up and away from equally colossal trunks. The air beneath eased and freshened as the pair moved further away from the manor house now hidden by the thickened forest. The great arbor dwarfed the master and his mistress in all but the enormity of their contemplations.[i]

“I always wondered how Lizzy could wear out boots and slippers at the pace she did,” gasped Fanny Bennet. “And now I know. That girl was up top of this knob at least five days out of seven! And this trail: ’tis new to me, but—and please correct me if I am mistaken—’tis also surely age-old when you consider how deeply it has been worn through that ledge up ahead.”

Bennet marveled at Mrs. Bennet’s powers of observation, for he had never considered her able to leap beyond household matters. There, her knowledge and management skills were unparalleled. Yet again, his wife offered another compelling argument against his earlier estimation of her capabilities. She was no foolish female but someone with a laywoman’s appreciation of natural philosophy and longue durée history.[ii]

Bennet had penned a monograph in which he had employed the findings from excavations of the ruins atop Oakham. His colleagues at Cambridge had been perplexed to find old strongholds or watchtowers using even older stockades as foundations. The fortifications were stacked like so many griddlecakes. Bennet had demonstrated—using recovered artifacts—that the Romans and predecessor Celts had taken advantage of the full-circle field of vision afforded from the crest, effectively pushing the history of the Meryton region back by two millennia.[iii]

Thus, Fanny had the right of it—almost as if she had read his essay. Not only had the dainty booted feet of Elizabeth Rose Bennet trod this path but also those sporting medieval English clogs and imperial Roman sandals. Perhaps the leathery bare feet of Wessex warriors were the first to ascend the chalky slopes. Oakham’s prominence above Longbourn’s rolling fields gave its owner control of the Mimram Valley’s reaches as the river coursed through the alluvial deposits between the shire and the Lea.

Bennet stopped momentarily—as much to catch his breath as to respond to his wife. “Have you been listening at the door when Lizzy and I talked about archaeology?”

At his wife’s look of reproof, he raised his hands in defense. “I was simply teasing, my dear. I was offering what turned out to be, I fear, a backhanded compliment. I am afraid, Fanny, that I must relearn proper behavior. I have been lax, and you have been the victim.

“Let me try ‘forehand’ praise.

“As you said, you have never climbed Oakham through all the years of your life. Yet, you just offered a sophisticated reading of the antiquity of the path beneath our feet.

“You may recall my journey up to Cambridge in ’03. ’Twas then, I delivered my paper Considerations on the History and Pre-History of the Mimram Valley in Roman and Celtic Hertford to the fellows at Trinity. You may have heard me mention the late Professor Gibbons. I thought to revise his assessment of the historiography of the scholars of the last century…”[iv]

He almost heard an audible click as she rolled her eyes in response to his rambling monologue. Bennet glanced expectantly at her. Those near-purple orbs peered up at him from beneath the brim of her hat, its lip fetchingly bowed beside her ears by a broad azure ribbon tied neatly beneath her chin. A small smile played across her lips, showing a hint of even teeth.

She asked coquettishly, “And the compliment?”

Bennet stammered, having lost his ability to speak when she had speared him with those sparkling beams emanating from her orbs. “Uh…I meant to say…that…you sounded just like Elizabeth. Oh, no, not that…rather that Lizzy sounded like you! No…uuuh.”

He stopped talking and loped up the hill a few paces, leaving Mrs. Bennet standing where she had halted. He arrested his flight and froze in place, his back to the lady, one fisted hand planted in the small of his back, the thumb worrying the forefinger as he sought to regain his composure. Mrs. Bennet, using the wisdom earned through a quarter century of managing her husband, awaited his assured return.

After two or three minutes, during which she closed her eyes and focused on the sounds of the birds calling to one another across the forest, he rejoined her.

At first, a solemn Bennet faced his wife. Eventually, though, the façade cracked, allowing the wry Thomas to escape. He had begun to smile before long. Finally, he spoke to her. “I thought I had become immune to your arts and allurements, so long has it been since I have appreciated you as an object of desire. Yet, when you turn those lighthouses of your soul—your incredible eyes—my way, I forget how to breathe.

“Miss Frances, for now I address you as such because you sparkle like the girl who poured my tea in her mother’s parlor facing out onto Meryton’s High Street, you are nonpareil. You are an original. You are the woman without whom I would not have become half the man I am today.

“Wait, that statement is not well put, for you may believe I am implying that I became the indolent man I am because of you.

