An Austen Addicts Temporary Fix

Image of The Complete Jane Austen LogoFOOLISH

why not seize the pleasure at once? How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation! Frank Churchill, Emma, Chapter 30

An open letter to PBS

Dear Sir/Madame:

Sunday is here, and ahem, pardon my French … but where the *&#% is my The Complete Jane Austen PBS? Now that you’ve got me totally hooked on weekly installments of adaptations of my favorite authoress’ novels, you have cut me off like Fanny Dashwood, and expect me to go cold turkey. Intolerable!

I see that you are running your quarterly pledge drive in her Sunday time slot to remind me to support my local PBS station. Torture! Now I have just witnessed those perky pledge people say Jane Austen’s name twenty times in ten minutes during the pledge breaks between the re-airing of Persuasion. They repeat ever half hour. Pure torture. Wait, now they are talking about Pride and Prejudice! Pure unadulterated torture. (moans and rolls eyes in agony)

Eureka! There is a bit of hope on the horizon. You have dangled the possibility of a new bonnet or trip to Brighton my way by offering the next-best-thing to a Jane Austen adaptation; – – a program about the making of the Jane Austen adaptations entitled Celebrating The Complete Jane Austen! Hurrah!

I am all anticipation as the familiar opening musical fanfare rolls in with the voice over.

Now enter Jane Austen’s world, and go behind the scenes for a look at the Public television event of the season.

Host Lisa Daniels gives the introduction to the program teasing us with the prospect of learning the inside story of the making of The Complete Jane Austen with interviews of the executive producer Rebecca Eaton, screenwriter Andrew Davies, and Austen scholar Dr. Marcia Folsom. She continues with exclaiming that Jane Austen is the ‘it’ girl of the twenty-first century. Ok. You’ve got my attention.

Fifteen minutes into an hour program, you cut to a local pledge drive and then jump back and forth between the two like a tennis match for the rest of the hour without much new information revealed.

This is now The Complete Jane Austen Torture.

This will not be bourne. We are seriously displeased and if you can’t play nice, we are sending Lady Catherine over to restore peace and harmony.

Regards &C

Laurel Ann

Blogmistress, Austenprose

The Confessions of an Austenite’s Enlightment

Image of Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet, Pride & Prejudice, BBC, (1995)DISCERNMENT

“How despicably have I acted!” she cried; “I, who have prided myself on my discernment! I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my sister, and gratified my vanity in useless or blameable distrust. How humiliating is this discovery! yet, how just a humiliation! Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind. But vanity, not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment I never knew myself.”Elizabeth Bennet, Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 36 

My planned preview to my favorite Jane Austen adaptation, Pride and Prejudice (1995), is a bit late in arriving; – sorely due to this blogmistress’ being a bit Austen fatigued after a month of running in high gear for The Complete Jane Austen series, and battling a putrid throat!

Illustration by Milo Winter, from The Tortoise and the Hare, Aespo’s Fable’s, (1919)The one (and only) writing attribute that I can claim to hold in common with Miss Austen is that I am a plodder. Slow as the turtle in the Aesop fable, The Tortoise and the Hare. What takes some writers a moment of inspiration, may take me an hour of contemplation and rumination.

Image of the cover of The Confesions of a Jane Austen AddictI once commiserated my plight with the talented Austenesque writer, Laurie Viera Rigler, author of that bright tome, The Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. Her generous response really bucked me up for the next round, and every time I feel drained or washed up I read it again. It is such a thoughtful and beautifully inspiring reply, that I felt selfish holding it my saved e-mail messages folder. I hope that she will not mind my sharing her sage and practical advice for the benefit and enjoyment of my readers.

“Okay, you asked for advice, and I’m going to give it. Well, you asked for thoughts, and here they are, plus advice, if I may be so bold. Please don’t feel pressured about your posts. Let me tell you, from both a reader’s and a writer’s perspective, that your posts are delightful.  I consider you to be just as much a professional writer as I am, and if you think writing is like rolling off a settee for me, you’re wrong! I go through just the same mental gyrations that you do (though of course I’m not clairvoyant and don’t know precisely what yours are).

But from what you’re telling me it sounds like a confidence issue, which all writers go through. If you find yourself plodding-and we all do-leave the desk and take a brain vacation. For me, that’s taking a drive, taking a shower, taking a walk, doing the dishes, anything mindless. Meditation helps, too. These activities free us from the effortful, analytical, grinding mind and allow the pure creative mind to flow.

