Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Eligible_SittenfeldIn 2011, The Austen Project approached best-selling author Curtis Sittenfeld to write a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, which she entitled Eligible (out in bookstores now). On Thursday, April 21, 2016, Diane Rehm, one of my favorite radio hosts, interviewed Sittenfeld regarding her new novel. As the interview wore on it became obvious to me that 1) this author, who  had not read Pride and Prejudice since she was a teenager, should have done more research about the economic and social situation of the Bennets, Darcys, and Bingleys in Regency England, and how this impacted their actions, and that  2) Diane Rehm and Sittenfeld had little understanding of the economic impact that Austenesque films, television shows, book adaptations, blogs, online forums, and fan fiction have on today’s book and entertainment industry.

After listening (impatiently) to the interview, I wrote this comment on Ms. Rehm’s website, which also features a link to the interview and a 4-page excerpt of the novel.

I author the Jane Austen’s World blog, which examines the Regency era during Jane Austen’s time. I looked forward to this interview, since I listen to the Diane Rehm Show and am a Jane Austen fan. I am no fan of Jane Austen fan fiction, however. Reading the excerpt of “Eligible” and listening to Ms. Sittenfeld read from her book left me strangely cold. Austen’s fans are drawn to her novels because of her enormous talent in describing her characters with humor, or satire, or barbed arrows in her swift, spare, and witty style. Her words fairly sparkle off the page and her main protagonists seem like living creatures. In this instance, the dialogue seems strangely flat, I recognize the names of the characters, but not their essence.

I don’t care how many best sellers a novelist has written, most (many, all) are unable to adapt Austen’s works and write something better or wittier. I am thinking of P.D. James and her awful “Death Comes to Pemberley” and Colleen McCullough’s appallingly bad “The Independence of Mary Bennet,” both of which became best sellers because of their authors’ fame, not because of the excellence of the adaptations. In fact, I was able to purchase both books online for $1.00. Both were in remarkably fresh condition, as if they had been warehoused for a while.

Another sense I got from the interview was Ms. Sittenfeld’s inability to understand her audience – the Jane Austen fan. Chip Bingley participated in the novel’s version of “The Bachelor.” Really? Sittenfeld and Rehm devoted a good portion of the interview to this topic. I felt my mind drifting and my interest in the novel vanishing. I suppose Cincinnati is as good a place as any to fill in for Meryton, but I am not convinced.

I will review [the book] on my blog and withhold judgment for the time being. I am not optimistic that I will change my mind.

In my opinion, only Emma Thompson has channeled Jane Austen successfully in recent years. Much of the script of 1995’s Sense and Sensibility, while staying true to Austen’s intent, are really Emma’s words as the film’s script writer. Some scenes and details are added, since films are a visual medium, yet I left the theater feeling as if I had watched a movie whose script was written by Jane Austen.

This review in The Guardian by Ursula K. LeGuin (an author I admire enormously) starts out by saying:

It was badly done’ – to quote Mr Knightley – an ill-judged rendering of Jane Austen’s most famous work…

Those words are kind compared to the rest of LeGuin’s review, which includes this interesting statement:

I wondered what could possess a writer to tie her novel so blatantly and rigidly to a very well-known one – taking the general plot and the name of every character, so that comparison with the original becomes as unavoidable as it is crushing…We are in a period of copycatting, coat-tail-riding, updating and mashup; rip-off is chic, character theft from famous predecessors is as common as identity theft via credit cards…

In her interview with Rehm, Sittenfeld explains her modus operandi,

when I started rereading “Pride And Prejudice,” I did think, oh, I have so many ideas. This would be such a delightful way to spend a few years.” ….My approach was to basically keep the plot or keep the architecture of the novel and also to keep the names because I didn’t want readers to be distracted, thinking, well, who’s who?…

Sittenfeld enjoyed her years of writing the novel, contacted only occasionally (with no pressure) from the publisher, and writing according to a strict outline and timeline, often with Pride and Prejudice propped on her lap for quick reference to remind her of major plot lines that described both character and setting.

In another recent review, Jim Higgins of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, describes the same situation that Sittenfeld and Rehm had gone over during their interview – how Chip Bingley, a physician and bachelor on the reality show “Eligible,” found fame courting 24 women on national television. Lizzie is now 38 and her sister Jane is 40 – today’s versions of single women about to enter that twilight world of spinsterhood.

Eligible is supposed to be an act of homage, an act of admiration. It’s not supposed to be an improvement upon ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ I don’t think ‘Pride and Prejudice’ needs to be improved on. I think it’s a wonderful, perfect novel.”- Sittenfeld, Milwaukee Journal Sentinal.

In this respect, Sittenfeld recognizes Jane Austen’s  unmatched talent as an author completely, but does she? Really? Higgins calls Sittenfeld’s verbal exchanges among the Bennets “sharp;” Ursula LeGuin describes them as mean-spirited.

As for me, I shall purchase the novel way after its sell date, read it, and write a review based on my reaction to Sittenfeld’s adaptation of my favorite novel of my favorite author. Meanwhile, I can only go by the interview I heard and the short excerpt I read.

As for Diane Rehm and my total love for her show – one disappointing interview in hundreds, well, that gives her a great track record IMO.

Inquiring readers: Frequent contributor, Tony Grant, would like to add his thoughts to the discussion in this comment:

I have only ever read one so called spin off novel and that was The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. Her book adds to the world of great literature dealing with important and deep issues. Whether it is a true spin off, mash up, is questionable. It is such a rich and important book. If the so called spin off genre could achieve what she achieved in adding to our experience of the human condition I would read those sort of books but until then they are not for me. Jane Austen engages us with the world within the strictures of her time but also in a way that is relevant to all times.She really doesn’t need to be messed with. I wonder what she would think.The book you describe sounds like a sad attempt at making money on the coat tails of a popular author. I am not one to burn books but we could have quite a conflagration if all the mash ups, spin offs, fan fictions etc were piled up and set light to… ha!Ha!
( I must admit a secret regret, I did read one fan fiction take on Pride and Prejudice a few years ago because it was written by an acquaintance . But I try to forget that experience.)

Emma Woodhouse’s Surrey

 

Inquiring readers: Here’s another delightful contribution from the ever creative Tony Grant. If you can’t get enough of his work and photographs, visit his blog, London Calling, where he shares his images from his many trips all over Great Britain. A little over 200 hundred years ago (December, 2015), Emma was first published. This is the first of a number of articles related to that novel on this blog this year.

Emma, written by Jane Austen between 21st January 1814 and the 29th March 1815, is unique amongst her six published novels because it’s entire setting is one small country town, the fictitious Highbury and Hartfield, located in one county, Surrey. Other places, real and fictitious are mentioned and have roles in the story too but most of those, apart from London, are located in Surrey as well. All Austen’s other novels move between at least two major locations, Bath, London, Lyme Regis and so on. Her two unfinished novels, Sanditon and The Watsons also have one major location each, Sanditon, a fictitious seaside resort of the sort that were being developed in the Georgian period on the south coast and at other coastal places. In the case of The Watsons, it is another novel that starts in Surrey and specifically in and around, a real town this time, Dorking. The Turnpike Road and The White Hart Inn are real locations in and around Dorking. The Watsons was not developed beyond this setting.

The places mentioned in Emma that are real include Box Hill, the River Mole, Richmond, Kingston, Weymouth, Cobham and London of course. The fictitious places are Highbury and Hartfield, Donwell Abbey, Rosings and Maple Grove. Randalls, might refer to an actual house called Randalls near Leatherhead not far from Box Hill.

