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Archive for October, 2009

POE SpecialsHold 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.

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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?

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If you would like to see the episode again, PBS will be showing it online starting Nov 2.

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apsley house

“The last time! a going! gone.”
“Auctioneer.

“Down! down! derry down!”
“Public.

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.

Hyde Park Corner, 1822, Charles Cranmer Jr

Sir,
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.

I remain, sir,
Yours, &c.
A CONSTANT READER.

sale of hyde park corner toll gate

These entries come from the October 4th Every-Day Book by William Hone, 1825-26,. The following account relates the dismantling of the property:

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.”

More on the Topic

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happy birthday Jane AustenInquiring readers,

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.

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box hill3

The incident at Box Hill loomed large in this episode. What did you think of the series as a whole? How did it stack up against other Emma film adaptations? Vote here.
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More polls sit below asking you how well the actors fit in their roles. To save you from fatigue, not all the show’s actors are listed.


emma mr knightley

eltons frank

bates harriet mr martin

emma and knightley kiss

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“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.

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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:

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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

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The negotiations culminated in Nelson Mandela’s (Clarke Peters) release from prison, but it would take four more years before apartheid disappeared. Click here to read the synopsis of the film.
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Watch an interview with Chiwetel Ejiofor about the film in this YouTube clip.

More Links

Trailer for the film:

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The National Gallery of Victoria

The National Gallery of Victoria

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 arch to the National Gallery of Victoria

Entrance to exhibit

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

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

Detail, cotton muslin dress, 1815

Regency chair "throne"

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 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

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.”
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Pelisse and dress, 1818

Pelisse and dress, 1818

More links to images:

Carriage dress, silk gros de naples, 1830

Carriage dress, silk gros de naples, 1830


Photos NVG

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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.

pride_72Mr. Darcy makes a most handsome bow to his Lizzy. The revel rousers in the background seem to be having a great deal of fun.

g-kitties_72These Georgian Kitties could easily be Caroline Bingley and her sister, Mrs. Hurst.

Cartoons reproduced with Ms. Becker’s permission.

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