Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for February, 2010

Domestic Happiness, after George Morland

We have come to associate the Regency period with fine white, high-waisted muslin dresses that were beautifully detailed and embroidered. Until quite recently in human history, a lady did not roam far from her sewing basket. She would mend, sew, and embroider whenever she had spare time. (Even the finest lady in the land could be found plying her needles.) During the day she would sit near a well lit window or even outdoors, and during the long evening hours she would sit by the fireside in a room with other family members, sharing the light from expensive candles (sometimes a single one). For entertainment, one of the men would read aloud from a book, or other family members would play musical instruments. Jane Austen was well known for her sewing skills and examples of her needlework are shown in the Jane Austen Museum in Chawton.

Diamond shaped pattern with a flower in the center

White work is a broad term, one that may be said to encompass any white-on-white needlework, that is, needlework that uses a white yarn or thread on a white ground to create a pattern. Various techniques are employed to make these patterns stand out in high relief against their monochrome background, with the result that many white work pieces have an intensely sculptural quality

All over the country, women carried their needlework with them on visits, and traded patterns among friends.

These techniques include embroidery, drawn work, pulled-fabric work, stump work, stuffed work, cording, quilting, candlewicking, and, later, weaving, both by draw loom and machine. – From Lap to Loom: The transition of Marseilles white work from hand to machine

Detail of cap with twigs and flowers on a ladder motif

Whitework embroidery was frequently used on muslin dresses, fine lawn caps, handerkerchiefs, tablecloths, and bed linens. Patterns were featured in Ladies Periodicals, showing many different motifs, some fancier than others.

1815 La Belle Assemblee Wheat sheaf design

The finest whitework was done on cambric and fine muslin, or netting. This was called French embroidery, or French Hand Sewing. The most delicate threads and techniques were utilized to make gorgeous, lacy handkerchiefs, veils, bonnets, cuffs, collars and baby clothes, as well as gifts to very special friends…

1823 Ackermann embroidery pattern

Christening gowns and robes of the time were very heavily embroidered and were most treasured by their owners. Lots of different patterns and stitches were used, with lots of feather stitching all over, leading to flowers made of satin stitch, eyelets, and buttonhole stitches so tiny as to be difficult to see, and almost all with matching bonnets and slips or petticoats. French knots decorated edges.

1825 Two simple muslin edging patterns

Wedding gowns, too, were embroidered with these techniques, and some of the grooms’ clothes, too, were embroidered to match! – Whitework embroidery

Embroidered collar with lace

More on the topic:

Detail of the hem of a muslin gown. Vintage Textiles.

Read Full Post »

Gentle Reader: This is Christine Stewart’s fifth post for this blog. Christine has embarked on a year-long journey on a Sense and Sensibility inspired project that she chronicles on Embarking on a Course of Study. Herewith are her impressions of Country Dancing, her interview with Rebecca Smith, writer in residence at the Jane Austen House Museum, and her chat with Juliette Wells, the Burke-Austen Scholar-in-Residence at Goucher College

I’m officially six months in to this project and, lately, many things have happened to move me forward, as well as set me back due to my own occasional tendency towards doubt that got the best of me!

The most exciting was a correspondence with Rebecca Smith, writer-in-residence at the Jane Austen House Museum. Ms. Smith is the great, great, great, great, great niece of Jane Austen and is installed there for six months (until May 2010) working on a novel (she has already written two, which can be found on Amazon).

In response to my question, “How has being in Jane Austen’s house affected your writing and your feelings about yourself as a writer?” Ms. Smith writes:

“Well, I think the first thing I have noticed is how 200 years now seems to be such a short time, and I think this has changed the way I feel about everything.
If 200 years isn’t so long, the past and its people are more present, and less seems to be lost. I find this comforting. One of the odd and lovely things about being here is that some of the objects in the Museum are things that were once owned by my great aunts. For instance, a box that was carved by Jane’s brother, Francis, was, until not that long ago, something that my Aunt Diana kept cereal box and cracker toys in for the amusement of visiting children; and some of the smaller portraits I recognize as having once hung on their walls. I only had vague ideas of who these various Austens were when I was growing up – I probably wasn’t paying attention – but here they are now. It is as though I am following them round and we have all ended up where we should be. I do have this feeling – probably quite misplaced – of coming home. And this is ridiculous – why should I pay more attention to this branch of my family tree than any others? I have some really interesting Scottish ancestors too, including a captain who was shipwrecked on an island and was rescued to tell the tale. I had an Indian grandmother who died when my father was tiny – we know close to nothing about her. These stories are what I’m interested in writing about at the moment. It will be fiction, but the novel I’m trying to finish follows the story of five generations of a family from Hampshire to Canada and India and back again. I’m only going as far back as the Edwardians and the novel isn’t to do with Jane Austen.
I’m interested in ideas about home and belonging (and not belonging). But I can see that it is rather convenient of me to feel the pull of Jane Austen’s cottage in Chawton, which happens to be gorgeous and only 27 miles from where I live, rather than the houses in Scotland or India or Canada or the north of England where other ancestors dwelt.”

