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The plot goes on, the plot goes on
Twists keep pounding confusion to my brain
La de da de de, la de da de da

Inquiring Readers,

I apologize for reworking Sonny and Cher lyrics and adding them to my recap of Sanditon: Episode Six, but when the Davies’ writing team had 19th century Charlotte saying “Anyway, she’s safe” in discussing Georgiana to a stranger named Susan at a London ball, I was instantly transported out of the Regency era to our own time. Like, you know. Wha’s up with dat?

Our classy Miss Jane did not have any characters say “anyway” in her novel fragment of Sanditon This phrase, uttered late in the episode by Rose Williams, an accomplished and very likable actress, stood out like a gluten-free, plant-based dish at a smoked meat barbecue. Am I nitpicking? Well, yeah. You betcha.

The production values of the ball were gaspingly beautiful, and I loved the dances, although the music was somewhat off putting. While I liked the folksy music at the assembly ball in Sussex, a rural area, I would think that a prestigious London ball would feature more sophisticated airs and the latest musical trends from the continent.

With all the plot twists and confusing goings on in this episode, I imbibed two glasses of pinot noir. Just now I’m having a hard time deciding which plot elements to cover and which to gloss over. I’m sure you’ll mention some I missed in the comments.

Bear with me as I condense 8 pages of notes into a short-ish review. At the start of the episode we see virginal 22-year old Miss Charlotte Heywood galivanting alone to London by stagecoach with only a vague idea of where to find her friend, Georgiana Lambe, who planned to run off with Mr. Otis Molyneux and free herself from the shackles of her guardian, Sidney Parker.

Never mind that no single 19th century lady like Charlotte (or Miss Lambe) would venture forth without a chaperone (recall that dastardly General Tilney cast Catherine Morland out alone from Northanger Abbey on a long journey home and how this appalled Henry and his sister). Disregarding conventions or the services of a maid, our stubborn and loyal heroine is determined to find her friend without an address in a city of a million people. Somehow, in a dark, dank alley, without a GPS, she *happens* to meet Mr. Sidney Parker. Plot-wise, this is not Deus Ex Machina. It is Deus Ex Coincidenta.

Sidney, after an awkward exchange with Charlotte in which he mentions that he despises slavery, suggest that they might find Mr. Molyneux at a meeting of the Sons of Africa, a movement to which he belongs. There they find him speaking at a pulpit. Deus Ex Coincidenta.

Here’s where the plot twists and bends It turns out that Mr. Otis Molyneux never received the letter from Georgiana stating where she would meet him. Someone else met her and abducted her. Speaking to Otis, they discover he owes gambling debts to a Mr. Beecroft.

Sidney and Charlotte rush over to Beecroft’s gambling den and learn that in order to satisfy Otis’s debt, Mr. Beecroft kidnapped Miss Lambe and sold her to a Mr. Howard, a repulsive and dangerous man. This individual, upon learning that Sidney is hot on his heels, absconds with Georgiana to Scotland in order to force her into marriage and gain full access to her fortune.

Sidney, along with Charlotte, chase after Howard in a scene reminiscent of a classic Hollywood movie with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. Sidney’s horses heroically overtake Howard’s carriage, which allows our hero to jump onto the villain’s vehicle. The camera follows Sidney, not the horses, who have probably collapsed on the side of the road from exhaustion after their herculean efforts. It’s hard enough for two horses to pull a heavy vehicle for twelve miles at regular speed, but to ask them to run at a full clip with 2-3 people on board for however long, well, that’s zany. Why did Sidney not go on horseback alone and return with Miss Lambe after rescuing her? Oh, yes, I forgot. Stubborn Charlotte insisted on coming along.

At this point, Davies’ Sanditon, which many episodes ago had left the sophisticated structure of Austen’s unconventional forward-thinking novel fragment, goes backwards in time to gain inspiration from Austen’s fun but melodramatic Juvenilia stories, which were filled with outrageous characters, situations, and histories.

I reached for my second glass of wine while watching the drama unfold among the Denhams and Clara Brereton. As Lady Denham lies dying (she is as mean-spirited as ever), Edward searches for her will in every nook and cranny, room or desk he can think of. Papers are scattered everywhere (one would have thought a servant might have alerted their lady to this dastardly search, but Lady D probably alienated them too.)

In Jane’s novel fragment, Edward is a self-centered buffoon, one who quotes poetry and literature inspired by nature with doltish misunderstanding. In quoting his favorite poets and authors, he blathers reams of nonsense.

Sir E also fancies himself a ladies’ man and a seducer. His personality under Austen’s hand is that of an ineffectual dilettante, one without a fortune. To save himself from poverty, his hopes depend solely on an inheritance from Lady D or a marriage to an heiress. In Davies’ Sanditon, Edward is intentionally malicious. He is a villain, plain and simple – handsome and dangerous – but a plotting SOB.

My attitude towards Esther in Davies’ Sanditon has softened somewhat, since her treatment of Babbington in Episode 5 was not altogether atrocious, but she’s captive to her longing for Edward, which makes her a weak character. Still, I cannot forget her coarse conversations with Clara Brereton, more reminiscent of women in a brothel than maidens reared in privileged environments.

It’s not as if Esther has no prospects. Lady D is more than willing to team her up with Lord Babbington, Sidney’s friend, who possesses the trifecta of a title, estate, and fortune. Hormones have overpowered Esther’s common sense, however, and she prefers to moon over her stepbrother and wait for good fortune to save and unite them.

Jane Austen’s take on the situation differs from Davies’s. In Austen’s Sanditon, Lady D tells Charlotte about Esther:

Miss Esther wants me to invite her and her brother to spend a week with me at Sanditon House, as I did last summer. But I shan’t. She has been trying to get round me every way with her praise of this and her praise of that; but I saw what she was about. I saw through it all. I am not very easily taken in, my dear.”

&

“And Miss Esther must marry somebody of fortune too. She must get a rich husband. Ah, young ladies that have no money are very much to be pitied! But,” after a short pause, “if Miss Esther thinks to talk me into inviting them to come and stay at Sanditon House, she will find herself mistaken. Matters are altered with me since last summer, you know. I have Miss Clara with me now which makes a great difference.”

Then there’s Clara Brereton, Lady D’s companion, whose enviable skill is in her ability to keep Lady D happy. This is how Austen describes her:

…in selecting the one, Lady Denham had shown the good part of her character. For, passing by the actual daughters of the house, she had chosen Clara, a niece—more helpless and more pitiable of course than any—a dependent on poverty—an additional burden on an encumbered circle—and one who had been so low in every worldly view as, with all her natural endowments and powers, to have been preparing for a situation little better than a nursery maid.

