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Jane Austen News – Issue 101

one of the new costume dramas to watch

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? Costume Dramas! 

 


Historical Accuracy Vs. Diversity

We love costumes dramas. Some of our favourite recent viewings have been the hit costume dramas shown over Christmas. We had the sumptuous The Miniaturist, we had a new three-part adaptation of Little Women, and we’ve had a Call The Midwife Christmas special. Over the past few years we’ve had Downton Abbey, The Crown, Lark Rise to Candleford, Cranford, War and Peace… We could go on.

However, while we’ve very much enjoyed these, in an interview about being based in Britain, actress Thandie Newton has highlighted a problem about having a dominance of costume dramas in the British entertainment industry.

I can’t work, because I can’t do Downton Abbey, can’t be in Victoria, can’t be in Call The Midwife … there just seems to be a desire for stuff about the royal family, stuff from the past, which is understandable, but it just makes it slim pickings for people of colour.

Part of the problem is that if every costume drama is adapted from a book which only features upper-class white characters, then that’s all there will be on TV. Historical accuracy is one thing, but should it come at the cost of diversity within the acting world? Some within the television and film industry are calling for script writers to write scripts which allow for a more diverse range of actors to be represented within the cast. Afterall, if Maxine Peake can play the male role of Hamlet at the National Theatre, why can’t an actor like Idris Alba play Colonel Brandon?

What are your thoughts?

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Jane Austen News – Issue 91

Fanny Price and Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

 

Fanny Price vs. Mary Crawford – The Fallout

In the Jane Austen News last week, we gave you a run-down of the week-long Fanny Price vs. Mary Crawford debate so Fanny Price and Mary Crawford in Mansfield Parkfar. The debate was a discussion between two Austen-inspired novelists, Kyra Kramer and Lona Manning, who were looking to answer who was the best heroine in Mansfield Park: Fanny Price, or Mary Crawford?

Lona was very definitely on Fanny Price’s side, and Kyra was defending the honour and actions of Mary. That trend continued on days four and five…

Day Four

Question: Was Mary Crawford really Fanny Price’s Friend?

Kyra: It wasn’t JUST as a conduit to Edmund that she became a friend to Fanny, and in time Mary began to actually love her. Remember that Mary rejoiced when Henry declared his love for Fanny, not only because Fanny would make him a sweet little wife, but because she valued Fanny.

Lona: I have been accusing Mary of being insincere, of always having a hidden agenda with the things she says. But you praise her for being an honest person. She knew that her brother planned to make a small ‘hole in Fanny Price’s heart’ and she didn’t stop him or warn Fanny, hmmmm? She deceived Fanny about the origin of the necklace, hmmmm? Where is the honesty you keep telling me about?

Day Five

Question: Who was the more shallow in character? Mary Crawford or Fanny Price?

Kyra: Fanny Price was much more aware of social status and money than she is commonly thought of as being. Fanny clearly preferred living with her moneyed relatives in Mansfield Park rather than with her lower-class parents. It is Mansfield Park that she thinks of as “home”, and she appears to love her rich relatives more than her parents. She is much more concerned about Aunt Bertram needing her than she is with staying to help her own mother. In fact, sweet, noble, unworldly little Fanny is willing to put up with a whole lot of crap – being her aunt’s dogsbody and unpaid companion, getting affection from no one but Edmund Bertram, being emotionally and verbally abused by Mrs. Norris – just to live in a mansion and walk in fancy shrubbery and wallow in general poshness. She sure doesn’t enjoy living like the lower class, with just one shabby servant and vile housing!

Lona: It’s so difficult for us to imagine what it would be like to be so genteel that we couldn’t cook a meal or clean a household. But keeping house was a much rougher and dirtier business back then. Austen stipulates that Fanny was too frail to live in that environment. However, Fanny really loved books and the education she had received, more than the grandeur.

A hotly fought debate was most definitely had. Though, as with all good debates, the opinions of both were taken into account by the other party and it was a good clean argument. Although no clear winner emerged, a lot of salient points were raised and a good discussion was had by all. Links to each day of debates can be found at the end of this edition of the Jane Austen News.


Pride and Prejudice and Prince Harry’s New Home?

 

We reported in a past edition of the Jane Austen News that Luckington Court, which is the manor house which was used as Longbourn for the BBC 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, had gone on the market – with a hefty price-tag of £9 million. Well, despite its film credentials, the house is still up for sale (with a new lower price of £7.75 million), and is, it seems, being considered by Prince Harry and his girlfriend actress Meghan Markle, as their potential new home.

