Pride & Prejudice Adaptation 3: 1995’s BBC Version

Now we’ve come to what many consider the best adaptation of Austen’s novel, which is the 1995 BBC/A&E collaboration. This adaptation was written by Andrew Davies, who’s name should be familiar at this point (ITV’s 1996 Emma, ITV’s 2007 Northanger Abbey, ITV’s 2008 Sense & Sensibility, and other notable works such as the original House of Cards from 1980, Bleak House with Gillian Anderson, and most recently BBC’s Les Miserables). Davies is a powerhouse when it comes to adaptations (though I don’t always enjoy them as some do feel more “modernized” than others in terms of language and sexuality). However, this version is usually at the top of any Jane Austen’s lover for the script, costumes, locations and cast.

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The Bennets: Alison Steadman (Mrs. Bennet), Benjamin Whitrow (Mr. Bennet), Julia Sawalha (Lydia), Jennifer Ehle (Elizabeth), Susannah Harker (Jane), Lucy Briers (Mary), Polly Maberly (Kitty)

This version exfels in showing the chaotic nature of the Bennet household and how it stems from the two youngest members-Lydia and Catherine “Kitty”. Mrs. Bennet is also someone who contributes to the chaos and it’s made clear she encourages the flighty ways of the two youngest, pushes Mary into thinking she has a singing voice, and places on her hopes for a suitable match on the shoulders of Jane, the eldest. Mrs. Bennet is n ot found of Elizabeth, and that’s made clear. Lydia is wonderfully acted as she’s portrayed as being wild, childish, selfish and most likely her mother’s favorite (after Jane of course). Mrs. Bennet comes across as someone who complains to hear her won voice (which is how she comes across in the novel). What Davies and the actors have done is play off of Austen’s portrayal of a marriage based on looks (or lust) and not personality. It’s a theme throughout the novel of being judged on looks and realizing that looks don’t indicate character. Elizabeth herself once states in the novel and the TV series that Wickham has all the looks to indicate he is good, while Darcy is good based on his actions (but  is not as handsome as Wickham).

Lizzie (Elizabeth) and Jane wearing fichus (scarves)

The two previous adaptations have Darcy enter the first ball very haughty, very proud, which is not a bad decision to make. Darcy is proud and comes across as arrogant in the novel. This time, Darcy enters and while he appears proud to Lizzie’s eyes (and the novel is mainly from her perspective as told through an omniscient other), this Darcy comes across as being visibly uncomfortable surrounded by so many strangers. It’s the first time that we see a Darcy who is at odds with how he was described, but how it actually works to create a more dynamic adaptation. Darcy at Rosings Park admits that he felt he could not recommend himself to anyone at this first ball to Col. Fitzwilliam and Lizzie. She chides him for it because in her mind, he should have been like Bingley-carefree and easy going. Instead, Darcy is someone who’s had to raise his own sister, was thrust into being a landowner and provider way before he was ready, and perhaps it has caused him to not attend as many social functions as Bingely has. In other words, Darcy comes across as being shy. this doesn’t mean he isn’t arrogant and proud (because he still is), but shyness makes him vulnerable. It’s also a very good contrast with Bingley’s personality and Wickham’s as both men do come across as being fairly easy going.

Mrs. Bennet trying to convince her husband to visit Bingley.

Charlotte Lucas (Lucy Scott)

I do love that Charlotte Lucas is again a very elegant and lovely woman, instead of making her plain as the previous version did. She is a mature woman and the thought many have is women at her age (27) were not marriageable and most ladies married young. While Jane Austen tended to show young people marrying in almost all of her novels (Persuasion being the exception), historically women Charlotte’s age and older married quite often and for the first time. This was a time of constant conflict and most men were either in service (military) or another profession that wouldn’t allow them marrying due to finances. We have got to recognize that older, mature ladies marrying was not the exception, but normal at this time.

Fitzwilliam Darcy (Colin Firth) at a men’s club

While not mentioned in the novel at all, showing Darcy at a gentleman’s sports club is historically accurate. They show him fencing, but gentlemen at this time also partook of boxing from famous puglists (professional boxers) at this time. Swimming, of course, is used later on and has become an iconic scene. However, while there was no need to put this in an adaptation, I do believe it was the right choice. Men did these things to stay in shape and one would expect Darcy to belong to such a club.

Jane, Mary, and Lydia

Now, onto the costumes (because many people comment on how much they like them). Dinah Collin designed the costumes and makeup, stressing herself that she spent months researching extant clothing, portraits, and trying to find a way to make the costumes appeal to modern eyes. I think she succeeded and should be applauded for the effort. While stock costumes from previous adaptations were used for extras, an effort was made to choose clothing that would compliment the designs for the main cast. Use of pale colors and prints for most of the young ladies gave an impression of lightness. While Charlotte Lucas’s clothes were richer looking than the Bennet girls, her dresses were not as rich or luxurious looking as Caroline Bingley or Mrs. Hurst. It helped give a visual social hierarchy without having to be reminded that the Bingley’s were wealthy (due to trade) while the Lucas’ had a title (due also to trade), but not necessarily as much money as Bingley or Darcy. The Gardiners especially come off as being refined, which is how I’ve always pictured them, and really are what we would consider middle-class. Aunt Philips is also not made coarse, but is seen as ore of a proper gentlewoman who happens to be part of the middle-class as well. This is important as there is a lot of dialogue regarding class and social hierarchy in this novel more than any other. Elizabeth is not considered suitable because her father is a gentleman, but not wealthy, and only a minor landowner. Her family connections are seen as vulgar because of trade, which is funny considering Bingley’s wealth is due to trade, but it seems society can overlook the stench of Trade if one is extremely well-off, which the Phillips and Gardiners are shown to not be of the same social sphere. And this all came across in the costumes. Richer people had better materials and the more money they had, the greater their social standing and the more expensive the costumes looked.

