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)

Mansfield Park: 2007 ITV Adaptation

Now we come to the last adaptation of Mansfield Park that is currently out there. This version was adapted by Maggie Wadey and was not received well by critics nor fans of Jane Austen’s works. Mansfield Park is a difficult novel to adapt simply because Fanny Price is much more complicated than a majority of Austen’s female characters. She has moments of weakness and strength like Anne Elliot, but has a bit more of a delicate nature like Marianne Dashwood. For some reason, this makes the novel hard to adapt. I think it’s an excuse to not adapt works such as this one and Persuasion in favor of Pride & Prejudice and Emma because they are more well known.

Billie Piper as Fanny Price

Like the 1999 film version, this one sticks with the whole Mrs. Price send her daughter to live at Mansfield Park instead of the novel’s statement Fanny was brought to Mansfield on the request of her two aunts. They also show that Mr. Rushworth and Maria are engaged prior to Sir Thomas leaving for Antigua, which messes with the time line as they become engaged while Sir Thomas is away. Hence the reason why Sir Thomas will assist his daughter in ending the engagement when he returns because he finds Mr. Rushworth an unsuitable match (a match promoted by Aunt Norris I might add). There is also a weird comment by Lady Bertram when the Crawfords arrive that they were “pretty as children.” Correct me if I am wrong (which I am not), but the Crawfords did not come from the Mansfield area as children. They come to the place as requested by their half-sister, Mrs. Grant, after the Grants move into the Parish (after Mr. Norris dies). Fanny Price also never leaves Mansfield to visit her family in Portsmouth. She is abandoned by the family at Mansfield while they leave. Basically, there is so much wrong with the adaptation, it’s hard to watch because so much was messed around with. Billie Piper portrays Fanny as a strong, playful, independent character but with no weaknesses. Her portrayal of Fanny was actually quite similar to her portrayal of Rose Tyler on Dr. Who (and this must be due to the script and the direction she was given as she is an excellent actress).

Joseph Beattie as Henry Crawford, Fanny Price, Joseph Morgan as William Price, and Blake Ritson as Edmund Bertram. This does resemble more of an alternative 1980s Romantic Rock band based on the poses.

Tom Bertram (James D’Arcy) and his brother, Edmund.

Other issues are the hair-particularly Fanny’s hair. Women did have short hair, I have stated this before. And children up to a certain age most likely had their hair down (but definitely around age 10-12, girls would have their hair up as all portraits I’ve looked at over the decades have shown this). So I do not understand why Fanny, being around 18 years of age, and thus no longer in the schoolroom, has her hair down. Shoulder length hair can and was pinned up at this point. Length shouldn’t be an issue. there was some attempt to do interesting braiding to bring the tresses off of the actress’ face, but that attention to detail should have continued throughout her hairstyle. Instead, it looked messy and unkempt, which would not be proper for a niece of Sir Thomas Bertram. I also didn’t understand the overly long hair on Henry Crawford. For a character who is stated to be a Londoner, and therefore we can conclude is very fashion forward, his shoulder length hair is appalling out of fashion. Tom Bertram as well had overly long shoulder length hair. While he looks stunning with the long hair, it’s more appropriate for, shall we say, the Three Musketeers than Mansfield Park?

Mary Crawford (Hayley Atwell) and Henry.

Now, there are some fairly good hairstyles in this adaptation. I always try to find some positive points in all of these versions, regardless of the issues I find with them because it takes a lot of work to put something like this together, and when something is done well, it should be applauded. Mary Crawford’s hair was exceptionally fine and I quite liked the use of asymmetrical parts to give her a distinct look from the other ladies. Maria Bertram as well had really lovely more Georgian styled hair, which I’m not sure if the character would be that old-fashioned with her hair, but it was done well and it does look lovely. Though I did think Maria’s hair may have been a way to visually tie her to Lady Bertram, who did have lovely styled Georgian hair as well. Mrs. Norris likewise had a nice pouf with mob cap, which looked more Georgian, but since she and Lady Bertram are older, I don’t mind them sticking to hairstyles of their youth. Edmund had a decent a la Titus going on, just wished they used some product to give it some texture as it tended to lay flat (and yes, pomade was used by men to give texture-it was very similar to hair wax that’s used today).

Fanny in what I believe to be a gown from the 1770s, possibly 1780s.

The costuming was very weird in this adaptation. I really had a hard time pinpointing exactly when the story was taking place because like the hair, the fashions were all over the place. The costume designer is Mike O’Neill, whose mainly done period pieces set in the Elizabethan Era or Georgian Era, it makes sense that he stuck with what was comfortable for him. He excels in the heaving bosom department and this was definitely the case in this version. The problem is that while bosoms were on display during Austen’s time, they weren’t showcased as they had been during the Georgian Era (unless, they were a trend setter and were dampening their petticoats-yes, that did happen but those kinds of women were not so common). The main issue with the costumes is there is a lack of consistency. If this is set during the 1810s, then they should all be dressed in garments from that time (give or take 5 years). I, of course, make an exception for the older generation such as Mrs. Norris, etc, but even they would be wearing something a little more modern in terms of clothing.

Mary & Henry Crawford; notice the waistline is set below the bust which is more 1820s in terms of silhouette.

Sir Thomas Bertram (Douglas Hodge) & Maria Bertram (Michelle Ryan); notice the waistline on Maria’s gown is more along the lines of the typical Regency gown being under the bust.

Lady Bertram (Jemma Redgrave) & Mrs. Norris (Maggie O’Neill); Notice the echelles (the bows) on Lady B’s gown-that’s pure Georgian (think Madame Pompadour) and more 1760s.

An echelle stomacher from the 1770s (Nordic Museum)

Fanny, Mrs. Norris and Lady Bertram. Look closely and you can see the stomacher on Lady Bertram’s gown.

Basically, from what I saw in this version, I counted the use of Round Gowns (1800s), Robe a l’Anglaise (1760-1780s), stomachers (1740s-1780s), and the Directoire/Regency gowns of the 1810s. Likewise the men’s fashions features the typical Regency coat (like what Henry and Tom wear) to a Victorian-esque Cutaway on Edmund. The costumes, much like the script, was just all over the place.

Mr. Rushworth (Rory Kinnear), Maria Bertram, Henry Crawford, Julia Bertram (Catherine Steadman), Edmund and Mary Crawford. While coats did exist with the cutaway look like Rushworth and Edmund are wearing, the issue was when you saw the back and the bottom of it, it didn’t have the period pleating and were curved (I’ve never seen one curved before the Victorian Era).

Because this version is only two hours, so much from the novel was left out. Portsmouth, of course, was gone as well as the trip to see the Rushworth Estate. Both of those tend to be key scenes and while I can forgive not going to see the Rushworth Estate, having Fanny go to Portsmouth is a big deal in the novel. So much pivots on her leaving Mansfield that having the character remain at Mansfield and everyone else leaving makes absolutely no sense. The ball scene, which is how Fanny starts to realize that Henry Crawford likes her, is replaced with a picnic. They mimic the picnic scene at the end with the wedding as well, which just seems a bit repetitive and shoddy. Outdoor weddings were not a thing at this time. Outdoor wedding receptions were not as thing at this time. Weddings were generally held in the morning and then followed with a congratulatory breakfast/brunch type meal. Now there are examples of veils in museums (I had to do more research after the Paltrow Emma version to find out more), but they seem to be something that was popular after the 1816 wedding of Princess Charlotte. I have had trouble finding any that exist earlier than 1820 as most veils depicted in fashion plates were attached to bonnets.

Princess Charlotte’s 1816 Wedding Dress ((Public domain via www.gogmsite.net/_Media/1816-princess-charlottes-3.jpeg)

A Brussels needlepoint lace wedding veil c. 1820. Christies.com

1820s Brussls Lace Needlepoint Wedding Veil (Christie’s)

The wedding concludes with a Waltz, which if this is set prior to 1815, would not have been danced. It wasn’t allowed by Society until the 1814 Season by the Patronesses at Almack’s. And since not many people would have danced it in 1814, it would take a few months to a year for more people to learn the steps.

Wedding dress, veil and fan ca. 1805 From Napoleon

Supposedly from 1805-see explanation below.

