In the Jane Austen News last week we mentioned the upcoming film Colette, starring 2005 Lizzy Bennet actress Keira Knightley. Well since then we came across a brilliant TIME article which gave us a bit more background about the author, and we thought that you, as a fan of the pioneering author Jane Austen, might also enjoy reading a bit about another pioneering female author.
Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette was born in 1873 in Burgundy in France. At the age of 20 she fell in love with, and went on to marry, Henry Gauthier-Villars, then aged 34, who was the owner of a ghostwriting enterprise which published novels under the pen name “Willy”. Colette became a member of the ghostwriting team and, when there was a bad case of writer’s block and a lack of money, Henry asked Colette to write about her school days. The result, published in 1900, was the book Claudine at School, which became a huge hit and turned into the first of a best-selling four-book series.
As the books gained even more popularity, Colette and Willy argued about adding her name as an author. Eventually the books were brought out with “Willy and Colette Willy” on the covers as the publishers wouldn’t remove his name from the series until a long time after his death. Although, on the positive side, after the couple separated (following many love affairs on both sides which led to an open marriage) Colette’s talent was better recognised and she became the first female President of the renowned Paris literary society, the Academie Goncourt.
This may not sound like Austen and Colette had much in common, but their books, although very different in tone and primary subject, do have a shared theme; that of inherent human nature:
Her uncanny feminine understanding, hearty physical sympathy for the internal workings of human nerves and glands, make her a writer who cannot avoid being labeled passionate but who never runs any danger of being cheap.
Hopefully you found this brief background on Colette as interesting as we at the Jane Austen News did. The full article on Colette can be found here.
When the final credits roll on an Austen film, whether you’ve loved it or not, it’s often fun to find out more. What were relationships like on and off the set? Where did they film these great houses? Who designed the costumes? Was the final product true to the script? Were there any extra scenes that were cut?
Fortunately for us, many of the movies do have additional information available.
Pride and Prejudice (1995) boasts a “Making Of” feature on the newest DVD version and the book The Making of Pride and Prejudice by Sue Birtwistle and Susie Conklin answers just about any question interested fans might have.
Sense and Sensibility won Emma Thompson an Oscar for best screenplay when it was released in 1995. During the filming of the movie, Thompson kept a detailed diary of life on and off the set. Both the script and the diary are available in individual and combined formats.
Also produced in 1995, Persuasion’s script by Nick Dear was printed in book format and is occasionally available from used book sellers. That year’s other Austen offering, Clueless, is an updated version of Emma, set in California. The special edition DVD boasts cast interviews and “making of” information.
Scripts were also published of both Douglas McGrath’s 1996 script for the Gwyneth Patrow version of Emma , and for Andrew Davies’s version for TV. That script, along with cast and behind the scenes information was published as The Making of Jane Austen’s Emma by Sue Birtwistle and Susie Conklin. Though out of print, it can occasionally be found in used book stores and on Ebay.
The 1999 big screen version of Mansfield Park, written and directed by Patricia Rozema, garnered as much negative as positive publicity. Supposedly based on Austen’s early writings and diaries as well as the source novel, it has certainly provoked ample discussion. A script was issued for this production also, and should still be obtainable.
Lastly, if you feel like visiting some of the locations from these various productions, the TV and Film Locations Guide is your essential handbook!
Laura Boyle is a collector of Jane Austen films and film memorabilia. She also runs Austentation, a company that specializes in custom made Regency Accessories.
A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word [accomplished]; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.”
Pride and Prejudice
When so much has been said of the body and its accoutrements, I cannot but subjoin a few words on the intelligence which animates the frame, and of the organ which imparts its meaning.
Connected speech is granted to mankind alone. Parrots may prate and monkeys chatter, but it is only to the reasonable being that power of combining ideas, expressing their import, and uttering, in audible sounds, all its various gradations, the language of sense and judgment, of love and resentment is awarded as a gift, that gives us a proud and undeniable superiority above all the rest of the creation.
To employ this faculty well and gracefully, is one grand object of education. The mere organ itself, as to sound, is like a musical instrument, to be modulated with elegance, or struck with the disorderly nerve of coarsene vulgarity.
I must add to what has been said before, the subject, that excessive rapidity of speaking is, in general, even with a clear enunciation, very disagreeable; but, when it is accompanied with a shrill voice, high in alt, the effect is then inexpressibly discordant and hideous. The first orator the heathen world knew, so far remedied the natural defects of his speech, (and they were the most embarrassing) as to become the most easy and persuasive of speakers. In like manner, when a young woman finds any difficulty or inelegance in her organs, she ought to pay the strictest attention to rectify the fault.
