Hold on to your thinking caps as you watch this tense and suspenseful psychological mystery to be shown on PBS November 1 & 8 at 9 PM. Juliet Stevenson stars in this excellent production, which kept me guessing almost all the way to the end. In this story, based on a book by Scottish novelist Val McDermit, Julia plays Catherine Heathcote, a workaholic filmmaker who is making a documentary about a murder case that is 45 years old. Thirteen-year-old Alison Carter disappeared walking her dog and was presumed murdered, but her body was never found and the case remains unsolved.
Catherine stirs up disturbing facts as she digs deep to uncover this story’s secrets. The fast-paced plot switches from modern day investigative work to events that occurred in 1963. Lee Ingleby plays a young Bennet, the police official who seemingly solved the case in 1963; Greg Wise plays Alison’s haughty stepfather; and Elizabeth Day plays Catherine’s rebellious teenage daughter. All the characters add depth to the story, and all the actors are superb in their roles. I wonder, did any of the viewers guess the ending?
A toll-gate was moved in 1721 from Piccadilly, near Berkeley Street and the present location of the Ritz Hotel, to the west end of Hyde Park in London. It was a real barrier, its gates stretching across the road, and the area was illuminated by a dozen oil lamps before the age of gas. (London, Vol 1, Charles Knight) After passing through the toll, the first building travelers encountered was “Number One”, London, or Apsley House. The residence was named after Baron Apsley, who built the house in 1771. Its most famous and recognizable resident was The Duke Of Wellington. Hyde Park Corner tollgate was one of the busiest tollgates in London, and remained active until 1825, when it was dismantled piece by piece and sold.
I have taken the liberty of enclosing you a representation of a scene which took place at Hyde-park-corner last Tuesday, October 4th, being no less than the public sale of the toll-house, and all the materials enumerated in the accompanying catalogue. If you were not present, the drawing I have sent may interest you as a view of the old toll-house and the last scene of its eventful history. You are at liberty to make what use of it you please. The sale commenced at one o’clock, the auctioneer stood under the arch before the door of the house one the north side of Piccadilly. Several carriage folks and equestrians, unconscious of the removal of the toll, stopped to pay, whilst the drivers of others passed through knowingly, with a look of satisfaction at their liberation from the accustomed restriction at that place. The poor dismantled house without a turnpike man, seemed “almost afraid to know itself”—”Othello’s occupation was gone.” By this time, if the conditions of the auction have been attended to, not a vestige is left on the spot. I have thought this event would interest a mind like yours, which permits not any change in the history of improvement, or of places full of old associations, to take place without record.
The sale by auction of the “toll-houses” on the north and south side of the road, with the “weighing machine,” and lamp-posts at Hyde-park-corner, was effected by Mr. Abbott, the estate agent and appraiser, by order of the trustees of the roads. They were sold for building materials; the north toll-house was in five lots, the south in five other lots; the gates, rails posts, and inscription boards were in five more lots; and the engine-house was also in five lots. At the same time, the weighing machine and toll-houses at Jenny’s Whim bridge were sold in seven lots; and the toll-house near the bun-house at Chelsea, with lamp posts on the road, were likewise sold in seven lots. The whole are entirely cleared away, to the relief of thousands of persons resident in these neighbourhoods. It is too much to expect every thing vexatious to disappear at once; this is a very good beginning, and if there be truth in the old saying, we may expect “a good ending.”
Your visits and loyalty will soon drive this blog’s bean counter over the million mark. My, oh, my! When I began blogging about Jane Austen in 2006, I only meant to provide information for my Jane Austen book group. Over three years later I have had the pleasure of meeting Jane lovers from around the world, and getting to know a few of you closely.
To celebrate, I will be giving away a box of Jane Austen sequels or Regency books (some of which I have reviewed, so they are technically considered “used”.) All you need to do is leave a comment on why you visit this blog and what your favorite topics are. I can only send the box of book to someone who lives in the Continental U.S. I will, however, send one book to anywhere in the world, so ALL are eligible to leave a comment.