This website claims that this Wedding Dress, Veil and Fan are from 1805. I question this solely because the gown pictures is not very full. Gowns from 1805 were still relatively full in the front and this gown has practically no fullness. Also the original blog doesn’t list were the image came from (as int, what Museum), which is never a good sign. So, could this be from 1805? The fan and veil may be from that year, yes. But veils were not worn as part of the wedding ensemble. I have found no evidence of any fashion plates from this time period tht shows any wedding ensemble with a veil. I’ve seen them with bonnets, but those are rare. If veils were so common, then one would think they would be in portraits and in fashion plates. Veils were not worn during the Georgian Era, and the Regency is a subsection of this same Era. Veils most likely came into fashion with continued trade with India, were veils are worn. And since a majority of extant veils date to 1820, one can conclude that veils were a rarity, if at all worn, prior to 1816 (at the earliest). I do believe, however, that what has been labeled a veil may in fact be a lace shawl based on the length and overall pattern. It looks too ornate to be a veil, but a shawl? It would be appropriate in terms of decoration.

Highly Ornamented 1790 - 1810 Blonde Lace Bonnet / Wedding Veil from marzillivintage on Ruby Lane

1790-1810 Blonde Lace Bonnet/Wedding Veil (Ruby Lane Vintage)

Now compare the previous veil (supposedly from 1805) to this one. The difference being that this one is labeled correctly. The veil originally came from a wedding bonnet (which was in terrible condition and could not be salvaged). Why did I include this with this posting? Because they used a veil in adaptation and also to help inform you, the reader, on how to spot possible misinformation out of the Internet.

1983 BBC Version

The 1983 BBC version is the first and still the best adaptation of Mansfield Park we have available currently. It’s faithful to the novel, it gives us a Fanny Price who has moments of weakness and fragility, but also has an inner strength which shines through. The costumes are lovely and while there are some issues with hair (long hair on men seems to be a running theme with Mansfield Park adaptations), it’s superbly acted. If you are looking for an excellent adaptation, this is one you must watch and own. Also note that Fanny is wearing a Wedding Bonnet and Veil! I do not mind the use of a wedding veil if it’s done accurately.

1999 Theatrical Film Version

I have a soft spot for the 1999 film version. The costumes are lovely and I do like how Fanny is portrayed. She is strong but is vulnerable at times, which works for me. We have an excellent Mary Crawford in this version as well (she divinely wicked one cannot help but enjoy her). While I do not like the blending of Austen’s life with the novel, they did a good job of making it work. They at least kept the key point of going to Portsmouth and bringing up Slavery in Antigua, though not in a historically accurate way. It’s a fun version, not one I think I would own, but if it’s on I’d watch it again.

2007 ITV Version

ITV did such an amazing job with Emma and Northanger Abbey that I was very disappointed with this version. When you compare how well those two (which were also released in 2007) compares to this one in terms of costuming and script, this one just feels rushed. Better costuming and hairstyles would have helped, but more importantly, a better script would have made even the costuming bearable. I do not recommend this one at all. While the cast did a decent job acting, the script is not worth their talents.

A Duo of Book Reviews: Jane Austen’s Letters and A Curse so Dark & Lonely

Jane Austen’s Letters is the third edition of the original 1884 publication first compiled by Lord Edward Brabourne. What makes this edition superior to the others is the simple fact Deidre Le Faye put the letters in chronological order and had detailed notations on each letter (in the back-I wish they used footnotes!) along with a complete alphabetical listing of all the people mentioned or who received the letters. There is a fourth edition with a new preface by Deidre Le Faye, but no new letters no I am not certain is the newest edition is any better than this one. I found it fascinating to read the letters from one of my favorite authors. Jane Austen comes across as witty, much more sassy at times, and you can sometimes sense her frustrations at the limitations Society had imposed upon her. I know there is always much debate over the loss of a majority of the letters that were destroyed by Cassandra, but I think I understand why they may have been destroyed. Reading these letters, along with Le Faye’s other book, Jane Austen’s Country Life, I feel I understand why some were possibly destroyed. It seems there was little to no love between Jane and her brother James’ wife, who most likely convinced Jane’s father to give up his home to his son and move the family unexpectedly to Bath. Plus with Cassandra losing her fiancé, there were possibly many letters dealing with the grief and loss which Cassandra felt to be very private and personal. And I don’t begrudge the loss of some of these personal insights. There is enough in the existing letters to help paint the portrait of this author without knowing every personal detail of her life. We know more about Jane Austen than we do about William Shakespeare. So, for that, we should rejoice we even have this information. I do plan on purchasing this edition (or the fourth, depending on which one I can afford and which one is slightly cheaper). I think it would be an invaluable tool to anyone interested in Jane Austen or just in the daily lives of anyone living in the late 18th to early 19th Century.

Now, I feel I should first write a little bit about the nature of Young Adult Literature. Generally speaking, YA literature is written specifically for the 12-18 range group, yet many adults read these pieces as well. Not all YA fiction is going to have that broad appeal, but I’d say a little over half probably does. Now, I know people who think less of adults who read YA literature and I will happily point out to them that many of the best loved books of fiction are classified as YA in libraries and in bookstores (or on-line if that’s the way you prefer to shop). One example I love to give is The Hobbit. I first read it when I was seven, but I know people who didn’t read it until they were in their early twenties. Does this make it wrong? Absolutely not!

Another example is Sense & Sensibility. Yes, Jane Austen has some of her novels classified as YA fiction in most libraries. But many adults read Austen. I know I do. I tend to think of YA Literature as writing that is appropriate for teens (as in, they can relate to it, understand it), but this shouldn’t exclude any adults. I applaud anyone who can write a novel that has that major appeal. My own novel is more for adults and I am perfectly fine with this! Moving on…

I am a sucker for Faerie Tales. I love the originals like the Brother’s Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson. I still love reading them because they are very dark, very Gothic (before it was a thing), very cruel morality tales. good and evil are not always so cut and dried in the originals and I have read some re-tellings that simply seem to be more Disneyfied  than dark. This novel is nothing at all like the Disneyfied versions that are available out there. It’s so much better.

Beauty & the Beast is a very popular tale and has been retold countless times. I myself have written a take on it (3/4 finished when I was 23 and now I think i should go back and finish it). What’s fascinating is no one really writes it the same way (expect Robin McKinely, who’s rewritten the tale two or three times). We all have out own ideas of what a Beast is and what Beauty should be. In most stories, I don’t connect with Beauty. It’s hard to connect with a character that’s generally written to be practically perfect in terms of looks, manners, speech, hair, etc. She’s sometimes gifted with some extra ordinary talent like making any garden flourish, or being able to talk to animals. Beauty is always so superhuman she kind of makes me sick. This time, someone made Beauty HUMAN. With flaws, an attitude, and a disability. It was so refreshing to see someone with a physical limitation depicted in a good way. I have asthma and diabetes along with depression and anxiety. Asthma and diabetes can be physically limiting at times, so a heroine that can go prancing in the forest doesn’t connect with me. A heroine that acknowledges she has a limitation but refuses to be defined by it? Astonishing.

I read this novel in about three hours. I am a fast reader, but also the tale was so engaging, so well written, I didn’t want to put it down. I actually wished it was longer because the pleasure I had reading it was so short lived. I gave it five stars on Goodreads (but would gladly give it six if that were an option). Basically, if you like great storytelling that’s engaging, witty and well written, plus you like strong heroines and faerie tales, then A Curse so Dark & Lonely is a must read.

Emma Adaption : Part 3 (1996 ITV Version)

Andrew Davies is known for his 1995 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice. He’s gone on to adapt other Austen works for BBC or ITV. After the hit that was Pride & Prejudice, he approached the BBC with his script for Emma. They turned him down as they had contracted with Sandy Welch to provide an adaptation. Oddly enough, the BBC adaptation didn’t come out for 12 years (2008). And this version had to compete with the Hollywood film version (and did very well). Because Andrew Davies wanted to have his version come out, he went to ITV and took practically the entire crew that worked on Pride & Prejudice with him (so the crew was well familiar with the time period, which is helpful).

Samantha Morton as Harriet Smith and Kate Beckingsale as Emma Woodhouse.