The title of the novel she is working on is tentatively called The Home Museum, which sounds welcoming and intriguing all at the same time. I can only imagine how thrilling it must be to write in the same house in which one’s ancestor wrote so brilliantly. There’s a longer answer to other questions on my website.

I also hosted an English Country Dancing lesson that took place at the end of January in the ballroom of the Baltimore Hostel, a renovated 19th Century home in downtown Baltimore. There are pictures on my website of the room and the dance in progress. We had a wonderful professional, English, caller, Mr. Michael Barrelclough, who taught us five dances. We had eighteen people and by the end of the second dance, I could look down the set and see everyone becoming more comfortable and familiar with the style of English Country Dancing and the steps.

English Country Dancing, Emma with Kate Beckinsale

We still stumbled and Michael led us through some sections several times until we got it, and we laughed and laughed. It was one of the happiest evenings, and I felt so much more confident about my ability to remember steps and understand the calls. I worried less about messing up and just had a marvelous time. There’s something about these dances that is both down-to-earth and elegant and you feel both giddy and graceful at the same time. Everyone wants to have another dance so, we shall!

I’d like to say I’ve made progress on the dating ‘the Jane Austen way,’ but I have not. December – February is my busiest time of year at the arts council and I’m barely keeping my head above water – or should I say snow? The back-to-back snowstorms in the last few weeks set me back quite a bit and rescheduling meetings and Poetry Out Loud competitions completely took over.

There’s also the cost. I’m a state employee and due to our mess of a budget, state employees are required to take 8 furlough days, which is shredding my paycheck. I can’t afford a $30 or more fee for online dating services every month. Maybe in a few months, once the fiscal year ends and we, hopefully, have a balanced budget (or I have a decent tax return!).

In the meantime, I will do what practicing I can at any events I attend, of which there are many when one works in the arts!

Most recently I sat down with Juliette Wells, the Burke-Austen Scholar-in-Residence at Goucher College this year. Dr. Wells teaches at Manhattanville College in New York and was here for a week to give a talk, meet with faculty and students, and do research in Goucher’s Austen collection, donated in 1975 by alum Alberta Hirshheimer Burke (1928) at the time of her death. This nationally-recognized collection consists of Austen first editions, rare period publications related to the life and landscape of rural England, and Alberta Burke’s own notebooks of Austen-related memorabilia and correspondence with Austen collectors and scholars. The Burkes also donated letters to The Morgan Library in New York, where the current Austen exhbit is taking place.

A little trivia: apparently, her husband, Henry Burke, cofounded JASNA with Joan Austen-Leigh and J. David Gray just a few years later in 1979, so the first 25 years of JASNA’s archives are also housed at Goucher.

Dr. Wells was interested in, and supportive of, the project, and I’ll be posting more info about our meeting soon, along with a picture and a podcast of her talk at Goucher. She is writing a book called Everybody’s Jane: Austen in the Popular Imagination, and is exploring how Austen has been appropriated and absorbed by popular culture through film, television, and books. She completed a fellowship at the Chawton House Library last summer.

You can read one of her articles in Persuasion at this link.

and find a link to an interview on Penguin Classics On Air at my website. She was the editor of the recent electronic version of Pride and Prejudice published by Penguin Classics, that includes all sorts of wonderful extras about fashion, architecture, dancing, and etiquette.

You can also read about the mini-crisis I had about this project, mostly because people began asking me about whether or not I wanted a book deal and if so, what was the purpose of the project, and I realized I didn’t have a thesis and did I want a book deal like Lori Smith was angling for when she had her blog that turned into A Walk With Jane Austen ?!?!?!

Deep breath!