Let the celebrations begin! And thank you for visiting. Contest ends the moment this blog’s counter hits a million, which I estimate will be two or three weeks. UPDATE: The Comment section is closed for the contest. The winner is Heather Carrol! Thank you ALL for participating and visiting this blog.
“Trust no one, confide in no one …” This memorable line in Endgame, PBS’s latest presentation from Masterpiece Contemporary, is the essence of a plot that includes secret talks and negotiations between Afrikaners and the African National Congress (ANC) that ended apartheid. If you missed the show or want to see it again, you can watch it online from October 26th – November 8th. For those who aren’t familiar with the characters in this story or the story itself, I recommend that you read a short biography of the characters in this PBS link. Photographs of the historical people involved are placed next to the images of the actors who portray them.
William Hurt portrays Willie Esterhuyse, an Afrikaner professor, who secretly met with Thabo Mbeki (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a member of the ANC. The two men grew to respect and trust each other, much through the efforts of negotiator Michael Young (Jonny Lee Miller), who worked for Consolidated Goldfields, the firm that sponsored the secluded talks in England. Young was smuggled across guarded checkpoints in undercover forays to Soweto, where he approached representatives of the ANC. His presence was not necessarily wanted in this hostile territory, and the scenes showed how dangerous his mission was. There are suspenseful moments throughout the film, and I found myself riveted by the excellence of the actors and script. My only complaint about this production is that at times the pace slowed to a crawl and the scenes seemed a tad long, but overall I found it one of the best docu-dramas I have seen in a long time. PBS feels so strongly about this production, that the film will be shown in theaters after its introduction on television:
The traditional feature-film release cycle is to start on movie screens and then move to television via DVDs, cable or network broadcasts.
A different approach has been plotted for “Endgame,” which airs tonight on the PBS series “Masterpiece Contemporary” and then will have a theatrical run.
Rebecca Eaton, “Masterpiece Contemporary” executive producer, says the original plan was to open “Endgame” in theaters first to earn Oscar attention. Because the movie aired on British TV, it’s no longer eligible for Oscar consideration. Now Eaton wants to see the film’s message get to the largest audience possible.
“We’re not going to make a ton of money from this even if it is a hit. But we want to make sure that everybody knows about it and can see it wherever, preferably on ‘Masterpiece,’ then possibly screening in the movie theaters, buy the DVD,” Eaton says. – San Luis Obispo The Tribune
Inquiring Reader: Emma, the author of this post, lives in Melbourne, Australia. After she interviewed me for a class assignment, I asked her if she would give us her impressions of the the fabulous fashion show at the National Gallery of Victoria. Happily, she said yes. Click here to read an article on Jane Austen Today and for more images from the exhibit. I first featured this post on Jane Austen Today and decided to embellish it a little, adding more images of the museum and items in the exhibit. New links have been added, as well as additional comments about the dresses. About 50 costumes were shown in the exhibit. If you click on all the links to view images on other sites, you will see about 20% of the outfits and a few of the Regency items that accompanied them.
Entrance arch to the National Gallery of Victoria
Entrance to exhibit
The National Gallery of Victoria has a permanent space for textile exhibits that is often overlooked by visitors. So, you can imagine my surprise when I entered the Persuasion space and found it far from empty. There were young children, middle aged couples, elderly couples and a selection of tourists, all gathered in the rooms openly admiring the clothing and documents behind their glass cases.
Exhibits with dresses, drawings and artifacts
The collection was set up beautifully in their cases, decorated to become rooms – painted blue, with pianofortes, writing desks and sitting chairs.
It was interesting listening to the thoughts of those around me, with many observing the “heaviness of the walking dress” and the “gorgeous detailing on that white muslin.” Of course every woman in the room stopped to admire the outfit worn by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, no doubt reliving the lake scene.
Detail, cotton muslin dress, 1815
Regency chair "throne"
With so many pieces to choose from I had no idea how I was going to pick one or two to write about, but finally I have settled on the ball and the walking dress.
Having read many ball scenes in Austen’s works it what inevitable that I would love the ball dress. The dress was an empire line, with a skirt that went outwards into a cone shape, and the sleeves were puffed with lace detailing. It was interesting to read the plaque which revealed just how complicated the ball dress actually was – with there being gauze, embroidery with silk floss, lace, satin, piping and some sort of plants vine used in its construction.
