LitHub: A NEW EDITION OF PRIDE AND PREJUDICE REPRODUCES THE CHARACTERS’ LETTERS TO EACH OTHER

Reblogged from: lithub.com/a-new-voyeuristic-edition-of-pride-and-prejudice-reproduces-the-characters-letters-to-each-other/

 

A new edition of Pride and Prejudice reproduces the characters’ letters to each other.

Corinne Segal

September 2, 2020, 3:45pm

In a Jane Austen novel, the drama—confessions of love, pleas for help, realizations that your cousin is a jackass—is all in the letters. So it feels particularly fitting that Chronicle Books is releasing an edition of Pride and Prejudice that includes physical replicas of the letters its characters exchange, which provide some of the richest and most surprising revelations in the book.

Set decorator and writer Barbara Heller designed the edition, which contains reproductions of 19 letters in the style of the era down to details like the folding style, wax seal, and postmaster’s stamps. The letters appear in pockets throughout the book. Reading them feels like a somewhat voyeuristic exercise, like looking over a character’s shoulder as they try to figure out how to gossip about each other without, you know, being too obvious about it. (Except for Lydia, who everyone, without exception, agrees is the worst.)

The edition will be published by Chronicle Books this month.

Crowdsourced: More Books with a Difference — Fiction

You asked, Moonlight Reader?  To quote from one of my additional entries below:  “As you wish …”

Without any further ado:

Hilary Mantel: Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies
When Lillelara added A Place of Greater Safety to her list, I could have kicked myself —  because Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell books were definitely among the most impressive books I’ve read in the past couple of years.  (A Place of Greater Safety as well, but the Cromwell duology even more so.)  They’ve changed my perception of Cromwell from that of a ruthless schemer to an incredibly complex and astute person (and politician): perhaps still not somebody I’d have wanted to be around all the time, but definitely someone for whom I’m caring from afar and back across several centuries.  And I’m both looking forward to and dreading the release of book 3 (now apparently scheduled for 2020).

Ben Jonson: The Alchemist
Speaking of scheming, the best evidence (if such a thing was needed) that get-rich-quick schemes are not the invention of the likes of Ponzi, P.T. Barnum, Madoff et al. — they’ve always been around.  A ribald, laugh-out-loud satire that’s best experienced on the stage rather than on the page … Philosopher’s stone, anybody?

Ellis Peters: Brother Cadfael series
MbD has already listed this series’s first book, A Morbid Taste for Bones, but really, the whole series is absolutely canon for me.  Peters condenses the complexities of the first English Civil War down to installments of roughly 200 pages, and she does so not only with great knowledge and insight but also with great empathy, through the eyes of one of literary history’s most engaging and worldly-wise characters.

Dorothy L. Sayers: Gaudy Night
And it’s the exact reverse here: I’ll be the first to get behind anybody’s adding all of Sayers’s writing to the list by way of a blanket reference, but the simple fact is that you haven’t really read Sayers until you’ve read Gaudy Night.  It’s the crowning achievement not only of her Lord Peter Wimsey series (and Wimsey / Vane subseries) but of all of her writing, not only until then — no wonder she was essentially done writing mysteries after this one.  MR rightly asked yesterday how come nobody has added Gaudy Night by name to the list, yet … it shall be so no longer!

Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express, Murder at the Vicarage, Crooked House, Witness for the Prosecution, and The Mousetrap
We already have “all of Christie” (minus Passenger to Frankfurt) and several individual titles on the list, and I swear I’ve tried to really keep a lid on things, but … look, I just don’t think I want to look at a crowdsourced BL list that doesn’t at least contain the above-named books as well.

Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451
My personal tetralogy of must-read dystopias consists of George Orwell’s 1984, Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.  Orwell’s and Atwood’s books are already on the list.  I’d (very grudgingly) be willing to live without  Huxley (even though the opening chapter alone should send a chill down everybody’s spine, particularly in light of the recent advances in genetic engineering).  But Fahrenheit 451 just has to be included — it’s never been more relevant than today, and it completely blows my mind that it was written in the 1950s.

Aravind Adiga: The White Tiger
I was initially going to include this in my first list, but took it off again after seeing that it was on the infamous published “1001 books” list.  Given that we’ve since clarified that this is not necessarily an exclusionary criterium, I’m happily listing it again: This is one of the funniest, most acidly satiric tough-love letters to one’s own country (packaged as a letter to a visiting foreign potentate) that you’ll ever come across.  Your laughter may be sticking in your throat a couple of times when you realize that you’ve just exposed your vocal chords to a razor blade hovering a nano-inch right above them, but even that won’t keep you from laughing out loud again and again on the very next occasion.

Louis de Bernières: Birds Without Wings
As book lists go, an exercise in contrasts vis-à-vis The White Tiger:  Just as panoramic in scope, just as searing to your various and assorted body parts, though in this instance, your guts (individually and collectively): a foray into early 20th century Turkish history as showcased in one particular community and by the friendship of two boys; Turkish-Greek (Muslim-Christian Orthodox) relations, Galllipoli, women’s roles, displacement, diaspora and all.  As gorgeously written as utterly devastating.  (Some of the characters, I’m told, resurface in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin — which I’ve yet to read, though.)

T.C. Boyle: The Tortilla Curtain
Like Adiga’s, Boyle’s sword is satire first and foremost, but there is a good deal of anger here, too:  Upper middle class gated community meets illegal Mexican immigrants — the quintessential Southern Californian culture clash.  This book, too, has never felt more relevant than today.

Edna O’Brien: In the Forest and Down by the River
O’Brien caused a stir and got herself onto her country’s censorship index with her Country Girls trilogy (and given 1960s’ morals, at least in  Ireland, that sort of figures), but it’s these two books by her that have left an indelible impression on me; on account of their topics (the prohibition of abortion — even in cases of incestual rape — in Down by the River, and a serial killing spree in In the Forest) and even more so because I’ve never before or since seen topics like these discussed in prose like O’Brien’s, with a brutal and yet lyrical immediacy that grabs you by the throat and never lets you go.

Bernard MacLaverty: Cal
If you only ever read one book on the (Northern) Irish “Troubles”, make it this one — simple as that.  Short and profoundly heartbreaking, and if afterwards you still don’t have a sense of what’s (been) going on there, you never will.

Heinrich Böll: Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum (The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum) and Irish Journal
Böll’s two sides: One, an angry polemic on one woman’s loss of privacy, employment, security, and pretty much everything else as a result of a vicious tabloid campaign following on the heels of her being falsely accused of being a member of a gang of terrorists; the other, a humorous, upbeat and downright serene account of his life in Ireland (or at least, some of its episodes).  Böll at his best in both instances, and taken together they showcase both the breadth and the depth of his writing.

Bertolt Brecht: Der aufhaltsame Aufstieg des Arturo Ui (The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui)
Brecht is best known for The Threepenny Opera, Mother Courage and, perhaps, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, but I’m not aware of any play that satirizes a demagogue’s rise to absolute power as trenchantly as this one, set in Chicago and written after Brecht had emigrated to the U.S. (There is no question that Arturo Ui is meant to be Hitler.)  Like all plays, obviously best experienced on the stage; and I swear Ian McKellen took more than a page out of Brecht’s book when transposing Richard III to a fascist version of 1930s Britain in his 1995 movie — characterization, set decorations and all.

Su Tong: Raise the Red Lantern (aka Wives and Concubines)
The first narrative actually by a Chinese author set in the world that I had previously only known through Pearl S. Buck’s novels; and it completely broke my heart.  (So did the movie starring Gong Li.)  It’s not easy being a rich man’s young minor concubine … in fact, it may clean drive you insane.

Amy Tan: The Kitchen God’s Wife
The Joy Luck Club is a good book, but it’s here, in her second novel, that Tan really gets up, close and uncomfortably personal with married life in early 20th century China.  Like most of her writing, partially informed by her own family’s experience, which adds ever so much more immediacy to the storytelling.

Colleen McCullough: The Thorn Birds
People may have watched the TV series for the romance (and, um, for Richard Chamberlain), but I’ll take any bets you like that you will read the book for the history, the sweeping canvas of Australia, and all of the characters — though there is, of course, only one Mary Carson, and that’s probably a good thing, too.

Margaret Mitchell: Gone with the Wind
Speaking of romance tearjerkers, though … Look, I know, it’s racist to the core and Ashley is the wettest of wet towels (even if he’s played by Leslie Howard in the movie).  But Scarlett is a complete and utter badass, and that alone means she has every right to be on a list bearing that very word in its title; Rhett and Scarlett have more memorable lines of dialogue between the two of them than a whole other library’s worth of romance novels, and Mellie almost certainly is one of literary history’s most underappreciated characters.  (Also, Rhett Butler will of course always be Clark Gable.)

Elizabeth von Arnim: The Solitary Summer
MbD listed this book’s prequel, Elizabeth and her German Garden, but I think the two should be read together; and though I haven’t read everything by von Arnim yet I’ve read enough to know that her books are absolutely part of my personal canon.  Charming, witty, here also frequently contemplative — and way ahead of her time in terms of her insights on society.  (Also, there’s an obvious reason why she nicknamed her husband The Man of Wrath.)

John Mortimer: Rumpole of the Bailey
This has to be one of very few examples of storylines first developed for a TV series later being turned into book form and making their central character an icon both on the page and on screen.  Rumpole will always look like Leo McKern to me (it’s no coincidence that some of the book covers are cartoons mimicking him in the role, either); and I’ve learned more about common law criminal trials and about the differences between British and American criminal procedure than from many a textbook.  Also, the manifold ways in which Mortimer kept Rumpole from actually “taking silk” (i.e., becoming a QC — queen’s counsel — in his own right and allowed to first-chair trials), and thus keeping him safely in the disdain of his wife Hilda, aka “she who must be obeyed”, never cease to astound me.

