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Posts Tagged ‘Pride and Prejudice 200 Years’

David Bamber is Mr Collins, Pride and Prejudice 1995

David Bamber is Mr Collins, Pride and Prejudice 1995

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice. When I was fourteen I read the novel in one sitting, choosing the book one summer in a quest to finish a list of classics. Like so many girls, I identified with Lizzy and wished that some modern Mr. Darcy would find my eyes strikingly beautiful. While P&P’s protagonists attracted me at first, it is the secondary, more imperfect characters who continue to fascinate me: Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Collins, Caroline Bingley, Mr. Bennet, Lydia, and Mr. Wickham, as well as those who played minor but crucial roles – Mary Bennet, Sir William Lucas, and Mr. Hurst. All are archetypes of people we have known in one way or another.

I have not forgotten Lady Catherine de Bourgh, or Lady CdeB, as she will be known henceforth in this narrative. In my opinion, Lady CdeB is in a class by herself and rises above the other sterling cast (although Mr. Collins is tough competition.) She’s a giant in the annals of literary supporting characters. My older self is astonished that a 19 year-old slip of a girl living in a quiet backwater village could have come up with such a magnificent creation. It boggles the mind.

It is quite telling that we are first introduced to Lady CdeB through Mr. Collins. That Jane Austen chose to announce the appearance of this proud, arrogant aristocrat through a fawning and obsequious bootlicker is genius, for we swiftly come to the conclusion that she is either as foolish as her empty-headed flatterer or is using him for some purpose. To the delight of Mr. Bennet, who has been bored out of his gourd since saying “I do” at the altar, Mr. Collins preens and swaggers at the very mention of his patron.

During dinner, Mr. Bennet scarcely spoke at all; but when the servants were withdrawn, he thought it time to have some conversation with his guest, and therefore started a subject in which he expected him to shine, by observing that he seemed very fortunate in his patroness.”

Mr Collins responds to Mr. Bennet's question

Mr Collins responds to Mr. Bennet’s question. Pride and Prejudice 1995

Like a marionette tugged on a string, Mr. Collins jumps at this prompt, much to Mr. Bennet’s delight. After years of suffering through banal dinner conversations with Mrs. Bennet and three of his five daughters, he now actively seeks relief from his ennui and his guest does not disappoint. The vicar boasts that:

he had never in his life witnessed such behaviour in a person of rank — such affability and condescension, as he had himself experienced from Lady Catherine. She had been graciously pleased to approve of both the discourses which he had already had the honour of preaching before her. She had also asked him twice to dine at Rosings, and had sent for him only the Saturday before, to make up her pool of quadrille in the evening. Lady Catherine was reckoned proud by many people he knew, but he had never seen any thing but affability in her.”

This effusive praise begs the question: if Lady CdeB had a lick of sense, why would she waste her precious time with this clown? Austen continues to dangle interesting glimpses of her in front of us, using Mr. Collins as her mouthpiece and building up our expectations of this nonpareil. During the most brilliantly ridiculous proposal written in English literature, Austen arranges to have Lady CdeB speak directly to us for the first time:

Mr Collins and Lizzy, by Brock. Image @Mollins

Mr Collins and Lizzy, by Brock. Image @Mollands

My reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it a right thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances (like myself) to set the example of matrimony in his parish. Secondly, that I am convinced it will add very greatly to my happiness; and thirdly — which perhaps I ought to have mentioned earlier, that it is the particular advice and recommendation of the very noble lady whom I have the honour of calling patroness. Twice has she condescended to give me her opinion (unasked too!) on this subject; and it was but the very Saturday night before I left Hunsford — between our pools at quadrille, while Mrs. Jenkinson was arranging Miss de Bourgh’s foot-stool, that she said, “Mr. Collins, you must marry. A clergyman like you must marry. — Chuse properly, chuse a gentlewoman for my sake; and for your own, let her be an active, useful sort of person, not brought up high, but able to make a small income go a good way. This is my advice. Find such a woman as soon as you can, bring her to Hunsford, and I will visit her.”

Such delicious dialogue! Lady CdeB has no higher hope for Mr. Collins’ happiness other than a wife who is active (can work her butt off) and can make a small income go a good way (is thrifty). The future Mrs. Collins must not be too high in the instep, but not so low of class that it would be impossible for Lady CdeB to be seen with her. In other words, Lady CdeB must be assured that those with whom she socializes are worthy of her attentions. (The more worthy, the better, for subjugating a strong person would give her a headier sense of power than lording it over a weakling.)

In rural Regency England, a grande dame’s social circle was restricted to the slim pickings in her community. Despite a lack of choice, there were standards to be maintained and Mr. Collins is as low down the status totem pole as Lady CdeB can go. Emma Woodhouse experiences a similar dearth of social connections in Highbury. Before easy travel became possible, one simply had to make do.

Social circles are small in a rural village. Pride and Prejudice 1995

Social circles are small in a rural village. Pride and Prejudice 1995

In these early scenes with Mr. Collins, Austen builds up our expectations. Knowing what priceless enjoyment is in store for us, she makes us wait for a few more chapters before Lady CdeB’s grand entrance, and so, during Lizzy’s visit to Hunsford, she continues to pique our curiosity.