Many people think Leatherhead (images above) is the template for Highbury and Hartfield. However, if you ever have the time to travel around Surrey villages and towns, there are similarities between them all. A grand house and estate is often located outside the town. There are a variety of still existing Georgian town houses ranging from those that would have housed well to do middle class businessmen to cottages for the working man and his family. All towns have an ancient church, probably first built in the middle ages, along with a rectory.Many of the rectories, interestingly look Georgian in design, however many of them are much older, probably Tudor in construction, constructed with great oak beams, with Georgian fronts added. All towns have old inns and what were once assembly rooms.

For instance, Cobham is mentioned in Emma. In one scene with Mr Knightly, Emma extolls the virtues of Mr Weston,

“ … ever since his particular kindness last September twelve month in writing that note, at twelve o’clock at night, on purpose to assure me that there was no scarlet fever at Cobham, I have been convinced that there could not be a more feeling heart nor a better man in existence.-“

Cobham is located not far from Leatherhead and Box Hill. I have walked around it often and the little bits of information about Highbury and Hartfield that Austen puts into the novel fit Cobham just as well as Leatherhead or a number of other towns and villages in Surrey. I think Highbury and Hartfield therefore is a sort of generic Surrey county town. It is after all the relationships between the characters that matter in the novel.

Jane Austen gives details describing the miles from Highbury and Hartfield to various places. It is 16 miles from London, 9 miles from Richmond and 7 miles from Box Hill. How more detailed could you be? These coordinates actually give you a spot on the Leatherhead to Kingston Road at a crossroads called, Malden Rushett. There are a couple of Victorian cottages there and nowadays a garden centre. It is mostly still surrounded by fields as it would have been in the early 19th century. The road comes from Dorking just south of Box Hill and passes through Leatherhead on its way to Kingston. It would, without doubt, have been the road that Mr Knightley and Mr Martin travelled along to get to the markets in Kingston. Also Frank Churchill / Weston, would have travelled this way to go to Richmond, which is further north of Kingston on the banks of the River Thames.

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 9.57.40 AM

One can see the relation between Kingston Upon Thames and Richmond in this Google map image

Perhaps the mileage Austen gives us for the location of Highbury and Hartbury is all part of her play on words and riddles that permeate Emma. The mileage gives us the impression that this must be a real place that actually exists, although it doesn’t actually exist. Her choice of names real and fictional play games with us too. However, we can start to interpret the words and names she uses. For instance the derivation of, bury, used as a suffix to the name of a town comes from Old English. It means ,burh, or fortified place. A fortified place can be interpreted as defensive and insular. Then we have a “High,” protected place and,” Hart,” which could refer to the,” heart,” but also a hart is a sort of deer. Is Jane referring to the heart of Englishness, the heart of what it means to be a community? Although Emma might be seen as an insular novel, just centered on the people of a generic Surrey town, it also refers to all towns and all communities. We can think about our own social groups and work colleagues and neighbours. I would not be surprised if our immediate associations number a similar number as the community described within the scope of Emma. Jane Austen not only plays with the names of places but also her characters. George Knightly, for instance, might refer to George IV the monarch and the name Knightly to a chivalrous connection. King, country and nobility of the true Englishman was an important concept, especially at the time Jane was writing Emma. It was published in the year that Waterloo was fought and won. It is also interesting to note Franck Churchill asking how much it would take for him to become a “citizen,” of Highbury and Hartfield. This is an oblique reference to France and the enemy the French. He is subtly made into the enemy. There are enough real places referred to in the novel for any visitor to Surrey today to explore and walk the streets and fields Jane Austen herself walked. We know that in 1814, Jane Austen visited her relatives, the Cookes, at Great Bookham and probably visited Box Hill with them. Maybe she decided to place one her major scenes on the hill at that time.

Richmond (above) in the 18th and 19th century was a place for the well off and the aristocracy as it was in previous centuries and still is today. Nearby was located Kew Palace, where “mad” King George III lived with his family, and set amongst beautiful grounds planted with trees and shrubs brought from various corners of the British Empire. Richmond Green in the centre of Richmond is to this day surrounded by grand houses and a beautiful theatre that originates from Georgian times. Along the Thames near Richmond the river is lined by grand houses and the estates of the aristocracy going back to Stuart times. Frank Churchill and his adopted family are wealthy and this is the place for them.

When Frank Churchill at last arrives in Highbury he meets Emma for the first time.

“Their subjects in general were such as belong to an opening acquaintance. On his side were the enquiries, – “Was she a horse woman? -Pleasant rides? -Pleasant walks? -Had they a large neighbourhood? – Highbury perhaps afforded society enough?-There were several pretty houses in and about it-Balls-had they balls?-Was it a musical society?”

A person who knows Richmond well is aware of the almost cynical comparisons Frank Churchill is making. He appears to be polite but every reader would know then that Highbury could not compare with Richmond.

Kingston upon Thames (above) , further down river from Richmond and about two miles closer to the fictional Highbury than Richmond, was a very different sort of place. It had three markets, a large important cattle market, a central general market selling vegetables, meat, fish and selling general merchandise. There was also a small apple market. Kingston was important as a coaching inn stop. The Castle Inn was the largest and most prestigious inn overlooking the main market area. The inn itself no longer exists but the building occupying its site contains the original Castle Inn staircase constructed in 1537.

Kingston Market17th century staircase Jane probably walked up

Original Castle Inn staircase. Image @Tony Grant

It is a massive carved dark oak construction. Jane probably walked up its creaky steps and in her imagination, Mr Knightley and Mr Martin too. Kingston was the sort of place that Mr Martin and indeed Mr Knightly would visit regularly. The main central market still exists and there are buildings around it which originate from Georgian and much earlier times. The Druids Head pub is the only original 18th century coaching inn still in the market place. The shape and layout of the central market today would be recognized by both Jane Austen, who stopped in Kingston on her way to London often, and also her characters, Mr Martin and Mr Knightley. Austen writes an amusing scene in Emma, when Jane Fairfax is given the opportunity to play the pianoforte that was just delivered and Frank Churchill, Jane Fairfax, and Emma were crammed into Miss Bates’s living room. This crammed indecorous scene creates a comical picture, when Mr Knightley rides past and Miss Bates rushes outside to also invite him in too. He is about to comply with the request, but when he learns about all the others already inside he says in a loud voice, so that everybody can hear

“…….No, not now, I thank you. I could not stay two minutes. I must get on to Kingston as fast as I can.”

It might be the thought of adding to the already crowded interior that put him off, or it might have been the desire to avoid certain people at that time.

Kingston was a frequent place Jane Austen travelled through or stopped at on her way to London from Chawton to stay with her brother Henry. She experienced its atmosphere, its sights and its sounds. In a letter to Cassandra from Henrietta Street, dated Wednesday 15-Thursday 16 September 1813, Jane Austen writes.

“ had a very good journey-Weather and roads excellent- the three first stages for 1s-6d and our only misadventure the being delayed about a quarter of an hour at Kingston for Horses, and being obliged to put up with a p belonging to a Hackney Coach and their coachman which left no room on the barouche box for Lizzy who was to have gone her last stage as she did the first:- consequently we were all 4 within, which was a little crowd;- We arrived at quarter past 4-…”

Leatherhead,is supposed, by some people, to be the template for Highbury and Hartbury. It certainly has some of the features mentioned in Emma but I think also other towns and villages in Surrey have similarities with Highbury and Hartbury too. Its proximity to Box Hill and also the Kingston Road from Dorking does lend it some credence. The part of Surrey in Emma is the Vale of Mickleham, the area between Leatherhead and Dorking, including Box Hill.

