Friday, 29 June 2007
Finding that I didn't like the way that some literature was formatted online, that I wanted one simple home for my resources, and that I wanted to share the sources of my references made here, I decided to start another blog where I can do all that. Introducing!:
The site is in it's infancy at the mo but shortly there'll be a world of Georgian info available.
I mention the poem Tintern Abbey by Wordsworth? It's there! I quote directly from an online resource? It's there. I say Natalie Regensberg writes an awesome essay, or Dr Frances Wilson writes an awesome lecture? It's totally there! Want to read some Byron? Course you do! Just follow the Byron tag.
Obviously, I don't do all of my research online but if possible I'll include sites where you can read or, if that's not possible, buy the books I've consulted.
I'll be loading up all my references over this long weekend holiday, as well as drawings, paintings and photographs, and typing up poems, quotes and what nots to add there. If it's a reference or a research tool, you'll find it there. Enjoy!
For eight years, from 1809 until her death in 1817, Austen lived with her mother, her sister Cassandra and their friend Martha Lloyd, in the village of Chawton in Hampshire. The cottage is open to the public as a kind of museum and after acquiring new funding, Austen's letters have become part of the displayed collection. Here is a guided audio tour of the cottage.
I really love the interviews I turned up this round. There is this 2002 gem with Harriet Walter, who besides being a thoroughly interesting, talented and intelligent woman, played Mrs John Dashwood in '95 Sense and Sensibility. Here she talks about playing one of Shakespeare's great women, Beatrice, in Much Ado About Nothing.
She has featured in two Austen adaptations, '83 Mansfield Park as Maria Bertram and '96 Emma as Mrs Weston. She's a lovely, clever, funny woman and in 2002 Samantha Bond played Lady Macbeth on stage with the super sexy, genuine, talented and, personally my favourite actor, Sean Bean.
Juliet Stevenson is one of a very small handful of truly brilliant actors alive today. As well as being a remarkably talented stage and screen actor, she known for her excellent narration of novels, including all of Austen's works (she was voted as BBC Radio's favourite reader) and radio work. She played Mrs Elton in the '95 Emma film, she's an absolutely fascinating woman and here Juliet Stevenson talks about her absorbing role in Tom Murphy's remarkable play Alice Trilogy.
You can play these radio items with Real Player, simply follow 'Listen to This Item'. If you need to install Real Player, you can download it from their website free of charge.
Thursday, 28 June 2007
An aesthetic appreciation of landscape was a practice that was realized during the Georgian era. This appreciation was inconceivable before the 18th century and when it developed, it developed into a notion, and thence into an ideal, known as The Picturesque. A new way of seeing things requires learning, and a new way of seeing landscape requires travel and art, three experiences unavailable, especially combined, to practically none but the wealthy aristocracy at the beginning of the Georgian period. Like so many ideals, the Picturesque began with art, specifically the 17th century continental landscape paintings of Salvator Rosa, Claude Lorraine and Gaspard Dughet (also known as Gaspard Poussin).
'Precipices, mountains, torrents, wolves, rumblings, Salvator Rosa!'
To be continued
Tuesday, 26 June 2007
The Big Three of The Napoleonic Wars: Well, Nel and Nap.
Field Marshal His Grace Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington c. 1 May 1769 - 14 September 1852.
National Gallery, London
Born to an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family in
On 18 June 1815, the army of Napoleon faced an allied force of British, Belgain and Dutch troops on a ridge outside a small Belgian town called
Nonetheless, Napoleon Bonaparte was a master of warfare. If the allied troops folded, the road to
During Mary's very introduction into the narrative she betrays her ill-judging notions on sexual conduct when she talks lightly and laughingly of Henry's skills as a flirt and as a heart breaker to Mrs Grant, without a murmur of concern for the women he misuses. She declares that 'everybody should marry as soon as they can do it to advantage', and quickly surmises that Tom Bertram's wealth and the estate and title that would be his upon Sir Thomas' death, would exactly suit her matrimonial ideals and without any romantic inclination, she turns on the charm. She cleverly draws amusing stories from him in order than she may appear so winningly amused, and feigns an interest in his taste for horse racing. In the house chapel at Sotherton Mary shocks (the admittedly easily shocked) Edmund and Fanny by dwelling on what she believes to be commonly accepted female sexual fantasies. 'The former belles of the house of Rushworth' she imagines there pretending to pray with 'seeming piety, but with heads full of something very different--especially if the poor chaplain were not worth looking at' during the family church services of former days. Even while Edmund and Mary are developing feelings for one another, she mocks and mourns his choice of a sexually neutralized profession as a clergyman, rather than soldier, sailor or lawyer, and tells him repeatedly without disguise that she intends to marry a rich man, all of which he blindly assigns to wrongness in speech rather than in morals.