Should she have too quick or encumbered an articulation, she ought to read with extreme slowness, for several hours in the day, and even pay attention in speaking to check the rapidity or confusion of her utterance. By similar antidotal means, she must attack a propensity of talking in a high key. Better err in the opposite extreme, while she is prosecuting her cure, as the voice will gradually and imperceptibly attain its most harmonious pitch; than, by at first attempting the medium, most likely retain too much of the screaming key.
A clear articulation, a tempered intonation, and in a moderate key, are essentials in the voice of an accomplished female. For her graceful peculiarities, those nature and rare taste must bestow. Fine judgment and delicate sensibility are the best schoolmistresses on this subject. Indeed, where is it that, in relation to man or woman, we shall find, that an improved understanding, an enlightened mind, and a refined taste, are not the best polishers of manners, and in all aspects the most efficient handmaids of the Muses?
Let me then, in one short sentence, in one tender adieu, my fair readers and endeared friends! enforce upon your minds, that if Beauty be woman’s weapon, it must be feathered by the Graces, pointed by the eye of Discretion, and shot by the hand of Virtue!
Look then, my sweet pupils, not merely to your mirrors, when you would decorate yourselves for conquest, but consult the specluum, which will reflect your hearts and minds. Remember that it is the affections of a sensible and reasonable soul you hope to subdue, and seek for arms likely to carry the fortress.
He that is worthy, must love answering excellence. Which of you all would wish to marry a man merely for the colour of his eye, or the shape of his leg? Think not then worse of him than you would do of yourselves; and, hope not to satisfy his better wishes with the possession of a merely handsome wife.
Beauty of person will ever be found a dead letter, unless it be animated with beauty of mind. We must then, not only cultivate the shape, the complexion, the air, the attire, the manners; but most assiduously must our attention be devoted to teach “the young idea how
to shoot,” and to fashion the unfolding mind to judgment and virtue. By such culture, it will not be merely the charming girl, the captivating woman “We shall present to the world; but, the dutiful daughter, affectionate sister, tender wife, judicious mother, faithful friend, and amiable acquaintance.
Let these then be the fair images which will form themselves on the models drawn by my not inexperienced pen! Let me see Beauty, whose soul is Virtue, approach me with the chastened step of Modesty; and, ere she advances from behind the heavenly cloud that envelops her, I shall behold Love and all the Graces hovering in air to adorn and attend her charms!
This may be thy picture, lovely daughter of Albion! Make thyself then worthy of the likeness, and thou wilt fulfil the fondest wish of thine unknown friend.
From The Mirror of Graces, by a Lady of Distinction, 1811.
Is Pride and Prejudice primarily a Cinderella story? How you answer that question may well determine whether you enjoy or detest the 2005 Keira Knightley/Matthew Macfadyen film.
When spending quality time with Jane Austen’s novel, gentle reader, do you imagine paint peeling from the Bennet family home or picture Longbourn’s back garden as a filthy barnyard? Does Mr. Bennet potter about the house unwashed, unshorn and unshaven? Does his beloved library resemble the leftovers of a jumble sale? One might assume that the Bennets could do better with an estate that is lawfully their own and two thousand a year. However, this appears to be Director Joe Wright’s interpretation of the novel as “social realist drama.” Dear me! And what would Jane Austen make of that?
The poverty, grime and crumbling gentility adds what Wright refers to as “a bit more street,” if this is considered desirable. But what is “street” about Mr. Darcy trudging through a foggy field, white shirt front agape, looking for all the world like Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights? Or was it an attempt to offer up Matthew Macfadyen as a wet shirted substitute for Colin Firth? Other choices seem to defy any analysis. Why turn Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods) into a giggling idiot, someone not safe to be let out unattended? Why would Darcy befriend such a man, and what could possibly induce Jane Bennet (Rosamund Pike) to shackle herself to him for life? Charlotte Lucas (Claudie Blakley) appears fortunate by comparison. Charlotte’s fear of poverty and her resulting acceptance of Mr. Wrong is well done, if a bit overly dramatic, but the film’s actors are not to be blamed for its faults. Indeed, the casting seems nearly flawless.
Knightley delivers a credible performance as a spirited Elizabeth, and Macfadyen need not be ashamed of his Darcy. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet (Donald Sutherland & Brenda Blethyn) are given sympathetic makeovers. A kinder, gentler Mr. Bennet proves to be a compassionate father and an amorous husband not entirely indifferent to his frowzy, careworn wife, and Mrs. Bennet’s poor nerves actually merit some compassion.
Mr. Collins (Tom Hollander) is not given enough screen time for one of the greatest comic characters ever created. Lady Catherine fares a bit better, perhaps common decency demanded it, as the role is absolutely perfect for Dame Judi Dench, but when Lady Catherine descends on Longbourn with a vengeance, her tirade is over all too soon, and this scene illustrates one of the film’s glaring weaknesses. The pace is much too rapid. Characters burst onto the screen, hurry through their lines and rush off with alarming rapidity. One fears that a great deal of talent was laid waste in the cutting room.