And then there was the walking dress, a dress that I’m not sure I’d like to go for a walk in myself. I’d expected something lighter so I was very surprised by the heavy bronze satin dress in the case. It appeared very restrictive – fitted, long tight sleeves – but was incredibly beautiful and well made.
The bronze walking dress is at right
The exhibit closes at the gallery on November 8, 2009. I encourage anyone that can make it to go. It’s free of charge and definitely a collection not be to missed.
This 1802 round gown is similar to one that Jane Austen would have worn
Click here for an audio tour of the exhibit.In it you will learn that this exhibit shows the more provincial, country dresses that were designed for walking and outdoor activities. Empire dresses allowed for a greater freedom of movement than in previous eras. The thin cotton, often low-cut gowns also revealed more of a woman’s figure than before, prompting Jane Austen to write about a vicar’s wife that she was “nakedly and expensively dressed.”
During the 2007-2008 holidays, artist and cartoonist Paula J. Becker watched Pride and Prejudice movies nonstop, from the 1940’s version, to the 1980’s and the mammoth 1995 Colin Firth adaptation. When she finished viewing P&P 2005, she was inspired to draw Mr. Darcy and Lizzy at a ball. What fun she must have had! You will recognize Ms Becker’s style, for you have most likely seen her cartoons in greeting cards and her artwork in children’s books.
The tension of the series comes not from the characters being marooned in stuffy Regency England, but from the bizarre twenty-first-century dating psychobabble. At some point, whoever created this very pretty 9 pm drama seems to have thrown the actual novel aside and adapted the work with exclusive reference to other Jane Austen adaptations and what they think middle-aged women want to down with their end-of-Sabbath Chardonnay. Even the actors seem to be stuck in synthetic Austen-land.
Having watched 3/4 of the film, tell us what you thought of Emma, Episode Three
My rambling discourse about hair echoes my thinking about this production of Emma, for I can’t decide whether I like it or not. Count me as one of the viewers who is still sitting on the fence. I understand that the producers wanted to modernize and jazz Emma up, so that a new audience can appreciate her story. But many liberties were taken in the process, such as with Jane Austen’s dialogue and wit, which are practically nonexistent. Let’s examine the hair styles in this film. Ringlets were in vogue at the time Jane Austen wrote the novel. They peeped out of bonnets and mobcaps. Even when hair was pulled back into a chignon, ringlets would be fashioned around the face and in front of the ears.
In this image, Harriet Smith’s hair style has ringlets aplenty, but is more reminiscent of the updos worn in 1826-1832, when the ringlets resembled poodle ears. Of course, this hairdo did have a certain cinematic effect, for Harriet is a bit silly and naive and the hairdo suits her personality to a tee. If you recall, Mrs. Bennet (Alison Steadman) in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice was given a similar hair do, and every time she spoke, her ringlets shook, making her seem even sillier.
Fashion plate 1832
In the next image, Christina Cole (Augusta Elton), below, demonstrates the sort of hair/bonnet combination I have come to associate with the era. Her loose ringlets peep out from under her straw hat most becomingly.
Emma was published in 1815. Let’s compare Augusta’s hair and cap to fashion plate images of the same year. Close enough, don’t you think? Her bonnet is different, but there were many modish styles to choose from and one can’t quibble with a becoming straw cap.
Jodhi May as Mrs. Weston
Why was such a plain and unflattering hairstyle chosen for beautiful Jodhi May? Was her hair Quakerish on purpose so that she would not compete in beauty with Emma? At this point she is no longer a governess, but the mistress of her own house and can dress herself accordingly. Even poor Miss Bates (sitting at right below) shows more attempt at “styling”.
Miss Fairfax and Miss Bates at Box Hill
This plain upswept chignon was adorned with simple curls in front of the ears, which would have helped Jodhi’s hairstyle immensely, making it seem more “authentic.”
In this image, Blake Ritson wears his hair a la Brutus, a style commonly worn by men in the Regency era. Poor Harriet (Louise Dylan) is stuck with the poodle style for the duration of the film.
