Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Emma’

Gentle Readers,

What better way to resume my blog than with Jessica Purser’s lovely Jane Austen post cards and bookmarks? I apologize for my unexcused silence. Life simply caught up with me, and due to a schedule that overwhelmed me because of work and family obligations, I had to cut back on my blog, and Facebook and Twitter comments. I did keep up with my Pinterest boards, for I found that cataloging images was as relaxing as playing solitaire. Whenever I found 10 spare minutes here and there (while waiting, watching the news or a television show, or during a solitary meal), I would pin. I want to thank those who persisted in contacting me (and who I needlessly worried) and who coached me to return to my blogging duties a little earlier than I had planned. Jessica Purser sent these lovely cards and notes for me to review in July. They certainly deserved my immediate attention and not such a long wait.

JPurser_PrideandPrejudice.jpg

I placed a number of the images on my table. Sorry about the quality of the images. I have interspersed them with images from Jessica Purser’s Etsy site.

I am sure that many of you have already viewed samples of Jess’s images on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Twitter, but I couldn’t help sharing these cute interpretations of Jane Austen’s characters anyway.

Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy

Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy

Ms. Purser sent me quite a few samples, which I photographed (rather clumsily, I must admit). I am also featuring a number of images from her Etsy site.

persuasion_pride_purser.jpg

Anne and Captain Wentworth in Persuasion, and Bingley proposing to Jane in Pride and Prejudice

I can’t think of a better way to restart my blog than to share Jess’s wonderful creations with you. They are painted on pages of Jane Austen’s novels, which provide context.

Emma and Mr. Knightley

Emma and Mr. Knightley

The postcards are printed on hardy card stock and the larger images are suitable for framing. I have been using the bookplates and bookmarks, and sharing them with friends.

Bookmarks and book plates. How lovely.

Bookmarks and book plates. How lovely.

Thank you, Jessica, for this lovely art work.

Jess's book marks

Jess’s book marks

Jessica PurserRead more about Jessica in this Interview with Jessica Purser on Rockalily Cuts

Order her art work at: Castle on the Hill, Jessica’s Etsy Shop

 

Read Full Post »

Nelson Memorial. A slave in chains. Image courtesy @Tony Grant

Nelson Memorial. A slave in chains. Image courtesy @Tony Grant

Inquiring readers, this rather serious topic of British slave ownership plays a role in Jane Austen’s world and her novels. She addressed the issue in an indirect way in Mansfield Park and Emma, with the Bertram fortune resting on slave trade and Mrs. Elton’s merchant father situated in Bristol, one of three major slave-trading centers in Britain. I am sure that her two sailor brothers related vivid tales of their travels in their letters and when they returned home for a visit. Jane, who was well-read and participated in family conversations, was keenly aware of human trafficking and exploitation. Ironically, a few years after her death, Charles actively patrolled the seas against the slave trade. In this post, Tony Grant addresses the legacies of British slave ownership. The British, godbless’em, abolished slavery decades before the U.S. and in a more civilized and peaceful manner. (Tony Grant, who lives in Wimbledon, is a frequent contributor to Jane Austen’s World. Visit his other blogs at London Calling and The Novels of Virginia Woolf. He traces his ancestry to the slave trade. As for me, I was born a Dutch citizen. The shameful actions of the Dutch in transporting slaves from Africa and their role in the slave trade is well documented.)

Image @University of York

Catherine Hall, Image @University of York

(Researched at UCL (University College London) by Catherine Hall Professor of Modern British Social and Cultural History and her project team.)

The above title is an umbrella title which has been given to two projects, one called, “Tracing the impact of slave ownership on modern Britain,” and the other, “Legacies of British Slave Ownership.” These will lead to a further project entitled, “Structure and significance of British Caribbean slave ownership 1763 -1833.”

Clapham Church, Holy Trinity. Image @Tony Grant

Clapham Church, Holy Trinity. Image @Tony Grant

In 1974, I was in my second year of teacher training. I was doing a three year teacher training course at Gypsy Hill teachers training college situated on Kingston Hill, about a mile from the centre of Kingston upon Thames. The college was eventually amalgamated with Kingston University. The new university education department did not retain it’s rather romantic sounding epithet, Gypsy Hill, unfortunately. My teaching practice during that second year was to spend six weeks teaching English at Henry Thornton’s Secondary School situated on the south side of Clapham Common. It was a tough place to go as a young teacher. Although Clapham is not quite classed as inner city the area was home to lot of disadvantaged families some of them ethnic minorities and many of them West Indian in origin. Henry Thornton would have been pleased about the ethnic mix in the school. My first English lesson, reading and discussing, Cider With Rosy,by Laurie Lee, was to be with a class of fifteen-year-olds. As soon as I walked into the classroom a large powerfully built West Indian lad, swaying back in his chair staring at me, trying to stare me out, nonchalantly raised his right fist and smashed it through the pain of glass in the window next to him overlooking the corridor. I think the blood must have drained rather quickly from my face and I asked another pupil to get the head of year who came rushing to my help immediately. Coming from Southampton, on the south coast, this was my first experience of Clapham.

Interior of Clapham Holy Trinity Church, image @ Tony Grant

Interior of Clapham Holy Trinity Church, image @ Tony Grant

However that experience has many connections with Britain’s past history in the slave trade and with what I am going to write about in this essay. Henry Thornton, was born in Clapham on the 10th March 1760. His father had been one of the early founders of the Evangelical movement in Britain. His father and his cousins were bankers. In fact his brother Samuel Thornton became The Governor of the Bank of England. Henry himself was a very successful banker. The bank – Down, Thornton and Free – became the most successful bank in London. Henry Thornton is credited with being the father of the modern central banking system. He was a great theorist and wrote books about banking.

Henry Thornton

Henry Thornton

Henry became the Member of Parliament for Southwark, which is situated just across London Bridge from The City. However, he was unlike other bankers of the time. Britain’s wealth was closely tied up with the slave trade, but Henry Thornton was an abolitionist. Henry Thornton was one of the founders of the Clapham Sect of evangelical reformers, who incidentally met and worshiped together at Holy Trinity Church, which nowadays is directly opposite Henry Thornton’s school where I had my momentous teaching experience. He was foremost a campaigner for the abolition of the slave trade. His close friend and cousin was William Wilberforce. The two men lived together with their families at Battersea Rise on the opposite side of Clapham Common to the church and where the school that uses his name is situated. Henry was the financier behind the Clapham Sect in their many campaigns.