Fanny of course sees and experiences the reality of Mary's lax sexual principles. She observes Mary standing by happily while Crawford meddles with Maria and Julia, causing bad feelings between the sisters, destabilizing Maria’s engagement with Rushworth, and leading Maria seriously astray. When there are no Miss Bertrams to meddle with, Mary even sanctions Crawford's cold plan of a flirtation attack on Fanny, stating that 'a little love, perhaps, may animate and do her good' and working even as Crawford's agent to get the infamous necklace around Fanny's innocent throat.
Whilst Mary's questionable remarks and her culpability in the attack on Fanny could, without further missteps, have be set down as thoughtless and indecorous rather than amoral, towards the end of the narrative and at a distance from Mansfield, she betrays her truly unethical notions about sexual alliances. In her letter to Fanny at
I would happily bet money that every reader of Mansfield Park asks themselves, after the flight of Maria and Crawford, the elopement of Julia Bertram with Yates and the life threatening illness of Tom Bertram, before they have reached the concluding chapter that reveals all, 'But what's going to happen to Mary Crawford?' And though she does not sink to actual sin, it is her complete lack of sexual principles that costs her Edmund Bertram. The experience of Edmund has made her discontent with lesser men, however rich, and it is doubtful that her new standards for domestic happiness can be met by another.
Interestingly, shallow, greedy, manipulative and even amoral as she is, Mary is yet the most alluring young female of the narrative, even while Fanny is the most admirable. Complete as they are as characters, Fanny cannot tantalize, Julia cannot interest and Maria cannot charm but Mary can do all of these. Austen’s other major works also feature ladies who cannot get the man they want. But when Pride and Prejudice's Caroline Bingley can't manage to snag Darcy, when Isabella Thorpe is denied Captain Tilney in Northanger Abbey or when Elizabeth Elliot's hopes of her cousin are disappointed in Persuasion, the reader cannot care. Not only do we not care but we feel a kind of justice in the punishment they receive for the pain they cause our heroines. This isn’t the case with Mary Crawford for me. She’s no Fanny, it’s true. Fanny is the bright light in a rather dark story but Mary, unlike Austen’s other disappointed ladies is likable and, being intelligent, in a partnership with Edmund she must have improved. But how can a narrative like Mansfield Park, whose stance on sexuality is so staunchly unbending, reward the amoral principles and even, at times, the machinations of Mary Crawford, with an adoring Edmund and a happy marriage? It cannot.
Visit the Sex in the Park tag for Part 1 - 6 of this topic.
Friday, 22 June 2007
The book itself, first written in 1798 but not published until 1817, was simultaneously a defense of the novel as an art form, a celebratory sending up of Gothic fiction and, a warning about it. Austen herself enjoyed gothic fiction, especially the work of Ann Radcliffe, but she feared that the excessive romanticism and melodrama of the books incited impressionable girls to ape the manners, coquetry and faux sentimentality of a Gothic heroine, in search of the exciting adventures they found on the page. Seeking the danger and intrigue of a novel in their everyday lives could not but breed insincerity and vanity, and in Northanger, she gives us the portrait of just such a girl in Isabella Thorpe.
The literary Gothic grew out of many influencing factors and was the Romantic Period's appreciation and interpretation of the medieval. It ranged from elegant appreciations of the Gothic form, such as Wordsworth's poem Tintern Abbey, to the truly macabre novels of the canon and to the more philosophical horror of Mary Shelley, and Dr Frankenstein's Creature. The Gothic revival, which appeared in English gardens and architecture before it got into literature, was the work of a handful of visionaries, the most important of whom was Horace Walpole (1717–1797), novelist and man of letters. His 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto and the Gothic remodeling of his widely copied estate Strawberry Hill, ushered in an era that would last six decades.
