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Posts Tagged ‘Jane Austen’s Novels’

Jane Austen Sequels, written by Jane Odiwe, has recently been featuring a series of posts on Regency Brighton, including Brighton Encampments, Donkey Riding and Sea Bathing in Brighton, Stopping for Refreshment (on a coach from London to Brighton), and Brighton Entertainments. Jane also paints lovely watercolors and sells her images, cards, and books, such as her recently published Lydia Bennet’s Journal, on Austen Effusions. Jane has begun a third blog, which will discuss all things Austen and the Regency world. I become quite dizzy when I think of all her activities!

Image of Refreshments at a Coaching Inn from Jane Austen Sequels

Michelle Ann Young from Regency Ramble has just completed a series of posts on Bath. Michelle Ann frequently describes the flora and fauna of the era, and fashions of the season. She is also promoting her most recent novel, No Regrets.

Visit Jane Austen Addict.com to read Laurie Viera Rigler’s posts about PBS Masterpiece Classic’s The Complete Jane Austen series. Laurie, author of The Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, described a JASNA ball she attended in 2004. This photo shows her with her own Mr. Darcy, and looking beautiful in her red regency gown. Such fun! Also, don’t miss her posts about Mansfield Park and Pride and Prejudice. In addition, she oversees a forum on her website, and is writing a sequel to her best-selling novel. My, my, Laurie, you have been busy!

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Oh what a fun site this is! Its creator has assembled a host of interesting facts about P&P ’95, some of which are highlighted below:

        • Jane Austen figured largely in the BAFTA television award ceremony 1996. Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth’s perfomances as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy, and Benjamin Whitrow’s portrayal of long-suffering Mr Bennet, earned them Best Actress and Best Actor nominations. In the end, Jennifer Ehle was the only one to receive an award for best actress.
        • Colin Firth: “When Pride and Prejudice was offered I just thought, without even having read it ‘Oh, that old warhorse’ and I unwrapped the huge envelope with great trepidation. I think I was only about five pages in when I was hooked. It was remarkable. I don’t think any script has fired me up quite as much, just in the most basic, romantic-story terms”
        • Colin Firth in The Times while still filming P&P: “There’ll be people who will object strongly simply because it’s my face instead of the one they have in their mind. Everyone believes he is dark, though I don’t believe Jane Austen ever described him as such. So they’ve dyed me dark. You have to be very careful not to make him either too idiosyncratic or too bland, and the danger is that you don’t dare to do anything at all. So you have to take over and say, ‘To hell with it, he’s mine now. I own this character and he has to be me’.”
        • In a Blog Critics interview, Jennifer Ehle says: “The relationship between Mr. Bennet and Lizzie was always my favorite part of the book. It was, for me growing up, the love story in the book; and I would weep whenever I reread it and would get to the bit where Lizzie tells Mr. Bennet that Darcy is the best man she has ever known. It is such an important part of the whole female fantasy of the story — the favorite daughter who idolizes her father above all men and then, when he fails to protect Lydia from herself, is exposed as a mere human being.” Update: Find her answers to a hundred questions in a PDF document at Jennifer Ehle Fan Blog.

        • Although she often believed to be British, [Jennifer] actually was born and raised in North Carolina. Both her parents are well-known. Her father, John Ehle, is a novelist while her mother, Rosemary Harris (above with Jennifer in a recent photo) is an acclaimed actress.
        • Jennifer Ehle played George Clooney’s girlfriend in Michael Clayton, although no one will see her performance. In Entertainment Weekly, George weakly explains the reason why her role was cut: “We shot it with Jennifer Ehle — she gave a wonderful performance,” George Clooney told Entertainment Weekly. “And the more we did it, we realized you have to isolate this character more. And having a girlfriend, he’s not in as much trouble.” George then wrote Jennifer a note to apologise for being cut. “I didn’t cut it, but I still felt bad about it.”

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        Whew. The Complete Jane Austen has been saved by the charming performances of J.J. Feild and Felicity Jones as Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey. Had PBS opted to follow ITV’s tepid Persuasion with the very problematic Mansfield Park, they would likely have lost scores of viewers who might not have returned for a third dose of another truncated adaptation of a Jane Austen novel.

