We’re really looking forward to Christmas this year! As well as spending time with family and friends and partaking of delicious food and drink, we have some amazing programmes coming up on the BBC that are on our “must watch” (or tape for later) list!
The BBC has announced that an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders starring John Malkovich and Rupert Grint will be shown. Also coming up will be a new version of Watership Down, featuring the voices of John Boyega, Olivia Colman, Sir Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton, Peter Capaldi and Mackenzie Crook. However, most exciting for us, is the upcoming six-part non-musical take on Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, with Dominic West as Jean Valjean, and also starring David Oyelowo and Lily Collins.
We also have good news if you don’t live in the US and don’t have access to the BBC though. Amazon Prime has snapped up the rights to show The ABC Murders in the US, and and Watership Down is a co-production with Netflix so that will be available to those outside the UK as well. Meanwhile, Les Miserables is a co-production with the US network Masterpiece. So American fans of period dramas – keep an eye out for that coming to your screens.
Don’t Insult Your Children, Give Them Jane Austen by Allison Burr My kids saw that scoundrel Willoughby at Chic-Fil-A last night. Or so they thought. We had just finished our chicken sandwiches and waffle fries and were headed off to Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God concert, but all four kids stopped dead in their tracks when they saw the unsuspecting dark-haired, large-eyed teenage boy behind the counter. I could read their body language; if this was indeed Willoughby, as they frantically whispered in my ear, he would surely do something reprehensible at any moment. And they weren’t going to miss it. Much to their chagrin, we ushered them out the door, and the Willoughby look-a-like was left to finish his work without further danger of besiegement. In their overactive 10-, 8-, 7-, and 3-year-old minds, they had seen a villain behind the counter. The details of this poor boy’s true identity are of no consequence. The more important reality is that Jane Austen had captured their hearts and imaginations, and my children have not yet entered adolescence. This surely qualifies as a parental milestone. Now, I know the purists contend that the consumption of the screen portrayal should never precede the consumption of the written. I don’t hold to that particular standard (but undoubtedly have my own purist standards in other areas). As such, when we began the several-hour long 2008 BBC version of Sense and Sensibility, my kids were immediately enthralled and the questions came with great rapidity. With my finger (more…)
Historical Knotwork – A Naval CV of Sorts This sea chest becket (handle) is exactly the sort which would have been found on the naval chests used by sailors in Nelson’s Navy. Not only is it a beautiful item in itself, it’s also an object which would have worked as a sort of “knotwork CV” for any boy who wished to be hired. Nelson himself joined the Royal Navy in 1771 at the age of twelve. In that era, children of this age were old enough to take up training or apprenticeships and it was normal for boys to go to sea to train as officers and, if they passed the examination before the Commissioners of the Admiralty, they could expect to be lieutenants at the age of eighteen. If any boy (or trained sailor for that matter) needed to prove his worth to a prospective captain or other marine employer, then a sea chest becket such as this one would show his skill with ropes, and prove that he would be a skilled pair of hands to have aboard ship. However, usually they would not be done by the sailor, but would come already installed on the chest. Those with the skill to make them would get the chest with plain beckets and then replace them when he had the time. How is it made? This sea chest becket is made from a rope centre, spliced at either end, padded with canvas (or “pudding’d” to give it it’s technical (more…)
From Captain Wentworth’s Travel Journal: Visiting Victory is ‘one off the bucket list’ So Admiral Horatio Nelson has been something of a hero of mine for… well, for as long as I can remember. My hero worship started (believe it or not) with Star Trek’s very own Captain James Tiberius Kirk. When William Shatner accepted the role he had trouble getting into the head of the starship captain whose ship and crew were more important to him than his own life. He asked the shows creator Gene Roddenberry for help in finding the character’s motivation and Roddenberry suggested he read the Hornblower novels by C.S. Forester. Everything you need to understand Kirk resides with Hornblower – his courage, his self doubt, his sense of duty. From there it was a short hop to the wonderful Patrick O’Brien novels and more recently the phenomenal work of Julian Stockwin and Dudley Pope. From there further still, the real life stories of the men and women who served as inspiration to these novelists – Lord Cochrane, Edward Pellew, and of course Admiral Nelson. It is because of my naval history obsession that I was able to turn up for work on my first day at the Jane Austen Centre with my own historically accurate costume. An Admiral’s dress coat and white ‘smallclothes’, breeches, stockings, waistcoat appropriate to a Napoleonic officer. I was most fortunate to be ‘offered the part’ of Captain Frederick Wentworth. I put the badge on for the first time and (more…)
One of the joys of re-reading Jane Austen’s novels is finding something new each time, bringing with it a deeper understanding of her characters and the society in which they live. Although Austen is known as a romance writer (and, I would argue, the inventor of modern romance structure), I find her illustration of family dynamics to be the most appealing aspect of her work, and the reason she has fans around the world, across time and culture. She invites us into her life and times, and we recognize ourselves and our families in her characters.