Contributing influences included accounts of European travels, most notably those accounts of the well to do Grand Tour, which took English travelers through the Alps, invoking sublime horror, notions of lurking banditti and spurning on the Picturesque movement as well as the Gothic, and Graveyard Poetry, a genre popular in the first half of the 18th century. It's subjects were, apart from graves and churchyards, elements such as night, death and hauntings, and everything else that would be considered irrational, and thus excluded, by the rational culture of the Enlightenment. It is the nature of the human mind to interpret the denied and excluded as mysterious and intriguing, and as such, elements of the Gothic novel that would keep the public coming back for more included more than just dungeons and skeletons: it was violence, murder, wealth, poverty and incest and its underlying current of themes often on the minds of the Georgians: Anti-Catholicism, eroticism, social freedom and illegitimacy.
The gothic novels that make up the Northanger Canon are:
The Mysteries of Udolpho 1794 by Ann Radcliffe
The Italian 1796 by Ann Radcliffe
The Necromancer: or, The Tale of the Black Forest 1794 by Carl Friedrich Kahlert
Horrid Mysteries 1796 by the Marquis de Grosse
The Mysterious Warning, a German Tale 1796 by Eliza Parsons
Orphan of the Rhine 1798 by Eleanor Sleath
Clermont, a Tale 1798 by Regina Maria Roche
The Midnight Bell 1798 by Francis Lathom
If you live in
Atlhough I’ve had The Mysteries of Udolpho and another Radcliffe, The Romance of the
The pictures featured in this post are an illustration from The Mysteries of Udolpho,Vol. 4, p. 217 (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green, 1830) and the cover of The Midnight Bell, as published by Valancourt Books 2007.
Thursday, 21 June 2007
It would have been justifiable however and not entirely unexpected for Sir Thomas or Edmund to challenge Crawford to a duel for his dishonorable conduct with their kinswoman. We know that in Sense & Sensibility there is a meeting between Willoughby & Colonel Brandon after Willoughby's seduction and abandonment of Eliza and in Pride & Prejudice also, Mrs Bennet expresses a fear that her husband will duel with Wickham, the seducer of their daughter Lydia. But the Bertram men are not the dueling type, decorum weighs more for them than ego, and no such meeting befalls Crawford.
And though he suffers no physical or financial consequences, it is in the narrative’s power to deal a more serious and lasting blow to Henry Crawford, in the loss of Fanny. Had he not acted on motives of vanity and lust, in ‘the esteem and tenderness of Fanny Price, there would have been every probability of success and felicity for him.’ It is with Fanny as his wife that Crawford would have become the man he had potential to be, and given his lack of respect for any woman but her, there is little chance of marital happiness for him with another. The narrative makes it clear that before the scandal broke publicly, Crawford had hoped to get clear of Maria and marry Fanny, whom he is very much in love with, but in Mansfield Park, consequence must be reaped from sowing so very many seeds. For Henry Crawford there is 'wretchedness' in the outcome, and the knowledge that it was he who robbed him of his own future happiness, perhaps for life. Here there is 'self-approach', 'vexation and regret', and even Mary has the clarity to observe that her brother has ‘thrown away such a woman as he will never see again'.
To be continued
Tuesday, 19 June 2007
For this post I’m only talking about Austen audio books available through iTunes. Another time soon I’ll be touching on the many, many audio books available elsewhere.
In my version of iTunes there are currently over 30 Austen audio books available for purchase. Personally, I really enjoy a book on tape, especially when narrated by someone who reads aloud well. There is a large selection out there and it can be tricky to hit on the right one and disappointing if you don’t, especially if you’ve forked out anything from ten to seventy dollars. There are a few things to look for that can serve as guidelines for the uninitiated. Sound quality & narration are very important, especially in a recording you want to listen to more than once. Actors are often employed for narration and though I do like the practice, not all actors are necessarily good at voice work and narration. A lot of books on tape are read by actors whose talents are fine on screen but their skills don’t really translate to the spoken word. I recommend looking for an actor whose voice is expressive and enjoyable to listen to and preferably, who has experience in theatre or radio plays. Often Austen books are narrated by an actor who has featured in one of the film adaptations.
As far as sound quality goes, in iTunes there is a preview button feature in the space where you look up the details of a particular recording, which allows you to listen to a couple of minutes of the recording for free.
