In Remembrance of The Complete Jane Austen

“This present from the Campbells,” said she — “This pianoforté is very kindly given.” 

“Yes,” he replied, and without the smallest apparent embarrassment. “But they would have done better had they given her notice of it. Surprizes are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable. I should have expected better judgment in Colonel Campbell.” Emma Woodhouse & Mr. Knightley, Emma, Chapter 26 

Gone, but not forgotten, The Complete Jane Austen series on PBS ended last Sunday with the final episode of Sense and Sensibility. It was a bittersweet moment for me, kind of an anti-climatic ‘day after the wedding’ kind of funk. And now, I feel a deep malaise setting in! Whatever shall we all talk and ruminate over? Continue reading “In Remembrance of The Complete Jane Austen”

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’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!

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.

A Preview of Miss Austen Regrets on Masterpiece Theatre PBS

Image of Miss Austen Regrets stars Olivia William and Imogen Poots, PBS, 2008

We must allow for difference of taste…the more I know of the world, the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much! Marianne Dashwood, Sense & Sensibility, Chapter 3

Illustration of Jane Austen, 1869The name of Jane Austen may be the most recognizable British literary figure in modern culture, even though others will contend that the bard, William Shakespeare deserves that honor. Regardless of the debate, her work is highly respected by many academics, and adored by the public. For two hundred years, her plots and characters have been discussed and thoroughly examined, but her private life has remained her own, stored away in her remaining personal correspondence and family memoirs.

I am always amused with those little bio blurbs about her life in the front of most paperback editions of her novels. This is a good example of the average fare.

Jane Austen was born at Steventon, Hampshire, in 1775, the daughter of a clergyman. At the age of nine she was sent to school at Reading with her elder sister Cassandra, who was her lifelong friend and confidante, but she was largely taught by her father. She began to write for recreation while still in her teens. In 1801 the family moved to Bath, the scene of so many episodes in her books and, after the death of her father in 1805, to Southampton and then to the village of Chawton, near Alton in Hampshire. Here she lived uneventfully until May 1817, when the family moved to Winchester seeking skilled medical attention for her ill-health, but she died two months later. She is buried in Winchester Cathedral.

This does the job neatly and quickly, but you know that there has to be much more to a person who was capable of writing with such wit and perception than the “uneventful” life described in this short biography. It makes her sound so staid and boring, but as anyone who has had the pleasure of reading her letters or a good biography of her life like Claire Tomalin’s, Jane Austen: A Life (1997), can tell you there was so much more to celebrate in addition to her talent as a writer.

Exploring a famous, quiet life is the challenge of the highly anticipated new biopic, Miss Austen Regrets, airing this Sunday on PBS at 9:00 pm. One of the most interesting facets of creating a believable historical biography is inspired casting. I think that the producers Anne Pivcevic and Jamie Laurenson have made some excellent and unusual choices.

Image of Olivia Williams as Jane Austen in Miss Austen Regrets, PBS (2008)Olivia Williams: (Sixth Sense, Rushmore), stars as Jane Austen at age 39, who despite family disappointment and continued pressure, is comfortable with her unmarried status; preferring  to write than scour the countryside for possible beaus. She soon learns that like her famous heroine Emma Woodhouse, matchmaking can bring trouble as she advises her niece Fanny Austen-Knight on courtship and marriage.

Image of Greta Scacchi as Cassandra Austen in Miss Austen Regrets, PBS, (2008)Greta Scacchi: (Daniel Deronda, Emma), plays Cassandra Austen, Jane’s older sister, confidant, and best friend. Cassandra’s influence on her sister will have a profound impact on many events in their lives, good and bad. Scacchi has a small role for such a talented actress, but her scenes are played with the sensitivity and reserve of a dear sister who is a bit too protective and influential on Jane Austen’s life.

Image of Hugh Boonivelle as Rev. Brook Bridges, Miss Austen Regrets, PBS, (2008)Hugh Bonneville: (Lost in Austen, Mansfield Park), plays former suitor Rev. Brooks Bridges. Smitten with Jane Austen as a young man, but unsuccessful in his bid for her affections, he still carries a torch acting as a reminder to her throughout the film of yet another lost opportunity. Some of the best scenes in the film are between Rev. Brooks and Jane Austen as they touch on the loss of their affection.

