The Problem of Julia Quinn: Rape Isn’t Romance

I wasn’t going to write another blog post on the rape scene in Netflix’s Bridgerton. I truly wasn’t. I had thought about possibly doing one on the costumes until I came across a YouTube video were VBlogger Book_and_Keys asked Julia Quinn about that rape scene, both in the novel and the adaptation. Reader, I became LIVID at the answer. Quinn replied that most don’t see Daphne raping Simon as “morally wrong” and it’s only become an issue as the “years [have] passed an we [Society] gained new understanding of ‘consent’.” She also states that we (the ones who are concerned and are complaining), lack the finesse of comprehending the historical context in which the novel is based. She believes that Society in 1813 would not have seen this as rape. Excuse me Ms Quinn, but thy Ivy League Whyte Privilege has reared it’s ugly head and history has not only proven you to be wrong, but a liar as well.

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Edgar Degas, The Interior (The Rape), circa 1869. Courtesy of the Tate

As I had written previously, the first series of Bridgerton is based on The Duke & I, which was published in 2000. This meas it was most likely written in 1997 or 1998, but possibly as early as 1995. This is important because what was really big in 1998? The Impeachment of Pres. William Clinton for lying about getting blowjob. The whole issue of consent and the overuse of power was a key point. There was also this HUGE thing about consent between an adult woman and a child in 1997 (Mary Kay Letourneau plead guilty in 1997 to 2 counts of Second -Degree Rape of a Child, which is a felony charge). And if that doesn’t ring a bell, in 1991, sexual harassment (and abuse of power) was brought forth during Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings by his victim, Anita Hill. By having Julia Quinn state that the whole rape scene in the novel wasn’t a big deal when it came out in 2000 is really doing a disservice to many readers. I cannot fathom how this even passed her editor or publisher. Cait’s Books (a blog) did state that rape was definitely considered a bad thing when this book was published, so Quinn trying to pass it off as no big deal is, quite frankly, repugnant.

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HS Ford, for Andrew Lang;s Grey Fairy Book, Circa 1900. Public Domain

Now, I forced myself to read The Duke & I this past week, as I couldn’t finish it the last time I attempted it because of the rape scene. Thankfully, there’s this great thing called libraries and borrowing ebooks, so I didn’t have to purchase it. While I had mistakenly written prior that the rape of Simon took place before marriage, it actually occurs after the marriage has taken place. I have no issues to admit I was mistaken as to when it took place (one must, of course, always acknowledges an error, dear Reader). This doesn’t make it less wrong. Simon is drunk. Daphne decides to rape him by forcing him to ejaculate in her. They fight, They breakup. She thinks she’s pregnant, so they get back together and work things out even when the pregnancy is a false alarm. Throughout this narrative, Quinn frames Simon as the villain and he is to blame for everything. Even though it’s been set up that he was abused emotionally (if not physically) by his father during his formative years, which led him to the understandable conclusion to not have biological children of his own. Now, a better writer would have had these two talk and work out the whole children thing so no rape would have occurred. Or if Julian Quinn had done the even the bare modicum of research, she would have realized that the frequency of Simon and Daphne screwing would have led to a pregnancy within the year anyways. Because, science. The book, FYI, is extremely predictable in the Silhouette romance kind of way.

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Artemisia Gentileschi (1614-1620), Judith Beheading Holofrenes. Courtesy of the National Geographic.

Now, full disclosure: There is NOTHING wrong with reading romance novels. There’s NOTHING wrong with writing them. We all enjoy escapism an whether it’s a romance, or Sci-Fi, or true crime story, we enjoy reading. There is, however, something seriously wrong with this need to romanticize rape in 20th and 21st C novels, TV. Film, music, etc. It’s a sick and twisted trope that needs to be weeded out for good.

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Weird Tales cover for January 1929. Public Domain

Julia made the bold and inaccurate statement in an interview with The Guardian where she believes she’s being “dinged” for the historical inaccuracies in the Netflix adaptation. While she was primarily referring to the casting, that’s not the main issue people like me have. And yes, there are a lot (and I mean A LOT) of issue with historical accuracy in the show (corsets, dresses, etc). But most of us know that this is meant to be fictional and while I would like it if some of the costumes were more Regency instead of Victorian, many of us are upset over this rape scene. Quinn firmly believes those of us criticizing the rape don’t understand the context of the time period she set the tale in. Au Contraire, Ms. Quinn. I have studied the years 1740-1860 since I was 12 years old and am currently 40, so I am more than a tad well versed in this area. Not to mention my MA Thesis was on 19th C Burlesque. I am well equipped to handle this Kevin Kruse style smackdown.

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Suzanne Lacy, Three Weeks in May 1977. Courtesy of suzannelacy.com

First, the historical context. Historically, rape has existed. It existed before Jane Austen was born and continues to exist after her death. I suspect it will continue long after my own demise as well. Marquette University has a wonderful page dedicated to Gothic Novels and the issue of Rape in them. They even state a 7th Lord Chief Justice Sir Matthew Hale (1671-1676) as stating “in a rape case it is the victim, not the defendant, who is on trial.” Marquette University also points out that there was this 1753 Act of Parliament called The Hardwicke Act, which was written and passed to prevent “clandestine marriages” from being legal. In our modern vernacular, they were trying to stop the kidnapping, rape, and forced marriages of wealthy women (or girls) to their rapists in order to preserve their honor. The main reason these illegal marriages were occurring stemmed from men who wanted control over the fortune and/or family connections these ladies had to offer. Now, how many marriages were still forced to save a woman’s honor? Probably quite a few even after this had passed. Most families would opt for the marriage to keep what occurred a secret instead of allowing it to become a scandal. But this doesn’t man rape was never prosecuted.

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Edgar Degas, Rape of the Sabines (based on the Nicholas Poussain 1630s Painting), 1861. Courtesy of the Norton Simon Museum

In 1777, Benjamin Russen, Clergyman and Educator, was found guilty and executed for the rape of Anne Mayne, child. While there were very few men executed for rape in the 18th C, there are many examples of rapists being accused and a few even went to trial. Most were, naturally, men of means (i.e. wealthy) and were found not guilty by attacking the victim’s character, especially if the victim was not a virgin to begin with. If this tactic sounds vaguely familiar, it’s one that is still used in our modern Society. Recall the hatred all the women who came forward to talk about the sexual abuse they experienced Brett Kavanaugh? How many times did we hear about how they had to be unreliable, but Kavanagh’s testimony was to be believed 200%? Or the over 20+ women and girls who have stated Donald Trump raped them and yet people don’t want to believe them? For all our talk of progressive values, it seems the issue of not believing a victim of sexual assault has existed for eons, and that should worry everyone.

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Evariste Vital Luminais, The Abduction (El Rapto), 1887-1889. Courtesy of the Museum of Belle Arts, Argentina

But wait, there’s more! These are a few, but not all, cases of rape that we know occurred PRIOR to the year 2000:

Hypatia of Alexandria (412) CE: stripped, beaten to death, body torn apart and burned. PLUS, we all know (even though it’s not recorded), they raped her

Rogneda of Polotsk (10thC CE) from Scandinavia was raped by Vladimir, the half brother of her fiancee, Yaro Polk I of Kiev, in front of her parents

Xenia Borisorna, Tsarina (1605), raped by False Dmitry I, who then forced her to become his concubine before sending her to a nunnery 6 months later

Artesmia Gentileeschi, Italian Artist (1611), raped by fellow artist Agostino Tassi and his friend, Cosimo Quorli

Mary Travers (1864), raped by Sir William Wilde, father of Oscar Wilde (playwright)

9 Yr old Girl (1860s), raped by Amos Greenwood, who was attempting to cure his syphllis (she died from it)

Waterloo Outrage/Mt Rennie/MaryJane Hicks (1886), 16 yr old Mary was gang raped by at least 8 men

Suryanelli Rape Case (1996), 16 yr old girl in India was gang raped by 37-42 men over a period of 400 days

Aruna Shanburg (1973) raped and choked by Brtha Walmiki (she passed in 2015 after bing in a vegatatve tate for 42)

Mathrua (1972), 15 yr old and raped by 2 policemen

Eliabeth Pena (16) and Jennifer Ertman (14) were gang rapped and murdered by 6 teenage boys in 1993

Junko Furuta (1988), raped by 4 men over a period of 40 day over 400 times before being murdered

Bhanwari Devi (1992), gang raped by 5 men

Pausanias of Orestis (336 BCE), bodyguard and lover of Philip II of Macedonia wa raped by Attalus & his servants (Attalus was Philip’s father in law); Pausanius killed Philip because there was no justice (and this led to the reign of Alexander the Great)

Boudicca’s Daughters (45 CE), gang raped by Roman Soldiers

Indigenious Peoples (1490s CE) raped by Columbus and his crew and they took notes on it (seriously, we have their journals)

Sarah Woodcock (1798), raped by Baron Frederick Calvert

Harriet Jacobs (born a slave), raped by her former owner Samueal Treawell Sawyer (who was a Congressman AFTER the civil War)

Kishnev Rape [POGROM], the murder of 49 Jews and the rape of Jewish Women by Russsian Men occurred in 1903

Dylan Farrow, 7, by her stepfather Woody Allen, in the 1970s

Marilyn Monroe (as a minor)

Eartha Kitt (born of rape and raped herself)

Billie Holiday

Maya Angelou

Rita Hayworth, raped by her father

Sandra Dee, raped by her stepfather

Oprah Winfrey publicly talked about her sexual abuse (which resulted in a pregnancy) in 1986 from age 9 to 13

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Kathleen Gilge, Susanna and the Elders Restored. Courtesy of kathleengilge.com

As we can see, we’ve known about rape for quite a while before 2000. And Austen herself knew about rape not only from literature (the Gothic novels of her time), her education (which would have included some of the classical mythologies as well as her upbringing as the daughter of a minister). It’s clear in Sense and Sensibility that Wiloughby’s seduction of Eliza (who IS underage) would be seen as a rape under English law at the time. Now, he refuses to marry her, even though she is pregnant, as this would have been seen as a way of saving her honor. But o notice that nowhere does Austen blame Eliza (nor does Brandon blame Eliza) for the decision to live quietly, have her child, and not be forced into a marriage with her rapist. This is a fairly modern way of thinking. Now, in Emma, Mr. Elton’s insistence that he was led on by Emma Woodhouse’s behavior is very much how a rapist defends himself in court (victim blaming). He tells her that she led him on with how she behaved. He refuses to take any blame for his actions. While I could find no evidence of Austen ever attending any rape cases, it is fairly certain she would have heard how they were conducted from her father, or even her uncle, who was a lawyer. Jane Austen would have know that current (to her time) English rape laws were based on the military laws of Henry V and Richard I (these primarily dealt with rape during a war and if you haven’t figured it out yet, Austen grew up during a time of war and had 2 brothers in the Royal Navy).