Peter May: The Blackhouse
I’m fairly late to May’s books and, based on what I’ve read to date, I’d have no hesitation in blindly recommending the entire Lewis Trilogy and everything else he’s written that is set on the Hebrides as well.  As it is, I’m going to content me with one of the two books I actually have read so far, the first installment of the Lewis Trilogy.  (The other book by him I’ve read is The Coffin Road, which is every bit as good.)  Darkly atmospheric, gripping; just all around phantastic writing.

James D. Doss: White Shell Woman and Grandmother Spider / Tony Hillerman: Leaphorn & Chee series
Two  series focusing on Native American cops and making the most of their Southwestern U.S. setting and the culture and mythology of the Native people at their core: Hillerman’s Navajo mysteries, I’ve been aware of for a long time (though not quite from the time of its actual beginning), but Doss’s Ute tribal investigator Charlie Moon, his best buddy sheriff Scott Paris and his shaman aunt Daisy Perika are fairly new to me, and boy am I glad I finally discovered them!  I’ve read all of Hillerman’s mysteries — those by him, not the sequels by his daughter, that is — and love (or at least like) most of them well enough to recommend the entire series; my favorites are probably some of the first books after Leaphorn and Chee were first lumped together (after having initially worked alone in three books each): Skinwalkers, A Thief of Time, Coyote Waits, and Sacred Clowns, as well as the final book written by Tony Hillerman himself, Skeleton Man. — By contrast, I still have quite a bit of catching up yet to do with Mr. Doss, but he’s definitely a new favorite already, and I’m very much looking forward to the rest of my journey through his catalogue.  Of the books I’ve read so far, Grandmother Spider and White Shell Woman are far and away the best.

John Le Carré: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes — who will spy on a spy; who’ll guard the guardians?  The eternal question, ever since rulers first figured out that it might be worthwhile keeping tabs on their friends and enemies, abroad as well as at home (and also keep tabs on the people keeping those tabs); and nobody before or since nailed it the way Le Carré does here.  The Spy Who Came in from the Cold may have been his breakout success (and for a reason), but to me, in setting, characters, story arc and everything else, Le Carré’s writing will always come down to this one book.  Even Stella Rimington (former head of MI 5) grudgingly acknowledged that he gets it right … and even if he had written no other book at all, his would still be one of the most important contributions to the genre — and to a wider understanding how secret services operate –, for this one book alone.

Edgar Allan Poe: The Masque of the Red Death
Heaven knows I’m no horror fan, and Poe creeped the heck out of me when we read The Tell-Tale Heart way back when in high school.  While I acknowledge his mad genius, I admire some, but not all of his writing (The Black Cat is not a story I ever want to go near again in my life, and the Dupin Tales, though of course groundbreaking in terms of genre, leave me somewhat unimpressed from a storytelling perspective); but you’ll have to look long and hard to find another as spine-chilling portrayal, in the brief span of a short story at that, of a society literally partying itself to death in complete oblivion of the peril it has conjured right into its midst.

Stephen King: Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption
Even more than Poe, Stephen King is able to creep me out like nobody’s business, but even if you’re not into horror, if there’s one piece of fiction writing by him that I think everybody should read it is this one, for its middle finger salute to adverse fate if nothing else.  (Also, Edmond Dantès has nothing on Andy Dufresne.  And I’m saying this as a big fan of The Count of Monte Cristo.)

James Goldman: The Lion in Winter
Modern TV has discovered the Tudors as soap opera material (and there’s a point to that, obviously), but if there’s one family in the centuries-long history of the (immediately preceding) Plantagenet dynasty, it’s Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and their sons, not coincidentally known as “the devil’s brood”.  If you don’t believe me, watch this play … or the movie based on it.  It gives a whole new meaning to the term “family feud” — and this all actually happened!

William Goldman: The Princess Bride
This, on the other hand, is a fairy tale.  (Or is it?)  Well, at least the best bits are; “S. Morgenstern” my foot.  This one is of course worth it for the one-liners alone (as is, again and even more so, the movie — the Goldman brothers really had a run in Hollywood).  And seriously, how can we possibly have a “favorite 500” crowdsourced list without this book on it?

Jules Verne: Mich(a)el Strogoff (aka The Tsar’s Courier)
One of the first adventure novels I was seriously hooked on; a ripping great yarn set in Tsarist Russia.  It helped that there was a TV adaptation when I was in my most impressionable years in terms of hero worship, but who hasn’t ever wanted to be chosen to carry a secret message from the Tsar’s Moscow court all the way to Irkutsk in Siberia, fight bandits and Tartars on the way and have all sorts of other adventures (romantic, with a killer partner, included)?

Robert Louis Stevenson: Kidnapped
Before there was Michael Strogoff (for me), there was David Balfour.  Replace Russia by Scotland, and you had me at “adventure”:  Jekyll and Hyde came later, but neither it nor The Treasure Island has ever occupied even remotely the place in my heart that is firmly reserved for the adventures of David Balfour.  Als, note to Mr. Dickens: See, I really like your larger than life characters, but this little book is proof positive that you can deliver this sort of story in the space of a little less than 300 pages and even include a sea voyage and some nifty swashbuckling.  It doesn’t have to be a 950-page brick like Nicholas Nickleby

Giovanni Guareschi: The Little World of Don Camillo
Another book that I discovered via its TV adaptation, starring French comedian Fernandel as Don Camillo: The daily feuds of the local Catholic priest and his friend and rival, communist mayor Peppone, in small-town post-WW II Italy.  Cheeky, funny and an all-around feel-good book — and always with an upbeat, hands-on solution to whatever problem has arisen in the course of the narrative (even if occasionally a somewhat … unusual one).  If only all politics would work like that, village setting or not!

Francis Hodgson Burnett: Little Lord Fauntleroy
Yes, it’s sentimental (then again, so are The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, which tend to get somewhat more play when it comes to “must read” lists), and I know it’s not even a Christmas novel as written — it was only tweaked that way in the TV adaptation starring Alec Guinness and Ricky Schroder –, but it’s been one of my feel-good go-to books, around Christmas especially, since practically time immemorial.

T.S. Eliot: Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
Most people know it because it’s provided all except one of the song lyrics and feline characters for the musical Cats, but seriously, people — whether or not you are a cat person yourself, just read it, laugh and enjoy.  Eliot wrote this for his godchildren, and he obviously had a ball.  He also knew cats really, really well.

J.R.R. Tolkien: Letters from Father Christmas
Tolkien’s letters to his children, responding to their letters and wish lists to Santa Claus (Father Christmas) — do yourselves a favor and get the hardcover edition, which is illustrated with Tolkien’s own drawings.  This is where The Hobbit came from … and probably parts of Lord of the Rings as well.

Otfried Preußler: Die kleine Hexe (The Little Witch)
Otfried Preußler, in Germany, is sort of Frank L. Baum, Dr. Seuss and Lewis Carroll rolled into one — he is, or used to be, one of the most popular children’s authors for decades.  Many of his stories were inspired by the myths and legends of his native Sudeten region (today: chiefly in Poland and the Czech Republic); including this one, which has always been my absolute favorite.  Talk about a middle finger to adversity ending … —  Preußler was also the first author to whom I ever wrote a fan letter … in first grade, when I had barely learned to read and write!

Bill Watterson: The Complete Calvin & Hobbes / René Goscinny & Albert Uderzo: Asterix the Gaul
Hobbes forever. — And you couldn’t grow up in Europe when I was a kid without knowing about (and loving) Asterix and his village of crazy Gauls.

 

And since books that are on “those lists” are no longer absolutely taboo, I’m hereby also offering the following additions from the “I know they’re on all of ‘those lists’, but they’re canon to me and there’s nothing to be done about that” department:

Jane Austen: Mansfield Park and Persuasion
All of Austen, really, but if I have to pick individual books, it’s always going to be Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and Mansfield Park.  Since Moonlight Reader has already added P&P, I’m obviously going to go with the other two.  Of course you can’t help but love Lizzy Bennet (and Colin Firth is Mr. Darcy, period), but I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Austen’s quieter heroines; not least because they’re having so much more of a hard time sticking to their guns and they persevere nevertheless.

Charlotte Brontë: Jane Eyre
Not the only badass among the Brontë sisters’ heroines, but however much I may like The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Jane still takes the cake.  We first met when I was barely a teenager — I guess that kind of lengthy acquaintanceship is just a bit too long to upend, even by charracters from the pen of another member of the same family of writers.

Elizabeth Gaskell: Cranford and North & South
It’s not hard to see how Gaskell and the Brontës (especially Charlotte) were friends.  But where CB kept things essentially to a personal level, Gaskell took it to a wider scope (also, I can’t read North and South without seeing Richard Armitage as Mr. Thornton).  Her greatest jewel, though, is Cranford and the microcosm of its village life — nowhere else does Gaskell’s wit and insight into human nature sparkle as much as there.  Besides, how can you resist a book about a village where men are merely tolerated and nobody really dare dispute that women are the infinitely superior sex?

William Shakespeare: Macbeth, Richard III, Hamlet
For obvious reasons I’m tempted to list half his catalogue, but even if you’re not into Elizabethan theatre at all, the three plays by the Bard that you absolutely ought to see are Macbeth, Richard III, and Much Ado About Nothing.  Since Tea, Stitch, Read thankfully already listed Much Ado, I’m going to stick with the other two — plus my personal favorite (after many meanderings), Hamlet.  Nobody does the ruin of a human being — and his complete entourage — as the consequence of a single destructive character flaw like Shakespeare, and these three plays are among his very best.