So then I became very overwhelmed and lost sight of the joys and the basics of what I was doing. I realized I did need to figure out the purpose of the project for myself, and let the rest fall where it may.

This led me to an examination of character through the unlikely source of Pamela Aidan’s trilogy Fitzwilliam Darcy, A Gentleman which was the only reading I could manage during the storms. It’s both cozy and anxiety-provoking to be caught in snowstorms, knowing you’re missing all your commitments and how much catch up there will be….Plus I had a dead battery and every day I left the car at the dealership they seemed to find something else wrong with the it!

But back to my crisis. Did I figure out that darned purpose? I did, with Dr. Wells’ indirect help.

Next weekend I’m off to NYC to visit The Morgan Library’s Jane Austen exhibit, “A Woman’s Wit.” Some friends are going and we’re taking a video camera, so watch out!

Share/Bookmark// More on the Topic

Read Full Post »

PBS Masterpiece Classic will show an encore presentation of Persuasion 2007 tonight. If you missed this 90-minute film the first time, you will have a chance to see it at 9 PM EST. (Check your local listing).

Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot in Persuasion, 2007

Vic’s posts about Persuasion 2007:

Other blogger views of the Film

Rupert Penry Jones as Captain Wentworth and Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot, Persuasion

Posts on this blog about Persuasion

The Elliots of Kellynch Hall, Persuasion 2007

Read Full Post »

In 1751, Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert edited the 17-volume Encyclopedia: the Rational Dictionary of the Sciences, commonly known as the Encyclopédie. These heavily illustrated volumes were designed to teach people to think critically and objectively about all matters in the 18th century. Diderot said he wanted to “change the general way of thinking.” His ambition created quite a stir.

Diderot Couturiere

The Encyclopedie aroused opposition from the outset. Its first volume, published in 1751, dealt with topics such as atheism, the soul, and blind people (all words beginning with “a” in French. As a result, the government banned publication and the pope placed it on the Index of Forbidden books. He threatened to excommunicate all who bought or read it. The publisher of the work watered down later volumes without the consent of the writers in an attempt to stay out of trouble. The Encyclopedie exalted knowledge, questioned religion and immortality (Diderot was a proclaimed atheist), and criticized legal injustices and intolerance. Diderot championed the cause of women, writing that laws which limited the rights of women were counter to nature. The work was widely read and published in Switzerland, but was extremely popular in France. Copies reached America where it was read by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. It was completely banned in Spain as were other enlightenment works by order of church authorities.- The Enlightenment

Onsite Review discusses Diderot’s mid-18th century tailors, or tailleurs, and offers several corresponding images:

This survey of French crafts and trades just before the Revolution, includes such things as how a bodice is made, a riding jacket, gloves, hats – all the patterns laid out flat. Included are the workrooms for glovemakers, tailors, hatmakers – the spaces of craft and trade: where is the dress cut and stitched? where does the dressmaker or the tailor sit as they fell a seam? what is the space like in which the hat is sold?

In the Encyclopédie they are austere rooms flooded with light from tall many-paned sash windows. These rooms are never deep and usually have windows on two facing sides. Because these are crafts and trades, furniture is the work bench, a sturdy work table, open shelves and sometimes a cabinet. Accompanying the plates illustrating the garment, and the plates showing the spaces, are the plates of tools, the instruments of the craft: a catalogue of needles, of stretchers, of hat presses, of shears.

Gants, or glove patterns

The illustrated plates and their topics are discussed by John Morley, who wrote about the Encyclopédie in 1905:

Diderot, as has been justly said, himself the son of a cutler, might well bring handiwork into honour; assuredly he had inherited from his good father’s workshop sympathy and regard for skill and labour.The illustrative plates to which Diderot gave the most laborious attention for a period of almost thirty years, are not only remarkable for their copiousness, their clearness, their finish—and in all these respects they are truly admirable—but they strike us even more by the semi-poetic feeling that transforms the mere representation of a process into an animated scene of human life, stirring the sympathy and touching the imagination of the onlooker as by something dramatic. The bustle, the dexterity, the alert force of the iron foundry, the glass furnace, the gunpowder mill, the silk calendry are as skilfully reproduced as the more tranquil toil of the dairywoman, the embroiderer, the confectioner, the setter of types, the compounder of drugs, the chaser of metals. The drawings recall that eager and personal interest in his work, that nimble complacency, which is so charming a trait in the best French craftsman. The animation of these great folios of plates is prodigious. They affect one like looking down on the world of Paris from the heights of Montmartre. To turn over volume after volume is like watching a splendid panorama of all the busy life of the time. Minute care is as striking in them as their comprehensiveness. The smallest tool, the knot in a thread, the ply in a cord, the curve of wrist or finger, each has special and proper delineation. The reader smiles at a complete and elaborate set of tailor’s patterns.-DIDEROT AND THE ENCYCLOPÆDISTS, BY JOHN MORLEY, 1905