The Rape of Europa
Titian, Rape of Europa (1560-1562). Courtesy of Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

In 1563, the 24th Session o the Council of Trent made forced marriages illegal (though French Women were not granted this until 1793) and the marriages only had to be consensual between the two parties and lack of parental consent was not seen as an invalidation (unless you were French and female). We acknowledged date rape/acquaintance rape as something that does occur in the 1980s. Martial rape was recognized in the US in 1975 in South Dakota (the first state) while North Carolina didn’t recognize it as a violation until 1993 (making it the lat state). During the time of the novel, 1813, Napoleon in his address to the Army in Egypt, stated that he found rape committed by soldiers to be disgusting and declared that rapists were monsters and if he found any of his men committing such acts they would be executed. Again, this is something Quinn could have easily found IF she had done any research (which she does claim that she does do in order to write Regency romances). We could also mention that since the adaptation has made Simon a person of color (POC) Daphne raping him has strong connotations of colonialism and slavery as well.

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1823, Enslaved Africans cutting Cane in Antigua. Courtesy of University of Virginia & slaveryimages,org (image NW0054)

So, Julia Quinn, where is this no historical context you speak of? Clearly, during the period of 1813 in which you place The Duke & I, rape was an issue and there had been many laws regarding this. And as for the statement that women were seen as property in 1813, this would be an outdated mode of thinking as Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women was published in 1797. Not to mention the popularity of women authors earning their own money during this time (Anne Radcliffe, Maria Edgeworth, Fanny Burney). I can even cite more laws, because why not.

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John Opie, Mary Wollstonecraft (Mrs. William Goodwin), 1790-1791. Courtesy of The Tate Museum

Poet Lucretius in 50BCE condemned rape as a primitive behavior out side the boundaries of an advanced civilization (Volenta virir vis atque impenda libido). Emperor Dicoletion (284-305 CE) stated a victim is innocent of the rape, but at the same time stated it may have been caused by behavior. Lex Julia de vi Publix (3rd C CE) defined rape as forced sex by anyone against anyone (most scholars belief it has its roots from the reign of Julius Caesar; this did not protect sex workers or slaves). Ancient Rome had no statute of limitations on Rape, but Adultery had to be prosecuted within 5 yrs, Rome also had a law called The Crime of Lauis, meaning a man who is raped (based on the rape of Chrysippus by Lauis). Romans saw rape as a capital offense and a rapist could be executed (this was one of the few crimes one could be executed for in Rome). Thomas Aqunias in Suma Theologica (question 154) stated rape is sinful, but then goes on to state it’s not as bad as pulling out or masturbation. Medieval England had a Raptus Law (1100-1500CE), but was more about how women were property and raping of them was desecration of said property (law never saw a distinction between rape and abduction). Emperor Constantine redefined rape as a public offense instead of a private one (again, because women were property), and if it were discovered that the woman consented, she and the man were burned alive (even if she did not consent, she was burned as an accomplice to her own rape because patriarchy). Again, these are all laws that predate Austen and we should point out that even Rome acknowledged that men can be raped.

Rape of Lucretia by Sextus Tarquinius and her suicide, 16th C Illuminated Manuscript (Anon, Southern Germany, pre-1560). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Now, I thought I would list artworks that depicted rape, as Quinn as a degree from Harvard in Art, and decided to put a few examples scattered throughout this blog. Given her background in Art, there is no reason Quinn didn’t know that rape (specifically heroic and mythological rape) did not exist prior to Austen and prior to writing The Duke & I. I firmly believe there is no logical reason for rape to be included in any romance novels, or any form of entertainment, at this time. In 1979, a soap opera called General Hospital had Luke rape Laura, then stated it was a seduction, then resolved it all by getting the two characters to marry, because how completely 16th C of them to preserve Laura’s honor. Reader, even the actors who portrayed those characters have stated it was a rape and they hated that scene. Rick Deckard in Blade Runner (1982) forces himself on Rachel, but it’s portrayed as romantic and sexy with the music and in the sequel. Rape, even with a sexy saxophone background, is STILL rape. Dr. McDreamy in Grey’s Anatomy forces Meredith Grey to go out with him (he IS her boss) and just because they get married doesn’t make it any less wrong.

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Hans Van Aachan, Rape of Peresphone (1589). Public Domain

Shondaland Productions is know for gritty and dark moments. They did not HAVE to include the rape scene. While Quinn states readers haven’t made a big deal of it, the fact a majority of reviews of The Duke & I mention the rape and how it should have been left out. And some of these reviews date from when it was first released. Just because they made Simon sober instead of drunk doesn’t make it less of a rape. The whole scene is about power and consent. Daphne wants control over Simon. She denies him consent. If this were reversed, we would definitely be calling this out as rape.

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Simon Basset (Rege-Jean Page)

Lastly, Quinn made the remark in The Guardian that no one wants to adapt a contemporary piece of fiction anymore. And this is clearly a lie. Outlander has been successful and rape in those novels is depicted as violent (they wisely chose to NOT depict the violence as written when adapting the novels). To All the Boys (a Netflix Production) is a contemporary and minority driven romance adaptation. Even Game of Thrones decided to not depict a rape scene in the book when it was adapted. And GOT was all about sex….and dragons, but mostly sex. So if other adaptations can successfully NOT depict rape, even when its in the original novel, so can Bridgerton. Especially when the rape is being used in a way to romanticize the relationship. Because we shouldn’t normalize the notion that rape leads to love. Rape is a violation. It is morally wrong. Nothing about rape indicates love. NOTHING. So yes, Julian Quinn needs to be called out on this and needs to be held accountable. She’s not writing The Monk, nor The Italian (both Gothic novels predate Austen and depict rape or the threat of rape). Rape in literature, prior to Austen, was used to show depravity of a character and the power they had. By the time Austen was writing, there was no need to use rape as a literary device. So, Ms. Quinn, what’s your excuse then?

Resources

Morgan, Susan. Why There’s no Sex in Jane Austen’s Fiction. Women & Early Fiction V 19 N 3, Fall 1897. Pgs 346-356.

Easton, Celia A. ‘The Encourageent I Received”: Emma and the Language of Sexual Assault. JASNA V 37 N 1, Winter 2016.

Rodgers, Stephanie. Rape Culture and Austen (Boots Theory 1/14/2015).

Castle, Terry. Austen’s Characters know nothing of Date Rape, Unwanted Pregnanacies Hip Hop Bitches. Stanford University Book Haven (2/23/2014).

Tauchert, Ashley. Mary Wollstonecraft and Jane Austen: Rape an Love as (Feminist) Social Realism and Romance. Women and Cultural Review, V 14, N 2, Jan 2003. Pgs 144-158.

Kelly, Helena. Many Ways in Which We are Wrong About Jane Austen (Lit Hub May 3, 2017).

Friedersdorf, Conor. Jane Austen and Men Who Refuse to Hear No (The Atlantic 10/22/2014).

Anonymous, The Continuous Romanticization of Rape Victims. Voice for the Innocent (Feb 27, 2017).

Ortega, Johanny. Stop Romanticizing Rape in Books and Write What you Know (Medium 8/31/2020).

Beck. Julie. When Pop Culture Sells Dangerous Myths About Romance (The Atlantic 1/17/2018).

Harris, Carissa. Women have been Drugged and Raped by Men for Centuries (Vox).

Lewis, Matthew. The Monk (1796).

Coleridge, ST. Review of The Monk (1797).

De Sade, Marquis. Justine or The Misfortunes of Virtue (1791).

Cleland, John. Fanny Hill (1748-1749).

Richardson, Samuel. Sir Charles Grandison (1753), Pamela (1740), Clarissa (1748).

Pope, Alexander. The Rape of Lock (1717).

Radcliffe, Anne. A Sicilian Romance (1790), Romance of the Forest (1791), Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), The Italian (1797).

Burney, Frances. Evelina (1778), Cecilia (1782), Camilla (1796).

Walpole, Horace. Castle of Otranto (1764).

Romano, Aja. Bridgerton Has a Rape Scene, but it’s not Treated as a Rape Scene (Vox 12/26/20).

Schifano, Izzy. There was a Rape Scene in Bridgerton and No one Seems to have Realized (Vox 1/4/2021).

Kelly, Alice. How Bridgerton Failed Male Rape Survivors (Your Tango 1/13/2021).

Simon-Kerr, Julia. Unchaste and Incredible. Yale Law Journal V 118 N 8 (June 2008).

Redhead, Amanda. Stop Romanticizing the Sexual Assault of Young Men (Huff Post)

The Mary Sue, Bridgerton and Consent.

Fox, Caroline. Bridgerton Failed to Fix Mistake (Screen Rant).

Freedman, Eselle B. Women’s Long Battle to Define Rape (Washington Post 8/24/2012).

Bindel, Julie. Rape: A Burning Justice (The Guardian 8/13/2013).

Wolf, Leonard. Women are Purused, Tortured, Ensalved, Raped. (NY Times 1/14/1973).

Thompson, James R. Metaphor of Rape Culture (Wisconsin. edu)

Eitelmann, Matthais and Stella Butler. The Organic Uncanny: Taboo, Sexuality, and Death in British Gothic Novels.

Sex and Horror in Gothic Novels (Bookbywomen.org)

Gothic Tropes and Incest (The Gothic LIbrary)

Grove, Allen W. Coming out of the Castle: Gothic, Sexuality, and the Limits of Language. Historical Reflections V 26 N 3 (Fall 2000).

Incest in the Gothic Novel (Denison.edu)

Bridgerton: A Review

Well, first I must apologize for not writing as much last year as I thought I would be. An unexpected increase in workload meant I had little time for anything other than trying to sleep and survive. But I resolve to try an start this 2021 year off with a bit of fun and fluff.

Bridgerton | Netflix Official Site
Courtesy of Netflix

Bridgerton, if you haven’t heard, is a book series by Julia Quinn set in the Regency. The books are fictional, so there is very little attempt at them being historically accurate, other than the basic facts (like who is the ruler, dropping the name of well-known and famous society leaders, etc). Now, the Netflix series has gotten some criticism for casting people of color, some in prominent roles. To me, it’s refreshing because it IS historically accurate. Sorry to burst the fragile misconceptions of every Austen Adaptation ever, but there were non white people living in England during the 18th Century (and even earlier, if we’re being truthfully honest). Theatre folk (of which I will always be), know that blind casting really is the best way to cast roles. People who are good SHOULD play parts that suit them as actors, not skin color. And we should have more diverse casting. We should have disabled actors, trans actors, etc cast based on their ability, not their looks. But I digress…

Romance novels have this reputation for being the cheesy bodice rippers published by Silhouette or Avon (for example). But Romance Novels are a unique literary form that we should never sneer at. Many of us have probably read a cheesy romance novel, or two, growing up. I myself m exceptionally fond of the Gothic romance novels of the 1960s and not just because they have fun cover art (which they do).

Vintage Gothic Romance Books Classics Paperback Novels 1960's 1970's Women  running from houses, heroines in pe… | Gothic romance books, Gothic books,  Gothic romance
Courtesy of Pinterest

Romance novels are pure escapism. Austen novels have been labeled as romance, young adult, and adult fiction in libraries and in bookstores. I myself have outlined for 6 Austen style novels (one being written and edited and rewritten and you get the picture). There is nothing wrong with writing or enjoying Romance just as long as you remember not to take it too seriously (thought it can be hard).