Clara had returned with her—and by her good sense and merit had now, to all appearance, secured a very strong hold in Lady Denham’s regard. The six months had long been over—and not a syllable was breathed of any change or exchange. She was a general favourite.”

One critic compared Clara’s situation to Jane Fairfax’s. Both young women, dependent on the kindness of relatives and strangers, had to walk a tightrope in their respective situations. No hint of scandal could be attached to their conduct. Jane Fairfax was successful in hiding her romance with Frank Churchill, but in Davies’ Sanditon, Clara makes brazen movements towards Sir Edward. She’s seen by Charlotte giving him a hand job and in this episode the viewer is given the distasteful experience of watching her writhe with Edward on the floor after they found Lady D’s will and wrangled over their take of the inheritance. What if the servants had walked in on them? How stupid could a single woman with no fortune be?

Austen does hint at Edward’s desire to have Clara for a lover. She writes:

Miss Heywood, or any other young woman with any pretensions to beauty, he was entitled (according to his own view of society) to approach with high compliment and rhapsody on the slightest acquaintance. But it was Clara alone on whom he had serious designs; it was Clara whom he meant to seduce.”

What is Clara’s part in his plans for her seduction? Evidently, she wasn’t born yesterday. Jane describes the following:

Clara saw through him and had not the least intention of being seduced; but she bore with him patiently enough to confirm the sort of attachment which her personal charms had raised. A greater degree of discouragement indeed would not have affected Sir Edward. He was armed against the highest pitch of disdain or aversion. If she could not be won by affection, he must carry her off. He knew his business. Already had he had many musings on the subject. If he were constrained so to act, he must naturally wish to strike out something new, to exceed those who had gone before him; and he felt a strong curiosity to ascertain whether the neighbourhood of Timbuctoo might not afford some solitary house adapted for Clara’s reception.”

Sir Edward’s plans are ambitious and nonsensical, for he has not a sou to his name, and so Austen states:

But the expense, alas! of measures in that masterly style was ill-suited to his purse; and prudence obliged him to prefer the quietest sort of ruin and disgrace for the object of his affections to the more renowned.”

Austen’s rather extensive description of the Denhams in her short twelve paragraphs exceeds her description of Sidney Parker and Miss Lambe, to whom Austen had not given a first name. So the story of the Denhams and Clara Brereton as it unfolds in Davies’ Sanditon is partially Austen’s invention, but in the series’ explicit vulgarity it is all Davies’s.

Episode six ends with the ball. Weeks before, Lord Babbington entered Trafalgar House with invitations to a masked ball in Grosvenor Square, a high end Mayfair address in London. Tom Parker immediately seizes on the idea of taking his friends to the ball and asking them to advertise the regatta in Sanditon to all the ball goers they encounter. This is bad form, but Tom is desperate and his friends’ support might be his last hope for salvaging his finances and reputation.

In a Deus Ex Coincidenta moment, Charlotte meets a lovely older woman named Susan, who shows extraordinary interest in the artless young woman. As Charlotte leaves her new acquaintance, she spots Sidney Parker in deep conversation with a lady. Since Charlotte’s and Sidney’s adventure in rescuing Georgianna, they’ve bonded and become close. Their dance brought them even closer, so one can imagine her shock at seeing him so intimate with a strange woman.

Stay tuned for Episode 7 to see what develops. I, for one, am somewhat miffed that a new character has been introduced so late in the series.

What say you?

Inquiring readers,

Unmarriageable new paperback edition cover

Unmarriageable, new paperback edition out on February 5

Soniah Kamal has written a fascinating version of Pride and Prejudice set in Pakistan, Unmarriageable. The book has become very popular in a wide variety of circles, and, almost a year after its appearance, the author is still busy meeting with book clubs and speaking at book festivals and conferences.

Soniah calls Unmarriageable a parallel retelling of Pride and Prejudice since it includes all the characters and plot points of the original book, albeit in a different setting. Elizabeth became Alysba Binat, an English literature teacher in a British School in Pakistan, and Darcy became Valentine Darsee, wealthy head of the British School Group.

I’ve read the book twice, and enjoyed it very much each time! I asked Soniah to tell us more about her book.

Brenda S. Cox: How have Jane Austen fans responded to Unmarriageable? I know you spoke about it to the Georgia chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA).

Author Soniah Kamal, photo by Indus Kamal Wasti

Author Soniah Kamal, photo by Indus Kamal Wasti

Soniah Kamal: You know I’m a huge Jane Austen fan myself and I actually ran a special book club for all six novels during the 200th commemoration year, so I know Janeites and how revered Jane Austen is. Austen connoisseurs aren’t hesitant about expressing their opinion when they don’t like something, and so I really wondered how Unmarriageable would be received, considering what I’d set out to do. My first taste was at the Georgia JASNA meeting for which they’d decided to read Unmarriageable and I was going to be interviewed. I was so nervous when I saw the full room and then, when I stepped in, everyone stood up and clapped, and I realized I’d been holding my breath–that validation was really, really gratifying and the best endorsement. Some of the members told me that they’d been hesitant to read Unmarriageable because they weren’t very fond of takes on Austen’s novels, but that they loved Unmarriageable.

I think Unmarriageable has resonated so amazingly with Janeites because they’re reading it for Jane Austen, they know Pride and Prejudice, and so when I mention real characters like Harris Bigg-Wither and Thomas Fowle, they get it. When I discuss Jane Austen in Unmarriageable, it’s fun and extra. They see the little inside jokes. When I bring up that Darcy’s wet T-shirt scene is not in the novel, they appreciate that stuff–it’s like diving into a really rich cake for them, I think.

One of the loveliest things I’ve heard so far from Janeites is that in reading Unmarriageable, because it is a parallel retelling, it’s as if they are reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time and it’s bringing back all their joy in reading Austen for the first time. So that was lovely unexpected feedback. And then another one was that readers who have never read Pride and Prejudice or Austen have picked up Unmarriageable, and then they are going to read Pride and Prejudice through that. Never did I think that my book would be a gateway for readers to get to Pride and Prejudice; I always thought obviously it would be the other way around.

Soniah at the Jane Austen Summer Program in North Carolina

Soniah at the Jane Austen Summer Program in North Carolina

Since the Georgia JASNA meeting, I’ve been invited by the Northern California JASNA Chapter to deliver Jane Austen’s Birthday Toast, and I spoke at the Jane Austen Summer Program in North Carolina. I will be the 2020 Keynote Speaker at the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, Kentucky, as well as a featured Plenary Panelist at the 2020 JASNA AGM in Cleveland.