Every time I worry I won’t know what to write, it is an unfounded worry. We humans just have a hard time being in the place of “I don’t know.” But the “not knowing” place is exactly where we need to be in order to produce our best work. I am starting to get used to the fact that I don’t know what I’m going to write, I don’t know what happens next in my story, I don’t know how I’m going to write the next blog post, but that it will come. And that’s where the best stuff comes from. That’s when we write from the heart, and when we write from the heart, someone is going to connect to it. And that’s when it starts to feel like rolling off a settee. If we could only just stop torturing ourselves with self-doubt, that is.”

Image of cover of Pride & Prejudice, Penguin ClassicsSigh! Well, I’m not quite to ‘rolling off the settee’ yet, but thanks to her encouragement, I did not give up. So today when I read Laurie’s lovely weekly contribution on-line to About.com’s Classic Literature, Pride and Prejudice: Once upon a time, before there was Colin Firth…, I was moved to tears. How lucky we are as Janeites to include her as a sister. As she had wisely advised me, – she truly wrote from the heart – and it shows.

“A discerning reader will find that this story is also a story of empowerment, of control over ones destiny, and of an emerging meritocracy. For the heroine of Pride and Prejudice and her hero, their rewards come not merely through any advantages of birth and inherited wealth, but rather through the hard work of self-examination, revelation, and voluntary shifts in attitudes and behavior. Imagine the appeal of such a story back in Austen’s class-stratified day. Consider its appeal today, in our world of make your own destiny, re-invent yourself, and hard work wins the day.”

Ok Laurie, I will admit having to look up the meaning of meritocracy (which was the perfect word by-the-way), but you just blew me away! One of those life moments when clarity descends, the birds sing, and your senses become intensified. An out of body moment that will stay with me forever. Thanks!

An Evening with Jane: Felicity Indeed!

Image of gust speaker Laurel Ann, “An Evening with Jane”, (2008)FELICITY

It was a union of the highest promise of felicity in itself, and without one real, rational difficulty to oppose or delay it. The Narrator Emma, Chapter 53

Jane Austen enthusiast were summoned to celebrate the delights of their favorite authoress at, “An Evening with Jane”, at the Alderwood Barnes & Noble in Washington on Thursday evening. I was honored to be asked to begin the festivities with an introductory speech about Jane Austen, touching upon her life, works, and the recent adaptations included in the Masterpiece Classic, The Complete Jane Austen on PBS.

 Image of Jane Austen display at event “An Evening with Jane” (2008)

Questions were entertained from the attendees and a lively discussion ensued. Everyone was very positive about the new adaptations, and of the three that have aired; Persuasion, Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park, it appeared that Persuasion was the most popular because of the touching story, sincerity of the heroine Anne Elliot and the resolve of the hero Captain Wentworth. When I queried them about the rushed ending, and the madcap marathon dash through the streets of Bath by Anne Elliot, the response was non-pulsed. It appears that if you had not read the book prior to the viewing, the ending seemed odd, but not as comical as it was to those familiar with Jane Austen’s original ending.

Seven Novels, Barnes & Nobel, (2007)As we enjoyed English Breakfast tea (with milk of course) and cinnamon scones, I introduced a recommended reading list that I had compiled of my favorite Jane Austen editions, books that were inspired by her and biographies of her life. I know that you all will recognize some of these great titles. You can read the entire list here, but here are some of the favorite titles discussed.

  • Jane Austen: Seven Novels, by Barnes & Noble Classics: ISBN 9781435103191
  • Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, by Laurie Viera Rigler: ISBN 9780525950400
  • The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, by Syrie James: ISBN 9780061341427
  • Jane Austen: A Life, by Claire Tomalin: ISBN 9780679766766
  • A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love and Faith, by Lori Smith: ISBN 9781400073702
  • The Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible Yet Elegant Guide to Her World, by Margaret C. Sullivan: ISBN 9781594741715

Image of attendees for “An Evening with Jane” event, (2008)

jahandbookw.jpgAn interesting aside to the nights events was a popular discussion of a certain other Austen inspired blog managed by a snarky Editrix who also has a popular Jane Austen inspired book in print! Serendipitously, two of the attendees selected copies of The Jane Austen Handbook, by Margaret C. Sullivan for their personal Jane Austen collections. I was delighted that they had chosen Mags’ book, and even more charmed when one of the attendees humorously mentioned that she had recently had to decline the marriage proposal of a Mr. Collins-like suitor, and was inspired to purchase a copy after reading that the contents included a section on how to decline an unwanted proposal of marriage! Well Mags, how does it feel to see you book in action? Congratulations!