Illustration from Onsite Review

The above illustration from Onsite Review shows how the pattern for a riding outfit is laid out on the cloth. The width of the cloth varied. Wool cloth was wider than brocade, for instance. With Diderot’s publication of these plates, the knowledge of how to lay out these patterns became standardized. Onsite Review’s article, Diderot: Cutting Your Coat to Fit the Cloth, is fascinating to read.

Share/Bookmark// More about the Encyclopédie and Diderot:

Read Full Post »

…they are very affectionate and playful, and bear the confinement of the house better than many other breeds, racing over the carpets in their play as freely as others do over the turf. For this reason, as well as the sweetness of their skins, and their short and soft coats, they are much liked by the ladies as pets.-Chest of Books, Dog Breeding, The Pug

Gainsborough's painting of a pug sold for £993,250 at Sotheby's in 2009

Much has been made of Lady Bertram’s affection for her pug in Mansfield Park, and some have identified the dog as a symbol of imperialism, sexism and oppression. (Slipping the Leash: Lady Bertram’s Lapdog, Sally Palmer.) I see pug as a symbol of Lady Bertram’s wealth, indolence, and misplaced affection, for she cares much more for her dog’s minute-to-minute well-being than her childrens’. Towards the end of the novel, Lady Bertram showers more affection on Fanny Price than her disgraced daughter Maria, offering Fanny a puglet from Pug’s next litter.

William Hogarth, self-portrait with pug

Pugs are among the oldest breed of dogs. Their root can be traced to 400 BC China, where the dogs were bred to adorn the laps of Chinese sovereigns during the Shang dynasty.   By the 1300s there were three main types of dogs that are identifiable as founders of breeds of today: the Pekingese, the Japanese Spaniel, and the Pug.*  Small dogs presented as gifts arrived in Europe via the Dutch East India Company. In The Netherlands, the pug became the official dog of the House of Orange, and by 1688, William and Mary had  introduced the pug to England. Their popularity spread quickly  throughout the British Isles, and during this period the little dog may have been bred with the old type King Charles Spaniel.

Pug with clipped ears, J.A. Howe, 1850

The Victorians made dogs acceptable as pets in Britain and, as a result, they are largely responsible for the degree of genetic disorders in dogs today. They bred dogs to achieve a fashionable look or to emphasise a cute, childlike appearance as seen in the pug, the King Charles spaniel and other lapdogs. - A Potted Relationship of Dog and Man Through the Ages

Engraving, pair of 19th century pugs. Notice the clipped ears.

Reading Mansfield Park again, I came to realize that Jane Austen’s choice of a dog for Lady Bertram was a stroke of genius, for Pug is the canine reflection of herself. The tiny dog’s affectionate and inactive natures makes it the perfect house-bound dog. They are known for preferring human laps over engaging in outdoor exercise. Unless they are trained from puppyhood to be more independent, Pugs suffer from separation anxiety should their humans leave them for very long. Just recently, when I took my terrier to a dog park to exercise and play with his own kind, I saw a Pug contentedly sitting in his mistress’s lap, observing the commotion and rambunctious activity around him with a look that I can only describe as Pug-eyed horror. Though a young dog, he was not at all inclined to move. His mistress, a young woman, sighed, saying this was her first Pug and that she’d had not idea how very disinclined they were to do anything but sit, eat, and sleep. She did add that he was a perfect apartment pet.

George Selwyn and pug by Reynolds, 1766

Today’s Pug looks different from their 18th & 19th century counterparts, who were longer in leg and less wrinkled of face. Many had their ears clipped, a practice banned in England in 1895. Today’s Pug is stockier (tending to obesity in older age), needs a thorough cleaning of its facial folds to prevent infection,  and is prone to illnesses due to overbreeding. Nevertheless, this affectionate pet is still popular, gentle with children and considered an excellent little guard dog.