William Wilbeforce. Image @Tony Grant

William Wilbeforce. Image @Tony Grant

Catherine Hall and her project team are endeavouring to understand the extent and the limits of slavery’s role in shaping the history of Britain and its lasting legacy. They are focussing on various aspects such as commerce, culture, history, the Empire, physical attributes, such as the great houses and estates financed by slavery and also political aspects. How was slavery was involved in national and local politics? In Henry Thornton we see many of these aspects even if his actions and beliefs were contrary to the slave trade. He was a member of parliament who campaigned against slavery. He used his wealth to counteract slavery. I wonder if the West Indian lad who broke the window in my lesson realised that his destiny and the generations of his family before him were connected with the man whose name was on the school he was attending?

There is rather a surprising link and revelation about Henry Thornton in the research and data the UCL team has gathered. Kate Donnington, one of the PHD researchers on the team, has written a thesis about George Hibbert, one of the most influential characters and one of the major figures amongst West Indian merchants.

George Hibbett

George Hibbett

George Hibbert was a leading member of the pro slavery lobby and so one of the main adversaries of Henry Thornton over the slavery bill. However, Hibbert was a philanthropist and did many good works for charities. In 1824 he helped set up the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck. Nowadays that has become the RNLI, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, which saves the lives of many around our coasts to this day. He was also involved in creating The Royal Institute. The running and creation of the Royal institute for the arts and science also involved, Henry Thornton and his brother John. It seems that individuals could be absolutely opposed to each other over slavery but work together in other aspects of the nation’s life.

This project by UCL is of national and international importance, but it also has a very personal meaning. Another of the researchers in the project team, James Dawkins, is studying the slave owning presence of his own family, the Dawkins, through the data collected. This inspired me to look up my surname, Grant, to see who amongst the Grant clan from North East Scotland around the Spey Valley, was connected with slavery. I didn’t have any hopes for direct ancestors to myself being involved in slavery unless were crew on the slave ships; we were labourers in the fields and workers in the whisky distilleries. We owned no land as such and certainly had no wealth.

Slave Ship. Image @Liverpool Museum

Slave Ship. Image @Liverpool Museum

I discovered there were many Grants involved in the slave trade and plantation ownership though. There were various Alexander Grants, not all the same person I am sure. Alexander, must have been a popular name amongst the Grants. In fact my son, Samuel, has Alexander as his second name. There is an Alice Grant, one of my daughters is called Alice, a Betty, and various Anne Grants. It quickly becomes evident that many women, perhaps through inheritances, were investors in and owners of slaves. The list of Grants goes on.There are one hundred and eighty five Grants listed. I have an uncle, John Grant. There are many John Grants in the list and my father is Robert and yes there are many Roberts in the list. My own family’s Christian names are amongst the most prevalent Christian names associated with Grants in the survey. But my surname Grant is one Scottish surname amongst hundreds. If my families name is mirrored in the survey by all the other Scottish clan names there must be an inordinate number of Scottish families connected with the slave trade.

"The abolition of the slave trade Or the inhumanity of dealers in human flesh exemplified in Captn. Kimber's treatment of a young Negro girl of 15 for her virjen (sic) modesty."Shows an incident of an enslaved African girl whipped to death for refusing to dance naked on the deck of the slave ship Recovery, a slaver owned by Bristol merchants. Captain John Kimber was denounced before the House of Commons by William Wilberforce over the incident. In response to outrage by abolitionists, Captain Kimber was brought up on charges before the High Court of Admiralty in June 1792, but acquitted of all charges. Image @Wikimedia

“The abolition of the slave trade Or the inhumanity of dealers in human flesh exemplified in Captn. Kimber’s treatment of a young Negro girl of 15 for her virjen (sic) modesty.”
Shows an incident of an enslaved African girl whipped to death for refusing to dance naked on the deck of the slave ship Recovery, a slaver owned by Bristol merchants. Captain John Kimber was denounced before the House of Commons by William Wilberforce over the incident. In response to outrage by abolitionists, Captain Kimber was brought up on charges before the High Court of Admiralty in June 1792, but acquitted of all charges. Image @Wikimedia

I took one Grant to look at more specifically. Alexander Grant , the survey does not show when he was born but he was born at Abelour, Banffshire. He died on the 7th may 1854 He was a slave owner, planter and merchant on the island of Jamaica. He had Abelour House built for him in 1838. The house still exists today. His will left £300,000. His estates in Jamaica and Scotland were inherited by his niece, Margaret Gordon McPherson Grant.

Slaves in transit, Liverpool

Slaves in transit, Liverpool

An interesting character I discovered on the UCL website was Ann Katherine Storer (née Hill, 1785-1854) She was born in Jamaica, where she married Anthony Gilbert Storer. She inherited her husband’s estates after his death, which not only included his Jamaican estates but also Purley Park in Berkshire, England. Anthony Gilbert Storer died in June 1818 and Ann Katherine returned to Purley Park with her five surviving children. There were problems with large debts and disputes over recompense. A rather strange and disturbing story is related about Ann Katherine Storer. When she returned to England she brought some slaves with her to work at Purley House.

Slave ship

Slave ship

“In 1824, Ann Katherine Storer was accused of the maltreatment of Philip Thompson, a black servant who was bought as a slave in Jamaica and brought to England by the Storers. According to Philip Thompson’s testimony, “flogging was the usual punishment for any misdemeanour and he was often ill treated… One day in July 1824 Mrs Storer was already up when Philip rose at 6 am. Finding that he had not been up in time to clean the lobby she ordered him to be taken to the “whipping place”. After removing his coat, waistcoat and shirt, he then received about a dozen lashes from a hunting whip wielded by the butler so that the blood ran down his back… Mrs Storer was said to have been present and said [to Robert Stewart, the butler], “Well done, Robert, give him more”…

African slaves in Liverpool

African slaves in Liverpool

There is an element of sadism in this. She almost seems to take pleasure in the ill treatment of Philip. Ann was born and brought up on a slave plantation and was obviously used to dealing with slaves. This story made me wonder if this was a usual sort of treatment that was commonplace.

