The Meryton Press The Name Game - With answers

(Or, Looking Back at the Mirror)

by J. Marie Croft
To play this game, read the story, count the Meryton Press titles hidden within, follow the link at the end, and leave your guess of the total number of titles in the comments, and have fun!

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Meryton has its own press at last?”

Mr. Bennet replied he had not.

“It is true,” said she. “Mrs. Long has just been here and told me so. Do you not want to go see for yourself?”

“I shall go nowhere near such a press,” said Mr. Bennet. “I deplore a crush. There are far too many people in a press and far too much jostling for my liking.”

“No, no!” cried his wife. “Not a throng! Our Mr. Read has acquired the other kind of press. An excellent second-hand one, too, from what I hear. What a fine thing for our four and twenty families!”

“His latest scheme is to make an impression on us with a crush, is it? Well, well, Meryton must be in quite a state of fermentation, indeed. Perhaps I shall go and investigate. I do, after all, enjoy a good drink from pressed fruit. What variety of crush, pray, will this vintage press produce? Wine or cider?”

“Oh, how can you be so obtuse? The press is not the kind for squeezing juice from grapes or apples!”

“No? Well, then, if Read has merely gotten himself a linen or clothes press, I am even less inclined to consider it a fine thing. I have never been one to get excited about the storing of sheets, shirts, shawls, and such on shelves.”

“It is not a storage cabinet. For pity’s sake, how many types of press are there? It is the other sort of press . . . a printing press, Mr. Bennet, a printing press!”

Acquisition of the printing apparatus was reported in Meryton’s first weekly newspaper a se’night after the fact by its owner, Mr. M. Read. By then, the press was old news, rendered redundant by the more expedient efficiency of the small town’s gossiping biddies. However, the newspaper editor and his assistant, Mr. E. Pickles, required a full week to properly understand the new-fangled machinery’s mechanics and to launch their dated, debut publication.

Albeit a resourceful, confident, educated man, Read’s previous venture (The Gilded Metals Guild) had been undermined by a business partner who was not only silver-tongued and crafty but, unfortunately for Read and his group of artisans, dishonest. For months, Read’s erstwhile sterling reputation suffered (1)a tarnished image until the day he was cleared of all duplicity. Good name restored, he purchased a printing press and learnt all there was to know about the transference of text onto paper.

With a (2)will of iron and a determination (3)stronger even than pride, Read was resolute his latest enterprise would be a resounding success. To that end, he and his assistant laboured night and day in preparation for the newspaper’s launch. Midnight oil and countless candles burnt as articles were drafted then rewritten, plates precisely set, and marginal errors corrected.

While slaving over the printing press, Read and Pickles had toyed with names for their paper. Baffled, they had turned at last to their neighbours, and a “Name the Newspaper” contest generated a flurry of deliberation. Meryton’s denizens submitted entries such as the Bucolic Broadsheet, the Hart of the Story, the Georgic Gossip, the Pastoral Periodical, the Icknield Intelligencer, the English Echo, and the Quintessential Quill. Eight finalists were whittled down to three and, by popular vote, the newspaper was christened the Meryton Mirror. The winner, the town’s former mayor, Sir William Lucas, was awarded a year’s free subscription.

The inaugural issue, consisting of one large sheet folded in half to make four pages of tiny print, sold for six pence. The front page touted cosmetic and medicinal aids and displayed advertisements from the local butcher, silversmith, rat-catcher, and chandler. The haberdasher, having just received a shipment of hats, reticules, buttons, thread, etc., proudly promoted an assortment of cashmere shawls in the latest Oriental motifs.

Two and one-half pages contained the story of the Meryton Mirror’s inception. The remainder of the back page featured a rather prominent, emphatic disclaimer from Mr. Paine, the baker, that he neither sold undersized loaves nor included chalk in his ingredients. He was, he claimed, the victim of an unfounded, scurrilous attack. The baker’s allegation that the culprit was the muffin man who lived down the lane was edited by Pickles to be less accusatory. The article was then given to Read to read before going to print. The revision, handed back to his assistant, had “stet” marked atop a typographical error which had slipped by Pickles. The local populace was, therefore, informed the culprit was a loafsome scandalmonger.