A look at the gowns from the Lucas Party which occurs. Charlotte Lucas’ gown is much nicer material wise than Lizzie’s, but not so out of place for the area in which she lives. Notice behind her is Mary sitting with Maria Lucas (Lucy Davis) as Jane is talking to Bingley (Crispin Bontham-Carter).

Similar scene (it’s from a ball scene, but cannot recall which one) showing Caroline Bingley (Anna Chancellor) in a ball gown. Her dress is much richer, having been made of a finer material, with an underdress of a different color, with jewelery and a turban to complete the look. She appears socially superior to the other single ladies.

The Netherfield Ball; with one glance you can tell Maria Lucas’ gown is of a better quality than Elizabeth’s, yet both are not so rich looking as Caroline Bingley or Mrs. Hurst. Also notice the uniforms of the Militia are period correct and lovely. And footmen are seen (uniforms and wigs)\

One item of interest to me, but probably not anyone else, is because the crew on this adaptation wanted to be so historically accurate, it’s easy to tell that the main characters (and sometimes the extras as well) are wearing period undergarments. This is completely different from any other adaptation at this point since most tended to use modern undergarments. And yes, this would make a difference in terms of performance. Period undergarments force an actor or actress to sit, stand, and move in a certain way. It can restrict movements such as bending down, running, etc. I include men in this because this was an era in which men did wear corsets to achieve a more pleasing shape, as well as padding things such as calves or shoulders. While I have never noticed any men in these films wearing such garments, it wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility to see someone like Sir Lucas wearing a corset for the Netherfield Ball to look slimmer. Or for Mr. Collins to wear padded calves because his around as nice as other men (because men can be vain about their appearances too).

George Wickham (Adiran Lukas); notice the fine detailing on his uniform and how less bright it is than the previous adaptation. His military jacket was made in Italy.

Lizzie getting her hair done (possibly by Hill, the ever faithful Bennet servant) while Lydia is in her period correct petticoat. Now, while the corset looks to be worn underneath, the correct layering should be a chemise, corset, then petticoat, then dress. Pantalettes wear worn (think crotchless pantaloons), and stocking that were tied a the knees.

Layers worn by a typical Regency Lady (courtesy of the Oregon Regency Society of North America)

The steps to getting dressed, simplified but showing the basic layers (courtesy of Tzarina Regina at Deviant Art)

Now, there are issues with the costumes which should be addressed. The necklines, while correct, are not used correctly. Let me clarify this:  low necklines did exist during the day, but were filled in or covered up because it wasn’t appropriate. So Mary’s outfit is more correct in being a true Day Dress, as is her mother’s, than any of her sisters. Low necklines showcasing one’s décolletage was only appropriate for evening wear. Now, many have criticized this because it gives a more sensual feel to the piece that what should be there. I actually don’t mind simply because when the average person is trying to find images from that time period, even the ladies who’ve had portraits done around this time are not always wearing anything to cover themselves up. So perhaps while we think everyone covered themselves up, it’s simply not true. Extant gowns for day wear exist in museums around the world and when they are showcased to the public, it’s often not shown with anything to cover up the décolletage area. Of course, they wish for everyone to see the neckline (the shape, where it lays, etc), but this instills a certain image in the public of how these gowns were worn. And perhaps because we did get women covered up during the day (Mrs. Bennet, Caroline Bingley, Mary Bennet, Maria Lucas, Mrs. Gardiner, Charlotte Lucas Collins), it’s enough to show some period correct ways of dressing during the day, but also allowing the others to not be so covered up because I;m sure there were women who didn’t. It is perhaps more authentic to have a mixture than everyone covered up or not. And we did get examples of the Bennets wearing day dresses with the décolletage covered up (which most who criticize seem to forget). This means even with the main characters, there was variety. Plus, certain necklines looked better on certain people. I enjoy the variety.

Lydia & Kitty wearing day dresses that are covering them up (and being historically correct).

Mr. William Collins (David Bamber) and Mrs. Bennet; notice Mrs. Bennet is wearing a neckline filler (or tucker), mob cap, and shawl. She is completely covered up and is appropriately dressed.

Charlotte after she’s married Mr. Collins; notice the mob cap, fichu, and high necked day gown, which is all period correct. Also notice Sir William Lucas (Christopher Benjamin) and Maria have finally made it to Rosings Park.

The hair I think is some of the best I’ve seen in any adaptation. A few of the main characters are wearing wigs (Elizabeth, Mrs. Bennet) and you cannot tell that they are wigs because they have been dressed and look very good. Colin Firth had to darken his locks while Susannah Harker had to lighten hers (and yes, that IS her real hair). They greased David Bamber’s hair to mimic the look of a comb over, which I am on the fence about. It does tell you his character is a trifle vain, it makes him look hideous, but sometimes I wished they hadn’t gone that route. Maybe because in real life he looks like a complete sweetheart, so I don’t like him looking ill. Lucy Briers also had her hair greased out to make her ears stand out, but at least they also dressed it with a period hairstyle so it looked like Mary makes an effort to look pretty. Again, she wears glasses, but at least with the hair having some attention paid to it, I can live with it.

Mary with a decent hairstyle (although greased) with curls and very light period correct frames, which I like because they don’t overwhelm her face.

Mrs. Hurst (Lucy Robinson) with very lovely hair and with a gorgeous turban to match the silk evening dress she wears. Notice the very nice necklace and matching earrings.

Some things I did not like about this adaptation, which is hard to put out there as many consider this the gold standard in regards to Austen Adaptations, is some of the casting. Now, I love Barbara Leigh-Hunt as Lady Catherine. She played it extremely well and very much like an Austen version of Lady Bracknell, but with a streak of cruelty.  I’ve always thought Lady Catherine to be roughly 20-25 years older than Darcy. Meaning if he is 30, then Lady Catherine is about 55, which really isn’t too old. It seems when it comes to casting Lady Catherine, the norm is to go for someone very old and looking close to their 70s even though she has a daughter close in age to Darcy. I guess I am tired of women who are close to 40 having to be made up to look older and not being allowed to portray characters of close to their own ages. Then again, we have a habit of casting people as old as 30 to portray teenagers in films, so clearly that pendulum swings harshly both ways. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy her interpretation, because I did. Only it’s a pity this role tends to be cast as a pseduo-evil crone type of figure instead of middle aged lady, which is (historically) she is.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Barbara Leigh-Hunt); I do love the attention paid to her outfits.