The 'Bridgerton' Ending, Explained | 'Bridgerton' Season 1 Finale
Lady Danbury and Simon Basset, courtesy of Marie Claire

As an adaptation, I think Bridgerton is well done and has moments of being far superior than the recent ITV Austen adaptations. The costumes are rich, colorful, and sometimes a tad ridiculous (the Feathertons in particular), but they are all well made and have that silhouette we all associate with the Regency Era. They do an adequate job of visually giving us insight into the person’s social status, mood, marital status, and degree of social acceptability. As well as mixing elements of the fantastical with the historical. Visually, it is a delight.

Romp and circumstance: why Netflix's Bridgerton is just our cup of tea this  year | Period drama (TV) | The Guardian
Queen Charlotte, courtesy of Netflix

Now, as far as the adaptation goes for being faithful to the book, I must confess that I cannot supply any information. Now, I did try to read the first novel, The Duke and I, but had to stop due to a triggering element that, while it was not the same in the series, a similar event was depicted and I do have issues with it. That element is rape. In the novel, the “heroine” rapes the Duke (he is drunk) and denies it ever occurring up until they are married. As a victim of sexual assault, I could not finish the novel. No matter how it is framed, nor that the people involved end up being “in love”, rape is never acceptable. Ever. I found it repugnant and disturbing that any author would use the disgusting and reprehensible troupe of rape, but framing it within the confines of a romance, thus trying to make it acceptable (or palatable) to the reader.

not amused puppy - Google Search | Funny animals, Funny, Funny pictures
Puppy is NOT Amused, courtesy of Pinterest

I found the rape so triggering, that I engaged in some self harm (which I will not disclose as to the TYPE other than it doesn’t involve any knives nor blood and yes, I do see a therapist and have for years). Now, the adaptation did not include the rape scene as written, but still included a rape scene nonetheless, which was extremely disappointing. Any forward thinking person will tell you that even in the midst of engaging in a sexual activity, when one person says STOP or NO, it all stops. Period. The adaptation still had the heroine rape the Duke, but now within the confines of the marriage bed, which makes it that much better.

Reader, it does not.

Spousal rape is real and it should never be treated lightly nor be filmed as one person had the right to continue. And that was how it was framed. Daphne is seen as being in the right to force her husband to ejaculate inside her because she wants a child. This is rape. He clearly tells her to stop. Not once, but many times. And yes, we should be having this conversation because no mater how much I enjoyed this adaptation, I am utterly disgusted they would still keep Daphne’s rape of Simon in. It doesn’t matter that she did it after they were married instead of before. We do not need to see depictions of rape, including spousal rape, in any adaption that is advertised as a romance. This season is framed around the book The Duke and I. It’s touted as being a historical romance.

Bollywood angered over Hathras gang rape, demand justice for victim |  Deccan Herald
Courtesy o the Deacon Herald

Rape has no place in romance novels. It has no place in adaptations. No matter how much I enjoyed this series, I cannot fathom why the producers decided it would be perfectly acceptable to include rape. The story could have worked perfectly fine without it. Simon (the Duke), in a moment of passion couldn’t have forgotten to pull out since that was his main form of birth control. Or have him use a condom (yes, they existed) and have one tear or rip or perhaps he forgets? There are so many other ways to possibly hint at Daphne being late with her period without the rape. The pull out method is known to not be 100% effective against pregnancy and considering they devoted an entire episode to them screwing each other, you are telling me that not once he might have forgotten to pull out? Seriously? I understand that this is a work of fiction. Trust me, I know because I write fiction (though I endure the added burden of trying to be as historically accurate as possible). But once you start having some structure of reality to help us believe the world we are in, logic will come into play. According to Planned Parenthood, unless you are using a condom and/or birth control with the pull out method, 1 in 5 who only do the pull out method will get pregnant within a year. So, this means Daphne really had nothing to worry about because statistically, she would have gotten pregnant eventually.

Now, the series is enjoyable and I do recommend it because it is so rare for me to see anyone who looks even remotely like me on screen (big or small) that isn’t a terrorist or a servant that the biggest draw for the series IS the diverse cast. And if you ignore (or skip) the whole rape scene, it is an enjoyable series.

There’s still the old troupe of how the fat girl can’t possibly be anything other than the friend until she magically becomes beautiful (Yes, I’m looking at you Lady Whitstone).

Becoming Jane: Review

BONUS ADAPTATION! Since we’ve know talked about revisionist history and learned a bit about all of that, I thought it would be fun to do two bonuses to our Austen Adaptations! The first is Becoming Jane (2007).

Tom LeFroy (James McAvoy) and Jane Austen (Anne Hawathay)

This film is based on a book titled Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Hunter Spence and is considered a demi-biography as he uses the plot device of Pride and Prejudice as well as Austen’s Letters to piece together her early life as well as the possibility of her romance with Thomas LeFroy based on her mentions of the man from her letters to her sister, Cassandra. I’ve read the letters myself. She mentions him twice in 1795 and once a few years later. If that’s the basis of an unrequited love affair, color me shocked. Jane also mentions trying to find pink silk stockings with much more fervor. The Jane Austen Society does endorse the book by stating the author does seem to understand the character of Jane Austen. Endorsing the book doesn’t mean his book is accurate, only that it is enjoyable to read. I have looked on the JAS website and no where do they claim that rthis book is historically accurate. They only reviewed it as being an enjoyable read. I do think sometimes they should start off such books with a disclaimer that they don’t endorse such books as being historically accurate first off so people don’t believe it’s truthful, only conjecture (because this is where revisionist history can become an issue).

Jane being confronted by her parents, the Rev George Austen (James Cromwell) and Mrs. Austen (Julie Walters).

Firstly, the film gets many things wrong. I have not read the originally source material (the book that the film is based on) so I do not know if the author made the Austen family out to be poorer than they were in reality. If the author did not make them out to be this poor, then this was Hollywood taking liberties with the truth to make Jane seem more desperate to make a rich match than she was in reality. In Deidre Le Faye’s book, Jane Austen’s Country Life, she points out that Rev. Austen made over 300£ profit on his own farm that he rented during a “bad” year. That’s about $590 (roughly as exchange rates vary daily), but that’s still a fairly decent profit in a bad year, given how much he had to pay in rent, plus the workers who were doing the actual labor. Mrs. Austen was known to grow berry bushes, chickens and other fowls. No where have I ever come across her sowing or digging up her own potatoes. Remember that Mr. Bennet spends around 100£ a year on each of his girl’s allowances in Pride and Prejudice, so having three times that amount extra per year is not a bad thing. Yes, Jane was not from a wealthy family, but she wasn’t as poor as the filmmakers made her out to be. When her father died in 1805, they did sink into poverty, this is true. But at the time of this film (being, I believe 1795), she wasn’t poverty stricken yet.

Mrs. LeFroy (Eleanor Metheven), Jane, Lucy LeFroy (Jessica Ashworth), and Comtesse Eliza de Feullide (Lucy Cohu)

The date this takes place also beings me to a state of confusion in terms of the costuming. Looking at the above scene, both Mrs. LeFroy and Eliza are in late 1790s gowns, but Austen is in a gown closer to 1810. The young girl is also shown as being old enough to attend balls and has her hair down, which we should all know by now I have a distinct hatred for. Either she is too young and doesn’t not attend the balls and can have her hair down (which she looks old enough to start having it up anyways), or have it up.

Jane and Mr. Wisely (Laurence Fox)

In real life, Jane Austen agreed to marry Harris Biggs-Wither. The next day, she called it off. From all accounts, he was not a good looking man and they had nothing in common. She was forced into accepting it by her mother, Mrs. Austen. Mr. Wisely, in this film, takes the place of Mr. Biggs-Wither, except he is much better looking and they actually have things in common. Mr. Wisley did not exist in real life.

Eliza, Jane, and Henry Austen (Joe Anderson)

Wandering waistlines aside, I don’t believe umbrellas had out modern coverings of polyurethane yet. Nice use of the pug though. Henry should either have his hair short or have it pulled back. Eliza’s husband was guillotined in 1794, so this taking place in 1795 is historically accurate (at that point). I don’t mind the blue color on Anne Hathaway because it is a lovely color on her, but they use it a lot and the shifting waistlines just bothers me. For a big budget film, one would think they would do a better job at hiring a historical consultant (and not just the author of the book they used as a source material).

Cassandra (Anna Maxwell-Martin) and Jane

A few things they showed in this film that did happen, but they speed up in order to fit into this film. Cassandra did get engaged to a clergyman, who was accompanying his cousin’s ship overseas. They gave him the name Thomas Fowle, which is odd since his name was Robert Fowle. I don’t know why they didn’t just use the man’s name. He did die of yellow fever, but not in 1795, in 1797. His cousin, left Cassandra a 1,000£ legacy to compensate her for the loss of her betrothed. Cassandra never married. George Austen was sent to a small farm where he lived the rest of his life. No where have I found any evidence that he was deaf or hard of hearing. From all accounts he seems to have been on the Autism spectrum. Sign language did exist (there was a form of it that existed in France around the 1800s at that time, but I have no idea of what they were using in the film was at all accurate or not). I don’t recall Jane ever mentioning her brother George at all in her letters so I highly doubt she had any kind of close relationship with him. It’s possible his parents and even a few of his brothers saw him from time to time, but he spent his life away from his family. Jane Austen also never met Mrs. Radcliffe. I wish these two authors would have met in real life, but alas, that never happened!

Lady Gresham (Maggie Smith)

Now, are there any good points? Yes there are. James McAvoy is a treat to watch in this film. I have enjoyed him ever since I saw him in Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe. He was fantastic in Split and Glass. He is equally talented in this film. Maggie Smith steals what little screen time she has, so it’s always a pleasure to see her whenever she is in a film. Anna as Cassandra is overshadowed by Anne Hathaway, which is a pity since Cassandra is such a vital figure to Jane Austen’s life. Same with Mrs. LeFroy, who barely makes an appearance yet was an important figure to Austen’s life. I do like they showed a game of cricket being played, as the first game was played in Dartford in the early 18th Century (yes, I checked).

Jane & Tom; the red overdress is too 1970s with the thin straps.

The bad points: the costumes are hits and misses. A lot is made of the supposed love affair between LeFroy and Austen base don three mentions in a few letters and LeFroy mentioning years later that he had a “boyish love” for Austen in his youth. The fact is he was already engaged with he went to visit his aunt and met Jane in 1795. If he flirted, Mrs. LeFroy may have seen him as going too far and sent him on his way before he hurt her young friend. That’s probably all there was to the tale. His “boyish love” years later was most likely a bit of a crush looking back on his memories. We want to make much of this instance when there may have been nothing there. Also in 1795, based on her letters, Jane was working on Sense & Sensibility, not Pride & Prejudice, so the author using the second novel as a basis for her love affair is a little bit…awkward.

Thomas LeFroy (1798) after his marriage

Love & Friendship (Lady Susan) Adaptation

Love & Friendship came out in 2016 and was adapted fro the screen by Whilt Stillman, who also directed. When it first came out, I mistakingly read Jane Austen’s juvenilia piece entitled Love & Friendship and then became utterly confused as the piece I read had nothing to do with the film I saw. Instead, Stillman borrowed the title of one piece and adapted another, Lady Susan, to the screen. This is the only adaptation of Lady Susan for the screen at this time. Lucy Prebble has been hired by BBC and Celdor Films to adapt Lady Susan as of 2009, but nothing about that adaptation has been made available. There has been three different stage versions in recent years as well as three different re-writes of the novella. However, this is about the only screen version and how truthful and accurate is it to the novella.

Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan

I think that for the only adaptation for this Jane Austen novella, it’s pretty decent. It’s not an easy novella to adapt, first of all, simply because it’s written as a series of letters.  I believe Sense & Sensibility was first conceived that way before Austen decided to change it, so we can be thankful that she only played with this format once. It’s a tale that we are not used to seeing from Jane Austen as it deals with sex, manipulation, obvious social climbing, adultery, and all sorts of things one would expect in a a rollicking good Georgian novel like Tom Jones, not Austen. Most scholars date this to have been written in 1794 and the adaptation was said to have taken place at around the same time. I believe the costumes are pretty accurate.

1790s Dress from the Kyoto Fashion Museum

1790s Dress from the Museo del Traje (Madrid, Spain); Both gowns are from the same time period.

Portrait of Emma Hart (later Lady Hamilton) by George Romney, Museum of Fine Art, Boston

1790s Portrait of Emma Hart (Later Lady Hamilton); her hair and hat are very similar to Lady Susan’s as pictured below. [Public Domain]

Mrs. Alicia Johnson (Chloë Sevigny) and Lady Susan

An interesting choice made, which at first I didn’t like, but upon watching it again, I ended up enjoying was to make Mrs. Johnson, Lady Susan’s confidant, an ex-Patriot from America. Making her someone who was loyal to the Crown and having to flee the Colonies for her British sentiment made her husband’s (Stephen Fry) threats to send her away both comical and frightening. Especially since the Revolutionary War had recently ended and the War of 1812 was soon to start (plus there were still some skirmishes occurring between American and Britain at this time). While the director admitted to changing the film a few times on set because of the ingenuity of the actors (and allowing them to have input into their characters), a majority of the lines do come from and are influenced by the actual letters from the novella. I would state that 90% of the dialogue is based upon those letters, which is fairly decent in my mind.

Catherine DeCourcy Vernon (Emma Greenwell) with her brother Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel)

I appreciated the use of wigs, especially the non-white ones on the men (the older men particularly). One thing is apparently clear and that is income (loss of income) is a running theme in all of Austen’s published works (this work wasn’t published until 1871). I did love the use of agricultural and farming news because that was an important part of living on an estate and part of Austen’s daily life. I also love how they had all the characters introduced in the beginning, which is a very classic silent film era technique.

Fredrica Vernon (Morfydd Clark), Lady Susan’s daughter

There really isn’t much criticism for this film. It’s very witty and charming. I really wished they had not changed the title because it deserves to be known as Lady Susan since she is the main character and the subject of almost everyone’s thoughts and concerns. A very good job was done to take the text from the novella and build it into dialogue to make it sounds like dialogue from the Georgian Era instead of a sentence from a letter (which is much harder than it sounds). I did find it weird that Lord Manwaring (Lochlann O’Mearáin) is shown and interacts with Lady Susan, but never speaks. He is there, but silent.

Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett) is Fredrica’s suitor

The music used in the film is very lovely and even the servants in this piece are well dressed and colorful, which is always nice to see. This may not be the nest adaptation of a Jane Austen work out there not of this particular work, but I have not read nor seen the plays and this is the only version that is accessible to everyone. I don’t think it’s a requirement to read Lady Susan before watching this film. The novella is a bit hard to read because it’s only a series of letters and can get a trifle dull and confusing at times. As a film, this shows a side of Jane Austen we rarely get to see outside of her personal letters. We see her as an author being more witty and more sexually aware of how women are seen in society. She’s having fun with this character and doesn’t punish Lady Susan for enjoying pleasures of the flesh. Which is interesting for the daughter of a clergyman to take. I highly recommend it and do believe it should be a part of any Austen collection for who knows if we’ll ever get another adaptation of this novella.

Reginald DeCourcy, Mr. Johnson (Stephen Fry), and Lady Lucy Manwaring (Jenn Murray)

Got to adore the way the film introduces each character!

Sense & Sensibility: 2008 Sexed Up Version

This brings up to the last adaptation and the one that’s just…weird and shouldn’t be. Andrew Davis did the adaptation and normally he’s really good at adapting Austen, but this time he really screwed up. He explicitly stated his intent was to make people forget the Ang Lee film by making this version “overtly more sexual” than previous versions because this was a novel about two sisters going on  “a voyage of burgeoning sexual and romantic discovery” (BBC Online 2008; I kid you not). The costume designer was Michele Clapton who described Marianne as a “Wild Child” and bright colors were needed to convey this wildness. Karen Hartley-Thomas (hair and makeup designer) stated ringlets seen in portraits didn’t exist in real life, and only lower classes wore makeup.

Pinterest

After my melt down at the utter pomposity of the statements I read, I did watch it. I regretted it almost immediately (thank god I checked it out from the library is all I am saying. It starts off with Willoughby seducing an underage girl, presumably Brandon’s ward, as a way to “sex up” the production. Per Davis, it was “quite interesting and steamy stuff like a lot of underage sex that goes on and is just talked about. I want to put it on the screen (Trinity Mirror 29 May 2006).” I am going to have to say that it’s not needed. You don’t need to see Willoughby behaving like the jerk we know he is because seeing it lessens the emotional impact when it’s revealed what he’s done later on. It actually ruins the reveal Austen made in the novel. Same with adding a duel between Willoughby and Brandon. The duel exists in one little segment in the novel where Brandon reveals to Elinor what Willoughby has done and that they fought. It’s not a significant moment and no adaptation has ever shown it because it’s not important. Davis used it as an excuse to add more sexual overtones to the adaptation. I wish he didn’t.

Mrs. Dashwood (Janet McTeer), Elinor (Hattie Morahan), Marianne (Charity Wakefield), and Margaret (Lucy Boyton)

Right after the seduction scene, we get the death of the father, John Dashwood Senior and the arrival of John Dashwood, his wife Fanny, and their very portly son, Henry. And I do take offense to this. It’s clear they cast a fat child for laughs and it’s really beneath the casting director at this point to be doing this in this day and age. Yes, it’s nice to cast a child for the adaptation since most don’t have John and Fanny’s son, but to purposefully go out of the way to make the son an object of ridicule is just wrong at this point in Society. Likewise the casting of Mark Gatiss as John Dashwood and Claire Skinner as his wife Fanny is just odd. On screen they look fine, but they don’t act like there’s any kind of relationship there. With the other John & Fanny pairings, I believed that they were a married couple. I didn’t feel it was believable this time.

John Dashwood, Little Henry (Morgan Overton), and Fanny Dashwood

We also have an issue with hair (quelle surprise) in this adaptation. It seems the designer in charge fail to realize that since people only washed their hair once a week to every other week, things like ringlets could be easily maintained using rags and pomade. There were also (get this) curling rods once heated up in the fireplace to curl hair. Then one would probably coat with pomade as it would probably singe the hair a little bit to lessen the frizz. Al lthis is available at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which they claim they spent a month at doing research (yes, I am doing a major eyeroll right now).

Marianne and Willoughby (Dominic Cooper)

Other issues are Marianne either has her hair up, which is correct, or down, which is not proper at all. She is technically “out” and not in the schoolroom. There is no verifiable reason for her long hair to be down in front of anyone in public. Then Willoughby looks like they are giving him a Harry Styles kind of look with enough hairspray that his hair doesn’t even move in the wind. hairspray didn’t exit yet! They won’t use makeup, even though it existed, but will use hairspray? Oh, but they did allow the women to use corrective foundation because that is period correct. Sweet lord this production is just all kinds of inaccuracies. It’s the complete opposite of the type of work Andrew Davis was putting out in the 1990s. Then he really did do research and tried to handle the material with care. This time, he’s all about sexing it up because he thinks that’s what the people want. I hate to tell you but we don’t. Don’t put sex into Austen. Don’t add sex into something that doesn’t need it. There’s enough sensuality and romance in her works without the modern titillation.

Miss Grey (the actress’ name is not listed anywhere I can find)

There are issues with the costumes as well. As you can see, Miss Grey’s ballgown is sleeveless, which is not acceptable and was not worn. This production did not use any costumes from any previous adaptation or any stock clothing and claimed it made everything fresh. They should have done better research then because they have wandering waistlines and clothing from different time periods. Miss Grey’s gown is more 1970s than anything else. Margaret’s gowns usually sit at her natural waist, which is weird for an adaptation set in 1810. Lucy Steel has a long curl over her shoulder like a woman from the 1770s with puffed sleeves more from the 1815 era. Mrs. Jennings has hair more like Marie Antoinette in a Vigee Le Brun portrait while her daughter, Lady Middleton is more 1830’s Victorian. The color palettes range from bright pastels to greys, to earth tones, which I don’t mind. Then you get these bright pops of color, which don’t make sense in the overall view. Plus with the overall grey filter they were using, everything looked dull, lifeless and was depressing.

Mrs. Jennings (Linda Bassett), Sir John Middleston (Mark Williams), and Lady Middleton (Rosanna Lavelle)

Now, there are some good parts of this adaptation. The relationship between Mrs. Jennings, Sir John Middleton, and Lady Middleton was all right. Lady Middleton was quite blasé and uninterested in anything, which fits from her description from the novel, accept she’s more languid in this version than one would expect.. Sir John is energetic and delightful while Mrs. Jennings is utterly forgettable as a character. That’s actually quite tragic considering Mrs. Jennings is such a fun character and Linda Bassett is a terrific actress. Dan Stevens portrays Edward Ferrars and is a much more charming and more easy going version than seen previously, though he seems to be imitating Hugh Grant at times. He also seems to stutter a bit, so there seems to be a general consensus that Edward has difficulty in speaking in all the adaptations even though it’s never mentioned in the novel. Lucy is annoying as is her sister, Anne (I always get confused as to whether her sister is Anne or Nancy because each adaptation that has her keeps changing her name back and forth). I don’t mind having the two Steele sisters, but I also didn’t mind just having the one as Ann is annoying and really offers nothing significant to the novel, other than talking about men and spilling the beans about Lucy’s secret engagement (which Ang Lee’s version has shown how poetic it is to have Lucy betray her lover to his own sister).

Edward visits and chops wood in the rain.

Trying to top his infamous Darcy in the Lake scene, Davis has decided upon Edward chopping wood in the rain. While Darcy wishing to cool down after a long ride made sense historically and logically, chopping wood in the rain does not. One, it’s dangerous because wood gets slippery. Secondly, the actor got sick because of this and was ill for most of the shoot. Never, ever put your actor’s health at risk for something this stupid. It’s not sexy and it makes no sense whatsoever. And I highly doubt Edward Ferrars would do any physical labor of this kind. This sort of labor was not done by men of his social status. Men of his social sphere boxed, fenced, rode horses-they did not chop wood.