I mentioned above that the project team are focusing on aspects such as commerce, culture, history, the Empire, physical attributes such as the great houses and estates financed by slavery and also political aspects. Money from slavery was used to build Abelour House in Scotland as one example and the estate still exist today. George Hibbet was a philanthropist as well as a slave owner and he did many charitable works including setting up the forerunner to the RNLI as well as the London Institution, which was for the diffusion of useful knowledge in the arts and sciences. He acted as both its president and vice president between 1805 and 1830. He was a member of a number of learned societies and clubs including the Freemasons, the Linnean society and the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquaries. Hibbet collected books, prints and art. He also inherited a house with its estate called Munden in Hertfordshire. I am taking George Hibbet as an example, but the point is that this sort of philanthropy and range of interests in the arts, literature, science, charities and so on is replicated throughout the four thousand individuals of wealth and property identified by this research.

Slavery and it’s proceeds were and are bound up with the whole of society, good and bad, and we must still be benefiting from it today. Eric Williams, the historian who wrote, “Capitalism and Slavery,” believes that the slave trade and slavery, “provided not only essential demand for manufactures and supply of raw materials but also vital capital for the early phases of industrialisation. This has been partially substantiated through the histories of particular family firms.”

Shackles

Shackles

In 1807 the slave trade was abolished in Britain and it’s Empire. In 1833 slavery was abolished by the British Parliament in the British Caribbean, Mauritius and The Cape. These people in the survey have been identified as the recipients of compensation for the loss of wealth when slavery came to an end. However it is important to note that what replaced it was not much better. The great sugar, tea. cotton and coffee plantations were still there. The slaves got their freedom but were then signed up to what was called an apprentice scheme. This meant that they signed up for work on the estate for a minimum number of years. Life did not materially or actually change for them. In many ways, it is interesting to think about what slavery is and means. Slavery is obviously the worst sort of work contract but we all have to work. We all have no choice once we have signed a contract. The conditions of work are very favourable on the whole for us but there are legal and social requirements we have to fulfill. The jobs we have can in no way be compared to the plight of a slave but there are degrees. Is working for someone else and being contracted to work a type of benign slavery?

The research Catherine Hall and her team are doing is fantastic but it has had its critics. There have been concerns both in the United Kingdom and in the Caribbean that the project team is white. One argument in defence is that white people as well as black people were all part of the slave trade. By putting the emphasis in the study on individual slave owners there is a fear that the case for reparations to be made by the state could be weakened. There is also a concern for banks and legal firms founded in the 17th century or before who have continued to this day and who have inherited the benefits derived from slavery in the past. The UCL group has said they are prepared to share their empirical data with these firms but also the contextualisation of that evidence.

Triangular slave trade. Liverpool

Triangular slave trade. Liverpool

Professor Hall and her colleagues suggest that there are some key questions and problems that remain to be addressed:

  • “What proportion of Britain’s nineteenth-century wealth was linked to slavery?
  • How significant was this injection of capital into the burgeoning industrial economy of the 1830s?
  • Was investment in other parts of the empire seen as desirable?
  • How did this capital contribute to consumer spending – on houses, gardens, books or paintings?
  • Did philanthropic institutions significantly benefit?
  • We have also been exploring the political activities of the slave owners – to follow them in parliament, to see what positions they took on domestic and imperial matters, how active they were in local politics or what contributions they made to cultural institutions.
  • We have also investigated the ways in which their writings represented the slave trade and slavery.”

The UCL website: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/

Read Full Post »

Watercolor by James Stanier Clarke. Thought to be of Jane Austen in 1815, when she visited Carlton House just months before the publication of Emma

Posted by: Tony Grant, London Calling

Jane Austen published Emma in December 1815, sixteen years after the French Revolution had ended but during a time when the women of that revolution were campaigning for women’s suffrage and especially for female education. It wasn’t a concept of education that had been considered before for women. Women were always thought unable to think like men. Their minds and brains worked differently on a much more superficial level, apparently. The grave subjects of philosophy, concepts about societies social needs, the study of History,mathematics,science, theology or Latin or Greek, were certainly not encouraged. It was a form of intellectual slavery. Women were kept childlike They were for marrying, procreating, looking after the home, bringing up children and being proficient in the finer arts of sewing, playing the pianoforte, singing, speaking French and being able to shop in a dress shop.

Rouseau and the Marquis de Condorcet (Marie Jean Caritat) in France and Mary Wollstonecroft here in England had different ideas for womens education.These ideas were infiltrating into the thoughts of Englishmen and women. They were the sort of ideas that would change society. I think Jane Austen introduced the character of Jane Fairfax to hint at such radical ideas. Jane Fairfax is an uncomfortable character within Emma. Emma Woodhouse can’t relate to her although they appear to be each others doppelganger, a mirror reflection of each other in many ways. But of course mirror reflections are opposites and you can’t actually become in contact with your reflection. There is a barrier, a layer of glass between you and your reflection. Jane and Emma, seem to exist in parallel worlds that cannot touch.

Marquis de Condorcet

Jane Austen, herself was an authoress earning money from what she wrote, but she still remained within the bounds of decent society. Emma is introduced by, “the Author of Pride and Prejudice.” She did not use her name. She was careful enough to dedicate Emma to The Prince Regent when it was suggested she might like to. She followed her urges and her intelligence and her talents but she kept her head down. She herself was critical of the education offered to young ladies and she herself had a horror of the profession of teacher as a result of her own experiences. Towards the end of her life Jane was writing Sanditon. Her heroine, Charlotte Heywood, is perhaps the most radical of her characters, in her views and in her actions. Would Jane Austen have eventually, “come out?”

Jane Fairfax was the daughter of Lieutenant Fairfax, and her mother had been, before marriage, Miss Bates, the youngest daughter of Mrs Bates of Highbury.When her father was killed in action in a foreign country and her mother died soon after of consumption, Jane had returned to live with her grandmother and aunt, her mother’s elder sister in Highbury. However, Colonel Campbell, her fathers superior officer, offered to educate her and bring her up in his own small family to give her all the benefits of education and culture he could provide. Lieutenant Fairfax had been instrumental in saving his colonel’s life years before and being a dear officer and friend, Colonel Campbell felt it his duty to look after his friends daughter, Jane. Here is a passage from Emma describing Jane Fairfax’s education.