Lady Catherine and her daughter, Anne (Nadia Chambers); Anne is made to look sickly, which is what we are told she is by Elizabeth in the novel.

Elizabeth Sparrow of Bishton Hall, William Owen, ca. 1815; SCBPC PCF 5

Elizabeth Sparrow of Bishop Hall, c1815. This woman is dressed similar to Lady Catherine. This woman is also in her sixties.

1816 Baronin Sophie Waitz von Eschen-Rheinfarth by Sebastian Weygandt (Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel - specific location unknown to gogm) inc. exposure

Baronness Sophie Waitz von Eschen-Rheinfart, c. 1816; this is what I’ve always imagined Lady Catherine to look like. While this woman is in her late 30s, early 40s, if Lady Catherine had Anne when she was 16 (some married very young), then being 46 would be possible.

Another criticism (not mine) which hangs about this production is THE SCENE, of which anyone who’s ever watched it knows what I am speaking of. We’re speaking of Darcy swimming at a pond on his property. Apparently this scene was titillating to people, which is odd considering we have a scene with Darcy shirtless earlier taking a bath (then standing and being covered up with a banyan/dressing gown so nothing is seen). Why the bathing scene is passed over but the pond swimming scene is fantasized about boggles my mind. First, I appreciated that they showed how people of wealthy would bathe, in a copper tub (which is quite small) and then dressing afterwards. A nice touch was the servant pouring water over his head. And they show fabric(linen) in the tub because no one wants to sit on metal, let’s be honest here (and yes, that is historically accurate).

Darcy taking a bath; yes, fabric would have been draped for comfort reasons.

The scene: fun fact but Firth isn’t the one jumping into the pond as a stuntman does it due to the threat of Lyme Disease at the time. Firth dives into a tank in a studio.

Now, many see the lake scene as being very sexualized and over the top. It’s been referenced in other films since because it has become part of our media culture. I don’t see what all the fuss is about, actually. Darcy has been riding from London, he takes a break at a pond on his estate and goes for a swim, but he’s still fairly dressed with breeches and a shirt. It seems like a logical thing a man might do. The funny part, for me, is him trying to remain calm and collected running into Lizzie dripping wet. For me, it’s funny, not sexy. It also shows us he’s human and has the same little quirks everyone else has. I just want to know who’s job it was to hose down Colin Firth for the walking scene, because I can imagine both Firth and the person just saying “sorry” to each other the entire time.

Lizzie

Lydia

Another criticism I’ve come across is people truly think Lizzie and Lydia are too “fat” to be realistic representations of women during the Regency Era. Excuse me? I know people have tended to cast much thinner women in these main roles, regulating the fuller figured actress (or even actor) to the smaller, comedic roles, but women were not these stick thin figures. Most portraits of thin women at this time are portraits of very young girls-some as young as 10. To base the assumption then that all women were likewise is simply preposterous.

Portrait of a Woman in a White Dress by Unknown American, 19th century

Unknown Young Woman, early 19th Century (Courtesy of the Currier Museum of Art)

1811 Mary Anne Nugent-Temple-Grenville, Lady Arundell of Wardour, three-quarter-length, in a mustard dress, holding a portfolio and pen, leaning against a tree in a landscape. John Hoppner, R.A. (English, 1758-1810). Oil on canvas. Lord Arundell of Wardour married Mary Anne Nugent-Temple-Grenville, daughter of George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st Marquess of Buckingham, and Mary Elizabeth Nugent, 1st Baroness Nugent, at Buckingham House, London.

1811 Mary Anne Nugent-Temple-Grenville, Lady Arundell of Wardour (1787-1845) [Public Domain Image; portrait was sold privately by Christie’s]

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1816 Franciso Lacoma y Fontanet [Public domain Image]

Henri-Pierre Danloux PARIS 1753 - 1809 PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG LADY IN A WHITE DRESS

1809 Portrait of a Lady in a White Dress (courtesy of Southeby’s)

1802. Louise, reine de Prusse, d’après Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun.

1802 Louisa, Queen of Prussia [Public Domain Image]

Henry B. Bounetheau's Aunt by Edward Greene Malbone, ca. 1804, Smithsonian American Art Museum. One of my favorite miniature portraits in the collection of over 400. Miniature portraits of watercolor painted on ivory were popular before the advent of photography. The size is about 3 x 4 inches. The details of the sitter's skin tone, hair style, clothes, and gaze are exquisite.

Henry B. Bounetheau’s Aunt when a young girl (miniature) ca. 1804 (courtesy of the Smithsonian)

Caroline Darwin 1816 (aged about 16 years) by James Sharples. Caroline Sarah Darwin (1800–1888) sister of Charles Darwin, married Josiah Wedgwood (grandson of the first Josiah Wedgwood) (her first cousin).

1816 Portrait of Caroline Darwin, aged 16 (sister of Charles Darwin) [Pubic Domain Image]

Looking at the first image of the unknown young lady, the miniature, and the portrait of Caroline Darwin, one can state that those are typical images of women during the regency. Except this is wrong. The second portrait (Mary Nugent-Temple) is also that of a young lady, possibly about 16 years of age. Yet she is not thin, but has a very full figure. The other three images are of women in their 20s, so this belief that women of all sizes didn’t exist needs to stop. One would expect in a family of five daughters in the instance of the Bennets to have variety in terms of their shapes. And we see that in this production. Jane, Lizzie and Lydia are all ell-endowed. Kitty and Mary are not well endowed. This should be applauded and not criticized. Clearly Bingley fell in love with Jane over her manners, not her shape (which men should do as it’s shown Mr. Bennet married a pretty face and lives to regret his decision the rest of his life).