Colonel Brandon (David Morrisey)

Like previous BBC versions, Colonel Brandon is at the ball when Marianne confronts Willoughby and Miss Steele, which is not in the novel at all. And while Andrew Davis stated he wished to distance himself from the 1995 film version, he pulled a lot of imagery and script ideas from it. Namely the relationship between Edward and Margaret, Marianne getting sick from standing in the rain at Cleveland Park and being rescued by Colonel Brandon, expanding Margret’s role from the novel, Marianne getting injured int he rain and being offered help by Willoughby (while he helps her in the novel, no where does Austen state it takes place in the rain). There’s even similar costumes and color palettes being used for the same characters.

Brandon from 1995 & 2008; similar rich tones and even striped waistcoats

Elinor 2008

Elinor & Marianne in 1995

There was also the very odd choice of making Mrs. Dashwood sensible and suspicious of Willoughby, which is the complete opposite of her character in the novel and in every adaptation. Austen describes Mrs. John Dashwood as being very much like Marianne-romantic, flighty, emotional. She is charmed by Willoughby and cannot think ill of him. To have her be suspicious of him is just wrong on so many levels. Then the trip to Allenham that Willoughby takes Marianne to is weird. There are no servants ever seen and the place looks deserted. For a place he visits every year that belongs to his aunt (and we assume she lives there year round), doesn’t it seem very unlikely that there would be no one around, especially his aunt, when they arrive? Plus her hair is down the entire time and that just bothers me to no end. She comes off of some kind of cheap floozy instead of a gentleman’s daughter.

Miss Eliza Williams (Caroline Hayes)

I don’t mind showing Eliza and the baby in this adaptation. I think it’s nice to see Brandon react and show that he forgives his ward for her mistake and that he will always see that they are taken care of. I believe I mentioned earlier that the seduction scene was not needed and I stand by that. I do think David Morrisey did a decent job of portraying Brandon, but I felt there was no connection between him and and the actress who portrayed Marianne. This Marianne just is too crazed, too unpredictable to be likable. She’s too over the top that it’s really hard to have any kind of sympathy for her. This Marianne is selfish, a bit cruel, and uncaring. One kind of hope she dies of her illness, to be honest.

Miss Steele (Daisy Haggard) and Lucy Steele (Ann Madeley)

There are some good points in this production. Lucy Steele comes across as a young girl who is unsure of Edward’s affections and is worried he is in love with another (Elinor) and so confides in Elinor hoping to persuade said woman to not pursue the man she loves. She is pitiable in her own way. Her sister is crude, they are not wealthy, and her only chance to escape the poverty she is from is to marry a rich man. Lucy comes across as being less evil and more of someone who is trying to survive.

Mrs. Dashwood & Margaret

I do like Janet McTeer as Mrs. Dashwood. While I don’t agree with the script changes, I do like the inner strength she conveys. If this was an interpretation instead of an adaptation, I would like it much better. She would make a fantastic Lady Catherine de Burgh. Margaret likewise is really good. She isn’t as charming as the 1995 Margaret, but she is a little bit more mature, which is fine too. Though the obsession with sea shells was something I didn’t understand. And I thought it would have been nice to see Margaret being taught language and other subjects like they did in Ang Lee’s version because while it’s not int the novel, it would have been a part of a daily routine.

I have to say that this Willoughby by far was the worst I’ve ever seen on screen and I’ve seen this actor before, so I know he can act. The script played an issue here. As well the hair and costume. The hair was awful, the seduction scene just killed any kind of sympathy we may have had for him. And having Marianne overhear his confession to Elinor just didn’t make any sense. He played a straight up cad who was unredeemable and Austen does give him some redeeming qualities. A few, but they are there. Andrew Davis stripped him of those qualities.

The ending is just weird, but what else can we expect from this hyper-sexualized version. Edward proposes to Elinor, but it doesn’t end with a wedding. That would be too easy and simple. No, we must end with Brandon taming some horses while Marianne is watching. Clearly a euphemism about how he will be taming her sexually (or dominating her sexually) very soon. So, do I recommend this version? Absolutely not! I don’t understand why it got the high praise that it did, unless people just really went for the sex and completely forgot that the sex wasn’t in Austen to begin with. It really saddens me as a person who loves Jane Austen to see this progression to push more and more more sex into literature that never had it to begin with. 2005’s Pride and Prejudice, for example, pushed a more heightened sense of sexuality into the novel that wasn’t there because they felt the novel needed it in order to make it relevant to modern audiences. Actually, it doesn’t Modern audiences just want a good, faithful adaptation that’s done well and done historically well. We don’t want sex added to it. We don’t want modern ideals put into it. We want it done faithfully and respectfully. That’s  it.

Plus, there was that weird trip to LYME COBB that is no where in the NOVEL! What the Hell Andrew Davis?! Lyme is in Persuasion! Not Sense and Sensibility!

Sense & Sensibility: 1995 Adaptation

We now come to what most of us have probably all ready seen. The screenplay was adapted by Emma Thompson, who won an Oscar for it and the film was directed by Ang Lee (a golden globe winner at this time). Costumes were designed by Jenny Beaven and John Bright (they both designed the costumes for Room with a View in 1986 and won Oscars for their designs). So, this production had impressive talent behind the screen and in front of it.

Mrs. Dashwood (Gemma Jones), Marianne (Kate Winslet), Margaret (Emilie François), and Elinor (Emma Thompson) in front of Barton Cottage.

So, unlike previous adaptations, it starts off with the father dying (Tom Wilkinson is a brief cameo) and extracting a promise from his son to look after his stepmother and his half-sisters. This is from the novel and is also spoken of but never seen. I actually like seeing it because it makes the nest scene, where John and Fanny are discussing it, all the more evil for not anting to abide by the promise he made to his dead father. It really highlights just how miserly the pair of them area as to deny helping his half sisters even though he promised his own father on the man’s deathbed.

Fanny Dashwood (Harriet Walter) and John Dashwood (James Fleet)

There is no mention of them having a son (it’s in the novel) and this isn’t the first adaptation to not have him present. I don’t think the son really adds to anything other than to give them a slight excuse for being so miserly (wanting to save the money of their son). Not having him just allows them to be seen as being greedy and for who they truly are. Though I do love the substitution of a lapdog for the son. It’s period correct that wealthy women had ornamental lap dogs and who’s to say that they don’t have a son, but he was sent away for schooling by this time? This is also the first adaptation to include Margaret, the youngest sister, which makes the meagerly 500£ for four people seem even more strained (as it should be).

Sir John Middleton (Robert Hardy) and Mrs. Jennings (Elizabeth Spriggs)

Next to his role in All Creatures Great and Small, this has to be my favorite role for Robert Hardy (others will remember him as Cornelius Fudge from the Harry Potter films). He was also an expert on the Medieval Longbow and wrote two books on the subject. But in this role, he really sparkled as Sir John. He’s funny, charismatic, playful, and does everything he can to be of assistance to his cousins and neighbors. I actually don’t mind that he’s a widow as Lady Middleton really does play no significant part in the novel other than to be annoying. As for the Middleton children, I would assume that if there are any, they are being taken care of at a local farm (if they are too young which was customary) or are of an age that they are away at school. If not, then he probably has a cousin who will inherit. He seems to be happy nonetheless. Elizabeth Spriggs portrayal of Mrs. Jennings is as lighthearted and fun as Patrica Routledge’s version from 1971. She is also overly bubbly, vivacious, and has grand gestures and it works for her character. She is also sweet natured and kind, which does endear this character to you.

Elinor, Margaret, and Marianne

The hair in this film was extremely well researched and done very well. Now, if one is gong to have children with their hair down, this is how to do it properly. Girls who were not out could have their hair down, but it had to look neat and tidy as well. Once a girl has transitioned from the school room and was “out”, her hair was up. So, notice how Elinor and Marianne have hair that is up, but Margaret, being only 12 and still in the schoolroom, is allowed to have her hair down. Also let’s talk about how they all, at a glance, look like sisters. All have similar colored hair and texture. Margaret has the curliest, with Marianne with curls as well, Elinor, one presumes, has more wavy hair. Yet they all look like they are related. Plus the use of natural light in this film makes it stand out more than any other adaptation. One can truly see the colors and textures without a lot of influence of gels on top (gels being colored filters). Though some filters were probably used to soften the light, there was a push to try and use or mimic natural light for this film by the director. It gives it a freshness and clean look that was not seen before.

Willoughby (Greg Wise) and Marianne

Willoughby’s hair is also very well done. The fading of the mutton chops highlights his cheekbones, which plays up his mouth. He is a rake, but is meant to be romantic at the same time. Very Lord Byron with his hair and the colors used on  him are very warm, very autumnal, which was a nice contrast with Edward, who was very cool (and so mimicked Elinor).

Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman)

Brandon likewise had a nice fade and while his hair was longer, I think the intent was to show he was not as fashionable as Willoughby, so perhaps didn’t get his hair cut and styled as often, which is in line with the character. This is probably the first film most people know Alan Rickman from and fell in love with him. I liked him in Die Hard and didn’t like it when they killed his character off (also didn’t like it when he died in Robin Hood either-he made villains seem more charismatic). This version of Brandon is less like Darcy and more in like the character from the novel. He’s more in tune with his feelings, more soft spoken and more romantic. Less brooding too, which I appreciated. Brandon should be allowed to be his own person and not some kind of Darcy wannabe, which is what the previous versions have done.

Elinor and Edward Ferrars (High Grant); Norland is shown to have a working farm on it.

Now, some critics didn’t like that the scene where Elinor and Edward go riding was added as it’s not in the novel. I think it worked for the film because it shows these two spending time together away from the house. People did ride horses on their estates as a form of exercise. And it shows Norland to be a working estate with the sheep and cows in the background. All of these things are period correct. So they changed Elinor drawing to her riding a horse and I don’t mind. It’s a minor change and doesn’t affect the main story at all. Likewise, they cut the scene where the Dashwood sisters meet Mrs. Ferrars, which isn’t important to the plot, and they cut Nancy Steele as well. Again, not important to the plot as long as Lucy Steele is still there (which she is and somehow making her responsible for revealing her own secret is somehow much more poetic).

Marianne, Margaret, and Elinor; notice all three are wearing aprons.

I really cannot find fault at all with the costumes. A lot of detail went into them and a lot of research as well. I can tell that period undergarments were being worn based on the silhouettes. The attention to detail in having them all wearing aprons or smocks when when teaching Margaret as to protect their gown from ink is such a little, tiny historical accuracy that I wish more productions put in. Especially when you see all the correct period instruments like the pounce, and ink bottle is there.

Lucy Steele (Imogen Stubbs) and Elinor

There are some key scenes that were cut that some people do complain about, but I think given the restrictions of time, they were not so pivotal to the plot. One being Edward visiting them on his way back from Plymouth. Yes, it’s a nice scene in the novel and other adaptations have included it, but this is a film and if it comes down to Edward visiting the Dashwoods or the Dashwoods going to Cleveland Park, the latter is the more important scene. People also didn’t like that Willoughby didn’t come and visit Elinor to confess and, therefore, redeem himself. But, in a way, Brandon redeems Willoughby when he informs Elinor that he heard from Lady Allen that Willoughby’s intentions towards Marianne were honorable. So, while that scene was cut, the information that he did love Marianne, that he was going to marry her, is still related to Elinor so she can inform Marianne. And it’s done in a way that works and still fits the world of the novel.

