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Archive for the ‘Jane Austen Films’ Category

In 2021, on the heels of Bridgerton’s success, Netflix announced a new adaptation of Persuasion starring Dakota Johnson as 27-year-old Anne Elliot and Cosmo Jarvis as Captain Wentworth. Henry Golding, given the choice to play either the captain or William Elliot, interestingly chose the latter. Also on board are Richard E. Grant and Suki Waterhouse as, I suppose, Sir Walter Elliot and Elizabeth Elliot, for their roles have not been announced. The other cast members are described at IMBD Persuasion 2022.

Persuasion pulbicity-Netflixfilm

Let these exquisite photos of Dakota Johnson, Cosmo Jarvis (t), and Henry Golding (b) tide you over until PERSUASION, a most excitable new film adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel arrives on Netflix in 2022.- NetflixFilm twitter @NetflixFilm

Netflix is betting on a sure thing. In addition to Bridgerton, now in its second season, the powers that be at Netflix must also have noticed Emma 2020’s draw. Before theaters closed during the pandemic, this film drew huge audiences in its opening weeks and enjoyed a steady stream of online viewers during lock down.

Jane Austen’s final novel was published posthumously in 1818, and by many it is considered her finest. This new adaptation is described as a “modern, witty approach.” We’ll see how well this approach matches Austen’s nuanced novel. Carrie Cracknell, a theater director, directs this film. Like Autumn de Wilde (Emma. 2020), she is a first-time film director. The script was written by Ron Bass (Rain Man) and Alice Victoria Winslow (Hot Spot). 

Filming began in 2021, and a release date is anticipated this year. The film is now in post production. I’m curious to see how this Persuasion stacks up against two previous adaptations, one in 1995 starring Amanda Root, and in 2007 starring Sally Hawkins. Stay tuned for more news as it comes.

Behind the scenes photos-PhotoWorld Twitter

Behind the scenes photos from Twitter, Period Drama World @WorldPeriod

Review of Persuasion by Tony Grant of the theater production, 2022

“PERSUASION (an adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel by Jeff James and James Yeatman) at The Rose Theatre Kingston upon Thames.”

Marilyn and I went to see Persuasion performed at The Rose on Tuesday 8th March. It may be strange but  for somebody who professes to know a little bit about Jane Austen it is a long time since I had actually read the novel. I have delved deep into Austen’s novels over the years for quotes and to reference her possible thoughts  and ideas about life and love,  but I have failed to read the whole of the novels since I first read them all  years ago.  I have lost sight. I think of what Jane actually wrote. So I read Persuasion again and it wowed me. It is a novel that explores the shifting of society  in the early 19th century when much was changing, not just relationships, but class and the industrial world was taking off. It seems apposite that at the moment when the world order is actually changing that The Rose Theatre chose Persuasion to dramatize. 

I know that novels, good novels, that is, as you read them again over time and  as your own experience of life develops,  reveal  different levels of understanding. So what did I get from reading Austen’s Persuasion this time round before seeing the performance?  The word ,persuasion, is used at times during the novel, but not often. The actual consequences of being persuaded however are felt throughout and drive the novel itself. Anne Elliot was persuaded by not just her father to refuse a  marriage proposal to somebody she really loved  but Lady Russell, the family friend and Anne’s particular friend, was always the deciding factor in the process of persuading  Anne in her youth. Ann seems to have been persuaded into a lot of things in her early life up to the moment of the novel’s action including turning down that offer of marriage from Captain Wentworth eight years previously.   Ann is  annoyingly hyper neurotic. Is that because she has always been pressured by others? Does she feel  she has no control over her life?  

Things happen to Anne. She doesn’t make things happen for herself. She analyses every situation, almost every word and look to an intense degree. She  always comes out worst. In this novel and in the play she eventually learns to decide for herself. So a major theme has to be how we use people’s advice and how much we should be persuaded when making life decisions for ourselves.

Persuasion-program-Image@TonyGrant

Persuasion program. Image taken by Tony Grant. See more of his images in the link at the bottom of this post.