Bingley and Darcy; both gentlemen fall in love because of women with personalities, not necessarily body shapes. Though Darcy has a thing for eyes.

Even Bingley’s sisters have different body types; Caroline is tall and willowly while Mrs Hurst is more curvaceous.

Overall, there’s a reason this remains as the gold standard of Jane Austen adaptations. It’s got a wonderful script, cast and crew. While there are some issues, they are very minor ones and shouldn’t detract from this lovely, bubbly adaptation. Real effort went into getting the costumes, hair and makeup correct. And time was spent getting the cast ready with horse back riding lessons, dance lessons, and getting them comfortable with each other as an ensemble piece.  This is also the first adaptation of Pride and Prejudice to end with the joint marriages of Bingley & Darcy. They also get the wedding garments correct with veils on bonnets and the dresses being ones that can be worn afterwards as best gowns. Everyone should watch this version. If you are really into Austen, owning it is a must. It’s just beautifully done.

Bingley, Jane, Darcy, Lizzie. I do love the light streaming through the windows.

A Brief History of Breakfast (or for God’s sakes it’s “just” a vitamin commercial)

As many of you may have be aware, there has been a great to-do about an Asian/Chinese Centrum commercial featuring Mr. Hiddleston. The uproar over this has been baffling to me since I don’t understand the un-comfortableness people are experiencing over a basically boring commercial (no offense to Mr. Hiddleston, but the Jaguar commercials I liked much better).

It’s really quite a boring bottle, but gets the point across.

Most of the comments I’ve seen on-line relate to the question of why vegetables were being served (along with a fried egg and some fresh fruit) for Breakfast. Well, visually, the vegetables and fruit were laid out and displayed to mimic the brands iconic rainbow design, but in such a way as to not be so blatantly obvious. Clearly the intent was to showcase that the same vitamins and minerals found in these food items are also found in the daily pill. It’s very simple advertising (and yes, I took a class on Modern Art in Advertising in Grad School-it was summer and I was bored).

A screen-shot of the infamous vegetable plate with fried egg. There are blueberries on the plate as well (not shown). I am just impressed with the heart shaped egg actually (yes, I know it’s a mold).

Basically, it’s a pretty decent commercial, a bit boring and the only saving grace is the fact that Mr. Hiddleston is in it. But if you’ve ever seen commercials for the Asian markets (China, Japan, India, etc) that feature Western stars, they tend to be weird by Western standards. I believe it’s because people in the west truly don’t comprehend that there are more people who are Asian and of Asian decent in the world and yes, we’d like products featuring stars we like catered to us. Advertisements in general can be awkward and strange.

Yes, that’s Bob Hope endorsing a soda that no one has ever heard of. Hollywood has a history of endorsing products.

Nicole Kidman for Omega Watches. This advertisement was only placed in Asian countries and in Asian magazines.

While this is all well and interesting (not really), I want to address the issue many people are really having a hard time with, which is having vegetables for breakfast. Breakfast is, I think, historically a very interesting meal to look at because what was once eaten has changed over the years due to shifts in society and economy. Back in the time of Jane Austen (and generally this applies to the Georgian Era well into the Victorian Era in terms of food offered, not necessarily the times), people (not the servants) woke up before 8AM, had a cup of tea, ale, or hot chocolate and a piece of toast (maybe two). This was done in their nightwear, usually women would be wearing a bedgown/robe and men would be wearing a Banyan or Dressing Gown. They then would spot clean, get dressed and do their hair. They then exercised (walking, rode horses), wrote letters, gathered flowers (if they were into wanting fresh flowers in the home), practiced piano playing (specifically this refers to Jane herself) and then sat down to Breakfast at about 10AM.

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Le Bon Genre 106, 1817 (Doggy Meal is the basic French to English translation of the piece); Courtesy of the British Museum; this is meant to be satire, but one gets the general idea of what a typical Regency Era meal for just family may look like.

'A Brighton Breakfast' or 'Morning Comforts' by Charles   Williams

A Brighton Breakfast or Morning Comforts (Oct 1802); drawn by Charles Williams depicting Mrs. Fitzherbert (Prinny’s illegal Catholic Wife, my ancestor by marriage Maria Weld) and Lady Lade (one of Prinny’s mistresses at the time). Courtesy of the Regency Town House website

A typical Georgian & Regency breakfast (remember, this is being served around 10AM) may include eggs, kidneys & liver (I’m not a fan of organ meat, so bleh), various cold cuts or chops leftover from a previous meal (typically cold chicken or turkey, game birds, beef, ham, etc). Kippers or some kind of fish (this tended to be seasonal and more typical for homes along a coast or access to a constant source of fresh water, so think Lyme Regis, Brighton, Bath, but not necessarily London), game pies, tongue (bleh), and perhaps jellied eel (again, bleh). More tea and hot chocolate was served, though Prinny and other Dandies at the time preferred ale (alcohol was available to drink 24/7 at this time because water was not safe to drink). Ale and Stout were also reported to be a healthy beverage to consume for breakfast, so women were encouraged to drink it to help encourage fertility (seriously, I am not kidding here). Cakes spiced with things like Caraway seeds, Ginger, citrus, fresh or preserved fruits, honey and saffron were typically seen. Hot rolls, toast, butter, preserves, French Brioche (particularly posh) along with fried potatoes and any fresh seasonal fruit was served as well. While no research (meaning my ongoing 20+ year one) has yet turned up any evidence of milk or lemon barely water being drunk at this time, I have come across both being touted for invalids and children, so I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibilities to see them made available for those that wished for them (especially if children were involved). This was mean to be a fairly relaxing, communal, and most likely lasted close to an hour as people came to eat at their leisure, which must have been a nightmare for the servants.

The Full English (well, one example of it anyways). There are many variations of it in the UK, but there are at least 2 types of meat, beans, tomatoes, toast, eggs and sometimes mushrooms (some places have potatoes instead of mushrooms). Tomatoes are also usually fried, though raw wouldn’t bother me.