“Pass me a shawl, please, Lydia,” said Elizabeth. “I need to walk off my ill temper.”

“Do you want your blue paisley or the red Oriental? And why are you miffed?”

“Have you read this week’s Meryton Mirror?”

Lydia had not but suddenly found the latest issue thrust into her hands. “I would rather not read through the whole thing. Will you not just tell me what caused your pique?”

Snatching back the paper, Elizabeth read aloud the offensive article.

“Advice to Wives: Do not argue with your husband; do whatever he tells you, and obey all his orders. Do not worry him for money, and do not expect a new dress more often than he offers to buy you one. Do not sit up till he comes home from the club. Better to be in bed and pretend to be asleep. If you must be awake, seem to be glad he came home so early. He will probably think you an idiot, but that is inevitable, anyway.”

“Oh, la! What a joke!”

Elizabeth huffed. “It is not meant in jest.”

“No? Well, I would surely want a dress more often than my husband offered to buy me one. ‘Tis no wonder you are peevish.”

“That was not the worst part! Why should it be inevitable one’s husband thinks his wife an idiot? Now, pass me my shawl, please.”

“Which one?”

“Since I am cross and seeing the colour already, I shall take (4)the red.”

Chrysanthemums, sweet alyssum, and honeysuckle lining the garden walls went unnoticed by the angry young lady stomping her way towards the clover meadow. White-cabbage butterflies flitted around her while swifts and swallows swooped after insects. Squirrels scuttered up and down the oaks, and (5)Longbourn’s songbirds filled the air with bursts and phrases of music. Elizabeth, in umbrage, took notice of neither flora nor fauna as she passed.

Forty-five minutes later, she stormed into the house, sat at the little table by the window in her room, and composed a scathing letter to the editor. She then marched to Meryton and hand-delivered her opinion to Mr. Read along with a set-down which might have made her father proud, had he not felt impelled to later apologize to the affronted editor for his daughter’s impertinence.

Over the ensuing weeks, the Meryton Mirror, shortened by its readers to Mer-Mirror and then to the Murmurer, informed the local populace that one-quarter of England’s women were named Mary, and one of them, an heiress living in their midst, had a £10,000 fortune.

The paper also provided details of the number of (6)rainy days in the previous month, a listing of the newest books in Clarke’s library, the cost of leasing Netherfield Park, the particulars of the living soon to be available at Ashworth, the latest scandal involving Miss Watson (which had to be retracted the following week), and (7)the secret betrothal of Harriet Harrington and (8)an arranged marriage for her sister, Pen.

To their wives’ dismay, the paper also recounted three local gentlemen’s recent foray into Town. The article stated that, for reasons unknown, Mr. Thomas B, Mr. William G, and Sir William L had departed for (9)the journey from (10)Longbourn to London on the 17th day of the month and had traveled as far as No. (11)1932 (12)Aerendga Street, which (13)parallels Tottenham Court Road (14)at the edge of the seamiest part of Town. Whilst in the city, Mr. G had (again, for reasons unknown) purchased an antique French court bagpipe. Upon their return to Hertfordshire, there was a certain amount of speculation over (15)a peculiar connection between Mr. G’s attempt to play Il Pastor Fido on (16)the musette de cour and the subsequent fleeing into the woods of all barn cats in a one mile radius of Haye Park. The paper reported that neither hide nor hair of the felines was seen for the next se’night.

“I imagine he is ever so handsome,” said Kitty, holding and petting her recently-returned, favourite barn cat.

“Who?” asked Elizabeth, with some asperity.

“Sir Arthur Wellesley. Are you not reading the article about him?”

“It is difficult to read anything at all with you lurking over my shoulder like that. You may have the paper when I am done with it. Are you truly interested, though, in reports of the Peninsular War?”

“She is not, really,” said Lydia. “Kitty is only curious because she shares a name and nickname with Wellesley’s wife.”

“That is not the only reason!” cried Kitty. “My heart breaks because he apparently has little affection for her. When I marry, my husband shall be violently in love with me and miss me madly whenever we are parted.”

Mrs. Bennet waved around her lacy handkerchief like a white flag of surrender. “I want that horrid Napoleonic conflict (17)to end.