There is also abridgment to be considered. I wouldn’t normally recommend or buy an abridged edition, where some of the book is cut to make the recording shorter. But sometimes the abridging is done without losing too much around the edges, none that you would notice unless you were very familiar with the book in question, and abridged editions are almost always cheaper. It’s probable that if an abridged recording was narrated really well by a good actor and reasonably priced that I’d buy it.
I have scoured the details and listened to the previews of all the audio books available through my iTunes for a few recommendations.
Pride & Prejudice read by Joanna David
Recorded by Penguin Classics $AU14.99
Emma read by Fiona Shaw
Recorded by Penguin Classics $AU10.99
Recorded by Penguins Classics $AU20.99
Lady Susan, The Watson & Sanditon read by Norma West
Pride & Prejudice read by Emilia Fox
Sense & Sensibility read by Susannah Harker
Recorded by BBC WW $AU46.99
These recordings aren't cheap, there's no denying that. But I've found that I've kept & still listen to a few very good tapes I have, (yep, that's cassette tapes. I still have my walkman too) especially Tess of the d'Urbervilles read by Lindsay Duncan around '90 which I snagged at a swap meet.
A note on CD burning, recordings purchased via iTunes are copy protected and it's not possible to burn them. Believe me, I've tried. But for the more virtuous among us, fear not. Burning recordings that are published by specific media is not illegal or unethical and for tips on recordings that are in the public domain, free and therefor allowed to be copied, check this space for more shortly upcoming editions of Books on Tape Techie Time.
Despite their attractiveness & appeal to everyone at Mansfield par Fanny, in Henry & Mary Crawford's shadowy background, there always hovers the spectre of the sexual misconduct of their friends & relations. The Crawford’s parents, including the one they share with Mrs Grant, are dead and the siblings have been reared by their uncle & aunt, the Admiral & Mrs Crawford. The opinions and behaviour of the elder Crawfords, whose marriage was unstable, unhappy and mutually disrespectful, set the tone for the younger from an early age, and their principles were formed, as Mrs Grant so aptly puts it, “in a bad school for matrimony in
To be continued
Monday, 18 June 2007
I’m not sure if Anglo/American cinema quite knows how to deal with writers who are women & who aren’t notably eccentric or extraordinarily different. Literary figures such as George Sand (the nom de plume of Amantine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin, Baroness Dudevant), played by the ageless and radiantly talented Judy Davis in the 1991 film Impromptu, might perhaps be meaty material a for a director to approach because of her mould-breaking flamboyance. Sand, in the 19th century, regularly dressed in mens’ attire in public, lived apart from her husband, traveled abroad & had affairs with the likes of Chopin & Liszt. The 2003 BBC doco/reenactment Frankenstein – The Birth of a Monster wonderfully chronicles the life Austen’s contemporary Mary Shelley, her confident & unconventional choices and her dramatic life with Percy Shelley, Lord Byron & their absorbingly interesting posse. But what to do with female writers who, however talented, are domestic, rooted in small circles and family life, busy, healthy & happy?
Though interested in the recently released Austen biopic Becoming Jane I am wary of pending disappointment due to her very normality and quiet lifestyle, especially after the 2006 Miss Potter, a biopic (or faux biopic, rather (Fiopic!)) of children’s book writer and illustrator Beatrix Potter which I had at the time looked forward to for months. Potter, among other distinctions was a widely respected botanic illustrator, farmer, conservationist and expert mycologist but Miss Potter reduced her to a dithering wet blanket who made up little stories about bunny-wunnys and lived in an imaginary world. Frankly, I don’t have high hopes that Austen may fare any better in Becoming Jane, which I gather tows the line that Austen became a great writer because of a the trauma of a unfulfilled youthful romance, and not because of talent, intelligence, clarity, hard work & a maturity beyond her years.