Image of Vintage Jane Austen items             

We were honored by the attendance of Erin Whitcomb, a Special Projects & Events Manager with our local PBS station KCTS. She and her co-worker Daphne Adair make much of the Jane Austen magic happen for us mere Austen mortals through their real jobs at KCTS, and the fun Complete Jane Austen blog.  Erin announced a fabulous Austen inspired high tea in the works for KCTS donors that is being planned for April 12th, that will be held at the  Daughters of the American Revolution Rainier Chapter House on Capitol Hill. Further details are available at their blog.

Image of Jane Austen Action Figure

The evenings celebration would not have been complete without the arrival of Miss Austen herself, or the action figure of herself, placed among the many vintage books that I brought for display with a very special silver framed portrait of the authoress, who after nearly 200 years, can still pull a crowd. A special thank you to store manager Stephanie Hare and the accomplished Community Relations Manager Kari Yadro for her excellent promotional skills.

Top 10 Reason’s why Miss Austen Has No Regrets…

Image of Olivia Williams as Jane Austen, in Miss Austen Regrets, (2008) 

 about the biopic Miss Austen Regrets.

#10.) Anne Hathaway was not available for a reprise cuz she got a better gig playing Agent 99.

#9.) The costume designer passed on hoop skirts and hourglass silhouettes.

#8.) Even though she was a country girl at heart, she got all edgy dancing a waltz.

#7.) They dropped the Wither off  Harris Bigg-Wither’s last name cuz, she never really liked it anyway.

#6.) They served her favorite 1802 Dow – Vila Nova de Gaia vintage port.

#5.) The social pyramid was abolished allowing housekeepers to dine with the family.

#4.) No one asked her to elope to Gretna Green.

#3.) That harpy Martha Lloyd was cut out of the script cuz, she was only her BFFL.

#2.) She didn’t have to wear flattering bonnets designed by Lydia Bennet.

And the number one reason why Miss Austen has no regrets about Miss Austen Regrets is…

They forgot to mention the love child she bore after the lost weekend in Ireland with Tom Lefroy.

Mansfield Park (2007) on Masterpiece Classic – A Review: No Hope of a Cure

Image from Mansfield Park 2007 Billie Piper and cast © 2007 Masterpiece PBS

“My dear Miss Price,” said Miss Crawford, as soon as she was at all within hearing, “I am come to make my own apologies for keeping you waiting; but I have nothing in the world to say for myself-I knew it was very late, and that I was behaving extremely ill; and therefore, if you please, you must forgive me. Selfishness must always be forgiven, you know, because there is no hope of a cure.” Mary Crawford, Mansfield Park, Chapter 7

Today I am feeling much like that supercilious Mary Crawford in Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park; selfish, greedy and smug. I want my Jane Austen adaptations served up to me according to my wishes. Right now!

Three weeks into The Complete Jane Austen presentation on PBS and I’m still waiting to be wowed. Was the 1995-97 adaptation spree a fluke? Has Colin Firth’s performance as Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice spoiled me from ever enjoying any other adaptation? As singer Peggy Lee crooned, “Is that all there is?”

This brings me squarely to the latest installment, Mansfield Park, which if I may be so bold is not an easy novel to understand and even more of a challenge to adapt to the screen. The misunderstanding of the novel is certainly not from lack of effort. Of Jane Austen’s entire canon, Mansfield Park has erupted more heated discussion than any of her other novels, resulting in the infamous ‘Fanny wars‘ among academics and amateurs alike. In defense of our Jane Austen, we happily trample gently and wield a big cluebat.

This adaptation presents a large and handsome cast of the usual Regency lineup; the poor relation and waif heroine Fanny Price (Billie Piper), who has been conscripted as a child into the household of her wealthy and privileged aunt and uncle, Lady (Jemma Redgrave) and Sir Thomas Betram (Douglas Hodge) to the family country manor Mansfield Park (Newby Hall). Fanny’s indolent cousins rule her world; heir apparent and gambling boozer Tom (James D’Arcy), and spoiled sisters Maria (Michelle Ryan) and Julia Bertram (Catherine Steadman). The only one on the straight and narrow among this tribe is our pious hero, and Fanny’s only friend Edmund Bertram (Blake Ritson).

