PBS Masterpiece Unveils New Interactive Web Site

 Image of new Mastepiece banner

THE COMPLETE JANE AUSTEN SERIES

 INITIATES NEW WEB SITE FEATURES

 

Image of Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot, PBS PersuasionIt’s official! In honor of the ‘opening night’ season premeire of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Masterpiece Theatre Classic has revealed their bright and shiny, new interactive web site; – – and it’s ready for your perusal and enjoyment,  full of all sorts of bells and whistles!

Be prepared to be wowed, cuz it sure knocked my bonnet off!

Image of Felicity Jones as Catherine Morland, PBS Northanger AbbeyThe front page sports a completely new design and displays The Complete Jane Austen series, opening with a slide show of photos of Persuasion, and access to a preview film clip. Each of the adaptations are accessible from this portal. Oh joy!

Image of the cast of Mansfield Park, PBSYou can explore each of the six adaptations: Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and new biopic Miss Austen Regrets from the Classic Schedule. Dig deeper and discover the synopsis, cast & credits, cast interviews, characters, Jane Austen and resources for each production!

Image od Olivia Williams as Jane Austen in PBS, Miss Austen RegretsOf particular amusement, is a special section devoted to The Men of Austen, where you can read match.com-like bios of each of the bachelors, learn “who is a dream, a bore or a scoundrel”, and then vote on your choice of the ideal Austen mate! Check the tallies to see how you rate against other Austen addicts. 

Image of the Dashwood sisters of Sense & Sensibility, PBS 2008There is so much to see and explore that you can spend hours just cruising about, scouring the historical archives, peeking at the poster gallery, learning about educational resources, shopping at the store, and connecting to the community through the discussion boards that I will cut it short like Mr. Darcy and decree, “GO TO IT”!

  

PBS to Connect Jane Austen Community

Illustration by Miroot Puttapipat, “Boxhill Picnic”, Emma, Chapter 44CONNECTION 

I congratulate you, my dear Harriet, with all my heart. This is an attachment which a woman may well feel pride in creating. This is a connection which offers nothing but good. It will give you every thing that you want — consideration, independence, a proper home — it will fix you in the centre of all your real friends, close to Hartfield and to me, and confirm our intimacy for ever. This, Harriet, is an alliance which can never raise a blush in either of us.” Emma Woodhouse, Emma, Chapter 9 

In Jane Austen’s 18th-century society, personal alliances fueled the social strata, connecting families in marriage, and in business. And so it continues today, as PBS reaches out to the Jane Austen community to promote its upcoming series The Complete Jane Austen, through its online guest blogger project Remotely Connected.

Eight Austen enthusiasts and authorities from the online community have been invited to write about each of the upcoming Jane Austen adaptations and a new biography being presented by Masterpiece Classic, beginning Sunday, January 13th with Persuasion, and concluding in April with Sense & Sensibility.

Uniting these eight unique Austen resources brings together a talented and diverse group of Janeites, who have created the most informative and lively web sites and blogs on the internet to honor and discuss their favorite author. Here is a list of the accomplished writers in order of their contribution to Remotely Connected, and their online entities.

Image of Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot, PBS presentation of Persuasion (2008)Victoire Sanborn (Ms. Place) of Jane Austen’s World: This blog brings Jane Austen and the Regency Period alive through food, dress, social customs, and other 19th-century historical details. Enjoy thoroughly researched and enlightening posts about everything from netting a reticule to Jane Austen’s timeless insights. Her other blog Jane Austen Today explores how we see Jane Austen today through movies, print, sequels, web sites and modern day media. The talented and knowledgeable Ms. Place will be writing about Persuasion, which airs on Sunday, January 13, at 9:00 pm.

Image of Felicity Jones s Catherine Morland, Persuasion (2007)Heather Laurence of Solitary Elegance: This web site is a collection of educational and research resources relating to Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen’s often overlooked and underrated work. It also prominently features a beautiful collection of watercolor illustrations from all of Jane Austen’s novels by the renowned artist, C.E. Brock. Heather also shares her unique sense of humor, Jane Austen passions, and family exploits on her clever Gimletblog, (more fun than a poke in the eye with a stick). The accomplished and elegant Heather will be writing about her favorite novel, Northanger Abbey, which airs on Sunday, January 20, at 9:00 pm.