“On the contrary, I would have only become more lackadaisical and more withdrawn in my private anguish and pain if you had not found your way Home from whatever ring of Hades where you had found yourself after that horrible day. Only the good Lord knows what would have happened to our girls if you had withered like a bloom past its prime.

“Even though you were distracted, you found the path back to becoming the mistress of my house and the truest, fiercest, and—might I suggest—only defender of our daughters.”

Thomas paused, grief coloring his hazel eyes, recalling the years he had closed his heart to the woman he had loved for nearly a dozen before. “As you so aptly noted earlier, I can convince myself of the veracity of my acts. And, upon reflection, that is what I did with you.

“’Twas easier to ascribe your uneven moods to nerves or silliness. That allowed me to ignore my responsibility to you. Did I not vow to protect you the day you changed your name to mine? However, what did I do to help you ride the waves of loss? Nothing, absolutely nothing!”

He shook himself like a sheepdog as if doing so would rearrange his turbulent feelings around his longish frame. “Frances Lorinda, you are the soul that makes my life meaningful. I had forgotten that singular fact and, instead, began to find ways to moderate and diminish my respect for you. Why? Because I had lost my own self-respect. And convincing myself that you had a second-rate mind was the worst of my transgressions!

“True, you are unschooled, like most women in England. And, unlike Madame de Staël, you never had the advantage of a parent who would see to your informal education. That you, the younger daughter of a country solicitor, bravely entered Longbourn, the estate of a Cambridge don, and meekly submitted to instruction from first Sally Hill and then our current Mrs. Hill speaks volumes about your modesty and self-effacement.[v]

“Every step along the way, you never asked what was best for you—only your family and Longbourn. I could not be prouder of you or your list of accomplishments that, I assure you, would put any female of the ton to shame. I imagine they would succumb to fits of the vapors if they had to undertake half of what you have done since ’89!

“Now, all that remains is for me to beg your forgiveness and pray that I live long enough to earn it.”

There, amongst the softly swaying blades growing beneath Oakham’s boughs, Mrs. Bennet forgave Mr. Bennet in the tenderness of her wifely embrace.

[i] From the filming of, perhaps, The Young Mr. Pitt (1942). See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Young_Mr_Pitt accessed 3/31/18. The Battle of Cape St. Vincent (February 1797) is considered to be one of six fleet actions (the others being the Glorious First of June—1794, Howe; Camperdown—1797, Duncan; The Nile—1798, Nelson; Copenhagen—1801, Parker/Nelson/Graves; and Trafalgar—1805, Nelson) across the 25-year long war that confirmed British naval supremacy and enforced the Blockade against Napoleon’s Continental System.

[ii] See Fernand Braudel who argued that the regularities of social life altered almost imperceptibly except over vast stretches of time—centuries or even millennia—until the past had profoundly evolved into the proximate present.. http://www.sunypress.edu/pdf/62451.pdf

[iii] Please see Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess, chapter 12. Stacked towns are not unusual in human construction. See the ruins of Troy discovered by von Schliemann in the 1870s where he found over one dozen distinct cities built atop the ruins of the previous towns.

[iv] T. M. Bennet, MA, unpublished mss, 1803, Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge University.

[v] A leading French intellectual of the Napoleonic era. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germaine_de_Sta%C3%ABl

7 responses to “Redemption and Forgiveness”

  1. Alice McVeigh Avatar

    C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves is brilliant, but I never connected it with Austen before. (Also, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters.) Though some of his work is too brainy for me, I grew up on the Narnia books – and I know other Austen fans who were the same.

    1. Don Jacobson Avatar
      Don Jacobson

      Thank you. I do love Mrs. Bennet’s reference to meeting Lewis in the 1950s (Found in The Avenger) where he is surprised at her formulation.

  2. wendym215 Avatar

    Wow the connection with Austen was basically in plan site….who new we learn somthing everyday

    1. Don Jacobson Avatar
      Don Jacobson

      Brilliance is rarely recognized by contemporaries. It takes decades of retrospect. In her lifetime, what recognition Austen received was that she was a great storyteller. Now we can see her as a powerful commentator about the human condition.

  3. Debbie Avatar

    I never knew there was a connection to Austen. Thank you for pointing it out

  4. cindie snyder Avatar
    cindie snyder

    I have never read C S Lewis except the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I guess I should read more of his work. Loved the excerpt! They look like a lovely coup!e.

    1. Don Jacobson Avatar
      Don Jacobson

      The Four Loves really can help inform any reading of Austen.

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