Alexandre Dumas (père): The Three Musketeers
We already have The Count of Monte Cristo on the list, and I totally agree with that of course, but I met M. Dantès at around the same time as D’Artagnan and his friends, and they’ve been an item in my mind ever since.  Besides, Artos, Portos and Aramis totally rule at wisecracking while swashbuckling.  So onto the list they go!

John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath
Steinbeck wasn’t on my high school curriculum, and that was perhaps fortunate, as no teacher had the opportunity to ruin him for me and I could discover him all by myself and in my own time.  My two “must read” entries by him are East of Eden and The Grapes of Wrath; since we already have East of Eden, obviously I’m going to go with his pull-no-punches, kick-in-the-gut Depression Era masterpiece.

Tennessee Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Williams named his fictional world “Dragon Country” and described it as an uninhabitable place of pain that is nevertheless inhabited — that’s really all you need to know about his plays.  These two hit me the hardest by far.

Edith Wharton: The Age of Innocence
Wharton won the Pulitzer for this novel, and even if perhaps she’d already deserved one a lot earlier, there’s no question that it’s justified here.  Social conventions were never so stifling, scheming never so vicious — and all hidden under a perfect, completely scratch-proof, shining veneer.  In equal parts chilling and heartbreaking.

Virginia Woolf: Orlando and A Room of One’s Own
The first of these, Woolf’s tongue in cheek but heartfelt love letter to Vita Sackville-West (also one of the most approachable among her novels), the other one her feminist manifesto.  It’s hard, indeed, not to recognize both Sackville-West and her beloved Knole in Orlando‘s title character and key setting, and this is one of the few books where both time travel and a gender swap really work for me.  A Room of One’s Own, on the other hand, contains the famous “anonymous poet(ess)” quote, but it shouldn’t be reduced to that — it’s really quite a trenchant analysis of the history of women’s literature, and much of it still rings very true today.

Aristophanes: Lysistrata
A sex strike to prevent a war … maybe we should revive that idea, what do you think?

Sophocles / Jean Anouilh: Antigone
Antigone has been one of my heroines ever since I first came across her story, and not even a French teacher who almost managed to ruin Camus for me (whom, in turn, I had to rediscover on my own after having graduated from high school) could muddy those particular waters.  In fact, in a way I’ve even come to love Anouilh’s version of the play just a tiny bit more than Sophocles’s original.

Jean-Paul Sartre: Huis Clos (No Exit)
L’enfer, c’est les autres — hell is other people.  I didn’t have to see this play to form that particular conviction, but Sartre really nails it — and all he needs is three characters and a stage set with three chairs and a locked door.

George Orwell: Animal Farm
Yes, it’s manipulative to the nth degree, yet, “all pigs are equal but some pigs are more equal than others” and “four legs good, two legs bad” are far and away no longer applicable to the communist dictatorships that Orwell aimed this at.  A worthy companion to his masterpiece 1984 (which is already on our list anyway).

Kazuo Ishiguro: The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go
Ishiguro’s big theme is the unreliability of memory — and indeed, nobody does unreliable narrators like him.  He deserved the Lit Nobel for these two novels alone.

Thomas Mann: Doktor Faustus, as well as Mario und der Zauberer (Mario and the Magician) / Klaus Mann: Mephisto / Heinrich Mann: Der Untertan (Man of Straw, aka The Loyal Subject)
The Mann family’s individual and collective takedown of the Nazi regime and the society that made the Nazis’ rise to power possible.  Thomas Mann’s seducer (in the novel) and magician (in the short story; in both instances, an obvious parable for Hitler — with the novel’s Faustus standing in for the German people), aided and abetted by charismatic opportunists like Klaus Mann’s Mephisto, who mesmerized a people conditioned for centuries to obey and even slavishly adore authority without question, like the eponymous protagonist of Heinrich Mann’s novel.

E.M. Remarque: Im Westen nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front)
In a sense, the prequel to the above-mentioned Mann family’s writings: the story of the lost generation bamboozled into joyfully rushing into the slaughter that would be WW I.  This will make you angry, and it will also break your heart (several times).

And with that, I’ll leave it for the time being … nonfiction additions (if we still have space for them) to follow tomorrow!

 

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1906574/crowdsourced-more-books-with-a-difference-fiction

Chawton: Jane Austen’s Home

Jane Austen's Hampshire - Terry Townsend Pride and Prejudice (Penguin Classics) - Vivien Jones, Tony Tanner, Claire Lamont, Jane Austen Mansfield Park - Jane Austen Persuasion - Jane Austen, Gillian Beer Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen, Marilyn Butler, Claire Lamont Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen Emma - Jane Austen, Fiona Stafford Teenage Writings (Oxford World's Classics) - Kathryn Sutherland, Freya Johnston, Jane Austen Lady Susan - Harriet Walter, Carole Boyd, Kim Hicks, Jane Austen Sanditon: Jane Austen's Last Novel Completed - Marie Dobbs, Anne Telscombe, Jane Austen

… during the last 8 years of her life, during which she wrote all of her major novels (and saw four of them published during her lifetime: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma).


The dining room, with Jane’s writing table tucked away in a corner next to the window.


Jane’s bedroom (also the room where most of her family said goodbye to her before she died).


A replica of the blue dress and bonnet that Jane is wearing in the portrait sketched of her by her sister Cassandra.



A quilt handmade by Jane, her sister Cassandra and their mother, and a muslin shawl embroidered by Jane.

And last but not least …


The museum’s resident cat! 😀

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1584729/chawton-jane-austen-s-home

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

England (the Southern / Central Part), from East to West and Back: Bookish Souvenirs

Jane Austen's Hampshire - Terry Townsend The Book of Margery Kempe - Margery Kempe, Barry Windeatt Intimate Letters of England's Queens - Margaret Sanders 1415: Henry V's Year of Glory - Ian Mortimer Bosworth: The Birth of the Tudors - Chris Skidmore Constable in Love: Love, Landscape, Money and the Making of a Great Painter - Martin Gayford The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science - Andrea Wulf The House of Rothschild: Volume 2: The World's Banker: 1849-1999 - Niall Ferguson The Malice of Unnatural Death - Michael Jecks The Late Show - Michael Connelly

The Trip:

* Chiltern Hills and Thames Valley (to mystery lovers, aka “Midsomer County” — though given that this is an area chock-full of quintessential(ly) English villages, it’s no surprise that it also routinely provides locations for other series, such as Inspector Morse, The Vicar of Dibley, and of course, adaptations of Agatha Christie’s mysteries … Christie herself, after all, also spent her last years in this area, in a village just outside of Wallingford, where she is also buried.)

* Chawton: Jane Austen’s home

* Gloucester and Malmesbury

* The Welsh Borderland: The Welsh Marches, Herefordshire, and Shropshire

* Bosworth and Leicester

* East Anglia: Norfolk, Ely, and Stour Valley (aka [John] Constable Country)

 

The Souvenirs:

* Jane Austen:
– Pride and Prejudice — an imitation leather-bound miniature copy of the book’s first edition
Lady Susan — audio version performed, inter alia, by Harriet Walter
– Teenage Writings (including, inter alia, Cassandra, Love and Freindship, and The History of England)

* Terry Townsend: Jane Austen’s Hampshire (gorgeously illustrated hardcover)

* Hugh Thomson:
– Illustrations to Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion
– Illustrations to Mansfield Park and Emma

* Pen Vogler: Tea with Jane Austen

… plus other Austen-related bits, such as a playing card set featuring Hugh Thomson’s illustrations for Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, and Persuasion, two Austen first edition refrigerator magnets, two “Austen 200” designer pens, a Chawton wallpaper design notepad, and a set of Austen-related postcards.



* Margery Kempe: The Book of Margery Kempe
* Julian of Norwich: Revelations of Divine Love
(have read bits of pieces of both, but never yet the whole thing(s) — something to be remedied soonish)

* Margaret Sanders (ed.):
– Letters of England’s Queens
– Letters of England’s Kings

(“Queens” looks decidedly more interesting, but I figured since there were both volumes there … Unfortunately, neither contains any Plantagenet correspondence, though; they both start with the Tudors.)

* Terry Jones: Medieval Lives

* Ian Mortimer:
– The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, Ruler of England 1327-1330
– 1415: Henry V’s Year of Glory

* Chris Skidmore: Bosworth — The Birth of the Tudors

* David Baldwin: Richard III

* Richard Hayman: The Tudor Reformation

* Glyn E. German: Welsh History

(The last two are decidedly more on the “outline” side, but they’re useful fast, basic references)

* Martin Gayford: Constable in Love — the painter John Constable, that is.

* Andrea Wulf: The Invention of Nature (yeah, I know, late to the party, but anyway … and at least I got the edition with the black cover!)

* Chris Beardshaw: 100 Plants that almost changed the World (as title and cover imply, nothing too serious, but a collection of interesting tidbits nevertheless)

* Niall Ferguson: The House of Rothschild — The World’s Banker, 1849-1999

* Michael Jecks, Knights Templar:
– The Leper’s Return
– The Boy-Bishop’s Glovemaker
– The Devil’s Acolyte
– The Chapel of Bones
– The Butcher of St. Peter’s
– The Malice of Unnatural Death

* Shirley McKay: Hue & Cry (a mystery set in Jacobean St. Andrews, Scotland)

… and finally, two present-day mystery/thrillers, just to balance off (well, not really, but anyway …) all that history:

* Jo Nesbø: The Snowman
* Michael Connelly: The Late Show

… plus several more mugs for my collection (because I clearly don’t own enough of those yet), two Celtic knot bookmarks, a Celtic knot T-shirt, a Celic knot pin, a Celtic knot designer pen (can you tell I really like Celtic knot designs?), assorted handmade soaps and lavender sachets, and assorted further postcards and sticky notes, plus in-depth guidebooks of pretty much every major place I visited (which guidebooks I sent ahead by mail before leaving England, so they’re currently still en route to my home).