“ She had fallen into good hands, known nothing but kindness from the Campbells, and been given an excellent education. Living constantly with right minded and well informed people., her heart and understanding had received every advantage of discipline and culture; and Colonel Campbells residence, being in London, every lighter talent had been done justice to, by the attendance of first rate masters.”

It is interesting to note that Jane alludes to two sorts of education in relation to Jane Fairfax. First she says that she was, “given an excellent education,” and associated with well informed people and received every advantage of discipline and culture. The discipline bit is a little vague. It might refer to personal, behavioural discipline or it might refer to an intellectual discipline of the mind, inquisitive, challenging ideas, thinking. Maybe Jane Austen is being vague on purpose to allay the doubts and fears of the middle class reading masses. But what does Jane Austen mean by “an excellent education?” We know what she means by, “every lighter talent.”

It can only mean one thing. Jane Fairfax had been educated in cultural aspects that might include history, geography, mathematics, science and all the areas of learning usually kept for the great universities and the exclusive education of men.She had had the influence of right minded and well informed people too. Jane Austen herself had undoubtedly been immersed in and influenced by this sort of cultural education by way of her father’s library and erudite discussions with her intelligent and learned brothers.

Jean Jaques Rousseau

Jean Jaque Rouseau ( 28th June 1712 – 2 July 1778) was a philosopher and writer.
He thought;

“ The education of women should always be relative to that of men. To please, to be useful to us, to make us love and esteem them, to educate us when young, to take care of us when grown up.”

His idea of education being important to women was so that they could then, in turn, educate their sons. He was only a little on the way to realising the full possibilities and potential for women. He wasn’t for giving women total freedom.

Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas Caritat (1743 – 1794) the Marquis de Condorcet, wanted to go much further than Rouseau with women’s education and freedoms. He wanted universal education as did Adam Smith, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jeffereson. He thought that the advances in reason and science would automatically limit family sizes leaving women the freedoms to expand their talents and energies in other directions. He wanted women to be admitted to the rights of citizenship. A very modern gentlemen. He had to go into hiding for his beliefs.

In England there was Mary Wollstonecroft. In the introduction to her “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman,” Mary Wollstonecroft writes,

“Contending for the rights of woman, my main argument is built on this simple principle, that if she be not prepared by education to become the companion of man, she will stop the progress of knowledge and virtue; for the truth must be common to all, or it will be inefficacious with respect to its influence on general practice. And how can woman expected to co operatre unless she knows why she ought to be virtuous? Unless freedom strengthens her reason till she comprehends her duty, and see in what manner it is connected with her real good. If children are to be educated to understand the true principle of patriotism, their mother must be a patriot; and the love of mankind, from which an orderly train of virtues spring, can only be produced by considering the moral and civil interest of mankind; but the education and situation of woman at present shuts her out from such investigations.”

Mary Wollstonecraft

What Mary Wollstonecroft is actually saying here is that men and women need to be equal for the good and progress of mankind and if women are to be the teachers of children they need an education which enables them to think and explore and understand ideas, otherwise she cannot teach those ideas. An argument which cannot be challenged surely. Teachers today have degrees and are expected to have a thorough knowledge of their subjects and to be able to think and be creative.

How does this bring us back to Jane Fairfax? Jane Fairfax has had an, “excellent education,” and she appears to be evasive. It might be more a case of her having to be evasive as a means to survival. Emma Woodhouse cannot form a close relationship with her. As the novel unfolds we learn Jane is breaking societies strongest taboos. She and Frank Churchill are a match made in the realms of a freedom not acceptable in the England of those times. They are of a different economic and class backgrounds. Frank Churchill’s guardian, Mrs Churchill, while alive, would never condone such a relationship. Jane and Frank keep it secret and have to resort to all manner of subterfuge. Emma Woodhouse, in all her plans and manoeuvrings, and imaginings is defeated. Jane Austen is delving into areas that are perhaps closer to her own heart than she may well want to admit out right. In her final novel Sanditon, I think the way the character of Charlotte Heywood develops Jane was becoming more outspoken in her views about hypocrisy and the role of women in society. If Jane had lived into old age, with societies changes becoming more rapid with the industrial revolution, she might have become a champion of womans rights herself.

Finally, Jane Austen resolves the dilemmas, in a sort of Midsummer Nights Dream way. Characters find their true loves and permission is given, after Mrs Churchill’s death, for Frank and Jane to marry. So we have a happy ending for everybody. In a way, because Jane rounds everything off too nicely, as modern readers used to the full force of rough reality in the modern classic novel, perhaps we itch for Jane Austen to have gone the full hog. But, written as it was in the Georgian period, it was brave enough to allude to these issues. Jane couldn’t resist her true beliefs, really.

Gentle Readers, Tony Grant, who lives in England and oversees the blog, London Calling, wrote this most timely post. At the turn of the 19th century, women were not allowed to vote. This post points out the harsh realities for our female ancestors just a few generations ago. Regardless of party affiliation, I urge every woman in the U.S. to go to the polls on November 2 and exercise their hard-won freedom to VOTE for the candidate of their choice. – Vic

Images: Wikimedia Commons

Read Full Post »

Watching Emma 2009 is a visual feast for the eye. I wrote about my visceral reaction to this film for the PBS blog Remotely Connected and discussed the similarities between Jane Austen and Vermeer. This review addresses my other impressions about Emma 2009, first shown by the BBC in Great Britain last fall and airing on PBS Masterpiece Classic over the next three Sundays. Take a poll here and tell us what you think of Episode One.

A young Emma plays with her sister Isabella in Hartfield

I am of two minds about this new version of Emma. The script follows the story linearly, from Emma’s birth to the moment of Miss Taylor’s wedding to Mr. Weston, whereas in the book the story starts with the marriage. Interestingly, the narrator at the start of the film is Jonny Lee Miller (Mr Knightley), and we hear of Emma’s story from his perspective. The film sets up three characters from the start: Emma Woodhouse, Frank Churchill née Weston, and Jane Fairfax. All three children lost their mothers at an early age, but only Emma remained in Highbury. She led a charmed life under the care of her governess, Miss Taylor, a kind and loving mother figure.