Meghan is due to move to the UK from Toronto when she finishes filming her last season of Suits next month, so she and Harry have been house hunting. An estate agent local to Luckington Court in the Cotswolds confirmed that the couple spent two hours looking at Luckington, though they haven’t made an offer yet. Having said that, according to the Express, a source close to Harry acknowledged that Prince Harry “loved” Luckington, which is only eight miles from Prince Charles’s home, Highgrove.

They both definitely want to be in the Cotswolds, they prefer it to Norfolk [where William and Kate have a house] and they are looking at a shortlist of properties – not too big or too showy, but obviously with the need for privacy and staff accommodation.

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Jane Austen News – Issue 78

The Jane Austen News is Tilney is top!

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

 Jane Austen Money Worth A Mint?

The £10 notes are nearly ready for release to the general public, and given what happened with the £5 notes, it seems likely the The Jane Austen News is that Jane will be on the new £2 coinsame could happen with the new £10 note when it comes to low serial numbers being worth more than their face value.

If you find a note with the serial code beginning ‘AA01’ you may be holding a couple of hundred pounds in your hand – as these numbers are popular with collectors. Another code to hold onto is the ‘AK47’ code notes; some of these on the £5 note have sold for as much as £1,000.

It’s not just notes though.

A new limited edition £2 coin featuring Jane Austen is also being put into circulation. The coin will only be available in a very limited number of places but it can be purchased from the Royal Mint website already. These will be uncirculated coins and can cost between £10 and £825. The bottom line is, if you find a Jane £2 coin, it could be worth a mint!


Mr Tilney – Top Austen Hero

At last, Bustle has given the woefully underrated Mr Henry Tilney his day in the sun. Usually he’s overshadowed by Mr Darcy, but one Austen fan and writer for the online magazine has explained why Henry Tilney deserves far more recognition than he gets as a hero, and is, in her (and some at the Jane Austen News’) opinion, the best of all of Austen’s heroes.

  1. He’s Good-Looking — But Not Too Good-Looking
  2. He’s The Funniest Of Jane Austen’s Heroes
  3. He’s Very Sarcastic
  4. He’s Forgiving
  5. He’s A Good Brother

The list goes on! If you like Mr Tilney, you’ll like Emma’s article which you can read in full here.

“That gentleman would have put me out of patience, had he stayed with you half a minute longer. He has no business to withdraw the attention of my partner from me. We have entered into a contract of mutual agreeableness for the space of an evening, and all our agreeableness belongs solely to each other for that time. Nobody can fasten themselves on the notice of one, without injuring the rights of the other. I consider a country-dance as an emblem of marriage. Fidelity and complaisance are the principal duties of both; and those men who do not choose to dance or marry themselves, have no business with the partners or wives of their neighbours.”

Henry Tilney (talking with tongue firmly in his cheek) on the social etiquette of dancing.


Gyles Brandreth Drowns Mr Darcy

Gyles Brandreth spoke to Foyles booksellers recently about his book loves and book loathes, and it appears that he’s also not the biggest Darcy fan! His reason was not quite we were expecting though…
I loved Mr Darcy. He was devilishly handsome, absurdly arrogant and my idea (everybody’s idea!) of an English romantic hero.
In fact, I realise I must have been fourteen at the time and the reason I loved the novel so much was that I convinced myself that I was Mr Darcy!
And then, at school, we put on a stage version of Pride and Prejudice and I went to the auditions with high hopes and great expectations and – yes, you’ve guessed it – I was cast, not as Mr Darcy, but as the ridiculous, pompous, po-faced, vain and vain-glorious clergyman, Mr Collins. I couldn’t believe it. Half a century on, I still can’t believe it. But from that moment, I turned on Mr Darcy. I had loved him. Now I loathed him. And I’ve loathed him ever since.
He may not like it, but we could imagine Gyles doing rather a good job of Mr Collins! His full Foyles chat can be read here.

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Jane Austen News – Issue 66

The Jane Austen News is a P&P ballet

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

 Pride and Prejudice Becomes A Ballet  

Pride and Prejudice has been performed many many times on stage by various companies in plenty of different styles. However, on April 21st it enjoyed its premiere as a ballet. Performed by the American Repertory Ballet at McCarter Theatre Centre in Princeton, New Jersey, Pride and Prejudice has been choreographed by the ARB’s Artistic Director Douglas Martin, and the production features ARB dancers performing to live accompaniment by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of conductor John Devlin.