Sometime in the mid Victorian Era (late 1850s to early 1860s), breakfast not only meant the Georgian/Regency meal as stated above, but a newer, smaller hot meal. The English Breakfast Society dates the Full English to the early 1800s, yet I’ve never been able to find any evidence of this. While I do believe it evolved from the Georgian/Regency meal (which did offer a variety of meats, eggs, and toast), tomatoes were NOT widely eaten at that point in time. Tomatoes were seen as poisonous and the only way people consumed them was they had to be cooked, preferably in a soup format and possibly jellied IF one wished for a cold remove for a dinner (remove is a very fancy terms for a side dish). The closest I’ve seen to a Full English is from Mrs. Beeton’s 1861 Book of Household Management (it’s free on Kindle and yes, I’ve read it):

Broiled fish, such as mackerel, whiting, herrings, dried haddocks, &c.; mutton chops and rump-steaks, broiled sheep’s kidneys, kidneys à la maître d’hôtel, sausages, plain rashers of bacon, bacon and poached eggs, ham and poached eggs, omelets, plain boiled eggs, oeufs-au-plat, poached eggs on toast, muffins, toast, marmalade, butter, &c. &c.

This is her description of hot food items for breakfast. She does mention the use of cold meats, including tongue, potted meats, cold game pies, as well as bread, sweet rolls, and pastries. Typical breakfast fare for inns, pubic-houses and for the working class (servants too) consisted of eggs, bacon or ham, bread, butter, and ale.

Kedgeree is considered a typical British Breakfast dish (courtesy of the BBC)

Now, one item I have not discussed yet is Kedgeree. Now, I’m American, but I am also half-Desi and I love this dish. I have made this dish and variations that are more traditional (as in Desi traditional) when I was living on my own in Grad School. For modern eaters of this dish, it contains rice, smoked haddock (I prefer Salmon, but Tuna is also considered acceptable), hard boiled eggs, parsley, butter or cream. Some UK recipes insist on adding curry powder (which is a very British thing; curry for us Desis means it contains tomatoes), and sultanas (raisins; like potato salad, just no). This modern dish dates to about 1790 from a recipe book by Stephana Malcolm of Scotland and is believed to have been created by Scottish Militia who missed the spices and food of India once they returned home. Traditional Kedgeree (Khichri or Kishri or Khichdi) dates to 1340CE, but is probably much older. Ibn Battuta wrote in 1340CE of a dish he enjoyed and referred to as Kishri of moong dal cooked with rice (basically, lentils and rice most likely topped with butter because yes, Indian people did know how to make butter).

Masoor Dal (Red Lentil) Khichri. There are many recipes and variations of Khichri out there. Notice that vegetables play a key factor here. Yes, VEGETABLES for BREAKFAST.

The oldest known written recipe for Khichri dates from around 1590 CE and remains extremely popular in the Gurajat region of India where it’s often served with a spiced yogurt called Kadhi or Raitia (they are different dishes actually, but I’ve eaten it with Raitia, so don’t “at” me Desi brothers and sisters). Fish is and was probably added along the coastlines of India, where fish and seafood is widely eaten. Eggs are usually not part of the dish, traditionally, but I’ve added some boiled eggs on occasion. I’ve also added Paneer instead. Like I stated before, there are so many variations of this dish in the Desi community, most can find one they like. Or go with the UK version.

Seal of the East Indian Company (the British one as there was a Dutch one too). Courtesy of North Central College (Naperville, IL)

Now Kedgeree (yes, I’ve gone back to the UK spelling) is never mentioned in Mrs. Beeton’s book and is never acknowledged as being a dish served during the time of Jane Austen. For some reason, it seems to magically appear around the 1830s, disappear,then reappear in the 1880s. But briefly and only in passing (I am referring to extant novels). It is mentioned in Evelyn’s Waugh’s Brideshead Revisted (pubslihed in 1945) and Mary Wesley’s Camomile Lawn (published in 1984); both books are cited by Americans who blog about wanting to try Kedgeree because it’s mentioned in these two British novels (they are also often shocked at the ingredients and typically don’t like it).

An illustration depicting what a Georgian/Regency Scottish Officer would be wearing (1780s-1820s). We can thank the wife of one of these gents for writing down the first UK recipe for Kedgeree. Courtesy of Brown University (Rhode Island).

This was probably a dish that most men in the military brought back with them (because, as we should now, the East Indian Company sent Army men to India, China, Japan (and more) for close to 300 years (December 1600 to June 1874). Because Austen had no relations involved in that venture, it is possibly she never heard of it (her three brothers joined during the Napoleonic Wars-two in the Navy and one in the Oxford Militia). Tough I do find it odd that it is not mentioned by Sir Walter Scott (considering the UK version comes from Scotland). Oh well. Personally, I am fairly certain Colonel Brandon, Sir John Middleton, Colonel Foster, and Captain Wentworth would have heard of it and eaten it. Definitely Admiral Croft must be included in that list.

Corn Flakes

This brings our breakfast journey right to Battle Creek, Michigan (I’ve got family near there, no lie) and the Kellogg Brothers. Dr. Kellogg was a Seven Day Adventist and hard core vegetarian. I do mean hard core. He was fine with dairy being consumed, but not meat, not eggs, no fish, etc. Hopefully you get my point. He ran a sanitarium (Dr. John Harvey Kellogg) and did some pretty shady crap. He tortured and trained a wild wolf to turn away from the instinct to eat meat as “proof” man could curb his instincts for consuming flesh. He believed in using masturbatory devices to curb unhealthy sexual activities between married couples (vibrators people); he firmly believed sex should only take place to produce children. Any “urges” had to be taken care of scientifically. Basically, he was nuts himself (see the 1994 film Road to Wellville as it’s surprisingly accurate). His brother, Will, on the other hand, was more practical. While also an Adventist, he wasn’t too keen on the whole vegetarian thing, but he was into philanthropy. Will noticed that rich people ate eggs and meat for breakfast while the poor tried to survive on oatmeal, farina, gruel (you get the point) which filled them up, but didn’t provide enough nutrients. So he came up with corn flakes, which is just toasted flakes of corn mush. It was cheap, it was filing, and because you ate it with milk, you were getting some protein. Post Cereals (now known as General Mills) copied this concept with their own version, but added sugar.

