Miss Lambe is a creation of Jane Austen and described as seventeen, half mulatto, and the possessor of an immense fortune. Miss Lambe is a young lady–probably a niece–under Mrs. Griffiths’ care, richer than all the rest, and very delicate health. You can see below from Jane’s text the mentions of Miss Lambe:
Mrs. Griffiths’ chief solicitude would be for the accommodation and comfort of one of the young ladies under her care, a Miss Lambe, a young West Indian of large fortune in delicate health.
Of these three, and indeed of all, Miss Lambe was beyond comparison the most important and precious, as she paid in proportion to her fortune. She was about seventeen, half mulatto, chilly and tender, had a maid of her own, was to have the best room in the lodgings, and was always of the first consequence in every plan of Mrs. Griffiths.
Mrs. Griffiths would not allow Miss Lambe to have the smallest symptom of a decline or any complaint which asses’ milk could possibly relieve. Miss Lambe was under the constant care of an experienced physician, and his prescriptions must be their rule.– A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook
Jane sets the story where Diana Parker tells about Mrs. Griffiths, and Tom Parker agrees to find a house for them to stay. In the original novel, Miss Lambe is not Sidney Parker’s ward but thought to be a niece of Mrs. Griffiths, having come from the West Indies. The television series writers have taken this background and spun it differently to give us Miss Georgiana Lambe as we know in Sanditon. There is very little else in Jane’s eleven chapters about Miss Lambe, except that Diana mentions she will visit Mrs. Griffiths’ to encourage Miss Lambe to take her first dip in the ocean.
The Georgiana Lambe we see in Sanditon is a young woman beset with challenges. From what we glean from the writers of Sanditon, she is taken from Antigua by Sidney and brought to England to complete her education. Sidney then takes her from London to Sanditon to remove Miss Lambe from Otis, who he doesn’t think too highly of because of his gambling. He believes that he wishes to marry her for her fortune. Miss Lambe is brought under the care of Mrs. Griffiths to live under her roof, while Sidney continues to deal with his many responsibilities, so he says. It’s evident from the beginning that Sidney doesn’t understand the challenges that Miss Lambe faces, and it finds being her ward burdensome. In other words, he’s incapable of empathy toward her needs, nor does he care. It’s a burden he doesn’t wish to have.
Her bitterness is apparent, and she acts out in rebellion at being cooped up and watched like a hawk because Sidney doesn’t trust her to behave. He’s taken her from the one thing that she loved (assuming she means Otis and not her home), and then complains how much she hates the “miserable chilly island.” Miss Lambe may not be suffering from physical ailments as Jane Austen penned, but she is suffering from emotional trauma and heartache. She’s lost her parents and now is someone’s ward under his control. Even though she has a fortune, Miss Lambe cannot touch any money until she is twenty-one or make any decisions without Sidney’s approval. Forced to leave her homeland, she arrives in a country and culture she is not familiar with and far different than Antigua. To add to her challenges, she’s mixed race in a predominantly white society. When she is introduced at the ball in Episode One a woman says, “What a scandal!” A man declares, “Good God, a Negress!”
To add insult to injury, Lady Denham and her luncheon with the pineapple1 is undoubtedly the rudest introduction any poor girl could experience. Although she gives “as good as she got,” Miss Lambe suffers embarrassment and ridicule that focuses upon her mother being a slave who captured the master’s eye. Lady Denham attempts her best to make a match with Edward, while Sidney sits there silently saying nothing (that always bugged me). In fact, during the entire luncheon, Sidney doesn’t say anything in her defense except to scold her for changing her accent.
You can hardly blame Miss Lambe for attempting to run away or for contemplating the unthinkable on the cliffs overlooking the ocean not long afterward. If it wasn’t for our dear Charlotte with a big heart coming along, who knows what could have happened. They become friends and continue that friendship in Season Two. However, one huge gap I thought in Season One existed with no on screen goodbyes between Charlotte and Georgiana. I think that was a miss on the writer’s part.
Even though Miss Lambe has a sad ending with Otis, the writers of Sanditon give a nice consolation to Miss Lambe in the form of Arthur. He sees her needs and reaches out to her with encouragement and humor. She’s lucky to have Arthur as a friend, who recognizes her sadness and insists on bringing her an ounce of joy.
However, not all is lost. As we know, the upcoming seasons may bring more opportunities for love. PBS Masterpiece says, “Meanwhile, Georgiana Lambe, on the cusp of turning 21, is as driven as ever to forge her own identity. Independent, outspoken, and rebellious as always, she finds herself once again up to mischief in the name of love. But will it be worth it?” I can’t wait to find out.
In closing, you might find the interview with Crystal Clarke on Season One of interest.
1The Pineapple. “A large juicy tropical fruit consisting of aromatic edible yellow flesh surrounded by tough segmented skin and topped with a tuft of stiff leaves.” I’ll tackle the symbolism on another day.
Another period drama movie to watch about a mixed race young lady and heiress from the West Indies brought to England by her white father is the true story of Belle (Dido Elizabeth Belle). I highly recommend the movie – the trailer is below. To read more about her life, visit Wikipedia.