Yes, Miss Elizabeth, you will have the honour of seeing Lady Catherine de Bourgh on the ensuing Sunday at church, and I need not say you will be delighted with her. She is all affability and condescension, and I doubt not but you will be honoured with some portion of her notice when service is over. I have scarcely any hesitation in saying that she will include you and my sister Maria in every invitation with which she honours us during your stay here. Her behaviour to my dear Charlotte is charming. We dine at Rosings twice every week, and are never allowed to walk home. Her ladyship’s carriage is regularly ordered for us. I should say, one of her ladyship’s carriages, for she has several.”

We are so entranced with Mr. Collins’s banal utterances that we nearly miss Charlotte’s quiet opinion of the patroness. Until she married Mr. Collins, Charlotte seemed a sensible sort, but now we are coming to understand why Lizzy’s respect for her old friend has cooled so dramatically. Aside from willingly marrying a buffoon, it turns out that Charlotte has inherited some of her father’s capacity for groveling.

Lady Catherine is a very respectable, sensible woman indeed,” added Charlotte, “and a most attentive neighbour.”

What? Where’s the irony in that statement? When Mr. Collins answers,”Very true, my dear, that is exactly what I say. She is the sort of woman whom one cannot regard with too much deference,” Charlotte remains silent. Her lack of rejoinder is damning – to us and surely to Lizzy – for she is becoming a toady.

Charlotte, Lizzy, Maria Lucas, and Sir William Lucas. Pride and Prejudice 1995

Charlotte, Lizzy, Maria Lucas, and Sir William Lucas. Pride and Prejudice 1995

Observe Charlotte’s behavior somewhat later when Anne deB, Lady CdeB’s daughter, commands her driver to halt her phaeton at the parsonage’s garden gate. This non-event starts a rube goldberg chain of events in which Mr. Collins stops dead in his tracks to go rushing to the gate, Charlotte tosses aside her women’s work to chase after him and stand by his side, Sir William Lucas parks his carcass in the doorway to bask in all that reflected greatness, and Maria Lucas clomps noisily up the stairs to broadcast the GRAND EVENT and drag Lizzy to the window to SEE for herself!

Charlotte at the window. Pride and Prejudice 2005

Charlotte at the window. Pride and Prejudice 2005

Lizzy, who had been busy searching for an instrument with which to catch pigs, thinking that only a herd of swine on the loose could cause such a commotion, looks in astonishment at an anemic woman with a scowling face and her companion. Suddenly it dawns on her that THIS is the cousin intended for Mr. Darcy! And here is when we discover that Miss Elizabeth has the makings of a mean girl, for she is pleased as punch to know that this sallow creature is destined to be Mr. Darcy’s bride.

At the parsonage gate with Lady Anne her companion and the Collinses.

At the parsonage gate with Lady Anne her companion and the Collinses.

In this farcical scene Austen has provides us with foreshadowing of how things will be at Rosings and how these characters will conduct themselves in the presence of Lady CdeB. Their reaction to her daughter, a nonentity, is extraordinary, with the Collinses bobbing like two plastic dunking birds and the star-struck Lucases re-enacting the Regency version of a Kim Kardashian fan club.

Next: Lady CdeB

Next: Lady CdeB

Only Lizzy remains untouched, for she’s not easily awed by the trappings of title and position. Anne’s visit had a real purpose it seems, for Charlotte informs them that they are invited to dine at Rosings the next day. As Mr. Collins whirlygigs himself into a tizzy, Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn House, and the daughter of a gentleman, girds her loins in anticipation of meeting the dragon lady. Jane Austen, meanwhile, has us readers chomping at the bit.

Next: Lady Catherine de Bourgh in all her glory.

More posts on this blog regarding Pride and Prejudice 200 year anniversary.

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Sewell, The Bennet sisters

Sewell, The Bennet sisters. The photos do not capture the detail of each image.

This year we celebrate all things Pride and Prejudice in honor of the novel’s 200 year anniversary. Just recently, Ruby Lane sold a rare, out of print, limited 1940 edition of Pride and Prejudice, illustrated by Helen Sewell, an illustrator of mainly children’s books. People today still recognize the original drawings she created for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House books.

Helen Sewell

Helen Sewell

About Helen Sewell

Sewell was born June 27, 1896 at Mare Island Navy Yard, California. Her family moved to Guam shortly afterward, where her father, William Elbridge Sewell, served as Governor.

Education

Sewell wanted to be an artist since the age of eight. At 12 years old, she began attending Pratt Institute’s Saturday classes and by 16 years of age was enrolled there full time. This was in place of completing high school. At Pratt, she studied classes with Alexander Archipenko, who was the underlying influence for her broken-cylinder figures.

"Not handsome enough"

“Not handsome enough”

mrs bennet

Mrs. Bennet

Sewell began her long career working on Christmas and greeting cards; her first illustrated publication was in 1923. She primarily illustrated children’s books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Elizabeth Coatsworth, Eleanor Farjeon, and Frances Clarke Sayer. As with Pride and Prejudice and a 1957 edition of Sense and Sensibility, Sewell also created drawings for a small number of adult publications

Unguarded moments shows the full page illustration

Unguarded moments shows the full page illustration

Sewell’s style included a simple use of color, which at times eliminated black all together, and her use of the white paper.  Her line drawings were in imitation of 19th century steel engravings. She died in 1957 at the age of 61.