        Not knowing what to expect, I watched my preview DVD with some trepidation, only to lose myself in this sparkling and delightful adaptation. I have no illusions when it comes to comparing a 90-minute video to a complete novel written by a master writer: in my opinion the novel wins hands down every time. No debate. But director Jon Jones made the most of his short video time, combining dialogue with visual clues in such a deft way that one comes away from the movie feeling almost satisfied with this retelling of Jane’s gothic parody. Keep in mind that, as with all these adaptations, the subtleties and complexities of subplots and supporting character were scarcely given the passing time of day.

        Be that as it may, the scene in which Catherine Morland and Mrs. Allen first enter the Lower Assembly Rooms in Bath demonstrates the director’s brilliant visual touches. Romance and regency authors frequently describe the “crush” at an assembly ball. This scene SHOWS it, with Mrs. Allen and Catherine elbowing their way through the crowd in dimly lit rooms and halls and doorways. One can almost smell the candle smoke and feel the heat of bodies pressing against each other, and smell the sweat of the dancers as they move energetically in a confined space. In her novel, Jane Austen took an enormous time describing Northanger Abbey both inside and out. Thankfully, the camera can show these descriptions in minutes, using interior and exterior shots as backdrops. For those of us who live outside of England, the scenery and sets alone make this production worth watching.

        The casting was superb. J.J. Feild was smart, charming, and appropriately “almost handsome” as Jane described Henry Tilney. The adorable Felicity Jones was believable in her role as a naïve and gullible young woman who allowed her imagination to run rampant. In her fantasy scenes, with her thick dark hair flowing freely, Felicity convincingly resembled a lush and delectable maid in distress. Cary Mulligan as the flashy, brassy Isabella Thorpe nearly stole all her scenes. Liam Cunningham as General Tilney hit all the right villain notes, and William Beck was satisfyingly slimy as John Thorpe. My only major quibble with the casting was of Catherine Walker, whose drab Eleanor Tilney seemed to dissolve into the woodwork. Click here to view the characters and read a short bio about them.
        As with recent Jane Austen adaptations, liberties were taken with the plot. Jane never described Isabella naked in bed after making love to Captain Tilney, nor does she have Catherine fantasize herself nude in front of Henry. Those who know me well know that I am no prude, but I attribute such scenes to the influence of Andrew Davies, who seems to think that a sexed up Jane Austen production is appropriate and right. Frankly, that’s a man’s point of view, and in this respect Mr. Jon Jones has sunk to the same level, thinking that sex will sell Jane to a new audience. Those of us who are comfortable using both sides of our brains know that Jane needs no such obvious and infantile interpretations to win fans over. Her words are good enough.


        Speaking of fans, I am convinced this delightful production will influence many a young viewer to head towards their libraries to read a Jane Austen novel for the first time. And that thought gives me great pleasure. If you missed Northanger Abbey because of Iron Chef, check your local listing. Many PBS stations, such as the one in Richmond, have placed it on their schedule for a second night.

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        Have you noticed? Keen observers of Mansfield Park 1983 will have recognized Sylvestra Le Touzel. She played Fanny Price all those years ago, and appeared as Mrs. Allen in the 2007 version of Northanger Abbey.


        And Nicholas Farrell, who played staid and moral Edmund Bertrum in 1983, appeared as the gregarious Mr. Musgrove in last week’s Persuasion.

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        The Georgian city of Bath plays a prominent role in Persuasion & Northanger Abbey. View several 360 degee panoramas of the city in this link. Click on the photo you’d like to see, and use your cursor to move around the picture.

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        My book group, Janeites on the James, will be revisiting Pride & Prejudice in January. It will be the 21st or 22nd time I have read it, a bit often, I know, but at each stage of my life the story of Darcy and Elizabeth takes on new meaning. These days I pay more attention to secondary characters, like Charlotte Lucas and Lydia Bennet, to whom I gave short shrift in earlier readings. In fact I shall read Charlotte’s story with more interest, knowing that with her limited options and beauty, she seized on her one opportunity to snare a husband. I will pay particular attention to her resourcefulness in finding some peace and quiet from Mr. Collins in her private area in the back parlor.

        The most comprehensive site online about Pride & Prejudice is the one developed by The Republic of Pemberley, an encyclopedic site about all things Jane Austen.