Jane Austen describes the view:

“The considerable slope, at nearly the foot of which the Abbey stood, gradually acquired a steeper form beyond its grounds; and at half a mile distant was a bank of considerable abruptness and grandeur, well clothed with wood; and at the bottom of this bank, favourably placed and sheltered, rose the Abbey-Mill Farm, with meadows in front, and the river making a close and handsome curve around it.

It was a sweet view – sweet to the eye and the mind. English verdure, English culture, English comfort, seen under a sun bright, without being oppressive.”

I have a theory, though. Cobham is mentioned in Emma in a rather unusual way. It is mentioned by Emma when praising,

“that excellent Mr Weston.”

Mr Weston had shown Emma his, “particular kindness last September twelvemonth in writing that note , at twelve o’clock at night, on purpose to assure me that there was no scarlett fever at Cobham.”

There are some strange things about this. Why would he write the note so late at night? Was the note sent during the night? Why was it so important for Emma to know?

A few things occur to me. First, Emma is informed by Mr Weston that there is no scarlett fever at Cobham which means it is alright to go there. Is it alright for my flight of fancy to go there too? I am sure scarlet fever was not a good thing to catch in the 18th century. Jane’s first experience of Southampton, for example, when she was eight years of age attending Mrs Cawley’s school with Cassandra and her cousin Jane Cooper. The children caught an illness from troops landing in the town and Southampton had to be quarantined, so it must be a relief to the surrounding communities that Cobham is free of it but there is no other reference to anybody in the novel going to Cobham or wanting to go there. Its only addition to the story is that it shows Mr Martin’s rather obscure way of being marvellous. Why mention Cobham in this random way? Is this an aside, a joke with the reader, suggesting that Jane Austen used Cobham as the real template for Highbury and Hartfield? If you go to Cobham, which, incidentally, is only about two or three miles north west of Leatherhead and so not far from Boxhill, Kingston, and all the other places mentioned, it has many of the features of Highbury and Hatfield, including a grand manor and estate at Painshill, about one mile from the centre. The River Mole also runs nearby. It is a small village and much more compact than Leatherhead and would suit the closer community that Highbury and Hartfield seems to suggest rather than the larger town of Leatherhead. But that is just my surmise. Again, I must mention my previous observation that Highbury and Hartfield are really a sort of generic English town with features that you could find in most towns and villages in the 18th century. Quite often the same features are recognisable in many such places nowadays too.

The river mole at leatherhead

The River Mole at Leatherhead. Image @Tony Grant

Jane Austen’s knowledge and experience of Surrey is extensive. She would have known may places in Surrey well. Jane Austen visited Great Bookham in 1799 and 1814.  Great Bookham is about a mile south west of Leatherhead and not far from Box Hill. She went there to visit her mother’s relatives, the Reverend Samuel Cooke and his family. He was rector of Cotsford  in Oxfordshire and vicar of Great Bookham. He was married to Cassandra Leigh, Mrs George Austen’s cousin. The Reverend Cooke was Jane Austen’s godfather. It has been suggested that while she stayed at Great Bookham she visted Box Hill and thus got the idea for that important location in Emma.

the-town-of-dorking-below

Town of Dorking from Box Hill. Image @Tony Grant

In her letters to Cassandra, Jane relates many trips she takes from Steventon and later Chawton to London to visit Henry. The journeys she makes are invariably along roads and through places in Surrey. Some other places in Surrey that Jane mentions are Painshill, Epsom, Claremont Park, Dorking, Guildford, Farnham, and the Hogs Back Hill. Dorking is very interesting from the point of view of Janes writing. Her unfinished novel, The Watsons, takes place almost entirely in Dorking. As it does not really feature in Emma I will not elaborate on it.

Jane Austen almost creates an intellectual game in Emma. The names of places suggest other meanings. Donwell, for instance. Does it suggest that Mr Knightley, who has a very patriotic name and suggests a chivalrous and ”knightly” character, has “DONE WELL,”? A very corny joke. Even her first readers in the early 19th century would have groaned at that, I am sure. She mixes real and imaginary places in her setting making all places sound convincing. She gives concrete directions to a place that does not exist, namely Highbury and Hartbury. She apparently relates the story of a small close community in a way that seems specific to them but is really universal in its descriptions of types of people and their interactions. Jane Austen sets up all these dichotomies. She really is playing with our minds in many ways and on different levels.

Sources:

 

 

 

regency ladies

Regency ladies with a drawing pad

When studying a woman’s role in the Regency era, one truly appreciates the great strides today’s Western women have made in making personal choices and leading interesting and independent lives. In Jane Austen’s day, women from all walks of life were constrained by their family, society’s mores, and unfair laws that prevented all but a blessed handful from the rights to their children or owning property.

If you watched Regency House Party, a 2004 reality TV show (Wall to Wall/Channel 4) you would have seen the boredom of the modern young women who reenacted the lives of upper crust Regency women. Overseen by a strict chaperone, their days were indolent, filled with long periods of visiting, reading, walking, sewing, painting lessons, music lessons, dance lessons, meals, naps, and letter writing.

Regency House Party 2004

Modern women reenact Regency ladies in Regency House Party, 2004.

In Regency House Party, the women were forced to follow a prescribed daily schedule, while the men slept late, caroused late, hunted, fished, played sports, drank and ate and lived their lives on a whim. The modern young women found this unfair. Their days were not only long and boring, but if they broke a minor rule, they were punished and kept to the house.

gertrude-saville-spinster

Gertrude Saville, unhappy spinster, At Home with the Georgians, Amanda Vickery

The situation was worse for single ladies. The diaries of spinsters are filled with laments – unable to work or own property, they depended on the largesse of families. Many were deeply depressed. I imagine they found some solace in pursuing the arts, as Anne Elliot did when she played the piano for her family, and Cassandra Austen, when she painted portraits of those she loved. As a wife, a woman had some standing as a head of household and as a mother (if she bore children). Many spinsters rotted deep inside the cores of their beings from lack of direction, affection, and true meaning in their lives.

Even if a woman demonstrated extraordinary talent as an artist, let’s say, the game was fixed. She would not be allowed to attend life drawing classes at a proper Academy of the Arts, but would be forced to draw the likenesses of statues. If she had the good luck of being the daughter of an open minded artist, then she would learn everything he knew about preparing canvasses, mixing paints, drawing from nature, and other tricks of the trade. This was an exception, however.

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 12.46.41 PM

Detail, Regency Selfie of I.J. Willis, 1830’s

Most children of the gentry learned from drawing or painting masters either at home or in school. Some were better than others, but the overall effect of their instruction was tepid. Women tended to paint what they knew – flowers, gardens, interiors, family scenes of the lives they lived, portraits and self-portraits, etc. This detail of a 1830’s Self Portrait of the Artist Painting at her Desk by I.J Willis is typical of the era and in many ways reminiscent of Jane Austen’s writing desk in the dining room at Chawton Cottage – domestic, cozy, and feminine.

Rolinda-Sharples-selfportrait-ca1820

Rolinda Sharples with her mother, Regency selfie, 1817

Miss (or Mrs.) Willis sits facing her mirror in 3/4 pose (typical of the selfies of the day.) She has placed her flowers, paintbox, water, and paper in front of her. It is obvious she is painting from life. The self-portrait is quite accomplished. I rather like it is much as Rolinda Sharple’s selfie with her mother, Self-portrait by Rolinda Sharples, with her mother, Ellen, 1817. Rolinda is well-known, I. J. Willis is not. The quote below, made by three clergy men, explains why so many paintings and drawings that countless women in the Georgian, Regency, and Victorian eras made have disappeared:

…when a young lady, who has neither eyes, nor ear, is completed to drudge at music and drawing, the result of her labors is discomfort to herself, and annoyance to the friends and strangers who are summoned to witness her proficiency; and whom if they possess any relish for the fine arts, are embarrassed between their unwillingness to bestow hypocritical praise, and to utter unwelcome truth.” – Artisan or Artist: A History of the Teaching of Art and Crafts in English Schools, Gordon Sutton, Elsevier, May 12, 2014, p.33.