The adaptation starts off with chickens being stolen. This was, while not a common occurrence during this time period, a concern as most people raised their own chickens, ducks, turkeys so having any poultry stolen was a loss of eggs and meat. It’s also funny because it’s mentioned in the novel Emma (but towards the end) as a good reason for Mr. Knightly to move into the house with Emma & Mr. Woodhouse. So, it’s a nice little nod to the novel and this version ends with the chickens being stolen as well (so the chicken theft bookends the adaptation). It’s also the only adaptation to show the poor and working class people of Highbury. Poor farm workers would have been seen quite regularly. And Highbury being only 16 miles from London means you would get migration of the poor during the warmer months (like the gypsies). This is also the only adaptation to not show Emma as a blonde. No where in Austen’s novel does it specifically state Emma Woodhouse is a blonde. We base this on drawing and illustrations done during the Victorian Era and also because the 1972 version has Emma with dark blonde/light brown hair. Personally, I like the contrast of Emma with dark hair compared to Harriet and her lighter locks.

Mark Strong as Mr. Knightly

For the most part, the hair in this adaptation is really good. Harriet is shown with her hair down in Church, which I don’t think she would do, but the rest of the time her hair is up, so it’s not that big of problem (just an odd choice). They show older men wearing powdered wigs (or wigs in general) with the younger set having natural hair styled in a variety of ways. Mr. Knightly’s hair is very long and not quite fashionable, but considering he runs his farm and oversees others like Abbey Mill (which he rents out), not being in the height of fashion works in his favor (as opposed to the other adaptations were Knightly is impeccably dressed). Mr. Elton portrayed by Dominic Rowan and he is elegantly dressed, making him an excellent contrast to Mr. Knightly.

Emma & Knightly

The costumes are very well done, but considering it’s the same crew as the 1995 Pride & Prejudice, one would expect the same kind of attention to detail, which we do get. While Emma and Harriet are both dressed in the latest fashions, Emma’s gowns are made of better fabrics and have much more detail, giving her the appearance of being socially above Harriet (which she is) yet still looking not so far above Harriet that you cannot see these two being friends.  And Kate Beckingsale portrays Emma as a young girl (which she is) who just doesn’t understand how the real world works. Emma’s fantasies of Harriet getting married to various men is proof of Emma’s more childlike nature (besides just being fun). They also show Emma puffing up Harriet (making Harriet believe herself too good for Robert Martin) which falls in line more with what I recall from the novel.

Samantha Bond as Mrs. Weston

It’s interesting that they do show servants in this film and I do like it. They show servants riding on top of carriages, holding all of the picnic items for the outing to Box Hill. So while the people complain about the heat, the servants have long been exposed to it and have not had the comfort of being inside a carriage to get away from the sun. The gypsies are shown to be unrelenting in their pursuit of Harriet and money. I’ve often wonder how accurate that was, but reading Le Faye’s Jane Austen’s Country Life, she points out newspaper articles indicating gypsies (or any wandering poor person) were sometimes ruthless in robbing people.

Raymond Coulthard as Frank Churchill

Harriet’s portrait, like the 1972 version, sticks to the novel and has her sitting down. Miss Taylor is seen getting married in her best gown, which is accurate to someone in her position. One thing I couldn’t quite understand was Mrs. Elton’s accent. She sounded a bit American at times. Did they do this to show she was uncouth? I’m at a loss because it’s just a weird choice. Or she just has an accent that I have never heard before (and I’ve watched a lot of UK television in my life). Prunella Scales is Miss Bates and she is wonderful in the role. Guy Henry is John Knightly and acts like Mark Strong’s sibling (they even seemed to have similar mannerisms). The casting really was superb in this version.

Lucy Robinson as Mrs. Elton

Now, things that I don’t like is it feels too short at times. The run time is 107 minutes, so sometimes it seems they tried to hard to fit so much in, they left things out. Compared to the film version, which is 120 minutes. Basically, I wish it was closer to the film in terms of length just so we could get a little more of the novel in to this version. Like the previous two versions, Mrs. Weston is not shown as being pregnant, even though in the book she gets pregnant and has a child. Overall, it’s a good version and I enjoyed it so much when it first came out, I purchased it. Watching it, you cannot tell it has a third of the budget of the film version, because it’s so rich and the outside shots are lovely.

Olivia Williams as Jane Fairfax

Emma: Part 1 (1972 Adaptation)

Now I venture into the one novel of Jane Austen’s that, quite frankly, I’ve never really enjoyed. Emma was the last novel to be published in Austen’s lifetime (23 December 1815, but the first edition lists the novel as being published in 1816). Austen herself stated that this was a character which “no one but myself will much like.” I have read Emma several times and I do enjoy the witty way in which Austen writes the characters, the scenes of folly, the playful ways in which the characters do endear themselves to the reader, I just have never been as fond of this book as I have of her other works. Out of the six novels Jane Austen wrote, Emma ranks at the bottom for me in terms of personal preference. Perhaps it’s because I do not find myself as having much in common with a rich, spoiled pretty heroine who has everything whereas I’ve struggled all my life. This is the only time Austen wrote a character who basically has it all; all other main characters tend to be poor and, therefore, are more palatable. However, Emma is a fine novel and should be enjoyed for the fine writing. Even though it is not a personal favorite of mine doesn’t mean I don’t wish to see a decent adaptation of it.

Emma Woodhouse (Doran Goodwin)

The 1972 version is the first adaptation done by the BBC for a six-part miniseries. It was adapted by Denis Constanduros and he was extremely faithful to the novel. A few lines were added that were not in the novel, but they seemed to be in the spirit of the mini-series and fit the overall feel. Like the 1971 Persuasion, the indoor scenes are most likely are done on sound stages, so rooms will be not so accurate in terms of dimensions and sizes (but I did notice the rooms were more proportionate than they were in Persuasion). And like Persuasion, there is a difference in film quality between outdoor and indoor filming, but that cannot be helped. It does seem that a lot was gained from the filming of Persuasion in 1971 so when it came to filming this adaptation, much that may have been an issue previously (such as background colors and costumes, etc), were fixed.

An example of the lovely muted colors. The silhouette is most likely post 1815.

The background colors of the set pieces are much more muted, so the costumes of the actors and actresses stand out more, which works out better. Color television, we must  recall, is still a fairly new medium and what they think may work doesn’t always translate to the television set. The hairstyles of the men is still skewing slightly towards the Victorian, however it seems they are costuming this towards the later part of the 1810s (most likely after 1815), so some transitional hairstyles I don’t mind seeing.

Mrs. Goddard (Mollie Sugden).

Some of the stand out cast I must mention is Mollie Sugden (most famous from “Are You Being Served?”) portrays Mrs. Goddard. Instead of being a barely there character, she’s given a bit more presence, even being in scenes accompanying Harriet (which, when one thinks about it, she would be) as an appropriate adult. Plus it is nice to see her in a role looking fairly normal. Debbie Bowen portrays Harriet Smith and is very elfin looking. She is very dainty compared to the actress portraying Emma and very fair compared to Emma (it’s usually the other way in more recent adaptations). It gives the character an air of innocence.

Harriet Smith (Debbie Bowen) & Emma.

The costumes, for the most part, are fairly lovely and accurate for the most part. Emma’s dresses seem to date from after 1815. Some variation in the others seem to range from 1810-1815, which would be accurate for the time period as women would wear a gown until it wore out (it was cheaper and less expensive to alter a gown then have a new one made). One would expect Miss Bates, for example, to have a gown at least 5-10 years out of date, but perhaps altered to fit the newer silhouette (at this time, it meant the removal of excess fabric from the back). I didn’t quite understand the wearing of the mop caps (see image above), but since they wore them under the bonnets, I saw them as a way of protecting the hair from the inside of the hats. Women did wear mob caps indoors, though usually spinsters and the elderly ladies (besides married ones). But I can see younger ladies wearing them if they were protecting their hair from having been recently washed. It’s a minor point and not worth getting too up in arms about.

The pleating of this hat is divine.

I must commend the attention to detail for the pleating done on the inside of some of the hats used. The hat worn by Emma (see above) is simply divine! It frames her face perfectly and is in a nice, neutral shade to not overcome the natural coloring of the actresses’ face. Plus the draping of the feather is done so well! And while you cannot tell, she does wear hat pins! Hat pins are important as they keep the hat in place and women used them.