Image of Billie Pier as Fanny Price, Mansfield Park (2007)Lori Smith of Jane Austen Quote of the Day: This blog features daily wit and inspiration from Austen through quotes from her novels and letters, with such gems as “I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible” and “Vanity working on a weak head, produces every sort of mischief.”. Lori is a freelance writer and recent author of the lovely and favorably reviewed book, A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love and Faith. You can read the latest news about its release on her other blog, Following Austen. Lori’s sensitive and patience nature will serve her well when she writes about Mansfield Park, which airs on Sunday, January 27, at 9:00 pm.

Image of Olivia Williams as Jane Austen, in Miss Austen Regrets, (2008)Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose: My blog is a daily celebration of the brilliance of Jane Austen’s writing, including passages and quotes from her novels and letters, and focusing on her ability to write of the society in 19th-century rural England with keen observation, irony and wit. Also featured are vintage and contemporary illustrations from her novels. I am a life-long Austen devotee who now augments my passion by introducing others to the delights of Miss Austen as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble. I also co-blog with Ms. Place at Jane Austen Today. I will be writing about the new biopic, Miss Austen Regrets, which airs on Sunday, February 3, at 9:00 pm.

Image of Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet, in Pride & Prejudice, (1995)Myretta Robens of The Republic of Pemberley: As the co-creator of the pre-eminent Jane Austen site on the web, Myretta has an acclaimed and established history as an authority of our authoress, and  online communities. Author of two Regency era novels, Just Say Yes, and Once Upon A Sofa, you can read further about her accomplishments at her web site: Myretta Robens, Regency Romance. Myretta will be writing about her favorite novel Pride & Prejudice (1995), staring Jennifer Ehle & Colin Firth, which airs on three consecutive Sundays, February 10, 17 & 24, at 9:00 pm

Image of Kate Beckinsale as Emma Woodhouse, in Emma, (1996)Jessica Emerson (Janefan) of Austen-tatious: A Jane Austen fan blog, “marked by, or fond of, conspicuous or vainglorious and sometimes pretentious display of all things related to Jane Austen“, that is always light, entertaining and filled with news and personal insights about movies, books, print media and news around the web concerning Jane Austen. Jessica is a professional writer in the communications industry and an avid reader. Visit her other blog, The Bookworms Hideout, for her perspective on current book publications and the classics. Jessica will be writing about the adaptation of Emma (1996), staring Kate Beckinsale & Mark Strong, which airs on Sunday, March 23, at 9:00 pm.

Image of Charity Wakefield as Marianne Dashwood, in Sense & Sensibility, (2008)Laurie Vera Rigler of A Great Deal of Conversation: The Blog & Forum: Calling all Austen addicts, be prepared to (almost) satisfy your obsession at Laurie’s beautiful web site and blog, featuring conversation (blog & forum), passions (links), many charming views (videos) and information about her latest book, The Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. Laurie is a freelance book editor who teaches writing workshops, and is a popular guest blogger. Her vibrant comedic style and high energy will serve her well when she writes about Sense & Sensibility, one of Austen’s most moving and humorous novels, airing on two consecutive Sundays, March 30 & April 6, at 9:00 pm.

Image of Hattie Morhan as Elinor Dashwood, in Sense & Sensibility, (2008)Margaret Sullivan (Mags) of AustenBlog: A compendium of news about Jane Austen in popular culture, because (as she should be) …”She’s everywhere.” Mags’ unique wit and waggish voice will keep you laughing and shaking your head at the foibles of the news media, writers and movie makers who attempt to interpret Austen in their ‘own’ light. Her recent book, The Jane Austen Handbook: A Simple Yet Elegant Guide to Her World, received high praise within the industry and Austen community. Her other online accomplishments include web sites Mollands and Tilneys and Trap-doors. Mags will be writing about Sense & Sensibility, airing on two consecutive Sundays, March 30 & April 6, at 9:00 pm.