ETA:
Oh, and then there’s John le Carré‘s The Pigeon Tunnel, which I bought at the airport right before my departure and am currently reading.  Books that you buy at the departure for a trip do qualify for a vacation book haul, don’t they?

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1584593/england-the-southern-central-part-from-east-to-west-and-back-bookish-souvenirs

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REBLOG: 15 authors to read based on your favorite drinks

Reblog of a July 2015 BookLikes post.

 

 

No matter if it’s a cup of tea or coffee, lemonade or a glass of wine, books and drinks go well together. This universal truth has been discovered not only by avid readers but also writers, some of whom became as well known for their drinking habits as for their literary achievements. Taking advantage of the summer time and the permanent feeling of thirst, we’ve gathered light-hearted recommendations of 14 well known and read authors and their drinks. Find your match, sip, read, and enjoy the summer reading time.

 

 

Truman Capote called this cocktail his special “orange drink” so if you share his taste for upgraded orange juice, go for a screwdriver drink with one of Capote’s books in your hand.

Truman Capote
In this profession it’s a long walk between drinks.

 Truman Streckfus Persons, known as Truman Capote, was an American author, screenwriter and playwright, many of whose short stories, novels, plays, and nonfiction are recognized literary classics, including the novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958) and the true crime novel In Cold Blood (1966).

 

Truman Capote’s most popular books on BookLikes:
In Cold Blood - Truman Capote Breakfast at Tiffany's and Three Stories - Truman Capote Other Voices, Other Rooms - Truman Capote The Grass Harp, Including A Tree of Night and Other Stories - Truman Capote Music for Chameleons - Truman Capote

 

 

Ernest Hemingway is known for his love for cocktails: Mohito, Martini, vermouth… Living in Havana, though, must have left a trace in his preferences and we bet Mojito was hight on the author’s top drinks list. If it’s also on yours, have a sip.

Ernest Hemingway
My mojito in the Bodeguita del Medio and my daiquiri in the Floridita.
– Quote on the wall of La Bodeguita del Medio, Havana, Cuba

Ernest Hemingway ranks as the most famous of twentieth-century American writers. Hemingway has been regarded less as a writer dedicated to his craft than as a man of action who happened to be afflicted with genius. When he won the Nobel Prize in 1954, Time magazine reported the news under Heroes rather than Books.

Ernest Hemingway’s most popular books on BookLikes
The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway A Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemingway For Whom the Bell Tolls - Ernest Hemingway A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway

 

 

Asked by a translator to explain his text William Faulkner said:
I have absolutely no idea of what I meant. You see, I usually write at night. I always keep my whiskey within reach; so many ideas that I can’t remember in the morning pop into my head.

If you’re fond of whiskey, try Faulkner’s favorite drink: mint julep.

William Faulkner's favorite drink  William Faulkner

William Faulkner
Civilization begins with distillation.

His first poem was published in The New Republic in 1919. His first book of verse and early novels followed, but his major work began with the publication of The Sound and the Fury in 1929.

 

William Faulkner’s most popular books on BookLikes:
The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner Light in August (The Corrected Text) - William Faulkner Absalom, Absalom! - William Faulkner As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner Sanctuary: The Corrected Text - William Faulkner

 

 

Martini IS James Bond. James Bond IS Ian Fleming. If you like martini, you ARE James Bond for us. 

 

Ian Fleming
Never say ‘no’ to adventures.
Always say ‘yes,’ otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.

His first job was with Reuters News Agency where a Moscow posting gave him firsthand experience with what would become his literary bête noire — the Soviet Union. During World War II he served as Assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence and played a key role in Allied espionage operations. After the war he worked as foreign manager of the Sunday Times, a job that allowed him to spend two months each year in Jamaica. Here, in 1952, at his home Goldeneye, he wrote a book called Casino Royale — and James Bond was born.

 

Ian Fleming’s most popular books on BookLikes
Live and Let Die - Ian Fleming From Russia With Love - Ian Fleming Goldfinger - Ian Fleming Doctor No - Ian Fleming On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Ian Fleming

 

 

Cosmo was named the sexiest drink thanks to Candace Bushnell who popularize the drink in her Sex and the City series. If you adore Carrie Bradshaw, the Sex and the City’s main character, grab cosmo and read/write on!

  Candace Bushnell

Candace Bushnell
I make mistakes. That’s what I do. I speak without thinking, I act without knowing. I drink so much that I can barely walk… I’m a fantastic lover though, and an amazing friend. God knows I mean well.

– Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City

Candace Bushnell is the critically acclaimed, international best-selling author of Killing Monica, Sex and the City, Summer and the City, The Carrie Diaries, One Fifth Avenue, Lipstick Jungle, Trading Up, and Four Blondes. Sex and the City, published in 1996, was the basis for the HBO hit series and two subsequent blockbuster movies. Lipstick Jungle became a popular television series on NBC, as did The Carrie Diaries on the CW.

 

Candace Bushnell’s most popular books on BookLikes
The Carrie Diaries - Candace Bushnell Sex and the City - Candace Bushnell Four Blondes - Candace Bushnell Lipstick Jungle - Candace Bushnell Summer and the City - Candace Bushnell

 

 

If you like Margarita, read Jack Kerouac who developed his love for this drink during his trip through Mexico. 

 

Jack Kerouac
Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.

Jack Kerouac’s writing career began in the 1940s, but didn’t meet with commercial success until 1957, when On the Road was published. The book became an American classic that defined the Beat Generation. His parents had immigrated as very young children from the Province of Quebec, Canada, and Kerouac spoke a local French Canadian-American dialect before he spoke English.

 

Jack Kerouac’s most popular books on BookLikes:
On the Road - Jack Kerouac The Dharma Bums - Jack Kerouac Big Sur - Jack Kerouac, Aram Saroyan The Subterraneans - Jack Kerouac Desolation Angels - Jack Kerouac, Joyce Johnson

 

 

Raymond Carver was Hemingway’s mate not only in writing but also boozing. Some of the records reveal that Bloody Mary cocktail, which he named “heart starter”, made his hangover breakfast. We definitely do not recommend this kind of diet but if you’d like to give the tomatoes a good stir, choose Bloody Mary.

 

Raymond Carver
Drinking’s funny. When I look back on it, all of our important decisions have been figured out when we were drinking.
Even when we talked about having to cut back on drinking, we’d be sitting at the kitchen table or out at the picnic table with a six-pack or whiskey.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

Raymond Carver was born in Clatskanie, Oregon, in 1938. His father was a saw-mill worker and his mother was a waitress and clerk. He married early and for years writing had to come second to earning a living for his young family. Despite, small-press publication, it was not until Will You Please Be Quiet Please? appeared in 1976 that his work began to reach a wider audience.

 

Raymond Carver’s most popular books on BookLikes 
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love - Raymond Carver Cathedral - Raymond Carver Short Cuts: Selected Stories - Raymond Carver, Robert Altman The Best American Short Stories of the Century - John Updike, Philip Roth, Bernard Malamud, Martha Gellhorn, Vladimir Nabokov, Gish Jen, Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver, Cynthia Ozick, Tim O'Brien, Harold Brodkey, Robert Penn Warren, Joyce Carol Oates, Flannery O'Connor, William Faulkner, William Saroyan, Saul Bellow Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? - Raymond Carver

 

 

If you like gin and tonic read J.K. Rowling or F. Scott Fitzgerald’s. Both authors highlighted this drink as their favorite.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

J.K. Rowling
JK Rowling grew up in Chepstow, Gwent where she went to Wyedean Comprehensive. Jo left Chepstow for Exeter University, where she earned a French and Classics degree, and where her course included one year in Paris. As a postgraduate she moved to London to work at Amnesty International, doing research into human rights abuses in Francophone Africa. She started writing the Harry Potter series during a Manchester to London King’s Cross train journey, and during the next five years, outlined the plots for each book and began writing the first novel.

 

J.K. Rowling’s most popular books on BookLikes:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling The Silkworm - J.K. Rowling, Robert Galbraith The Tales of Beedle the Bard - Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald
First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was one of the major American writers of the twentieth century — a figure whose life and works embodied powerful myths about that nation’s dreams and aspirations. Fitzgerald was talented and perceptive, gifted with a lyrical style and a pitch-perfect ear for language. He lived his life as a romantic, equally capable of great dedication to his craft and reckless squandering of his artistic capital. He left us masterpieces such as The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night; and a gathering of stories and essays that together capture the essence of the American experience.

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most popular books on BookLikes:
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald Tender Is the Night - F. Scott Fitzgerald The Beautiful and Damned - F. Scott Fitzgerald The Love of the Last Tycoon - F. Scott Fitzgerald Gatsby Girls - F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

 

Jane Austen was well known for her feminist life approach, her language was witty, actions full of determination and books ground-breaking. This also refers to her culinary preferences. She adored ices and red wine.

 

Jane Austen
But in the meantime for Elegance & Ease & Luxury . . .
I shall eat Ice & drink French wine, & be above Vulgar Economy.

Jane Austen was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry, earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature.