If you are a Janeite you will get a lot of the “Easter eggs” and inside jokes in Unmarriageable, and if you’re not, it’s a stand-alone novel in its own right.

Brenda: What kind of “Easter eggs” will Janeites discover in Unmarriageable?

Soniah: In Unmarriageable I put Easter eggs in for all the novels. So the quote which opens Unmarriageable is itself a variation of Austen’s opening sentence in Pride and Prejudice as well a nod to the beginning of Mansfield Park. Mansfield Park opens with three sisters and the directions their lives take based on who they marry, and so Unmarriageable opens with: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a girl can go from pauper to princess or princess to pauper in the mere seconds it takes for her to accept a proposal.” In Unmarriageable, the discussion about books from the Western and Eastern traditions is a nod to Northanger Abbey which I see as Austen’s book about books. Emma comes up because Valentine Darsee asks Alys who her favorite hero is and she says Mr. Knightley, and you’ll have to read Unmarriageable to find out why that’s so. Mr. Knightley is my favorite character, too. Persuasion comes through in my making Jena (Jane) and Alys (Elizabeth) older than Valentine Darsee (Darcy) and Bungles (Bingley). Sense and Sensibility is the most obvious, when Alys thinks that Bungles carrying Jena is like Willoughby carrying Marianne when Marianne slips. But she realizes that didn’t go well, because they did not enjoy a happy ending. I would have done Lady Susan and the rest also, but I thought, this could go on forever!

Brenda: Why a parallel retelling?

Unmarriageable, hardback cover

Unmarriageable, hardback cover

Soniah: As I say in the essay included with the novel, I needed to give myself an identity inclusive of both my Pakistani culture as well as the English language I grew up in, which is a linguistic legacy of Empire, of colonialism, and comes with all the complications of that. If I had written an “inspired-by” rather than a parallel, I would have had Jane divorced and with a kid, Lydia would have ended up not married and pregnant, I would have gone my own different way and allowed my characters to be different. But it wasn’t an inspired-by; my intent was to literally write Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan through a postcolonial lens. So the basic characters of each character are all the same, I didn’t deviate from anything. In fact, the challenge was how not to deviate from Pride and Prejudice and still make it my own. Let me tell you, on the face of it, it might seem simpler to write a parallel retelling, but really to stick within the boundaries of what your source material has given you was tough.

For those who don’t know Austen, a lot of them think any story where the main characters bicker is Pride and Prejudice, in which case everything on earth is Pride and Prejudice! What book or movie doesn’t have a romance, and where do the protagonists not bicker? I actually don’t think of Austen as a romance writer. None of her novels start out with boy meets girl, or end with proposals and elaborate marriage scenes per se. In fact, Austen glosses over both. She seems least bothered with love stories. For me, she’s a social satirist interested in exposing the hypocrisies and pretensions of her time and exploring the choices women, and even men, had and the lives women were able to fashion for themselves at a time when marriage was a financial necessity.

Brenda: Several of your characters are similar to, but somewhat different from, the original characters. Why did you choose to make Kaleen (Mr. Collins) a physician, rather than a clergyman like Mr. Collins? Perhaps he could have been a Muslim cleric?

Soniah: Islam has no clergy like in Christianity and each Muslim’s relationship is directly with God. However, there are mullahs who are schooled in Islam and the Quran. In Pakistan, traditionally the mullah class comes from the poorer, lower rungs of society and would not have been readily welcomed by the likes of Beena dey Bagh (Lady Catherine de Bourgh) into her drawing room. Therefore, it was a social class decision to make Kaleen a doctor who would be treating Annie (Anne de Bourgh) and therefore get an in with the family.

Brenda: Sherry Looclus (Charlotte Lucas), who marries Kaleen, seems to do much better in Unmarriageable than she does in Pride and Prejudice. Why is that?

Soniah: I think Charlotte deserves just as much respect as Elizabeth does, even though one marries Mr. Collins and one marries Darcy. Charlotte’s my favorite character because she’s really independent. I think Austen sometimes gives short shrift to Charlotte’s intelligence. Charlotte is very much a modern heroine for me, since she literally decides what is best for her life and then makes it happen. There’s one sentence in Pride and Prejudice where Charlotte sees Mr. Collins coming down the lane and she orchestrates accidentally running into him, but we don’t see the proposal, next thing we know they’re getting married. Charlotte’s made a huge decision by marrying Mr. Collins: she’s going to inherit Longbourn, she’s not languishing at her dad’s house, she’s dining with Lady De Bourgh; for her time period, given that she had could not work for an income, she’s made a wise choice for her life/financial security. At the end of Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte is pregnant, and I think that also shows a life that is moving on and not static like her life as an aging spinster at her father’s house had been. The first time I read Pride and Prejudice I was a teenager, and like most teenagers, friends and their opinions could matter so much. But even though Elizabeth is horrified at Charlotte’s marrying Mr. Collins, Charlotte is not swayed. She does not succumb to peer pressure. She knows her mind, she knows what is best for her, and she is not influenced by her friend. I admired that. Charlotte is one strong, practical, independent, progressive modern woman and I wanted to show the full extent of that in Unmarriageable.

As for Elizabeth and her choices within the time period, for us modern readers she comes across as wonderful. But for Austen’s time period she’s rather unpractical because she does not secure Longbourn for her family, or immediately marry the wealthy suitor who would have again secured a roof over her head for herself and her mother and sisters. As modern readers, we respect that Elizabeth says no to Darcy because he’s really pompous and full of himself and we respect that she doesn’t marry someone just because it’s practical and he’s wealthy; we appreciate that she has more important values than wealth. But in her time, that was being foolish, and her father was being very foolish, too. We like Mr. Bennet because he comes across as a strong dad who says my daughter will not marry Mr. Collins. But in the realities of their time, he’s just set his family up for destitution since, in the event of his death, he can’t afford to take care of them. As modern readers we’re really happy that Elizabeth marries for love and that Darcy’s money plays no part in it. However, as much as we like to think that money shouldn’t and doesn’t matter, imagine that there are two Mr. Darcys exactly alike; however, one has a lot of money and the other has none. Now, which Darcy would you advise Elizabeth to marry? In Mansfield Park, Austen offers a window into the prospects of marrying into different financial classes through choices Lady Bertram, Mrs. Norris and Mrs. Price make.

