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Why Jane Austen’s Persuasion Still Captivates Audiences

Jane Austen's PersuasionThis Spring 2018, Theatre6 is producing a touring production of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Artistic Director Kate McGregor discusses why they’ve chosen to adapt the work for six actor musicians, and why Persuasion remains so captivating for today’s audiences. Adapting a novel like Jane Austen’s Persuasion for the stage, from the earliest planning stages until the opening night, is a project that absorbs your days and nights for at least two years. In making the decision to dedicate such time to a piece, it has to be one which you’d like to explore visually, conceptually, emotionally and intellectually. Most importantly, it has to be a story that will excite, captivate and be relevant for your audiences. For Stephanie Dale (the novel’s adapter) and I, our biggest inspiration for working on the piece was the character of Anne. We envisioned how the themes in Persuasion could transcend time and space, and imagined how Jane’s ideas could breathe and thrive in our modern world.   A novel must show how the world truly is, how characters genuinely think, how events actually occur, a novel should somehow reveal the true source of our actions – Jane in Becoming Jane.   Set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic wars, this is a story about heartbreak. It’s about making decisions you regret, about trusting the right people for the wrong reasons. It asks questions about the inner workings of why we love and who loves the longest. Most importantly it’s an expression of Anne inner thoughts (more…)
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Austen Superpowers: Finding Yours With Anne Elliot

anne elliotAnne Elliot: A quiet force to be reckoned with. Kindly reproduced here with permission from its author, Laurie Viera Rigler, who is also the author of the popular Jane Austen Addict novels. Lizzy Bennet may be the one with all the flash and sparkle, but one should never underestimate one of Austen’s more reserved heroines, Anne Elliot of Persuasion. At first glance, Anne may not seem to fit the typical ideal of a cape-wearing, save-the-day superhero, but let’s take a closer look at Miss Anne: Austen Superpower 1: Grace under Fire. Who had the presence of mind that no one else had when Louisa Musgrove fell from the Cobb at Lyme? That’s right; Anne Elliot did. Everyone else was wailing and flailing while she was the voice of calm and reason in the midst of the emergency. She was the one who gave Captain Wentworth calm and rational directions as to how to help Louisa. Austen Superpower 2: Trusting Observation and Instinct. Who realized that Captain Wentworth was in love with her–despite his eight years of silence after she broke his heart, despite his ignoring her while happily being the Musgrove girls’ object of worship, and despite everyone else being ready to marry him off to Louisa Musgrove? You got it; Anne Elliot. Though not by any stretch of the imagination conceited or vain, and despite having been brought up to think of herself as beneath the notice of everyone in her family (aside, that is, from Lady Russell and Anne’s own (more…)
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Jane Austen News – Issue 71

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

  A Writer With Friends? Heaven Forbid! 

Authors Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney have recently seen their new book A Secret Sisterhood: The hidden friendships of Austen, Brontë, Eliot and Woolf published, and to go alongside the book they wrote an article for the Times newspaper which threw a little more light on why female authors so often have their female friends ‘airbrushed’ out of their lives by their family and society. When it came to Jane, they focused on her dear friend and fellow writer Anne Sharp, whom Jane, when in ailing health in 1817, proclaimed herself forever “attached” to.

So why do we hear so little about Anne who Emily and Emma say Jane had such a strong bond with?

Such a friendship flouted the social norms of the time. By keeping it out of official versions of Austen’s life, the family could create a false image of the famous author as a conservative maiden aunt, devoted above all else to kith and kin. As a result, the close bond she shared with Anne, who wrote plays in between teaching lessons, has become one of literature’s most enduring secrets.

Even today, as in Jane Austen’s time, it can be difficult to overcome the notion that a close, platonic female bond somehow threatens the allegiance a woman owes to her family. And while the opening up of professional roles during the 20th century has brought new opportunities for collaboration between women, the stereotype of the ambitious woman who jealously guards her place at the top continues to pervade.

This goes some way to explaining why the important friendships of female writers have failed to make it into literary lore.

At the Jane Austen News we found this to be a most interesting idea, and not one we’d really thought about before.


 Mr Bennet Gets Brewing!

A team from the Jane Austen Centre, including our Mr Bennet (Martin) and Jane Austen Festival director Jackie Herring, had a lovely day out this week at the Bath Brew House, where they helped to create a special Jane Austen beer.

The new beer is being created to celebrate Jane’s bicentenary year and will be an “Earl Grey, Red Ale”. It’s rather an appropriate tribute to Jane, given that she was a master brewer of Spruce beer herself.

The new tipple is due to be ready on July the 1st (just in time for the Jane Austen Summer Ball in Bath), and all of us at the Jane Austen News are very keen for a sample (or two)!

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 71

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The Sheet Music for Austen Film Scores

Jane Austen loved to play the pianoforte. She used to copy out music from her friends into books that remain in the Chawton House library to this day. Many of these pieces- classics by Bach, Mozart, Handel and others – are readily available for today’s musicians. If you want to try your hand yourself, A Carriage Ride In Queen’s Square, a wonderful compendium of original ‘easy to play piano pieces for Jane Austen’s Bath’ with a playalong CD included, is currently available from the Jane Austen Gift Shop. But what if you want to play music from the movie soundtracks? Surely these evoke the spirit of Jane Austen at least as much as the period pieces. Fortunately, many of these- from the original dances used in the movies- to sheet music of the film scores are easily obtained. Perhaps the most comprehensive collection of works is Jane Austen’s World published by Faber music. It includes: Emma by Rachel Portman- Frank Churchill Arrives Emma (End Titles) Sense and Sensibility by Patrick Doyle- My Father’s Favourite Devonshire All The Better For Her Excellent Notion The Dreame Pride and Prejudice by Carl Davis Pride & Prejudice Theme Canon Collins The Gardiners Summary Persuasion by Jeremy Sams Persuasion Main Theme Tristesse Italian Aria Another book, Jane Austen, the Music  includes a greater range of pieces from both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. Its contents are: Sense and Sensibility Weep You No More, Sad Fountains A Particular Sum My Father’s Favourite Patience All the Delights (more…)
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Jane Austen News – 13

