Posts Tagged ‘Jane Austen’s World’

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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        Now industry awakes her busy sons,
        Shops open, coaches roll, carts shake the ground,
        And all the streets with passing cries resound.

        – John Gay, Walking the Streets of London

        Oh, how should I describe my three short days in London when I went on a deliberate search for the sites, establishments and objects that existed in the Regency era? We chose a location at the edge of Mayfair, in a hotel on Half Moon Street, just a half block from Piccadilly and Green Park, a once popular dueling spot. We were also just around the corner from Shepherd Market, that wonderful tucked-in and hidden section of pubs, restaurants, and shops few tourists frequent.

        The Art of Walking the Streets of London, Hand-coloured etching by George Cruickshank after George Moutard Woodward, 1813

        As I walked these familiar streets (for this was my fourth visit to this particular area of London), I turned onto St. James’s Street and looked inside the famous bow window at White’s, where Beau Brummel used to hold court. Inside, I spied a stout gentleman reclining in a comfortable leather chair reading the paper. Black and white prints of estimable personages lined the wall behind him.

        I moved on and turned left on Jermyn Street, with its rows of shops boasting Regency style bow windows. For sale in these small, select stores were custom made shirts, ties, men’s suits, and shoes. I strolled past the surprisingly small statue of Beau Brummel, which faces the entrance to Piccadilly Arcade, and headed straight for Floris, the perfume shop established in 1750. I entered its historic interior, where mementos of that time are displayed in mahogany and glass showcases. Luck was on my side, for 10 0z. bottles of lavender scented room spray was on sale.
        I promptly purchased three for my close Janeite friends, and acquired a Floris blue shopping bag in the process.

        I then crossed the street to Fortnum and Mason and entered this venerable store, established in 1707, through the arched doorway on the Picadilly side. Like Floris, this shop boasts several royal warrants. Although I was tempted by merchandise on every floor, especially the food court, I purchased only a tea strainer for a respectable sum. I stayed long enough to hear the store’s famous (but modern) clock (3) strike its chimes on the hour, and watch the statues of Mr. Fortnum and Mr. Mason appear from their hidden compartments. My next stop was Hatchard’s Bookshop, established in 1797. “Our customers have included some of Britain’s greatest political, social and literary figures – from Queen Charlotte, Disraeli and Wellington to Kipling, Wilde and Lord Byron…”

        Looking up Air Street from Piccadilly, Image from the Georgian Index

        I went slightly wild in this establishment, purchasing The Hell-Fire Clubs by Geoffrey Ashe, Decency & Disorder: The Age of Cant 1789-1837 by Ben Wilson, The Courtesan’s Revenge by Frances Wilson, England’s Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton by Kate Williams, Luxury and Pleasure in Eighteenth-Century Britain by Maxine Berg, and English Society in the 18th Century by Roy Porter.

        Laden with a bag of books and almost sated, for I was heady with the thought that these shops and institutions had existed in Jane Austen’s time, I strolled back to the hotel via Regent Street and historic Bond Street. I still had two more days of sightseeing to go, and I was a woman on a mission.

        Image from Maggie May’s Costume History Pages

        The next day I visited the Victoria and Albert Museum, and studied five amazingly beautiful regency gowns, as well as furniture and objects d’art from the Georgian, Regency, and Victorian Eras displayed in unique yet educational arrangements. Again I visited the bookstore, purchasing a Gentleman’s Book of Etiquette: Rules for Perfect Conduct, Life as a Victorian Lady by Pamela Horn, a cookery book with old recipes, and Four Hundred Years of Fashion, a V&A catalog.
        On the last day of my all too short trip, I visited the National Portrait Gallery and headed straight for Cassandra’s watercolour of Jane on the fourth floor. I almost missed it. The portrait is so tiny (scarcely larger than 4″x6″) and sits hidden, protected from damaging UV rays by an exhibition box that is open on only one side. I could not believe how small, delicate and faded this portrait was. Cassandra must have used a finely pointed sable brush in order to paint Jane’s features, which partly explains why the portrait is so crude. She only needed to make a minor mistake in order to skew Jane’s features. The other explanation is that Cassandra was not a particularly good artist. However, I was more than satisfied to view this resemblance of Jane’s face, for it is the only one I have seen up close.

        Before I left the museum, I purchased Dr. Johnson, His Club and Other Friends by Jenny Uglow and Below Stairs: 400 Years of Servants’ Portraits, an NPG catalog.