Mary Bennet’s piano playing can best be described by the above quote, and while one can appreciate that the only portrait painted from life was drawn by her sister Cassandra, by no stretch of the imagination can we term the portrait of Jane Austen at the National Gallery in London “accomplished.” (Heresy!)  The portrait has value only because it was drawn from life and because it is one of a handful that are undeniably of Jane. One wishes it were as good as the portrait of Cassandra’s niece, Fanny Austen-Knight, painting at a table. This watercolor by a woman depicting another woman painting with watercolors is interesting. Fanny needed very little to paint – a table, a glass of water, and a box of watercolors. I can’t quite tell if she is painting from imagination or from a model in front of her. All I know is that, while a few of Cassandra’s watercolors survived, I have yet to see any of Fanny’s – the inevitable fate for most womens’ paintings. Few have survived. Few are in art history books or museums.Few are larger than life. Cassandra’s watercolor portrait of Jane Austen is so tiny that I walked past it several times while actively looking for it.

diana sperling

Diana Sperling’s painting shows the carpet rolled up. One can imagine Anne Elliott playing the pianoforte at this gathering.

Diana Sperling’s wonderful watercolors are cherished for their depiction of Regency family life in the country, but her talent, though undeniable, was homegrown and not influenced by rigorous academic training. In this wonderfully descriptive painting, she depicts the family dancing and the carpets rolled up. It is delightful but amateurish, but we don’t care. These domestic products of a young woman’s observations are priceless. Diana was probably taught by one of the many drawing or painting masters of the day who taught young ladies the accomplishments of painting and drawing. They could be found in towns  like Meryton and in abundance in a town like Bath, where the rising middle class clamored for, well, class.

Some painting masters were more talented than others, and they could make a decent living if they found a permanent gig. From 1814 – 1819, David Cox made a respectable living as drawing master at Miss Croucher’s Academy for Young Ladies. He earned £100 per year for twice weekly lessons, as well as 7 s. 6 d. – 10 s. for private lessons. (Gordon Sutton, p. 35). Obviously, Mr. Cox did not become wealthy as a drawing master, and one wonders how often he had to bite his tongue as he taught a class of talentless young ladies.

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 2.51.16 PM

Romola Garai as Emma at her easel

One can tell a great deal about Jane Austen’s female protagonists through their talents. Emma’s sheltered but cosseted life is reflected in her artistic abilities. She never needed to overly exert herself to win praise, and so she doesn’t bother to complete her drawings or paintings. Elinor Dashwood is made of sterner, deeper stuff. Her paintings are accomplished. One imagines that they might even be better than Cassandra Austen’s paintings, but we’ll never know. I have not had the pleasure of reading Jane Austen’s critique of her sister’s work or Elinor’s, for that matter.

Below, is Jane’s masterful scene in Sense and Sensibility. Elinor and Marianne Dashwood finally meet the formidable Mrs. Ferrars. All the characters are true to form – a despicable Fanny, a haughty Mrs. Ferrars, a hen-pecked John Ferrars, a love-sick Colonel Brandon, a reticent, self-effacing Elinor, a fiery, audacious Marianne, and a kind, clueless Lady Middleton – and play a role in the scene. The topic is Elinor’s painted screens:

Before her removing from Norland, Elinor had painted a very pretty pair of screens for her sister-in-law, which being now just mounted and brought home, ornamented her present drawing-room; and these screens catching the eye of John Dashwood on his following the other gentlemen into the room, were officiously handed by him to Colonel Brandon for his admiration.

“These are done by my eldest sister,” said he; “and you, as a man of taste, will, I dare say, be pleased with them. I do not know whether you ever happened to see any of her performances before, but she is in general reckoned to draw extremely well.”

The Colonel, though disclaiming all pretensions to connoisseur ship, warmly admired the screens, as he would have done anything painted by Miss Dash wood; and the curiosity of the others being of course excited, they were handed round for general inspection. Mrs. Ferrars, not aware of their being Elinor’s work, particularly requested to look at them; and after they had received the gratifying testimony of Lady Middleton’s approbation, Fanny presented them to her mother, considerately informing her at the same time that they were done by Miss Dashwood.

“Hum “—said Mrs. Ferrars—” very pretty,”—and without regarding them at all, returned them to her daughter.

Perhaps Fanny thought for a moment that her mother had been quite rude enough,—for, colouring a little, she immediately said,

“They are very pretty, ma’am—a’n’t they?” But then again, the dread of having been too civil, too encouraging herself, probably came over her, for she presently added,

“Do you not think they are something in Miss Morton’s style of painting, ma’am? She does paint most delightfully. How beautifully her last landscape is done!”

“Beautifully indeed. But she does everything well.”

Marianne could not bear this. She was already greatly displeased with Mrs. Ferrars; and such ill-timed praise of another, at Elinor’s expense, though she had not any notion of what was principally meant by it, provoked her immediately to say with warmth,

“This is admiration of a very particular kind! What is Miss Morton to us? Who knows or who cares for her? It is Elinor of whom we think and speak.”

And so saying, she took the screens out of her sister-inlaw’s hands to admire them herself as they ought to be admired.

Mrs. Ferrars looked exceedingly angry, and drawing herself up more stiffly than ever, pronounced in retort this bitter philippic: “Miss Morton is Lord Morton’s daughter.”

Fanny looked very angry too, and her husband was all in a fright at his sister’s audacity. Elinor was much more hurt by Marianne’s warmth, than she had been by what produced it; but Colonel Brandon’s eyes, as they were fixed on Marianne, declared that he noticed only what was amiable in it; the affectionate heart which could not bear to see a sister slighted in the smallest point.

Excerpt From: Jane Austen. “Sense and Sensibility.” iBooks.

Antique English Papier Mache Face Screen Pair (Fan), Oil Painting in E. Landseer Highlander Hunt Genre, Kilt & Dog, Ruby Lane

Victorian hand-held paper screens, Ruby Lane

This image shows two hand-held, hand-painted Victorian face screens from Ruby Lane. They were used to shelter a lady’s face from the heat of a fire. Back in the Georgian era, such screens prevented thickly applied makeup from melting and running down a person’s face. Elinor’s screens were probably not as accomplished, but good enough for John Ferrars to pay attention to them.

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 2.57.51 PM

Young Woman Drawing by Marie-Denise Villers

The reality was that only a few truly talented and lucky women were able to free themselves from the straight jackets with which society constrained them.  Even so, a few are renowned today. Click here for an article by Leslie An McCleod.

Jane Austen Day will be celebrated in Philadelphia, Saturday, April 16, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., the Union League of Philadelphia, 140 South Broad St. Click here for more information.

emma2016

Theme: Join JASNA Eastern Pennsylvania Region at the exquisite Union League for a day celebrating the bicentenary of the publication of Emma in Philadelphia, the city that first published Emma in the United States. Emma Woodhouse, famously described by Austen as the heroine “whom no one but myself will much like” will get our full consideration on Jane Austen Day. Is Emma witty and charming or meddling and pretentious? Or perhaps Austen’s most complex heroine is all of these things and much more.

The Speakers: Four Austen scholars – Claudia L. Johnson, John Mullan, Michael Gamer and William Galperin.