The Dashwoods around the Pianoforte

The only complaint I can make is the gift of the pianoforte by Colonel Brandon. In the novel, they all ready have one. Willoughby spends time at the Cottage signing and sharing music with Marianne over the instrument. This gifting of the piano actually comes more from Emma than Sense & Sensibility and in that case, such a gift was considered highly inappropriate by Jane Austen herself. However, I can see how the filmmakers wanted Brandon to make some kind of grand romantic gesture and decided that this would be his way of declaring his intentions to Marianne in a way that she would understand.

That uniform is so beautiful it makes me want to cry! Oh, and her veil is attached to a bonnet.

So, I do recommend this film because it’s the only film adaptation we have. And I do mean ONLY. There are 3 loose adaptations (Material Girls, From Prada to Nada, Scents & Sensibility), but I am only concerned with actual adaptations, not so loose as to be practically unrecognizable, which these are. I’ve checked and there are no plans to do another film version anytime soon. It’s actually weird because it seems filmmakers tend to focus on Emma and Pride & Prejudice than any other novel. If you love Austen, then this should be in your collection. If you’ve never watched it, please go and rent it from your local library. It’s charming, beautiful, and such an amazing adaptation of the novel. Plus you get the infinite joy of seeing Hugh Laurie as Mr. Palmer (which makes me laugh every time).

Sense & Sensibility 1981 (or haven’t I seen this version somewhere before?)

The 1981 BBC adaptation of Sense & Sensibility is the one which is included in the Jane Austen collection. After watching the 1971 version, on some level I had felt that I had seen it somewhere before, yet knew I had never watched the earliest version in my life. The reason for this being, oddly enough, is the 1981 adaptation was dramatized by Alexander Baron who used the 1971 outline by Denis Constanduros. So the 1981 version is an adaptation of an adaptation. In fact, many of the scenes are eerily familiar as are the characters that are used and the ones that are cut. Watching this gave me a sense of déjà vu. Rodney Bennett is the director (his name is familiar to me as he directed some Dr. Who episodes in the 1970s).

Marianne Dashwood (Tracey Childs) and Elinor Dashwood (Irene Richard)

This adaptation starts out differently and at first, one thinks the Dashwoods are coming from the funeral of the late John Dashwood. They are all in mounring, in a carriage, and heading away from a location back towards Norland Park. You find out during their conversation that they have in fact been inspecting a house in the neighborhood that is far above their means, since they have only 500£ to live on a year. Like the 1971 version, Margaret doesn’t exist, which means that amount of funds seems a little more manageable between three ladies instead of four. The money, of course, leads to the great discussion brother John has with Fanny and the possibility of giving them money; knowing how little they have, 100£ more a year would really have benefited the Dashwoods and would not have inconvenienced John at all. Though we must recall Fanny is a skinflint as the son is not in existence in this version either.

Elinor and Edward Ferrars (Bosco Hogan) at Norland Park

Elinor shown drawing on very nice rustic benches. I do appreciate showing the drawing as it was something I could connect to Elinor over.

Like the 1971 version, Elinor is shown as someone who draws, which is straight from the novel. I did enjoy the way in which she was trying to educate Edward in trying to see things with an artistic eye, because it was sweet and showed how theire relationship could have started. Bosco Hogan is wonderful as Edward, has no stutter, but does have moments of hesitation in his actions which is appropriate for that character. Marianne is mentioned as not yet being 17 (though do recall she is 15 at the beginning of the novel), so this is an attempt to making her closer in age with her novel counterpart. Like the 1971 interpretation, Marianne is overly dramatic in the ways in which she says farewell to Norland Park, which is something she never does in the novel. Fanny is perfectly evil though.

Fanny Dashwood (Amanda Boxer)- perfectly evil in every way

Elinor and Marianne in London

The hair in this version was pretty good. We don’t have that overly puffy look on the men and the women seem to have decent hairdos with curls and buns. Some variety is obtained with the use of mobcaps, braids, and occasionally bonnets when outdoors. Now, we do have mutton chops on the men, but they are not overly large and are more inline with what would be period appropriate (for the most part). There are, of course, portraits of men during this time period with massive mutton chops, which people have emailed me to point out my fallacy, Trust me and believe me when I state that I am well aware of these portraits. But these portraits are few and far in-between and the norm seems to be smaller to no mutton chops rather than the bushy examples that tend to be used. Having a few men here and there with the bigger versions would not bother me as a designer and as a historian. It bothers me when it’s practically all the men.

Colonel Brandon (Robert Swann) looking very Darcy-esque with massive mutton chops

John Willoughby (Peter Woodward) with smaller, more delicate mutton chops

French, "Miniature Portrait of an Unknown Officer", c. 1815. Gift of Herbert DuPuy

1815 Miniature of an Unknown Soldier (French I believe); no mutton chops but a really sweet Mustache & Soul Patch combo (courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art)

Captain Gilbert Heathcote RN (1779-1831) ~ William Owen

Captain Gilbert Heathcote RN (1779-1831) ~ William Owen; pretty decently sized mutton chops [Public Domain Image]

The costumes as well aren’t bad. There seems to be an attempt to use more cotton or cotton blend fabrics to get more of that airy, light feel we associate with the Regency dresses. They do seem to use silk (or at least something that resembles silk) for the most dressier gowns worn by Fanny or Mrs. Jennings at times. A few of the dresses used by the extras in the background looked familiar and were no doubt dresses from previous adaptations, so could be from the 1970s or be stock costumes from local theatrical agencies as well. The colors were sometimes a bit too pastel and while that isn’t historically accurate, at least the use of cotton instead of polyester is an improvement.

Elinor, Marianne with Mrs. Charlotte Palmer (Hetty Baynes); I believe Charlotte is meant to look pregnant, but it’s hard to tell. The dresses do look to be of cotton or cotton blends,just very pastel in coloration.

Lucy Steele (Julia Chambers) in a red Spencer and bonnet. The material looks velvet, but I believe to be more of a polyester blend. The red is also too dark; reds at this time were more bright like a poppy red.

I did like the use of jewelry, even if some of the necklaces looked to be too tight and short. Too often adaptations today shy away from the use of jewelry and makeup, thinking they weren’t used nor worn. They were very much in use at this time.

Empress Josephine's Malachite Parure

Empress Josephine’s Malachite Parure (Jewelry Set: 2 Bracelets, Chocker, Necklace, Pin/Brooch, Tiara, 6 Hairpins, Smaller Pin); most sets included 2 bracelets, a necklace, a brooch/pin, and possibly a tiara or hair pins.

Georgian set of Pink Topaz. From the book “Georgian Jewellery 1714-1830”

Pink Topaz dating from the Georgian Era (from the book Georgian Jewelry 1714-1830); one would fully expect a Regency lady to still wear something like this if it was an item passed down ion her family. This set is a pair of earrings, necklace and a brooch/pin.

Queen Louise's set of make up powder.

Makeup set belonging to Queen Louise (1776-1810); courtesy of stadtmorgen.de (my German is rudimentary at best)

So yes, jewelry was worn, as was makeup which is something we have got to acknowledge and push for when it comes to adaptations of not only novels written during this time, but any films being set during these times as well. It’s ludicrous to presume that people stopped wearing jewelry and makeup during the American and French Revolution only to pick it up again during the reign of Queen Victoria. All I am saying is due better research costumers. I know you often have to also be in charge of makeup and hair, but expect better research from assistants. I may add I am always available to do this research for you and would gladly do it for money (I do have bills to pay as do so many of us, so might as well put such skills to good use!).

Mrs. Dashwood and Edward at Barton Cottage

What makes this version different from the 1971 one is Edward does visit the Dashwood family at Barton Cottage after visiting Lucy at Plymouth nearby. It’s mentioned he visited Plymouth in the 1971 version but never stopped to see them, even though Plymouth is near Exeter. First, this does happen in the novel, so that’s nice and it’s good because it introduces Edward to the Middletons and Mrs. Jennings, which allows them to kid Elinor about him when they go to London in front of Lucy Steele, not knowing it’s Lucy Edward is engaged to. It helps create that little bit of chaos in the Edward-Elinor relationship that we all do enjoy, even though we find it heartbreaking. Lucy is shown to be very pretty, if not spiteful and cruel in her own way, while Ann (Nancy in the novel) is very coarse and spinsterish, which fits with how they act and how Austen seems to describe them. You also feel some pity for Lucy because she is faithful to Edward for so long and he is not the best correspondent.

Lucy Steele

Ann Steele (Pippa Sparks) in the Striped Dress with Lucy (Julia Chambers) in Pale Yellow.

There are some weird choices in this version as there were in the previous one. Margaret is gone and doesn’t exist. John and Fanny have no child, and therefore no reason to not want to give any monetary assistance away. Nancy Steele’s name was changed to Ann, which I am puzzled over. Sir John and his wife only have one child, a son, and no other kids. Sir John also doesn’t have any dogs, but at least they show Willoughby out hunting with one (that bitch of a pointer flossy line which always makes me smile). They did include Robert Ferrars and his quest for the perfect toothpick case through is talking (which almost is always cut even though it’s really a funny little tidbit on his character). Charlotte Palmer used to have a really green bedroom in London. I’m not kidding (seriously, it’s GREEN). And as for the dresses, it’s really hard for me to tell if the back of them are buttoned, laced, or have zippers. I suspect that it’s a mixture of all three and depends on if they are a main character, secondary, or just background extras.

Elinor, Marianne, and Willoughby. At least this time, Marianne really does fall down a hill.

I did have to suppress a giggle when they show Marianne writing letters on thick parchment paper (and I mean thick paper). I suspect the paper was art paper meant for watercolour, perhaps charcoal or pen and ink because of the thickness and coarseness that I could surmise. I giggled because whenever they received a letter, it was on extremely thin onion skin type paper. Somehow, magically, thick coarse paper was used by everyone to write letters, but through th magic of the post-chaise, they all became smooth and delicate pieces of paper. There was also the obligatory nightgown with hair all free flowing and loose scene because of course there is. Considering women didn’t wash their hair every day, and probably more like once to twice a month if they qwere lucky, they kept that hair plaited (braided) and in caps when sleeping to keep it clean and free from things like fleas and lice. Free flowing and loose looks romantic and erotic on screen, but not very realistic.

Marianne & Elinor in front of Barton Cottage. I do like the rustic benches.

So while this is very familiar to anyone who’s watched the 1971 version, it’s just slightly different, and updated enough in terms of costumes and hair to be worth watching. I found some of the scenes and lines to be almost exactly like the 1971 version that I was hard pressed to not roll my eyes. While this version is the one most people believe to be the first adaptation of Sense & Sensibility, it is the first one that was shown in the US and it’s probably why it was included int he Jane Austen collection over the 1971 version. So yes, do try and find it and watch it. It’s seven episodes, but each one is short and one can watch this in a day. You don’t have to, but you can.

This version has one of the best Fanny freak out scenes ever.

Marianne and Bradon bonding over books; he looks very Darcy-esque in this version.

Elinor and Mrs. Dashwood pouring out cordials. Not often this is shown as most show tea.