Emma walks with Miss Taylor in Highbury

I must admit that I was in “high dudgeon” when I first watched these scenes, unable to connect the script to Jane Austen’s writing. However, I am aware that films are a visual and expensive medium, and they must not only take into account time restrictions, but also the richness of visual language. It might take Jane Austen several pages to describe a scene that the eye can perceive within moments. Mr. Woodhouse’s nervous-Nellie approach to life, always worried about the minutia of the health and the welfare of his family and friends, is woven into the fabric of the script, and is often shown more than told.

Tamsin Greig as Miss Bates

Mrs. and Miss Bates’ downfall is not described per se. We first see them saying goodbye to Jane Fairfax in the hallway of the comfortable vicarage, which was their home when Rev. Bates was still alive. We then see them next in their new lodging, an upstairs apartment in Highbury with crumbling walls and meanly furnished rooms. A single glance from Tamsin Greig (Miss Bates) belies her cheery disposition and tells us all we need to know about their reduced circumstances.

Emma 2010 character costumes compliment the setting and each other

I was also struck by the costumes and how the colors the characters wore complimented the settings as well as each other. In one scene in Hartfield, Mr. Knightley’s vest, Mr. Woodhouse’s scarf, and Emma’s sash picked up the colors in the room and of each other. This scheme is followed repeatedly in many scenes.

Jonny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley reacts to Harriet Smith's rejection of Mr. Martin

The more I watch this film adaptation (I have seen portions of it four times), the more my impressions of the actors keep changing. In real life, Jonny Lee Miller is 37 years old, exactly Mr. Knightley’s age. Some critics have thought him too young or all wrong for the part, but as the film progressed, especially in the second and third installments, I warmed towards him. I now regard his performance as George Knightley as my favorite of all the actors who have played this gentleman. High praise coming from me, for I admit I was among the naysayers when Jonny’s casting was first announced.

Emma (Romola Garai) talks to Mr. Knightley

Although I changed my mind about Jonny Lee Miller, I have never quite warmed up to Romola Garai as Emma. She is a lovely and talented actress, and I liked her star turn in Daniel Deronda immensely, but I found her facial contortions in this film disconcerting and cannot recall such exaggerated mannerisms in her other films. A friend who watched the film with me liked Romola’s performance, saying that her portrayal of a spoilt, headstrong girl who was raised by a doting father was spot on. However, I thought Romola’s performance was too theatrical, as if she were trying to reach the audience seated in the last row of a large theatre. The camera’s lens magnifies everything facial movement, and she could have (should have) toned down her grimaces, toothy smiles, and wide-eyed looks of wonder or consternation. I did come to appreciate Romola’s chemistry with Jonny Lee Miller, which was palpable. One can see the sparks fly between these two characters, which is the point of a romance after all.

Blake Ritson as Mr. Elton offers to take Emma's drawing to London to be framed. Mr. Knightley watches the scene, aware of Mr. Elton's intentions, but Emma is clueless.

As for the secondary characters, I admired Tamsin Greig’s Miss Bates, which surprised me. While her character is irritating, Tamsin managed to make us feel sorry for her even as we were irritated by her babbling. Her performance is almost as memorable as Sophie Thompson’s, whose 1996 portrayal of Miss Bates remains my favorite. Valerie Lillie’s performance as Mrs. Bates was way past tea, for she looked comatose and unresponsive. Frankly, her part required nothing more than for her to sit in a chair and look dour. Blake Ritson’s turn as Mr. Elton was a bit too mannered for my tastes, but he was perfectly matched with Christina Cole’s vulgar Mrs. Elton. And I quit liked Louise Dylan as Harriet Smith: pretty but not as attractive as beautiful Emma, sweet-natured and malleable, and as dim as a snuffed candle. I’m not sure Michael Gambon was quite right for the part of Mr. Woodhouse. His face and figure are too vigorous for a hypochondriac and worrywart, and his performance did not in any way displace my estimation of Bernard Hepton’s masterful portrayal of Mr.Woodhouse in 1996.

Michael Gambon as Mr. Woodhouse

As far as I am concerned, the Frank Churchill of my imagination has never been captured by any of the Emma adaptations, including this one. I thought that pug-nosed Rupert Evans was all wrong for the part and I did not believe for a moment that anything about his looks or behavior would attract Emma’s interest. As for Laura Pyper as Jane Fairfax, she’s talented, but much too mousy for my tastes. Yes, her situation is untenable, for Frank does not at all act in a gentleman like manner, but I rather liked Olivia Williams’ interpretation of the character, beautiful, demure, and alternately angry and hurt.

Emma finally meets Frank Churchill (Rupert Evans)

This film gets stronger with each episode, and the second and third installments sealed my admiration for this latest version of Emma. The cinematography is beautiful and the actors play their characters in lovely interiors, settings and locations. The film is almost four hours long, which, thankfully, allows for more plot and character development than a 2-hour version.

At the Coles, Emma and Mrs. Weston (Johdi May) listen to Jane Fairfax sing and play

I must add that PBS has gone out of its way to make its Masterpiece Classic site worth visiting. Those who missed the first installment can watch it online starting Monday, January 25th. The site offers a Bachelors of Highbury quiz (such fun), a Romola Garai audio slide show, screenwriter Q&A with Sandy Welch, and other features.

My other posts:

Read Full Post »

Mr. Knightley's Harvest Ball

Mr. Knightley's Harvest Ball

I prefer Kate Beckinsale’s Emma, written by Andrew Davies, because of the film’s depiction of ordinary life, such as farmers threshing grain before the Harvest Ball. These scenes were not written by Jane Austen, but they added authenticity to the film. When I saw this image, (Detail taken from the New York Public Library’s digital collection of the Costumes of Yorkshire, 1813-1814), I knew that the costumers and the director, Diarmuid Lawrence, had done their research. I loved the quality of the golden light that bathed the workers, lending the scene an antique, painterly feel. There are so many glorious visual moments in this film, which is well worth watching despite the script’s many variations from Jane’s plot.