Emma & Miss Bates (Constance Chapman)

Other good historical accuracies used is they show servants wearing tings like caps, aprons, half boots, sensible sturdy clothes. Mr. Woodhouse is portrayed as being frail and with an unnatural love of gruel (which he does in the novel). Jane Fairfax is shown to be delicate and ethereal, which I like, but she is too delicate. There is a strength to that character for enduring all she does for as long as she does. Gifting someone a piano is very wrong and amounts to a declaration of a proposal of marriage. I’ve always hated that part of the novel (and Jane should have never accepted such a gift). Mrs. Weston’s pregnancy is mentioned (her condition) and is even shown at one point, but isn’t shown to be pregnant, which is weird. I do love how they show curls were achieved by tying them up with rags at night (when they show Harriet in bed ill). Dancing shown is lively, which I approve. And Mrs. Elton is sometimes portrayed as not being cruel, but perhaps trying too hard to fit in (or wanting to be liked).

Jane Fairfax (Ania Marson), Mr Knightly (John Carson) & Emma.

Some unusual choices made in this adaptation were the Dixons were removed as the Campbell’s in-laws (the daughter was gone) and the Dixons were mentioned as potential employers of Jane instead. Considering this was a six-part miniseries, I didn’t understand the reason for changing such a small, but vital part like that. Having a potential employer seen as sending you a piano is even more scandalous than the husband of your friend. It makes the thought of Dixon as Jane’s supposed lover even worse. The Box Hill incident, Emma is then seen apologizing to Miss Bates, which doesn’t exist in the novel. Now, I do agree Emma should apologize, but disagree that Miss Bates would then state Emma would have nothing to apologize for. Even though the costumes are nicer and moe accurate, hidden zipper plackets are seen. I am not being overly not picky on this, it’s just an FYI for people thinking that these are going to be completely accurate based on what I’ve said and then may complain that I didn’t mention the plackets. Well, I’ve mentioned them. As for the makeup, it’s light on some and heavier on others, which probably would have existed at that time, but I do question some of the color choices. Some of the colors used are too modern for that time period (they didn’t have too many choices in terms of lip colors, so to see some bordering on burgundy are a bit inauthentic to say the least).

Knightly is amused

Overall, for a first adaptation, this one does a really good job. By first, I do mean for a first adaptation that was preserved on film. There are 5 previous adaptations that were done on television. They were all done live from 1948-1960 in America and in the UK and there are no recordings available. While I did watch 4 adaptations for this next round of blog posts, I did not watch 1995’s Clueless nor 2010’s Aisha as they are both loosely based on the original novel and my purpose tis to watch versions and rate them on historical accuracy. There is apparently another film version expected out in 2020. No word on whether it will be a loose adaptation or a historical attempt.

Bring another bowl of gruel!

 

Northanger Abbey: Part 1 (The Weird One)

Northanger Abbey was written by Jane Austen some time around 1798 or 1799 and sold to a publisher in 1803 under the title of Susan. She purchased it back a few years later. After her death, her brother, Henry, had it published under it’s current title in 1817. It would surprise some people to find out it’s a novel I find quite enjoyable because it’s so silly and because it’s poking fun at the Gothic Romance novels of Austen’s youth. When I first read this novel, I didn’t quite understand how truly funny it was until I read the works of Anne Radcliffe, Matthew Lewis and Maria Edgeworth. Reading the novelists who wrote the Gothic romances referenced by Austen in this novel (and in a few of her other novels) helps me understand her better as a writer. Jane isn’t making fun of these writers as paying homage to them. They clearly inspired her to pursue writing and she, in turn, wrote a funny, brilliant comedic love letter showing  her appreciation for how engaging their works are. I do believe we would have a better understanding of this novel (and more adaptations) if the writers whose works inspired this tale were finally adapted as well. Personally, I would love to see Romance of the Forest or The Italian (both by Radcliffe) adapted. There’s only so many times we can adapt Dracula and yet no one wants to adapt The Monk, even though it deals with sorcery, lust, sex, murder and mayhem (it’s really quite good). So, it’s quite disappointing that there’s been only two adaptations of Northanger Abbey.

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Katherine Schlesinger as Catherine Morland.

This version is from 1987 and was adapted by Maggie Wadey. I refer to it as the Weird version and you will soon realize why. I own it because it comes as part of the Classic Jane Austen DVD collection (of which the 1971 Persuasion I recommended is part of). It starts off fairly pleasantly with Catherine daydreaming with a book in her hand, which I frankly don’t mind. Considering the novel is about a girl who confuses real life with the world of Gothic novels, it makes complete sense to start off that way. I don’t particularly care for her hair being down (it becomes an ongoing issue throughout the adaptation), but she looks sweet, young, innocent. The weirdness starts right off with the unusual choice of techno beats laced with orchestral music reminiscent of 1985’s Legend (so I think it may have inspired the musical score for this).

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One of the “daydreams.”

As for the daydream, and subsequent daydreams, I think they are meant to be erotic in nature. Sort of like a sexual awakening. Catherine features in them and is usually in a bedsheet or a voluminous gown being threatened with rape, being kidnapped, or menaced in some way. Some of them are supposedly based on drawings from the Gothic novels she is reading, but the drawings date from the Victorian Era (I looked them up) because the novels she would have been able to read at that time did not have illustrations (so, bad historical research guys). Also, she fantasizes about everyone. And I do mean everyone-from Henry Tilney to his dad to John Thorpe. It’s just bizarre in a Roger Corman/Edgar Allen Poe sort of way (but without the awesome Vincent Price).

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Googie Withers as Mrs. Allen.

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Isabella Thorpe (Cassie Stuart) and Catherine at a Ball.

I find it hard to pinpoint the style of the dresses or the time frame being used because of the issue of wandering waistlines and mysterious fullness. Waistlines in this version go from under the bust to a few inches below bust and have practically no fullness in front to being very full in front. So I am unsure if this is taking place around 1800 (when round gowns would have been worn) or around 1817 (when the novel was published) and fullness would have been confined to the sides and the back. I feel that many of the gowns were probably pulled from stock and adjustments were made to fit the actresses with little regard to whether the gowns were from the same time period or not, which really angers me as a Costume Designer and as a Historian. I can understand giving a five year time frame when pulling costumes (because I’ve done that), but twenty years is ridiculous and should be chastised. Mrs. Allen is a wealthy woman and would not be wearing fashions that out of date. Mrs. Thorpe, being a widow, would wear a dress about 5 years out of date (but perhaps has been altered and refreshed with new ribbons). That is the difference between a designer whose done a half-assed job and one whose done the research and understands the complexity of the social structure of the time period.

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John Thorpe (Jonathan Coy) and Catherine in Bath.

Now, I do like the very Dandy outfit they have John Thorpe in (see above) at one point because it is so ridiculous and loud. It’s hideous and fits his personality. He’s been written in this version to be a bit like a Gothic villain. He sexually appraises Catherine’s body upon first meeting her and considers her to be his possession. He does act this away in the novel, but having him act even more like the archetypal villain, being even more devious with his sister, Isabella (making her the female counterpart) plays off on this idea of real life mimicking one of Catherine’s Gothic stories. In the novel, he and Isabella go to great lengths to sabotage Catherine’s friendship with the Tilneys and that isn’t really shown here. It would have been a good use considering they are setting up these siblings as the bad guys in this real life Gothic tale-only to cut short their time to waste it on the creation of a new character for who knows why. It was a disappointment.

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Why bonnets in the bath?

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And food?

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And men?!