All wars are dreadful for those with missing or lost loved ones,” said Jane, while stitching beautiful pleated sleeve cuffs with the patience of an (18)angel. Of the center fold, not one criticism could be made, so perfect was each placement. “Shall it go on much longer, do you think, Papa?”

“I cannot predict the duration of such a war (19)betwixt two equal armies,” said Mr. Bennet. “However, if anyone can put rout to the tyrant, ‘tis Wellesley. I look forward to the day the Murmurer and all the newspapers in England announce his victory.”

Mr. Wells, a humble silversmith originally from Brighton, opened a shop in Meryton and been nicknamed “Brighty” by the local populace. A former member of the then-disbanded Gilded Metals Guild, the artisan’s specialty was well-crafted mourning rings, brooches, pendants, and miniatures.

Commissioned to create such a piece for a grieving widower, Brighty was given a lock of the beloved’s hair and instructed to somehow incorporate her favourite flowers into the keepsake. The deceased’s auburn strands were woven into a pretty little trug basket, which Brighty then filled with tiny, dried florets. Those delicate (20)bluebells in the mourning piece represented Mr. Read’s everlasting (21)love.

At first, slightly choked up with sorrow, the widower tried to pay for the silver-framed miniature, but his attempts to do so were kindly waved away.

The next week the Meryton Mirror ran a heart-rending obituary, written by the grieving editor himself, and in it he mentioned (22)Brighty’s special gift and thanked him for creating such a touching memento.

The Meryton Mirror’s creators, desperate for news, informed the local populace that the average price of muscovado sugar had been set by the clerk of the grocer’s company at thirty-six shillings and three pence farthing per hundred weight. The same issue reported a strike at the sugar factory had been dissolved after its assets were liquidated.

Weeks then months passed, with Read and Pickles quickly running out of newsworthy articles. Meryton was not exactly a bustling beehive of activity, and it had little crime . . . if one did not count the hefty cost of six pence for a rural, weekly newspaper that had resorted to reports from the pillory. The latest wearer of the wooden ruff was the gossiper responsible for accusations against the baker, and the paper mistakenly stated the scoundrel had been pelted with flowers, when, in fact, he had been pelted with flour by a man wearing a white apron. In the next issue, Read apologized for the typographical error.

Mr. Read then invited his neighbours to send in their own contributed articles, and the good citizens of Meryton, thinking it (23)a most civil proposal, gave much thought to their offerings.

Desiring anonymity, many of the local populace, including the master of Longbourn, wrote their pieces under an (24)alias. Thomas Bennet’s nom de plume, Will B. Rye, might have fooled some, but most readers recognized the man’s style when, one week, he challenged them to name the greatest chicken-killer in Shakespeare and the following week gave his answer, which was Macbeth . . . because he did murder most foul.

Mrs. Bennet’s profound contribution, hastily scribbled on a scrap of paper during the ten minutes in which her husband entertained a visitor in his library, reported that the recently arrived Mr. Charles B was a handsome, single man of large fortune (four or five thousand a year!) who rode a blue horse and wore a black coat. Following the flower/flour erratum, Read was wary about reporting false information, and he sent Mr. E. Pickles to Netherfield to verify the existence of the horse of a different colour.

A young lady of deep (25)reflections, a Miss Mary B, having read both good and great books and having made extracts from them, proffered a steady stream of sermonic submissions . . . all of which were politely rejected.

Sir William Lucas reported that the night of October’s first full moon, occurring on the second of the month, was set as the date for the market town’s next assembly. The event’s announcement in the Mirror resulted in increased profits for local shops selling ribbon, bugle beads, feathers, and artificial flowers.

Other contributions to the paper included such topics as magic, ghostlike appearances, and from Purvis Lodge, with its dreadful attics, one occurrence of a (26)haunting.

Mr. Darcy, the Hursts, and the Bingley siblings were the subjects of several carefully attentive descriptions in the newspaper, and their conduct and what they wore at the Meryton assembly was much written of, taking up one whole column.

Less space was taken up by an astronomy article written by a young Cambridge man, Fearon Fallows, encouraging readers to (27)find wonder in all things, particularly the night sky.