How many of us grew up with the concept of this being the normal breakfast?

This really did change the landscape for breakfast. Think about all the cereals that have come out of this concept. We have cereals made from corn, wheat, oats, and rice. And yes, I know I did not mention pancakes, waffles, etc because I don’t have time for that and I am focusing on just the concept of breakfast, not a book on the history of it. Eggs generally were eaten on weekends (at least, for me growing up) because cereal was faster to prepare.

Vegetable Stuffed Omelette from Betty Crocker’s website. No, I’m not kidding. This is an actual recipe. Chosen mainly to highlight that, yes, we do eat vegetables for breakfast.

This brings me back around to people freaking out about that Hiddleston commercial. If vegetables are in a quiche, an omlette, or a quinoa breakfast bowl, no one is bothered by it. We accept that it’s perfectly fine to have vegetables for breakfast, but only if it conforms to certain standards (meaning Western standards). But what if the commercial was done for a Desi audience and the dish he prepared was a traditional Khichri? Most people in the UK would probably recognize it as being similar to a Kedgeree and wouldn’t be bothered by it. Americans would still have a fit because it’s rice being eaten for breakfast (rice, of course, is ALWAYS Basmati; that Texas grown “Texati” stuff is disgusting). I’ve worked with people from Mexico and have had eggs smothered in beans and Cholula Hot Sauce (which I highly recommend! The beans were cooked in mole sauce and onions).

On the left is regular brown rice. On the right is brown Basmati rice.

Breakfast is simply  the first meal we eat to break our fast after sleeping. There is no wrong food to eat. There is no right food to eat. I can tell you that as while in College (and Grad Schools), I ate things like grilled cheese sandwiches for breakfast, Khichri, oatmeal, eggs (lots of eggs, which I still do), portabello mushrooms, ice cream (I’m an adult), cereal, beans on toast (Heinz of course as I am not a savage), shami kabobs, tuna sandwiches, lox on bagels with smear (ask your Jewish or NYC friends), and on occasion, pancakes or waffles.

This is what I had today for Breakfast: homemade Paneer Jalfrezi on a bed of spinach. Followed by an apple (Envy variety! Delicious) and tea.

So yes, I have eaten vegetables for breakfast. I’ll probably continue to do so in some fashion the rest of my life. It’s really not that weird of a concept. I didn’t think the commercial was weird in showing that. FYI, the shuffling people say occurs near the end? Most likely slipping shoes on. Most Asians take shoes off at the door and put the on when they leave. This is not a creepy or weird thing. It keeps floors much cleaner. I really do think people need to learn about other cultures so things like this won’t be found to be offensive or awkward in the future.

Tomorrow? I think I’ll have some vegetables with my eggs topped with cheese. And a glass of milk. Then again, I may have a protein smoothie.

Pride and Prejudice: 1980 (or 1985) Adaptation

So this adaptation has the distinct oddity of having two release dates. It was first aired in the UK in 1980, but wasn’t aired in the US until 1985. Which makes it vastly confusing when you are trying to find out more information about it because the DVD copy I own (part of the Jane Austen Collection that I have mentioned before) lists it as being made in 1985 and I was under the impression that this is when it was first seen. So, why the confusion? I believe in this case since the DVD collection is geared towards the US market, it changed the year on this particular adaptation (and this is the only one in the set to have been aired in a different year than it’s UK airing) to jog the memories of audiences in the US. Though I wish they had not done so as it made it incredibly difficult on my end to find out any particulars.

This version is the fifth BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel. The first four were done in 1938, 1952, 1958, and 1967. All I could find out was the 1958 and 1967 versions were highly praised, and a cast list as well as the episodes listing is all that remains. Unfortunately, both of these versions are considered lost and there isn’t any verifiable cast pictures to inform us of what the sets and costumes look like.

Elizabeth Garvie as Elizabeth Bennet

There are many reasons why this adaptation is still held in great esteem even with the much praised and beloved 1995 version. Simply phrased, this one is superbly charming and well acted. Charlotte Lucas is plain, but not unpretty in her own way. Lizzie is vibrant, bubbly, and everything you imagine her to be from the pages of the novel. Darcy is arrogant, proud, and a bit of a pretty boy (perhaps a tad vain). Mrs. Bennet is shrill land annoying while Mr. Bennet is bored and uncaring. The adaptation was done by Fay Weldon (an award winning novelist) and one can tell she spent time in crafting this version to be accurate, but also understanding it needed to be paced for television (she did work for ITV and BBC prior to this adaptation). That effort shows and unlike the 1940 version (which is fun, but not wholly accurate), this one maintains the charm of the 1813 novel.

Sabina Franklyn as Jane Bennet

The Assembly Ball

One scene that stands out is the Assembly Ball. Not only is it our first introduction to Darcy and Bingley, but also how the Bennet girls behave in public. I liked that there were soldiers present in Militia uniforms, though they did appear slightly more gaudy than what I was expecting (very bright and bold colors). But I do see this as a sign of the times (this was filmed in 1979 afterall) and the lighting that was used. Still, it is good to see the men in uniforms. There was also a table laden with food and I had to pause and rewatch it a few times (yes, because it was for research) to be surprised to see the food was period correct. I don’t know if any or all of it was edible, but I did see a plethora of fruits stacked neatly, jellies of all sorts, cold meats, and sweets. Perhaps a little over the top (some recent criticism has not enjoyed it stating the foods are too colorful), but they are fun, colorful, and something that is period correct. Food was usually served at these events and the Assembly Ball was local, small, and would have had such a display as a way to inform the Officers that this was an area worth being in.