Enter into the neighborhood two scheming siblings; acerbic Mary (Hayley Atwell) trolling for a rich husband, and hedonistic Henry Crawford (Joseph Beattie) determined to make Fanny fall in love with him to “make a small whole in her heart”, and you have all the ingredients for an interesting story. Unfortunately, the majority of the original nuances and wit in the novel ends up in the round file. In defense of screen writer MaggieWadley, she was hired for a fool’s errand. The only person qualified to pare down this 473 page intricately detailed work (Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen) into ninety minutes of screen time would be Jane Austen herself, and unfortunately she was not available.

So much of the original plot has been eliminated, that after the first fifteen minutes, I put aside my expectations of re-visiting my memories of Jane Austen’s prose, and attempted to enjoy the essence of the plot and characters. Given the restriction of time, this adaptation directed by Ian B. MacDonald whips along at a frenetic pace, touching on themes and condensing all of it’s action to one beautiful location, the house and grounds of Mansfield Park. Gone are the neighboring homes of the Rectory of Mrs. Grant where the Crawford’s reside, the cottage of Mrs. Norris, the estate of Mr. Rushworth, Sotherton Court, and the Price family residence in Portsmouth. One can only assume that these deletions were agreeable to the budget, and not meant as a slight to the viewer! Ack! I felt like I was on a Jane Austen restricted diet.

The majority of actors were well cast with a few exceptions and standouts. I tried to like Billie Piper as Fanny, but she had so little to say, that I am not sure if I should blame it on her acting or the script which had her stone faced in the sidelines, dutifully fetching and carrying for her cousins, and simpering on cue. When she finally opposes her uncle Sir Thomas wishes for her to accept the proposal of Henry Crawford, I was not convinced by her actions or words that she could have been capable of pleading her case against such a strong patriarch. Our hero Edmund Bertram’s best scenes were unfortunately not with our heroine, but played out with his love interest Mary Crawford. I was relieved that he was allowed to actually have more than a few lines with her, and their final scene together ending his infatuation of her was his best. My favorite performance was by Michelle Ryan as willful Maria Bertram. When she is on screen, her presence was so compelling that it demands your complete attention. Other actresses with this same quality from the golden age of Hollywood such as Vivian Leigh or Ava Gardner learned to develop their acting beyond their striking beauty to command recognition. Miss Ryan is well on her way to stardom, and I hope to see her in a more expanded capacity.

I would like to conclude my review of Mansfield Park with a brief costume and hair roundup. Since so much of the script did not reflect the original novel, I was resolved to focus my review entirely on the costumes in the film until I learned that the majority of the frocks here designed by others, and appropriated from previous Jane Austen adaptations. For shame producers. You can get the complete runway rundown here. I must interject that the costume designer did give us the requisite cleavage for the nasty female antagonist, and the big messy hair for the male cad. Thank you very much. I’m not sure that I would have been able to identify them otherwise. I was also amused to learn that the hair designer Mary Southgate had in addition to her many credits in grand Opera, worked as the hair designer on The Muppet Show. This may allow for the un-Regency like mop top do of Miss Piper.

And, I would like to extend my sincere congratulations and thanks to Holly the Pug, for timing her barks, snorts and growls with such precise conviction and emotion. Besides Miss Piper’s bleached bimbo hurricane hair, she was the funniest part of this adaptation.

Image courtesy © 2007 Masterpiece PBS; text © 2008 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Mansfield Park: The Enigma that is Fanny Price

Image of a steel engraving by Nathaniel Whittock of Newby Hall Yorkshire, circa 1831 

GENTLENESS 

The gentleness and gratitude of her disposition would secure her all your own immediately. From my soul I do not think she would marry you without love; that is, if there is a girl in the world capable of being uninfluenced by ambition, I can suppose it her;

 Mary Crawford on Fanny Price, Mansfield Park, Chapter 30  

If Pride and Prejudice is the darling of Jane Austen’s oeuvre, then Mansfield Park is the red headed step child. Even opinions of it were divided among Jane Austen’s friends and family prior and after publication, which she collected into an undated manuscript circa 1814 and 1815.