Now for the really, completely weird bath scene. In the novel, Catherine is introduced to Elinor Tilney in the Pump Room. This got moved to a bath. I have no idea why this occurred. First, why are they wearing bonnets? No really, I want to know who believes wearing hats in a warm, steamy environment where silk, velvet, buckram, fur, and feathers coming into contact with WATER is a good idea? Not just any water, freaking MINERAL WATER that smells of SULFUR! Rotten Eggs! Awesome! Which brings us to the next question of the plates of pastries hanging about the necks of the ladies. Now, in my twenty years of research, women did have an area in Bath to bathe in the waters. It was called the Queen’s  Room. They were provided with a linen shift (think oversized nightgown), not the jumper they are wearing here. They would not wear a bonnet and would definitely not be eating in the bath. Hygiene issues, crumbs, plus wrinkly skin smelling of sulfur-gross. And there would DEFINITELY not be MEN mixed in with the LADIES! What is the point of this scene? Besides some sexual titillation of seeing actress in wet garments, there is no point to this. I understand that there is this fascination with sex. I get it. We are sexual creatures by nature. But for God’s sake, don’t put sex into Austen when there isn’t any. She would have cringed over such a scene and I cringe for her. It’s tasteless and has nothing to do with the story.

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Henry Tilney (Peter Firth)

Peter Firth isn’t a bad Henry Tilney. His hair is terrible. It’s too short and I think if it were longer, he’d look better as a Regency gentleman. There’s a scene when he’s on the lake with his sister and Catherine and he’s flirting with Catherine. It’s the most awkward flirtation I’ve witnessed on film. It’s sexually awkward and I’m not sure if it’s meant to be that way. He’s given quotes by Jane Austen herself to spout, which is odd. He gives a good performance. At one point, he’s singing with the daughter of a made up character, which is a nice scene, but pointless. Is it meant to show us (the audience) the actor’s talents at singing, or that the character has more than one lady he’s flirting with?

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Elaine Ives-Cameron as the Marchioness.

This brings us to the character that was created for this version-the Marchioness, or as I like to call her, the General’s Goth Girlfriend. She appears at one point in Bath, then shows up again at the abbey along with her two daughters and a black boy, who is also her servant. She is supposedly to be a widow who’s husband was guillotined the previous year in France, which would have taken place during the Reign of Terror (1793-1795), which gives us a year of 1796 and the fashions still don’t fit that at all. I don’t understand why 15-20 minutes of time was devoted to this character at all when that time could have been used on the Thorpe siblings instead. She has no purpose in this version. She doesn’t exist in the novel. There is zero justification for the creation of this character and her two daughters. Plus, she just adds another layer of weirdness to this whole thing.

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Catherine looking very Gothic.

Now, there are a few positive things about this version I should point out. They show men using snuff (finely cut tobacco they shoved up their noses). Men did use it and carried it around in little cases. Having Henry carry around a little case then share it with his older brother is a nice touch. Showing people being carried around in Bath Chairs (or Sedan Chairs) in the background outside (and even inside buildings) is also a fairly nice touch. People forget that besides walking and carriages, sedan chairs were also available for hire in Bath. And while the little boy was shown as a servant to the Goth Girlfriend, it does show a person of color existing in England in the late 18th-19th Century. Yes, we existed in England folks. Believe it or not, black men served in the Royal Navy and Army during the Napoleonic Wars. They did a good job with mentioning that people could lose fortunes with gambling (even though that isn’t an issue in the novel, it did happen to many historically).

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Northanger Abbey

Problems of a historical nature (besides ones already addressed): at one point, Catherine is surprised to see a pet Canary. Apparently never having seen one before. Now, being the inquisitive soul that I am, I had to then spend 40 minutes researching the history of Canaries only to find out that the breeding of canaries started in Spain in the 1500s. By the late 1700s, it was fairly common to purchase canaries as they were being breed in Italy, Spain, Holland, Russia, England, Switzerland Germany, France and Elba (yes, that Island Bonaparte ended up at). So, I am quite at a loss as to why a bird that was being sold and seen in the homes of most middle to upper class people (such as the Allens) would be a surprise to Catherine considering people also had PARROTS as pets at this time. The other issue is the makeup. While women did wear makeup during the Regency, the makeup being worn in this version is very much theatrical style makeup meant for the stage and not for realism. It’s too harsh for characters such as Mrs. Allen and too comical in the case of the Marchioness. Wigs on the gentlemen ranged from Georgian styled powdered to underpowered to “Beetovhan” to Doc Brown. Not all the older gentlemen would wear wigs. Just because some would doesn’t mean all would. And for a town (Bath) that is notorious for being a Naval town, not one BLUE coat was spotted. Many red coats (Army) were seen, which is fine given General Tilney and his son, the Captain, wear red for Army, but this is Bath. Bath is a Naval town. If this is set after 1815, this would be awash is everything Lord Nelson. Even if this is before then, Bath was popular with the Royal Navy and to not see any of that is simply wrong.

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A Sedan Chair-Historic UK

Finally, Catherine burns a book. Books were expensive back then. She comes from a family of ten children. That book cost money and was most likely borrowed. Burning it was WRONG.

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Awkward Flirting. Oh well.

Persuasion Adaptations: Part 3

We have now come to the end of the Persuasion Adaptations to the very last selection (and the only available adaptation left) which is the ITV/BBC 2007 version (adapted by Simon Burke). this version was to be hailed as a brand new version with lots of new insight hoping to revitalize Jane Austen for the 2007 ITV/BBC experience. Let’s just say it less much to be desired.

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The Elliots: Sir Walter with Anne, Elizabeth and Mary.

This version starts off very fast paced, which is not a bad thing. However, it’s confusing as to why Anne (played by Sally Hawkins) is running around, taking inventory (with a very convenient maid holding a pot of ink to be dipped into) and lots of servants rushing about, throwing sheets onto everything without any context. At first, I thought they’ve decided to skip the whole convincing Sir Walter to move to Bath and have gone right for Anne being busy, having been left behind, then going immediately to Uppercross (which went from being 5 miles away to only half a mile), which would be a bold move. But one that would make absolutely no sense to a viewer who is unfamiliar with the novel. And in fact, we are then shifted into the next scene, where Sir Walter is being convienced to move to Bath in a dinning room, with lit candles, while everything is covered in sheets. Fire hazard everyone? Also, this makes no sense chronologically as why would inventory and the need to shut up the house occur PRIOR to the decision to move? This whole beginning makes no sense to someone who is familiar to the novel as it made no sense to anyone who is watching it who is unfamiliar. It was a clear indication of how badly this adaptation was done.

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Anne Elliot and Lady Russell

For example, Lady Russell arrives after the decision to removed to Bath takes place when she is a vital part of the conversation. The all important scene with Anne speaking to Harville which occurs at the end of the novel was moved to Lyme and the conversation then takes place between Anne and Benwick, with Wentworth never overhearing it. Again, this makes no sense as he references the conversation in the letter at the end. Mrs. Smith is given the first name of Harriet when it is Emma in the novel. And for a invalid, she is able to run about Bath fairly easily (which I found both comical and disheartening). Sir Walter comes off as an asshole and not a simpering Baronet. He is cruel and calculatingly so which is not at all how he is in the novel. Having Anne write in a diary and look into the camera is too 1995’s Emma (in other words, clichéd). This is not a “so bad it’s a guilty pleasure” kind of film. This is just plain awful.

Anne Elliot being too clichéd.

The casting is bizarre. Alice Kreig is a wonderful Lady Russell, but is vastly underused, Because so many scenes are done out of order or just taken away, there is not much there for Lady Russell. Which is sad considering how much better of a role it was in both previous versions. Sir Walter is portrayed by Anthony Head and I would have thought him to be a better Admiral Croft quite honestly. As Sir Elliot, he’s pompous and an asshole. He’s also so little seen as to make the part non existent. Colin Redgrave’s version practically sparkles in comparison (1995). Again, like the 1971 version, the Crofts are miscast. They not only look too old (Sophie is only 8 years older than Frederick, yet both 1971 & 2007 seems to believe women at the age of 38 look like they are pushing 50), but Admiral Croft doesn’t even remotely look like he’s ever been to sea. At least in the 1971 version, they did have some sort of relationship with Wentworth that I believed. In this 2007 version, there was zero family relationship. Mrs. Clay is very pretty and easily forgettable. Mr. Elliot was just-no. Both the Miss Musgroves are hard to tell apart. The Musgroves themselves are as forgettable, which is sad because they shouldn’t be. Wentworth is portrayed by Rupert Penry-Jones who looks more like William Elliot from the 1995 version and also doesn’t look like he’s ever spent any sort of time outdoors.

Captain Wentworth.