Illustration of the Gardiners on page 324

Illustration of the Gardiners on page 324

About the Limited 1940 edition of Pride and Prejudice

coverThe image at right is of a hardcover, green marbled slipcase. Quarter binding, green marbled board cover, with  brown faux leather spine. Heritage edition illustrations are signed by the illustrator. (The commercial issue would have fewer illustrations for the ordinary book buyer.) It is said that photographic images do the drawings no justice, for they are quite detailed when seen in person.

 

darcy and elizabeth

Darcy and Elizabeth dancing

sewell illustration

This limited edition book sold for $74 at Ruby Lane. I would gladly have paid more. Other limited edition books are selling for as much as $900 per copy. (Click on images for a larger view.)

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Gentle readers, If you live near the Baltimore area, this exhibit might interest you.

Pride and Prejudice Goucher

Since it was first published in 1813, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen has charmed generation after generation. The exhibition Pride and Prejudice: a 200 Year Affair celebrates one of the most popular and beloved novels of our time. A colorful visual history reflects how Pride and Prejudice has been published, adapted, translated, and loved over the last 200 years. It features the first edition published on January 28, 1813 as well as, rare and illustrated editions, and collectibles. Goucher College has the largest collection on Jane Austen and her times in North America.

The Goucher College Special Collections and Archives is home to our Jane Austen collection, but also collections spanning the early printing age to the Modern era. Our closed stacks house rows of first edition books, rare publications, and historical ephemera. We are open to the public Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. While we generally accommodate the needs of our student body and faculty in their research, we also have visitors from around the world for academic research as well as recreational visits.

For more interesting information about the exhibit, click on this Goucher College link: http://gouchercollegejaneausten.wordpress.com/

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Gentle readers, this year marks the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice. This blog will feature a variety of posts about the novel and on its author, Jane Austen. Frequent contributor, Tony Grant (London Calling) recently visited the National Portrait Gallery in London and viewed the small watercolour portrait of her painted by Cassandra Austen. In this tribute, Tony demonstrates her star status among other literary superstars.

jane1

Click on this link to see the portrait’s location within the National Portrait Gallery

If you enter the National Portrait Gallery as you walk into the main atrium go up the tall escalator on the left and you come to a foyer area at the top off which there are entrances into two main galleries. On the right is the wonderful gallery displaying the powerfully evocative Tudor monarchs and their statesmen.

On the left are the 18th and 19th century galleries portraying the politicians, monarchs, reformers and writers of that period. It is here , many of you will know, is the tiny portrait of Jane Austen attributed to her sister Cassandra and drawn in 1810 using pencil and watercolours. It is an unprepossessing little picture. It’s great worth is in who it is. But, if you stand back from the plinth with the perspex box on its summit containing Jane and view the whole vista you will notice that Jane is surrounded by a halo of super star writers. She is the centre of the group.

Bottom left is Sir Walter Scott. Moving clockwise next comes Samuel Taylor Coleridge, at the top is John Keats and then as you move down right of Jane, Robert Southey follows and last, bottom right, is Robert Burns. Quite a group, and there she is in the middle, our Jane. If you think I am imagining the halo metaphor, walk behind the plinth with Jane displayed and you will notice that there is nothing on the wall, there is a space. The halo metaphor works. The only thing behind Jane is a handwritten catalogue number on the back of the portrait itself. It reads; “NPG 360, Jane Austen.” It’s written in pencil in a reasonably legible hand. A scrawled note such as somebody might write as a memo to themselves on a post it and stick on their fridge door.

All of these writers were geniuses and there is Jane right at their centre. The men were all Romantics. Jane perhaps ridiculed some aspects of Romanticism in Northanger Abbey but she wrote about romance and its vicissitudes. The men wrote about their emotional response to the world. Jane did not portray her own emotions, just the emotions of her characters.

walter scottSir Walter Scott (1771-1832) painted by Sir Edwin Landseer.

Chivalry!—why, maiden, she is the nurse of pure and high affection—the stay of the oppressed, the redresser of grievances, the curb of the power of the tyrant —Nobility were but an empty name without her, and liberty finds the best protection in her lance and her sword.” Ivanhoe

Many of Scott’s novels harked back to a supposed ideal period , the Middle Ages, when chivalry was the moral high ground for men and women fitted into the system as perfect idols worshipped by men. However this was for the aristocracy. Serfdom was really slavery. Serfs were possessions. Scott wrote in Ivanhoe and Quentin Durward and novels such as those about this ideal dreamlike world. It was the ultimate escapism.
coleridgeSamuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) painted by Peter Van Dyke.

The western wave was all a-flame.
The day was well nigh done !
Almost upon the western wave
Rested the broad bright Sun;
When that strange shape drove suddenly
Betwixt us and the Sun.
It seemeth him but the skeleton of a ship.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a friend of William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy. They promoted Romanticism together which added a more emotional and personal response to the world in addition to the ways of thinking the Age of Enlightenment promoted.

NPG 194; John Keats by William Hilton, after  Joseph SevernJohn Keats (1795 – 1821) painted by Joseph Severn

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.”

John Keats died of tuberculosis in Rome in February 1821. Joseph Severn, the portrait artist was his best friend and was with him in Rome when he died. Keats was another Romantic poet. When he first started publishing his poetry he was heavily criticised in Blackwood’s Magazine. Those with invested interests in the status quo and couldn’t think imaginatively beyond what they knew, seemed hell-bent on preventing the human race from progressing. It was ever thus.

robert southeyRobert Southey(1774 -1843) painted by Peter Van Dyke.

We pursued our way
To the house of mirth, and with that idle talk
That passes o’er the mind and is forgot,
We wore away the time. But it was eve
When homewardly I went, and in the air
Was that cool freshness, that discolouring shade
That makes the eye turn inward.”

Robert Southey was another of the Romantic poets. He lived in the lakes with Wordsworth and Coleridge and is generally known as one of the Lakeland poets. He is now considered a lesser poet than either Wordsworth or Coleridge. In 1813 he became the poet laureate and Byron lambasted him for this.

NPG 46; Robert Burns by Alexander NasmythRobert Burns (1759 – 1796) painted by Alexander Nasmyth

We’ll gae down by Cluden side,
Thro’ the hazels spreading wide,
O’er the waves that sweetly glide
To the moon sae clearly.
Yonder Cluden’s silent towers,
Where at moonshine midnight hours,
O’er the dewy-bending flowers,
Fairies dance sae cheery.”

Robert Burns is a Scottish national hero. Websites dedicated to him use his name, his picture and his poems in an unashamedly mercenary way. He is probably the most marketed writer in this group and a real money spinner for the Scottish economy. He was actually a great poet it is sometimes worth stopping and remembering. What can be difficult for many readers is the Scottish dialect and use of colloquial phrases in his poems. His poetry is worth spending time with. They require deep emotional investment. They are rich with feelings and emotions. He was a romantic poet more by inclination than belief. It was just him, the way he was.

jane austenJane Austen (1775 – 1817) painted by Cassandra Austen

The first line of Pride and Prejudice goes such:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune , must be in want of a wife.”

However, the last lines of the penultimate chapter of Pride and Prejudice are also worth considering and shed light on Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy in particular.

…….she looked forward with delight to the time they should be removed from society so little pleasing to either, to all the comfort and elegance of their family party at Pemberley.”

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Gentle readers, in celebration of Pride and Prejudice’s 200 year anniversary, Jane Austen’s World will feature a regular article about Jane Austen’s most popular novel throughout 2013. We can count on frequent contributor Tony Grant from London Calling to provide us with a unique perspective. Enjoy!

All good films have a car chase. Some originate from well written, exciting, nail-biting, on the edge of your seats, breathless descriptions in a novel.

Steve McQueen in mustang

Steve McQueen in mustang

Let it not be said Pride and Prejudice doesn’t have it’s nail biter, it’s moment of burning rubber and screeching tyres that is right up there with Steve McQueen ripping up the streets of San Francisco in Bullitt, hurling his Ford Mustang over the lips of hills and down daredevil slopes with a street fighters aggression or Michael Caine escaping the Italian police with wheels spitting gravel and door smashing bravado in his supercharged mini cooper GT along the Corniche, “not many people know that,” or John Thaw in The Sweeney, as gritty streetwise cop Jack Regan thundering through the Isle of Dogs in his 3 litre V6 Ford Consul GT. Mr Bennett has his contenders, but not, may I dare say, his equals, oh no.

Elizabeth Bennett, who is visiting Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle, the Gardeners has received a letter from her sister Jane

Since writing the above, dearest Lizzy, something has occurred of a most unexpected and serious nature; but I am afraid of alarming you — be assured that we are all well. What I have to say relates to poor Lydia. An express came at twelve last night, just as we were all gone to bed, from Colonel Forster, to inform us that she was gone off to Scotland with one of his officers; to own the truth, with Wickham!”

Image of eloping couple. 1815

Image of eloping couple. 1815

This piece of information about Lydia sets in motion, literally, a series of coach journeys and desperate searchings that rivals anything Steve McQueen or Michael Caine partook of.

Michael Caine: Nuts to your watches! You just be at the Piazza at a quarter to..
Steve McQueen: Look, you work your side of the street, and I’ll work mine.
Det. Insp. Jack Regan: Remember, no guns unless they use ’em.

Mr Gardner and Mr Bennett walking the streets of London, searching for Wickham and Lydia could well have used lines like those. What needs to be said, what needs to be done, never changes whatever century, don’t you think?

“…and all three being actuated by one spirit, every thing relating to their journey was speedily settled. They were to be off as soon as possible.”

Coach travel

Coach travel

And so Mr and Mrs Gardner and Lizzie Bennett sped south to Longbourn at the hair-raising speed of 10 miles per hour or more, on the occasion of increased velocity being achieved when long flat straight roads presented themselves; jolted and tossed about, no doubt, like three potatoes in a sack.

But Lydia and Wickham were as devious and cunning as any mafia on the streets of Naples, or ruthless bank robbers from the East End of London or murderous killers off the dangerous streets of San Francisco. Gretna Green was, dare I say, a red herring. They spread rumours, gasp, horror; they planned and they plotted, they predicted and they saw clearly with their crazed, devious minds thinking out brilliantly, their next move. They lived the heady adrenalin pumped life of criminals on the run.