“We certainly do not think it as a whole, equal to P. & P. — but it has many & great beauties. Fanny is a delightful Character! and Aunt Norris is a great favourite of mine. The Characters are natural & well supported, & many of the Dialogues excellent. — You need not fear the publication being considered as discreditable to the talents of it’s Author.” F. W. A. (Francis William Austen)

“liked it better than P. & P. — but not so well as S. & S. — could not bear Fanny. — Delighted with Mrs. Norris, the scene at Portsmouth, & all the humourous parts.” Anna Lefroy

“owned that she thought S. & S. — and P. & P. downright nonsense, but expected to like M. P. better, & having finished the 1st vol. — flattered herself she had got through the worst.” Mrs. Augusta Bramstone

“All who think deeply & feel much will give the Preference to Mansfield Park.” Mrs. Carrick

“did not much like it — not to be compared to P. & P. — nothing interesting in the characters — Language poor. — Characters natural & well supported — Improved as it went on.” Fanny Cage

Such enlightening comments! In fact, a quick analysis of all of the collected remarks by family and friends reveals that readers today feel much the same; Mansfield Park is not equal to Pride & Prejudice and Fanny Price is annoying and insipid. What is it about this novel that is so unsatisfying in comparison to Pride & Prejudice? Why do readers dislike Fanny?

To answer completely would require more time and space then I can impart at this moment, but I can give you a quick response. The themes and characters in Mansfield Park make us uneasy. They introduce the reader to some of the dark aspects of human nature, and more disturbingly, how we treat each other. That is unsettling. Fanny Price as a heroine is picked upon, belittled and degraded. She has been so un-empowered by her circumstances that she chooses not to oppose them. This angers and frustrates us. We want her to speak up for herself like Lizzy Bennet or tell others what to do like Emma Woodhouse, but that does not happen. Instead, Fanny is silent, patient and dutiful. Why?

The answers are eventually revealed by Jane Austen. The ending does reach a satisfying conclusion, rewarding the patient and dutiful reader who like Fanny must wait for the happy ending in Mansfield Park. Understanding the enigma that is Fanny Price, – – well, I fear that will remain one of the mysteries of the ages.

Image of Billie Piper as Fanny Price, Mansfield Park, PBS (2007)Be sure to mark your calendars and set you watches for the premiere of Masterpiece Classics’s Mansfield Park, starring Billie Piper as saintly Fanny Price, Blake Ritson as Edmund Bertram her friend and saviour, and Hayley Atwell and Joseph Beattie as twisted siblings Mary & Henry Crawford on Sunday, January 27th. at 9:00 pm on PBS. It should be a enigmatic and elightening evening.

*Steel engraving of Newby Hall, Yorkshire by Nathaniel Whittock, from A New and Complete History of the County of York by Thomas Allen (1831). Newby Hall stared as Mansfield Park in the ITV production that will air on The Complete Jane Austen presented by PBS this week. On a very weird side note to anyone who knows how family history can connect serendipitously, Newby Hall was originally owned by the Blackett family who built the present manor designed by Christopher Wren circa 1690. The Blackett family made their fortune in lead ore mines in Yorkshire and Northumberland. My ancestors were miners working for the Blackett-Beamont family for centuries in Allendale, NBL. So, you could say in a round-about way, that my family helped pay for the hall.

Northanger Abbey: Our Hero Henry Tilney

Image of J.J. Feild as Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey, PBS, (2007)COUNTENANCE

his name was Tilney. He seemed to be about four or five and twenty, was rather tall, had a pleasing countenance.The Narrator on Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey, Chapter 3

In anticipation of the premiere on Sunday of the new adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey presented by PBS, I thought it helpful to introduce the hero Henry Tinley, and highlight some of his most insightful quotes and humorous passages from the novel.

I believe that Jane Austen has created her most charming, quirky, clever, and well spoken male character of any of her heroes in Henry Tilney. In one of her few physical descriptions of her characters of any length, we are given more than a brief introduction.   

The master of the ceremonies introduced to her (Catherine Morland) a very gentlemanlike young man as a partner; his name was Tilney. He seemed to be about four or five and twenty, was rather tall, had a pleasing countenance, a very intelligent and lively eye, and, if not quite handsome, was very near it. His address was good, and Catherine felt herself in high luck. Chapter 3

Image of J.J. Feild as Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey, PBS, (2007)If by some happy chance, you are reading the novel or viewing the adaptation for the first time, you have quite a treat in store for yourself. Henry is the unique voice of reason and witty humor throughout the novel. When he speaks, it is usually in conversation with our heroine Catherine Morland, and he is all about winning her respect with bright and insightful little nuggets on life philosophy or personal opinion on a variety of topics! In fact, his decided views of love, marriage, dancing, history, politics and human nature make him quite possibly Jane Austen’s strongest male character, not only because we have no doubt of his mind, but the fact that he has absolutely no trouble expressing it.