Image of Imogen Poots as Fanny Austen-Knight, Miss Austen Regrets, PBS, (2008)Imogen Poots: plays Fanny Austen-Knight, twenty year old niece to Jane Austen who is eager for her aunt’s advice on courtship and love, thinking that she is an authority since all of her heroines marry happily in her novels. Her character has a definite edge to it, and one can see resentment brewing in the future. In her later years, she said unkind things about her maiden aunts, Jane and Cassandra after their deaths.

Image of Phyllida Law as Mrs. Austen in Miss Austen Regrets, PBS, (2008)Phyllida Law: (Miss Potter, Emma), plays Mrs. Austen, the disgruntled and judgmental widowed mother of Cassandra and Jane Austen, whose brood of children seem to constantly disappoint her. Watch for her comment about loving her children more than her husband. Ouch! She came from aristocratic stock, and may have been bitter about marrying below her station in life.

Image of Jack Huston as Dr. Charles Haden, Miss Austen Regrets, PBS, (2008)Jack Huston: (Factory Girl, Spartacus), plays Doctor Charles Haden, the intelligent and dashing admirer introduced to Jane Austen by the chance illness of her brother Henry Austen while she was visiting in London. He is the catalyst to an invitation to the Palace to see the Prince Regent’s librarian. She is very fond of him and he is a serious flirtation until her niece shows up to add competition, spoiling her triumph.

Image of Harry Gostlow as Rev. Charles Papillion, Miss Austen Regrets, PBS, (2008)Harry Gostelow: (Foyle’s War, Shakespeare in Love), plays Rev. Charles Papillion, vicar of Chawton, who Jane Austen makes a running joke of in her family letters as the man who at any moment might propose to her, saving her honor! Jane delights in taunting the unmarried minister after service with the pious reasons why a minister should marry. He reminded me of Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice. He couldn’t say much in defense!

Miss Austen Regrets is a co-production of WGBH/BBC and is making its premiere on US television on Sunday, February 03, at 9:00 pm. Be sure to mark your calendars and set you watches. Of all the productions airing in The Complete Jane Austen series, it will certainly garner more interest and conversation.

Mansfield Park: The Enigma that is Fanny Price

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


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.

Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (2007) Movie – A Review

From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress: 

“If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.”

The new ITV/Masterpiece PBS adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey aired on PBS last night. After viewing a pensive Persuasion adaptation last week during The Complete Jane Austen, I was all fired up to be shaken out of my Jane Austen adaptation stupor with a new production of Northanger Abbey. This is a lively story of youth, inexperience, and first love played against campy Gothic fiction. How could I not be revived?

So let me begin by telling you that two filmatic productions were never at such opposite ends of the Jane Austen gene pool emotionally and spiritually. What a relief to play with Catherine Morland and the other youngsters in the shallows. Continue reading “Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (2007) Movie – A Review”

Northanger Abbey: Our Hero Henry Tilney


JJ Feild as Henry Tilney in Northanger Abbey 2007

“His name was Tilney. He seemed to be about four or five and twenty, was rather tall, had a pleasing countenance.”

In anticipation of the premiere on Sunday of the new adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey presented by Masterpiece 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

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 starring Katharine Schlesinger as Catherine Morland and Peter Firth as Henry Tilney, you are well aware of his esteemable 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

Felicity Jones as Catherine Morland and Carey Mulligan as Isabella Thorpe in Northanger Abbey (2007)

Mark your calendars and set your watches for the premiere of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, presented by Masterpiece PBS, Sunday, January 20th at 9:00 pm. Starring 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 Abbey: Acquisition 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 coverage at Jane Austen’s World’s post on the likable hero & heroine Catherine Morland & Henry Tilney.

Confessions of a Jane Austen Smarty-pants


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 “Confessions of a Jane Austen Smarty-pants”

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



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 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”!

Austen countdown: 1 day to Persuasion

Image of the banner for the PBS presentation of Persuasion 2007 


Sunday, the 13th of January, at 9:00pm

Pop the popcorn and plump the pillows on the settee! The long wait is almost over! What has been talked about and anticipated for some months, will shortly come to pass. The premiere of the latest adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel of love and redemption, Persuasion, airs tomorrow night. Staring Sally Hawkins as our heroine Anne Elliot, and Rupert Penry-Jones as the dashing Captain Wentworth, it promises to be and grand evening presented by those great folks at Masterpiece Classic. Further details can be found at An Austen New Year Awaits. Don’t miss out on all the Regency drama and fun!

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