Research for “A Most Beloved Sister”

Research and historical information that was the basis for author Tiffany Thomas’s Pride & Prejudice variation “A Most Beloved Sister.”

Here are the sources and the information I gathered as I was writing my Pride & Prejudice Variation “A Most Beloved Sister.”

In Jane Austen’s original work, the eldest Bennet sister is described as unwilling to see evil or flaws in others. Even when Wickham elopes with Lydia and they are found to not be married, or when Miss Bingley writes such an awful letter, she still tries to see the good in them.

I’ve always felt that Jane was rather two-dimensional and a bit simple-minded, even, to think this way. This idea, of Jane being simple-minded, stayed with me, and thus the idea of “A Most Beloved Sister” was born.

I have nothing but love and sympathy for anyone born “different.” Three of my four adopted siblings have severe chromosomal abnormalities (although you would never guess by looking at them), and a good friend of mine has three children with a similar defect (again, with no difference of appearance).

As Pride & Prejudice takes place in the 1800s, some people who were born different were not treated very well by some people in those days. Some of the other characters in “A Most Beloved Sister” say or do things that are historically accurate to the time period.

The Jane in this story has a chromosome abnormality (similar to Down’s, but not Down’s Syndome), but there are only a few subtle visual cues.

And yes, people like her do exist. I’ve met several of them. As a former public school teacher who worked with grade-level and remedial students, I often came across students with Down Syndrome and similar chromosome abnormalities.

There was one student in particular whom I never would have guessed had Down’s, had I not seen it on his IEP.

You may also know people who have some of these physical attributes (like almond eyes and gaps in the toes), yet don’t have Down Syndrome or other chromosome abnormalities at all.

My own experiences with Crohn’s (an invisible disease) has shown me time and again that people can have the same disability and yet be radically different in its manifestation.

I’ll say that again: people can have the same disability and yet be radically different in its manifestation.

For example, 50% of people born with Down’s have a heart condition, which means that half of them will be perfectly healthy (with regards to their hearts).

So if you know someone with a chromosome abnormality, and my Jane in this story doesn’t seem to be like your loved one – that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that someone like my Jane is impossible.

And just because your loved one is in a much different place along the chromosome abnormality spectrum doesn’t mean anything about them, either.

The entire point of this story is to give a glimpse into the world of disabilities in the Regency era. It is a work of fiction, but a lot of research went into it as well.

Types of Chromosomal Abnormalities

  • Deletions: A portion of the chromosome is missing or has been deleted. Known disorders in humans include Wolf–Hirschhorn syndrome, which is caused by partial deletion of the short arm of chromosome 4; and Jacobsen syndrome, also called the terminal 11q deletion disorder.
  • Duplications: A portion of the chromosome has been duplicated, resulting in extra genetic material. Known human disorders include Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease type 1A, which may be caused by duplication of the gene encoding peripheral myelin protein 22 (PMP22) on chromosome 17.
  • Inversions: A portion of the chromosome has broken off, turned upside down, and reattached, therefore the genetic material is inverted.
  • Insertions: A portion of one chromosome has been deleted from its normal place and inserted into another chromosome.
  • Translocations: A portion of one chromosome has been transferred to another chromosome. There are two main types of translocations:
  • Reciprocal translocation: Segments from two different chromosomes have been exchanged.
  • Robertsonian translocation: An entire chromosome has attached to another at the centromere – in humans, these only occur with chromosomes 13, 14, 15, 21, and 22.
  • Rings: A portion of a chromosome has broken off and formed a circle or ring. This can happen with or without the loss of genetic material.
  • Isochromosome: Formed by the mirror image copy of a chromosome segment including the centromere.

Living Conditions in the 1800s

In the Regency Era, the way of life was changing. While many people were able to care for their loved ones with disabilities, others were abandoned to asylums and the streets. Some were treated “normally,” while others were abused and disdained.

Our own Jane Austen had a brother – George – who was born different. George was most likely deaf, dumb, and an epileptic. While he was cared for along with another family member who was disabled, he did not live in the family home, and he was never mentioned in Jane’s letters. In Mrs. Austen’s will, she left her estate to all of her children except George.

“George Austen: Jane Austen’s almost forgotten, invisible brother”

Living With Disability in the Regency – Life In Words

“People with Disabilities in Jane Austen’s England, a Guest Post by Elaine Owen”

Depending on what historical documents you read, how people with disabilities were treated in the early 1800s varies widely.

The Poor Law Amendment of 1834, which ensured that conditions within the workhouses should always be worse than the worst conditions outside them; and ‘the workhouse test’ – meaning that relief should only be available to those within the workhouses. This results in more and more disabled people being forced into institutions.

There were places like Lainston House near Winchester, Hampshire, where private patients resided in the mansion but paupers were kept in converted stables and outbuildings. The home was closed in 1847 for mistreatment of its paupers who had been left chained in cold and filthy conditions.

The Alleged Lunatics Friend Society set up a safe home for those with disabilities. Books were written by John Thomas Perceval, born in 1803 – he was the son of a British prime minister who spent time in an asylum.


We often think of Meryton as a small little hamlet, but it was actually quite large compared to how I imagined it – about 3,000 people, according to this article!

Officers in the British Army did not get paid very much. Here is a chart.

Nicolaus de Bethlen, a pupil of Doctor Basire at Alba Julia, visited England during the winter of 1663-1664 and relates the following in his “Autobiography”: “Being unaware of the fact that it was customary in England to kiss the corner of the mouth of ladies by way of salutation, instead of shaking hands, as we do in Hungary, my younger brother and I behaved very rudely on one occasion. We were invited to dinner to the house of a gentleman of high rank, and found his wife and three daughters, one of them married, standing in array to receive us. We kissed the girls, but not the married ladies, and thereby greatly offended the latter, but Duval, a French Protestant clergyman, apologized for our blunder, and explained to us that when saluting, we must always kiss the senior lady first and leave the girls and children to the last; after dinner it was considered sufficient to kiss the hostess only, in recognition of the hospitality received. Thereafter​,” he adds, “he and all his traveling companions, with the exception of one who could not be prevailed upon, complied most scrupulously with the rules of etiquette.”

The Book of Common Prayer

Wording for the Book of Common Prayer.

And yes, the baptism really does mean to say “the holy Catholick Church.” The Book of Common Prayer was compiled in 1549 under the reign of Edward VI and was therefore specifically for the Anglican Church, and not the Catholic Church. The phrase “Holy Catholick Church” did NOT refer to the Roman Catholic Church specifically, but in that time period actually meant the universal Christian church as a whole. The word “catholic” in this context was derived from the Greek word “katholikos,” which means “universal” or “general.” So the question “dost thou believe in… the holy Catholick Church?” basically is asking if they a Christian.