In the image below, Blake looks like he’s about to enter Bedlam, which I suppose was his hair stylist’s intention, for Mr. Elton IS a ridiculous character. Still, Blake’s facial ticks should have been enough to clue the viewer in. We didn’t need crazy hair as well.
Did the stylists use 21st century hair gel to accomplish this style?
To be fair, men pomaded their hair and created fantastic styles. Witness Beau Brummel in 1805.
Which begs the question: Why did Jonny Lee Miller fashion his hair a la the 21st century?
Oops, wrong image
I meant to insert this one
Men wore their hair in many styles, some elaborate, and some quite sleek and modern to our eyes. Jonny’s hairstyle is remarkably close to McMurdo’s below, who, from the neck up would not look too out of place in today’s world.
Lieut Colonel Bryce McMurdo, 1800-1810 by Henry Raeburn
Women often wore caps in bed, which they drew over their paper curlers. Hair was washed only occasionally in those days, and caps prevented pillow cases from being soiled from accumulated oil and dirt.
Ok, we get it. Harriet is SICK. Where is her night cap?
I just had to include the image below. Yes, very young girls at that time wore their hair loose, and, yes, they had to be taught their manners. (For aren’t we all little savages until our governesses teach us better?) For my finnicky taste, this image shows a woman who is much too modern in hairstyle and facial expression. At the very least, Emma would have been taught to place her hand in front of her mouth when yawning.
Goodness. What would the servants have thought?
I’m still on the fence, waiting to like this film adaptation. It seems that the numbers are tanking and people are not staying with the show (a bad omen for the future of bonnet movies on BBC). Kali at StrangeGirl.com and blog author of Emma Adaptations is still liking this adaptation, although elements are starting to get on her nerves. Please feel free to agree or disagree with anything said in this post. :)
Turner Movie Classics offers a website with trailers and featurettes about its films. Click on this link to hear Ann Rutherford speak in two featurettes about the making of Pride and Prejudice 1940.
Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy
Of his part as Mr. Darcy, Laurence Olivier said in his autobiography: “I was very unhappy with the picture. It was difficult to make Darcy into anything more than an unattractive-looking prig, and darling Greer seemed to me all wrong as Elizabeth.”
If I may put in my two cents, I agree heartily with Mr. Olivier’s assessment. Considered a classic in the 20th century, the film now seems anachronistic and outdated. Except for a few excellent portrayals, (Mary Boland as Mrs. Bennet, Edna May Oliver as Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Edmund Gwenn as Mr. Bennet, Marsha Hunt as Mary Bennet, and Melville Cooper as Mr. Collins) I would not bother to see the film again.
Lizzy at the window looking like a matron in Little Women
From the notes on the TMC website: “M-G-M took several liberties with Jane Austen’s novel, among them moving the time period of the story forty years ahead. According to modern sources, this was done in order to allow for more ornate costumes.” Anne Rutherford said in a JASNA interview: “But I must say, that when the studio, in its infinite wisdom, when they changed the wardrobe from the wet-nightgown look, that empire look, to the ship-in-full-sail [Victorian] – they did such a wise thing. Because the sight of Mary Boland [Mrs. Bennet] bustling down the street with all of her little goslings behind her in their huge voluminous skirts, and all of them chattering at once – it wouldn’t have been nearly as delightful a sight-gag if we had all been in little, skinny wet-night-gown-type things.”
Again, I beg to differ. Notice the delightful picture these actresses in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice adaptation make in their regency gowns:
It would be very pleasant to be near Sydney Gardens; we might go into the labyrinth every day. – Jane Austen to Cassandra Wednesday, January 21, 180
The English Pleasure Garden 1660-1860 is a small, slim volume that easily slips into my purse. I was rather skeptical that a mere 63 pages could contain very much information but I was wrong. Sarah Jane Downing, the author, has assembled a large variety of pleasure garden images that I have not seen before, and written about the topic in a clear and readable style that was loaded with information. This book is a must for history buffs and historical romance authors who wish to write a scene set in Vauxhall or Ranelagh gardens, or perhaps in venue that is less well known, for Ms Downing writes about gardens I had not known existed.