I am sure that you will join me in congratulating each of these talented and devoted Janeites, visit their sites and blogs, and bookmark the PBS blog Remotely Connected to have your share of the conversation after each adaptation airs.

(Post Script) Did you notice that each of the ladies personalities match the heroine of the novel/adaptation that they are writing about? Hah! I did. Present writer excluded since saying I was like Jane Austen would, – – like be so totally fer sure not true babe,  – – as if!

*Illustration by Niroot Puttapipat, “Pardon me – but will you be limited as to number – only three at once”, page 336, Folio Society, London, (2007)

An Austen New Year awaits

Image of banner of The Complete Jane Austen PBS (2008)

PBS TO AIR ALL SIX JANE AUSTEN

 ADAPATIONS IN THE NEW YEAR

 

I am all anticipation of the new Masterpiece Theatre presentation, Sundays with Jane: The Complete Jane Austen, which airs on PBS starting January 13th at 9:00 pm. It will include four new adaptations of the Jane Austen novels Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility, two previously aired productions of Emma (1997) and Pride & Prejudice (1995), and a new biography entitled Miss Austen Regrets based on the letters of Jane Austen. Better and better!

Image of the Masterpiece Theatre Jane Austen Promo

I dare say that such an inclusive Austen presentation has hitherto yet been televised. The closest event of such grandeur was from the now defunct Romance Channel’s 1999 airing penned Austen Power, which included four BBC Austen adaptations from the 1970’s & 1980’s; Mansfield Park (1983), Sense & Sensibility (1981), Emma (1972) and Pride & Prejudice(1980). This stroll through Austenland was only a teaser in comparison to what is in store for us from the good people at Masterpiece Theatre.

Image of Fanny Price and her court, Mansfield Park, PBS, (2008)          Image of the Dashwood family, Sense & Sensibility, PBS, (2008)  

In the PBS press announcement of The Complete Jane Austen this past summer, the Austen extravaganza was revealed in detail…

How many ways can a young woman find true love amid the dinner parties, balls, carriage rides, picnics and other picturesque opportunities to meet the opposite sex in turn-of-the-19th-century England? There are six transcendentally satisfying scenarios, as told in a half-dozen enchanting novels by Jane Austen – one of the most beloved writers in all of literature.

Well this is perky prologue! Read on…

Austen fans can now sit down to a weekly feast of all of her immortal plots, presented by MASTERPIECE ® THEATRE over the course of four months in beautifully acted, lavishly set and gorgeously costumed adaptations.

Four months IS an extravaganza. We shall have ample time to view, absorb and dissect every tidbit and nuance of the charms of her characters, plots and language; — swoon over the newest heartthrob and tear apart the ladies bonnets.

As a bonus, viewers will be treated to a new drama based on Austen’s own bittersweet love life, Miss Austen Regrets.

Image fo Becoming Jane poster (2007)Ok, that makes me nervous. After last summer’s fiasco Becoming Jane, I admit to being leery of liberal statements about Jane Austen’s love life. Let us hope that the writer and producer of Miss Austen Regrets did not opportune to be inspired by such openhanded tag lines from that movie such as “Jane Austen’s greatest love story was her own“, and “Her own life is her greatest inspiration“.  I shudder the thought.

The productions will be between 90 minutes to 5 hours in length, totaling 917 minutes of pure, or as may-hap be, almost Jane Austen for your viewing enjoyment!

  • Persuasion: 13 January 2008, 9-10:30 pm
  • Northanger Abbey: 20 January 2008, 9-10:30 pm
  • Mansfield Park: 27 January 2008, 9-10:30 pm
  • Miss Austen Regrets: 03 February 2008, 9-10:30 pm
  • Pride & Prejudice: 10, 17 & 24 February 2008, 9-11:00 pm
  • Emma: 23 March 2008, 9-10:30 pm
  • Sense & Sensibility: 30 March & 06 April 2008, 9-10:30 

Image of The Elliot family, Persuasion, PBS, (2008)The airings of the new productions have been a highly anticipated event in the Austen community since the advance publicity in Great Britian, where the new adaptations were produced and aired in 2007 and 2008. Not wanting to post any spoilers … we shall bite our tongue and withhold any opines until after viewing. If you can’t wait, you might be amused by some of the dish and banter about on the net-o-sphere which I have linked below. Be forewarned. Janeites are protective of their authoress, and vociferous on the topic of diversion from, and embellishment to the plots!