 

Jane Austen’s most popular books on BookLikes
Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen Emma - Jane Austen, Fiona Stafford Mansfield Park - Jane Austen Jane Austen's Letters - Deirdre Le Faye, Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice: The Wild and Wanton Edition - Michelle M. Pillow, Annabella Bloom, Jane Austen

 

 

J.R.R. Tolkien admitted to be a beer lover. C.S. Lewis is known for his love to this golden liquor as well. Not so strange then that those two spent enjoyable time in pubs reading and discussing their writing, having several pints and paying close attention to what they were drinking. Reportedly, Lewis liked a good draft bitter off the wood, disliked bottled and hated canned beer. 

J.R.R. Tolkien
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.

 

J.R.R. Tolkien’s most popular books on BookLikes
The Fellowship of the Ring - J.R.R. Tolkien The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien The Two Towers - J.R.R. Tolkien The Silmarillion - J.R.R. Tolkien, Ted Nasmith, Christopher Tolkien The Children of Húrin - J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien, Alan Lee

 

C.S. Lewis
I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.

Clive Staples Lewis was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He wrote more than thirty books, allowing him to reach a vast audience, and his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year.

 

C.S. Lewis’ most popular books on BookLikes
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis The Magician's Nephew - C.S. Lewis The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes Prince Caspian - C.S. Lewis The Silver Chair - C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes

 

 

Honore de Balzac’a coffee addiction may be too much even for a hard-core coffee lover — the author is believed to drink up to 50 cups a day! L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was much more moderate coffee drinker with four or five breakfast cups of sweet white coffee a day. How about you?

 

Honoré de Balzac
As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion.
Ideas begin to move…similes arise, the paper is covered.
Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle.

Honoré de Balzac was a French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of short stories and novels collectively entitled La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the 1815 fall of Napoleon Bonaparte.

 

Honoré de Balzac’s most popular books on BookLikes
Père Goriot - Honoré de Balzac Cousin Bette - Francine Prose, Honoré de Balzac, Kathleen Raine Eugénie Grandet - Christopher Prendergast, Honoré de Balzac, Sylvia Raphael Lost Illusions - George Saintsbury, Honoré de Balzac, Ellen Marriage The Unknown Masterpiece; and, Gambara - Richard Howard, Arthur C. Danto, Honoré de Balzac

 

 

If you prefer a hot aromatic tea than cocktails or coffee, make sure to follow George Orwell’s golden rules of making a perfect cup of tea

 

George Orwell
One strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes.

Eric Arthur Blair who used the pen name George Orwell, was an English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic. His work is marked by lucid prose, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and commitment to democratic socialism. Commonly ranked as one of the most influential English writers of the 20th century, and as one of the most important chroniclers of English culture of his generation, Orwell wrote literary criticism, poetry, fiction, and polemical journalism. He is best known for the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and the allegorical novella Animal Farm (1945).

 

George Orwell’s most popular books on BookLikes
1984 - George Orwell, Erich Fromm Animal Farm - George Orwell The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever - John Updike, George Eliot, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Hobbes, Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, Carl Sagan, Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken, Christopher Hitchens, Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, Joseph Conrad, Ibn Warraq, Martin Gardner, Karl Marx, Bertrand Russell, A.C. Grayling, Pe Homage to Catalonia - Lionel Trilling, George Orwell Shooting an Elephant - George Orwell

 

Sources:

 

Original post: 15 authors to read based on your favorite drinks – Themis-Athena’s Garden of Books — reblogged from BookLikes

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SENSE AND SENSIBILITY

“Is Love a Fancy or a Feeling?”

When Emma Thompson was approached with the suggestion to write a screenplay based on Jane Austen‘s first novel Sense and Sensibility (1811), she was somewhat doubtful because, as she explains on the DVD’s commentary track, she felt that other Austen works, like the more expressive Emma and Persuasion or the sardonic Pride and Prejudice (already the subject of several adaptations) would have been more suitable. Four years and 14 screenplay drafts later (the first, a 300-page handwritten dramatization of the novel’s every scene), Sense and Sensibility made its grand entrance into theaters worldwide and mesmerized audiences and critics alike, resulting in an Oscar for Thompson‘s screenplay and six further nominations (Best Picture, Leading Actress – Thompson –, Supporting Actress – Kate Winslet –, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Score – for all of 20 minutes’ worth of composition – and Costume Design); and double honors as Best Picture and for Thompson‘s screenplay at the Golden Globes.

More than simple romances, Jane Austen‘s novels are delicately constructed pieces of social commentary, written from her rural Hampshire’s perspective. Mostly confined to life in her father’s parish, she was nevertheless well aware of early 19th century England’s society at large, and fiercely critical of the loss of morals and decorum she saw in its pre-industrial emergent city life. Moreover, experience and observation had made her acutely aware of the corsets forced onto women in fashion terms as much as by social norms, confining them to inactivity and complete dependency on their families’ and their (future) husbands’ money. And among this movie’s greatest strengths is the manner in which it maintains that underlying theme of Austen‘s writing and brings it to a contemporary audience’s attention. “You talk about feeling idle and useless: imagine how that is compounded when one has no hope and no choice of any occupation whatsoever,” Elinor Dashwood (Thompson) tells her almost-suitor Edward Ferrars, and when he replies that “our circumstances are therefore precisely the same,” she corrects him: “Except that you will inherit your fortune – we cannot even earn ours.” Jane Austen may not ever have phrased things in exactly the same way, but the screenplay’s lines here perfectly encapsulate one of the great underlying themes of virtually all of her books.

Rescuing much from the first draft dramatization of Austen‘s novel and amplifying where necessary, Emma Thompson and director Ang Lee (“who most unexplainably seems to understand me better than I understand myself,” Thompson said in her mock-Austen Golden Globe speech) produced a movie scrupulously faithful to what is known about Austen‘s world and at the same time incredibly modern, thus emphasizing the novel’s timeless quality. Paintings were consulted for the movie’s production design, and indeed, almost every camera frame – both landscapes and interiors – has the feeling of a picture by a period painter. Thompson cleverly uses poetry where the novel does not contain dialogue; and again, she does so in a manner entirely faithful to Austen‘s subtleties – most prominently in the joint recital of Shakespeare‘s Sonnet 116 by Marianne Dashwood (Kate Winslet) and John Willoughby (Greg Wise), where an ever so slight inaccuracy in his rendition of a sonnet that he claims to love foreshadows his lacking sincerity.

Sense and Sensibility revolves around Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, their quest for a suitable husband, and the sisters’ relationship with each other. Emma Thompson maintains that she did not write the screenplay with herself as Elinor in mind and would not have been accepted for that role but for the success of her previous films (Howards End, The Remains of the Day); yet, it is hard to imagine who could have better played sensible Elinor: “effectual, … [possessing] a coolness of judgment, which qualified her, though only nineteen [and thus considerably younger than Thompson], to be the counselor of her mother.” (Austen.) And real-life 19-year-old Kate Winslet embodies sensitive, artistic Marianne: “eager in everything; [without] moderation … generous, amiable, interesting: … everything but prudent.” (As an older actress was sought for that part, her agent presented her as 25.) An early scene in which Marianne recites Hartley Coleridge’s Sonnet VII (“Is love a fancy or a feeling? No. It is immortal as immaculate truth”) succinctly symbolizes the sisters’ relationship and their personalities, as Marianne mocks Elinor’s seemingly cool response to Edward’s budding affection: “Is love a fancy or a feeling … or a Ferrars?” (Mostly taken from the novel, the scene is embellished by the screenplay’s sole inexactitude, as Coleridge’s sonnets were only published 22 years later). Yet, when all her hope seems shattered, Elinor, in a rare outburst of emotion, rebukes her sister: “What do you know of my heart?” – only to instantly comfort her again when she sees that Marianne is equally distraught.

Indeed, the two sisters’ relationship is so crucial to the novel that in his 2012 deconstruction of Austen‘s writings, Bitch in a Bonnet, Robert Rodi argues that the real love story with which the book is concerned is not at all that involving the sisters and their respective suitors but, rather, that arising from the growing mutual appreciation of Elinor and Marianne. And as Emma Thompson‘s screenplay shows – in and of itself, but even more so, when amplified by the diary she kept while the movie was produced – there is yet another love story going on here; that involving the novel’s screen adaptation: Not in the sense of a self-involved project existing primarily for its own sake, but in Emma Thompson‘s appreciation of Austen‘s novel and her dedication to its screen adaptation; a dedication shared by everybody else involved with the project.

Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman portray the sisters’ suitors Edward Ferrars and Colonel Brandon in a manner as seamlessly matching the novel’s characters as the two ladies’ portrayal, both leading men embodying to perfection the qualities Austen considered essential: simplicity, sincerity, and a firm sense of morality. Willoughby, on the other hand, while entering the story like the proverbial knight on a white horse who rescues the injured Marianne, does not live up to the high expectations he evokes; he causes Marianne to unacceptably abandon decorum and, just as he misspoke in that line from Shakespeare‘s sonnet, his love eventually “bends with the remover to remove.” Similarly, Lucy Steele (Imogen Stubbs), the near-stumbling block to Elinor’s happiness, ultimately proves driven by nothing but an “unceasing attention to self-interest … with no other sacrifice than that of time and conscience” (Austen) and is, despite a fortuitous marriage, as marginalized as the Dashwoods’ greedy sister-in-law Fanny (Harriet Walter). Conversely, the boisterous Sir John Middleton and his garrulous mother-in-law, while annoying in their insensitivity, are essentially goodnatured; and marvelously portrayed in their flawed but warmhearted ways by Robert Hardy and Elizabeth Spriggs.

Sense and Sensibility was released at the height of the mid-1990s’ Jane Austen revival. Of all the movies of that era, and alongside 1996’s Emma (which has “Hollywood” written all over it) and the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice (which finally established Colin Firth as the leading man in the U.S. that he had long been in Britain), Emma Thompson‘s Sense and Sensibility is one of those adaptations that future generations of moviegoers will likely turn to in years to come. And it is truly an experience not to be missed.