The Marriage of Jane Austen

marriage of jane-austen-coverBook announcement of The Marriage of Jane Austen by Collins Hemingway and a sweepstakes giveaway of a trip to England.

When Jane Austen said that everybody has the right to marry once in their lives for love, did she include herself? And how would this singular spirit deal with the complexities of marriage at a time in history that could be both exhilarating but also cruel to women?

The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen by Collins Hemingway reimagines the life of England’s archetypal female by exploring what might have happened if she had ever married. It shows how a meaningful, caring relationship would have changed her as a person and a writer.

This novel is the first set in Regency times to delve deeply into the psyche of a woman as she opens her heart to a true attachment with a man as independent, as passionate, and as complicated as she is herself

Marriage of Jane Austen_768x627The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen 2016 Sweepstakes

We’re excited to announce The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen 2016 Sweepstakes as a way to give back to the many Jane Austen fans in the US, Canada and Great Britain. You could win a Grand Prize trip to the UNESCO heritage city of Bath, England and more. Learn more in our press release and then enter the sweepstakes today!
Everybody should marry once for love—
even Jane Austen

About the Author:

Collins Hemingway’s approach to creative investigation in fiction is to dive as deeply into a character’s heart and soul as possible, to address the root causes of their behavior rather than to describe superficial attitudes and beliefs. This treatment, he believes, is at the heart of all good fiction, for it provides the only way to draw a complete, complex portrait of a human being that is so rewarding to readers. Hemingway’s sentiment regarding the importance of literature is only slightly mellower than that of Jane Austen, who observed that the gentleman or lady who fails to find pleasure in a good novel must be “intolerably stupid.”

Hemingway never lost his passion for the art of storytelling or for the rich history of Georgian-Regency England and the Napoleonic wars. In The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen, he revisits these early passions and brings them back to life.

 

 

Inquiring readers, It’s time to lay Downton Abbey reviews aside and return to Jane Austen, since that is where my passion lies. Tony Grant, London Calling, has been a contributor to this blog for many years. He has written a piece that is quite original – how would Darcy’s first proposal to Lizzie sound if the two characters spoke in the Hampshire accent that Jane Austen, who lived in Chawton, would have known well?

I think you will find this post as interesting as I did. Enjoy!

One of the things that you see time and time again, is that when she reaches a point where the characters are in conversation, her hand runs smoothly – often without a pause, often without a mistake, often without a slip or correction. In other passages where she’s setting up a scene or introducing a new character and having to describe him with some detail – before he actually becomes animated by conversation – those are the passages she struggles with. But she does come through in the manuscripts as essentially and most confidently a conversational novelist.” – Katheryn Sutherland, speaking about Austen’s original manuscripts at the British Library.

In the following interview with NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly, Sutherland discusses the manuscripts, now compiled in a digital archive.

Prof. SUTHERLAND: There are very few authors that we put in this extraordinary position where we feel that we should never say anything critical about them. She can stand up to it. She’s interesting. She’s experimental. She’s an extraordinary writer. The idea that we can never question what she wrote I think is absolute nonsense.

KELLY: Professor Sutherland, so how different do these handwritten pages look from the finished books that we know?

Prof. SUTHERLAND: Well, they look very different, obviously, in that they are filled with blots, crossings out into linear insertions. When you look deeper you perhaps find something you wouldn’t expect, which is a different punctuation style.

KELLY: A different punctuation style. How – what do you mean?

Prof. SUTHERLAND: Well, it seems to mean that what she is doing is punctuating for speech. The English that she is known for is this polished, printed Johnsonian prose. And it’s not there in the manuscript.

kathryn sutherland

Katherine Sutherland

The controversy that Katheryn Sutherland stirred up when she published her ideas about Jane Austen’s writing style, is very telling. It highlighted, in the many shocked responses, the unthinking, emotionally charged fan worship that surrounds Austen. Sutherlands measured, researched views should have been a reality check, a cold shower cooling the heated, emotional, overwrought world of modern day Janites stoked to a white heat by the many branches of various Jane Austen Societies around the world. The now numerous films and TV adaptations and especially the wet shirt scene and also, in addition, the spin off genre epitomized recently in the film,” Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” keep this unhealthy adoration at fever pitch.

Thinking about Sutherlands comments relating to Jane Austen’s use of the comma, her lack of paragraphing and her speech being her strong point, I thought it would be interesting to take it a stage further and write a piece from one of her novels using Hampshire phrases and colloquialisms and also being creative with punctuation and paragraphing as Sutherland says Austen’s original manuscripts demonstrate. Also her original manuscripts had, and you can see this in any publication of Sandition or The Watsons, a prolific use of abbreviations and ampersands.

I am Hampshire born and bred and up until the age of 23 lived in Southampton. I have often visited places like Winchester, Salisbury and villages such as Bishops Waltham and Botley and throughout my life, heard the Hampshire dialect spoken. My families neighbours in Southampton all spoke with pronounced Hampshire accents and used phrases and words that were peculiar to Hampshire.

It is a warm, gentle sort of accent with a soft burr to it. The letter S is often pronounced as Z. The letter H is often missed off when pronouncing a word and the G at the end of the suffix ing is missed. Words like, you, become, yer and, he, becomes ee, was is wuz, man, is , bloke, I ,is ,oy, and if you want to insult somebody you call them, mush. Vowels are flattened. The Hampshire way of speaking can easily be understood by outsiders, however. It is clearly spoken and the differences from accepted pronunciation are not great. You could not mistake somebody speaking with a Hampshire accent and using Hampshire colloquialisms, as coming from anywhere else but Hampshire.

In the following rewriting of the first proposal of his love to Elizabeth, I have tried to interpret what Darcy and Elizabeth say using Hampshire colloquialisms. I must admit I have not just kept to a Hampshire way of speaking. I have not enough expertise to do that. What follows is probably a mixture of various English dialetcs and mannerisms. But it was fun to do. I hope you can enjoy it. If you are challenged as far as an English accent, particularly a colloquial accent goes, make your sounds flat. Widen your mouth as you speak. You are not trying to create a ,”plummy,” upper class accent but the flat vowels of a regional accent.  Good luck.

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 6.35.15 PM

Here is Elizabeth Bennet, in Pride and Prejudice, being surprised by an unexpected visitor and a very unexpected proposal:

….she was suddenly roused by the sound of the doorbell, and her spirits were a little fluttered by the idea of it being Colonel Fitzwilliam himself, who had once before called late in the evening, and might now come to enquire particularly after her.

“ Oo cud that be now?”

But this idea was soon banished, and her spirits were differently affected, when, to her utter amazement, she saw Mr Darcy walk into the room. In an unhurried manner he immediately began an enquiry after her health,

“Owz you be me dear?”

imputing his visit to a wish of hearing that she were better. She answered him with cold civility.

“Oyz orright. Thank ee fer azzkin.”

He sat down for a few moments, and then getting up walked about the room. Elizabeth was surprised, but said not a word. After a silence of several minutes he came towards her in an agitated manner, and thus began,

“Ize a bin struggling wi meslf Lizzie. It won’t do nay more. Me feelins will not be squarshed unner no dead rabbit nay mar. Yee mussle allowz me t’ tell yee ‘ow, wi some power’ul emotion me admires and loves ee.”

Elizabeth’s astonishment was beyond expression.

“Ahhh eeee !!!”

She stared, coloured, doubted and was silent. This he considered sufficient encouragement, and the avowal of all that he felt and had long felt for her, immediately followed.

He spoke well, but there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed, and he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride.

“Me pride makes eet hard Liz to tell ee these ere things but I knows how low down ee must feel agin me and me family. It’ll tak summit for ‘em all to coom roun’ to this ere idea Liz. It is nay degradation Lizzie to yee and yer mum and yer dad and yer sisterz.”