Consulting his calendar for the next full moon, the young man leasing Netherfield Park chose 26 November as an excellent date upon which to host a ball. He then rode his black horse to Meryton and advised Mr. Read of the event and extended invitations to him and his assistant. Following the Mirror’s announcement of the private ball, Meryton suffered an alarming shortage of shoe-roses, and that deficit was duly reported on page one.

On 27 November, Mr. Read’s office was snowed under with a flurry of contributions, and the following week’s Mirror overflowed with descriptions of the food, finery, and high-spirited goings-on at Netherfield.

A Mr. D of Derbyshire is reported to have exclaimed to an attending footman during supper at said ball, “See here! I have found a button in my salad.” According to eye witnesses, the servant replied, “Oh, that is not a problem, sir. It is part of the dressing.”

A young clergyman of, in his own words, “early and unexpected prosperity” sent several grandiloquent submissions to the Mirror in praise of Kent’s superiority over all other, lesser counties. Mr. Read, however, surmised the local populace had interest in neither the number of fields in every direction at Rosings Park nor how many trees there were in some distant clump at that distant estate.

All similar submissions were likewise rejected, but the Mirror did, in due course, print notice of the cleric’s marriage to the former Miss Charlotte Lucas. Further mention was made of Mr. and Mrs. Collins, months later, when the second eldest Bennet daughter returned from a visit to their humble abode.

In the third grandest bedchamber in the family wing of the great house at Rosings Park, Colonel Fitzwilliam sat in an ornate, spindly chair, booted feet propped comfortably on Darcy’s bed, and watched with amusement while his cousin paced.

“She refused me!”

“So you have reiterated, ad nauseam. The only difference is that you alternate emphasis on the words. She refused me! She refused me! She refused me! If I had a shilling for every time you have uttered that same blasted sentence, I might not have to wed an heiress.”

His face changing from anger to confusion to sorrow, Darcy walked back and forth, stopping only to summon his valet, to glare whenever the Colonel made a derogatory remark, to cuff his cousin’s head, and to reprimand him for resting his feet on the dimity counterpane.

“These boots are spotless, I will have you know. But you should stop pacing. Aunt Cat will not take kindly to having a path worn on her Axminster carpet. The woman’s claws will come out, and I cannot abide all the hissing and spitting.”

“Pish!” Darcy sat on the bed and hung his head. “Lady Catherine could take lessons on being cattish from Elizabeth Bennet.”

His valet arrived, was ordered to make arrangements for their return to London, and was dismissed with a flick of his employer’s hand. Darcy then made a swing at his cousin’s boots before getting up and pacing again.

“She refused me, Richard, and was deliberately hurtful whilst doing so. I do not understand. Why would she? How could she? I offered her the world, but she refused me.”

“Is that so?” Buffing his nails on his lapel, the Colonel ducked and neatly evaded another couple of half-hearted swipes at his (28)boots and back.

Pack straight away,” said Darcy to his valet as soon as the gentleman’s gentleman returned from his prior task. “I shall depart at first light.”

“ I will accompany you,” said the Colonel.

“Oh, does the big, brave dragoon fear being left alone with the big, bad dragon?”

“Yes! I will not stay on here without my big buffoon of a cousin to hide behind.”

Flinging himself on the bed, boots and all, Darcy gazed at the underside of the canopy. “I am a buffoon. Perhaps, rather than stopping in London, I should travel on to Hertfordshire and purchase a full-page advertisement in the Meryton Mirror.”

“Do you plan on making a public apology to Miss Bennet for having rendered to her the worst marriage proposal in history? Or is it your intention to particularize your many deficiencies to the local populace there? If the latter, you might need a second page.”

Darcy stretched out one long leg and made another kick at his cousin’s feet. “Neither. I was thinking of writing an article warning the populace of a certain militia lieutenant’s wild and wicked ways.”

“A second page might, indeed, be justified, then.”

May of 1812 is proving to be a merry month, indeed. To wit, a good piece of fun was recently reported at Colonel & Mrs. F's, where a certain Mr. C of the ___shire Militia was dressed up in a gown borrowed from Mrs. P with the intent to pass for a lady at a dance there later in the evening. Members of the militia did not recognize one of their own until laughter gave away the ruse.