Dermot, a Westminster Dog Show Quality Pug

More on the Topic

* The Pug FAQ

Read Full Post »


Two years ago PBS offered Northanger Abbey during Jane Austen Season. Tonight we are having an encore presentation. Such fun! For information about this series, click on this PBS link.

John Thorpe, Catherine Morland, Isabella Thorpe, and James Morland

For my original review and others, click on the links below!

Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland

Read Full Post »

Morning Dress and Full Dress, 1807 La Belle Assemblee

When it first appeared in February 1806, La Belle Assemblée claimed to be ‘an entirely original and most interesting work, addressed to the ladies’. However, the new magazine entered a market that was already well established. Periodicals directed particularly at leisured women had existed since the late seventeenth century, and with the success of the Lady’s Magazine (1770–1837), the monthly magazine became an established form. The new magazine, however, had a distinctive flamboyance in its elegant combination of polite literature and illustrated accounts of the fashionable world. It was the production of John Bell (1745–1831), a printer and publisher of considerable reputation and style who was renowned for his puckishness and love of innovation, not least in introducing modern type-faces to British readers.- Science in the 19th Century Periodical

Not all fashion plates were created equal. La Belle Assemblée came out in two forms, one at half-a-crown with plain fashion-plate and one at three shillings and sixpence with the plates coloured by hand. * The difference in treatment can be seen in the fashion plates below.

An engraved plate from ‘La Belle Assemblée,. This is an early black and white plate from February 1807, featuring the Roxborough jacket and the Incognita hat – both drawn from fashions worn by the Duchess of Roxborough and a Miss Duncan.   Plate 1: A new spencer walking dress with the incognito hat, Plate 2: A full dress, the Roxborough jacket.

At 76, ten years before his death, John Bell sold the magazine. La Belle Assemblée predated Ackermann’s Repository of Arts (begun 1809 – 1827) by three years.  Obituary of John Bell, 1831:

At Fulham aged 86. John Bell esq formerly of the Strand bookseller. Few men have contributed more by their industry and good taste to the improvement of the graphic and typographic arts, witness his beautiful editions of the British Poets and Shakspeare. He was one of the original proprietors of the Morning Post and projector of that well established Sunday newspaper Bell’s Weekly Messenger. Another of his successful projects was the elegant monthly publication La Belle Assemblée.The Gentleman’s magazine, Volume 101, Part 1 By John Nichols

La Belle Assemblee Morning and Afternoon Walking Dress, November 1807

More on the topic

*Hand coloured fashion plates, 1770 to 1899 By Vyvyan Beresford Holland

Colored Fashion Plate (The Roxborough Jacket – A New Spencer Walking Dress), February 1807 LACMA Collections Online

Read Full Post »

Last month I wrote about my trip to the Morgan Library in New York to view A Woman’s Wit:Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy, and of my impressions of the letters.

Exhibition room for Jane Austen's artifacts at the Morgan Library

But I didn’t mention the many other interesting artifacts: the Gillray prints of a lady dressing and Rowlandson’s caricature of The Comforts of Bath,

Progress of the Toilet, The Stays, James Gillray

the books that Jane owned,

Jane Austen's personal books, including The Spectator and Poems by William Cowper

a lovely steel engraved oval image of her,

Steel engraved image of Jane Austen and Lady Susan

an original copy of the Memoir of Jane Austen, fair copies of the first 7 letters of Lady Susan,

Viewing the Lady Susan letters on the far wall of the exhibit room

a rough 12-page fragment of The Watsons, a watercolor by Paul Sandby,

Paul Sandby's View in a Park

and a well-known image from An Analysis of Country Dances by Wilson, 1811.

Five positions from An Analysis of Country Dancing by Wilson, 1811

An account of Jane’s personal purchases of a little over 42 pounds for the year (1807), Isabel Bishop’s images for Pride and Prejudice,

Isabel Bishop's image of Jane and Bingley standing together

and the correspondence between Jane and Cassandra, her letter to Francis Talbot, the Countess of Morley and a letter from the Prince Regent’s librarian, James Clarke add to our knowledge of her world.

James Clarke's letter to Jane Austen, on the left

There were artifacts from Byron and Fanny Burney and Sir Walter Scott, and more images than I can recall so many weeks later.

The Panorama of London

William Blake and Georges Mail drew two portraits that forcibly reminded me of my internal images of Jane and Elizabeth Bennet

Georges Maile (fl. 1818–1841) Marchioness of Huntley.