In spite of her deeply-rooted dislike, she could not be insensible to the compliment of such a man’s affection, and though her intentions did not vary for an instant, she was at first sorry for the pain he was to receive; till, roused to resentment by his subsequent language, she lost all compassion in anger. She tried, however, to compose herself to answer him with patience.

“Ize dun know what ter say? But yooz jus insulterd me family and all a uz!”

He concluded with representing to her the strength of that attachment which, in spite of all his endeavours, he had found impossible to conquer; and with expressing his hope that it would now be rewarded by her acceptance of his hand.

“Ize a cannot help meself Lizzie. Ize a feelin anxious like. Ize a feeling appre’ennersive like. Marry me ! I got these ere feelins see girl.”

As he said this, she could easily see that he had no doubt of a favourable answer. He spoke of apprehension and anxiety, but his countenance expressed real security. Such a circumstance could only exasperate farther, and when he ceased, the colour rose into her cheeks, and she said,

“In sich as this, it is ‘stablished thing t’express a sense a obligati’n fer the sen’imen’s avowed, ‘owever unequalz they be. It’s nat’ral that obligati’n should be felt, and if ay could feel grat’tude, I’d now thank ee. But ay can’t – I’ve ne’r wannered yer good thoughts like, and yee’ve cert’nly bin unwillin’ aven’t ee . I’ze sorry if ay cause ee some ‘art ache. I aint ment it like, ‘ Ize ope ee gets overit quick like. The feelin’s which, yee tell I, ‘ave long stopped ee, yee can ‘ave no difficulty overcoming em after what yee have sed like.”

Mr Darcy, who was leaning against the mantle-piece with his eyes fixed on her face, seemed to catch her words with no less resentment than surprise. His complexion became pale with anger, and the disturbance of his mind was visible in every feature. He was struggling for the appearance of composure, and would not open his lips, till he believed himself to have attained it. The pause was to Elizabeth’s feelings dreadful…

References:

 

I found more information about British dialects online (Vic):

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 6.00.38 PM

The English Language in Hampshire: The English Project. http://www.englishproject.org/resources/english-language-hampshire

Jane Austen’s English: http://dialectblog.com/2013/03/23/jane-austens-english/. Unfortunately, there was no audio portion to the descriptions of the broad “a” in this article.

British Library: Survey of British Accents. This short audio sample was recorded in 1958. The speaker was born in 1898 and lived in Hatherden, Hampshire – http://sounds.bl.uk/Accents-and-dialects/Survey-of-English-dialects/021M-C0908X0031XX-0400V1

A Linguist Explains What Old-School British Accents Sounded Like: The Toast http://the-toast.net/2014/03/19/a-linguist-explains-british-accents-of-yore/. This article includes a 10-minute video on how Shakespearean English sounded as compared to the British dialect today. Fascinating.

A Linguist Explains What Old-School British Accents Sounded Like: All Things Linguistic
http://allthingslinguistic.com/post/80067476348/a-linguist-explains-what-old-school-british. A bit more on the topic by the same author.

DA Season 6 has come to an end. Tonight we watched the opening sequence live for the last time. Isis’s tail, the approach to the Abbey, the tingling of the bells will soon fade into memory, unless we watch the repeats. Viewers hope that sequels are in the works. What will happen to Tom? What of the Crawley’s next generation of children? What of the new romances that developed just this past year? And what will happen to Downton Abbey after World War II? I am getting too far ahead!

Downton-Abbey-season-6-x9

As Episode 9 opens, the viewers are treated to a bucolic scene of the Crawley family walking along the grounds of the Abbey as children play and Robert’s pup gambols. Edith, looking mature, mentions moving to London and taking Marigold with her. She’s single and will live alone, like the spinster she is. Since the magazine is going well (Mr. Spratt as an agony aunt is a surprise hit with viewers and Edith offers him a full page spread), her life has purpose. The viewers are cheering her on. Yes, Edith might have been an awful sister to Mary six long years ago, but Edith has grown up and learned from her heartaches. She still spars with Mary, but she’s abandoned her mean-spirited pranks. There’s simply too much on her plate these days and she’s moved on.

The Idle Husband

Meanwhile, Henry broods. He can no longer race, partly because of Mary’s concerns about possible accidents and partly because of Charlie’s death, which has taken all the fun out of driving, but he must find some way to make a good living. An idle life is just not his cup of tea. We can feel his restlessness and begin to wonder how long he can be happy living as Mary’s “kept” man.

The Ambush

Edith moves to London and meets her aunt Rosamund for dinner. At the restaurant Rosamund lead her straight to Bertie’s table and abandons her. It’s obvious he awaits her with some trepidation.

“Is this a set up?” Edith asks, looking both anxious and hopeful.

Mary tipped me off, he explains, which surprises Edith. Both are still hopelessly in love. Regardless of her feelings, nothing’s changed and Bertie broke Edith’s heart, which she won’t soon forget.

“I want you back,” he says simply. “I’ve changed.”

“What’s different?” she says without much hope. ” I still have Marigold.”

“I can’t live without you.”

Edith is still skeptical. “What are you asking?

” I want you to marry me.”

” If I agreed, would we tell your mother the truth. There are people who know the truth, are you ready for gossip?”

“The only thing I’m not ready for is a life without you.”

And just like that Edith and Bertie are an item again. She calls her father, who is ecstatic but still cautious. “Mrs. Pelham doesn’t know about Marigold.”

Cora dismisses his worry. “Edith is going to be happy, just think about that.”

The Crawleys Meet a Dragon Lady

Plans for the wedding proceed at motor car speed. The Crawleys arrive at Brancaster Castle, a sprawling building in Northumberland designed for pomp and circumstance. Along with the castle comes Mrs. Pehlam, an upright battleax who expects her son, Bertie, to LEAD BY EXAMPLE. Cousin Peter’s morality in Tangiers, of all places, was not reassuring, which means that Bertie’s conduct shall, nay, MUST be beyond reproach. It is imperative that his wife be as pure as the driven snow and as innocent …”

“Golly,” says the earl, beginning to understand that Edith’s mama-in-law-to-be might not take too kindly to a bastard step-granddaughter or the thought that Bertie’s fiancee has STRAYED outside her “pale.” Worse, the mama-in-law-to-be intends to live in a mama-in-law flat inside the castle, but, mind you, she reassures Edith, you won’t hear a peep out of me.

Edith starts to worry about Marigold and the SECRET and the fact that almost everyone at Downton knows it.

“Take a chance with a good man,” says the earl when she shares her concerns.
But Edith can’t leave well enough alone, having learned to squeeze juicy drama out of a turnip. Plus she loves and respects Bertie too much to continue the lie. And so, wishing to start her new life with a clean slate, she tells Mrs. Pelham that Marigold is her daughter, who she bore without the blessing of a husband.
The thought of a despoiled PERSON marrying her son nearly gives Mrs. Pelham an apoplectic fit. She marches over to Bertie and demands that he’ll put an end to his engagement. “She’s damaged goods. You need a wife with moral character!!!!!!!!”

Bertie’s love for Edith is too great. “I would have kept you in the dark, but Edith had the decency to tell you.” He lets his mother know in no uncertain terms that he intends to marry Edith, whether she supports his decision or not. Way to get out from under your mama’s apron strings, Bertie! Well done.

