A Prudential Light

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Title: A Prudential Light
Author(s): Tree
Date(s): 2009
Length: 3,400 words
Genre: gen, het, character study
Fandom: Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
External Links: AO3; borrowed fable; podfic

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A Prudential Light is a Pride and Prejudice fanfiction by Tree, written for the 2009 Femgenficathon to the prompt I'm not alone, I'm free. I no longer have to be a credit, I don't have to be a symbol to anybody; I don't have to be a first to anybody. -- Lena Horne.[1]

It is a canon-compliant character study of Charlotte Lucas, a secondary character in the novel, and covers a period of thirty years, from her childhood about twenty years before the novel, until around a decade after the end of the novel. The story is structured in four scenes, each set ten years apart. It also features other members of Charlotte's family, Elizabeth Bennet, William Collins and cameos from Mrs Bennet and Lady Catherine de Bourgh. In response to reviews of the original post, Tree states:

it does feel a bit wrong to "fix" austen, but i selfishly wanted to hope for more for charlotte: something more than just ... making the best of things. and, while no woman would be completely independent (unless she were very rich), i'd like to think i've allowed her a space in which to create something just for herself.[2]

The author's summary is: Charlotte Lucas at seven, seventeen, twenty-seven, and thirty-seven. It is rated G. The title is presumably a quotation from the novel, excerpted from a comment by Elizabeth responding to Mr Darcy about Charlotte after her marriage to Mr Collins:

"Yes, indeed, his friends may well rejoice in his having met with one of the very few sensible women who would have accepted him, or have made him happy if they had. My friend has an excellent understanding—though I am not certain that I consider her marrying Mr. Collins as the wisest thing she ever did. She seems perfectly happy, however, and in a prudential light it is certainly a very good match for her."

The story was originally posted to Tree's fiction journal, borrowedfable (the livejournal version has been imported to dreamwidth). The story is also archived at Archive of Our Own.


"A Prudential Light" was well received, receiving many reviews for a relatively short gen story about a minor character. It was recommended in The Fangirl Tour and elsewhere, and was recorded as a podfic. Many reviewers appreciated the thoughtful view of one of the novel's best-loved minor characters. Charlotte's characterisation was praised, particularly how well she was brought to life at the different stages of her life, and her relationship with Elizabeth. The prose style, a readable mix of Austen & more contemporary writing, the invocation of the Regency period, the amusing cameos from Mrs Bennet & Lady Catherine, and the bittersweet ending were other particular highlights for reviewers.

Recs & Reviews

I love love love how you've managed to recapture Austen's style of writing and the decorousness (a word that one can't use nowadays without being laughed off the face of the earth) and everything that makes both the period and character so compelling. Part of the reason I love Austen to little bits and pieces is because she wasn't either too romantic nor sentimental, depsite having written some of the most popular romance novels ever. She's worldly, she's practical and she's damn borderline mercenary and I fucking love her for it. You've been so true to that that I'd have almost believed she wrote this. ... Great work! (ladymirth)[2]
Charlotte is one of my favorite Jane Austen characters -- thoughtful, sensible, and judged too harshly by Elizabeth (Austen herself doesn't really do so). This fic shows us Charlotte at 7, 17, 27 (as she is in the book), and 37. Stylistically and thematically, it's true to Austen. (Despite the many pleasures of her writing, I think Austen had a rather bleak view of humanity, but it was leavened with understanding and humor, and she's my favorite writer and damned tough-minded, too!.) (Kelly Chambliss)[3]
Charlotte Lucas centric and I thought this was brilliant. Charlotte is really fleshed out in this. (magic_at_mungos)[4]
Canon-like, sad, and awesome. A good look into Charlotte's life and thoughts. (hele)[5]
To my mind, Charlotte Lucas is one of the most interesting characters in Pride and Prejudice, and Austen isn't always as fair to her as she might be. In this story, we finally get a chance to see the world and Elizabeth and Mr Collins from Charlotte's perfectly in-character, complex, understated, appealing point of view. (Kelly Chambliss in The Fangirl Tour)[6]
This is lovely, restrained and understated. I always liked Charlotte a great deal; her choices were the ones most women of her class faced, and she approached her narrow destiny with unsentimental courage and shrewdness. I would have been a Charlotte Lucas in that era: unremarkable, not singled out for any special fate, a sensible and (I hope) self-sufficient person.

I both like and mourn the way her sister's death casts its shadow over her future. She's treated as second-best and learns to take what she can and keep her own counsel, because it's all she has. I also appreciate the ending because you don't allow lucky, beloved Lizzie to swoop in and make it all better. Charlotte's the heroine of her own life, not Eliza. It makes me look beyond the story to wonder what she'll do with herself now, although I trust Charlotte to find a way to endow it with her own good sense and affection.

Thank you for this glimpse into an often-overlooked character. (Perverse Idyll)[2]

Related Fanworks

Luzula recorded a 22-minute podfic of the story for the 2010 Amplificathon.[7] It is archived at the Audiofic Archive.


  1. ^ "femgenficathon: A Prudential Light, Charlotte Lucas, G". Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Comments on borrowedfable post (accessed 26 January 2014)
  3. ^ "kelly-chambliss: Some Fic Recs". Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  4. ^ "magic-at-mungos: Untitled post dated October 16th, 2009". Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  5. ^ "Archive of Our Own: Bookmarks: A Prudential Light by tree". Archived from the original on 2010-03-25. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  6. ^ "fangirl-tour: FanGirlTour -- October 11". Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  7. ^ "Amplificathon: Various podfics". Retrieved 26 January 2014.