Irene Richard as Charlotte Lucas with Lizzie

While I believe the script to be of an excellent quality, the costumes are very much a product of their times. One modern complaint is that they are very pastel Easter Egg looking and yes, I can understand why this may be a reason not many people have enjoyed this version. We have in our minds that all young ladies wore white because of more recent adaptations of any Austen novel. Yes, white was a preferred color for young girls making their debut into Society and no doubt for the first year or two, many of their evening dresses would have been white. For example, considering that Jane, Lizzie, and Mary have probably been “out” for more than two years, I would not expect them to wear white. They can, if they choose to because it was popular for decades and practical. Practical in that one’s white gown from two or three Seasons ago could be updated with trimmings or embroidery or lace and still worn. Lydia, Kitty, and even Maria Lucas on the other hand, I would fully expect to be only wearing white since they are so very young and I suspect Lydia has only been “out” for a few months in terms of the novel. AS to the Easter Egg pastels, yes they are not period correct. There were some pastels that did exist, but these tended to be blues and greens (with light grays thrown in for good measure). Most colors were medium to dark in color. If one wanted them to appear lighter, then a layering of lace on top usually did the trick. Now, I may be wrong in the pastel coloration. Fashion plates at the time do show more pastel colors, but keep in mind colors may have faded over time and fashion plates were colored in with watercolours, which are opaque to begin with. I have looked at so many dresses from this era in my 20 years of research that I truly cannot recall if I have seen any in these more modern Easter Egg pastel colors. This doesn’t mean that somewhere, out there, there might be a few in existence.  But I feel it’s best to err on the side of judgment and state that I don’t believe they existed.

British 7th Royal Fusiliers Officer's Uniform, circa 1795, front view.

British 7th Royal Fusiliers Officer’s Uniform, circa 1795, front view (Courtesy of Military Heritage website); chosen to show what a period correct Military Uniform would look like in terms of the colors and decorations.

A set of Coatees and Infantry officer's hat as used by the 96th Regiment. From left to right they date from 1796-1816, a short-...

A set of Coates and Infantry officer’s hat as used by the 96th Regiment. From left to right they date from 1796-1816 (Courtesy of Clash of Steel website); also chosen to show how the style changed from 1796 to 1816, but the decorations are still not bright yellow and white.

Underdress, c.1810. This simple silk piece would've been worn beneath an overdress made from a sheer fabric, such as patterned organza or embroidered muslin.

Yellow Silk Underdress, c.1810. This would be worn underneath an overdress made from a sheer fabric, such as patterned organza, embroidered muslin, or even lace (Courtesy of the John Bright Collection UK); I chose this image to highlight the brightness of the colors that were available at this time.

muslin gown with embroidery.

Sheer Embroidered Muslin Overdress c. 1810 (Courtesy of a Russian Heritage website); This is an example of the type of overdress that would go over the bright yellow silk pictured above. While the sheer material would dull the color somewhat, the yellow would not appear pastel.

Ball Dress, 1812

Ball Dress C. 1812 (I believe Ackermann’s Repository); this is probably what we tend to have in mind for ball dresses at this time. It’s white, fairly simple yet elegant. Yet notice the fringe on the dress and petticoat and the puff detail that was popular (and would gain in popularity well into the 1820s) that we don’t see in adaptations. Note Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813 and this is from 1812.

So, why I am focused on costumes for this particular adaptation? Probably because it was the fifth version done by the BBC at this point I would expect a little more historical accuracy and effort put in. While I can forgive the errors in the 1970 versions that are out there, by this time, the BBC should have made more of an effort. Another pet peeve I have with the costumes is I can see no visible means of getting the actresses in and out of the gowns. A majority of the extant gowns that you can see on-line (which I do love how Museums have taken photographs to make these things available to us), show us two main back closures-buttons and lacing. Lacing, of course, indicated one was wealthy and could afford an Abigail (a maid devoted to your personal appearance) to dress and undress you daily. Buttons may also indicate the ability of affording a maid, but more likely an upstairs maid and not an Abigail per se. Buttons, of course, would also make is easier for female relations to assist each other in dressing. Front closures where also popular and I think wholly underused in adaptations. If one was not wealthy, then a front closure would be practical. I sometimes get frustrated at the lack of common sense research that is done for historical costuming. Also, important is because of the way the gowns sit upon the actresses, I am well aware they are not wearing period undergarments.

Ah, yes, the obligatory nightgown scene. While the use of a sleeping cap is a historical touch, the hair would have been braided.

Because I cannot find any known way for these actresses to get into these costumes, I can then only surmise they have side zippers or hidden back zippers (plackets) that are not being picked up by the camera. Whitson Judson of Chicago patented the zipper on August 29th, 1893 (it was clumsy and streamlined by engineer Gideon Sundbach in 1913 after which is became widely used). Basically, I am saying that if any designer is using a zipper pre-1913, they will get the WTActualFrog reaction from me (Theatre Productions are the exception because of quick changes).

Priscilla Morgan as Mrs. Bennet

Judy Parfitt as Lady Catherine de Bourgh

Now that I’ve had my rant about the costumes, there are some unusual changes made to the script from the novel that should be addressed. Maria Lucas is not seen and I do believe she is not even mentioned, so I am fairly certain Maria was removed from the adaptation.The Hursts, likewise, have mysteriously vanished. Aunt Phillips is shown and portrayed by Shirley Cain as a woman who is genteel, but of the middle working class background. I’ve never liked version who portray her as being silly and uncouth-she is written as being genteel in the novel and genteel is how she should be portrayed. Lady Catherine is much younger than she is usually portrayed and cast. And I have to admit that I like having Lady Catherine not so old as she is generally made to be. She is meant to be a little older than Darcy’s own mother, so I do question why she is often cast as being in her dotage when in reality, she could be much younger. If Lady Catherine’s daughter Anne is of a similar age to Darcy (30) and Lady Catherine was married by the time she was 17 or 18, then she may only be around 50 instead of the 70 she is usually seen as. Anne, I should note, is not made to look overly sickly and ill, but more delicate and frail looking, which I do feel works. We only take it for granted that Elizabeth’s description of Anne looking sickly is the truth. We must recall that Elizabeth is wishing everything that is cruel and hateful upon Mr. Darcy because of her loyalty to Wickham. Showing us an Anne who isn’t so sickly informs us, the audience, how Elizabeth is blinded by Wickham’s lies.