Which brings me to my only (and major) disappointment with this exhibit: no catalogue. Thankfully, I can reconstruct my memory of the visit from my notes, images I have gleaned online or taken myself, and from a list provided by the Morgan Library (see the link below.) For anyone who lives within striking distance of the Morgan Library, you have until March 14th to travel to New York. The exhibition room might be small, but it is filled with treasures and is well worth the effort.

More links:

View PBS’s video of the Jane Austen exhibit at the Morgan Library on YouTube.

Read Full Post »

Jane Austen had a few ideas about what would happen to some of her characters in the future. Emma’s Mr. Woodhouse would live for two more years after his daughter’s marriage to Mr. Knightley, and the letters from Frank Churchill that Jane Fairfax placed before her contained the word “pardon.” These little tidbits of information help to make the books and movie adaptations so much more enjoyable to read and watch.

In my previous observations of the film adaptation of Emma 2009, I mentioned several times that I disliked Romola Garai’s interpretation of the role, but I have now seen the film four times AND rewatched other Emma films, including Clueless, which remains my favorite. I have also been listening to the full book version of Emma on my iPod. My mama sagely told me, “you CAN teach an old dog new tricks”, and after the second episode of Emma aired on PBS last week and after viewing the Kate Beckinsale version of Emma (1996) with a friend, this crotchety old dog has come to the rather astonishing realization that she likes Romola as Emma after all.

Romola’s quick moving, restless Emma captures her immaturity and boredom. Highbury is a town that is much too confining for such a talented, rich and lively young lady, and with so little to do, this self-indulgent and coddled girl can’t help but create mischief. If only Emma could apply herself long enough to become proficient at something, she might have been able to keep her nose out of other peoples’ lives. But she keeps making lists, with every intention of reading the books. As Mr. Knightley observed to Mrs Weston:

Emma reads two pages of Milton

Emma has been meaning to read more ever since she was twelve years old. I have seen a great many lists of her drawing up at various times of books that she meant to read regularly through—and very good lists they were—very well chosen, and very neatly arranged—sometimes alphabetically, and sometimes by some other rule. The list she drew up when only fourteen—I remember thinking it did her judgment so much credit, that I preserved it some time; and I dare say she may have made out a very good list now. But I have done with expecting any course of steady reading from Emma. She will never submit to any thing requiring industry and patience, and a subjection of the fancy to the understanding.

Emma also paints, but, as her portfolio (and pale painting of Harriet Smith) demonstrates, she is hard pressed to finish these projects.

Emma's very pale painting of Harriet Smith

Emma wished to go to work directly, and therefore produced the portfolio containing her various attempts at portraits, for not one of them had ever been finished, that they might decide together on the best size for Harriet. Her many beginnings were displayed. Miniatures, half-lengths, whole-lengths, pencil, crayon, and water-colours had been all tried in turn. She had always wanted to do everything, and had made more progress both in drawing and music than many might have done with so little labour as she would ever submit to.”

Emma can play the pianoforte prettily enough, but not as well as Jane Fairfax, which bothers her:

Emma is invited to play first at the Coles' party

She did unfeignedly and unequivocally regret the inferiority of her own playing and singing. She did most heartily grieve over the idleness of her childhood–and sat down and practised vigorously an hour and a half.

She was then interrupted by Harriet’s coming in; and if Harriet’s praise could have satisfied her, she might soon have been comforted.

“Oh! if I could but play as well as you and Miss Fairfax!”

“Don’t class us together, Harriet. My playing is no more like her’s, than a lamp is like sunshine.” – Emma, Volume 2, Chapter 9

Sandy Welch, scriptwriter of this Emma adaptation, observed that Cher, the Emma character in Clueless, was bossy but sweet and well-meaning. In her script, Ms. Welch wanted to show that the coddled young Emma had an attitude of “well-meaning snobbishness” and that in all her meddling, she sincerely thought:  “doesn’t everyone think like this?”


And so in my fourth viewing of Romola’s performance as Jane Austen’s wealthiest and most entitled heroine, I have finally come to admire this heroine. My change of heart was especially helped when I reviewed previous Emma adaptations during the last snow storm, and realized just how thoroughly this new production fit in with our modern sensibilities.  I (and a few of my Janeite friends) still think that Romola’s  facial grimaces and wide eyed interpretation of a very young Emma in the first half of the series were overly exaggerated, but she toned down her performance as Emma matured and grew in understanding.