There were other issues besides casting. The actors did their best with the scripts, no I never blame the actors (soft spot from my Theatre days I suppose). But I do find issue with historical inaccuracies. Anne Elliot at one point is basically in her undergarments and can magically pop in a dislocated shoulder without any medical training. That she allows herself to be seen by her brother-in-law and male servants in her undergarments is shocking. That would never have occurred. She would have put on a dressing gown first. I don’t care about the magical knowledge of medicine she seemed to have gained without anyone’s knowledge-the lack of being properly dressed was a huge historical faux pas. The undergarments shown were also not period correct. If you are going to have an actress parade herself on screen, do us the honor of having her wear period correct undergarments. The hair shown was also an issue. Wentworth’s hair was the modern version of a la Titus and much too short to be period correct. Also-the reemergence of Mutton Chops was seen. Mutton Chops were seen on older men, not on younger men at this time, so when I see them on men in their thirties, I am going to question it as it would  not have been a style for young men until closer to the 1820s. Also, Anne Elliot’s hair is so ugly as to be painfully so and she makes no attempt to even try to make herself look better, which is so out of character.

Anne’s costumes & hair: just no.

I found the costumes decent but easily forgettable. Some effort when into them, but Anne Elliot was dressed so poorly compared to the rest of her family it stood out as being odd. I do not believe Sir Walter would deliberately dress one daughter so poorly and so threadbare. Especially when image is everything to him. Plus, no uniforms at all. At a time when England was just victorious form a War, the soldiers and officers would have worn their uniforms at certain times. Especially Naval men in Bath, which was the home of Lord Nelson. That complete lack of history (remember, it takes place after Napoleon was defeated and sent to Elba) just bother me. It shows a lack of understanding of what was occurring historically and this is the only Austen Novel to give us actual dates. This meant this was important to her and to the country. It really was these contradictions that truly made this a very unpleasant adaptation to watch. Plus, the running. Anne Elliot runs a lot at the end and it’s so improper for her character. Nothing about this adaption makes any sense and it feels as if the writer decided to just use cliff notes and Google to learn the basic plot and went from there. It is an affront to the senses.

The Novel

So, what did I learn from watching all three available versions? That there are two really decent versions every Jane Austen fan should own and one they should avoid at all cost. the 1971 version, while it has issues with costumes and casting, really is a gem of an adaptation. The acting in it is still extremely good and if you want one that is exactly like the book, then you should own this copy. It is long and the costumes are dated. Yet it is so full of charm and fine acting, it’s easy to lose oneself in it on a rainy day.

1971’s Persuasion: the most accurate.

If you want one that is charming, but not as long, then I do believe the 1995 version still fulfills that need. The acting in it is just as good as ever and this is the only version that comes close to having a film of Persuasion. It’s fairly accurate to the novel, but is fast paced enough to not feel overly long. Plus with being under two hours, it’s a nice short watch that anyone can enjoy.

1995’s Persuasion: completely charming.

I cannot recommend the 2007 version at all. There are people who enjoy this version out of all the others simply because of Rupert Penry-Jones. I understand that members of the younger generation will simply enjoy a version just based on the sex appeal of one actor with regard to whether the version was at all enjoyable because they are too busy drooling and lustfully eyeing the person in question. That is a fault and a disservice. If you’ve read the novel and then watched this version, you are then well aware of how truly terrible of an adaptation it is. While I gladly own the other two versions, I do not own this one and will never add it to my collection.

2007’s Persuasion: avoid it.

Persuasion Adaptations: Part 2

Persuasion, as a novel, is unique in that it is Austen’s last complete novel. It was published after her death and what we read is the second draft (yes, there is a first draft of this tale, called ‘The Elliots”) so there is a sense that the novel we read is not quite finished/polished. The title was given by Austen’s brother when he decided to publish Persuasion and Northanger Abbey after her death. And this may account for the lack of adaptations because it is difficult to adapt a novel that does, at times, feel a bit lacking in certain areas (particularly when it comes to the feelings or actions of Anne Elliot). However, this is Part 2 of a thee part series and we’ve now come to the 1995 Adaptation.

Nick Dear wrote the screenplay for the 1995 version, which was a BBC/Masterpiece conjoined venture. Additional funding from France and Mobil gave it a very large budget and instead of doing a five or six part miniseries, they opted to do a film version. This is where it becomes a bit unusual because this version did air on BBC and PBS in 1995, but was also then released in theaters as an art film (independent film) in the fall of that year as well. This adaptation has the unusual distinction of being the only feature length film version of Persuasion we have, even though it may not have been meant to be a film initially, it became one in the end. So, when I view this particular version, I do tend to label it as a film and not a television version given the bigger budget and how it comes together. It’s by far short at being a little over two hours, but flows nicely which works as an independent film. It was not as popular nor as advertised as 1995’s Sense & Sensibility film version, yet this film holds up just as well with it’s smaller budget and excellent RSC cast. This is likely the first version any Austen fan came across for this particular novel.

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Amanda Root as Anne Elliot and Ciran Hinds as Captain Frederick Wentworth.

Firstly, I do love the way this film opens. It does a superb job of showing you precisely what time frame we are in by showing us Naval men getting together on a ship and being told that Napoleon has abdicated. It’s our first introduction to the officers and it’s the first glimpse we have into the post-war world we will now find ourselves in. I do love Corin Redgrave as Sir Walter Elliot. He positively shines as baronet obsessed with status and vanity. Mrs. Clay is plain and dowdy, but her looks (in terms of clothing) improve in Bath, which I do appreciate. Elizabeth is pretty but not overly so and looks to be around the same age as Anne. Mary, while mean to be younger, also looks to be around the same age as Anne, which I don’t mind. Having the Elliot siblings at least look closer in age doesn’t bother me as much as having Anne look much older than the other two. Anne looks tired, which I accept as her looks do progressively improve as the film enters into Bath. Susan Fleetwood, who portrays Lady Russell, sparkles as her character and I am sad to say she died in 1995, so this is her last film role. Every actor was cast exceptionally well and fits the role. Even the Miss Musgroves fit and they come across as annoying at times.

What I most love is the casting of the Crofts. While they do not have a major part in the novel, I buy that this couple cares deeply for Wentworth. I sense a familial connection between Sophia and Frederick. They act like siblings in public. That emotional connection which I found missing in the 1971 version is present in this one. And the Misgroves were cast very well as they come off as boisterous, loud, and full of life. Qualities which they didn’t quite capture in 1971, but are on full display here.

The Crofts. Truly Adorable.

Because this was filmed differently, there is much more on location and attention to using existing houses and homes, which is nice to see. Interior shots look like they were done in in some of these existing homes or in very detailed sets. One must consider that film quality has vastly improved since the 1970s as has camera quality, which will make a difference. More subtle use of natural lightening and also what I believe to be gray or tonal gels used to give the impression of overcast skies at times I actually don’t mind. The novel is meant to take place over the course of a late summer 1814 into Autumn and then end in Winter 1815. Much of the novel was cut due to time, but major points or scenes were kept such as Walter’s falling out of the tree, the walk to Uppercross, etc. Cutting of little scenes, while they are lovely in the novel, don’t necessarily translate well to a film. To a miniseries, yes, those generally are kept but since the intention was to go for more of a film feel, those scenes need to be cut.

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Sir Walter, Lady Russell, Elizabeth, Anne, and Mrs. Clay meeting Lady Dalrymple!

One thing cannot be stressed enough is that the costumes were exceptionally well done. The trousers (see Sir Walter above) are not only period correct, but of the right length to showcase those lovely legs encased in stockings! Alexandra Bryne did the Costume Design and won an award for it. She completely deserved it, in my humble opinion. The use of different textures, such as velvets, silks, jacquards, cottons, laces, and prints to give each character (from main characters to even servants) a story is the ultimate goal of any costume designer. Dresses and other garments also looked worn in places and comfortable, as they should look. No one should be donning a costume that looks so uncomfortable and stiff that it inhibits their acting style. Which brings us to the subject of the naval uniforms. Now, some critics then and now do not like seeing Wentworth, Admiral Croft, or any of the Naval men in uniform in this adaptation.  I have done a considerable amount of research and while it was frowned upon in France for me to wear their uniform after the War, be aware that they lost. In England, these men (both Navy and Army) were the victors-the heroes. I cannot think of a reason why they would not wear their uniforms to formal dinners. And for a Navy man to not wear his uniform in Bath? When Lord Nelson was that city’s favorite son? It doesn’t seem logical to not see men about in uniform after a major victory in a town that was all about the Navy at that time. So, for me, it is historically accurate to see Wentworth, Croft, Harville, Benwick and other naval men in their uniforms. I would have even liked to see an Army man or two in uniform to be honest. These men were heroes and would have been hailed as such. I do think critics lack the capability to do basic historical research at times.