Brenda: Yes, if Darcy had been poor, Elizabeth might have ended up like Fanny Price’s parents in Mansfield Park, marrying for love and ending in poverty. You said earlier that the opening of Unmarriageable was like Mansfield Park. In Unmarriageable, Alys and Jena’s father, Bark Binat, has married beneath him and fallen on hard times, while his brother married well and is wealthy. How is that like Mansfield Park?

Soniah: It’s the princess and pauper quote above, a direct nod to Mansfield Park since in the opening of Mansfield Park we see three sisters who marry Sir Thomas Bertram, Mr. Norris the clergyman, and Lieutenant Price. One marries wealth, one stability, one squalor. But Austen in those first paragraphs of Mansfield Park captures the traditional state of women across time, and even today for many from traditional cultures where a man is expected to fulfill his traditional role of paying the bills, etc. Who you marry is often going to determine whether you end up vacationing at all, and whether it will be in France or the beach in Destin (laughing). It’s that simple. Of course, now we have the modern complication of women being able to afford their own vacations, and thankfully that makes a big difference in our choices.

Mansfield Park also gets into religion, Edmund who’s going to be a clergyman, and Mary doesn’t think that’s good, and Edmund gives Fanny a cross to wear. It’s Austen’s most religious novel. And it really goes deeply into her values and ethics. Mansfield Park is my favorite novel just because she dives deeply into the meaning of family in that novel. She really skewers family values in Mansfield Park. It’s her grimmest and most realistic novel. But even within Mansfield Park there’s so much humor.

Brenda: In an essay at the end of your book, you tell us, “I first immersed myself in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice when I was sixteen years old. As interesting as its marriage plot was, I was spellbound, rather, by Austen’s social criticism and how it was conveyed through her pithy wit. Here was a centuries-old English writer who may as well have been writing about contemporary Pakistani society. . . . I wanted to write a novel that paid homage to Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice, as well as combined my braided identification with English-language and Pakistani culture, so that the ‘literature of others’ became the literature of everyone. Therefore, Unmarriageable.”

Soniah: Thank you, Brenda. The paperback edition of Unmarriageable (out Feb 5th) includes an updated version of that essay, as well as essays on how the fictional setting of Dilipabad got its name, why I named the characters as I did, questions for book clubs and more.

Brenda: Thank you, Soniah, for sharing your world with us, in a way that any Jane Austen fan can enjoy!

____________________

Image of Brenda Cox

Brenda S. Cox

Brenda S. Cox also loves Jane Austen. She is a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA). She has written articles for its magazine, Persuasions On-Line, and presented at its national conference as well as regional meetings. She has done extensive research for her current work-in-progress, a nonfiction book entitled Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England. Follow her on Facebook or on her blog, Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen.

Follow Soniah Kamal on: Instagram Twitter FB www.soniahkamal.com

Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan, a novel–available everywhere. order

2020 Townsend Prize Finalist

A 2019 Book All Georgians Should Read

Financial Times: A 2019 Best Book Pick

NPR Code Switch 2019 Summer Read Pick

A New York Public Library Summer 2019 Reads Pick

BoobBub A 2019 Best Book

Library Reads Pick, January 2019

STARRED Review Publishers Weekly “must-read for devout Austenites.

STARRED Review Shelf Awareness “If Jane Austen lived in modern-day Pakistan, this is the version of Pride and Prejudice she might have written

STARRED Review Library Journal “enlightening and entertaining

An Isolated Incident, a novel–coming in the UK, July, 2020.

Townsend Award Finalist

KLF French Fiction Prize Finalist

A good friend, after watching all episodes of Andrew Davies’ Sanditon, wrote to express the thought that Young Stringer was more suited for Charlotte than Sidney Parker. Young Stringer, played by Leo Suter, is an actor as handsome as Theo James, who played Sidney Parker, although Theo is darkly handsome, whereas Leo has a kinder face.

Young Stringer and CharlotteYoung Stringer

Young Stringer is an ambitious working man who aims to use his talents as a designer and architect to move up in life. Stringer ‘s infatuation with Charlotte reminds me of Robert Martin’s unquestioning love for Harriett Smith in Emma.The difference is that Charlotte is no one’s fool and so much smarter than Harriett. Her common sense and insights fascinate Sydney, who is attracted to her despite his inner misgivings.

At the time my friend chose Young Stringer over Sydney, I thought that the former was an invention of Andrew Davies and his team. It turns out I was wrong. Austen briefly describes him through Tom Parker. He says:

“But, my dear love, as to garden stuff, you were saying that any accidental omission is supplied in a moment by Lady Denham’s gardener. But it occurs to me that we ought to go elsewhere upon such occasions, and that old Stringer and his son have a higher claim. I encouraged him to set up, you know, and am afraid he does not do very well. That is, there has not been time enough yet. He will do very well beyond a doubt. But at first it is uphill work, and therefore we must give him what help we can. When any vegetables or fruit happen to be wanted—and it will not be amiss to have them often wanted, to have something or other forgotten most days—just to have a nominal supply, you know, that poor old Andrew may not lose his daily job—but in fact to buy the chief of our consumption from the Stringers.”

“Very well, my love, that can be easily done. And cook will be satisfied, which will be a great comfort, for she is always complaining of old Andrew now and says he never brings her what she wants.”

Old Stringer and his son are struggling fruit and vegetable farmers in Austen’s version. Tom and Mary Parker are discussing this situation as they pass by  their old, snug house, which they had abandoned in favor of an exposed location in Sanditon without protection from the sun and wind. Mary is nostalgic for the old days; Tom is a forward-looking enthusiast, an early 19thcentury term that meant someone who was full of enthusiasm for a cause or a passionate belief in something that has merit. In Tom Parker’s instance, it is Sanditon, the sort of seaside town that sprouted all over the Sussex Coast in late 18th– early 19thcentury Britain.

Tom Parker feels responsible for the Stringers’ situation, since he recruited them to set up business in Sanditon – a future town that is half finished and has yet to attract important clients. Mary agrees that purchasing their goods would provide some compensation. And that’s the end of the Stringers’ participation in Austen’s unfinished novel.

Andrew Davies and his team turned the farmers into builders, with Old Stringer employed as stone mason and foreman. Tom Parker has run out of funds, and thus Old Stringer works as a laborer to help get the job done. Young Stringer demonstrates his talent by designing a beautiful Pagoda that would be the centerpiece of the newly built crescent. He believes his talent will provide him with an upwardly mobile life. Sadly, Tom informs him that the pagoda will not be built and Young Stringer burns his plans in frustration. Every time he sees Charlotte, his face lights up. They have a casual friendship, mostly from her side since it is obviously that Young Stringer is hopelessly infatuated, but I can see how my friend still hopes that they will get together romantically.