Mrs. Pelhams clamps her mouth and at dinner refuses to acknowledge Edith or the engagement. Just before Bertie takes the bull by the horns to make the announcement himself (a social faux pas), the earl reminds Mrs. Pelham that she will lose her son forever if she remains quiet. So the battleax stands up to toast her son and Edith, a tad churlishly, mind you, but the move has the whiff of morality behind it.

bertie and dragon mother
Poor Edith. God spare us all such a mama-in-law. Here she is about to wed the man of her dreams, but who has a dragon lady for a mother. The following day, however, after some reflection, Mrs. Pelham admits to one and all that by being honest, Edith was prepared to deny herself a great position. That in itself was admirable. Then everything’s settled, says Bertie, which, because this is the last episode of Downton Abbey ever, is true. From that day forward Mrs. Pelham is a changed person, and like the Grinch, her heart grew two sizes that day. One even sees her gamboling with Marigold in some future scenes.

Two Men, A Car, and No Job

Back at the Abbey, Henry Talbot is still brooding about having nothing to do. He must find a job. He’s fit. He’s handsome. He has a wonderful wife, but now it’s time for him to decide how he will spend the rest of his life. Certainly not idly. He wants to be worthy of his wife and not put her in a position of having to explain him, yet that position must be nearby.

Knowing Henry loves cars as much as he does, Tom approaches him about starting a local business. The two men talk about transportation and their mutual passion. Both are interested in taking care of their own futures without the help of the Crawleys, but what will that future look like?

Whole Lot of Shaking Going On

Meanwhile it’s become evident to Charlie and Elsie that his clumsiness and tremors are getting worse. His father and grandfather had the same condition, or the palsy, as it was known back then. Their shaky hands finished their careers. “I’m done for,” he tells Elsie, who is fully supportive and empathetic.

Charlie asks the footmen take on his duties under pretense of falling sick, but he knows it won’t be long before the earl and Mary notice. When they do, they are as concerned as Elsie and promise Carson can keep his job for as long as he is able to perform his duties. “If there are changes to be made, we must not be afraid to face them,” Mary tells him more coolly than she feels. (When it comes to Carson and her son, George, she is a fully realized human being.)

As the wedding approaches, Carson’s obviously not being himself. After he has Andrew pour the claret, the earl and Lady Mary checks up on him. Carson feels he has no option but to tender his resignation when the wedding is over.

The earl won’t hear of it. “You’ll stay on the estate, help manage the grand events!”

” I doubt that the new butler would accept the job on such terms. I know I wouldn’t.”

And that seems to be that.

Moving On Down

Thomas’s time at the Abbey is coming to an end, for he has found a job nearby. He thanks Anna, Baxter, and Andy for rescuing him and giving him some breathing space during his recovery. When he announces that he must start a day sooner than anticipated, Bates tells Thomas he wants to part as friends, instead of as enemies. Thomas’s goodbye speech to the earl is weep worthy. “I begin my new position with a new spirit. I arrived her as a boy, I leave as a man.”

“We will always be grateful to you for saving Lady Edith from the fire,” says Cora.

As usual, Carson has a gruff word, “No reason why you shouldn’t get on.”

In short order, Thomas arrives at his new employment. The contrast between the Abbey and this new home is stark – one is full of bustle, the other is as silent as a tomb with two elderly, seemingly lifeless owners. The only servants are himself, Mrs. Jenkins, and Elsie. Seeing his new situation, and knowing how much he thrives on drama, the viewers weep for our favorite under butler.

Moving on Up

Moseley’s star continues to rise and his relationship with Baxter flourishes (though they have yet to run to a darkened hallway to share a kiss – he’s too much of a gentleman, she’s too much a lady.) The schoolmaster , Mr. Dawes, would like to employ him full time. In short order he has found a cottage and announces his decision to move within the week to Charlie and Elsie. He’s not ready to cut the cord entirely, though, and offers to keep helping at Downton on the occasional time. A sullen Carson announces, “Your livery stays here.” Her hubby’s churlishness prompts Elsie to jump in and say, “That’s kind Mr. Moseley, Mr. Carson will be extremely grateful.” One suspects that the shakes are not the main reason for Carson’s foul moods these days. Change is afoot, and Charlie Carson hates change.

Dickie and Izzie

dickie and isobel

The entire Dickie Gray saga has taken on a comic quality, with a tussle developing between Larry and Amelia Gray and Isobel Crawley over Dickie’s dying carcas. The unfortunate man has been diagnosed with pernicious anemia, a deadly disease. Before this diagnosis, the Grays couldn’t get rid of Dickie fast enough, encouraging Isobel to become nursemaid to an ailing man. Now that his demise promises to be speedy, this unsavory couple does everything within their power to keep Dickie isolated from Isobel. The brouhaha began with a letter, breaking an invitation to tea that Larry Gray had originally sent to Isobel. Matthew’s momma shares this missive with an astonished Violet. ‘Dear Mrs Crawley, Events have overtaken us and we are not now free to keep our engagement. Yours, Amelia Gray.’

“How peculiar,” says Violet, who is not against a bit of snooping to find out what’s going on.

Violet knows Isobel is in love with him, which Isobel acknowledges.

“I can’t think I turned him down. I must be mad.”

Isobel takes charge and accompanies Dickie to meet with Dr. Clarkson for a second opinion. As they leave the office, they encounter the badger Amelia standing in front of her car. She orders her chauffeur to help his lordship into the car, and rounds on Isobel, all claws out. “Leave us alone, Mrs. Crawley. Now that he will die soon, the family want to take care of Dickie.”

Knowing what she’s up against, she decides to visit Dickie to learn his opinion, but Amelia keeps Isobel waiting outside, then practically slams the door in Isobel’s face.

“Did Mrs. Gray actually throw you out?” asks Violet after Isobel relates her experience.

“He is their captive. It is all about the claims to the estate.”

” If reason fails, try force,” recommends Violet, who accompanies Isobel to confront the Grays.

As Amelia demands that they leave, Dickie spies them from the second floor. He learns that his darling Isobel has been denied entrance. His opinion of his son and daughter-in-law is withering. While he loves his son, he fails to like him.

“Take this home. May you have joy of it.”

Isobel tells him that she’ll marry him, to which her Dickie replies, “How perfectly marvelous.”

“And who can argue with that,” says Violet, pleased as punch that she finally got these two lovebirds together.

But the story of Dickie and Izzie does not stop here. At Edith’s wedding they learn from Dr. Clarkson that he has been misdiagnosed. Dickie has plain old ordinary iron deficient anemia, not the pernicious variety (as if viewers know the difference). Ah, how perfectly wonderful. Now the two old lovebirds can get on with their lives and eat iron-rich diets.

An Unlikely Pair

Some married couples spat all the time. Some unmarried couples seem like married couples because of their constangt bickering. Take Sprat and Denker, who delight in upping each other and making each others’ lives miserable. Denker is the worst culprit, but somehow the viewer sense that her challenges enliven Sprat’s days.
He is always writing and burning the candle at both ends at night, which Denker resents. By spying on him she learns his secret . He’s a butler by day and a writer by night, spilling the beans on everyone he knows.

Denker approaches Lady Violet with her knowledge, knowing that THIS TIME she will get him fired.

“Which publication employs him?” asks Violet.

“Lady Edith’s magazine, ma’am.” In a flash, Denker hands her mistress the offending article.

“All opened to the right page, I see,” says Violet.

“I suppose truth will out.” Denker is feeling triumphant and itching to see the back side of Sprat.

But Lady Violet loves Sprat’s column. She giggles and titters and laughs, and practically whoops and hollers. “Why would I dismiss him?” When Violet next sees Sprat, she tells him that she will come to him in the future for advice about her clothes and more.

Her reaction is enough to make Denker scream. (But will she ever give up trying to make trouble for him? Not likely.)