        Having no room left in my luggage, I nevertheless purchased a few more history books at the airport. The moment I returned home, I noticed a package on my hall table and opened it eagerly. Inside was a used edition of Jane Austen by Elizabeth Jenkins. My ravenous appetite for all things Austen has been temporarily slaked. From past experience, it will be a few years before I get the overwhelming itch to experience Regency London again.

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        In romance novels footmen are depicted as tall, dark, and handsome men in fancy livery, preferably matched in height. Surprisingly, this description of these statuesque men, who were as much a status symbol as servant, is true. According to Daniel Pool in What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, footmen wore:

        “livery,” or household uniform of fancy coat, knee breeches, stockings, and powdered hair, a costume that endured to the end of th 1800s. Because of their appearance at dinner and in public with the family, footmen were supposed to be the most “presentable” of the male servants. They were evaluated on the basis of the appearance of their calves in silk stocking, and they often gave their height when advertising for positions in the paper–it was considered absurd to have a pair of footmen who didn’t match in height. (Poole, p. 221)

        In olden days, footmen traditionally ran alongside carriages or to obtain items of importance, or raced other footmen of great houses in order to win bets for their masters. The Chamber Book of Days relates these stories of legend:

        For example: the Earl of Home, residing at Hume Castle in Berwickshire, had occasion to send his foot-man to Edinburgh one evening on important business. Descending to the hall in the morning, he found the man asleep on a bench, and, thinking he had neglected his duty, prepared to chastise him, but found, to his surprise, that the man had been to Edinburgh (thirty-five miles) and back, with his business sped, since the past evening. As another instance: the Duke of Landerdale, in the reign of Charles II, being to give a large dinner-party at his castle of Thirlstane, near Lander, it was discovered, at the laying of the cloth, that songe additional plate would be required from the Duke’s other seat of Lethington, near Haddington, fully fifteen miles distant across the Lammirmuir hills. The running footman instantly darted off, and was back with the required articles in time for dinner!

        Footmen acquired their names from their running duties, accompanying their masters or mistresses alongside carriages or horses. They carried a long cane containing a mixture of eggs and white wine for sustenance, but many accounts talk of thin, gaunt footmen who became too old before their time.

        In the eighteenth century [footmen] were frequently matched to run against horses and carriages One of the last recorded contests was in 1770 between a famous running footman and the Duke of Marlborough, the latter wagering that in his phaeton and four he would beat the footman in a race from Windsor to London. His Grace won by a very small margin. The poor footman worn out by his exertions and much chagrined by his defeat, died, it was said, of over fatigue. In the north of England the running footman was not quite extinct till well into the middle of the nineteenth century. So recently as 1851, on the opening of an assize court, there the sheriff and judges were preceded by two running footmen. About the same date the carriage of the High Sheriff of Northumberland on its way to meet the judges of assize, was attended by two pages on foot holding on to the door handles of the carriage and running beside it. A Handy Book of Curious Information: Comprising Strange Happenings in the … By William Shepard Walsh, 1913

        By the 18th century, footmen began to work under the supervision of a butler, taking on such duties as “carrying coals up to rooms, cleaning boots, trimming lamps, laying the table for meals, answering the front door and, at Erddig, sleeping in the butler’s pantry to ensure nobody stole the family silver” (Willes, page 18). The footman’s life was not an easy one. He arose at the crack of dawn and worked until 11 p.m. at night almost without pause. Frederick John Gorst, a former footman at the turn of the 20th century tells of the day he fainted:

        Dr. Burton asked me how much time I had off for rest and recreation, and I told him that I had not had a day off since I began to work at Ashton-Hayes six months ago. Moreover, I had not had a holiday nor seen my family in more than three years. He shook his head in disbelief, and said:

        “John, this is a very serious matter. How old are you?”

        “I’m almost eighteen, Dr. Burton,” I said.

        “You are very tall for your age, and your pale complexion leads me to believe that you need some sunshine and fresh air.”