        Also of vast interest is the Annotated Pride and Prejudice by David Shapard, which is both entertaining and informative. As one reads the book, the left side is devoted to novel, and the right side contains his annotations. Here is what David Shapard wrote in a discussion board about discovering Jane Austen’s work:

        I only altered that intention years later when, unexpectedly, several historical or philosophical books I read included admiring comments on her, and of the profound thought in her books. This made me undertake a complete reading of her works, and I was entranced, so much so that it was not long before I began rereading the novels, an unusual step for me. My entrancement even posed dangers for my work. While scrambling to finish my dissertation, on the French Enlightenment, I had picked up a battered paperback copy of Pride and Prejudice at a book sale, and found myself frequently taking time off from my writing to read it again and again, finding new brilliant subtleties every time I looked. More than once I admonished myself that this was foolish—after all, I had a looming deadline for my dissertation and needed to get back to work. But my admonishments did not always succeed, so captivated was I by the novel. Little did I imagine then that an annotated version of Pride and Prejudice, rather than an expanded version of that same dissertation, was to be my first published book.

        • In this link find a series of images I found on the 1940 movie version of Pride & Prejudice, in which the film’s creator’s revamped the plot and costumes (Civil War era), and in which the two stars are much too old to play Lizzie and Mr. Darcy.

        Images source: 1940 Film of Pride & Prejudice

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        I am a Mary Crawford fan. This likable, complex woman with malleable ethics, who attracted then repelled the staid and rather wooden Edmund Bertram, is more interesting to me than Fanny Price, the novel’s heroine. Of all the scenes in Mansfield Park, I am particularly drawn to this one from Volume 3, Chapter 16. In it, Edmund Bertram is speaking to Fanny Price, relating the conversation he had with Mary Crawford, in which his eyes to her true character were opened:

        He had seen Miss Crawford. He had been invited to see her. He had received a note from Lady Stornaway to beg him to call; and regarding it as what was meant to be the last, last interview of friendship, and investing her with all the feelings of shame and wretchedness which Crawford’s sister ought to have known, he had gone to her in such a state of mind, so softened, so devoted, as made it for a few moments impossible to Fanny’s fears, that it should be the last. But as he proceeded in his story, these fears were over. She had met him, he said, with a serious—certainly a serious—even an agitated air; but before he had been able to speak one intelligible sentence, she had introduced the subject in a manner which he owned had shocked him. “‘I heard you were in town,’ said she—’I wanted to see you. Let us talk over this sad business. What can equal the folly of our two relations?’—I could not answer, but I believe my looks spoke. She felt reproved. Sometimes how quick to feel! With a graver look and voice she then added—’I do not mean to defend Henry at your sister’s expence.’ So she began—but how she went on, Fanny, is not fit—is hardly fit to be repeated to you. I cannot recall all her words. I would not dwell upon them if I could. Their substance was great anger at the folly of each. She reprobated her brother’s folly in being drawn on by a woman whom he had never cared for, to do what must lose him the woman he adored; but still more the folly of—poor Maria, in sacrificing such a situation, plunging into such difficulties, under the idea of being really loved by a man who had long ago made his indifference clear. Guess what I must have felt. To hear the woman whom—no harsher name than folly given!—So voluntarily, so freely, so coolly to canvass it!—No reluctance, no horror, no feminine—shall I say? no modest loathings!—This is what the world does. For where, Fanny, shall we find a woman whom nature had so richly endowed?—Spoilt, spoilt!—”

        After a little reflection, he went on with a sort of desperate calmness—”I will tell you every thing, and then have done for ever. She saw it only as folly, and that folly stamped only by exposure. The want of common discretion, of caution— his going down to Richmond for the whole time of her being at Twickenham—her putting herself in the power of a servant;—it was the detection in short—Oh! Fanny, it was the detection, not the offence which she reprobated. It was the imprudence which had brought things to extremity, and obliged her brother to give up every dearer plan, in order to fly with her.”

        He stopt.—”And what,” said Fanny, (believing herself required to speak), “what could you say?”