A Sisterly Love Chat

The wedding plans are proceeding rapidly. The young pair will be married at Christmas, maybe New Year’s Eve. When Edith encounters Mary for the first time since her engagement, she says, “I know you made it all happen. Why did you do it?”

” It was something Granny said.”

“You gave me my life back.”

” We’re blood, were stuck with it, so let’s try to do a little better in the future,” Mary says coolly.

This is about as warm and fuzzy as it gets between the two sisters, readers. We’ll just have to come to terms that it will never get better.

Oh, Grow Up, Already, Daisy

Daisy, if we think about it, hasn’t really changed for 6 years, except that she’s learned to cook and study, all admirable study skills that most of us acquire in our teens. This season she’s been a big pain, and so poor Daisy has been given only 90 minutes in which to change into a more mature person. Physically, she even acknowledges that she looks the same as she did 10 years ago. She keeps rebuffing Andy, feeling that she could do a lot better. “You despise anyone who thinks well of you,” says Mrs. Patmore, reminding her of her first mistaken crush, Thomas, who didn’t pan out too well. “You could do worse.”

Andy’s no fool. He asks Mrs. Patmore if he even stands a chance with Daisy. He’s tried to compliment her, but he’s at the point of giving up and leaving her alone.
When Daisy visits Mr. Mason at Yew Tree Farm, Andy is on the roof, helping the farmer with the harder tasks. “He’s a cracking lad,” says Mr. Mason. “Got him to count on.” As Daisy leaves, she looks up at Andy and his bulging biceps on the roof, with a considering look on her face. Slowly but surely, she starts to come around thinking more highly of the young footman, but he’s been burnt once too often. For now.

Daisy, aware that she’s stuck in Edwardian era land, wants to look smart for the wedding. Having seen Anna with Lady Mary’s spanking new hair dryer, she sneaks upstairs to look for it… cuts her hair…badly.

Later, in the kitchen, Mrs. Patmore grows suspicious.

“Why is your cap all pulled over your ears?” Daisy reveals her awful cut and says she is not going to the wedding.

Andy laughs. “What have you done?”

“You can laugh,” says Mr. Patmore, “but she’s made a fool of herself to please you.”
Andy looks contrite but feels all Sally Field happy inside – ‘she likes me, she really likes me!’

Anna takes pity on Daisy and cuts and styles her hair. “You look like Clara Bow,” she says. And, indeed, Daisy looks modern and fresh and mature.

Andy tells her, “Daisy, I think we have been out of step with each other. Let’s not be out of step any more.” He picks up a lock of her hair. (Cue violin music in the background, please.)

This story arc was a bit quick, but satisfying none the less. As we near the end of the last episode, almost all story threads are accounted for!

The Abbey Resplendent at Christmas

It is December 29, 1925. As the wedding approaches, Lady Rose and Mr. Atticus Aldrige arrive without their 3-month old baby daughter. And then Rose’s father, Shrimpie, arrives, sans his ex-wife, who is the actual genetic family connection. But no one likes her and no one misses her.

Moseley, true to his word, helps out the staff by working at the Abbey for the holidays. Anna is very pregnant, with her baby due in 10 days. She’s not ready for bed rest just yet and keeps plugging away at her duties. Carson mutters that in his day, ladies maids did not get pregnant, to which his bride replies that in his day maids were not allowed to get married. Get with the program, Carson! The times they are a’ changing.

During all these festivities, the writers turn to Thomas, whose job is so boring, that for entertainment he watches paint dry and spiders spin webs. He likes nothing, absolutely nothing about his position, but he has no choice. He needs to work. Thomas reminds his new employers that he will be taking a day off to attend Lady Edith’s wedding, one bright spot in his dreary existence and something to look forward to.

In fact, the writers are speeding things up, trying to tie up all loose ends.
Dickie has given his house to Larry and Amelia Gray. He is happy having done so and good riddance to the pair of them.

Henry and Tom have reinvented themselves. Eager as pups, they show Mary a surprise in town, although it takes her a moment to see a sign across the street, “Talbot and Branson Motors” , a real life business and going concern that will sell Daimlers. Henry will be at the business full time to set up a dealership for new cars. But first they have to sell the first car, which is his car, to get some capital.

mary and henry christmas

“Have I miscalculated; are you ashamed?” he asks his silent wife.

” Are you mad? I’m as proud as anyone living.” She whispers something in Henry’s ear, and he is overcome with joy.

The viewers aren’t fooled. Good old Mary is preggers. How sweet.

The couple decide not to tell the assembled guests, not wanting to take the spotlight off Edith.

All through this episode Robert has been grousing whenever Lady Cora is called away to perform her duty for the hospital. Rose, who has been at the Abbey for all of two seconds, convinces Robert to come with her to observe Cora at work. He finally sees Cora addressing the community’s concerns. Her talent for public speaking and knowledge about the hospital remind him of how ably she ran the house as a convalescent ward during the war. Finally he acquiesces and tells her how proud he is of her.

The wedding day has arrived.

Anna feels hot in the pews. Tom talks to Miss Edmonds, Edith’s editor, and the woman who attracted him at the motor car races. Daisy sits with Mr. Mason, still trying to decide whether to move in with him or not. Dickie and Shrimpie are in attendance to watch Bertie get married.

The-final-ever-episode-saw-her-marry-Bertie-Pelham-422594

Edith walks down the Abbey’s impressive stair towards her papa. Her gown is very pretty. She is glowing and beautiful.

“Papa, did you ever think we’d get to this day?”

Papa just can’t get over his daughter’s brilliant match. In fact, the scenes between Robert and Edith this episode have been lovely and wonderful to watch.
“I adore him,” she says simply as they walk towards the awaiting car.

This time there is no wedding interruptus for Edith. She is finally getting her happy ending.

After the service, Anna feels an upset stomach. Daisy’s finally decided to move to the farm. A happy Mr. Mason sees Beryl Patmore and tells her he wants to see more of her at the farm. She blushes. And Daisy looks on smiling. (Finally.)

Two final dramas unfold.

At the reception, Carson is unable to pour the champagne. Thomas happens to be on hand, and pours the champagne instead. The earl seizes an opportunity and offers Barrow a position as butler. Would Thomas mind if Carson stayed on as an elder statesman? Heck no. Thomas learned all he knows about butlering from Carson! Robert offers Thomas the job, which he accepts. “I don’t want to force your hand, Mr. Barrow, ” says Carson. “And I don’t want to twist your arm, Mr. Carson,” answers Thomas. Situation resolved. Everyone is happy.

When Anna returns the hair dryer to Lady Mary’s room, her water breaks. “No need to panic!” says Mary, who tends to her. Henry calls for Bates. Dr. Clarkson, wedding guest, arrives quickly, and before you know it, the Bates’s have a little Batesy boy.

The situation prompts one more outburst from Carson, “But she can’t have it now! In Lady Mary’s bedroom. Surely not!”

After the reception, as Edith and Bertie leave the Abbey, he tells her, “What a wonderful life were going to have.”

“I’ll try not to disappoint you,” she says to her new mama-in-law.

“Just love him,” is Mrs. Pelham’s answer. Talk about a complete turn of mind!

Edith throws the bouquet, which is caught by Miss Laura Edmonds, who has caught Tom’s eye. (Might there be a sequel in the future?)

The earl and Carson shake hands, grateful for their association. The guests ring in 1926 to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, and the camera pans away from Downton Abbey, bathed in snow.

DA653792EP92

Goodbye Crawleys. Goodbye Abbey and six wonderful years of story lines. Goodbye downstairs staff. This episode, while saccharine, is so satisfying I give it 5 stars.

%d bloggers like this: