Pride and Prejudice (1995) Mini-series – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is my seventh selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are now closed for new participants, but you can join us in reading all the great reviews and comments until December 31, 2013.

My Review

Eighteen years after it first aired on BBC One in October 1995, the television mini-series Pride and Prejudice (1995) is still blowing bonnets off Janeites and wowing them in the aisles! This week in London a twelve-foot statue replicating Colin Firth’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy’s famous wet shirt ascent from the Pemberley pond was revealed. Its superhero size seems apropos in relation to the impact that the mini-series had on Britain in 1995, in the US when it aired on A&E in 1996, and the world. If that was not eye-popping enough, the scene recently topped a poll of the ten most memorable British TV moments! We will be bold as brass and claim it as the most memorable TV moment in period drama evah!

Mr Darcy twelve foot statue (2013)

Wet shirt Darcy may have fluttered hearts across the world, but let us not forget that there are five hours and thirty-nine other minutes to enjoy too. The screenplay based on Jane Austen’s 1813 novel was written by Andrew Davies and introduced a more energized and sexier version of the classic love story than viewers had previously experienced with the 1980 BBC mini-series or the 1940 MGM theatrical movie. It was a modernized Austen that purist detested, Janeites embraced, and the general public adored, converting millions into fans and launching the Austen renaissance that we are enjoying today. Continue reading

Austen Film Locations: Pemberley – Pride and Prejudice 1995

The 1995 BBC/A&E miniseries of Pride and Prejudice staring Colin Firth and Jenniffer Ehle as Jane Austen’s most famous couple Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet is renowned for its period accuracy, sumptuous costuming and stunning locations. Please welcome guest blogger Helen Wilkinson today as she takes us on a tour of the two locations, Lyme Park and Sudbury Hall, used to stand in for Mr. Darcy’s palatial estate Pemberley in the 1995 production.

“Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!” The Narrator, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 43

When location researchers were scouting the British countryside for the perfect house to use as Pemberley in the 1995 Pride & Prejudice film production, they knew this was the house they had to get right.

Houses on the scale of Pemberley are few and far between. It is supposed to be in Derbyshire which would give it a distinctive northern look, and it has to be very big and set in stunning scenery. Some people think Jane Austen was thinking of Chatsworth as Pemberley, but in fact Chatsworth was referred to in its own right in the novel.” Sam Breckman, P&P 1995 Location Manager

Once the BBC had settled on Lyme Park near Manchester everything looked set to fall into place. But a change of management at Lyme meant that shortly before filming began, the interior was no longer available. So a last minute search began for an interior which would match Lyme – it had to be a house of the same look, age and feel which wouldn’t jar with viewers.  The interior they settled on was miles away at Sudbury Hall, a house which looks very different to Lyme Park from the outside, but had just the elegant interior that Sam Breckman and the production team were looking for. The flow of rooms at Sudbury, and the exquisite long gallery provided the marvellous scenes where the house-keeper leads Lizzy and the Gardiners through Mr Darcy’s home. As the camera follows Lizzy through one elegant room to the next, her heart is melting towards its owner.

“I still haven’t been inside Lyme Park – it would spoil the illusion in my head. Whenever we take people to Lyme I like to believe that the interior is the same as the screen version. In our minds we think we have seen Jennifer Ehle looking out of the windows and seeing the lake – but in fact it’s all down to skilful editing.” Maddy Hall, Production expert & tour guide

For many people, the moment when Lizzy sees Pemberley and its lake, is a highlight of the entire series. She is only half joking when she tells Jane that she fell in love with Darcy when she first saw ‘his beautiful grounds at Pemberley’.

Helen Wilkinson, P and P Tours

P&P Tours visit both locations for Pemberley as part of their tours. Visit their P and P Tours website for further information and bookings details.

‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Dressing for the Netherfield Ball in Pride and Prejudice: Regency Fashion

Gentle Readers: in celebration of the ‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’ event over the next month, I have asked several of my fellow Jane Austen bloggers to share their knowledge and interest in Austen’s most popular novel. Today, please welcome guest blogger Vic from Jane Austen’s World who shares with us her extensive knowledge of Regency culture and history. Her first of four contributions during the event analyzes the costumes worn at the Netherfield Ball in three movie adaptations in comparison to the fashions of the day.

The Netherfield Ball. Ah! How much of Jane Austen’s plot for Pride and Prejudice put on show  in this chapter! Elizabeth Bennet – its star – enters the ball room hoping for a glimpse of a strangely absent Mr. Wickham, but is forced to dance two dances with bumblefooted Mr. Collins, whose presence she somehow can’t seem to shake. (From his actions the astute reader comes to understand that this irritating man will be proposing soon.)

Mr. Darcy then solicits Lizzie for a dance, and his aloofness and awkward silences during their set confirms in Lizzie’s mind that he suffers from a superiority complex. As the evening progresses her family’s behavior is so appalling (Mary hogs the pianoforte with her awful playing; Kitty and Lydia are boisterously flirtatious with the militia men; and Mrs. Bennet brazenly proclaims to all within earshot that Mr. Bingley and Jane are as good as engaged) that the only enjoyment Lizzie takes away from the event is in the knowledge that Mr. Bingley is as besotted with Jane as she is with him.

In anticipation of furthering her acquaintance with Mr. Wickham, Lizzie probably dressed with extreme care, making sure both her dress and hair looked perfect. In the image below, Jennifer Ehle’s “wig” is adorned with silk flower accessories, and a string of pearls, which was the fashion of the time. She wears a simple garnet cross at her throat (Jane Austen owned one made of topaz) and her dress shows off her figure to perfection.

Continue reading at Jane Austen’s World

Further reading

Upcoming event posts

Day 7  June 23     Group Read: Chapters 15-21
Day 8  June 25     Tourism in Jane Austen’s Era
Day 9  June 26     Group Read: Chapters 22 – 28

Austen Tattler: News and Gossip on the Net: Issue No 10

“All that she wants is gossip, and she only likes me now because I supply it.” Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 31

April 19-25, 2010

Hot News of the Week:

Austenesque author Laurie Viera Rigler’s addiction to Jane Austen has inspired two best selling books: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict. Now she can add an original comedy web series on Babelgum.com to her Janeite accolades. Read all about  Sex and the Austen Girl on her blog and tune in next month for the first episode! Congrats Laurie. Brava!

Noteworthy:

Brooding Brontës replace Jane Austen as the bonnet drama remakes of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights return to the BBC and Film4 in the UK next season. Jane considered too tame and the Brontës are right for the times!

Interview of Austenesque author Amanda Grange (Mr. Darcy’s Diary, et all) at Dark Angel Review & Writing Blog about her experience getting published for the first time.

The Republic of Pemberley continues its group read of Pride and Prejudice through May 23rd, 2010

Great deal on bargain priced editions of Amanda Grange’s Austen Heroes Series at Amazon.co.uk & Amazon.com

Get local with Jane — news from AustenBlog on local Austen events

Julie at Austenonly discusses the new quilt exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and ties in Jane Austen and her famous quilt that reside at Chawton Cottage.

Interview of Skylar Hamilton Burris, Austenesque author of Conviction at Austenesque Reviews

Jane Austen’s World discusses activitist Caroline Norton and a Woman’s Legal Rights in the 19th-century

JASNA members watch for the spring issue of JASNA News in your mailbox this week. News on the Annual General Meeting in Portland in October, a great book review by Diana Birchall of The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet and part three of Jane Goes Digital by Mags of AustenBlog

Entertainment:

Just for fun: video mashup of Iron Man vs. Bridget Jones!

Inside news on the new indie movie Pride and Prejudice (2010) currently being filmed in Colorado at Pride and Prejudice 2005 Blog

Anil Kapoor’s Aisha the new Bollywood modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Emma starring his daughter Sonam Kapoor in the title role is set for an August 6th, 2010 release in India

Announcements:

Preview of Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine’s May/June 2010 issue

Austenesque author Beth Pattillo’s new book The Dashwood Sisters Tell All: A Novel with Sense and Sensibility

GirleBooks announces a new print edition of The Sylph, by Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire with foreword by Heather Carrol of  The Duchess of Devonshire’s Gossip Gude to the 18th-century. Join the group read of The Sylph that begins on May 1st.

The paperback edition of Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, by Laurie Viera Rigler goes on sale on Tuesday, April 27th, 2010 just in time for summer beach reading.

The restored & remastered DVD edition of Pride and Prejudice 1995 goes on sale on Tuesday, April 27th, 2010. Huzzah! Now we can see the dripping Darcy emerging from the pond with more clarity and finer detail then every before!

Check out the new cover of Bespelling Jane Austen a new Austen inspired paranormal novel featuring four novellas from authors Mary Balogh, Janet Mullany, Susan Krinard, and Colleen Gleason. Very classy!

Book/Movie Reviews:

Until next week, happy Jane sighting

Laurel Ann

Austen Film Locations: Longbourn – Pride and Prejudice 1995

Guest blog by Helen Wilkinson of P&P Tours

Longbourn – the private house found by the BBC for the ultimate adaptation of Pride & Prejudice in 1995 – has become one of the most famous houses in the world. BBC location manager Sam Breckman knew he had to find a house that could withstand a gruelling 10 weeks of filming, and with a drawing room, dining room, library, large hall, three bedrooms and extensive gardens – all readily adaptable to a look of the 1790’s.

“Longbourn can’t be too grand – it mustn’t threaten the social levels we were hoping to establish. It also needed to sit in its own grounds and be from the correct period.” Gerry Scott – Production Designer P&P 1995

The team had almost given up hope of finding a house that had the right look, and one that wouldn’t exhaust the entire budget to adapt to the period – many of the houses they had found had been over-modernised and the cost of converting their interiors was prohibitive. Gerry Scott solved the problem on a scouting trip around Lacock in Wiltshire – the village that had been selected as Meryton. He had been driving endlessly through the local villages and lanes until he saw a flash of ochre through the trees. Describing his arrival he says “Even before I knocked on the door I knew I’d found it.”

 The owner at the time was Angela Horn who had lived in the house since the 1940’s. The house still sits in its simple but well-maintained grounds, and on a manor, just the right size for Mr Bennet. It adjoins the church – which gave the BBC another perfect location – for the wedding of Lizzie and Darcy, and for the opening scene of episode 1 when the Bennet family return from church and discuss the arrival of Mr Bingley. The house sits in a private lane where Sam found he could set Lizzie’s walks, and all within a stone’s throw of the house. 

Everything was perfect as far as the BBC and the viewing public were concerned. So perfect that in the first few years after the production aired, hoards of people descended on the village and the house. Owner Angela Horn was happy to allow them access, free of charge, even though the intrusion was becoming a problem. After Angela died the house passed to the next generation who had no connection with the filming, and who found the intrusion unbearable. From that time the house has returned to its former quiet privacy.

“People from all over the world seem to think they have some kind of ownership of our home – because it means so much to them, but they don’t realise how upsetting it can be for the family. We expected the problem to go away but the DVD is still selling all round the world, so we know people are never going to fall out of love with the house.” Nina, grand-daughter of Angela Horn

When I first decided to run tours to all the P&P 1995 locations I knew Longbourn was an essential centre-piece, but I always understood that it would be tough to persuade the family to let us in. Now on every tour my heart still skips a beat when we pull up at the church and I see the house again. I often wondered whether the inside would be unrecognisable from the production, but when we step inside the unchanged hall I swear I can hear Mr Bennet and Lizzie – just down the hall. It’s the best job in the world. 

Helen Wilkinson, P&P Tours 

P&P Tours have exclusive access to Longbourn for holidays, day events, suppers and an annual ball. Website www.pandptours.co.uk

© 2010 Helen Wilkinson

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Pride and Prejudice 1995 (Restored Edition) Available April 27th, 2010

Yep. Just when you thought that you would have to buy a Blu-ray video player to get better picture quality than previous editions of Pride and Prejudice 1995 the good folks at A&E have gone a done it. They have digitally remastered the pinnacle of perfection in Jane Austen adaptations, Pride and Prejudice 1995. Now you can really see the drops of water run down Darcy chest after he takes his plunge into the Pemberley pond. ;-)

If you pre-order through that place that is not Barnes & Noble, it is being offered at 52% off the list price of $39.95. Do the math or just go order it.  The offical release date is April 27, 2010. Here is the cover blurb and all the geeky details.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE has taken its place as one of the greatest television productions of all time. The landmark adaptation from A&E and the BBC captured the hearts of millions by seamlessly translating the wit, romance, and intelligence of Jane Austen’s classic novel to the screen.

With a masterful script, deft direction, and star-making performances from Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE transports viewers to Georgian England, where affairs of the heart are an exquisite game, and marriage the ultimate prize. But Elizabeth Bennet – spirited, independent, and one of five unmarried sisters – is determined to play by her own rules and wed for love, not money or privilege. Will her romantic sparring with the mysterious and arrogant Darcy end in misfortune–or will love’s true nature prevail?

Now beautifully remastered for the ultimate in picture and sound quality, relive the timeless classic PRIDE & PREJUDICE on 2 DVDs.

Bonus Features:

  • Completely Digitally Remastered for the Ultimate in Picture and Sound Quality
  • Anamorphic Widescreen Presentation
  • Featurettes “Lasting Impressions,” “An Impromptu Walkabout with Adrian Lukis and Lucy Briers,” “Turning Point,” “Uncovering the Technical Restoration Process”
  • Behind-the-Scenes Featurette: “The Making of Pride and Prejudice”
  • English Subtitles

Additional Details:

  • Format: Box Set, Color, DVD-Video, NTSC
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Run Time: 5 Hours 23 Minutes + extras
  • Region: 1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Language: English
  • Studio: A&E Television Networks
  • Closed Captioning: No
  • ASIN: B00364K6YW
  • UPC: 733961206739

I feel a P&P 1995 Twitter Party calling.

Austen at Large: Darcy and Davies: Adapting Mr. Darcy from the Novel to the Screen

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Pride and Prejudice is Jane Austen’s most popular if not most adapted novel, and  its famous hero Mr. Darcy has been interpreted in many different ways. There have been several excellent period adaptations of Pride and Prejudice which present Darcy’s character differently, particularly Fay Weldon’s 1980 and Andrew Davies 1995 versions. These two adaptations master the characters of Austen’s work which is so important. Weldon’s perhaps captures it slightly better than Davies’ because she is not as focused on Darcy as he is. Davies’s tries to bring Darcy’s side of the story forward so that the viewer sympathizes with him and sees what a good character he is long before Elizabeth feels the same way. This goes against the feeling of the novel because the reader is guided by Elizabeth’s thoughts for the majority of the novel rather than understanding Darcy’s.

David Rintoul as Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice (1980)

Pride and Prejudice‘s popularity has been growing over the years bringing more people to Jane Austen as well. Many of the adaptations are wonderful but the viewer has to keep in mind that it is the novel that is at the heart of the film. They should not depart drastically. Pride and Prejudice can be adapted faithfully to the novel while bringing the characters to life. It is only a matter of the writer and director doing it, some have and some have not.

Mr. Darcy in the tub, Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Davies’ adaptation might as well be called “Darcy’s Story” at times. Darcy is a great character in the novel and yet the story is not about him. It is about Elizabeth, her relationship with her family, and then Darcy. In Davies screenplay Darcy’s point of view is given to the viewer to show us his softer side, the side Elizabeth can’t see immediately but the viewer can. In the novel Darcy is suppose to be constantly looking at Elizabeth and these looks can explain a lot about his character. Andrew Davies explained,

One of the first things that struck me about Pride and Prejudice is that the central motor which drives the story forward is Darcy’s sexual attraction to Elizabeth. He doesn’t particularly like her, he’s appalled by the rest of her family and he fights desperately against this attraction.” (BBC website)

In Davies’ version these looks are almost always of admiration and approbation, yet in other versions it is not easy to tell why Darcy is looking at Elizabeth. David Rintoul’s Darcy in the 1980 Weldon adaptation hides his facial expressions better than Firth’s 1995 Darcy does. Yet, perhaps Firth is meaning to wear emotions on his face (though this is not very Darcy like) to bring him more to life and to make him more agreeable. One positive aspect of Darcy in this adaptation is that he practically has to relearn everything he thought he knew about women to get Elizabeth. He has been use to objectifying them but when Elizabeth comes along, she sparks a change in him. The problem is that this is a little too fanciful. Darcy does change and for the better with Elizabeth’s help, but as Elizabeth points out to herself in the end of the novel “She remembered that he had yet to learn to be laughed at, and it was rather too early to begin“. He is not a completely changed creature and Elizabeth knows this. The viewer, like the reader should love Darcy in the end for the reasons Elizabeth does. That he is a gracious, kind, thoughtful man and he is better than we ever believed possible from their first encounter; yet for this to be successful the viewer cannot be idolizing over Darcy for three quarters of the film which is what most viewers are doing in this version.

Mr. Darcy does the dip, Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Davies’ adaptation is an almost faithful reworking of the novel for a modern and sexual audience. Darcy’s sex appeal cannot be over looked and is overplayed by Firth. In the novel Darcy’s character is what makes him a fine man, not his body. The story shifts focus in this adaptation to Darcy which though it seems faithful, I think it undermines Austen’s original story because viewers can feel more sympathy for Darcy than they do for Elizabeth.

Although Jane Austen’s book was told very much from Elizabeth’s point of view, Andrew decided to make his version very much Darcy’s story as well. He did this partly by inserting new scenes which showed Darcy outside the stiff social events, allowing the viewer to see more of the real man” (BBC website).

The opening of film shows what the emphasis will be about as Davies opens his film with Darcy and Bingley riding on horseback, rather than begining with one of the most famous line in the English language, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife“. Instead, Elizabeth is given these lines a few scenes in, but by starting with Darcy, Davies’ is perhaps showing where his focus will be throughout the production, on Darcy rather than on Elizabeth.

 Pride and Prejudice (1995) DVD cover        Pride and Prejudice (1980) DVD cover

As much as I love the 1995 adaptation written by Andrew Davies, I really dislike how Darcy takes the center stage at times. Even when looking at the  DVD cover compared with the 1980 Fay Weldon version, the 1995 cover includes Colin Firth as Darcy front and center with Elizabeth only in the background with Jane, while on my 1980 DVD cover it has Elizabeth and Jane in the front and Darcy only in the background with Elizabeth. I know these might be merely marketing issues that I am raising but it is worth thinking about because if the focus of the adaptation changes too much, then what is it saying about those who are watching it. I just get tired of the Darcy mania. I sometimes feel that I am on a soap box shouting about him so I don’t want people to think that I don’t like him in the end. I DO. Who couldn’t? But I just think that readers and viewers of the movies should remember the original story in mind because that is what is so amazing, not some adaptation of it. Ok enough soap box… what does everyone else think?

Until next week,

Virginia Claire

Virginia Claire, our Austen at Large roving reporter is a college student studying English literature and history who just returned from her time studying abroad in Bath England and working as an intern at the Jane Austen Centre. She is the Regional Coordinator of JASNA North Carolina and a lifelong Janeite. She will be sharing her thoughts on all things Austen this semester and remembering her travels in Austenland. 

Pemberley Shades: The Legend of the Lost Sequel

Sourcebooks, Inc has just re-issued the classic Pride and Prejudice sequel Pemberley Shades, by D. A. Bonavia-Hunt. Originally published in 1949, this valued and quite rare book is the first Pride and Prejudice sequel to continue the story after the marriage of our favorite couple, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy concluded in Jane Austen’s famous novel. The long road to reprinting Pemberley Shades has been a winding journey that I enjoyed researching. There are many people to thank for making this cherished sequel available again who I have attempted to credit. I offer my thanks and congratulations to everyone who had a hand in it. Well done. 

The Legend of the Lost Sequel 

Imagine walking into a bookstore and finding a novel by an unknown author that continued the story of a book written close to 200 years ago. Would you be tempted to purchase it? Now, what if that novel was based on the characters of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice ? No problem you say, and readily present your cash and carry it home. In turn, imagine that it is 1949 and you are without the benefit of years of memories of Mr. Darcy plunging into the Pemberley pond or rising like a god through the mist of a field to haunt you. Up until this point, there is only one Jane Austen sequel written, and most likely you have not heard of it. Your effortless purchase in 2008 now becomes pure impulse based on the cultural clout of Jane Austen’s name. That was exactly what author Dorothy Bonavia-Hunt and publishers Allan Wingate in London and E.P. Dutton of New York were banking on, and after nearly sixty years after its first publication, Pemberley Shades is still commanding our attention and selling in bookstores thanks to some very devoted Janeites. 

It is quite amazing to think that new ground was being forged here by Bonavia-Hunt nearly one hundred and thirty six years after Pride and Prejudice was first published. She was writing for genre that would not be realized by publishers and the public for another forty-five years with the publication of Pemberley: Pride and Prejudice Continued  by Emma Tennant. Not much is known about her personal life beyond the basic vital statics documented by her birth and death, and a few census records in England. Born Dorothy Alice Bonavia-Hunt in London in 1880, she was the daughter of an Anglican clergyman and was raised in a literary and musical environment. Her father was Rev. Henry George Bonavia-Hunt, who founded the Trinity College of Music in 1872 in London, and her mother the authoress Madeline Bonavia-Hunt. She had three siblings and her younger brother Noel Aubrey followed in his father’s footsteps as an ordained minister and noted authority of secular organ music. Like Jane Austen, she remained a spinster and lived with family most of her life, writing Pemberley Shades while living with her brother Noel when he was Vicar of St. Leonard’s Stagsden, Bedfordshire.

 

St. Leonard’s church, Stagsden, Bedfordshire, England where Dorothy
Bonavia-Hunt’s  brother Noel was vicar from 1937-1956

Pemberley Shades was first published in 1949 in England by Allan Wingate, London & E.P. Dutton, New York, each publisher creating their own cover art and text design. Interestingly the English version which depicts a bucolic country scene with Regency attired figures dominating the composition seems much more appealing today than the US edition which primarily focuses on the architectural prominence of the facade of a country manor house and secondarily on the small walking figures in the foreground. I find the focus of the two book covers amusing. The English publisher in postwar Britain appealing to the return to gentrified living in war torn England, and the US publisher stimulating desire in post war US to have gentrified living with a grand house! The book did have a second printing the same year by E.P. Dutton, so obviously, Americans were craving English culture and stories written about English classic novels. The popularity of the 1940 MGM movie Pride and Prejudice staring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier didn’t hurt its sales either! 

Two covers of Pemberley Shades. Left Allan Wingate, London
and right E.P. Dutton, New York (1949)

And so it was finally in print, sold and then faded away. For the next forty-four years there were no sequels written to Jane Austen’s novels. The BBC started its production of adaptations of Austen novels for television in the early 1970’s and interest began to slowly build again in her work. In 1977 Folcroft Library Editions (Folcroft, PA) re-printed Pemberley Shades duplicating the E.P. Dutton US edition. These editions were a private printing available for libraries to purchase, and as the years passed and libraries deaccessioned their collections, copies made their way into private hands. 

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy & Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet
 in the mini-series Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Twenty years later an event would acknowledge Jane Austen’s genius in a way that no one could have anticipated. The 1995 mini-series of Pride and Prejudice aired in the UK causing an immediate Austen explosion, which turned nuclear when it crossed the pond and aired in the US in 1996. Austen was now the darling of Hollywood making her boffo box office with the release of the Oscar nominated adaptation by Emma Thompson’s of Sense and Sensibility and Nick Dear’s interpretation of Persuasion. Renewed interest in Jane Austen now prompted a slew of authors ready to take on her characters with prequels, sequels, retellings, continuations and imaginings compounded by the advent of the personal computer and the Internet. This new informational highway had given rise to an appreciation of Austen with new websites such as The Republic of Pemberley devoted to her works, the movies, – and a new spin-off – the burgeoning genre of Jane Austen fan fiction found at sites like The Derbyshire Writers Guild

Enter Marsha Altman, author of the newly released Austen-esque novel The Darcys and the Bingleys, but at that time still a student at City College in New York. Enraptured by Joe Wright’s 2005 creative and earthy film interpretation of Pride and Prejudice, she begins writing fan fiction and publishing on-line. 