A novel written in the early 19th century  translated into  a play set in the 21st century, surely, it can’t be done. They are two worlds so far apart. How can they possibly come together and meet? There are the wise among us that say Austen is universal in her treatment of relationships. This is true when you drill down to what happens in a  relationship  but all those 18th century rules get in the way to a  translation across centuries, surely? Class status, wealth,  attitudes to money and  the patriarchy  and what seems to us blatant misogyny but wasn’t understood as such in the 18th century, how does it all get transferred to the 21st century? When I read Persuasion again finishing the day before we saw the stage adaptation, I couldn’t see any way that it was possible to achieve that transfer from the 18th century to the 21st century.

To finish the review, continue to read how this production achieved its 21st century point of view and how the comedy was resolved on London Calling, Tony’s blog. Note: Tony Grant is a frequent contributor to this blog. His site covers all things England, past and present.

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When the world is topsy-turvy and my heart is heavy, many of us find comfort in the beauty of Austen’s novels, in the richness of the movie adaptations, and even in the thought of the lovely Hampshire countryside, secluded and beautiful, tucked away and secure.

The world inside Austen’s novels never changes. The familiar scenes and characters are always there and waiting. Elizabeth and Darcy never fail to spar and flirt in the drawing room in Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Woodhouse continues to eat his porridge and worry comfortably over the weather in Emma. And at the end of Persuasion, Captain Wentworth always sits down to write his letter to Anne Elliot.

Perhaps that’s why many of us (and why so many others throughout history) have found solace and comfort within the pages of Austen’s novels, especially during times of turmoil. And why her novels have been reprinted and translated and enjoyed around the world by so many people for over 200 years.

Familiar Faces

I find similar comfort in the film adaptations. When I sit down to watch a Jane Austen movie (or even have one playing in the background as I do chores), I love knowing just what to expect. I can’t wait to hear the music I love, listen to the accents and voices of characters and actors I adore, and watch the ever-amusing (and always touching) storylines unfold.

Sense and Sensibility, 1995.
Pride and Prejudice, 1995.
Emma, 2009.

The comfort and familiarity of Austen movies keeps us coming back for more, year after year. There are always new adaptations to enjoy and critique (because there’s nothing better than debating this Emma over that Emma with Austen friends).

Familiar Sights

And then there’s the comfort of Jane Austen’s actual world. Although I know Hampshire is a real place with its own fair share of regular, everyday life activities and stormy days, both figurative and literal (such as when Storm Eunice brought down many trees on the Chawton estate and in Mingledown Woods just last month), the England described in Austen’s novels never fades.

Jane Austen’s House Museum, 2022.

I think the charm of the setting in her books is another reason so many of us as lifelong students and fans of Austen love to learn about her life, her family, and the places where she lived and wrote. During the height of the pandemic, we all did what we could to support the historic sites in England and watched for updates whenever possible. We dreamed of the day when we might get to visit those precious sites again or for the first time. Many of us even took virtual tours so we could “be” there.

Benches Along the Way

That’s probably why I was so overjoyed when I saw the good news a few weeks ago that the bench my local JASNA regional group sponsored had been installed in the Chawton House Gardens. In fact, the entire bench project fundraising is now complete! (I know many of you have contributed in various ways to the care and keeping of the historic sites as well.) Here is a snippet of the announcement:

“This month, we are pleased to announce that thanks to the wonderful support of the North American Friends of Chawton House (NAFCH), we have received the final 17 benches donated through the ‘Share a Bench with Jane’ scheme, just in time for our Spring Flowers season.

Photo: Chawton House. Bench, 2022.
Location 22: at the head of the Pride and Prejudice Rose Walk.

If you’d like to see all of the bench locations, you can find them HERE.

As I read through the announcement and looked through the photos, I was comforted. I thought about how peaceful it would be to sit on a bench and enjoy the garden around me. I even thought about how I should install a bench in my own small garden area.

And then I came to this lovely quote that was included in the announcement from Chawton House:

Although the recent storms have caused significant damage to parts of the estate, these latest additions mean that visitors to Chawton House will still be able to rest among the spectacular displays of snowdrops and daffodils as we move into a warmer season.”

Isn’t that an encouraging thought? I made me think. Though storms come in this life, there are benches along the way where we can rest. When the journey is long, it’s important to stop and sit. And though some winter seasons are particularly difficult, spring always comes and bright new flowers always bloom.

Signs of Spring

I’ll leave you with that lovely thought and a few photos of the “snowdrops and daffodils” mentioned above. I hope that each of you is finding comfort in the glimpses of beauty around you, in friends and family, in faith and home, in lending a helping hand to others when you can, and in the enjoyment of Jane Austen.

Photo: Chawton House. Snowdrops, 2022.
Photo: Chawton House. Daffodils, 2022.
Photo: Chawton House. Daffodils and Snowdrops, 2022.

Your turn: What is it about Jane Austen’s novels and life that brings you comfort? Why do you think people continue to turn to her work in life’s difficult seasons?


RACHEL DODGE teaches college English classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and book clubs, and writes for Jane Austen’s World blog and Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine. She is the bestselling author of The Anne of Green Gables Devotional: A Chapter-By-Chapter Companion for Kindred Spirits and Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen. Her newest book The Little Women Devotional just released and is available now! You can visit Rachel online at www.RachelDodge.com.

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Inquiring readers, I first read Pride and Prejudice when I was fourteen years old. The novel was a Christmas gift from my parents. One of the first Christmas songs this Dutch girl learned in English was “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” a song that was popularized in an arrangement by Frederic Austin in 1909. We all know the tune, but do we know the words as Jane Austen wrote them? After singing the song, please stay to answer a few questions.–Enjoy & Merry Christmas! Vic

Image of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, 1995[Verse 1]

On the first day of Christmas, Jane Austen sent to me
A HERO named Mister Darcy

[Verse 2]

Image of Lizzy and Jane Bennet from Jennifer Ehle BlogspotOn the second day of Christmas, Jane Austen sent to me
Two wise Bennet girls, and
A HERO named Mister Darcy

[Verse 3]

Pride_and_Prejudice_CH_19-collins proposalOn the third day of Christmas, Jane Austen sent to me
Three various suitors,
Two wise Bennet girls, and
A HERO named Mister Darcy

[Verse 4]

Hugh Thomson illustration of Mr. Bingley entering the Meryton Assembly Ball with his guestsOn the fourth day of Christmas, Jane Austen sent to me
Four Bingley dances,
Three various suitors,
Two wise Bennet girls, and
A HERO named Mister Darcy

[Verse 5]

Hugh Thomson image of the five Bennet girlsOn the fifth day of Christmas, Jane Austen sent to me
FIVE S.I.N.G.L.E GIRLS!

Four Bingley dances,
Three various suitors,
Two wise Bennet girls, and
A HERO named Mister Darcy!

[Verse 6]

Image of Mary Crawford playing harp-C.E.BrockOn the sixth day of Christmas, Jane Austen sent to me
Six accomplished women
FIVE S.I.N.G.L.E GIRLS!

Four Bingley dances,
Three various suitors,
Two wise Bennet girls, and
A HERO named Mister Darcy!

[Verse 7]

On the seventh day of ChristImage of the Colinses visiting Lady Catherine de Bourg, 1995 Pride and Prejudice filmmas, Jane Austen sent to me
Seven days at Hunsford
Six accomplished women
FIVE S.I.N.G.L.E GIRLS!

Four Bingley dances,
Three various suitors,
Two wise Bennet girls, and
A HERO named Mister Darcy!

[Verse 8]

Image of Adrian Lucas as Mr. Bingley, 1995 P&POn the eighth day of Christmas, Jane Austen sent to me
Eight charms of Wickham
Seven days at Hunsford
Six accomplished women
FIVE S.I.N.G.L.E GIRLS!

Four Bingley dances,
Three various suitors,
Two wise Bennet girls, and
A HERO named Mister Darcy!

[Verse 9]

On the ninth day of Christmas, Jane Austen sent to meQuadrille_RegencyW
Nine ladies dancing
Eight charms of Wickham
Seven days at Hunsford
Six accomplished women
FIVE S.I.N.G.L.E GIRLS!

Four Bingley dances,
Three various suitors,
Two wise Bennet girls, and
A HERO named Mister Darcy!

[Verse 10]

Image of Lydia and Mr. Wickham eloping-she happy, he bored, P&P 1995On the tenth day of Christmas, Jane Austen sent to me
Lydia eloping
Nine ladies dancing
Eight charms of Wickham
Seven days at Hunsford
Six accomplished women
FIVE S.I.N.G.L.E GIRLS!

Four Bingley dances,
Three various suitors,
Two wise Bennet girls, and
A HERO named Mister Darcy!

[Verse 11]

Image of Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet falling for Mr. Darcy at Pemberley, 1995 film of Pride and PrejudiceOn the eleventh day of Christmas, Jane Austen sent to me
Lizzy’s eyes a’ opening
Lydia eloping
Nine ladies dancing
Eight charms of Wickham
Seven days at Hunsford
Six accomplished women
FIVE S.I.N.G.L.E GIRLS!

Four Bingley dances,
Three various suitors,
Two wise Bennet girls, and
A HERO named Mister Darcy!

[Verse 12]

LadyCatherine_&_ElisabethOn the twelfth day of Christmas, Jane Austen sent to me
L C’s condescensions
Lizzy’s eyes a’ opening
Lydia eloping
Nine ladies dancing
Eight charms of Wickham
Seven days at Hunsford
Six accomplished women
FIVE S.I.N.G.L.E GIRLS!

Four Bingley dances,
Three various suitors,
Two wise Bennet girls, and
A HERO named Mister Darcy!

________________

Now, Gentle Readers, I shall pose a few questions. How do you respond to Pride and Prejudice? How are you disposed towards a few characters? (Your opinions are most welcome.) As you can see, I favor the 1995 Firth/Ehle film version of P&P! So, don’t be shy in sharing your thoughts.

  1. L C’s condescension:  In your estimation, what is the most memorable Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s condescending statement?
  2. Lizzy’s eyes a’ opening: What events changed Elizabeth’s attitude towards Mr. Darcy? Which one stands out in your mind?
  3. Lydia eloping: How old was Lydia when she ran off with Mr. Wickham? What, in her naivete, did she hope her life would have been like with him, away from her family?
  4. Nine ladies dancing: Think of the ladies Austen mentioned in Pride and Prejudice. Which women would have most likely danced at the Netherfield Ball?
  5. Eight charms of Wickham: Can you name Mr. Wickham’s charms, be they true or false, as Austen described them?
  6. Seven days at Hunsford: How did Lizzy spend her days at Hunsford? What memorable scenes occurred during this time?
  7. Six accomplished women: Who first mentioned six accomplished women? How did the conversation come up and where?
  8. Please name all the five single girls and their primary characteristic (in your opinion).
  9. Four Bingley dances: This phrase refers to an event at the beginning of the novel.
  10. Three various suitors: Name all the suitors you can think of in the novel. Who had three? Who are they?
  11. Two wise Bennet girls: Who are they? How would you personally describe them?
  12. A HERO named Mister Darcy! Why are we so mesmerized by Austen’s most memorable hero? What are the characteristics that make him stand out to you?

After this C.E. Brock composite image of Pride and Prejudice, I’ve added my own observations to a few of the questions. Thank you for participating. May you have a lovely holiday season. Please love and take care of each other in your family, your neighbors, and your community.

1024px-Scenes_from_Pride_and_Prejudice

(more…)

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The JASNA AGM recently closed its workshops to online viewing. It was held virtually in early October. One workshop that resonated with me was Professor Theresa Kenney’s discussion of Reginald De Courcy as the hero in Lady Susan, an epistolary novel written by Jane Austen in 1794-95, when she was 19 to 20 years of age. I had the pleasure of viewing some pages of the manuscript during the exhibit about Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy in 2009 at The Morgan Library in New York. It was the first time that I saw Jane’s handwriting on a page close up and I felt as thrilled as a teenage groupie seeing her heart throb idol in person. As soon as I returned home I read the novel.

Seven years later, two friends and I saw “Love and Friendship,” in which Kate Beckinsale played the conniving Lady Susan Vernon. Needless to say, after viewing Professor Kenney’s AGM presentation, I rewatched the film and was struck by its faithfulness to Austen’s novella. It helped that the script took advantage of entire swaths of Austen’s dialogue in letters written by the main characters.

Introduction:

Professor Kenney in a talk entitled “Abjuring All Future Attachments: Concluding Lady Susan” spoke about the youthful Austen’s experimentation with Reginald as the hero. His status is not at first obvious. We know about him largely through the strong women swirling around his life and who write about him: his sister, Catherine Vernon; his mother, Lady De Courcy; Catherine’s widowed sister-in-law, Lady Susan Vernon; and Lady S’s confidant, Mrs. Alicia Johnson. These main characters reveal much about themselves as they write their true opinions of others behind their backs against the polite, entirely false conversation they engage in when speaking in person.

Deceptions and manipulations abound:

The central character is beautiful, mature Lady Susan, the daughter of a peer, widow of Vernon (no first name), who must find refuge after her dalliance with the very much married Mr. Mainwaring, in whose house she was a guest. And so Lady S appeals to the only available persons left to her, the reluctant Catherine Vernon, whose marriage she attempted to block to her brother-in-law, Charles Vernon. Catherine is no fool and has taken Lady S’s measure:

…if I had not known how much she has always disliked me for marrying Mr. Vernon, and that we had never met before, I should have imagined her an attached friend…She is clever and agreeable, has all that knowledge of the world which makes conversation easy, and talks very well, with a happy command of language, which is too often used, I believe, to make black appear white.- Catherine Vernon to Reginald De Courcy. Letter, VI

Reginald De Courcy, Catherine’s brother, having heard no good news about the beautiful widow, and influenced by his sister and mother, is disposed to dislike her, that is until he meets her and she wraps him around her little finger.

And so the fun begins, Austen style:

According to Prof. Kenney, Reginald’s character is more akin to Marianne Dashwood, Edmund Bertram, Harriet Smith, and Edward Ferrars, who fall violently in love with the wrong person and then miraculously recover a short time later to find a love worthy of them. Kenney termed this phenomenon “shifting affections.” Young Reginald is easily influenced in falling in love with the wrong person. At twenty-three he is quite young and still malleable, a fact not lost on the opportunistic Lady Susan or on his mother and sister, who are alarmed. Catherine writes to her mother, Lady De Courcy:

My dear Mother,—You must not expect Reginald back again for some time. He desires me to tell you that the present open weather induces him to accept Mr. Vernon’s invitation to prolong his stay in Sussex, that they may have some hunting together. He means to send for his horses immediately, and it is impossible to say when you may see him in Kent. I will not disguise my sentiments on this change from you, my dear mother, though I think you had better not communicate them to my father, whose excessive anxiety about Reginald would subject him to an alarm which might seriously affect his health and spirits. Lady Susan has certainly contrived, in the space of a fortnight, to make my brother like her. … I am, indeed, provoked at the artifice of this unprincipled woman; what stronger proof of her dangerous abilities can be given than this perversion of Reginald’s judgment, which when he entered the house was so decidedly against her! – Letter VIII

In the next letter, we gain a good sense of Alicia Johnson, Lady Susan’s confidant and partner in the devious plans intended to ensnare her unsuspecting victim.

My dearest Friend,—I congratulate you on Mr. De Courcy’s arrival, and I advise you by all means to marry him; his father’s estate is, we know, considerable, and I believe certainly entailed. Sir Reginald is very infirm, and not likely to stand in your way long. I hear the young man well spoken of; and though no one can really deserve you, my dearest Susan, Mr. De Courcy may be worth having.Mrs. Johnson to Lady S, Letter IX

This novella is filled with strong women. Two who will move heaven and earth to protect brother and son, and two who behave like a pair of rats intent on devouring the last piece of cheese in an alley. Interestingly, we only hear directly from Reginald in three letters. For much of the novel we see him only through the words and opinions of others, but some of those words are revealing. When his father sends him a letter of alarm due to Lady S’s increasing influence over him, Reginald tries to soothe him.

The father emplores him in Letter XII:

I hope, my dear Reginald, that you will be superior to such as allow nothing for a father’s anxiety, and think themselves privileged to refuse him their confidence and slight his advice. You must be sensible that as an only son, and the representative of an ancient family, your conduct in life is most interesting to your connections; and in the very important concern of marriage especially, there is everything at stake—your own happiness, that of your parents, and the credit of your name.”

To which Reginald answers:

My dear Sir,—I have this moment received your letter, which has given me more astonishment than I ever felt before. I am to thank my sister, I suppose, for having represented me in such a light as to injure me in your opinion, and give you all this alarm…I entreat you, my dear father, to quiet your mind, and no longer harbour a suspicion which cannot be more injurious to your own peace than to our understandings. I can have no other view in remaining with Lady Susan, than to enjoy for a short time (as you have yourself expressed it) the conversation of a woman of high intellectual powers.”

He goes on in a quite lengthy letter to blame his sister’s prejudice for not forgiving Lady S in opposing her marriage to Charles, and is convinced that the world has injured the Lady by questioning her motives, etc. etc. Yet Austen gives this hero short shrift in the narrative. We know very little about his thoughts and reasons for his actions, including being manipulated by Lady S. into feeling bitter towards Frederica, her young daughter, and thinking the girl worthless, even when it becomes clear that she “brightens” in Reginald’s presence.

In other words, Lady S has completely ensnared her sincere young man. He is as gullible with Lady S as Harriet Smith is with Emma, and just as changeable. This shifting of affection and lack of self-knowledge, as Prof. Kenney terms it, defines these characters, who are vastly different from Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy or Anne Elliot and her Captain Wentworth.

To be fair, Lady S does see some of Reginald’s good qualities (besides his inheritance). She writes to Alicia Johnson:

Reginald is never easy unless we are by ourselves, and when the weather is tolerable, we pace the shrubbery for hours together. I like him on the whole very well; he is clever and has a good deal to say, but he is sometimes impertinent and troublesome.”

She also understands her sister-in-law, Catherine, very well: “[Frederica] is in high favour with her aunt altogether, because she is so little like myself, of course.”

The Spell:

The letters ping pong back and forth, with Lady S only baring her true motives to her like-minded friend, Alicia. Mrs. Johnson’s husband, Mr. Johnson, has forbidden her to consort with Lady S, whom he has banned from his house, but Lady S still has Reginald, who is now set on marrying her.

Interestingly, Reginald is the hero in this tale, a weak one to be sure. His main redeeming quality is that when he learns of Lady S’s dalliance with Mr. Mainwaring his blinders fall off. We hear from him twice more and can feel his wrath in two scathing, but youthfully passionate letters:

…I write only to bid you farewell, the spell is removed; I see you as you are. Since we parted yesterday, I have received from indisputable authority such a history of you as must bring the most mortifying conviction of the imposition I have been under, and the absolute necessity of an immediate and eternal separation from you…”

and later:

Why would you write to me? Why do you require particulars? But, since it must be so, I am obliged to declare that all the accounts of your misconduct during the life, and since the death of Mr. Vernon, which had reached me, in common with the world in general, and gained my entire belief before I saw you, but which you, by the exertion of your perverted abilities, had made me resolved to disallow, have been unanswerably proved to me; nay more, I am assured that a connection, of which I had never before entertained a thought, has for some time existed, and still continues to exist, between you and the man whose family you robbed of its peace…”

screenshot of film-manipulated

Screen shot of Love and Friendship, with all females delighted at the results of Reginald’s and Frederica’s marriage.

The Spell is Removed: Young Reggie grows up!

A few more plot strings remain to be tied. Lady S is an execrable mother. She bullies Frederica and presses her to marry Sir Charles Martin, a dimwit, albeit a rich one. Frederica resists, raising her mother’s ire. Catherine, who loves the girl and pities her situation, takes her in. Lady S, it is obvious, loves no one but herself. She has, in the words of Prof. Kenney, “no time for romantic nonsense.” Her motherly instincts are for show only, and after a few months of separation her letters and attentions to her daughter peter out.

Reginald leaves to lick his wounds, but his mother and sister are always looking out for him, as well as Frederica. The author writes in her conclusion, “Frederica was therefore fixed in the family of her uncle and aunt till such time as Reginald De Courcy could be talked, flattered, and finessed into an affection for her.” And, so, Austen demonstrates that Reginald, a hero with the same weak qualities as a Mr. Bingley or Edward Ferrars, is managed by the real power in the family – the women, although, he has in his favor the quality of realizing his deficiencies and, more importantly, he has a heart.

De Courcy and Frederica marry. And so I ask you fair reader: Who had the happier union? Reginald or Lady S?

Conclusion

Inquiring reader, I hope I have persuaded you to read or reread Lady Susan, a novella that surprised me on the first and second reading. I didn’t think that I would like reading a book that consisted of letters, but was so enthralled with the story that I read it in one sitting.

Just think. Jane Austen wrote this novella during a creative spurt in her early life. In 1794-95, she wrote Lady Susan and in 1795 she wrote Elinor and Marianne, the epistolary version of Sense and Sensibility. In 1796, she began writing First Impressions, the precursor to Pride and Prejudice. What a fertile period for a budding author! And what creativity! At 19, 20, and 21 years of age she laid the groundwork for two great novels and one experimental foray into the many complexities of what makes a hero. While, like Mr. Darcy, Reginald has great wealth, which, according to Prof. Kenney gives him alpha status, he is a bit of a wuss, masterfully controlled like a puppet by female relatives. In the end, Lady S is hoist by her own manipulative petard. She has no recourse but to marry Sir Charles Martin to maintain face and a fortune. Uggh. What a fitting ending.

Austen’s three novels, written in such a short time, laid much of the foundation for her greatness. She would rework them over the years, with only one, Lady Susan, published posthumously. After a lifetime of reading her works, including her Juvenilia, I remain in awe of her immense talent.

Resources:

Lady Susan, Jane Austen, Project Gutenberg Online Book

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/946/946-h/946-h.htm

Lady Susan, Jane Austen, Librivox Audio

https://archive.org/details/lady_susan_0811_librivox

“Love and Friendship,” Amazon Prime movie

Lady Susan: List of Characters: Austenprose

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Inquiring Readers,

After experiencing years of an Austen drought on the large and small screen, we are treated to two adaptations within a half year–Sanditon and the newly released Emma.

Emma film poster on a London bus. Photo courtesy of Tony Grant

Emma film poster on a London bus. Photo courtesy of Tony Grant

Emma, the film will air in theaters in my region on March 6th. Sadly, I won’t see the film until late next week, but my British friend Tony Grant has reviewed it. He writes in part:

My thoughts were, will Autumn de Wilde’s Emma get Austen’s subtleties concerning the different relationships right? Will the actors be any good? All is lost if they can’t cut the mustard. What might we get out of this Emma that speaks to us in 2020? Will the film tell Jane Austen’s story well?

The film begins, focusing in from an expansive bucolic scene of green pastures and wooded areas to an iconic 18thcentury mansion, Hartfield. We hone down to a gothic styled greenhouse and enter to a scene of peace and calm and meditative background music as Emma, played by Anya Taylor Joy, slowly, carefully moves, almost like floating in a dream, examining her blooming red roses while servant girls hover, secateurs poised ready to snip the stem of any flower Emma thinks fit. Anya Taylor’s eyes look and roam and pierce us to our souls. Oh! those eyes. She pauses, she considers, she moves on and decides, “That one.” And the flower is cut. This opening scene is very clever and says in this silent dreamlike ballet of a scene all that Austen says in the opening words of her novel.

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.” 

The film is lit  brightly and the colours, not just of the costumes, but of the scenery too has a pale pastel sheen, which can only be achieved through the cinematography.–-To read the rest of Tony Grant’s review, click this link to London Calling, his blog.

In anticipation of seeing the film, I’ve been reading Robert Rodi’s take on Emma in Bitch in a Bonnet: Reclaiming Jane Austen from the stiffs, the snobs, the simps and the saps. (Yes, he’s that sarcastic, but witty, wise, and fun.) I particularly liked this passage, which shows Emma’s animus towards Augusta Elton shortly after she paid Mr. Elton and his new missus a visit:

Eventually Mrs. Elton return the visit, and Emma has plenty of time for her options to coalesce. And she really, really, really does not like this chick. Not. One. Little. Bit.

Rodi then goes on to quote this Austen passage:

“The quarter of an hour quite convinced her that Mrs. Elton was a vain woman, extremely well satisfied with herself, and thinking much of her own importance; that she want to shine and be very superior…”

Rodi does not stop there, but I paused at these words for a long moment. The qualities Emma dislikes about Mrs. Elton are the same qualities she possesses. Augusta, of course is different from Emma. She’s coarse, grasping, and aggressively power hungry, whereas Emma is the well-bred young lady described in the movie’s publicity: a well meaning but selfish young woman [who] meddles in the love lives of her friends.

The comic characters in Emma are among Austen’s finest, and I look forward in revisiting them in this film, especially in the forms of Miranda Hart as Miss Bates and Bill Nighy as Mr. Woodhouse.

 

 

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Although I won’t see the film for some time, please feel free to leave your opinions if you have them.

Meanwhile, enjoy Tony Grant’s review at the top of this blog!

 

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