Reluctant to disparage the principal family in the village of Longbourn, Mr. Read glossed upon, as tactfully as possible, the summer scandal involving them.

On a lighter note, that same issue of The Meryton Mirror included a report about a new barn being erected on the Bennet home farm.

According to eyewitnesses, the carpenter hired to build the structure had fallen through its rafters. Not being hurt, the fellow bounced up and cried, “I defy any man to get through his work as quickly as I did.”

Elizabeth stood in the garden, gazing at the night sky, her profile caught by a moonbeam and her eyes misting in (29)remembrance of the past. Each and every shared conversation, look, and emotion flickered through her mind and, like the stars above, some memories were bright, some more faint. She recalled a resonant voice which spoke to her in (30)echoes of Pemberley, of Hunsford, of Rosings, of Netherfield, and Lucas Lodge—all the places his words had some visceral effect on her. Shedding a tear, she cried to the heavens, “Foolish, stupid girl! To be (31)falling for Mr. Darcy just when there is no hope of—”

“Lizzy? Where are you?”

“Over here, Jane.” Elizabeth swiped at her eyes and pasted a smile on her face as she turned.

“What are you doing? Come back inside where it is warm.”

“It was a bit too warm in there. Mama invited quite a crush to celebrate your engagement. I needed some air.” Elizabeth discreetly wiped away another tear.

“Dearest, have you been weeping?”

“A little. I have been reflecting on how happy I am for you and how very much I shall miss you. I am both eager for and dreading the day the Murmurer announces your marriage.”

Jane wrapped her favourite sister in an embrace. “I shall miss you, too, but Netherfield is merely three miles from here. You must visit whenever you feel lonely, and stay as long as you want. You are welcome to call it your home, too, you know.”

“Thank you.”

“But you will not always be at Longbourn or Netherfield. You will marry someday. Your perfect gentleman has just not come along yet. Do not lose heart.”

“I will try, but I am afraid my best chance of marrying has already come and gone.”

“Surely you do not mean Mr. Collins.”

“No. I have no regrets there.” Linking arms with her sister, Elizabeth steered them back towards the house. “It is, however, by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made to me. In my heart I had hoped . . .” Shaking her head, two more tears were dislodged, despite her best efforts to hold them at bay. “But my head tells me there is no hope.”

“Well, I wager one’s head does not always know what is best. My odds are on whatever (32)the heart does,” whispered Jane.

“Have you read the latest Murmurer, Lizzy?”

“Of course. I hardly miss an issue, whether we are residing in London or Derbyshire. Once Papa has finished reading a month’s worth of papers, he forwards them to me.”

“I was always curious why you never submitted anything—other than that scathing opinion of Advice to Wives,” said Jane, as she and her younger sister picked their way across (33)rocks in the stream flowing through their father’s estate and giving Longbourn its name.

Elizabeth agilely leapt onto the bank, then held out her hand in assistance. “Of what would I have written?”

“Come now. Over the past years, we have experienced varying degrees of sorrow, alarm, mortification, surprise, and boundless felicity.” Jane landed gracefully, shook her soggy hems, and followed Elizabeth to a bench along the water’s edge. “I image you, of all people, might have a great deal to reflect upon.”

“That is the salient point. I have so much to share, I might end up with a novel, should I start writing.”

“Then you should, at the very least, have kept a journal for posterity. It is never too late to start.”

“Would you have me commit to paper my thoughts on the (34)consequences of first impressions, of (35)pride, prejudice, and secrets and such?” Removing her bonnet, Elizabeth raised her face to the spring sun as Jane settled beside her. “Last year I spoke at length with Mr. Read, you know. We talked of how the Murmurer has evolved from a medium for gossip, slander, and trivial prattle to a means of thought-provoking expression for those within its purview.”

“It has, indeed. Who knew Mrs. Long could wax lyrical about the difficulties she has had raising her nieces or that Uncle Phillips was such a connoisseur of wine.”

“Well, we always knew he loved to imbibe, but he really is quite knowledgeable on the subject and capable of eloquent communication when not in his cups from too much port.”

“Most surprising has been the avid following of Maria’s poetry,” said Jane. “I never realized she had such talent. I especially enjoyed her ‘A Gent from (36)the West.’”

Yet, glimmers of her flair for poetry were evident in all those silly ditties she composed and sang for us at Lucas Lodge.” Elizabeth sighed and clasped her sister’s hand. “We had an uncommonly happy childhood here, did we not?” Closing her eyes, she basked in the warmth of the (37)sun. Kissed by its rays, she steadfastly ignored Jane’s plea to protect her skin. There being not a cloud in the sky, Elizabeth opened her eyes with a start when bright sunlight disappeared (38)suddenly.

Mrs. Darcy,” came the deep voice of her husband. Standing in front of her, his large form blocked the sun. “I do regret tearing you away from our dear sister and from Hertfordshire so soon, but it is time to take our leave. Georgiana must be rescued from our Fitzwilliam relations this very day, my (39)love. Then begins our long journey home.”

Turning towards her sister, Elizabeth said, “While we dine with the Earl and Countess, my husband will try, once again, to purchase (40)his uncle’s favourite steed. If successful, he will ride to Derbyshire atop that massive horse instead of travelling in relative comfort with his (41)dearly beloved wife, his baby boy, and his own sister. What do you think of that, Jane?”

“I think my steadfast brother is quite capable of getting whatever his heart desires. Is that not so, sir?”

“I have, indeed, been blessed. But I shall remain quite content even without acquisition of Rion. My happiest moments are those spent at your sister’s side.”

“And I,” said Elizabeth, rising and standing beside him, “shall be quite content to be right here by (42)yours, forevermore.”

Darcy reverently kissed her knuckles, eyes growing wide as he realized her hands and head were bare. Clucking his tongue, he fetched her bonnet from the bench just as a familiar cry was heard, loud and clear, across the expanse of lawn. Adoring father that he was, Darcy bolted away, bonnet in hand, to discover what had befallen their one-year-old toddler, Charles.

On their way to London, Elizabeth informed her husband that the Meryton Mirror would, most likely, have the pleasure of announcing, in approximately six months, the birth of another grandchild for Mr. and Mrs. Bennet.

Later still, while the Earl’s favourite steed munched oats in the mews behind Matlock Manor, Darcy travelled northward in his carriage’s relative comfort with his increasing family.

In due course, the Mirror did, indeed, happily announce the arrival of Annabella Darcy, followed months later by the births of Jemima Wickham and Eliza Bingley. Over time, Meryton’s local newspaper reported scores of other such joyous deliveries.

It also reported that Netherfield had, for the third time in as many years, been put up for sale or lease.

Like others of its ilk, the Mirror was also the bearer of inevitable sad tidings.

A sad day it was, indeed, when Mr. Read folded his newspaper and departed for Town.

The ultimate issue of the Meryton Mirror chronicled its scant six years of newsworthiness in an article entitled “Looking Back at the Mirror.”

Particularly depressed upon the paper’s closure and the resultant loss of his livelihood was Read’s assistant, Mr. E. Pickles.

Then, one day, Pickles received an express from Read stating he was returning to Meryton, and he had a new ambition to share.

“Pickles, my friend,” said Read upon arrival, “what say you to a bold, new business venture?”

“And this bold venture would be of what type, sir?”

With a chuckle, Read replied, “Oh, Baskerville, Bodoni, Didot, and Caslon, I suppose.”

“Fonts, sir?” said Pickles, scratching his head.

“Yes, my good man, fonts. You did ask what type, did you not?” Walking around his dusty office, Read fairly bubbled with enthusiasm. “I have a proposal that will allow us and our trusty press to remain in the printing business.” Stopping at a mahogany bookcase, he reverently touched the leather spines of tomes on the topmost shelf. “But, instead of publishing tittle-tattle and thought-provoking articles, we shall print books, Pickles. Books! Glorious books!”

And so it was that Meryton Press did just that. They published books, a tradition carried on to this day.

How many Meryton Press book titles did you find? Let us know in the comments on the page below.
This story was written by J Marie Croft. Top image and Meryton Press logo belong to Meryton Press. All other images are public domain.

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