        “Nothing, nothing to be understood. I was like a man stunned. She went on, began to talk of you;—yes, then she began to talk of you, regretting, as well she might, the loss of such a——. There she spoke very rationally. But she has always done justice to you. ‘He has thrown away,’ said she, ‘such a woman as he will never see again. She would have fixed him, she would have made him happy for ever.’—My dearest Fanny, I am giving you I hope more pleasure than pain by this retrospect of what might have been—but what never can be now. You do not wish me to be silent?—if you do, give me but a look, a word, and I have done.”

        No look or word was given.

        “Thank God!” said he. “We were all disposed to wonder—but it seems to have been the merciful appointment of Providence that the heart which knew no guile should not suffer. She spoke of you with high praise and warm affection; yet, even here, there was alloy, a dash of evil—for in the midst of it she could exclaim ‘Why, would not she have him? It is all her fault. Simple girl!—I shall never forgive her. Had she accepted him as she ought, they might now have been on the point of marriage, and Henry would have been too happy and too busy to want any other object. He would have taken no pains to be on terms with Mrs. Rushworth again. It would have all ended in a regular standing flirtation, in yearly meetings at Sotherton and Everingham.’ Could you have believed it possible?—But the charm is broken. My eyes are opened.”

        “Cruel!” said Fanny—”quite cruel. At such a moment to give way to gaiety, to speak with lightness, and to you!—Absolute cruelty.”

        “Cruelty, do you call it?—We differ there. No, her’s is not a cruel nature. I do not consider her as meaning to wound my feelings. The evil lies yet deeper; in her total ignorance, unsuspiciousness of there being such feelings; in a perversion of mind which made it natural to her to treat the subject as she did. She was speaking only, as she had been used to hear others speak, as she imagined every body else would speak. Her’s are not faults of temper. She would not voluntarily give unnecessary pain to any one, and though I may deceive myself, I cannot but think that for me, for my feelings, she would—Her’s are faults of principle, Fanny, of blunted delicacy and a corrupted, vitiated mind. Perhaps it is best for me—since it leaves me so little to regret. Not so, however. Gladly would I submit to all the increased pain of losing her, rather than have to think of her as I do. I told her so.”

        “Did you?”

        “Yes, when I left her I told her so.”

        “How long were you together?”

        “Five and twenty minutes. Well, she went on to say, that what remained now to be done, was to bring about a marriage between them. She spoke of it, Fanny, with a steadier voice than I can.” He was obliged to pause more than once as he continued. “‘We must persuade Henry to marry her,’ said she, ‘and what with honour, and the certainty of having shut himself out for ever from Fanny, I do not despair of it. Fanny he must give up. I do not think that even he could now hope to succeed with one of her stamp, and therefore I hope we may find no insuperable difficulty. My influence, which is not small, shall all go that way; and, when once married, and properly supported by her own family, people of respectability as they are, she may recover her footing in society to a certain degree. In some circles, we know, she would never be admitted, but with good dinners, and large parties, there will always be those who will be glad of her acquaintance; and there is, undoubtedly, more liberality and candour on those points than formerly. What I advise is, that your father be quiet. Do not let him injure his own cause by interference. Persuade him to let things take their course. If by any officious exertions of his, she is induced to leave Henry’s protection, there will be much less chance of his marrying her, than if she remain with him. I know how he is likely to be influenced. Let Sir Thomas trust to his honour and compassion, and it may all end well; but if he get his daughter away, it will be destroying the chief hold.'”