The Dashwoods leaving Norland Park

Sense & Sensibility: 1971 BBC Version

I am actually excited about reviewing these adaptations because Sense & Sensibility was the first Jane Austen novel I ever read at the age of twelve, brought to my good attention by my local librarian (who is still at the same library coincidentally over 20 years later). It was published in 1811 anonymously, but was written sometime during the 1790s. Elinor in the novel starts out to be 19, Marianne is 15 (some places say 16), and Margaret is 13. The novel takes course over a period of two years, which no one ever seems to recall, so most action is speed up. The adaptation was done by Denis Constandorus (who did another Austen adaptation) and directed by David Giles (who, again, did another Austen adaptation). This early version is unique in that it’s not included in the Jane Austen Classic Collection (the 1980 version supplants it) and it was never made available here in the US until recently. I had the hardest time tracking a copy down (it had a long wait time on Netflix), so I did the only logical solution available to me-I watched each 45 minute episode on YouTube.

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Elinor Dashwood (Joanna David) and Marianne Dashwood (Ciaran Madden)

Many people have long espoused this first version to be well worth viewing because it is charming and accurate to the novel. While it does have it’s charm, it’s not entirely accurate to the novel. Joanna David is perfectly cast as Elinor, cool, collected, sensible, but does have emotions when pressed (Joanna David portrayed Mrs. Gardiner in the 1995 Pride & Prejudice adaptation). Richard Owens makes a fairly decent Colonel Brandon; he’s handsome, a little morose at times, but attractive in his own way. Patricia Routeledge sparkles as Mrs. Jennings (she’s better known as Hyacinth Bucket) with her over the top performance which works because it’s done so well. Most of the others are decent in the roles, but not as memorable. Overall, the ensemble works and it’s enjoyable. This doesn’t mean there aren’t any issues.

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Mrs. Dashwood (Isabel Dean) with Mrs. Jennings

Right from the start, Marianne is over the top dramatic and not in a way that is enjoyable. While I love and appreciate Mrs. Jennings being over the top and exuberant in her movements, Marianne comes across as selfish, cruel, and does things to an unhealthy excess. While this works in the novel (recall Marianne is 15-16 years of age), they portray her being 17 in all adaptations (because a 35 yr old man lusting after a 15 yr old is creepy), it’s just too much. It makes her seem childish and wholly unattractive. There is nothing about how she is portrayed that makes it at all probable for Brandon to want to be with her. The way Marianne acts should be a reasonable turn off for Willoughby as well (and I don’t blame him if that’s how she acts).

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Elinor trying to control Marianne as the latter is actually throwing a fit over Willoughby’s rejection at the ball. It was a scene of hysterics worthy of Ophelia. Marianne’s dress is from 1818.

Dress and shawl, 1818. By the beginning of the 1820s, the waistline had started to move down. New historical influences are visible in dress styles. This particular example has a gathered collar in imitation of the ruffs of 16th century dress. The sleeve with a series of puffs down the arm was known as a ‘Marie’ sleeve, after a similar style worn by Marie de Médicis, Queen of France at the beginning of the 17th century.

Embroidered Muslin Dress 1818, Courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum

Another issue is Edward seems to have a stutter. Now, some people don’t like it but actually I don’t mind. I myself have had issues with pronouncing certain words and cannot to this day say “anemone”  without screwing it up by adding extra syllables. And I’ve taken so many acting classes as a Theatre major and have sung as part of a College choir that it shouldn’t be an issue (but it is). So, for me, it doesn’t bother me. The stutter isn’t done all the time, just in times of stress or when he’s uncomfortable and put in the spotlight, which does seem to suit his character. Edward Ferrars, after all, is being pushed by his mother to enter into a profession such as Parliament or the Law, which would require him to be really good at public speaking. In the novel, as well as every adaptation I’ve seen, he is very reluctant to do so. Having an issue with public speaking on a grand scale would be a reason why Edward would prefer the Church (smaller and more intimate arena for speaking). [FYI, for a good article on what it’s like to have a stutter, I highly recommend this article by friend and fellow author Ewan Morrison: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/word-less/201904/feared-words-and-free-words]

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Edward Ferrars (Robin Ellis); I appreciate he’s given period correct glasses, but very large mutton chops and puffy hair.

Like 1971’s Persuasion, we’ve got an interesting selection of puffy hair for the men, with HUGE mutton chops, and puffy hair (with curls) for the ladies. I suspect most of the hair for the ladies is some of their own with wig pieces added, but it’s very 1960’s bouffant-esque. I do applaud the effort though, even though it’s wrong. The hair in this adaptation is at least slightly better than Persuasion, but only slight. The men have more lift, but they do have some curls and layers too. Mutton chops did exist, just not Victorian style ones. We must keep in mind that this was the beginning of trying to do research and designers did not have access to all the information we have available today.

Boris Golytsin, 1791

1791 Miniature Portrait of Boris Golystin [Public Domain]; most men in this adaptations seem to have hair more along the lines of this man, which wouldn’t be so bad if the novel was being set in the 1790s. Though the adaptation seems to be set closer to 1810).

Rubens Peale 1807 by Rembrandt Peale [Public Domain Image]

1807 Rubens Peale; I chose this because it resembles Robin Ellis as Edward Ferras with the spectacles, it shows the close cropped curly hair and yes, he has mutton chops, but notice how delicate it is (there are images of bigger ones too, but I like this image).

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Marianne with Colonel Brandon; notice the massive mutton chops. Massive. Though he’s got a nice M notch collar.

Besides the hair, which we must make allowances for because it’s a product of the times, we should then discuss the costumes as well. Like 1971’s Persuasion, the dresses were probably made from polyester blends and you can see some were made fr0m prints that were more late 1960s than late Georgian. The silhouette tells me they were going for a 1808-1810 era, but Mrs. Dashwood was dressed in a style a bit more consistent with the 1790s to possibly the 1800s. Then again, Marianne has fashions dating from after 1815. It’s hard to tell at times because some of the costumes were most likely pulled from storage and altered, which makes it difficult to assess from what period it was originally meant to look like. And that’s OK. While I tend to be harsher on period films starting around 1980, I make allowances for period pieces done prior to the 1980s simply because the information wasn’t as available. I know because I’ve looked into it. Most costume history books before 1980 are full of misinformation and generalities that we now know are just wrong. Extant clothing in museums wasn’t always made available to designers like they are now, and photographs of them weren’t of the best quality when they were available. Technology has really made it possible to have better quality period clothing for stage and screen than previously.

Taffeta “Round Gown”, About 1795-1800  The round gown” style is updated further with a raised waist and gathered bodice which ties at center front. Vestiges of an older style of fitted bodice are visible on the inside. Internal stitching reveals the waistline was raised about three inches. A stiff taffeta material like this still suits the dress, but lighter, softer fabrics will be needed for the slim, clinging styles on the horizon.

1795-1800 Silk Taffeta Round Gown; this gown was adapted from an earlier gown (which is what us costume historians love to see) because the waistline was raised 3 inches up from where it was previously. I think this is what Mrs. Dashwood is wearing. Courtesy of agreeabletyrant.dar.org

Coat Date: 1787 - 1792

1785-1792 Coat (and ensemble pieces) courtesy of the Met; chosen to show the elaborate neck frills as this was shown quite a lot in this adaptation, which again would be fine if it was set in the 1790s.

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Robert Ferrars (David Belcher), Lady Middleton (Shelia Ballantine), and Sir John Middleton (Michael Aldridge); yes both men are wearing the frilly neck pieces as shown previously.

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Elinor in a very 1960s Print gown; the garden is lovely though

An interesting decision made in this adaptation was to include Lady Middleton and the mentioning of one child (William), but none of the others. They cut Margaret (she doesn’t exist), replaced the servant Sarah with an elderly one named Mary (of which I am unsure as to why), and showed both of the Miss Steeles (Nancy and Lucy). It was also fascinating to hear that Brandon’s ward was made to be older at age 18 and had become his niece and not the natural daughter of his first love. They also have Eliza attempting to commit suicide while pregnant, which is not in the novel at all. We also meet Mrs. Ferrars, Elinor is shown drawing, and John Dashwood has no son. So many changes made to fit the novel into four 45 minute episodes, but also some weird choices as well. While I do not mind keeping both of the Miss Steeles, I don’t understand why remove Margaret? She’s a sweet, fun little character who’s barely in it (but in it more than Nancy Steele). They also made the decision to show Charlotte Palmer pregnant and then later on sow her with the child after it’s born (and very slim afterwards too). I think it was wise to show Charlotte pregnant because she is so in the novel, but to then show her being extremely thin afterwards is a bit of a lie (she had no bust, which any woman can tell you is just wrong).

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The Miss Dashwoods meeting a pregnant Charlotte Palmer (Jo Kendall) with Mr. Palmer (David Strong) right where her hand is.

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The Miss Dashwoods in very matchy-matchy traveling outfits with Lady Middleton

Not everything about this adaptation is all bad. The inside shots are done very well and while some of them (if not all of them) are done on sets, they seem to have been done well enough to resemble actual rooms proportion wise and are not so vast and empty as 1971’s Persuasion. While some spaces still seem a trifle large, tis was most likely done in order to maneuver lighting equipment and the cameras, so I am not bothered by it. The outside scenes are noticeably different in terms of filming (which cannot be helped due to technology at the time) but are very lovely and I enjoy the scenery. It’s quite nice to see the views of the countryside. Though I did giggle a bit during the scene where Marianne injures herself while Elinor complains that it’s raining while the scene is perfectly clear with no visible rain drops are seen.  Granted, a fine misting rain would not be visible but it was sunny and dramatically raining in mere seconds.

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Elinor swears it’s raining mere moments before Marianne trips and injures her ankle on this hill. Yes, they called it a hill.

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The dashing Willoughby (Clive Francis) after carrying Marianne in the rain with nary a drop on him.

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The garden outside of Barton Cottage was lovely though.

So, what do I think? I don’t regret watching this adaptation and I think that it’s a product of it’s time. But I also appreciate that some thought went into the script to try and adapt this novel for television. This isn’t an easy novel to adapt because it spans two years in the life of the two elder sisters. Decision were made to cut Margaret out as well as the other young children. But characters that are kind of useless, like Nancy Steele and Lady Middleton, are kept. Mrs. Ferrars is seen and while I don’t mind it, I can easily do with her being mentioned since she really adds nothing to the story other than being a cruel lady who always wishes to get he own way while disregarding the happiness of her children (the opposite of Mrs. Dashwood who puts the happiness of her children first, so it’s a pity these two mothers never meet in the novel). I can also see why people who’ve watched it today don’t like it because they are used to better scripts and costumes, but also why people who first watched it years ago are adamant pothers are missing out. There are some fie performances in this version and while I don’t like some of the performances on their own, when it comes together as an ensemble piece, it’s quite satisfying as a whole. So, if you can find a copy, watch it. If you can’t, then YouTube is the way to go (though do find the ones that play an entire episode and not sections of it). While this is not my favorite interpretation of Sense & Sensibility, I wouldn’t mind purchasing a copy of it for my own enjoyment.

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Marianne, Willoughby, Edward, and Elinor.