Malcolm Rennie as Mr. Collins

Now, let’s talk about hair. Hair, like costumes, is vastly important and often overlooked. And I have to say that for this version, hair was done fairly decently. I don’t mind Mr. Collins’ quasi-curled locks. It shows that he has some vanity, but at the same time, isn’t so fashion forward as he thinks he is, which is pure Collins. His sideburns are also not bad and not overly long.

David Rintoul as Fitzwilliam Darcy

Darcy’s hair is curly (and sometimes it looks very curly), but it also looks like the hairstyle Darcy would pick. It informs you he is a man who can afford trips to get his hair shampooed, cut, layered, and overall maintained to have that tousled look. Yes, shampoo did exist (thanks to an Indian who came to Ireland in the 1790s named S. D Mahomed and his steam baths that he started in 1806 in London, then moved to Brighton in 1814, adding champu to the regiment, though I’m fairly certain he was probably messing about with the concept in 1806; and yes, people of colour did live in England prior to the Victorian Era even though Mark Gatiss doesn’t believe it :::insert eyeroll:::). Even if Darcy wasn’t using champu, Pears soap did exist and is gentle enough to wash one’s locks with (because I have actually done this).

Tessa Peake-Jones as Mary Bennet

Now, I have always had an issue with how Mary Bennet is treated in every single adaptation. In the 1940 version, while she had glasses and was somewhat silly at times, her hair was still well done and pretty. that has been the only time Mary Bennet had ever been given anything fashionable in any version of Pride and Prejudice since and I hate it. No where in Austen is Mary described as being ugly, overly plain, and not well dressed. No where and I have tried to find any evidence to the contrary. In fact, I can find no evidence that Austen mentions Mary wears spectacles. to me, it seems someone decided that since Mary loves to read, and tends to be serious, then glasses must surely indicate her unsuitability to be seen as attractive. Notice that wearing spectacles never affects the suitability of any man’s lack of attractive qualities. This is where as a person who wears glasses I have never fully enjoyed Pride and Prejudice adaptations because of this stereotype. I am a studious person, well read, and yes I wear spectacles. In the world of Austen Adaptations, this makes me wholly unattractive simply because of the wearing of glasses. My wit, my charms, my overall pleasant manner can never overcome a pair of spectacles. This is wrong. This is a disservice to women as well. Austen writes heroines who are loved for their wit, their charms, their inner beauty. Making Mary Bennet perpetually ugly for no reason is an affront to Austen. There are other ways to make Mary seem ridiculous. Her lines alone do that well enough. Her inability to carry a note does this as well. People who wish to adapt this in the future, do better.

Michael Lees (Mr. Gardiner) and Barbara Shelley (Mrs. Gardiner)

Some other weird changes from the novel, to which I do not comprehend why it was done, was the change in the amount both Bingley and Darcy have per year. In the novel, Bingley as 5,000 pounds a year and Darcy 10,000. In this version, Mrs. Bennet states Bingley will have 5 to 6,000 a year, while Darcy will only have 8,000. I don’t understand why such a change was done. Also, when Lizzie goes to visit Charlotte at Rosings Park, Darcy is all ready in attendance with his cousin,, Colonel Fitzwilliam, arriving later. Both gentleman arrive after Lizzie in the novel. Likewise, when Lizzie receives the letter from Jane regarding Lydia’s elopement, she runs all the way to Pemberly from Lambton (which I believe was supposed to be a few miles off) because her uncle is fishing there and the aunt is mysteriously missing. I don’t understand the reasoning behind that at all. Unless they wanted to mimic her going to see Jane at Netherfield (in an earlier scene) with a similar scene at the end. I also believe the Gardiners are not given any children in this version as well, which is weird.

Lizzie & Mrs. Gardiner touring Pemberly

Lastly, they drink water. Water was not drunk at this time unless it was in the form of tea or barley water. The reason for this was, of course, of outhouses and sanitation. there were such things as water treatment plants available back then. Water came from streams, wells, ponds, etc, and there were farms everywhere. Yes, that’s a gross thought. Tea was safe because it was boiled first as was barley water. But can you imagine the uproar kitchen staff would have over someone requesting water to drink? It would require water to be boiled then filtered (yes, filtered) through a series of natural filters such as various rocks, sand, clay, etc, before being declared safe to drink. Water was boiled for tea, for washing clothing, and for baths (which occurred once a week if you were wealthy-most spot cleaned with a washcloth daily). Hair was most likely washed once a week to one a month. It was a dirty, smelly time. Yet we romanticize it.

Marsha Fitzalan as Caroline Bingley

So, do I recommend this version? Honestly, I do. Disregarding the issues with costuming and some weird script choices, this is a very good version of Austen’s novel. The sets are much better than what we were seeing in the 1970s and the outdoor scenes are very lovely. Improvement in filming meant there wasn’t this harsh transition from indoor to outdoor scenes. Lighting was much improved by this time and you can tell that a great amount of detail was spent on trying to use natural light whenever possible, which is a very good choice. Jewelry and makeup is used and used well. I don’t understand this more recent trend to not using makeup or jewelry for Austen adaptations because both existed and were used. Makeup especially considering the heavy use of it during the Georgian Era would not magically disappear with the French Revolution. It continued to be used, but the trend was for more natural looks (much like today we women are told to look natural, but if we wear no makeup, we are chastised for it; I suspect a similar attitude was prevalent back in Austen’s day). Much like the 1940 version, this ends with the Bennets being very happy to know that they will soon have two more daughters wed.

Lizzie & Darcy