When I really started getting into Pride and Prejudice fan fiction, I decided to try and get my hands on almost every sequel out there, which included a lot that were out-of-print. There were two things that were just totally unavailable: Any of the Rebecca Ann Collins books, which were only published in Australia, and some legendary ancient sequel called Pemberley Shades that everyone who had seemed to love. Some used copies were floating on Amazon for $300 or so, which I thought was ridiculous. The most I’ve ever overpaid for a sequel is probably $40.   

Interestingly, the two authors that Ms. Altman had difficulty locating copies of their books, Dorothy Bonavia-Hunt and Rebecca Ann Collins are now available to everyone through the good folks at Sourcebooks. For the avid Jane Austen collector, there are first UK and American editions of Pemberley Shades available at Advance Book Exchange, but be prepared to pay dearly for them. After a failed attempt to locate a copy of Pemberley Shades through her own college library, Marsha did track down a copy. 

There was one other copy in New York City, at the New York Public Library reading room, which ironically is not a very good place to read for hours on end. You have to get about three different cards to get a book called up, and then you can’t take it out of the room. Clearly the only solution was to stand at the copy machine and photocopy the whole thing. The book nearly fell apart in my hands. I read it and loved it, and I wanted to make it available to everyone else. The problem was, if it was written between 1923 and 1950 (which it was), the author had 27 years after publication to renew the copyright and extend it, otherwise it had fallen into public domain and anyone could print it. I had absolutely no biographical information on the author. She was a woman and I eventually learned she was from England. I called E.P. Dutton, now a division of a larger publishing house, and they searched their records and couldn’t find anything about the book.  

Marsha then proceeded to investigate if the US copyright had been extended by the author or her heirs and came up empty deciding to self publish Pemberley Shades herself with her own publishing company Laughing Man Publications.  In 2007, the first books were produced carefully recreating as closely as she could the original format and design of the E.P. Dutton 1949 edition with a newly designed cover from the artwork tinted from the line drawings from the title page of the book. Thirty years after the Folcroft private printing in 1977, Pemberley Shades was now available again quickly selling out its first run, and is now in its second printing. 

In the end it was about circulation. I don’t think any literary work should disappear. The preservation of knowledge, however frivolous (and there are a lot more frivolous things than Jane Austen sequels), is a sacred part of the Jewish tradition in which I was raised. I’m very much looking forward to the upcoming age of information technology, which is already terrific on how much is available to us, either for free or for relatively small fees. It’s an incredible time to be alive. 

And the final act of this saga is with Deb Werksmen, executive editor of Sourcebooks who chose to reprint Pemberley Shades and include it in their fall release of Austen-esque books, allowing for an even wider distribution. Quite an honor for a novel first published 59 years ago, lost to obscurity, resurrected by an Austen enthusiast and written by an Englishwoman who died never knowing that her novel would one day be respected and cherished. 

Further reading 

Pride and Prejudice: Netherfield Ball

Image of Mrs. Bennet gossiping at the Netherfield Ball, Pride & Prejudice, (1995)NONSENSICAL

In vain did Elizabeth endeavour to check the rapidity of her mother’s words, or persuade her to describe her felicity in a less audible whisper; for, to her inexpressible vexation, she could perceive that the chief of it was overheard by Mr. Darcy, who sat opposite to them. Her mother only scolded her for being nonsensical.The Narrator on Mrs. Bennet Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 18

My favorite scenes in episode one of the PBS airing last Sunday of the adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice (1995) were definitely those at the Netherfield Ball. They are also a significant plot accelerator in the novel. So much interaction transpires that delights, horrifies, and further reveals character insights. Here is a rundown on the evening’s events.

Image of Netherfield Park, Pride & Prejudice, (1995) 

The Bennet’s arrive in fine evening attire and are greeted by their hosts the Bingley’s. The occasion includes several red coats which delight Lydia and Kitty.