        After repeating this, Edmund was so much affected, that Fanny, watching him with silent, but most tender concern, was almost sorry that the subject had been entered on at all. It was long before he could speak again. At last, “Now, Fanny,” said he, “I shall soon have done. I have told you the substance of all that she said. As soon as I could speak, I replied that I had not supposed it possible, coming in such a state of mind into that house, as I had done, that any thing could occur to make me suffer more, but that she had been inflicting deeper wounds in almost every sentence. That, though I had, in the course of our acquaintance, been often sensible of some difference in our opinions, on points too, of some moment, it had not entered my imagination to conceive the difference could be such as she had now proved it. That the manner in which she treated the dreadful crime committed by her brother and my sister—(with whom lay the greater seduction I pretended not to say)—but the manner in which she spoke of the crime itself, giving it every reproach but the right, considering its ill consequences only as they were to be braved or overborne by a defiance of decency and impudence in wrong; and, last of all, and above all, recommending to us a compliance, a compromise, an acquiescence in the continuance of the sin, on the chance of a marriage which, thinking as I now thought of her brother, should rather be prevented than sought—all this together most grievously convinced me that I had never understood her before, and that, as far as related to mind, it had been the creature of my own imagination, not Miss Crawford, that I had been too apt to dwell on for many months past. That, perhaps, it was best for me; I had less to regret in sacrificing a friendship—feelings—hopes which must, at any rate, have been torn from me now. And yet, that I must and would confess, that, could I have restored her to what she had appeared to me before, I would infinitely prefer any increase of the pain of parting, for the sake of carrying with me the right of tenderness and esteem. This is what I said—the purport of it—but, as you may imagine, not spoken so collectedly or methodically as I have repeated it to you. She was astonished, exceedingly astonished—more than astonished. I saw her change countenance. She turned extremely red. I imagined I saw a mixture of many feelings—a great, though short struggle—half a wish of yielding to truths, half a sense of shame—but habit, habit carried it. She would have laughed if she could. It was a sort of laugh, as she answered, ‘A pretty good lecture upon my word. Was it part of your last sermon? At this rate, you will soon reform every body at Mansfield and Thornton Lacey; and when I hear of you next, it may be as a celebrated preacher in some great society of Methodists, or as a missionary into foreign parts.’ She tried to speak carelessly; but she was not so careless as she wanted to appear. I only said in reply, that from my heart I wished her well, and earnestly hoped that she might soon learn to think more justly, and not owe the most valuable knowledge we could any of us acquire—the knowledge of ourselves and of our duty, to the lessons of affliction—and immediately left the room. I had gone a few steps, Fanny, when I heard the door open behind me. ‘Mr. Bertram,’ said she. I looked back. ‘Mr. Bertram,’ said she, with a smile—but it was a smile ill-suited to the conversation that had passed, a saucy playful smile, seeming to invite, in order to subdue me; at least, it appeared so to me. I resisted; it was the impulse of the moment to resist, and still walked on. I have since—sometimes—for a moment—regretted that I did not go back; but I know I was right, and such has been the end of our acquaintance! And what an acquaintance has it been! How have I been deceived! Equally in brother and sister deceived! I thank you for your patience, Fanny. This has been the greatest relief, and now we will have done.”

        • Fanny’s Excellence, by Carolyn Duncan, and the JASNA 2006 Essay Winner, discusses this scene and its meaning in quite some detail.
        • In this passage, “God made the country, man made the town’ or the ‘Active’ Rich Lady and Her Harp,” Ellen Moody discusses Mary Crawford and Edmund Bertram in terms of city values (Mary) versus country values (Edmund.)

        In Free Will to Pervert Goodness, Edea A. Baldwin writes that all is not lost for Mary, and that Jane Austen leaves the door open a crack for her future happiness.

        Mary wants to do good, but her actions are often twisted into evil. In trying to help her brother win the heart of Fanny Price, Mary tricks Fanny into accepting a necklace that Henry bought, telling her that it was a gift from herself. Really believing that she did the right thing, she later tells Fanny, “I was delighted to act on his proposal, for both your sakes.” Fanny, however, cries, “Oh! Miss Crawford, that was not fair . . . had I had an idea of it, nothing should have induced me to accept the necklace.”[36] In spite of Mary’s past and her twisted attempts to do the right thing, Austen never lets the reader forget that Mary’s unhappy end comes as a result of her own choices. There is no hint of determinism or fate. Mary provides a bit of sad foreshadowing during a card game when she exclaims, “There, I will stake my last like a woman of spirit. No cold prudence for me . . . If I lose the game, it shall not be from not striving for it.”[37]

        Mary Crawford walks away from Mansfield Park as a tragic character, but Austen’s final words about Mary keep the door open for future happiness. Readers who sympathize with her may well hope that she will eventually choose goodness over the bitter cynicism that corrupts her judgment: Mary . . . was long in finding . . . any one who could satisfy the better taste she had acquired at Mansfield, whose character and manners could authorise a hope of the domestic happiness she had there learnt to estimate.

        Learn More About Mansfield Park in these links:

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