Her scenes with Jonny Lee Miller during his proposal were tender and touching and gave a fitting ending to the series. I shall miss these Sunday evenings watching Emma. Thankfully, PBS will be showing reruns of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, which were originally shown during Jane Austen Season two years ago. Jane Austen fans can take heart that our time with the bonnet series is not yet over.

Now that you have seen all the episodes of Emma, what did you think?

More Links:

Read Full Post »

Four recently released books about Jane Austen or the Regency period are in my review queue. The weather man forecasts snow, so I can’t think of a better way of spending the weekend than to curl up in front of a cheery fire and read these new additions to my library shelves:

Bellfield Hall: A Dido Kent Mystery by Anna Dean ( released on February 2nd).

It is 1805, and Miss Kent is summoned to her niece’s country manor to comfort her afte her fiance, Richard Montague, disappears.  Worse, the body of an unnown young woman is found on the grounds. As Dido works to resolve the mystery, she falls in love. With observations like these, who cannot like Dido Kent or look forward to reading the book?:

Mr. William Lomax …has a very fine profile. He has also the very great recommendation of being a widower. And, all in all, I am rather sorry that I gave up the business of falling in love some years ago.

The Misses Harris are too much engaged in being accomplished to take a great deal of exercise and their mother must save all her breath to gossip with.

About the author: Anna Dean set about crafting stories at the age of five under the impression that everyone was taught to write in order to pen books. By the time she discovered her mistake, the habit was too deeply ingrained to give up. She resides in the Lake District of England.

You may order the book directly from the publisher. For the time being I am boycotting Amazon.com, and I highly recommend that you also eschew this bombastic pricing bully.

Jane Austen: Christian Encounters by Peter Leithart (to be released on March 2nd, 2010).

Some may know Jane Austen simply as the English novelist whose books are required reading in high school and college. Perhaps it wasn’t until the BBC’s extremely successful TV miniseries of Pride and Prejudice or Emma Thompson’s film Sense and Sensibility that many became entranced. Now younger readers are flocking to Austen with a unique twist in the bestselling Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance, by Seth Grahame-Smith. In this Christian Encounters biography, fans of Jane Austen will discover the Christian faith that was in the weft and weave of her character and how it influenced her writing and her life.

Order the book from the publisher, Thomas Nelson.

Mansfield Park and Mummies by Jane Austen and Vera Nazarian

Oh, yes, another Jane Austen mashup. But with writing like this, how can one resist a look-see?:

In the morning the ball was over, the mummies nowhere in sight, and much of the cleanup still to come And the breakfast was soon over too. All throughout, everyone ate in due solemnity, Sir Thomas decidedly troubled and deep in thought. Mr. Crawford impeccable, Edmund grim and absentminded, and only William darting quick happy looks at Fanny and whispering repeatedly, “Best ….ball….ever!”

The website for this book says it all: Spinsterhood or Mummification!
Ancient Egypt infiltrates Regency England in this elegant, hilarious, witty, insane, and unexpectedly romantic monster parody of Jane Austen’s classic novel.

Our gentle yet indomitable heroine Fanny Price must hold steadfast not only against the seductive charms of Henry Crawford but also an Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh!

Meanwhile, the indubitably handsome and kind hero Edmund attempts Exorcisms… Miss Crawford vamps out… Aunt Norris channels her inner werewolf… The Mummy-mesmerized Lady Bertram collects Egyptian artifacts…

Order the book from the publisher, Norilana Books

Last but not least is the prequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies published by Quirk Books. Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith ( coming out in March!)

The story opens with the Bennets attending a funeral for a local shopkeeper, who — before the burial — suddenly sits up in his coffin. Everyone in the crowd is shocked except Mr. Bennet, who has some knowledge of zombie incursions in other parts of England. Realizing that the scourge has come to their village, he decides to protect his daughters by having them schooled in the martial arts — nunchuks, katana swords, and the like…

Look for a special promotion of the book on March 3.

Order the book from the publisher, Quirk Books

More reviews on this blog:

Read Full Post »

Inquiring readers: I have no doubt you shall enjoy this review of Georgette Heyer’s The Masqueraders by my good friend, Lady Anne, an expert when it comes to the subject of this author. Lady Anne has read Georgette Heyer’s novels for most of her years upon this earth. Smart, sassy, fabulous, well tressed and well dressed, she has read every GH book backwards and forwards. There is not one tiny detail of Georgette’s novels that escapes Lady Anne’s attention or opinion. As to her review of The Masqueraders- please enjoy. For first-time readers: Spoiler alert.