Image of Netherfield Ball dancing, Pride & Prejudice, (1995) 

We learn that Wickham has removed himself from the festivities because of his wish to avoid a certain gentleman (Mr. Darcy). Lizzy is obligued to dance with Mr. Collins and is mortified that he is wholly without any sense of his ridiculous manner.

Image of Elizabeth & Mr. Collins dancing at Netherfield, Pride & Prejudice, (1995) 

Mr. Darcy is seen intently tracking Lizzy’s movements about the ball from room to room. He is clearly intrigued by her frank personality, and not quite sure what to make of his attraction to her.

Image of Mr. Darcy at the Netherfield Ball, Pride & Prejudice, (1995)

 

As Lizzy discloses to Charlotte her anger in the absence of her favorite Mr. Wickham because of Mr. Darcy, he approaches them and catches her off guard. She regretfully accepts his invitation to dance.

Image of Lizzy & Charlotte dishing Darcy at the Netherfield Ball, Pride & Prejudice, (1995)

We then hear the elegant music and see the couples engaged in the dance. Lizzy and Darcy dance silently for a while. Annoyed that she must dance with him, Lizzy can not miss out on this opportunity not to engage Mr. Darcy in a “little bit of conversation” while they dance.

 Image of couples dancing at Netherfield Ball, Pride & Prejudice, (1995)

What transpires is one of the most significant dialogues of the film between them. She is peeved and unguarded, he is puzzled, polite and circumspect.

Image of Lizzy & Mr. Darcy sparing at Netherfield Ball, Pride & Prejudice, (1995)

Caroline Bingley attempts to warn Lizzy of Wickham’s low background and infamous manner, but Lizzy will not believe her assertations and challenges her story.

Image of Caroline Bingley, Pride & Prejudice, (1995) 

Lizzy and Jane are mortified by their families, “total want of propriety so frequently displayed”, and stand on the sidelines in discomfort of the exhibition.

 Image of Lizzy & Jane Bennet mortified at the Netherfield Ball, Pride & Prejudice, (1995)

Sister Mary attempts to delight the party in song, and Mrs. Bennet is glad to see her daughter display her, ahem, talent at the pianoforte. However, her screeching song inspires horses to neigh, and dogs to howl outside. This sends her two elder sisters and Mr. Bennet into despair.

Image of Mr. Bennet in despair at the Netherfield Ball, Pride & Prejudice, (1995) 

Next, Mr. Collins speaks to Mr. Darcy before they have been formally introduced.  Mrs. Bennet’s continues bragging about the certainty of the nuptials of Jane and Mr. Bingley to the other guests before it is indeed certain. The finale humiliation is Lydia and Kitty’s unchecked exuberant antics throughout the ball with the officers. Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst look on in horror at the Bennet clan’s exploits in their home, smug in their earlier evaluation of the families foibles!

Image of Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst, Netherfield Ball, Pride & Prejudice, (1995)

My feelings of embarrassment and sorrow after the conclusion of the ball are all in favor of the elder two Bennet daughters, Elizabeth and Jane. We see the scope of their dilemma. They are intelligent, sensible and accomplished young women, whose financial situation of lack of dowries un-empowers them, placing them at the mercy of the connections of their family to attract suitable husbands. Moreover, consider that the very people that they must depend upon to aid them in their pursuit of a match alternately hinder their possibilities by lack of refinement and improper conduct. One feels a cloud of doom descend.

  • You can find an excellent introduction, episode rundown, casting, behind the scenes and photo gallery at the BBC Pride and Prejudice web site.
  • Casting, plot and resources can be found at the Masterpiece Classics Pride and Prejudice site
  • Purchase the new DVD set of Pride and Prejudice and The Jane Austen Book Club together at A&E.com.

Image of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Pride & Prejudice, (1995)Be sure to mark your calendars and set your watches for the second episode of the Masterpiece Classic presentation of Pride and Prejudice(1995), on Sunday, February 17th at 9:00 pm on PBS. We can look forward to the introduction of the affability and condescension of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, further antics by that duffus Mr. Collins, and a surprising ardent revelation by one of Elizabeth’s suitors. Dont’ miss out on all the Regency fun!