PBS Masterpiece Unveils New Interactive Web Site

 Image of new Mastepiece banner



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 44I 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. Continue reading “PBS to Connect Jane Austen Community”

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


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.

Abhor or obey?

Illustration by A.A. Dixon, Sense & SensibilityABHOR

“That is an expression, Sir John,” said Marianne warmly, “which I particularly dislike. I abhor every common-place phrase by which wit is intended; and ‘setting one’s cap at a man,’ or ‘making a conquest,’ are the most odious of all. Their tendency is gross and illiberal; and if their construction could ever be deemed clever, time has long ago destroyed all its ingenuity.”Marianne Dashwood, Sense & Sensibilty, Chapter 9

Sweet censure indeed. Marianne speaks passionately in defense of her principles on courtship, though I fear that not many females of her day would embrace them so warmly.

Jane Austen herself knows too well the importance of a ‘getting’ a husband; – – it is the object since infancy of almost every Regency family that their daughters would marry and save themselves from spinsterhood, poverty and financial dependency.  By having Marianne speak out so ardently against the feminine devises used to entrap a husband, she sets her character at odds with society, and in so doing reveals her sensibility.

Marianne may abhor the common rites of courtship, but to survive, she will soon be bound to obey them.   

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