Such a daring escape…

Their infamous adventurer father has taught Prudence Tremaine and her brother Robin to be masters of disguise. Ending up on the wrong side of the Jacobite rebellion, brother and sister flee to London, Prudence pretending to be a dashing young buck, and Robin a lovely young lady…

Although we know her as the queen of the Regency Romance, in fact, many of Georgette Heyer’s books take place a half-century or so earlier in Georgian times, with its gorgeous clothes, stylized social occasions, and convoluted intrigues. The Masqueraders could be set in no other time; it requires both the artifice and the intrigue to work.

We first meet the brother and sister, Robin and Prudence, in their elaborately contrived costumes; Robin disguised as the elegant and enchanting Kate Merriot, and Prudence, appearing as Kate’s equally elegant, if somewhat more retiring, brother Peter. They are on their way to London, to settle with a family friend and await the arrival of their father. The reason for the disguise is simple: Robin and his father backed the Stuarts in the 1745 uprising, and there is a price on each of their heads. But the reason they are indulging in this amazing masquerade of switched genders is due to their father, who has led them a precarious and wildly improper upbringing through most of the major cities of Europe. The old gentleman, as their not entirely dutiful children refer to him, married their mother, a farmer’s daughter, against his family’s wishes and left England without a backwards glance. But there is more mystery here, and the return to England in this fantastical make-believe plays into it.

In the opening chapter, the brother and sister meet an enchanting young lady who had wished for some excitement in her life ,but turned to the wrong person. Kate and Peter rescue her, and shortly after that delightful bit of playacting and sabotage, Sir Anthony Fanshawe, a close friend of Miss Letitia’s father, appears. Letitia becomes great friends with the lovely Kate, who in his real person is on his way to falling in love with the young lady. Sir Anthony also takes a shine to the attractive young man, who is so surprisingly worldly and well traveled, if slightly too smooth of cheek. We watch these circuitous wooings with delight; the young lady is all unaware, but what of Sir Anthony? He is a large man in his mid-30s, said by many to be sleepy, if not altogether dull, and slow to quarrel. But, large as he is, there is more to Tony Fanshawe than meets the eye. For several chapters, we wonder as Heyer walks a careful line; Sir Anthony is clearly interested in the young man, but before we start feeling any discomfort or seeing homoerotic overtones, we become aware that Fanshawe is not so sleepy, and he has ascertained the truth, not only behind Prudence’s masquerade, but also Robin’s, and perhaps as well, the mystery of the old gentleman. He asks if they had thought of what could have happened to Prudence had her identity been discovered by someone not in love with her. Such an occurrence had not been anticipated, and they wonder what had given her away:

“I should find it hard to tell you…some little things and the affection for her I discovered with myself. I wondered when I saw her tip wine down her arm at my card party, I confess.

My lord frowned, “Do you mean my daughter was clumsy?”

“By no means, sir. But I was watching her closer than she knew.”

As the two romances work towards their happy conclusion, the larger story of the old gentleman, who he is really, and the place that he and his children will take in England plays out brilliantly. As is always the case in a Heyer historical novel, the times and the place are carefully laid out. The political fallout, the harsh measures taken against the Jacobites, and the dangers of living in London at that time all play their part in the plot, adding some weight, if not gravitas, to this fine caper. And too, there is great opportunity to enjoy several of Heyer’s delightful young gentlemen and their conversations among themselves. In fact, the stylized society that was so much of the mid-18th Century is what makes this plot work. Only in the elegant velvets and laces, the swordsticks and elaborate hairdos, long full petticoats, boots and full-skirted coats with fine gilt lacings could the brother and sister pull off their amazing disguises and the incredibly intricate plot unwind.

“I contrive,” said the old gentleman, and indeed he does. So too does his creator, in this charming tale of adventurers. The Masqueraders is a delightful romp from beginning to end, with one of the most romantic interludes, a ride in the moonlight, ever penned by this delightful and dependable author.

Other Georgette Heyer Book Reviews on this Site:

Gentle readers: Until Amazon.com stops strong arming publishers like McMillan about the pricing of their ebooks, I will not link to their site for book orders. Rather, I will link straight to the publisher’s site until the bullying tactics are resolved.

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,364 other followers