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Brandon in a very Fall/Halloween coat

Pride & Prejudice 2005 Adaptation

Now we’ve come to the last adaptation of Pride & Prejudice and the second film version (films like Bride & Prejudice, Bridget Jone’s Diary are variations of the novel and I didn’t review them as they are not true novel to screen adaptations, though Bride & Prejudice is a great Bollywood take and highly recommended if you’ve ever wanted a musical version). The 2005 version was adapted by Deborah Moggach who was going to remain faithful to the novel, but was then told to not be by the director Joe Wright. This was a huge mistake.Joe Wright also decided he wanted a “muddy” Regency world and not a clean version. I have no idea what he means by that, but I think it means he decided to not use the novel as a resource and just do whatever the hell he wished to do. And it shows.

Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet

There are those who absolutely love this version. I believe it’s because they’ve never bothered to read the novel and approve of the utter ruination this movie is and to all the other adaptations out there. Bride & Prejudice is more accurate and it’s a Bollywood film set in the modern day. So yes, this film IS this bad. First, let’s go with the terrible script. the Bennets are shown to be filthy, poor, uncouth, and ill-mannered. Lydia comes off as being half-inebriated at all times, which should be a concern considering she’s only 15 and, therefore, should be drinking lemon barley water, tea, and hot chocolate, not all the booze that’s available (even though, historically, the alcohol was watered down). Farm animals would not be let loose in the Bennet household. They are also shown to be living in almost abject poverty. If they are that poor, then why would Mr. Collins even ant to inherit the place? In the novel (and in every other adaptation), the Bennets are landowners. Mr. Bennet owns land, of which he rents out to farmers and probably has people work his own land. This generates a comfortable income and according to the novel, Mr. Bennet earns 2,000 a year (modern equivalent is 160K). That’s not a pittance nor is he a poor man. To show him and his family as such is a slap in the face to Jane Austen herself. In comparison, Darcy has 10K (or 800K in modern terms), Lizzie will get about 40 a year (4K), Wickham inherited 1,000 (80K)  from his father and received an additional 3,000 (240K)  from Darcy to dissolve his claim to the clergy living being held for him, Georgiana’s inheritance of 30K (2.4 Million) know makes much more sense if you see the potential it had.

A pig allowed to wander the Bennet home is completely wrong. Also notice the flilth evidence everywhere-the floors, the walls, the doors. There is no way Darcy would even consider Elizabeth Bennet as a potential spouse as it shows she is extremely beneath him socially. The Bennets are not shown to be of the gentry class, but of the poor.

Another major issue is the casting. I love Donald Sutherland, but his Mr. Bennet was so poorly written that is was beneath a man of his talents to take on the role. Brenda Blethyn is likewise a terrific actress. She is always wonderful, but in this, the script did her no justice as Mrs. Bennet. She comes off with weird one liners that are not based at all on anything written by Jane Austen. She’s made into a character to be ridiculed for her lowness. While Mrs. Bennet is funny in the novel, she should not be made into a caricature. This is an adaptation here, not a pantomime. Keira Knightly as well was completely miscast. I don’t like her Lizzie-she’s cruel, she’s a bitch, and has nothing to recommend her to any man, let alone Darcy. I don’t see anything abut her portrayal which would attract Mr. Darcy or even George Wickham. And as for Mr. Collins proposing to her, while that’s in the novel there’s nothing about her character that even remotely makes sense as the wife of a clergyman. Dame Judi Dench is always lovely, but Lady Catherine seemed to be written to be almost exactly like a previous role she played, Lady Bracknell. there are so many talented people in this cast that because the script was so terrible, their performances suffered.

Jane Bennet (Rosamund Pike), Lizzie, Lydia (Jenna Malone), George Wickham (Rupert Friend), Kitty (Carey Mulligan).

Other issue is the costumes, which were designed by Jacqueline Durran. Because there seems to be no set time period for the film, she used fashions from before 1790s to fashions from 1813. In the same film. While I respect Ms. Durran as a fellow Costume Designer and for winning a BAFTA for her designs for Vera Drake, the costumes for this film were atrocious to put it mildly. While I can potentially see Mrs. Bennet, Lady Catherine sticking to the fashions of their youth (1750-1770 apparently), it still doesn’t make any logical sense. Now, I can see a woman wearing clothes from her youth that she thought flattered her better than modern fashions. I’ve written a character who does this in my novel, but I also stress it’s because she prefers that style BECAUSE it’s a way for her to hold onto her memories of youth. Yet I have her children dressed in fashion benefiting the time period. For this film, you have fashions from all sorts of time periods existing in one film, in one family, and it’s sloppy design work. Because they all ready messed with the Bennet’s finances, the clothing the family wears is all over the place. Mr. Bennet dresses like a Georgian man, just without the wig, so his style is probably about 1760s. His wife dresses from about 1770s, possibly 1780s at the latest. Jane has a silhouette of the 1810s, while Lizzie is wearing the futuristic silhouette of the 1820s, yet also dresses in clothes from the 1790s (that’s a forty year span).

One of Lizzie’s dresses with a waistline that wouldn’t appear until the mid 1820s, but a dress that feels more 1930s. The novel was published in 1813. Let me repeat that. The NOVEL was published in 1813.

Based on the neckline, I would guess this is an attempt to do a round gown, which was sometimes worn with a sash. Except the sash was worn under the bust, not at the natural waist. Also, the corset she is wearing is Victorian, not Georgian, not Regency. Victorian (yes, they show it in the film and it was Victorian).

A compilation of the costumes worn by Kitty and Lydia. their outfits are more Little House on the Prairie than Jane Austen. Plus they have hair down, which since they are OUT in society, would be up.

Kelly Riley as Caroline Bingley. Her outfits were more correct in terms of waistline. She’s not wearing period undergarments and her ball dress is sleeveless. Sleeveless indicates an under dress, so where’s the rest of her dress?

A better look at the incorrect and inappropriate dress Caroline is wearing. Unless it’s the 1970s.

 

Lady Catherine is more Marie Antoinette than Austen. While I don’t mind the hair and jewelery, I don’t think Lady Catherine would be that out of date in terms of fashion.

So, you may be wondering, are there any good points? I make an effort to find the positive in all of the adaptations. Wickham’s outfit was period correct (it was also worn by the previous Wickham Adrian Lukas-yes, it’s the same exact coat folk from 1995). I thought Andrew Macfayden’s costumes were fairly decent. His hair irked me as it seemed more appropriate for Mr. Collins than Mr. Darcy. If they wanted something different from the previous three Darcys, then a nice, short a la Titus would have looked nice and nice on him. I actually enjoyed his portrayal of Darcy. He seemed less arrogant than Elizabeth and came across as being more of an intellectual, more of a Romantic (think Wordsworth, Lord Byron) than others have portrayed him. He tried so hard to have any sport of chemistry with Keira Knightly is was quite painful to watch. I have always been of an opinion Keira would have excelled in the role of Caroline Bingley and I think she would have enjoyed that role much more and made more of it.

Fitzwilliam Darcy; instead of a pond scene, we get the Romantic man crossing the moors, which I actually like. Its more Bronte than Austen, but I think Austen would not have minded this.

This shot really shows by what I mean by his hair did him no justice. Macfayden has a wonderful profile and beautiful eyes. the hair and the use of black on him wash him out. He deserved better because he was a decent Darcy.

Portrait of a Man 1809 by Francois-Xavier Fabre

Portrait of a Man 1809; this kind of choppy, but loose and textured a la Titus would have suited Macfayden. Curls would not have to be there, but the rough texture would have been really great looking on him.

Rosamund Pike is a lovely Jane Bennet, but her relationship with Bingley is regulated to the background as to be almost non existent. This novel is about Jane and Lizzie for the most part, but the focus was on Lizzie and Darcy. And that’s a shame.

Jane, in a gown made to appear to be around 1810, though the waistline is still too low (I believe that is Mary in the background)

Mrs. Bennet, Kitty, Lydia, and Mary (Talulah Riley); Mary is about 20 years too early for true Gothic aesthetic.

Other fine points is the dancing as it’s accurate. It’s fast, loud, rowdy, vigorous and seems to be enjoyed by those participating in it. Another fine point is they show a large breakfast being served around 10AM, which is accurate (for more details, please find my blog about Breakfast). For a family that has been written in this version to be so poor, it’s then weird to have Mrs. Bennet inform Mr. Collins that they have a maid. there are so many contradictions in this version it truly does bother me. If you look at the extras in the film, you can see they are all wearing fashions with waistlines from 1808-1810, which I find a bit humorous that the extras are more period correct than the cast.

The Netherfield Ball; Jane’s dress is more of a round gown, but the waist sash is too low. Lizzie’s dress is too modern. the person right next to Lizzie is wearing a gown with a waistline right under her bust, which is period correct.

Hair, like costumes, is an issue. Wickham’s hair has a greasy ponytail for some reason. Men weren’t wearing ponytails after the 1800s. Again, there is nothing about this film that makes sense. Lizzie walks to Meryton with her hair down, which is just wrong on so many levels. She also goes to see Darcy in her nightgown, so there’s that as well. Bingley’s hair is straight from the 1980s meets Harry Styles. It makes no sense. His hair also goes from being a dark red to a reddish blond, which either indicates the scenes were filmed at different times or the lighting was just as weird as the script.

Charles Bingley (Simon Woods)

The 1940 film version

The 1940 Film Version: I recommend this version. It’s still charming and fun. Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson sparkle as Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. While it’s not very accurate, it’s more accurate than the 2005 version and has a much better script. Plus every Darcy since Olivier has been made to look like Olivier (except Macfayden), so there’s a reason for that.

The 1980 (UK) or 1983 (US) BBC Version

The 1980/1983 BBC Version: Again, I recommend this version. While it’s the longest version out there, it’s worth it. We have costumes that were trying to accurate and they succeed for the most part. We have a wonderful script and terrific cast. A few odd choices here and there, but we also get the only (in my opinion) age appropriate Lady Catherine. It’s by no means perfect (no adaptation is), but it still holds up over 30 years later.

1995 BBC/A&E Version

1995 BBC/A&E Version: This really is one of the most perfect adaptations of Pride & Prejudice to date. We have an excellent script, wonderful cast and crew, lovely costumes and breathtaking locations. While the dancing in it isn’t always period correct, it’s still lovely to watch. This is a very hard version to find any flaws with. Colin Firth was worried he would not be taken seriously as Darcy because of Laurence Olivier (you did well Mr. Firth).

2005 Film Version

2005 Film Version: If you are looking for an adaptation that adheres to the novel, this film is not it. The 1940 version has a better script than this one. And I wanted to like this one because I have admired Andrew Macfayden ever since I saw him in Spooks (I watch a lot of British television). But I think a poor script, poor direction, a lot of errors in casting, and all the wrong historical elements (as in being ignored) made this film painful to watch. While Pride & Prejudice is not my favorite Austen novel, it’s one that I do enjoy. If this film was called Lizzie Bennet or Lizzie & Darcy with the premise that this would be a very loose adaptation of the novel, I could see it an enjoy it for the extremely loose usage of the novel in the script. But this was presented and advertised as a fresh new adaptation of the novel. So, while I love Andrew Macfayden as an actor and really did think he made a very decent Darcy, I cannot recommend this film in good conscious. It is a disservice to Jane Austen and the other adaptations that exist out there. Not even the 1987’s Northanger Abbey was this bad (and that adaptation had serious issues of which I have all ready written about).

 

 

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