Detail, Rape Threshing, 1813, The Costume of Yorkshire, New York Public Library

Detail, Rape Threshing, 1813, The Costume of Yorkshire, New York Public Library

By 1750, British agricultural practices were regarded as among the best in the world. The Industrial Revolution accelerated new practices in agriculture, in which animal power and human labor were aided by newly invented farm machinery. These inventions, as well as the new methods of food production, greatly increased the food supply.

harvest
Four-field rotation was practiced in England.  Specific crops were grown in a scientific sequence that managed the different nutrients in the soil. With this method, the continuous use of land was possible; more importantly, additional forage crops for livestock could be grown. This increase in the food supply could support livestock through the winter, which led to an improved diet year round. Even the poor could occasionally augment their bread with meat and dairy products, such as cheese.

harvest 2 (2)
While the Enclosure Acts from 1750-1831 drove many subsistence farmers off their small holdings of around 20 acres, the movement combined land into larger tracts for more efficient farming, and allowing portions of the fields to lie fallow. The traditional method of subdividing the land allowed farmers to feed their families, but their holdings were too small to follow the new method of crop rotation.  The larger holdings (which usually favored the richer land owners) applied modern methods of crop production. The unlucky farmer who lost his lands also lost the means to support his family independently. He and his family had no choice but to find work in the industrial north or in London. These burgeoning urban centers required an enormous amount of food to be brought in daily over long distances. One imagines that after Mr. Knightley set aside enough of the harvest for his own consumption, he transported the remainder to cities to be sold for profit.

harvest 3 (2)

More on the topic:

Read Full Post »

jane-austen-7-males2

At Steventon Rectory, Jane lived in a house with five brothers (the 6th lived elsewhere), a father, and his male student boarders. As an author she chose not to write scenes showing men talking. In my opinion, this doesn’t necessarily mean she knew little about the way men spoke or thought. Unless the rectory was well carpeted and insulated, she must have overheard any number of conversations between her brothers, or her father and other males. Yet there is a perception that Jane did not know enough about  men talking in private to write about the topic. Ian MacKean observes: “The men may well have discussed politics, but not with the women, and Jane Austen never writes scenes with only men present, for the simple reason that she could never have witnessed such a scene herself.” While Mr. MacKean might be correct in his first observation, how can he know that Jane could NEVER have witnessed two men talking politics? Jane lived in a household where reading and conversation were encouraged, and where the family gathered together to entertain each other and read to each other. MacKean’s conclusion, which is echoed by others from multiple sources, makes little sense to me. I am not a scholar, but I cannot imagine that Jane was never alone in a room with two or more men, and that they always limited their conversation while this lively, talented, and opinionated woman was present. Steventon Rectory was crowded, and I imagine at times it was impossible for Jane to find a private spot with so many people (translate males) in the house.

In this passage in Emma, Jane writes the rarest of scenes: that of two brothers talking about their land holdings. They are the Knightleys to be more specific. This manly dialogue is an unusual occurrence in Jane’s novels, so enjoy.

The brothers talked of their own concerns and pursuits, but principally of those of the elder, whose temper was by much the most communicative, and who was always the greater talker. As a magistrate, he had generally some point of law to consult John about, or, at least, some curious anecdote to give; and as a farmer, as keeping in hand the home-farm at Donwell, he had to tell what every field was to bear next year, and to give all such local information as could not fail of being interesting to a brother whose home it had equally been the longest part of his life, and whose attachments were strong. The plan of a drain, the change of a fence, the felling of a tree, and the destination of every acre for wheat, turnips, or spring corn, was entered into with as much equality of interest by John, as his cooler manners rendered possible; and if his willing brother ever left him any thing to inquire about, his inquiries even approached a tone of eagerness.

Read Full Post »

“Marianne’s [letter] was finished in a very few minutes; in length it could be no more than a note; it was then folded up, sealed, and directed with eager rapidity. Elinor thought she could distinguish a large W in the direction; and no sooner was it complete than Marianne, ringing the bell, requested the footman who answered it to get that letter conveyed for her to the two-penny post. This decided the matter at once. – Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 26

Footmen appear prominently in Sense and Sensiblity, 2008, and Emma 1996. They stand at attention in a row with the other servants when John and Fanny Dashwood arrive at Norland Park to take residence, and flank a seated Mrs. Ferrars when she banishes Edward and Lucy Steele from her sight. A footmen, as mentioned by Jane Austen, conveyed Marianne’s first letter to Willoughby when she arrives in London.
In Emma 1997, the viewer is treated to the ridiculous sight of footmen moving kneeling cushions among the rows of strawberries as Mr. Knightley’s guests pick the fruit in his garden. By and large, footmen represented a status symbol. Chosen for their looks and height, they wore livery of a style that was popular a century earlier, with “knee breeches and braided coats with shoulder knots. At Clandon Park in Surrey in 1876, Lord Onslow provided his footmen with silk stockings, gloves and pumps, and one guinea per annum to pay for powder to dress their hair for state occasions.” (Household Management, p 18.*)
According to Daniel Pool, footmen knew their status, and were generally known for their self-importance and lack of humor. The popular saying went that “calves came before character.” Taller footmen were paid higher wages, but the best status symbol of conspicuous wealth was a pair of footmen who were matched in height and looks.
Although footmen were assigned duties both inside and outside the house, such as polishing the silver, or riding on the back of coaches, they spent an inordinate amount of time conspicuously waiting, either in an entrance hall, dining room, or wherever their services might be required at a moment’s notice. “Daily comfort is provided by servants who are almost always invisible in Austen’s novels. They are there to provide leisure and services for their superiors and to disappear—like Thomas, the footman in Sense and Sensibility: ‘Thomas and the tablecloth, now alike needless, were soon afterwards dismissed'”**

“Has no letter been left here for me since we went out?” said [Marianne] to the footman who then entered with the parcels. She was answered in the negative. “Are you quite sure of it?” she replied. “Are you certain that no servant, no porter has left any letter or note?” – Jane Austen, Sense & Sensibility, Chapter 26

When the man replied, “none,” Marianne turned her back to him dismissively and moved to the window.

Servants were regarded by the gentry much as a backdrop, like wallpaper or furniture. Such indifference did not go unnoticed. Eric Horne, author of What the Butler Winked At (1923) observed: “Do they ever ask themselves this question, ‘Where did I come from? And Why? Where am I going to, and when?'” (Below Stairs, p. 95.***) In most cases, apparently not.

Read more on the topic in these resources and links:

Read Full Post »

PBS Masterpiece Classic resumed The Complete Jane Austen last Sunday with the rebroadcast of the 1997 adaptation of Emma. My favorable review of the film sits in the post below. Ellen Moody expressed different thoughts about Mr. Knightley in her blog, Ellen and Jim Have a Blog, Too. Click here to read why she thinks there’s something odd about him.