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: Columbia Pictures (1995)
  • Director: Ang Lee
  • Executive Producer: Sydney Pollack
  • Screenplay: Emma Thompson
  • Based on a novel by: Jane Austen
  • Music: Patrick Doyle
  • Cinematography / Director of Photography: Michael Coulter
Cast
  • Emma Thompson: Elinor Dashwood
  • Kate Winslet: Marianne Dashwood
  • Hugh Grant: Edward Ferrars
  • Alan Rickman: Colonel Brandon
  • Greg Wise:John Willoughby
  • Gemma Jones: Mrs. Dashwood
  • Emilie François: Margaret Dashwood
  • Elizabeth Spriggs: Mrs. Jennings
  • Robert Hardy: Sir John Middleton
  • Harriet Walter: Fanny Dashwood
  • James Fleet: John Dashwood
  • Tom Wilkinson: Mr. Dashwood
  • Imelda Staunton: Charlotte Palmer
  • Imogen Stubbs: Lucy Steele
  • Hugh Laurie: Mr. Palmer
  • Richard Lumsden: Robert Ferrars
  • Oliver Ford Davies: Doctor Harris

 

Major Awards and Honors

Academy Awards (1996)
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium: Emma Thompson
Golden Globes (1996)
  • Best Motion Picture – Drama
  • Best Screenplay – Motion Picture: Emma Thompson
National Board of Review Awards (1995)
  • Best Picture
  • Best Director: Ang Lee
  • Best Actress: Emma Thompson
    – also for “Carrington”
Writers Guild of America Awards (1996)
  • Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published: Emma Thompson
Screen Actors Guild Awards (1996)
  • Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role: Kate Winslet
BAFTA Awards (1996)
  • Best Film: Lindsay Doran and Ang Lee
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Emma Thompson
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Kate Winslet
Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Awards (1996)
  • Film – Screenplay: Emma Thompson
London Film Critics’ Circle Awards (1996)
  • British Screenwriter of the Year: “Sense and Sensibility”
Evening Standard British Film Awards (1997)
  • Best Actress: Kate Winslet
    – Also for “Jude” (1996).
  • Best Screenplay: Emma Thompson
    – Tied with John Hodge (“Trainspotting,” 1996).
German Film Awards (1997)
  • Best Foreign Film: Ang Lee, USA
Berlin International Film Festival (1996)
  • Golden Berlin Bear: Ang Lee
  • 2nd place – Reader Jury of the “Berliner Morgenpost” Daily Newspaper: Ang Lee
Critics’ Choice Awards (1995)
  • Best Screenplay: – “Sense and Sensibility”
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards (1995)
  • Best Screenplay – “Sense and Sensibility”
New York Film Critics’ Circle Awards (1995)
  • Best Screenplay – “Sense and Sensibility”
Boston Society of Film Critics AwardS (1995)
  • Best Screenplay – “Sense and Sensibility”

 

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Emma Thompson: The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries – Bringing Jane Austen’s Novel to Film

“Is Love a Fancy or a Feeling?”

When Emma Thompson was approached with the suggestion to write a screenplay based on Jane Austen‘s first novel Sense and Sensibility (1811), she was somewhat doubtful because, as she explains on the DVD’s commentary track, she felt that other Austen works, like the more expressive Emma and Persuasion or the sardonic Pride and Prejudice (already the subject of several adaptations) would have been more suitable. Four years and 14 screenplay drafts later (the first, a 300-page handwritten dramatization of the novel’s every scene), Sense and Sensibility made its grand entrance into movie theaters worldwide and mesmerized audiences and critics alike, resulting in an Oscar for Thompson‘s screenplay and six further nominations (Best Picture, Leading Actress – Thompson –, Supporting Actress – Kate Winslet –, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Score – for all of 20 minutes’ worth of composition – and Costume Design); and double honors as Best Picture and for Thompson‘s screenplay at the Golden Globes.

More than simple romances, Jane Austen‘s novels are delicately constructed pieces of social commentary, written from her rural Hampshire perspective. Substantially confined to life in her father’s parish, she was nevertheless well aware of early 19th century England’s society at large, and fiercely critical of the loss of morals and decorum she saw in its pre-industrial emergent city life. Moreover, experience and observation had made her acutely aware of the corsets forced onto women in fashion terms as much as by social norms, confining them to inactivity and complete dependency on their families’ and their (future) husbands’ money. And among this screenplay’s greatest strengths is the manner in which it maintains that underlying theme of Austen‘s writing and brings it to a contemporary audience’s attention. “You talk about feeling idle and useless: imagine how that is compounded when one has no hope and no choice of any occupation whatsoever,” Elinor Dashwood tells her almost-suitor Edward Ferrars in Emma Thompson‘s screenplay, and when he replies that “our circumstances are therefore precisely the same,” she corrects him: “Except that you will inherit your fortune – we cannot even earn ours.” Jane Austen may not ever have phrased things in exactly the same way, but the screenplay’s lines here perfectly encapsulate one of the great underlying themes of virtually all of her books.

Rescuing much from the first draft dramatization of Austen‘s novel and amplifying where necessary, Emma Thompson and director Ang Lee (“who most unexplainably seems to understand me better than I understand myself,” Thompson said in her mock-Austen Golden Globe speech) produced a movie scrupulously faithful to what is known about Austen‘s world and at the same time incredibly modern, thus emphasizing the novel’s timeless quality. Paintings were consulted for the movie’s production design, and indeed, almost every camera frame – both landscapes and interiors – has the feeling of a picture by a period painter. Thompson cleverly uses poetry where the novel does not contain dialogue; and again, she does so in a manner entirely faithful to Austen‘s subtleties – most prominently in the joint recital of Shakespeare‘s Sonnet 116 by Marianne Dashwood and John Willoughby, where an ever so slight inaccuracy in his rendition of a sonnet that he claims to love foreshadows his lacking sincerity.

Sense and Sensibility revolves around Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, their quest for suitable husbands, and the sisters’ relationship with each other. Emma Thompson maintains that she did not write the screenplay with herself as Elinor in mind and would not have been accepted for that role but for the success of her previous films (Howards End, The Remains of the Day); yet, it is hard to imagine who could have better played sensible Elinor: “effectual, … [possessing] a coolness of judgment, which qualified her, though only nineteen [and thus considerably younger than Thompson], to be the counselor of her mother.” (Austen.) And real-life 19-year-old Kate Winslet embodies sensitive, artistic Marianne: “eager in everything; [without] moderation … generous, amiable, interesting: … everything but prudent.”  An early scene in which Marianne recites Hartley Coleridge’s Sonnet VII (“Is love a fancy or a feeling? No. It is immortal as immaculate truth”) succinctly symbolizes the sisters’ relationship and their personalities, as Marianne mocks Elinor’s seemingly cool response to Edward’s budding affection: “Is love a fancy or a feeling … or a Ferrars?” (Mostly taken from the novel, the scene is embellished by the screenplay’s sole inexactitude, as Coleridge’s sonnets were only published 22 years after Austen‘s book). Yet, when all her hope seems shattered, Elinor, in a rare outburst of emotion, rebukes her sister: “What do you know of my heart?” – only to instantly comfort her again when she sees that Marianne is equally distraught.

Indeed, the two sisters’ relationship is so crucial to the novel that in his 2012 deconstruction of Austen‘s writings, Bitch in a Bonnet, Robert Rodi argues that the real love story with which the book is concerned is not at all that involving the sisters and their respective suitors but, rather, that arising from the growing mutual appreciation of Elinor and Marianne. And as Emma Thompson‘s screenplay shows – in and of itself, but even more so, when amplified by the diary she kept while the movie was produced – there is yet another love story going on here; that involving the novel’s screen adaptation: Not in the sense of a self-involved project existing primarily for its own sake, but in Emma Thompson‘s appreciation of Austen‘s novel and her dedication to its screen adaptation; a dedication shared by everybody else involved with the project.

Thompson‘s Sense and Sensibility was released at the height of the mid-1990s’ Jane Austen revival. Of all the movies of that era, and alongside 1996’s Emma (which has “Hollywood” written all over it) and the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice (which, to more than just one generation of fans, established Colin Firth as the embodiment of Mr. Darcy once and for all), Emma Thompson‘s Sense and Sensibility has long become one of the keystone Austen adaptations and will continue to be one of those that moviegoers will likely turn to in years to come. And it is truly an experience not to be missed.

 

Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, as Elinor and Marianne Dashwood
(Jane Austen Centre, Bath; photo mine)

 

Favorite Quotes From the Diaries:

[Golden Globe acceptance speech in the style of Jane Austen‘s letters:]
“Four A.M. Having just returned from an evening at the Golden Spheres, which despite the inconveniences of heat, noise and overcrowding, was not without its pleasures. Thankfully, there were no dogs and no children. The gowns were middling. There was a good deal of shouting and behavior verging on the profligate, however, people were very free with their compliments and I made several new acquaintances. Miss Lindsay Doran, of Mirage, wherever that might be, who is largely responsible for my presence here, an enchanting companion about whom too much good cannot be said. Mr. Ang Lee, of foreign extraction, who most unexpectedly apppeared to understand me better than I undersand myself. Mr. James Schamus, a copiously erudite gentleman, and Miss Kate Winslet, beautiful in both countenance and spirit. Mr. Pat Doyle, a composer and a Scot, who displayed the kind of wild behavior one has lernt to expect from that race. Mr. Mark Canton, an energetic person with a ready smile who, as I understand it, owes me a vast deal of money. Miss Lisa Henson – a lovely girl, and Mr. Gareth Wigan – a lovely boy. I attempted to converse with Mr. Sydney Pollack, but his charms and wisdom are so generally pleasing that it proved impossible to get within ten feet of him. The room was full of interesting activitiy until eleven P.M. when it emptied rather suddenly. The lateness of the hour is due therefore not to the dance, but to the waiting, in a long line for horseless vehicles of unconscionable size. The modern world has clearly done nothing for transport.
P.S. Managed to avoid the hoyden Emily Tomkins who has purloined my creation and added things of her own. Nefarious creature.”
“With gratitude and apologies to Miss Austen, thank you.”