Image of cover of Northanger Abbey DVD, BBC (1986)If you have previously read the novel, or seen the 1986 BBC adaptation staring Katharine Schlesinger as Catherine Morland and Peter Firth as Henry Tilney, you are well aware of his esteem-able nature and are quite possibly already a fan. He is hands down my favorite Jane Austen hero. Why? Many of Jane Austen’s heroes have fine qualities, but in my estimation, none reach the level of Henry. For who could not fall in love with a man of such “pleasing countenance” and “lively eye”; – – who dances quite well, is passionate about expressing himself with, alacrity, certitude and acumen, and happily rescues our heroine?  Who indeed?

Henry Tilney on the fair sex, marriage and dancing

“I should no more lay it down as a general rule that women write better letters than men, than that they sing better duets, or draw better landscapes. In every power, of which taste is the foundation, excellence is pretty fairly divided between the sexes.” Ch 3

“I consider a country-dance as an emblem of marriage. Fidelity and complaisance are the principal duties of both; and those men who do not choose to dance or marry themselves, have no business with the partners or wives of their neighbours.” Ch 10

“Come, shall I make you understand each other, or leave you to puzzle out an explanation as you can? No – I will be noble. I will prove myself a man, no less by the generosity of my soul than the clearness of my head. I have no patience with such of my sex as disdain to let themselves sometimes down to the comprehension of yours.” Ch 14

“Miss Morland, no one can think more highly of the understanding of women than I do. In my opinion, nature has given them so much that they never find it necessary to use more than half.” Ch 14

“No man is offended by another man’s admiration of the woman he loves; it is the woman only who can make it a torment.” Ch 19

“At any rate, however, I am pleased that you have learnt to love a hyacinth. The mere habit of learning to love is the thing; and a teachableness of disposition in a young lady is a great blessing.” Ch 22

“The world, I believe, never saw a better woman. But it is not often that virtue can boast an interest such as this.” Ch 24

Henry Tilney on life’s pleasures, convictions, horrors and principles

“Very true,” said Henry, “and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk, and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything. Originally perhaps it was applied only to express neatness, propriety, delicacy, or refinement – people were nice in their dress, in their sentiments, or their choice. But now every commendation on every subject is comprised in that one word.” Ch 14

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” Ch 14

“It is as much as should be said of anyone. To be always firm must be to be often obstinate. When properly to relax is the trial of judgment;” Ch 16

“And are you prepared to encounter all the horrors that a building such as ‘what one reads about’ may produce? Have you a stout heart-nerves fit for sliding panels and tapestry?” Ch 20

“If I understand you rightly, you have formed a surmise of such horror as I have hardly words to-Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from?”  Ch 24

“You feel, as you always do, what is most to the credit of human nature. Such feelings ought to be investigated, that they may know themselves.” Ch 25

“I am come, young ladies, in a very moralizing strain, to observe that our pleasures in this world are always to be paid for, and that we often purchase them at a great disadvantage, giving ready-monied actual happiness for a draft on the future, that may not be honoured.” Ch 26

“But your mind is warped by an innate principle of general integrity, and therefore not accessible to the cool reasonings of family partiality, or a desire of revenge”. Ch 27

Image of Carrie Mulligan as Isabella Thorpe, Northanger Abbey, (2007)Mark you calendars and set your watches for for the premiere of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, presented by PBS, Sunday, January 20that 9:00 pm. Staring Felicity Jones as Gothic novel influenced Catherine Morland, and J.J. Feild as her hero, and ours, Henry Tilney. Watch out for the stellar performance by Carrie Mulligan as Catherine’s flip, hip mentor, Isabella Thorpe. You can read the review An Austen Heroine with a Fertile Imagination in the Los Angeles Times, and tune in to PBS for all the horrid and romantic escapades of our heroine in the making on Sunday, January 20th at 9:00 pm.