Ellen is the creator of the Jane Austen almanac. If you haven’t yet come across her calendars of Jane’s novels, click here. They are remarkably useful.

Kaye Daycus compared the two Emmas in her Fun Friday review. I wonder what she’ll come up with for this Friday?

As always, there’s a lively discussion going on at Austen Blog. This time it’s Emma’s turn. Join in the fun and leave your opinion.

Over at Jane Austen Today, the second guest blogger, Barbara Larochelle, moderator of the Sense and Sensibility discussion group at The Republic of Pemberley, gives us her thoughts about the new film adaptation of Sense & Sensibility. I believe she likes it.

Read Full Post »

Is Sunday night’s broadcast of the 1997 A&E version of Emma on Masterpiece Classic worth watching? Absolutely! Even those who liked Gwyneth Paltrow’s elegant interpretation of 20 year-old Miss Woodhouse as much as I did, will find Kate Beckinsale’s bossy Emma satisfying in a more down-to-earth way. When Kate made this film she had just completed her role as Flora Poste in Cold Comfort Farm, a surprise cinematic hit.

Miss Emma Woodhouse, 20-year-old self-satisfied spinster

Kate plays the part of an interfering, well-meaning young woman with youthful ease and assurance. In addition, this actress is truly British, and she moves, talks, and acts naturally through the English landscape. I am always delighted to see a British actress play a British character (My apologies to Gwyneth, Renee Zellweger, and Anne Hathaway). I know many will disagree with me, but at times Gwyneth reminded me too much of a beautiful high fashion model with her uber thin, attenuated figure and modern facial features. She was as lovely to view as an Ingres line drawing, but I could relate to Kate’s old-fashioned prettiness better.

As you can see from the photos below, Kate’s range as an actress, when compared to supporting actress Samantha Morton, is somewhat limited. Nevertheless, she possessed sufficient acting chops to tackle this challenging role.

In these images (from left to right, top to bottom), Kate as Emma expresses 1) interest in Harriet when speaking to Mrs.Goddard, 2) a mixture of hurt and anger when listening to a lecture by Mr. Knightley, 3) proud admiration in viewing Mr. Knightley’s house, 4) disbelief and tender joy when Mr. Knightley proposes to her, 5) horror to Mr. Elton’s proposal, 6) envy listening to Jane Fairfax’s superior performance at the piano, 7) dreaminess after she and Mr. Knightley have declared their love for each other, and 8. polite and covert interest in Jane Fairfax as Miss Bates extols Jane’s virtues.
I love this reaction shot of Kate (below), whose expressions conveyed several emotions at once. Here, Emma has walked into Mr. Knightley’s sitting room, where she encounters her father by a small fire. Her face captures the combination of love, patience, forbearance, and puzzlement that Emma must have felt toward her father, as he once again frets and worries over minor points of comfort.

Miss Harriet Smith, 17-year old natural daughter of a gentleman

Movie buffs require no introduction to Samantha Morton, an actress so talented that one’s eyes immediately turn to her when she enters a scene.

Samantha’s Harriet Smith is all about innocence, naiveté, and puppyish eagerness to please. Her will – weak and easily persuaded – is sweet and passive. Emma couldn’t have found a more tractable person for her next project in matchmaking. Samantha’s artless Harriet, however, does not come across as dumb, for she often, though softly, questions Emma, and one senses throughout the film that she is unwilling quite to let go of her dream of living in a pretty yellow cottage with her yeoman farmer, Mr. Martin, and his two friendly, well-educated sisters. In Samantha’s interpretation of Harriet, we finally see a young woman worthy of Emma’s attempts at improvement.

While Toni Collette is a fine actress, whose turn as Cole’s frantic mother in The Sixth Sense moved me to tears, her plump, dumbed down Harriet left me perplexed and wondering what the elegant Gwyneth/Emma ever saw in her.

Mr. Knightley, 37-year-old gentleman, owner of Donwell Abbey, and Emma’s brother-in-law

Mark Strong’s Mr. Knightley sets the movie’s serious tone. His hawk-like features are dark, almost sinister, and his lithe, athletic figure moves with animal grace. In fact, Mark’s Mr. Knightley is dangerously and forcefully handsome, but not in a classical sense. His interpretation of Emma’s friend and lover is more vigorous than Jeremy Northam’s. Under repeated viewing and scrutiny, Mark’s performance holds up well. His angry encounters with Emma are a perfect foil to the moments when he is caught off guard tenderly watching her or smiling at something she has done or said, and after he proposes to her.
The change in Mark’s Mr. Knightley is most evident at the Harvest Ball, where he cannot contain his love for Emma. Many critics thought that this particular Mr. Knightley was too forceful, however I found that once he expressed his feelings for Emma, the change in his demeanor contributed to a completely satisfying romantic ending. The wolf has been tamed, and while we suspect that this Mr. Knightley will always be an exacting and demanding lover (ooh la la!), we also know that he will cherish Emma forever.

Critics of this movie will say it is too dark in tone, that the light-hearted spirit of Jane’s comedic novel was better captured by the 1996 theatrical film. Frankly, I prefer this film’s meatier fare. While Emma’s generous spirit and sincere interest in her charity work are largely ignored in this film version (and emphasized in Gwyneth’s Emma), Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax are allowed to play out their charade under everyone’s noses, Bernard Hepton as Mr. Woodhouse is given free reign to explore his character, and the backdrop of regency life and manners is filmed in minute detail.

One of the film’s most important characters is the village of Highbury (played by Laycock, a National Trust village in Wiltshire.) This village is peopled with gentry, artisans, craftsmen, servants, and laborours going about their business. As the protagonists move through this landscape, the evidence of regency life playing itself out fascinated me – from Emma’s courtesy visits to Miss Bates – to the ball at the Crown Inn – to the seating at table, with Emma in the position of hostess, and Mrs. Elton and Mrs. Weston at the head of the table with Mr. Woodhouse – to the footman holding the candelabra up to Harriet’s picture so that everyone could see it better – to the farmers and their families harvesting grain before The Harvest Ball.