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? A Mystery and A First Edition of Persuasion       An English teacher named Eleanor Capasso from Ayer-Shirley Regional High School in Massachusetts recently received a rather mysterious package. Opening the parcel Capasso found that the English department of the school had been sent what appears to be a first edition of Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion. It was a little tattered (as you can see) but that did nothing to lessen her excitement. She hurriedly got on the trail to find out more about it. Capasso said the book was sent to the school by Alice B. Bantle. Bantle explained in the letter which accompanied the book that she had found it in a box of auction house “junk” in her mother’s garage. Bantle had read the inscription on the inside of the book, and seeing that the original owner was a woman named Lillian M. Flood who had won the book as a prize in May 1900 at Ayer High School, Bantle sent the book to the school in the hope that it could be reunited with the it’s rightful owners. The owners are yet to be found, but Capasso is currently in the process of trying to trace the Flood family via the town’s record office. Mr Darcy Teaching Romance To Sports-Mad Men Of Today   At Jane Austen News we were delighted to discover that Mr Darcy is inspiring some of the men of today to be a little more romantic. In an (more…)
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Captain Wentworth’s Diary, by Amanda Grange: A Review

Captain Wentworth’s Diary by Amanda Grange When one feels that one’s support of Jane Austen paraliterature is a hopeless business as the genre has become a quagmire of revolting twaddle written by people who think Jane Austen was a sweet little spinster penning pretty romances, it is a real relief to be reminded why we still bother. There are some gems to be found in the sludge, Gentle Readers, and Amanda Grange’s previous two books, (Mr.) Darcy’s Diary and Mr. Knightley’s Diary, are among them. We are pleased to relate that her latest offering, Captain Wentworth’s Diary, does not disappoint. The point of these ‘hero’s point of view’ tales is to present backstory, to show the parallel to the heroine’s journey. In this retelling of Persuasion we are given a real treat: the whole story of the summer of the Year Six, when Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth fell in love. Young Wentworth is as full of “intelligence, spirit, and brilliancy” as Jane Austen described him; fresh from his heroics at St. Domingo, he rolls into Somerset ready to dance and flirt with every pretty girl. The last thing he expects is to fall in love–especially not with the quiet Anne; and when he does, and offers for her, and is accepted, the very last thing he expects is for her to break their engagement. He leaves Somerset, injured and angry, to make his fortune. Eight years later, Napoleon has been confined on Elba, and the Royal Navy comes home; (more…)
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Inner voices: The voices of Anne and Austen in Persuasion

By Camilla Magnotti Komatz with illustrations from Persuasion by C.E. Brock Persuasion, Jane Austen’s last finished novel, is probably the one in which the narrative voice and the protagonist’s voice are most interwoven. Jane Austen’s opinions and visions of the changing times are much similar to those of Anne Elliot. The activity of the story encompasses the period of peace between the signing of the Treaty of Paris in June 1814 and Napoleon’s escape from the island of Elba and subsequent return to Paris in February and March of 1815. It was a period when society went through significant changes and, as Jane writes, “many a noble fortune [had] been made during the war.” Captains and admirals had made their fortune and so achieved a high place in society. Jane Austen’s experiences are also closely related to those experienced by Anne. Like Anne, she too spent some time in Lyme, and in many of the places Anne visits and passes through she follows Austen’s footsteps. Two of Austen’s brothers, Francis and Charles, joined the navy and were a great source of information to her. Austen’s and Anne’s opinions on the navy are the same, and, indeed, the two women have been much compared. Regarding Austen, Ann Barret states that “Anne…was herself; her enthusiasm for the navy, and her perfect unselfishness reflect her completely” (Morrison). However, Austen described Anne as “almost too good for me”, suggesting a distance between her feelings and actions and those of the protagonist. In that sense, (more…)
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He was only Sir Walter: the opening of Persuasion

By Giulia Magnotti Komatz with illustrations from Persuasion by C.E. Brock The first few paragraphs of Persuasion describe Sir Walter Elliot’s personality. The novel’s opening words – “Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire…” – convey the character’s essence by seeming to imitate the style of his beloved Baronetage: “Elliot of Kellynch Hall: Walter Elliot, born March 1st, 1760…” Therefore, Austen’s narrative voice ironically describes Sir Elliot in the manner by which he judges the value of every one of his acquaintances, that is, by their name, rank and property. The remainder of the novel’s opening – described hereafter as from the beginning of chapter one until “she was only Anne” (p.5) – gives a more rounded description of his character and his relation with his family. Few women could think more of their personal appearance than he did For a returning reader of Persuasion, it already raises the expectation of what is to come: his necessary removal from Kellynch due to financial problems. The fact that he continues to write his family history beyond the “printer’s hand” (p.3) both with established facts, such as Mary’s marriage, and with forthcoming ones, such as the name of his future heir (summed up by Austen in “vanity was the beginning and end of Sir Walter’s character; vanity of person and of situation” [p.4]), combined with the information that his late wife was the one who “humored, or softened, or concealed his failings, and promoted his real respectability” (p.4) leads the reader (more…)