And … be sure to have your share of the conversation at the PBS on-line community blog, Remotely Connected, where during the week of each adaptation, a guest blogger will comment on each of the productions in the series starting with Persuasion, on the 13th. of January.

Parting injuction

Illustration by Chris Hammond, “Marianne…walked slowly upstairs”, Sense & Sensibility, Chapter 46, (1899)INJUNCTION

As soon as they entered the house, Marianne with a kiss of gratitude, and these two words just articulate through her tears, “Tell mama,” withdrew from her sister and walked slowly up stairs. Elinor would not attempt to disturb a solitude so reasonable as what she now sought; and with a mind anxiously pre-arranging its result, and a resolution of reviving the subject again, should Marianne fail to do it, she turned into the parlour to fulfil her parting injunction.The Narrator on Elinor Dashwood, Sense & Sensibility, Chapter 46

This chapter is such a turning point in the novel for Marianne Dashwood. She has survived the shock of John Willoughby’s rejection and it’s subsequent debilitating illness, and has passed within a very short time from a romantically impulsive young woman into self-imposed regulated reserve, “checked by religion, by reason, (and) by constant employment.”  

My heart aches for her. That hollow empty feeling of an irreconcilable loss of a first love. Nothing can match it. Nothing.

Some say that Jane Austen never experienced the loss of a true love. I find that hard to believe. How could she have written such an emotionally wrenching character as Marianne Dashwood who experiences the heights and depths of love, without experiencing it herself? This can not be imitated. Any thoughts? 

*Illustration by Chris Hammond, “Marianne with a kiss of gratitude”, page 348, Sense & Sensibility, published by George Allen, London (1899)  

No conscience

Illustration of Marianne & Elinor Dashwood, Cover of Sense & Sensibility, Books on TapeCONSCIENCE

“A man who has nothing to do with his own time has no conscience in his intrusion on that of others.” Marianne Dashwood on Colonel Brandon, Sense & Sensibility, Chapter 31

This is a profound statement from a young lady who herself, has nothing to do with her own time! Isn’t this like calling the kettle black, or … throwing stones when you live in a glass house? Hmm?

The British Gentry had time at their disposal. If you had an estate such as Colonel Brandon’s Delford that earned 2000 pounds a year, you had the means to be a gentleman that could schedule his own time to his liking. Now, Marianne is another situation. After the death of their father and the transfer of his estate to their half brother John Dashwood, she and her sister Elinor are impoverished, and are at the mercy of time. They must marry well, and quickly.

I am puzzled by time in Jane Austen’s novels. Sense & Sensibility was written in the late 1790’s, but was not successfully published until 1811. I may have entirely missed this nuance, but how does one know in which era the novel is set? Late 1790’s or 1811? That is a 15 year time frame. Should we assume that it is contemporary to when it was published?

I think that others may be confused also, because many of my illustrated editions contain artist’s conceptions of characters that place them in context, and include clothing and furnishing of the time. Some scenes appear late Georgian, and others are Regency. To complicate matters further, some are Victorian!

So I went on an Internet hunt and Googled “Sense and Sensibility” + “time frame” and was fortunate after a bit of digging to find an answer on Austen scholar Ellen Moody’s web site. She had investigated the exact subject and wrote a paper called A Calendar for Sense and Sensibility; – – and after wading through all of her expert scholarly investigation, I discovered the bottom line…

1799 September. “Two years” after Marianne had declared Colonel Brandon to be too old to marry, she marries him. She is 19, Brandon 37.

So the novel begins in 1797! Phew. But that does not explain why different artists have illustrated the characters in fashions from the 1790’s to the 1860’s! Well, that is another story!

*Illustration from the cover of Sense & Sensibility, published by Books on Tape, circa 2000 showing Marianne and Elinor Dashwood in mid Victorian attire.