Mr Bennett “… did trace them easily to Clapham, but no farther; for on entering that place they removed into a Hackney coach and dismissed the chaise that brought them from Epsom.”

Oh gosh and golly, what subterfuge, what dastardly cunning. They actually changed from a chaise to a hackney coach.The evil mind games of those criminals. But they were hunted, yes, hunted, by Mr Bennett, he, a wily, ruthless backwoodsman who once he smelled the scent of his prey cannot, will not, be put off his quest. Mrs Bennett was right to be desperate in her concerns,

And now here’s Mr Bennett gone away and I know he will fight Wickham, wherever he meets him, and then he will be killed, and what is to become of us all?”.

Popeye Doyle himself could not compete with Mr Bennett surely in his ruthless endeavour

 The son of a bitch is here. I saw him. I’m gonna get him.”

But our Mr Bennett in his utter, focused, desperate determination can but say,

“Who should suffer but myself? It has been my own doing, and I ought to feel it.”

Good gracious, the man is a titan of hot-blooded aggression. Surely nothing can prevail? Wickham has met his match.

epsom

Epsom Watch House & Clock c1840 from Dugdale’s England & Wales
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre

Elizabeth was desperate to know what lengths, what depths her father would go to retrieve his wayward daughter, her very own sister.

He meant, I believe,” replied Jane, “to go to Epsom, the place where they last changed horses, see the postilions, and try if anything could be made out from them. His principal object must be to discover the number of the hackney coach which took them from Clapham. “

Of course, a touch of sheer genius; find out the number of the Hackney Coach. That would do it. He would be sure to find them then.
And after all this searching, this animal desperation, this wolf like howl of anguish ripped from the primeval instinctive depths of Mr Bennett’s heart, what then? What could be the consequences? So after many letters flying backwards and forwards, if anything, P&P appears to hinge very often on the writing, sending and receiving of letters, Mr Gardner has appeared to pay Wickhams debts,, Mr Bennet has only to provide a paltry £100 a year, he can’t believ his luck and can’t quite work out the finances as if he ever could work out his finances. (Aside: we all know who really has settled the finances, don’t we?? Ha! Ha! It’s getting more like a pantomime all the time this. Mrs Bennnet as Widow Twanky and Mr Bennet as Baron Hardup.)

He had never before supposed that, could Wickham be prevailed on to marry his daughter, it would be done with so little inconvenience to himself as by the present arrangement. He would scarcely be ten pounds a year the loser, by the hundred that was to be paid them; for, what with her board and pocket allowance, and the continual presents in money which passed to her through her mother’s hands, Lydia’s expenses had been very little within that sum.

That it would be done with such trifling exertion on his side, too, was another very welcome surprise; for his chief wish at present was to have as little trouble in the business as possible. When the first transports of rage which had produced his activity in seeking her were over, he naturally returned to all his former indolence.”

Mr. Bennet

Mr. Bennet

So Wickham was to marry Lydia and Mrs Bennett was happy and all was well with Mr Bennett and he could return to his former state of,” indolence.” A sort of Popeye Doyle with carpet slippers smoking a pipe and reading his newspaper seated at his fireside; a Michael Caine reminiscing about his past, cold eyed and tough emotionless roles in Get Carter relaxing now in his easy chair or Steve McQueen sitting back on his ranch, his rocking chair gently calming his fevered brain and letting his motorbikes go rusty, crying into his beer, or, even a Jack Regan from The Sweeney who could at last ,” Shut it!” himself. Ah, all was well in the end. Colonel Forster could return too to Brighton, to the lesser dangers of defending our shores and leading his regiment against Napoleon knocking at the very shingle on Brighton Beach. Mr and Mrs Gardner could return to the hustle and bustle and shops and markets of Gracechurch Street in the city and Lizzie and Jane, yes, well, we know what becomes of Lizzie and Jane,

Happy for all her maternal feelings was the day on which Mrs Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters. With what delighted pride she afterwards visited Mrs Bingley and talked of Mrs Darcy may be guessed.”

Lydia in connubial bliss and Wickham not so

Lydia in connubial bliss and Wickham apparently not so

So, in a novel dedicated to getting daughters married, a lot of horse and carriage mileage is accrued and many letters are written. We only hear of weddings, but we certainly know about how characters felt. Will, Lady Catherine ever get over being, “exceedingly angry” or will she just explode with high blood pressure?

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9780760344361Happy 200th year anniversary, Pride and Prejudice! Much to my delight, author Susannah Fullerton has written a comprehensive homage to the novel to start off a year-long celebration. Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece is chock full of new and old information about Jane Austen’s most popular and beloved work. Written in Susannah’s breezy style (reading the book is like hearing Susannah talk enthusiastically about one of her favorite authors in person), the book follows the creation, writing,  and publication of Pride and Prejudice; examines the appeal of its hero and heroine minutely; analyzes other major and minor characters; and discusses translations, illustrators, sequels and adaptations, films and theatricals, and P&P paraphernalia in some depth. In other words, Celebrating Pride and Prejudice is a one-stop reading shop for P&P enthusiasts.

Gough2 (1)

Copyrighted Gough image courtesy Voyageur Press.

Fullerton’s book is lavishly illustrated, with a number of images not well-known in the Austen cannon, such as Philip Gough’s lovely colored images which have been hidden from contemporary view for too long (unless one purchases an expensive out of print 1951 edition – if one can be found!), and also those from Robert Ball, Rhys Williams, Joan Hassal, and Isabel Bishop. Modern illustrators like Jane Odiwe, Liz Monahan, and Anne Kronheimer are also included.

DarcyStamp

Mr. Darcy on a UK stamp commemorating Jane Austen. Copyrighted image courtesy Voyageur Press.

Fullerton enlivens her chapter with interesting details, such as the location of Lydia’s wedding, Mrs. Bennet’s housekeeping skills, what other critics say about Lizzy and Darcy, and Christmas in Austen’s day. She also includes an interesting theory about Mr. Darcy (with which I vehemently disagree), which describes him as being “slightly autistic”. (Note that Fullerton merely introduces a theory proposed by Phyllis Ferguson Bottomer in her book, So Odd a Mixture.) Such details add a little peppery spice to this celebration of P&P. There are many more insights, but I particularly liked Fullerton’s own conclusion about Elizabeth and Lydia:

Ghastly as Lydia Bennet is, she and Elizabeth make credible sisters; Jane Austen has taken genetics into account. Both are attracted to Wickham, both break society’s rules (Elizabeth walks alone through the countryside), both have high energy levels,… and they share the same thoughts about Miss King (‘nasty little freckled thing’).”

google image pride and prejudice

Shot of google page with Pride and Prejudice book covers.

Celebrating P&P includes an extensive listing of British, American, and foreign film and television productions of P&P. As a would-be purchaser you might ask yourself: Does Fullerton offer new insights about P&P in her new book? Not for the more seasoned Janeite, but that isn’t its purpose. It’s meant to be an homage and celebration, much as the title states. Fullerton concludes her book with “Pride and Prejudice as bibliotherapy” and an essay from Elsa Solender, past president of JASNA. For those of us who eat, breathe, sleep, and dream Pride and Prejudice and all things Jane Austen,  Reading Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece is exactly the bibliotherapy we need to start 2013 off right. I congratulate Susannah Fullerton for a job well done and thank her for an enjoyable three evenings of reading this holiday season.

Opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice in different languages. Fullerton discusses its meaning in quite some detail.

Opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice in different languages. Fullerton discusses its meaning in quite some detail.

Susannah Fullerton

Susannah Fullerton is also the author of A Dance with Jane Austen

The book is on sale today:

ISBN: 9780760344361

Item # 210748

240 pages, 35 color, 35 b/w photos

http://www.voyageurpress.com

More with Susannah Fullerton

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Inquiring readers: This is the first of many posts I’ll be writing about “Pride and Prejudice” in honor of that novel’s 200 year anniversary in 2013. Enjoy.

Cheapside in 1823. Engraved by T.M. Baynes from a drawing by W. Duryer.JPG

Cheapside in 1823. Engraved by T.M. Baynes from a drawing by W. Duryer. Image @Wikipedia

Some London streets seem determined never to distinguish themselves. No mediaeval scuffle has ever occurred in them; no celebrated church hoards its monuments; no City hall cherishes its relics there; no celebrated person has honoured it by birth or death. Gracechurch Street is one of these unambitious streets. It derived its name, says Stow, from the grass or herb market there kept in old time, and which gave its name to the parish church of St. Bennet. – British History Online,

It is a woeful fact that I most likely crossed Gracechurch Street on my first visit to London and never new it. We had just visited Tower Hill and were heading for St. Paul’s Cathedral on foot. My husband and I wandered here and there and got lost, no nearer to our destination. This part of London seemed a mismash of old and mostly modern buildings, with wide and narrow streets, some twisting and winding, others straight. It was nothing like the old London my 24-year-old self had expected to see, for at that time I did not fully realize the extent of the devastation that the great fire of 1666 had wrought. Those changes were compounded by the London Blitz during WWII and recent modernization.

Early modern map of Cheapside. Image @The Map of Early Modern London

Early modern map of Cheapside. Image @The Map of Early Modern London One can see Bow Church at the top center.

We finally boarded a transit bus and missed noticing Gracechurch Street. Not that I would have searched for it. At that time I would not have recalled the few references in Pride and Prejudice to the street where Lizzy Bennet’s aunt and uncle Gardiner lived.

Mr. Gardiner was a sensible, gentlemanlike man, greatly superior to his sister, as well by nature as education. The Netherfield ladies would have had difficulty in believing that a man who lived by trade, and within view of his own warehouses, could have been so well bred and agreeable. Mrs. Gardiner, who was several years younger than Mrs. Bennet and Mrs. Philips, was an amiable, intelligent, elegant woman, and a great favourite with all her Longbourn nieces. Between the two eldest and herself especially, there subsisted a very particular regard. They had frequently been staying with her in town.

The first part of Mrs. Gardiner’s business on her arrival, was to distribute her presents and describe the newest fashions.

I love the Gardiners, two sane people in a novel filled with characters and oddballs. They provide ballast and sound advice to Elizabeth, who wisely turned to Mrs. Gardiner, not her mother, when mulling a problem about love and life. Mr. Gardiner was a merchant who lived close to his warehouse. Despite their middle class background, the Gardiners are more refined and sensible than many of their social betters. Elizabeth is proud to introduce them to Mr. Darcy when visiting his estate, knowing that their restrained behavior would not make him (or her) cringe.