Sidney ParkerSidney Parker

Now, onto Sydney Parker. In Emma, Austen built up the reader’s expectations of Frank Churchill by providing information about him in dribs and drabs and through Emma’s assumptions, many of which (upon a second reading of the novel) were erroneous and wrong. In a similar fashion, she built up the reader’s knowledge of Sidney in the novel fragment of Sanditon. In the first nine chapters the reader learns about him through his siblings Tom Parker and Diana as they conversed with each other and with others. Tom and his wife, Mary, first discussed Old Stringer’s financial situation. They then moved on to the old house, the family seat, which they had abandoned for Trafalgar House in Sanditon. Mary speaks nostalgically of the house and its snug situation, which sheltered the house from damaging winds and storms. On seeing her former home, she says to Tom and Charlotte, who they are taking to Sanditon in gratitude for the Heywood’s hospitality,

“There now the old house is quite left behind. What is it your brother Sidney says about its being a hospital?”

“Oh, my dear Mary, merely a joke of his. He pretends to advise me to make a hospital of it. He pretends to laugh at my improvements. Sidney says anything, you know. He has always said what he chose, of and to us all. Most families have such a member among them, I believe, Miss Heywood. There is someone in most families privileged by superior abilities or spirits to say anything. In ours, it is Sidney, who is a very clever young man and with great powers of pleasing. He lives too much in the world to be settled; that is his only fault. He is here and there and everywhere. I wish we may get him to Sanditon. I should like to have you acquainted with him. And it would be a fine thing for the place! Such a young man as Sidney, with his neat equipage and fashionable air. You and I, Mary, know what effect it might have. Many a respectable family, many a careful mother, many a pretty daughter might it secure us to the prejudice of Eastbourne and Hastings.”

Tom is certainly impressed by his younger, middle brother. Then in Chapter 5, Mr Parker looks over letters before dinner.

“Not a line from Sidney!” said he. “He is an idle fellow. I sent him an account of my accident from Willingden and thought he would have vouchsafed me an answer. But perhaps it implies that he is coming himself. I trust it may. But here is a letter from one of my sisters. They never fail me. Women are the only correspondents to be depended on. Now, Mary,” smiling at his wife, “before I open it, what shall we guess as to the state of health of those it comes from or rather what would Sidney say if he were here? Sidney is a saucy fellow, Miss Heywood. And you must know, he will have it there is a good deal of imagination in my two sisters’ complaints…and our youngest brother, who lives with them and who is not much above twenty, I am sorry to say is almost as great an invalid as themselves. He is so delicate that he can engage in no profession. Sidney laughs at him. But it really is no joke, though Sidney often makes me laugh at them all in spite of myself. Now, if he were here, I know he would be offering odds that either Susan, Diana or Arthur would appear by this letter to have been at the point of death within the last month.”

Jane has established that Sidney has no use for hypochondriacs and that he isn’t above making fun of his youngest brother and two sisters, who were condensed into one woman in Davies’ Sanditon. Later in the same chapter, Tom continues talking to Charlotte as he reads a letter from one of his sisters, Diana, most likely, who attempts to recruit women from a boarding school, including a West Indian from Surrey (Miss Lambe), in order to increase visitors to the practically empty town.

I have heard nothing of Sidney since your being together in town, but conclude his scheme to the Isle of Wight has not taken place or we should have seen him in his way. Most sincerely do we wish you a good season at Sanditon, and though we cannot contribute to your Beau Monde in person, we are doing our utmost to send you company worth having and think we may safely reckon on securing you two large families, one a rich West Indian from Surrey, the other a most respectable Girls Boarding School, or Academy, from Camberwell. I will not tell you how many people I have employed in the business—Wheel within wheel—but success more than repays. Yours most affectionately.”

“Well,” said Mr. Parker, as he finished. “Though I dare say Sidney might find something extremely entertaining in this letter and make us laugh for half an hour together.”

The reader receives the impression that Sidney is busy with his own schemes and is much admired by his siblings. Tom mentions Sidney one more time at the end of Chapter 9 and says gratefully:

“I got this man a hare from one of Sidney’s friends; and he recommended Sanditon.”

The reader finally meets Sidney in Chapter 12, just before Austen set the novel aside.

It was a close, misty morning and, when they reached the brow of the hill, they could not for some time make out what sort of carriage it was which they saw coming up. It appeared at different moments to be everything from a gig to a phaeton, from one horse to four; and just as they were concluding in favour of a tandem, little Mary’s young eyes distinguished the coachman and she eagerly called out, “It is Uncle Sidney, Mama, it is indeed.” And so it proved.

Mr. Sidney Parker, driving his servant in a very neat carriage, was soon opposite to them, and they all stopped for a few minutes. The manners of the Parkers were always pleasant among themselves; and it was a very friendly meeting between Sidney and his sister-in-law, who was most kindly taking it for granted that he was on his way to Trafalgar House. This he declined, however. He was “just come from Eastbourne proposing to spend two or three days, as it might happen, at Sanditon” but the hotel must be his quarters. He was expecting to be joined there by a friend or two.”

The rest was common enquiries and remarks, with kind notice of little Mary, and a very well-bred bow and proper address to Miss Heywood on her being named to him. And they parted to meet again within a few hours. Sidney Parker was about seven or eight and twenty, very good-looking, with a decided air of ease and fashion and a lively countenance. This adventure afforded agreeable discussion for some time. Mrs. Parker entered into all her husband’s joy on the occasion and exulted in the credit which Sidney’s arrival would give to the place.”

Austen’s build up of this potential hero (which is still in question among scholars) intrigues the reader. Would he turn out to be a disappointment like Frank Churchill, or a hero and love interest worthy of Charlotte? Unlike Austen, Davies introduces Sidney in the first episode and rushes his introduction to Charlotte. They clash at an assembly ball. While I found Austen’s introduction of Sidney intriguing, Davies’ treatment of Sidney resembles more the hero of a bodice ripping Harlequin romance novel than a complex Austen character.

What say you in this very simple poll? Sidney or Young Stringer? What are your thoughts of the series so far?

Inquiring readers: The information about this exhibit makes me wish I was in the UK to see it. To view a first edition of Pride and Prejudice would make my mouth water. Enjoy the images and the information. 

Georgian era of light and shade explored at

Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum

  • Artworks, costume and literature tell the conflicting stories of the Georgian era
  • Includes a first edition of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice on loan from a private lender
  • Exhibition brings together artefacts and stories from across Regency Worcester
  • Opens 18 January until 28 March, free entry.

Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum presents a new exhibition exploring the fact and the fiction behind one of the most fascinating and tumultuous periods of British history. Georgians: the Pride and the Prejudice is designed to lead the viewer on a Grand Tour of Regency Worcester, taking in the beautiful landscapes, exquisite interiors and pass-times of the Bennetts and Darcy’s of the city, emerging into the wider world to see at what cost the pursuit of pleasure and elegance. The exhibition opens 18 January until 28 March and entry is free.

The exhibition brings together for the first time a wealth of art and artefacts from the museum’s own collections including works by John Downman, one of the most popular watercolour portraitists of the late 18th century, and the renowned pastelist John Russell, as well as Georgian costume, a rare Erard harp and a stunning Sedan chair, together with a first edition of Pride and Prejudice from a private lender.

The Georgian period captivates an audience like no other. The grandeur of the architecture, the extravagance of the fashion and the intricacies of the social etiquette create a wonderful image of elegance and exuberance which has been celebrated time and time again in literature, television and film. The exhibition begins in Regency Worcester but ends with a glimpse into the fragile reality upon which it was built. Behind the extravagances of the Georgian period was the exploitation of people, in plantations, in the colonies or in the factories and slums.

Exhibition Curator Claire Cheshire said: “This exhibition celebrates Worcester’s landscapes and its trades. In fine houses across the country there would have been Royal Worcester porcelain, gloves, and even Worcester-made bricks. Georgians: the Pride and the Prejudice will be a visual delight for all visitors.”

Georgians: the Pride and the Prejudice is free and runs from 18 January until 28 March, more information can be found here: www.museumsworcestershire.org.uk

For a more in-depth look at the exhibition and to discover some of the stories behind the objects on display join a Curators Tour on 16th March, 11.30 a.m. No booking needed. £3 per person.

Georgians: the Pride and the Prejudice

18 January until 28 March 2020

FREE ENTRY

Exploring the fact and the fiction behind one of the most fascinating and tumultuous periods of British history through artworks, costume and literature.

Image of a Costume from Museum Worcestershire collection: courtesy of the Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum. Permission given, no names.

Costume from Museum Worcestershire collection: courtesy of the Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum. Permission given, no names.

11th February

Bite sized talk – Georgians: the Pride and the Prejudice – the stories behind the objects

1-1.30pm. £3

16th March Curators tour of the exhibition

11.30am. £3

Open Monday – Saturday 10.30am – 4.30pm

Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum

Foregate Street

Worcester WR1 1DT

Tel: 01905 25371

About Museums Worcestershire
Museums Worcestershire is the joint museum service of Worcester City and Worcestershire County Councils. It comprises three fantastic venues–Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum, the Commandery in Worcester and The County Museum at Hartlebury Castle.

The collections and exhibitions at our sites are many and varied, covering centuries of the county’s history right up to the present day. Thousands of objects, including the historic buildings themselves, are brought to life through innovative exhibitions and events throughout the year.

www.museumsworcestershire.org.uk

 

 

Inquiring readers,

We have reached episode four of Andrew Davies’ eight-episode mini-series on PBS Masterpiece.  Mr. Davies is a master cinematic storyteller.  Austen told her stories through words, while Davies takes advantage of showing dress, customs, manners, and settings visually.

The challenge in adapting the novel for a film is how to stay true to the source as you proceed to bend it into the medium of film. The first thing to consider is adapting prose to dramatic writing and the limitations of the screenplay format.” – Adaptation: From Novel to Film, by Judy Sandra, 27 November, 2017. Downloaded 1-25-20 @ https://www.raindance.org/adaptation-novel-film/

By episode four, Davies’ cinematic adaptation of Sanditon has strayed from Austen land and into Georgette Heyer territory. Not that this is a bad thing and it explains why so many Austen fans love his interpretation of Jane’s incomplete novel.

Image of Some of Vic's Georgette Heyer books in her collection.

Some of Vic’s Georgette Heyer books in her collection.

At 19 years of age, after reading Austen’s six novels, I wanted to read more Regency romance between heroes and heroines sparring verbally with wit and daring. I quenched my thirst by devouring all of Georgette Heyer’s delightful novels, even her mysteries.  Heyer knew the Regency and Georgian eras intimately. She and her husband lived in Mayfair, the London setting of so many of her books. Her details were historically accurate, and, best of all, she was a prolific writer. Heyer’s novels, set mostly in the highest circles of society, were as exciting as they were delightful. They were funny and romantic and brought the Regency era alive through her detailed descriptions and historical content.

Heyer’s best novelsThe Grand Sophy, Frederica, Venetia, Sylvester, Arabella (my first introduction to her work), The Corinthian, The Reluctant Widow described in great detail Regency customs, male and female fashions, social interactions (such as the use of calling cards), descriptions of White’s Club or Almack’s, Bow Street Runners, 19th century inventions, and all the minutia that Austen rarely bothered to mention. Through her sparkling stories, Heyer appeased my youthful cravings to inform me about Jane Austen’s regency world. Her often crazy plots offered pure escapism.

In a review of Heyer’s biography by Jennifer Kloester (which I also own), Rachel Cooke writes:

If you want fun – if you want elopements and quadrilles, velvet britches and sprig muslin gowns – you will have to go back to the novels, still in print, and still the greatest and most surprising of pleasures.

After viewing four episodes of Andrew Davies’ adaptation of Sanditon, I am reminded more of a Georgette Heyer plot (with added sex) than Austen’s unfinished manuscript. Which is OK. The melodrama makes for great television.

It just isn’t Austen.

Do you agree? Or not? Both opinions are welcome on this blog. Please feel free to leave your comments or take the poll:

Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen, Linnet Moss, May 2017. Downloaded: January 25, 2020:
Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen

Photo of Crystal Clarke as Miss Lambe

Crystal Clarke as Miss Lambe

Miss Lambe, introduced in Episode 1 at the assembly ball, is an intriguing character – a new one for Jane Austen that she intended to explore in depth before she abandoned her manuscript due to illness. By the Regency era, the British Empire had spread the world over. The term “Black” in England during that time denoted any skin color other than “white.”  This included people from Africa and the East Indies and West Indies, such as Antigua, the land of Georgiana Lambe’s birth.

Georgiana is the ward of Sidney Parker, who, after she voices her displeasure at his power over her, reminds her that her father wanted her to take a place in polite society, that she was far richer than all of them put together. Neither relish his role, but both understand that because of her fortune she must be managed.  It’s a mystery how Sidney achieved this position, but we’ll assume that an explanation of how his work in the West Indies led him to become Georgiana’s guardian will be given in future episodes.