Cold insipidity

Illustration of an Evening Dress from Ackermann’s Repository of 1817INSIPIDITY

There was nothing in any of the party which could recommend them as companions to the Dashwoods; but the cold insipidity of Lady Middleton was so particularly repulsive, that in comparison of it the gravity of Colonel Brandon, and even the boisterous mirth of Sir John and his mother-in-law, was interesting. Lady Middleton seemed to be roused to enjoyment only by the entrance of her four noisy children after dinner, who pulled her about, tore her clothes, and put an end to every kind of discourse except what related to themselves. The Narrator on Lady Middleton, Sense & Sensibility, Chapter 7

I can not abide an insipid snob, and Lady Middleton’s cold and removed manner certainly qualifies her in ever measure on that point. Jane Austen paints a florid picture of her personality, “Lady Middleton piqued herself upon the elegance of her table, and of all her domestic arrangements; and from this kind of vanity was her greatest enjoyment in any of their parties.” Her true nature is further revealed when after her marriage she “celebrated that event by giving up music, although by her mother’s account she had played extremely well, and by her own was very fond of it.” Can one assume that she was pressed into playing to attract a husband of good fortune, and once her objective had been attained, had no further use of it?

I am both annoyed and amused by her elegant facade. Is she a clever calculating woman, or just insipid and ignorant? Author Rachel Lawrence thinks she is one of Jane Austen’s Dumb but Elegant Ladies. 

“Lady Middleton is quieter than her gossiping mother, but her reserve is “a mere calmness of manner with which sense had nothing to do.” She prefers the company of the Steele sisters, who flatter her and fuss over her children, to the company of Elinor and Marianne, who do not. The Dashwoods, with their interest in books and music and art, are a bit of a threat to her elegant dumbness.”

She may very well be dumb, but it serves her purpose well. Need further enlightenment on the nuances of those annoyingly irksome ignorant insipid snobs in Jane Austen’s novels? You can read the entire article on-line from the Northern California Region of JASNA.

*Illustration from Ackermann’s Repository, “Evening Dress” 1817 

Exquisite enjoyment

Illustration by Hugh Thomson, Sense & Sensibility, Chapter 10EXQUISITE

His society became gradually her most exquisite enjoyment. They read, they talked, they sang together; his musical talents were considerable; and he read with all the sensibility and spirit which Edward had unfortunately wanted. The Narrator on Mr. Willoughby, Sense & Sensibility, Chapter 10

From first appearances, John Willoughby is a gentleman whose ardent attentions to Marianne Dashwood are only equaled by her own imprudent enthusiasm. Her sister Elinor shows concern. Their mother does not.

Those first meetings in a new romantic relationship can be so heady. That intoxicating spark of mutual attraction. You share your life stories, your interests, and your ideals with the anticipation of a lasting connection. Sigh … Marriane and Willoughby are at that point when everything is all smiles, laughs and hope.

Like Elinor, I am cautiously on alert. They have so much in common and converse with such ease I should be happy for them, but I am concerned for Marriane’s exquisite enjoyment!  Are Willoughby’s intentions sincere in wooing an innocent lass, or is he just a cad, a libertine, a rake in disguise? Is Jane Austen setting us up for a fine fall?

To spot a cad, one must be able to recognize one. According to UK news reporter John Walsh The Cad Rides Again, and Jane Austen’s characters Willoughby and Wickkam rank among the best in English literature.

“Jane Austen’s cads are also classics of the type, polished charmers, habitués of pump room and ballroom until the moment comes when they elope with a younger sister (like Wickham in Pride and Prejudice) or leg it to London to marry an heiress (like Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility).

The trouble is, of course, that we secretly admire their bad behaviour. Without Wickham and Willoughby, the Austen novels would be studies in propriety rather than warnings of social ruin.”

Too true!