        To gain some insights into a footman’s day and duties, click on the following links:

        The Footman: A Servant’s Day in London

        Dear FRIEND,
        Since I am now at leisure,
        And in the Country taking Pleasure,
        If it be worth your while to hear
        A silly Footman’s Business there,
        I’ll try to tell, in easy Rhyme,
        How I in London spend my Time.And first,
        As soon as Laziness will let me,
        To cleaning Glasses, Knives, and Plate,
        And such-like dirty Work as that,
        Which (by the bye) is what I hate.
        This done; with expeditious Care,
        To dress myself I strait prepare;
        I clean my Buckles, black my Shoes;
        Powder my Wig, and brush my Cloaths;
        Take off my Beard, and wash my Face,
        And then I’m ready for the Chace.Down comes my Lady’s Woman strait:
        Where’s Robin? Here. Pray take your Hat,
        And go—and go—and go—and go—;
        And this—and that desire to know.
        The Charge receiv’d, away run I,And here, and there, and yonder fly,
        With Services, and How-d’ye’does,
        Then Home return full fraught with News.Here some short Time does interpose,
        ‘Till warm Efflucia’s greet my Nose,
        Which from the Spits and Kettles fly,
        Declaring Dinner-time is nigh.
        To lay the Cloth I now prepare,
        With Uniformity and Care;
        In Order Knives and Forks are laid,
        With folded Napkins, Salt, and Bread:
        The Side-boards glittering too appear,
        With Plate, and Glass, and China-ware.
        Then Ale, and Beer, and Wine decanted,
        And all Things ready which are wanted,
        The smoaking Dishes enter in
        To Stomachs sharp a grateful Scene;
        Which on the Table being plac’d,
        And some few Ceremonies past,
        They all sit down, and fall to eating,
        Whilst I behind stand silent waiting.

        This is the only pleasant Hour
        Which I have in the Twenty-four;
        For whilst I unregarded stand,
        With ready Salver in my Hand,
        And seem to understand no more
        Than just what’s call’d for, out to pour;
        I hear, and mark the courtly Phrases,
        And all the elegance that passes;
        Disputes maintain’d without Digression,
        With ready Wit, and fine Expression;
        The Laws of true Politeness stated,
        And what Good-breeding is, debated:
        Where all unanimously exclude
        The vain Coquet, the formal Prude,
        The Ceremonious, and the Rude.
        The flattering, fawning, praising Train;
        The fluttering, empty, noisy, vain;
        Detraction, Smut, and what’s prophane.

        This happy Hour elaps’d and gone,
        The Time of drinking Tea comes on.
        The Kettle fill’d, the Water boil’d,
        The Cream provided, Biscuits pil’d,
        And Lamp prepar’d; I strait engage
        The Lilliputian Equipage
        Of Dishes, Saucers, Spoons, and Tongs,
        And all th’ Et cetera which thereto belongs.
        Which rang’d in order and Decorum,
        I carry in, and set before ’em;
        Then pour or Green, or Bohea out,
        And, as commanded, hand about.

        This Business over, presently
        The Hour of visiting draws nigh;
        The Chairman strait prepare the Chair,
        A lighted Flambeau I prepare;
        And Orders given where to go,
        We march along, and bustle thro’
        The parting Crouds, who all stand off
        To give us Room. O how you’d laugh!
        To see me strut before a Chair,
        And with a stirdy Voice, and Air,
        Crying—By your Leave, Sir! have a Care!
        From Place to Place with speed we fly,
        And Rat-tatat the Knockers cry:
        Pray is your Lady, Sir, within?
        If no, go on; if yes, we enter in.

        Then to the Hall I guide my Steps,
        Amongst a Croud of Brother Skips,
        Drinking Small-beer, and talking Smut,
        And this Fool’s Nonsence puting that Fool’s out.
        Whilst Oaths and Peals of Laughter meet,
        And he who’d loudest, is the greatest Wit.
        But here amongst us the chief Trade is
        To rail against our Lords and Ladies;
        To aggravate their smallest Failings,
        T’expose their Faults with saucy Railings.
        For my Part, as I hate the Practice,
        And see in them how base and black ’tis,
        To some bye Place I therefore creep,
        And sit me down, and feign to sleep;
        And could I with old Morpheus bargain,
        ‘Twou’d save my Ears much Noise and Jargon.
        But down my Lady comes again,
        And I’m released from my Pain.
        To some new Place our Steps we bend,
        The tedious Evening out to spend;
        Sometimes, perhaps, to see the Play,
        Assembly, or the Opera;
        Then home and sup, and thus we end the Day.

        Norton Anthology: Robert Dodsley Poem: The Footman, 18th Century

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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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        From: Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England: From 1811-1901, Kristine Hughes, Ohio, 1998, p 122, ISBN 0-89879-812-4

        For more questions and answers about British social classes, click here.

        Please note: If you wish to use this image, please give proper credit. The information came from Kristine Hughes; the image was made by me. Thank you.

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