The viewer instantly understands Georgiana’s views on her position when she angrily lashes out at Sidney that she is “not your slave to be served up as your general amusement.” She gestures dramatically and adds in mock tones, “Here’s a negress, rich and black as treacle. – feast your eyes!”

Photo of actress Anne Reid as Lady Denham

Anne Reid as Lady Denham

In the quest to cozy up to Georgiana, Lady Denham hosts a luncheon to introduce her to Sanditon society. Instead of behaving like a gracious hostess, she says the crudest, uncivil statements imaginable. As Georgiana makes her entrance, Lady D. turns to Sir Edward Denham, who is in need of a wife with a fortune, and says, “Edward, there’s your quarry. Hunt her down!”

Before anyone takes a bite of food, she addresses Georgiana, gesturing to a pineapple that was placed at the center of the table in her honor. Offended, Georgiana employs a thick island accent to indicate that pineapples are not grown in Antigua. The pair are off to a bad start. 

During the soup course, Lady D asks, “Miss Lambe, what are your views on matrimony? —“An heiress with a 100,000 must be in want of a husband.”

And we’re off to the insult races!

Georgiana gives her a sideways glance: “I don’t care to be any man’s property.”

“Oh, hoity toity! … Was not your mother a slave?”

Pregnant pause.

“She was. But being used as a thing and liking it are not the same, my lady.”

“No, I’m beginning to think that you’re a very opinionated young lady, Miss Lambe.”

Georgiana wins the riposte, but she remains deeply unhappy and unsuccessfully attempts to escape to London by coach. Charlotte happens upon a despondent Georgiana standing dangerously close to the sea cliff’s edge and crying. She comforts her and the two lonely young women become friends. 

Episode 3 presents many new revelations and developments, which will be addressed in a later review.  Miss Lambe makes only two appearances. The first in a painting class to demonstrate her rebelliousness, and the other in a scene with Sidney to show her contrition for bad behavior. The episode ends with Georgiana examining a locket with a portrait of a young Black man and kissing it before finishing a letter.

My, oh, my! How the plot has thickened.

I’ve concentrated on Georgiana Lambe in this week’s review because she is such an unusual character in the Jane Austen canon. Jane visited her brother Henry in London on many occasions and to meet with her publishers. She would have noticed the many Blacks who lived in Britain, most notably in London and major port cities. By some estimates, around 15,000 Blacks lived in England at the end of the 18th century, 20% of whom were women. Around 10,000 Blacks lived in London. 

Slavery was legal in Britain until 1772. While servitude there was preferred over life on a West Indies plantation, Black lives were not easy. After the slaves were freed, males and females found work as servants. During the Napoleonic wars, many Black males enlisted in the navy and army. Once the wars were over, these sailors and soldiers were no longer enlisted and stayed in the port cities they knew so well. 

Portrait of The Hon. John Spencer, his son the 1st Earl Spencer, and their slave, Caesar Shaw, ca 1744. Wikimedia Commons. This work is in the public domain.

The Hon. John Spencer, his son the 1st Earl Spencer, and their slave, Caesar Shaw, ca 1744. Wikimedia Commons. This work is in the public domain.

Overt racism was rampant. Servants of the rich were beautifully dressed, but treated like possessions (much like a brood stallion or a rare antique vase.) Portraits would show noble women and a Black servant, be it a child or adult, sitting at the edge of the painting, which served to increase the contrast of the female’s creamy white skin to the ebony complexion of the other sitter. The power differential between males and their Black servants was also evident.

In 1847’s Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackery created two characters – Mr. Sambo, the Sedley’s male servant, and Miss Swartz, which means black in German and Dutch. Miss Swartz was described as a “rich, woolly-haired mulatto from St. Kitt’s,” as well as a Belle Sauvage, a dark paragon, and a dark object of conspiracy. George Osborne, her suitor, described her as “elegantly decorated as a she chimney-sweep on May-day.” 

George might not have given Miss Swartz respect, but he and his family had a healthy regard for her money, which made her an acceptable prize. Lady Denham viewed Miss Lambe with much of the same interest and contempt, but this did not fool Miss Lambe, who was proudly not for sale. Her personal experience of society’s disdain for Blacks (such as in the stage coach scene) fuels her anger, combativeness, and sadness. She has nothing to lose by meeting the offensiveness of others head on.

The Advertisement for a Wife, illustration by Thomas Rowlandson. Internet Archive

The Advertisement for a Wife by Thomas Rowlandson. Internet Archive. University of California Libraries. No visible notice of copyright; stated date is 1903.

For The Third Tour of Dr. Syntax In Search of a Wife: A poem by William Combe, Thomas Rowlandson illustrates  “The Advertisement for a Wife, in which a Black woman is placed prominently at the front and center of a group of spinsters. Dr. Syntax had asked an acquaintance, Mrs. Susanna Briskit, an “eccentric creature full of vivacity,” to help him find a wife. She embarked on a “scheme of fun” and invited a room full of loud, insistent females and their chaperones to apply for the position. The scene as written by Combe is funny and I imagine the inclusion of a Black lady heightened the comedy, but probably had a cruel undertone.

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay (1761-1804) and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray (1760-1825), David Martin. Wikimedia Commons. This work is in the public domain

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay (1761-1804) and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray (1760-1825), David Martin. Wikimedia Commons. This work is in the public domain

Not all is misery for Georgian Blacks.  This portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and Lady Elizabeth Murray by David Martin in the late 18th century depicts a genuine friendship between the two women. Dido, an heiress, was born illegitimately  in the British West Indies of a British navy captain, Sir John Lindsey, and Maria Belle, an African woman whom he captured from a Spanish ship. Dido was sent to England as a child and brought up by Sir John’s uncle, Lord Mansfield and his wife, who were childless. Elizabeth Murray, Dido’s cousin, was motherless. The two girls were raised together, but Dido, while beloved, was not always invited to dine with guests. In the film “Belle,” Dido expresses the same sentiments as a governess–her position was too high to eat with servants and too low to eat with guests. Dido eventually married, had 3 children, and died in 1804 at 42. Compared to most of her Black contemporaries, she led an idyllic life. 

Portrait of Ignatius Sancho, 1768 by Thomas Gainsborough, National Gallery of Canada. Wikimedia Commons. This work is in the public domain.

Ignatius Sancho, 1768 by Thomas Gainsborough, National Gallery of Canada. Wikimedia Commons. This work is in the public domain.