*Illustration by Hugh Thomson, “they sang together” page 37, Sense & Sensibility, published by Macmillan & Co, London (1937) 

Modesty declined

Illustration by C.E. Brock, Sense & Sensibility, Chapter 9MODESTY

A gentleman carrying a gun, with two pointers playing round him, was passing up the hill and within a few yards of Marianne, when her accident happened. He put down his gun and ran to her assistance. She had raised herself from the ground, but her foot had been twisted in the fall, and she was scarcely able to stand. The gentleman offered his services, and perceiving that her modesty declined what her situation rendered necessary, took her up in his arms without farther delay, and carried her down the hill. The Narrator on Marianne Dashwood, Sense & Sensibility, Chapter 9

Injured in a fall, Marianne Dashwood is swept up in the arms of a young gentleman and carried back to her family residence at Barton cottage. What a romantic notion envisioned by Jane Austen to bring two young people together under such dramatic circumstance. How could we not be moved by the proverbial “swept off your feet” gesture by a handsome gentleman?

On re-reading this passage recently, I was struck by Marianne’s modest decline of assistance. Since they had not yet been formally introduced, Regency propriety would not allow for a gentleman to lift and carry a young lady, even injured. Modesty seems to be a forgotten decorum in 21st-century culture and there are few secrets between the sexes. Today, very few ladies would hesitate for a moment to let a gentleman carry them when injured or not! Where did modesty go?

A thought provoking book that has been on the block for a while but still deserves mention on the topic of modern female deportment or lack of it, is author Wendy Shalit’s A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue. She presents a timely observation on modern morals and how they affect culture today. It makes you optomistic of a compromise between the rigid 19th-century expectations of prim female modesty and the 21st-century girls gone wild!

*Illustration by C.E. Brock, “carried her down the hill”, Sense & Sensibility, Chapter 9, published by J.M. Dent & Co., London, (1898)   

Disposition alone

Illustration from Journal des Dames, 1814DISPOSITION

“You are mistaken, Elinor,” said she warmly, “in supposing I know very little of Willoughby. I have not known him long indeed, but I am much better acquainted with him, than I am with any other creature in the world, except yourself and mama. It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy: — it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others. Marianne Dashwood, Sense & Sensibility, Chapter 12

Prior to this passage, Marianne has confided with the greatest delight to her sister Elinor that her suitor Mr. Willoughby has offered her a gift of a horse which she has accepted! The ever practical Elinor takes this news in stride and tempers her concerns of Marianne’s imprudence by transferring them to the expense to their mother’s purse. How well she knows her sisters moods and cleverly side steps expressing her own reservations of her impropriety.

Marianne’s passionate defence of Willoughby’s disposition is amiable, but misplaced in the Regency world. As a single lady it is improper for to accept a gift from a gentleman that is not within her immediate family. Elinor comprehends the unhappy truth, but is so tactful that Marianne eventually declines.

The irony of Marianne’s speech is that under different circumstances, knowing someone’s true disposition, be it seven years or seven days is so true! It does not happen often, but from personal experience, chemistry does not own a calendar.

Learn how Marianne could have conduted herself within the rules of propriety in this updated edition of the original source book Regency Etiquette: The Mirror of Graces, by A Lady of Distinction (1811) 

Assiduous attention

Mrs. Ferrars, Illustration by A. Wallis Mills, from Sense & Sensibility, 1908

ASSIDUOUS

But though Mrs. Ferrars did come to see them (Edward & Elinor Ferrars), and always treated them with the make-believe of decent affection, they were never insulted by her real favour and preference. That was due to the folly of Robert, and the cunning of his wife; and it was earned by them before many months had passed away. The selfish sagacity of the latter, which had at first drawn Robert into the scrape, was the principal instrument of his deliverance from it; for her respectful humility, assiduous attentions, and endless flatteries, as soon as the smallest opening was given for their exercise, reconciled Mrs. Ferrars to his choice, and re-established him completely in her favour. The Narrator on Mrs. Ferrars, Sense & Sensibility, Chapter 50

I have little respect for Mrs. Ferrars after she disinherits her son Edward for breaking off his engagement with Lucy Steele. I have always been puzzled by her decision. Where was her loyalty? – –  To her son, or his fiancee?

So when Lucy Steele reverses her affections and marries the new heir, (Edward’s brother Robert), it would only have been with Mrs. Ferrars blessings. Lucy is industrious, and because of this, I understand Mrs. Ferrars character more clearly. She is one to be influenced by flattery and assiduous attention, which we well know, Lucy can deliver with sincere conviction and complete composure.