Lady Dalrymple, Viscountess. Notice her makeup! Glorious!

One item I do not like is the lack of makeup on the women. Makeup was available. Lady Russell is seen wearing a little bit and I would have liked to see a little more attention paid to that end for all the women involved. I saw more attempts for historical accuracy for the extras in terms of makeup than for the main characters (though Lady Dalrymple has a goodly amount). We must stop this mindset that women no longer wore makeup after the French Revolution because it’s simply not true. The style of makeup changed, but it was still worn. I do like the different hairstyles, which is a plus. Some have complained about the short hair on Mrs. Croft and Lady Russell. Historically, women did have short hair at this time. Many of these women wore turbans. Guess who wears turbans in the films?

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A la Titus from Costume Parisienne circa 18008-1810 (I believe)

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Lady Russell in a divine Scotch Turban.

I also appreciate that this is the only adaptation to portray Mrs. Smith (Anne Elliot’s schoolfriend) as an actual invalid. Most tend to portray her as a down-on-her-luck widow, which she is. However, her maiden name is Emma Hamilton. Any student of history who knows even a smidgen of Lord Nelson knows Lady Emma Hamilton was the lover of Lord Nelson, gave birth to his illegitimate daughter, and didn’t have a good ending (alcoholism in Calais). So, I have always wished for her to look ill and someone who should be residing in Westgate Buildings. Westgate Buildings were located near the Doctors and the Baths for a reason as the residents in these buildings were invalids. The rooms should be sparse and hold a minimum of comfort. Everything wasn’t all lovely and refinement back then.

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Anne visiting Mrs. Emma Smith and Nurse Rooke in Westgate. Emma looks ill.

Other minor details which tickle my fancy that are historically accurate and are just nice touches: dancing is seen as lively, engaging and exuberant. Beer is seen served in the daytime (beer was drunk for Breakfast). You see people processing fish in Lyme (and it’s messy!). Eyebrows on women are not pencil (accurate) and being in a carriage doesn’t always look comfortable. On the other hand, things which I found annoying are Louisa’s lack of controlling her hair. Changing Charles Hayter (the cousin engaged to Henrietta) to Henry Hayter and he’s barely in it. At least have him walk Henrietta home from Winthrop (more screen time for the poor chap). The Charles Musgrove children are always depicted as being much older than they should be. If Mary is 22 at the oldest, she’s been married either 4 years (so her boys are 3 and 2) or has been married as long as 6 years (so 5 & 4). Yes, that would mean she was either 18 or 16 when she married Charles (the boys are routinely depicted as being at least 7 or 8).

A few issues that annoy some people, though not me is having Anne become a bit more self-assured when she comes to Bath and standing up to her father. Remember, Austen never polished this novel because she died young, so having Anne stand up to her father and see Mrs. Smith over the Dalrymples verbally, while not in the book, is what she does. She does chose to defy her father’s wishes and see her friend, so it’s not out of the realm of possibilities to have her say “No”. And as for the scene where Wentworth is discharging a request made by his Admiral, some critics have stated this scene is from the infamous first draft of the novel, but is missing from the second (which is the version that was published). I’ve never read the first draft so cannot confirm this theory, but if that is true, it may have been a scene Austen was debating on whether she should include it or not. The last issue people have is the kiss. For all the silly reasons to be upset, a kiss is the least of their concerns. Yes, historically, women did not kiss in public as it was not proper yet there are many first hand letters and accounts from people available online to read that describe engaged couples kissing in public at this time. People in love will behave in a certain way and this has been true for ages. It’s not that unbelievable to see Anne and Frederick sharing a kiss to cement their mutual understanding. This is a love story, after all, or a couple that has been apart, but in love with each other for 8 years. That is an incredibly long time to wait for a kiss.

So, is this adaption perfect? By no means it isn’t! It is enjoyable, short (which is nice if you don’t want to sit through a long miniseries), and is simply lovely. It also has the added distinction of being the only film version we have, which is a great pity. For a novel that ranks higher than Emma, it has less film and TV adaptations to it’s name. I would love to see a bigger budget, closer to three hour film version. This novel deserves it. We as Jane Austen fans deserve it. For now, I guess we’ll settle for a nice, quiet gravel walk…

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Persuasion Adaptations: Part 1

Now, I must confess that Jane Austen’s Persuasion is by far my favorite of her novels. So, one would think that there would be a plethora of adaptations available to pick and chose in order to discuss which ones work and which ones don’t. Shockingly, there have been only 4 adaptations of this wonderful novel. A BBC Miniseries in the early 1960s (which they erased and has been “lost”) is considered the first and regrettably no one can view it. There are a few still photographs available on-line and the cast list makes me wish a copy may one day be found. The second adaptation is a 1971 BBC/ITV version and is now available on DVD. The third, and probably most well known, is the 1995 version which is a BBC/A&E collaboration which was released as an independent film (more on that in Part 2). And finally, a 2007 BBC/ITV production. Since there are only three available, this makes it much easier on my part to discuss each in their own posting (parts), which will end with a conclusion on the last part regarding my recommendation. So, let us begin with the oldest, shall we?

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Wentworth (Mutton Chops!), Anne, and Charles Musgrove in Bath.

Persuasion (1971) adaptation was adapted by Julian Mitchell and originally aired in five episodes. When you see it now on DVD, it is only in 2 parts, which makes it easier to view (there’s definitely more of an unbroken story this way) but be aware it IS long (thankfully we have pause functions). Things that do stand out that are commendable about this version is the adherence to the text. The stillborn son is mentioned and this is the only adaptation to mention Sir Walter’s wife did have children other than the three daughters. I do love the over abundance of mirrors placed around the set of Kellynch to show rather than tell us how vain Sir Walter is because this is a fundamental part of his character and there is a reference in the novel to him having an excessive amount of looking glasses in his bedchamber, so this subtle way of reinforcing that concept is nice. I should warn whomever does seek out to watch this adaptation that there is a major difference from when the actors are inside to when they are outside. Some of this is simply down to the way it was filmed (this was done in 1970) and while the outside scenes are lovely, the inside scenes are definitely done on a set or sound-stage. I found that to be a trifle disappointing, but considering other adaptations done around the same time, this seems to be the normal procedure so I do take this into consideration.

The cast is a mixture of people who truly fit the role and those who seem just an odd fit. Ann Fairbank is wonderful as Anne Elliot. She is charming, able to convey silently all those emotions we know Anne is feeling, but also able to not seem like a weakling, which is not how I see Anne Elliot, but many people feel she should be portrayed this way. As the only original Anne Elliot we have, we have an excellent actress who does fit this role even when watching it today. Bryan Marshall is Captain Frederick Wentworth and while he is the perfect counterbalance to Ann Fairbank, he doesn’t quite fit the role of a Royal Naval Captain. While the pair are able to convey a shared past to us, I do feel his performance would not have been as convincing as it was without such am excellent Anne Elliot to pull it from him. I don’t “buy” into his role until about half way through. Now, this could have been done on purpose, to somehow make the audience feel awry about the good Captain and his intentions until part way through the series (which fits the novel), but in order to “buy” into this love story (and it IS a love story), you have to want to be with Captain Wentworth. You have to make some sort of emotional connection to his character (which is a basic tenant I learned during my Theatre days) or you lose the audience. He loses me, which is sad because he’s a fine actor.