There were other success stories, such as the boxer Bill Richmond, or Ignatius Sancho. Born on a slave ship, Sancho became a protege of the Duke and Duchess of Montagu. While working in their household, he had access to their books and taught himself to read. Today he is celebrated as a writer, composer, shopkeeper and abolitionist. 

It would have been interesting to know how Jane Austen would have fully developed Miss Lambe and what information she learned about the West Indies and Blacks in the navy from her sailor brothers.

Post Note: In The World of Sanditon (see sidebar), Sara Sheridan writes of Austen’s romantic entanglement with Dr. Samuel Blackall, a minister. In a letter to Frank, her brother, Austen describes him as “a piece of perfection.” Nothing was to come of her infatuation. Years later, Blackall married a Miss Lewis of Antigua.

Sheridan concludes that this story “provides an intriguing real-life parallel to the world of Sanditon, as does the idea of a love interest with West Indian connections.”

More sources:

The First Black Britons: Sukhdev Snadhu, History, BBC,2011-02-17. Downloaded 2/20/2020.

Black People in Late 18th Century Britain: Histories and Stories, English Heritage. Downloaded 2-20-2020

Black lives in England: Historic England Blog, Research tab. Downloaded 2-20-2020.

sanditon-first-look-icon-01-3200x1800Sanditon on PBS Masterpiece exceeded my expectations in some respects and not in others. It seems that a mixed reaction to this mini-series is not unusual. Many viewers in the UK loved it. Many did not. Some loathed it. Reading and hearing the opinions of my Janeite friends overseas, I approached reviewing this series with some trepidation. I had an extreme reaction to Episode One at first, then viewed all the episodes in two days’ time. Seeing them back to back gave me a new perspective.

First, I wondered why Andrew Davies, the writer, used so little of Austen’s actual material. In my copy of Sanditon, the unfinished manuscript is 75 pages long. Austen completed the first draft of 11 chapters and began the 12th, where both Sidney Parker and Miss Lambe made their first appearances. Before that, the readers knew them only through conversations from other characters. Mr. Davies admitted that he devoted half of Episode One to Jane Austen’s plot as he did not think there was enough “story material” in her manuscript for more. Persuasion’s length was 24 complete chapters. Could Davies not have stretched Austen’s excellent material to two episodes? Instead he tossed aside the complex themes she was developing in favor of straightforward cinematic storytelling, which explains why so many Janeites were disappointed with the series.

As I watched the mini-series, I realized that it wasn’t an Austen adaptation. This televised tale was inspired by a tantalizing beginning that Austen did not complete. Davies used the unfinished novel merely as an outline for his plot. In online interviews he spoke about modernizing the story and sexing it up. In his foreword to the official companion book to the series, The World of Sanditon, Davies was forthright about rushing through the first three episodes as he worked against a deadline. He states:

I’m thrilled with what we have achieved: a period drama that feels utterly fresh and modern – Jane Austen, but not as you knew her.”

If you keep this statement in mind, you will watch the series for what it is and what it was meant to be – entertainment with many references to Jane Austen’s other novels and characters.

Rose Williams, who plays Charlotte Heywood, is adorable. She resembles an adolescent Austen heroine. Fresh-faced, yet wise and well-read, with a young-sounding voice, she has the qualities that I imagined for Charlotte Heywood and Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey. (Ms. Williams is 25 years old, but she looks and sounds much younger.)

I’ve read of complaints about Charlotte’s hair as being inauthentic in this series. At the assembly ball, however, and at formal gatherings, her hair and its accessories are appropriate for the occasion. I think that by keeping her hair loose and wild during walks, seaside outings, and less formal times, Davies is reminding viewers of her humble country origins. As a guest of the Parkers, she would have help from servants for formal occasions but would most likely be left on her own at other times.

Crystal Clarke as Miss Lambe, a woman of mixed-race, is given the delightful name of Georgiana, reminiscent of Mr. Darcy’s sister. Austen’s introduction of a West Indies heiress is a new development in her novels. The topic of mixed races and fantastic wealth achieved on plantations in Antigua is one she must have known well through her sailor brothers. I love the developing friendship between Georgiana and Charlotte.

I’ve not been as bothered by the music mentioned by some. Sanditon is located along the coastline of Sussex, a rural region, and the setting is not as fashionable or royal as Brighton, where fancy orchestras could find ample work. The folksy music complements the rustic, unfinished streets and buildings in Sanditon and supports the more modern treatment Davies sought.

The photography is lovely, the sets are lush, and I love how the costumes identify people by their wealth and status. Charlotte’s clothes are simple and homemade, although she owns more dresses than I though her parents with 11 children could afford. Miss Lambe, Miss Denham, and Clara Brereton wear clothes of a finer quality, and so forth.

Now we get to the part that I find problematic. I know Davies wanted to sex up the plot, but, really, a hand job? I was not amused. What if I wanted to introduce my young nieces to Jane Austen? How would I have explained that scene?

As to the nudity, male and female beaches were separated at the time. Both sexes knew the demarcation lines and where or where not to walk or swim. Charlotte happening upon Sidney Parker rising out of the ocean full frontal naked caused me to laugh, not out of embarrassment, but because the audience manipulation was so obvious. Jane Austen was no prude. A country woman, she had probably witnessed sex among animals, nursed her male relatives back to health, and helped family members and neighbors with birthing, but she was never crude. Ever.

Young Stringer, the foreman, is a likable character, but I thought almost from the start that he was created to be a “second stringer,” someone to throw us off in the romance department. His background and ambitions are suited to someone of Charlotte’s station, but Sidney Parker has been cast in the role of hero, and so Young Stringer’s purpose seems likely to go nowhere.

Theo James’s performance as Sidney Parker was quite good. He is a darkly handsome hero, one whose sparring with Charlotte in the first two episodes reminded me of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth.

To sum up this review, Davies chose to follow his own instincts in developing this miniseries If viewers watch the first two episodes of Sanditon on their own merit and not as an Austen adaptation, they’ll enjoy the experience.

Sanditon for streaming and binge watchers

The debut episode of the series will begin streaming on the MASTERPIECE PRIME VIDEO CHANNEL on January 12, with new episodes debuting Sunday of each following week. On February 23, fans can binge-watch the program in its entirety.

The subscription rate for the PBS MASTERPIECE Prime Video Channel is $5.99/month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription. Every purchase helps supports public television for all.

See sidebar for links to PBS, a description of the full cast, and a link to the companion book.

Links to Music

 

 

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