Read additional posts about characters and quotes in my Northanger Abbey blog archive, including my introduction to our heroine Catherine Morland entitled Northanger AbbeyAcquistion of Higher Delight. Check out my musing on that despot General Tilney at my other co-blog, Jane Austen Today, and round out the Northanger converage at Jane Austen’s World’s post on the likeable hero & heroine Catherine Morland & Henry Tilney.

Confessions of a Jane Austen Smarty-pants

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A JANE FAN

A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing

 anything, should  conceal it as well as she can.

 The Narrator, Northanger Abbey, Chapter 14

Illustration of (that sex pot) Jane Austen, by Gerald Scarfe, The New Yorker magazine, 18 Jan 2008Jane is everywhere these days. The media deluge continues daily about The Complete Jane Austen  presentation on PBS, and Northanger Abbey airing on Sunday. Most of the articles are straight forward informational blurbs, but a few really made me laugh at all the folly that others perceive about the fascination with Jane Austen, and her fandom. I particularly liked Nancy Franklin’s hilarious article from The New Yorker entitled, Everybody Love’s Jane. You can read my highlights at my co-blog, Jane Austen Today. Be prepared to roll your eyes like Lizzy Bennet in amazement!

Now that our Jane is the topic-du-jour, some of my friends who know that I am an enthusiast have been phoning and e-mailing me with questions. It seems that anyone with a little bit of knowledge is an authority. It is flattering, but sometimes I just don’t quite know what to tell them. How much do they really want to know? I found this online article, Jane Austen, Yadda, Yadda, Yadda, by British literature scholar Devoney Looser, and it really hit home for me. So much so that I feel compelled to share confess an Austen fandom encounter at work yesterday. Continue reading

Northanger Abbey: Acquisition of Higher Delight

Illustration of Catherine Morland paper doll, by Donald Hendricks, Legacy DesignsACQUISITION 

To look almost pretty is an acquisition of higher delight to a girl who has been looking plain the first fifteen years of her life than a beauty from her cradle can ever receive.The Narrator on Catherine Morland, Northanger Abbey, Chapter 1

This is our introduction to our young heroine Catherine Morland, and it is a promising beginning. I like her immediately. Jane Austen has made her real and accessible to my expectations of a young, unpretentious girl of fifteen. She could be the girl next door!

and it was not very wonderful that Catherine, who had by nature nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, baseball, riding on horseback, and running about the country at the age of fourteen, to books – or at least books of information.

Remind you of anyone you know? A little sister, a daughter, or yourself?

 – for, provided that nothing like useful knowledge could be gained from them (books), provided they were all story and no reflection, she had never any objection to books at all. But from fifteen to seventeen she was in training for a heroine; she read all such works as heroines must read to supply their memories with those quotations which are so serviceable and so soothing in the vicissitudes of their eventful lives.

A heroine in training! I know a few of those. What teenage girl (or adult) does not dream of being the heroine of her own life? It’s interesting to observe how different generations over the years attach to role-models. Jane Austen admired poets and writers. In my day, it was ice skating champion Dorothy Hamill. Now it’s Paris Hilton. Hmm?

She had reached the age of seventeen, without having seen one amiable youth who could call forth her sensibility, without having inspired one real passion, and without having excited even any admiration but what was very moderate and very transient. 

No cute guys in the neighborhood. What a drag. No wonder she has her nose in a book.

But when a young lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of forty surrounding families cannot prevent her. Something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way … if adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad …

Indeed! A heroine in the making needs to seek her destiny. Or create one!

The Gothic parody Northanger Abbey was written in 1798, when Jane Austen was 23 years old, and reflects her younger attitudes and views of her world. The theme of a young girl coming of age and her first experiences in society are played against the contrast of the horrific drama and exaggerated romance of the Gothic fiction genre that was so popular at the time. Our heroine Catherine Morland is about to embark on her own mythic journey of self discovery. The introductory chapter has set the scene for her “big adventure”.

Image of Felicity Jones as Catherine Morland, PBS Northanger Abbey (2007)Be sure to set your watches and mark your calendars for the  Masterpiece Classic adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic Gothic parody, Northanger Abbey, staring Felicity Jones as our young and impressionable heroine Catherine Morland, on Sunday, January 20th at 9:00 pm on PBS. It should prove to be a dangerously romantic evening.

*Illustration of Catherine Morland paper doll, by the very talented artist and fashion illustrator Donald Hendricks of Legacy Designs. Visit his beautiful online shop and discover his fanciful and charming illustrations of classic literary figures and contemporary celebrities. 

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”!