As for the other actors, I thought Sir Walter was a very good casting as was Mr. Shepherd. I don’t mind the actress who portrays Mrs. Clay because she is sweet and conniving, which is a unique way of portraying that character. Elizabeth Elliot and Mary Musgrove both look younger than Anne Elliot, which is an issue considering in the novels, Elizabeth is the eldest and Mary is the youngest (Anne is the middle child). I do understand that one casts for the part, but it was unusual. Lady Russell was neither elegant nor motherly and I had issues as well as the casting of the Crofts and the Musgroves as well.  Lady Russell is described as being an elegant widow and she was portrayed and costumed a bit dowdy, which is an affront to the novel. The Crofts in no way seemed like they had ever been to sea and I didn’t believe Mrs. Croft was sister to Wentworth (they are siblings in the novel). There was almost no sense of a sibling relationship there which I was missing. The Musgroves are said to be large and were cast as two fairly tiny individuals. I’ve not yet deiced whether I like William Elliot or not. However, Captain Harville (poor man!), kept switching which leg was injured in this adaptation (a cane would have greatly helped). Captain Harville would have made an excellent William Elliot in my opinion (basically, switch those actors and I believe it would have been a great improvement).

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Anne in Lady Russell’s home. Notice the Oriental Vibe.

The costumes are…typical of the 1970s in that they are trying to be historically accurate, but at the same time, they are costuming as if for the stage and not film, so you do see zippers. A lot of zippers and a hodge podge of styles ranging from 1810 to 1830 in one story. FYI, the story of Persuasion takes place in 1814-1815 and is the only Jane Austen novel that we have a definite time-line as it begins with Napoleon being sent to Elba and ends before he escapes. Why this is so hard to keep in mind for all the adaptations, I cannot fathom. Getting back to the costumes in this one-the men were wearing trousers more suitable for Jane Eyre than Austen. The prints, if you can tell from the above image, are very late 1960s. If I were to show a profile of any of the ladies in this adapataion, you would get the nice bullet nipple profile, which is NOT historically accurate. As you can tell, the hair was not good at all. Ann Fairbank had, for the most part, what I can only describe as a sort of pushed back beehive. I can only surmise they were trying to fit the hairstyles into the bonnets, not realizing that women’s hair did not need to fit the exact shape of a poke bonnet.

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Elizabeth Elliot. Her hair is more 1820s. And her dress is very psychedelic.

The facial hair on the men as well is a bit weird. Now, I have seen some portraits of men during this time with facial hair. Mutton chops, however, are so closely tied with the Victorian aesthetic that it’s such an unusual choice here.

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Wentworth (Mutton Chops!) & Anne at the End. Her hair is vastly improved.

It does feel, and I have no way of knowing if it’s true or not, but many of the men’s clothes in particular were made for future Victorian adaptations or were pulled from stock. And while they are from the 19th Century, clothes befitting a man in the late 1820s to early 1830s is completely different profile wise from what he would be wearing in 1810-1815. The same applies to the costumes for the women. The waistlines varied from right under the bust to a few inches lower, which completely changes the profile of the gown being worn. Yes, this may sound a bit like I am picking on this adaptation, but there are some points that do work historically.

First is they do try to use silks, velvets, printed fabrics for the ladies and wool, suede, and rich jewel colors for the men. This is historically accurate in terms of what they were trying to achieve, but they just didn’t quite reach that threshold of being accurate. But for a “first” attempt (since the 1960s version is lost, this, for all accounts, is the first version available), it’s not bad. Secondly, the interior sets are full of Rocco elements, which I do like. People tend to think places like Kellynch and the Great Hall would have been completely Regency/Late Georgian inside and that’s not even remotely true. Elizabeth makes a statement in the novel about not redoing a room because of the lack of funds. How long has it been since the room was redone? Possibly close to thirty years if the last time it was redone was in the time of Elizabeth’s mother, which means styles would have drastically changed. Even if it was only fifteen years, that’s still a significant change in interior aesthetic which could be shown. So, in my opinion, the use of Rocco and mid Georgian Era elements fits for both interior shots (they even use a slight Oriental theme in Lady Russell’s home which was very popular starting around 1810 due to the Prince Regent and John Nash. Now, the colors used at times are a bit jarring (the bright reds and really bold greens) because softer colors were used and a bit more acceptable colors. This doesn’t mean bold colors were never used (Red patterned wallpaper in a Chinese design was very popular thanks to Prinny and Brighton), but I do have to keep in mind that the interior scenes are not shot inside actual homes, but on a set somewhere, and the bolder colors may have been used to help with lightening, but to also help the sets stand out from the black background.

Thirdly, I do appreciate using jewelry on the women and makeup. Regardless of what people try to tell you, makeup was still in use and still being manufactured. While white lead faces were no longer the acceptable look, the use of lip color, rouge, perhaps a little bit of kohl around the eyes was being used. Not much, as they did want to go for a more naturalistic look, but even today, the natural look requires makeup. And an effort was made to make Anne seem to take an interest in her looks after Wentworth makes the comment that she basically looks terrible. Even her hair, as badly styled as it is, does improve and ends up resembling something a bit more Regency at the end.

Fourthly, and I am completely sincere in this, I am grateful that even though the trousers are not accurate, Wentworth’s pants are a trifle snug. As are Captain Harville’s. I am a single woman in possession of wit and a fine mind, but even I can appreciate the male form when placed before me on display. I am not dead yet.

Finally, while this does have things that are not accurate, it is very faithful to the novel. The acting in it is exceptional and even though there are some odd casting choices, those people do a good job with their respective roles. The music used is original to the adaptation and is beautifully done. I have not yet been able to see if it’s available on CD, but I would not mind having the music because it is so well done. Since receiving this DVD for my birthday, I’ve seen this adaptation three times, so let’s just say I don’t dislike it.

OMG I’m done, so what Genre did I just write; an ode to a panic attack

Now that I have finished writing, editing (five times, thank you very much), and formatting to not have academia long paragraphs (plus, punctuation corrections), I have now started my search for a literary agent. There are some who pitch ideas for books before writing, and I’ve seen loads of examples of how to write such letters in order to get an agent in that manner. However, I cannot work that way and decided to finish this first novel (1 of 6 mind you; I do have a plan to my madness) before embarking on attaching myself to any agent.

I did the most logical, sensible thing in the world-I created a Pinterest board of writing tips and guidelines which included links to how to find a literary agent(see gigantic board linked below). One such link recommended Query Tracker. This website is free (though for premium services, you can pay a fee-I have elected not to at this time). It has loads of agents listed who are actively seeking new writers in various genres. Thus is my dilemma. What genre is my novel? And I do realize that I will have to write a query letter (basically a brief summary for any potential agents) which will hopefully capture someone’s interest. But both the website and letter require me to choose a genre.

My novel is, for the most part, a variation of an Austen novel. And it’s hard for me to pinpoint what genre that good lady’s novels fit into. When I first read Sense & Sensibility at age 12, for instance, they were located in the young adult (YA) section. The same for Emma and Northanger Abbey. I’ve also seen people list Emma as being part of a comedic-romantic genre, and Northanger Abbey as a pseudo-Gothic Romance. On the other hand, I recall having to get my mother’s written permission for the librarian would allow me to check out Pride & Prejudice (again, at age 12 or 13) because it was in the Adult section and listed as a Historical Romance (hidden amongst the bodice rippers-oh my!). Mansfield Park was in the Adult Romance section (rated PG-13 for the incestuous relationship between Fanny and Edward) which leaves Persuasion (my personal favourite) being listed as straight Romance in the library.

I decided on just plain Literary Fiction because I’m not sure if I should choose Historical as while I did include actual historical fact (researched and fully vetted), it’s not the typical historical fiction. I’ve read historical fiction and this isn’t quite the same. It’s more witty, heartbreaking, and, well, to be honest, it’s more like Jane Austen. Except it’s not (and it is at the same time). I could have chosen Romance, for it is a love story, but usually people tend to think Romance nowadays includes sex and this does not contain sex, being true to the who I am as a writer. Plus I do hope to get some poems published in magazines and the like as well and do not want to be known as just a writer of romantic fiction. I do have ideas swarming inside this head for children’s tales as well. Though I am quite proud for having pointed out the Quadrille was NOT a stately, leisurely dance. It’s the little details that you can now point out in every Austen adaptation to your friends as being completely wrong. You’re welcome.

Proof:

Websites I have been finding useful:

http://www.writersdigest.com (so much information, I can spend hours on it)

querytracker.net (I do think the basic free version is sufficient at this time)