“Very nice lady served us drinks in hotel and was followed in by a cat. We all crooned at it. Alan [Rickman] to cat (very low and meaning it): ‘Fuck off.’ The nice lady didn’t turn a hair. The cat looked slightly embarrassed but stayed.”

“Got up this morning and could not find my glasses. Finally had to seek assistance. Kate [Winslet] found them inside a flower arrangement.”

“Paparazzi arrived for Hugh [Grant]. We had to stand under a tree and smile for them.
Photographer: ‘Hugh, could you look less — um –‘
Hugh: ‘Pained?”

“I ask Laurie if it’s possible to get trained fish. Lindsay says this is how we know I’ve never produced a movie.”

“Up 5.15 a.m. thinking, packpackpack. I appear to have accumulated more things. How did this happen? I haven’t shopped. Think my bath oils have bred.”

“Jane reminds us that God is in his heaven, the monarch on his throne and the pelvis firmly beneath the ribcage. Apparently rock and roll liberated the pelvis and it hasn’t been the same since.”

“I seem finally to have stopped worrying about Elinor, and age. She seems now to be perfectly normal — about twenty-five, a witty control freak. I like her but I can see how she would drive you mad. She’s just the sort of person you’d want to get drunk, just to make her giggling and silly.”

“We’ve hired the calmest babies in the world to play the hysterical Thomas. One did finally start to cry but stopped every time Chris [Newman (assistant director)] yelled ‘Action’. … Babies smiled all afternoon. Buddhist babies. They didn’t cry once. We, however, were all in tears by 5 p.m.”

[On period costume posture coaching:]
“We all stand about like parboiled spaghetti being straightened out.”

“Quick dinner with … Ang [Lee] and his wife Jane who’s visiting with the children for a while. We talked about her work as a microbiologist and the behaviour of the epithingalingie under the influence of cholesterol. She’s fascinated by cholesterol. Says it’s very beautiful: bright yellow. She says Ang is wholly uninterested. He has no idea what she does.
I check this out for myself. ‘What does Jane do?’ I ask.
‘Science,’ he says vaguely.”

“[Over breakfast] We discussed the ‘novelisation’ question. This is where the studio pay someone to novelise my script and sell it as Sense and Sensibility. I’ve said if this happens I will hang myself. Revolting notion. Beyond revolting.
Lindsay [Doran] said that the executive she had discussed it with had said ‘as a human being I agree with you — but …’ I laughed until my porridge was cool enough to swallow.”

“Hugh Laurie (playing Mr. Palmer) felt the line ‘Don’t palm all your abuses [of language upon me]’ was possibly too rude. ‘It’s in the book,’ I said. He didn’t hit me.”

“Our first point of discussion is the hunt. (…) My idea is to start the film with an image of the vixen locked out of her lair which has been plugged up. Her terror as she’s pursued across the country. This is a big deal. It means training a fox from birth or dressing up a dog to look like a fox. Or hiring David Attenbrorough, who probably knows a few foxes well enough to ask a favour.”

Sense and Sensibility signs litter Devon — arrows with S & S on. Whenever Ang [Lee] sees a B & B sign he thinks it’s for another movie.”

“Edward finds Elinor crying for her dead father, offers her his handkerchief and their love story commences. Ang [Lee] very anxious that we think about what we want to do. I’m very anxious not to do anything and certainly not to think about it.”

“Lindsay [Doran] goes round the table and introduces everyone — making it clear that I am present in the capacity of writer rather than actress, therefore no one has to be too nice to me.”

“Difficult for actors to extemporise in nineteenth-century English. Except for Robert Hardy and Elizabeth Spriggs, who speak that way anyway.”

“The fire alarm went off. Fire engines came racing; we all rushed out on the gravel drive, everyone thinking it was us. In fact, one of the elderly residents of Saltram had left a pan on the oven in her flat. Apparently this happens all the time. The tenant in question is appearing as an extra — playing one of the cooks.”

“Press conference [on the movie Carrington] yielded the usual crop of daftness. I’ve been asked if I related personally to Carrington’s tortured relationship with sex and replied that no, not really, I’d had a very pleasant time since I was fifteen. This elicited very disapproving copy from the Brits … No wonder people think we don’t have sex in England.”

“Shooting Willoughby carrying Marianne up the path. They did it four times. ‘Faster,’ said Ang [Lee]. They do it twice more. ‘Don’t pant so much,’ said Ang. Greg [Wise (playing Willoughby)], to his great credit, didn’t scream.”

“Shooting Willoughby carrying Marianne up the path. … Male strength — the desire to be cradled again? … I’d love someone to pick me up and carry me off. Frightening. Lindsay assures me I’d start to fidget after a while. She’s such a comfort.”

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Jane Austen: Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park - Jane Austen“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.”

Thus Mansfield Park‘s improbable heroine, Fanny Price, admonishes her would-be suitor Henry Crawford when he purports to ask for her advice in a bid to win her around, after having already seduced her much wealthier cousins Maria and Julia Bertram. And in many ways, this one statement sums up the entire novel: More than in almost any other book – with the sole exception of Persuasion – Austen’s emphasis here is on self-knowledge and self-guidedness, on knowing what is morally right and acting accordingly.

Mansfield Park was the first book by Jane Austen that I ever read, and that was perhaps fortunate: After all, if you fall in love with Austen’s exquisite use of language, her delicate characterization, and her dry and often sardonic wit while reading about a little wallflower like Fanny Price, how much more easily are you going to take to the likes of Lizzy Bennet, the Dashwood sisters, and Catherine Moreland? For a wallflower Fanny Price certainly is – and what is perhaps even worse, a wallflower not only by our contemporary definition but also by the standards of Austen’s own time – and that is probably at least one of the reasons why many modern readers find her less accessible than, say, the near-universally beloved heroine of Pride and Prejudice (and why also, incidentally, virtually every screen adaptation of Mansfield Park, instead of taking Fanny’s character as actually written, seeks to “improve” upon her, with results ranging from the merely irritating to the downright disastrous). For where Lizzy Bennet has no compunctions about giving her opinion (whether called-for or not), Fanny holds back and keeps her own counsel. Where Lizzy is in the habit of taking long walks, is at one point found to have become downright “brown” (tanned) from all her outdoor activities and exposure to the sun, and bravely even undertakes a several miles long cross country march to get to Mr. Bingley’s Netherfield upon hearing that her sister Jane has fallen ill there, Fanny is prone to sun strokes, therefore unable to spend too much time outdoors, and on occasion so weak and poorly that she is even unable to mount a horse (a physical condition that she shares with her aunt, Lady Bertram, and which some scholars now interpret as symptoms of bulimia, which in Austen’s day was a frequent, and usually misdiagnosed complaint resulting from the fact that women, especially genteel women, were actively discouraged from eating: the frailer a woman, the more marriageable she was). And where Lizzy Bennet, though not as beautiful as her sister Jane, can at the very least boast a pair of “fine eyes” that, in Mr. Darcy’s estimation, are “brightened by the exercise” of her outdoor activities, Fanny is described, from the very first, as small, awkward, “with no glow of complexion, nor any other striking beauty; exceedingly timid and shy, and shrinking from notice,” albeit with a sweet voice and a pretty countenance whenever she does dare open her mouth at all.

Yet, the very attributes that make Lizzy Bennet so attractive in a modern reader’s view would have made her supremely unattractive in the views of her contemporaries; it is not for nothing that Miss Bingley, in her constant bid to denigrate Lizzy in Mr. Darcy’s eyes, keeps harping on the inappropriateness of Lizzy’s decidedly voiced opinions and, even worse, her outdoor exercise (and the state in which walking through a few puddles too many has left her clothes by the time she gets to Netherfield). Indeed, the second eldest Miss Bennet, who in addition to her unspeakably low connections, the manifold social gaffes committed near-constantly by virtually her entire family (except for Jane), as well as her own inappropriate frankness and her propensity for merrily cavorting outdoors, has also failed to seek perfection in the one accomplishment seen as a virtual “must” in a genteel young lady – musical proficiency – would very much have had to be seen as a surprising match, to say the least, for Mr. Darcy and his “ten thousand a year”: In an age where a woman’s sole hope of financial security lay in either inheriting a large fortune or marrying well, and where (as Lizzy’s friend Charlotte soberly observes) “happiness in marriage [was] entirely a matter of chance”, Lizzy Bennet was the embodiment of Jane Austen’s novelized hope that no matter how you were placed socially, and even if you dared, at least to a certain extent, to defy convention and not abide by the corset placed on genteel young ladies by the social norms of their times, there was still at least a slim hope of attaching the man of your dreams after all.

To Fanny Price, all of this does not apply; indeed, to the point that Austen is making with Mansfield Park, any heroine other than a complete wallflower would not have been conducive at all.