I found Gwyneth’s world overly beautiful, refined, and Hollywood-sanitized, but Kate’s world showed some rough edges, most particularly when depicting exactly how much hard labor was involved in supporting the lavish lifestyle of the landed gentry. Who can forget the strawberry picking scene at Donwell Abbey where footmen dressed in livery (an extreme sign of wealth) stood by each guest, moving the kneeling cushions along the rows of strawberries; or the servants laboring to cart furniture, dishes, and food up Box Hill in order to provide a bucolic outing for the guests? Or Frank’s gift of the piano being hoisted up to the second floor of Mrs. and Miss Bates’s rooms, because the stairs were too steep, winding, and narrow?

These typical touches of an Andrew Davies script influenced my decision: I prefer this cinematic version of Emma. Oh, please do feel free to quibble. As I watch Gwyneth’s version of Emma again, my preference just might swing back to that movie. When it comes to all things Jane Austen, I am known to be fickle!

Watch Emma tonight on Masterpiece Classic at 9 p.m. Read the reviews about Emma on PBS’s Remotely Connected, and details at this PBS site.

Can’t get enough of Emma? Please click on the following:

Read Full Post »

Jane Austen Today will feature four guest writers in the next four weeks to discuss Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and the last three weeks of The Complete Jane Austen on PBS. The first entry with Kali Pappas is up. Kali wrote about what she knew best: the costumes that were used in Emma 1997, and how these clothes reflected character. The post is titled: Fashionable Emma Woodhouse: Costuming in Austen’s Emma Adapted. Kali created Emma Adaptations, the definitive blog about Emma. If you haven’t visited her blog, you are in for a treat. Along the way, stop over at Jane Austen Today and read her fabulous contribution.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Read Full Post »

They had a very fine day for Box Hill … Nothing was wanting but to be happy when they got there. Seven miles were travelled in expectation of enjoyment, and every body had a burst of admiration on first arriving…Jane Austen, Emma


One of the most famous scenes in Emma is the picnic scene on Box Hill. Picnics were becoming increasingly popular at the turn of the nineteenth century, when romantic sensibility influenced the trend of eating out of doors as a way to commune with nature. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term picnic originally meant “A fashionable social entertainment in which each person present contributed a share of the provisions; now, A pleasure party including an excursion to some spot in the country where all partake of a repast out of doors: the participants may bring with them individually the viands and means of entertainment, or the whole may be provided by some one who ‘gives the picnic’. “

Even though picnicking became increasingly popular, arranging one was often no easy matter. According to Andrew Hubbell, author of How Wordsworth Invented Picnicking and Saved British Culture*:

To picnic is to consume not only particular food, but also a specific environment chosen according to an aesthetic standard, and a particular form of sharing food according to certain standards of behaviour. It means creating a moveable feast and overcoming difficulties and inconveniences, not only for preparation and transportation,but also for consumption and cleanup. Yet picnicking is the pleasurable pursuit of a leisured people, so the difficulty of moving the feast has some reward. The reward is primarily ideological: it enables the participant to share a form of eating that creates relationships between small groups of people, natural landmarks, and cultural ideals. These relationships form a consciousness of national identity. Picnicking, especially for early nineteenth-century picnickers, was thus away of performing Britishness.


This Romantic aesthetic can be witnessed in the A&E version of Emma, to be show on PBS this Sunday. Box Hill, the setting of Emma’s famous picnic, and comprising of woods and grassland, offered a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside. The experience of eating in such a beautiful setting would appeal to both the eye and palate. Box Hill is covered with box trees, yew trees. and beeches and oaks. To this day, the area is filled with flowers and the sound of bird song, and fully two-thirds of the British butterfly species have been recorded at this site.**
As is still the custom, each member or group invited to a regency picnic brought a dish, usually carried in wicker baskets, for the others to enjoy. In this way a variety of dishes would be shared and tasted. However, without someone to guide them, guests would often bring similar foods. As picnics became more organized and elaborate, one person would take charge of assigning the dishes, ensuring the non-duplication of foods, or a host would offer to take over the responsibility of providing all the food.

As the 1997 A&E film demonstrates, these elegant and sumptuous picnics were not easy to accomplish. Teams of horses were arranged to transport wagons with picnickers, servants, food, and outdoor furniture. If the picturesque spot was located in an out of the way place, the party had to walk the remainder of the way with the supplies. The servants would lay out the dishes, and tables and cloths al fresco. After the parties had dined, these supplies needed to be repacked.

In the film, the servants were shown constantly working to provide a leisurely and pleasurable outing for the picnickers. Their hard work was for naught, however, since no one in the party, most particularly Emma, seemed to be having a good time. As the afternoon progressed, the underlying tension among the diners erupted with Emma’s cruel comment towards Miss Bates.

The Box Hill scene in Emma is pivotal. After Emma insults Miss Bates, Mr. Knightley angrily confronts her about her behavior. Unable to remain blind to her own faults, Emma begins to change and grow. She realizes how much she craves Mr. Knightley’s good judgment, which leads her to a later revelation that she loves him.

Interestingly, at the strawberry-picking at Donwell Abbey the day before, Mr. Knightley says to Mrs. Elton: “The nature and the simplicity of gentlemen and ladies, with their servants, and furniture, I think is best observed by meals within doors.” Given how utterly the Box Hill excursion failed to entertain the picnickers, his words were prophetic.

To read more about the origins of picnics, and about Box Hill, click on the long list of links below.

Box Hill, Emma

Physical Setting of Box Hill

The History of Picnics


Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Read Full Post »

Our blogs are gearing up in anticipation of PBS’s airing of Emma two weeks from now.

Laurel Ann wrote a wonderful post on Austenprose about Jane Austen, Stella Gibbons, and Kate Beckinsale . Kate fans know that one of her major movie roles early in her career was as Flora Poste in Cold Comfort Farm. In fact, Flora was Emma’s equal in setting herself up as a matchmaker and putting peoples’ lives to right, and the very young Kate played that part to perfection.

Jane Austen Today published two Emma posts this weekend: one about the darkly handsome Mark Strong, who played Mr. Knightley, and the other on Andrew Davies’ role in writing the script for the A&E version of Emma.

For those who can’t wait to see this movie, which came out just after the theatrical release of Emma directed by Diarmuid Lawrence, you can purchase the DVD at WGBH Shop.

  • Learn more particulars about Emma on IMDb.

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,320 other followers