Douglas Martin, an Austen fan, spent years on this adaptation and it shows in its level of attention to detail. For example, the dancing is set to music by Ignaz Pleyel, a popular composer during Austen’s lifetime who is largely unknown today, and  it takes pains to look at the detailed relationship of four of the Bennet sisters, as well as that between Darcy and Lizzy.

According to Martin it’s not a typical ballet either. The choreography echoes that of some of the popular dances of the time, including the minuet, though Martin has adapted a few moves and made them “more balletic.” It also includes quick set and costume changes (some costume changes have to be completed in 20 seconds!) and the action is driven by acting and not just by dances.

At the Jane Austen News we can see how the romance of Pride and Prejudice would recommend itself to becoming a ballet. We just wish we could have been there to see it!


Unveiling Jane’s £10 Note 

Although it won’t enter general circulation until September this year (just in time for Bath’s Jane Austen Festival!), the official unveiling of the new Jane Austen ten pound note has been announced. It’s due to take place on July the 18th on the anniversary of the date of her death in Winchester Cathedral, where Jane is buried.

Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, said in a statement that “Jane Austen certainly merits a place in the select group of historical figures to appear on our banknotes. Her novels have an enduring and universal appeal and she is recognised as one of the greatest writers in English literature. As Austen joins Adam Smith, Boulton and Watt, and Winston Churchill, our notes will celebrate a diverse range of individuals who have contributed in a wide range of fields.”

Below is a video released by the Bank of England which goes into a bit more detail about their decision to put Jane on the banknote.

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Jane Austen News – Issue 57

The Jane Austen News looks for Darcy

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?   

Third Jane Austen Fiver Found

The third of the four specially engraved £5 notes which feature a tiny portrait of Jane Austen has been found, leaving only one of the £5 notes still in circulation and yet to be claimed.

The latest note was found in a small bar called ‘Charlie’s Bar’ in Northern Ireland, which incidentally is where the engraver responsible for the notes, Graham Short, said he originally spent it.

It was found by an elderly lady who wishes to remain anonymous. She also isn’t looking to profit from her find. In fact she sent the £5 note back to Mr Short with a note asking him to use it to help young people – “if it sells for a lot of money it will be better if young children could benefit from it.”

Mr Short’s friend and fellow artist, Tony Huggins-Haig, who launched the project, said around 5,000 people have called up falsely claiming to have found it. We can see why it’s so highly sought after, even by those who aren’t Austen fans, as each of the notes is insured for at least £50,000, but Mr Huggins-Haig believes the notes could actually sell for up to £100,000.


Jane’s Men – Attractive in Anonymity     


John Sutherland, author of numerous books on Literature and Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London, has proposed that one of the reasons Austen’s heroes resonate so well with her readers is because they are so anonymous in their appearance, and therefore, open to personal preference and interpretation. 

Recently John Sutherland and Amanda Vickery were commissioned by UKTV to come up with a convincing illustration of what Darcy might have looked like when Austen first created him. They found it a challenge as all we are told about Darcy is that he is 28, “handsome”, has a good “mien” and £10,000 a year. “What we came up with was more the Justin Bieber end of the hunk spectrum than Dolph Lundgren. Or Firth. ” said John.

He suggests that there are a couple of possible explanations for Austen’s lack of detail.

The first is that Austen wants us to fill in the blanks ourselves. The second is that Austen was what is called “aphantasiac” — she didn’t think pictorially, whether it was places, locations or people. Some creative people are like that. They think, principally, of design. Look for portraiture in Mondrian.

What do you think? Does Darcy’s unclear face help him? Or does Colin Firth’s portrayal of him do his popularity more favours?


Come and Stay in Jane’s Old Home!

Bath is by no means lacking when it comes to lovely places to stay. However, thanks to Airbnb, now you can stay in the house in which Jane Austen first lived in when she came to live in Bath in 1801 – that of 4 Sydney Place.

Admittedly the apartment in Sydney Place is decorated in a modern style, but it is beautifully presented and offering one gorgeous bedroom as well as two sofa beds, making it suitable for four people to stay in. There are nods to Austen inside – as you enter the flat there’s a Pride & Prejudice quote on the wall, and heading upstairs will bring you to the main accommodation and the master bedroom, which offers the best of Georgian architecture with hardwood flooring and a period fireplace. One reviewer describes the apartment as ‘historically enchanting’.

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 57

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