The trailer for the film is not promising, simply placing Austen herself in the character of Elizabeth Bennet with the exact story line of Pride and Prejudice and tacking on the exact same music from the hugely successful ’95 Sense & Sensibility, I kid you not. I’m willing to hope however that the trailer pirates have yet again spliced a movie to make it look like something it’s not in order to get the masses into the cinema. According to said trailer pirates, the masses need a hell of a lot of prodding. I’m familiar with the events the film is based on and with Jane Austen’s letters, and since I’ve found out that the very real and fascinating characters of Eliza de Feuillide and Ann Radcliffe are portrayed along with the protagonists, I’m still curious enough to want to see it upon its release here in
I’ve read several articles recently that express disappointment that a beautiful American woman, Anne Hathaway, was cast to portray an English writer who has always been considered by public opinion as somewhat plain and spinster like. This belief is based on the only portrait of Austen known as a certainty to be her, a drawing done by her sister Cassandra. Putting aside the possibility that Cassandra’s talents in portraiture may not be great, I have no issue with what Jane Austen might have looked like, or with Hathaway playing her. Frankly, Austen’s appearance will never matter to me, as her looks have nothing to do with her books. As for Hathaway’s American-ness, she is an actor and it’s her job to embody a character, no matter how different they are from her, ethnically or otherwise. Anne Hathaway does seem to be a bit of a Disney product thus far, the “thinking-little-girl’s princess” as it were but I’m prepared to hope for a deeper performance here than she has yet had an opportunity to give.
On a related note, I am saddened and angered that in this modern, more feminist world Helen Trayler, managing director of publisher Wordsworth Editions, has had hair extensions and make up put on to Austen’s portrait on a book cover. "She was not much of a looker” and “If you look more attractive, you just stand out more” according to Trayler. Heaven forbid the day when the merits of us all are judged solely by Helen Trayler’s standards. Whilst Anne Hathaway is embodying Austen as an artist, Trayler is actively distorting her real portrait to sell more books. The Cassandra portrait in question hangs in the National Gallery and though highly disrespectful to artist and subject as it is, the portrait is in the public domain and the distortion of it is not illegal, however unethical.
Sunday, 17 June 2007
Some months after the happy event, when the Crawfords and Rushworths meet in society in
Thursday, 14 June 2007
PBS has recently issued a press release announcing that they will be embarking on a Jane Austen season in January 2008. Four of the titles—Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Emma and Pride and Prejudice—were adapted by Andrew Davies, Mansfield Park is a coproduction of Company Productions and WGBH Boston. Persuasion is a Clerkenwell Films production for ITV in association with WGBH Boston and Miss Austen Regrets, a true story based on Jane Austen’s own letters and diaries, will be part of the four-month marathon.
What I'm really interested in here is the new Sense & Sensibility, which is presently in production by the BBC. It's hard to go too far wrong with Andrew Davies. I recently watched his Northanger Abbey and was rather pleased with it, Felicity Jones is charming in it, and of course his '95 Pride & Prej and '95 Emma are widely considered to be the best adaptations of those novels.
'07 Persuasion is pretty good, it's watchable and enjoyable enough but lacks the depth, insight and excellent performances of the '95 film, which is resplendent with the likes of Amanda Root, Fiona Shaw, Sophie Thompson, Victoria Hamilton, Phoebe Nicholls, Corin Redgrave and Ciaran Hinds. Still, while it lacks and sags a little, I'd catch it. There is enough there to intrigue an avid Persuasion fan and pique the interest of a new one
Dreck notwithstanding, maybe I'll buy a TV by January because I wouldn't mind catching Jane Austen Sundays.
Wednesday, 13 June 2007
There is no sexual deviance under the roofs of the
Tuesday, 12 June 2007
A Painter's Studio
National Gallery of Art Washington DC
Even though I could blog (verb? Totally) possibly endlessly about strictly Austen topics, once a week, possibly more often but at least this one is in a specific format, I'm going to go down the culturally significant road and post an item that is, as so aptly stated above, linked to the Georgian period. It might be about a book that influenced Austen, an author she influenced, music, art, decor or even Regency adventure travel. Anything could happen.
Even from her infancy the evils of an ill-judged sexual alliance are working against our heroine. The marriage of her aunt Lady Bertram to the wealthy baronet Sir Thomas had given rise to hopes that the other two sisters would likewise do well for themselves from the connection to a nobleman with considerable influence, power and wealth and from the opportunity to meet and captivate rich men themselves by socializing in Sir Thomas’ circles. Alas, Sir Thomas’ very domesticated habits were never likely to produce many such opportunities and though the eldest secured a home for herself with Mr Norris in the Mansfield parsonage, Fanny’s mother though ‘quite as handsome’ as her newly minted sister, threw herself away on a ‘Lieutenant of Marines, without education, fortune, or connections’ and into a thankless life of poverty, toil and child bearing without management, cleanliness or manners, with almost no education for her children and without even respectability for herself or her family. Such was Fanny’s early life in