Sometimes a re-read lets me see something I’ve missed the dozens of reads before. For instance, in Pride & Prejudice, when Jane catches cold and has to stay overnight at Netherfield, I had read the book countless times before it occurred to me that this wasn’t a ‘Regency thing’. It was just as embarrassing for Jane as if it had happened to someone in the 21st century. Mrs. Bennet’s brazenness in engineering the whole thing became even worse when I looked at it from that standpoint. Can you imagine — going to a stranger’s house for tea and then having to stay overnight for days? And the doctor has to come? Poor Jane!
Austen Superpowers: Self-Awareness & True Love Kindly reproduced here with permission from its author, Laurie Viera Rigler, who is also the author of the popular Jane Austen Addict novels. Can self-importance, meddling, and delusion be considered superpowers? Hardly. And yet, the self-congratulating and clueless titular heroine of Jane Austen’s Emma rises above being the character that Austen thought that no one but herself would like. In the course of the story, Emma has a series of aha! moments about herself. More important, she acts on that self-awareness. via GIPHY –Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, a brilliant adaptation of Emma. In a Jane Austen novel, a lady can only earn her cape by acknowledging that there are are huge cracks in what she once thought was the truth. Once she tears down that wall of delusion and replaces it with wisdom, the heroine-in-training develops more self-awareness, more self-empowerment, and more capability to create happiness than she ever had before. That is what Emma does. For that is what Austen superpowers are all about. Emma’s Austen superpower #1: Acknowledging one’s cruelty and choosing kindness instead. Emma realizes – with the tough-love help of her dear friend Mr Knightley – that she really was unconscionably cruel to the babbling Miss Bates at the Box Hill picnic. For Emma, Knightley’s confrontation is a painful moment of self-awareness. But instead of retreating in angry pride or mortification, Emma attempts to make amends, paying a visit to Miss Bates, humbled and penitent, and works hard to restore herself (more…)
Pride and Prejudice and “Universally Acknowledged” “Truths”
by Seth Snow
[Note: Throughout this essay, when I refer to specific words from Pride and Prejudice¸ I will put these words in quotation marks.]
Jane Austen’s readers are quite familiar with the opening line of Pride and Prejudice:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
This passage raises several issues. Firstly, marriage is obviously important to characters in this novel. Secondly, “universally acknowledged” would mean all members of this particular society are aware, likely even in agreement, of the “truth” concerning wealthy single men who “must be in want” of wives. Consequently, when a wealthy man comes onto the scene, the socially “acknowledged” expectation is that these men “must be in want” of a wife solely due to their single status and financial status. Whatever thoughts or feelings on marriage that these wealthy men may have are secondary to the “acknowledged” “truth.” The same can be said for single women: their thoughts and feelings on marriage must align with this “universally acknowledged” “truth”; while some women privately may object to “universally acknowledged” “truths,” we do not get the “wife’s” point of view in the opening line. Therefore, a single woman is expected to marry whichever “single man in possession of good fortune” proposes to her. Finally, it is important to note that the narrator does not say “the truth” but rather “a truth.” “A truth” suggests that other “truths” are not “acknowledged” and that it is not the only “truth” out there. This particular “truth,” however, has become “universal” because norms of society “acknowledge” it is “true” and the minds of its members have been conditioned by these norms. Being different or thinking differently initially means remaining single in the world of Pride and Prejudice.
An Exclusive Preview of A Pride and Prejudice Inspired Novel What Kitty Did Next by Carrie Kablean “My impetus to write What Kitty Did Next was born of the simple fact that my idea of what Catherine Bennet looked like didn’t accord with her portrayals in either the 1995 BBC TV series of Pride and Prejudice, or the 2005 film. Which is not to denigrate either of those productions (who hasn’t watched the BBC version more than once?) or the actors who played Kitty, just that I imagined her differently. Also, I always felt a bit sorry for Kitty, who didn’t “cough for her own amusement” and who was so readily labelled silly and ignorant. Yes, she was petulant, but teenage girls aren’t known for their empathy and good sense, and I felt the need to ameliorate her. Just because you are silly at 17 doesn’t mean you will always be silly, surely? So that’s it, in a nutshell. Of course, I was very happy to take myself back into Jane Austen’s world (and fully aware of the trespass, although I had no idea that there were so many Austen spin-offs and sequels before I started!) I have been meticulous in my research of the period, and its language, and I thoroughly enjoyed writing What Kitty Did Next. My hope is that you will enjoy reading it! The first few chapters can be found here.” Carrie Kablean ***** Chapter 1 Longbourn, January 1813 Matters matrimonial had long (more…)