While London’s west end boasted clean and spacious streets, the rabbit warren streets in The City were filthy, overcrowded, and dangerous. The possibility of a few hours of escape to a pleasure garden with its broad walks, decorative shrubbery, hidden bowers, music and entertainments, and fireworks drew a large number of crowds. In the 18th century, London and its environs boasted sixty-four pleasure gardens of various sizes. Aside from their obvious attraction, pleasure gardens attracted a variety of visitors from all walks of life. Aristocrats rubbed elbows with the hoi polloi, who could gain entry to even the most luxurious gardens if they could come up with one shilling for a ticket (no mean feat, for an ordinary day laborer made no more than one shilling per week.)
Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens
There were three kinds of public gardens people could choose from: 1) Bowling greens at pubs or tea gardens with a small but pleasant green space and limited social opportunity, 2) fashionable spa resorts that offered bowling, taking the waters, and pleasant graveled walks, and provided some entertainments, and 3) the great pleasure gardens, which were filled with glamorous and wondrous sights, and acres of lighted paths, music pavilions and private supper boxes, and arranged for a variety of fantastic entertainments, music, and dancing. The best known pleasure gardens were Vauxhall, once known as Spring Gardens, and Ranelagh Gardens, which gave Vauxhall a run for its money. Its spacious Rotunda allowed for large crowds to gather inside. Ranelagh could open in February, whereas other gardens waited until Easter.
View of a lunch party inside Ranelagh garden's famous rotunda
Vauxhall tickets, British Museum
All good things must come to an end and the gardens’ success at attracting large crowds spelled their doom. Eventually it was hard to tell the aristocrats from the poseurs, or a courtesan from a lady. As the gardens attracted an increasingly larger group of dubious people and fewer of the upper classes, their reputations suffered. Rowdy behavior, vandalism, crime, and prostitution all served to keep the “right” people away, but this development didn’t necessarily spell their death knell. They would eventually close due to competition from a distant source. The advent of cheap and rapid transportation allowed people to seek their pleasures along the grand promenades at sea side resorts, and once again the classes separated during leisure hours, each into their own niche.
Highbury, the large and populous village, almost amounting to a town, to which Hartfield, in spite of its separate lawn, and shrubberies, and name, did really belong, afforded her no equals. The Woodhouses were first in consequence there. All looked up to them. – Emma, Jane Austen, Ch 1
Village of Chilham: The new adaptation of Emma 2009 starring Romola Garai, uses the village of Chilham as the setting of Highbury. Click on this link to Kent Online to see a short film clip of this picturesque village.
Filming in Chilham Square
Squerryes Court was chosen to represent the Woodhouse’s home, Hartfield. The manor house was built in 1681 and has gone through extensive changes. I visited the house during my trip to England in the mid-90’s. The guidebook states: “In the early 18th century, three pavilions to the house were built between the house and the lake. They contained the kitchens, larders, pantries, staff quarters and brew house. The distance from the kitchen to the dining-room was about ninety yards.” The pavilions were then pulled down, and wings were built at each end of the house for domestic quarters. After World War II, these wings were demolished, and the house was restored to its original form.”
Jonny and Romola in the drawing room of Squerryes Court
BBC’s Press Office: “The esteemed and impressive cast also includes Michael Gambon (Cranford, Gosford Park) as Emma’s affectionate, neurotic father who unusually allows her to be mistress of their household; Jonny Lee Miller (Byron, Eli Stone, Trainspotting) as Mr Knightley, Emma’s shrewd and attractive neighbour, whose strength of character is in sharp contrast to her father; Jodhi May (Einstein And Eddington, Friends And Crocodiles) as Miss Taylor, Emma’s former governess who marries the good-humoured Mr Weston played by Robert Bathurst (Cold Feet, White Teeth, My Dad’s The Prime Minister); and Tamsin Greig (The Diary Of Anne Frank, Green Wing) as the incessantly chatty, well-meaning Miss Bates whose poverty draws the pity and goodwill of all of Highbury.
Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch-hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Barontage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one – Persuasion
Gentle reader, it is hard to name my favorite books about Jane Austen and her era. Thankfully, Laurel Ann at Austenprose has already compiled her list to wrap up Jane Austen Sibling Week, so I only need to add in my two cents worth. Where Laurel Ann concentrated on pure biographies, I shall mention the picture books that resemble the intent of this blog in both content and form:
Jane Austen’s World, Maggie Lane. When I named this blog I had no idea this book existed. Maggie, who knows the period so well, writes about Jane’s life and what daily life looked like for her and her family. The illustrations are lush, and the content is presented on two pages, so that one moves from Courtship to Travel to The Royal Navy and The Picturesque seamlessly. The information is just enough for a casual reader to learn more about the era and to steer a more determined Janeite on a world of Regency era discovery.
Jane Austen’s Town and Country Style, Susan Watkins. I purchased this now well-thumbed book in England when it was first published. The cover is a lush photo of a bedroom in Stoneleigh Abbey, the ancestral seat of Cassandra Austen nee Leigh’s family. Themes covered include etiquette, the country house, architectural themes, fashion, and entertainment. The theme of this novel is the architectural settings and interior environments of the Regency era, and its pages linger over images and information about embroidery, gardens, furniture, wallpaper, architectural styles, fashion, etc.
My Dear Cassandra, The Illustrated Letters of Jane Austen, Selected and introduced by Penelope Hughes-Hallet. Not only do Jane’s own observations come alive, but the letters are arranged in context of her life and images of the era. The format is excellent and very well done. Not all of Jane’s letters are included in this selection, but I would say that for those who have never read Jane’s letters before, this is a great introduction.
Jane Austen, The World of Her Novels by Deirdre Le Faye. I find it remarkable that each of these authors have a different perspective of Jane and her life. Yes, there is an overlap of information, but each author brings her own take on Jane to their book. Deirdre spends little time with Jane and her family, and devotes more pages to the novels, their settings, and images that evoke the era and region in which the books were set. Deirdre’s book contains more text and fewer images than the other books, but it is well organized and the illustrations help the reader to understand the unique places in which the novels are set and how they contribute to the story and characters.
Jane Austen: An Illustrated Treasuryby Rebecca Dickson. At first glance this seems like a coffee table book that is filled with illustrations. The book also features removable memorabilia, including handwritten letter, drafts, paintings, and more. It looks like a fluff piece, because it is so beautifully designed, but the author discusses all of Jane’s novels in context of the age and with images that take your breath away. I found the font in the body of the main text annoying to read, but that is a minor quibble. This is a great gift for a budding Janeite fan in your family.
Obviously, there are many other excellent biographies about Jane Austen that Laurel Ann and I have not mentioned. These are just a few in my collection that the new Jane Austen fan will love. Jane Austen scholars have access to more scholarly works, and there are many new biographies that have been published in recent years. This post ends our Jane Austen Sibling week. Thank you for coming to our blogs to participate in this event. Vic
Hello, my name is Vic and I live in Richmond, VA. I work in program and professional development at Virginia Commonwealth University, and I have adored Jane Austen almost all of my life. I am a proud lifetime member of the Jane Austen Society of America. This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. I do not accept any form of cash advertising, sponsorship, or paid topic insertions. However, I do accept and keep books, DVDs and CDs to review.
Contributors to this blog include: Tony Grant and Christine Stewart.
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An online Regency novel in serialized form. Click here to read a new chapter of Irresistible Attraction each week, and follow the story of Amanda Sinclair and James Cavendish, the Earl of Downsley.
My Regency Tea Cup Review Ratings
Five Regency tea cups: The book is not perfect (few books are), but it was well worth its purchase and possesses many outstanding qualities that makes it stand head and shoulders above its counterparts.
Four Regency tea cups: This book offered many hours of pleasant reading, and I found I could not put it down.
Three Regency tea cups: Damned with faint praise. I put the book down often, but was intrigued enough to finish it. In this instance, the movie might be better.
Two Regency tea cups: This book required major changes that the author and editor should have fixed before publishing deadline.
One Regency tea cup: Oh dear. I do so feel for the trees that sacrificed their lives for this verbal garbage.