Cheapside in the mid 18th century. Image @Republic of Pemberley

Cheapside in the mid 18th century. Image @Republic of Pemberley

Caroline Bingley, whose snobbishness was evident when she paid Jane a hasty courtesy call at Gracechurch Street, demonstrated a decided lack of class when she all but wrinkled her nose at a neighborhood she had probably managed to avoid all her life, an interesting attitude considering her family’s wealth came from trade and she was but one generation away from the “stench” of the merchant class. Social calls, their timing and length – or lack thereof – could be used to extend a friendship or give the cut direct, which in this instance Miss Bingley chose to do to Jane. Her lack of civility and coolness before and during the visit finally opened Jane’s eyes to Caroline’s desire to end their friendship. This was an event that Mrs. Gardiner and Lizzy correctly predicted beforehand:

The Gardiners and their brood, Pride and Prejudice, 1995

The Gardiners and their brood, Pride and Prejudice, 1995

Chapter 25:  [Mrs. Gardiner] Poor Jane! I am sorry for her, because, with her disposition, she may not get over it [her failed love affair with Bingley] immediately. It had better have happened to you, Lizzy; you would have laughed yourself out of it sooner. But do you think she would be prevailed on to go back with us? Change of scene might be of service — and perhaps a little relief from home, may be as useful as anything.”

Elizabeth was exceedingly pleased with this proposal, and felt persuaded of her sister’s ready acquiescence.

“I hope,” added Mrs. Gardiner, “that no consideration with regard to this young man will influence her. We live in so different a part of town, all our connexions are so different, and, as you well know, we go out so little, that it is very improbable they should meet at all, unless he really comes to see her.”

“And that is quite impossible; for he is now in the custody of his friend, and Mr. Darcy would no more suffer him to call on Jane in such a part of London! My dear aunt, how could you think of it? Mr. Darcy may, perhaps, have heard of such a place as Gracechurch Street, but he would hardly think a month’s ablution enough to cleanse him from its impurities, were he once to enter it; and, depend upon it, Mr. Bingley never stirs without him.”

“So much the better. I hope they will not meet at all. But does not Jane correspond with the sister? She will not be able to help calling.”

“She will drop the acquaintance entirely.”

Dennis Severs house, a Georgian merchant's house. Image @photographsRoelof Bakker, www.rbakker.com

Dennis Severs house, a Georgian merchant’s house in Spitalsfield. Image @photographs
Roelof Bakker, http://www.rbakker.com

“…lessen their chance of marrying men of any consideration in the world.

With this phrase, Austen gives us a clue about the Bennet girls’ situation, but, as we know, the ending of Pride and Prejudice proves this forecast wrong (for Lizzy and Jane, at least).

Lizzy is right about Caroline Bingley, but not about Darcy. In the following scene her prejudice towards that proud man comes to the fore. She assumes that Mr. Darcy’s attitude towards Gracechurch Street will echo that of Caroline Bingley, for this bustling shopping district simply wasn’t an area that the upper crust tended to visit. Caroline, Darcy and Bingley made their observations about the Bennet family during their stay at Netherfield:

Darcy and Caroline at breakfast

Darcy and Caroline at breakfast

“I think I have heard you say that their uncle is an attorney in Meryton”

“Yes; and they have another, who lives somewhere near Cheapside.”

“That is capital,” added her sister, and they both laughed heartily.

“If they had uncles enough to fill all Cheapside,” cried Bingley, “it would not make them one jot less agreeable.”

“But it must very materially lessen their chance of marrying men of any consideration in the world,” replied Darcy.

Darcy, it turns out, is made of finer stuff than Caroline Bingley, for when he visits the Gardiners in his quest to find Wickham, his attitude is anything  but snobbish – stubborn, as Mrs. Gardiner later relates, but not snobbish. While arranging Wickham’s marriage to Lydia, he visits Gracechurch Street on several occasions and even dines with the Gardiners, leaving them with a very positive impression of his character:

Chapter 51 [Letter from Mrs. Gardiner to Lizzy after Lydia revealed Darcy’s part in her marriage to Wickham] He dined with us the next day, and was to leave town again on Wednesday or Thursday. Will you be very angry with me, my dear Lizzy, if I take this opportunity of saying (what I was never bold enough to say before) how much I like him. His behaviour to us has, in every respect, been as pleasing as when we were in Derbyshire. His understanding and opinions all please me; he wants nothing but a little more liveliness, and that, if he marry prudently, his wife may teach him. I thought him very sly;—he hardly ever mentioned your name. But slyness seems the fashion.