As a setting, for all intents and purposes, Mansfield Park is initially presented as a rural paradise; a place of propriety and quiet serenity, where the steady hand of Sir Thomas Bertram keeps the lives of all of its inhabitants on the orderly, largely pre-ordained and respectable course that life should have in store for the family of a baronet in Regency England. Fanny – the daughter of Lady Bertram’s sister, who has married a poor (and later, alcoholic) sailor – is brought in to join the family at age ten, and raised together with the Bertrams’ children; her cousins Tom, Edmund, Maria and Julia. Since the details of child-rearing are not a man’s job (besides, Sir Thomas’s business and political obligations compel him to leave Mansfield Park every so often), and Lady Bertram’s chief merit as the mistress of the house does not greatly exceed her (now waning) beauty, much of the day-to-day education is left to Aunt Norris, another – widowed – sister of Lady Bertram and of Fanny’s mother. This is unfortunate, as Aunt Norris (one of Austen’s finest creations; worthy sister in spirit to the likes of Mrs. Bennet and Sir Walter Eliot in Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion, respectively) is a vexed combination of stupidity, favoritism, prejudice, greed, and a mouth ten times bigger than her willingness to stand by her own proclamations; all of which not only makes for an entirely unwholesome influence over Maria and Julia, but also causes Fanny to be consistently bossed around, by Aunt Norris as much as by the Bertram girls. But Fanny at least has her cousin Edmund to stand by her side, and it is in no small part thanks to his remedial influence (as well as, siginificantly, her own disposition) that unlike Maria and Julia, she develops the sound moral principles that will later enable her alone to steadfastly brave the trials and tribulations that will come very near to ripping her rural paradise to shreds.

For trouble ensues the moment that Sir Thomas is forced to leave Mansfield Park for an indefinite period, this time not merely to go to London but to Antigua, where he will be out of the way for good, and leave his family behind without his guidance and protection. Exit, thus, Sir Thomas, and enter, not long thereafter, Trouble with a capital “T”: cue for the intrusion of rakish, unprincipled city life into rural serenity, for the intrusion of the up-and-coming urbaneness that Austen herself dreaded and disdained, into her very own cherished, placid rural life. The intrusion, in this novel’s instance, is represented by Mary and Henry Crawford, the sister and brother of the local parson’s wife, who have until now shared the urban household of their uncle, an admiral of rather ill repute, and have left London when the admiral deigned to introduce his mistress into his household. In short order, Henry manages to seduce both Bertram sisters, in Maria’s case even though at this point she is already engaged to their rich and respectable but stupid neighbor Mr. Rushworth (even Edmund Bertram has come to think about his brother in law-to-be that “if this man had not twelve thousand a year, he would be a very stupid fellow”). Shamelessly flirtatious Mary Crawford, for her part, sets her cap at Edmund – since Tom, the older Bertram brother, has accompanied his father to Antigua – and he is soon so besotted with her charms that no matter what impropriety she utters, no matter how indecorously she behaves, he, although destined for the clergy (a profession he wholeheartedly embraces), and although he himself not so long ago guided Fanny away from the very same unprincipled conduct that Mary embodies to perfection, all that Mary says and does he now simply disregards. (If Austen didn’t occasionally strike her female protagonists with that same sort of blindness, including and in particular the otherwise astute Lizzy Bennet in her initial dealings with Mr. Wickham, I’d be tempted to read this as a somewhat generalized statement on Austen’s part on the reliability of even the otherwise most virtuous male judgment as soon as a pretty woman’s face and pleasing manner is nigh.)

Things come to a head when Tom Bertram (to his father and younger brother’s chagrin, not the most principled young gentleman, either) reappears a few months later in the company of a Mr. Yates, who, egged on by Henry Bertram and by his own delusions of grandeur, talks the others into staging a play: in and of itself, the very essence of impropriety in genteel society already – one did, after all, under no circumstances whatsoever make a spectacle of oneself –, but combined with the nature of the play chosen (a now-forgotten comedy named Lovers’ Vows by Elizabeth Inchbald, adapted from August von Kotzebue’s The Natural Son: for a summary and further background information, see the blog posts on the subject on Only a Novel and The Republic of Pemberley), as well as the casting eventually agreed on, makes the play an entirely unsuitable choice and thus merely piles impropriety upon impropriety. Against his better judgment, even Edmund is drawn into the scheme (by none other than Mary Crawford, of course); only Fanny, horrified, adamantly refuses to be a party to it. Eventually, Sir Thomas returns home just in time to prevent the play from actually being performed, and restores order and decorum forthwith; including to his own study, which the young insouciants had converted into their green room. Maria Bertram is married to Mr. Rushworth, and the newlyweds, accompanied by Julia, head off to London.

Sir Thomas returned, propriety reestablished, no more rich young ladies around for Henry to seduce, and Edmund off to Peterborough and Oxford for his ordination, an event on which Mary Crawford looks with scathing disdain: Exit, surely therefore now, Mary and Henry Crawford?

Far from it. Indeed, now follows their most daring coup. For the events of the recent months, not least Fanny’s adamant refusal to be drawn into the acting scheme, have revealed that the true prize to be captured in the Bertram household is none other than shy, withdrawn Fanny herself: She, and only she, is the family’s true moral authority. Seducing Maria and Julia had been easy; morally unstable as they were, they had been ripe for the picking from the start. And Edmund Bertram had never been anything more than a toy to Mary; whatever budding interest she might initially have developed in him was extinguished in a snap the very moment she learned that he was not Sir Edmund-to-be but merely a younger brother, moreover destined for the clergy and fully embracing that profession, with zero appetite for a flashier, more prestigious career path. But Fanny presents a real challenge; ultimately even dually so: First and foremost, Fanny herself must be made to intensely interact with Henry Crawford, for as long as she keeps avoiding him (as she has been doing to the best of her ability, recognizing him for the profoundly immoral creature that he is), he won’t have the opportunity to cast the spell of his charm on her and break the iron resolve of her moral stance. And once she has been “cooked” to perfection, Sir Thomas must be made to give his consent to her being married to Henry Crawford, the last person on earth – would Sir Thomas but realize this, as Fanny herself does – to whom Fanny’s hand should actually be given in marriage. (This last challenge arises only after Henry, to a certain extent, gets tangled up in his own web, as he actually manages to fall in love with Fanny, or at least, very much believes himself in love with her for a while.)

I won’t elaborate on the novel’s conclusion, but Austen wouldn’t be Austen if Henry actually did succeed, and if Fanny and Edmund – the couple she has set up to eventually fall in love with each other practically from their first encounter – didn’t come together in the end. (Yes, go ahead, say “ewww, a marriage of first cousins.” I readily admit that that bit was difficult to stomach for me as well, and it was only after some reading up on the marriage habits and intermingling lineage of the European aristocracy, as well as the discovery that a marriage of first cousins is still not outlawed in many countries, including the UK, Germany, and a number of American states, that I’ve come to figure that Austen was simply portraying what was still very much the done thing in her time.)

But just try to imagine how effectively the central message to be taken away from this novel – the statement that “we have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be” – would be transported if the book’s heroine, and the person who utters this one key sentence, were just another Lizzy Bennet or, for that matter, another Elinor Dashwood (or if Edmund weren’t humble clergyman-to-be and younger brother without any expectations of inheriting his father’s title and fortune but in the league of the Darcys, Bingleys and Brandons). BIG f*cking deal: Oh, so Henry Crawford now tries his hand at Lizzy after he’s already seduced her sisters or cousins under her very eyes? Well, remember the dressing down that Mr. Wickham and, even more so, Lady Catherine de Bourgh gets from Lizzy’s mouth? Henry would get a wallop of the very same treatment, and that would be that, once and for all. Great, memorable lines to be sure, but not a chance in hell that Lizzy would ever actually fall for him, especially not after the play acting business. Same essentially, with Elinor Dashwood: She would be more polite and restrained than Lizzy, but Henry Crawford would not get anywhere near her, either; if anything, she’d set herself up as moral authority to Maria and Julia to their very faces, and at best give Henry Crawford the sort of response that Willoughby gets when (contrite and quite possibly genuinely worried about Marianne) he shows up at the Palmers’ estate to inquire about Marianne’s health towards the end of Sense and Sensibility. And if Edmund were the heir to his father’s title and fortune that Mary Crawford so clearly covets in him, and in the league of the Darcys and Brandons in other respects as well, he’d see our Miss Crawford for the shameless gold digger that she is right from the start and send her on her merry way without ever even letting her get near him – their story, too, would have been over before it had ever really started.

No: The steadfastness that Austen advocates here – and which she will come to advocate again in Persuasion, through another heroine who is likewise not exactly the belle of every ball – not only requires a very sound knowledge of oneself and a firm anchoring in moral principles; as the play acting scheme shows in particular, it also requires the firmness of resolve called for in a lone dissenter, moreover, the lone dissenter’s firmness of resolve that becomes necessary in times when a given society’s or social circle’s opinion leaders are merrily dropping standards right and left and are set on a path leading straight to ruin. And shy, meek Fanny Price is just about the very last person whom you would ever expect to display that sort of resolve, and therefore to transport this book’s central message – and it is ultimately precisely because of her own nature that she is such an effective messenger. And it is this, too, that still so very much endears her to me, even decades after I read Mansfield Park for the very first time.

Favorite Quotes

“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.”

“Give a girl an education and introduce her properly into the world, and ten to one but she has the means of settling well, without further expense to anybody.”

“If this man had not twelve thousand a year, he would be a very stupid fellow.”

“A fondness for reading, properly directed, must be an education in itself.”

“But Shakespeare one gets acquainted with without knowing how. It is a part of an Englishman’s constitution. His thoughts and beauties are so spread abroad that one touches them everywhere; one is intimate with him by instinct. No man of any brain can open at a good part of one of his plays without falling into the flow of his meaning immediately.”

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