Mansion House, Cheapside. Image @Darvill's Rare Prints

Mansion House, Cheapside. Image @Darvill’s Rare Prints

At the time that Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice, Cheapside was a very elegant thoroughfare with many sumptuous warehouses, convenient coffee houses, and  smart shops. In Real Life in London, Pierce Egan writes a passage in which Tom and Bob walk through this area filled with shopkeepers, bankers, merchants, shoppers, and “walking” billboards:

“Neither,” replied Dashall; “this is no other than the shop of a well-known dealer in stockings and nightcaps, who takes this ingenious mode of making himself popular, and informing the passengers that

“Here you may be served with all patterns and sizes,
From the foot to the head, at moderate prices;”

Mercer's Hall, Cheapside. Image @London and Its Environs

Mercer’s Hall, Cheapside. Image @London and Its Environs in the Nineteenth Century

with woolens for winter, and cottons for summer—Let us move on, for there generally is a crowd at the door, and there is little doubt but he profits by those who are induced to gaze, as most people do in London, if they can but entrap attention. Romanis is one of those gentlemen who has contrived to make some noise in the world by puffing advertisements, and the circulation of poetical handbills. He formerly kept a very small shop for the sale of hosiery nearly opposite the East-India House, where he supplied the Sailors after receiving their pay for a long voyage, as well as their Doxies, with the articles in which he deals, by obtaining permission to style himself “Hosier to the Rt. Hon. East India Company.” Since which, finding his trade increase and his purse extended, he has extended his patriotic views of clothing the whole population of London by opening shops in various parts, and has at almost all times two or three depositories for Romanis, the eccentric Hosier, generally places a loom near the door of his shops decorated with small busts; some of which being attached to the upper movements of the machinery, and grotesquely attired in patchwork and feathers, bend backwards and forwards with the motion of the works, apparently to salute the spectators, and present to the idea persons dancing; while every passing of the shuttle produces a noise which may be assimilated to that of the Rattlesnake, accompanied with sounds something like those of a dancing-master beating time to his scholars. his stock. (sic) At this moment, besides what we have just seen, there is one in Gracechurch Street, and another in Shoreditch, where the passengers are constantly assailed by a little boy, who stands at the door with some bills in his hand, vociferating—Cheap, cheap.”

“Then,” said Bob, “wherever he resides I suppose may really be called Cheapside?”

“With quite as much propriety,” continued Ton, “as the place we are now in; for, as the Irishman says in his song,

“At a place called Cheapside they sell every thing dear.”

During this conversation, Mortimer, Merrywell, and Harry were amusing themselves by occasionally addressing the numerous Ladies who were passing, and taking a peep at the shops—giggling with girls, or admiring the taste and elegance displayed in the sale of fashionable and useful articles—justled and impeded every now and then by the throng. Approaching Bow Church, they made a dead stop for a moment.

“What a beautiful steeple!” exclaimed Bob; “I should, though no architect, prefer this to any I have yet seen in London.” – Real Life in London, Egan

Cheapside and Bow Church engraved by W.Albutt after T.H.Shepherd publ 1837 edited. The pretty steeple is visible in this image. (wikipedia)

Cheapside and Bow Church engraved by W.Albutt after T.H.Shepherd publ 1837 edited. The pretty steeple is visible in this image. (wikipedia)

Once upon a time, Cheapside and Gracechurch Street were in the commercial heart of the city of London. It was the main shopping district in Jane Austen’s day. She describes the journey to Gracechurch street and Lizzy’s visit with the Gardiners in this lively scene:

Chapter 27: It was a journey of only twenty-four miles, and they began it so early as to be in Gracechurch Street by noon. As they drove to Mr. Gardiner’s door, Jane was at a drawing-room window watching their arrival; when they entered the passage she was there to welcome them, and Elizabeth, looking earnestly in her face, was pleased to see it healthful and lovely as ever. On the stairs were a troop of little boys and girls, whose eagerness for their cousin’s appearance would not allow them to wait in the drawing-room, and whose shyness, as they had not seen her for a twelvemonth, prevented their coming lower. All was joy and kindness. The day passed most pleasantly away: the morning in bustle and shopping, and the evening at one of the theatres.

steel engraving of the Bow Church on Cheapside Street in London (the Bow Church is probably better known as Saint Mary's Le Bow and it is said that all true Cockneys were born within the sounds of this church's bells)

Steel engraving of the Bow Church on Cheapside Street in London (the Bow Church is probably better known as Saint Mary’s Le Bow and it is said that all true Cockneys were born within the sounds of this church’s bells) Image @bouletfermat.com

Gracechurch Street means grass-church and was thus named because of a hay market nearby (1680-1868). The distinctive steeple of  St Mary-le-Bow Church is the only structure remaining today that Jane Austen would have recognized. A church has stood on this ground since Saxon times. After the Fire of 1666, Christopher Wren designed a new structure, which was destroyed during a 1941 bombing was and carefully reconstructed during the 1950s. Today, Gracechurch Street largely resembles a modern office block.

Gracechurch street today (Google maps)

Gracechurch street today (Google maps)

In the 17th century, coffeehouses arrived in the City and these soon became the place to pick up news. Some houses became the makeshift offices of the trades they served, giving birth to some of the world’s greatest financial institutions – the London Stock Exchange started in Jonathan’s Coffeehouse in Change Alley and Lloyds of London takes its name from Edward Lloyd, the proprietor of a coffeehouse in Tower Street. This, coupled with the founding by Royal Charter of the Bank of England in 1694, was the catalyst for the development of the City as a financial centre. – History of Cheapside

Cheapside was anything but cheap, the name “cheap” being the Saxon term for market. (Learn more about Cheapside Street here.) The names of the streets in that section of the City described the trades contained within this district: Wood Street, Milk Street, Bread Street, Honey Lane, Poultry and Friday Street for fish.

Today plans are afoot to revitalize this section of London and return it to its glory as a major shopping destination. History of Cheapside

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