The rousing dance scene was enjoyable, but awkward attempts to add sexuality were annoying. The novel’s witty repartee and the chemistry between Knightley and Macfayden already suggest enough, thank you. In a film so obviously at war with its time constraints, Elizabeth’s fascination with a collection of nude statues at Pemberley wasted valuable minutes and added nothing, though a group of twelve year old boys might disagree. But was this the imagined audience? And one wonders why it was deemed necessary for the camera to linger on a pig. A pig? You well may ask.
Comparisons to the 1995 Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth television adaptation are inevitable. Granted, the six hour BBC time frame opened up a great many opportunities to unfold the story and to develop the characters in keeping with the “light, bright and sparkling” authorial intent. When it was first announced that there would be a new, Hollywood film of Pride and Prejudice, your humble servant was immediately skeptical. To quote Mr. Bennet in the novel, “what is there of good to be expected?” My own prejudices firmly in place, I never-the-less entered the cinema agog with curiosity, and, to give myself credit, I thoroughly enjoyed the 2004 Bollywood Bride and Prejudice, so I was not entirely without hope.
Pride and Prejudice played to a full house, and some members of the audience appeared to enjoy the film. Others, like myself, found it a bit of a disappointment, yet I may well go to see it a second time and will probably purchase the DVD in the fullness of time. I do such things; God help me. I can only conclude that the viewer must ultimately judge for him or herself, so this review will end with some words of wisdom from Mr. Bennet: “Perhaps you would like to [see] it. I dislike it very much. but it must be done.”
Sheryl Craig is an Instructor of English at Central Missouri State University. She is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Kansas.
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
All The Better For Her
Pride and Prejudice by Carl Davis
Pride & Prejudice Theme
Persuasion by Jeremy Sams
Persuasion Main Theme
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
All the Delights of the Season
There is Nothing Lost
Pride and Prejudice
Opening Title Music
Farewell to the Regiment
Thinking About Lizzy
Single sheets for Weep You No More Sad Fountains and My Father’s Favorite are available from the Hal Lenoard Corp. Additionally, music for just Sense and Sensibility, more recently, Pride and Prejudice (2005) and Becoming Jane have also been published. Of course, this only covers the pieces written for the films. For a list of classical music used in the movies (including many Bach and Chopin pieces in Persuasion and Mozart in Pride and Prejudice) and ordering information for all these pieces, visit the Republic of Pemberley’s Music page. For printable country dances, try Christ Peterson’s Traditional Music Page.
By Priyanka Chavda
Jane Austen’s influence has continued to grow since her publication in the 19th century, and one of the most loved novels, Pride and Prejudice has seen an array of adaptations from the 1995 BBC adaptation with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle to Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice. The attempt to re-connect with the author and her classic works, and open it to modern audience has taken a new direction.
One such success was made by American video production company Pemberley Digital, who adapt classic works onto new media platforms. Utilising social media – Youtube, Twitter, Tumbler, Pinterest to name a few they open classic literature to a wider audience whilst telling an enriched and innovative story. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, introduces audiences to the well-loved characters from the novel but with a slight twist. Bernie Su and Hank Green, the creators have a wider scope, free from the costumes and Regency setting they are able to modernise Austen’s novel though the world of social media. Rejuvenating the novel whilst remaining faithful to the original the adaptation recaptures Austen and presents Pride and Prejudice in a whole new light.
Narrated by 24-year old graduate Elizabeth Bennett (played by Ashley Clements) from California, the series is a video diary on her life since completing college and moving back home, her overbearing mother, her relationship with sisters and Mr Darcy. Each 10 minute clip shows Elizabeth telling and re-enacting events such as her first meeting with the socially awkward and pretentious William Darcy to visiting her best friend Charlotte Lu (played by Julia Cho) in San Francisco.
The cast bring the characters to life and even though not all characters such as Mr and Mrs Bennet appear, they are still incorporated within the series through Elizabeth’s re-enactment of her parents and their traits. Lydia (played by Mary Kate Wilkes) almost steals the light from Elizabeth in several episodes with her loud personality whilst Jane (played by Laura Spencer) is quiet and gentle very much like in the novel. Each character even has their own Twitter page with in-character tweets through which they connect to audiences with as well as each other.
The adaptation brings the novel to modern day audiences and uses it as a basis to create events which are relatable for younger audiences such as Elizabeth not wanting to join Mr Collins’s company instead opting to complete her studies and Mrs Bennet’s eagerness to get her daughters married is a reps one to the possible loss of their home. The series is successful in exploring the events of the novel in the modern day and is most definitely one of the best adaptations of Pride and Prejudice.
With its success the Lizzie Bennet Diaries has won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Creative Achievement in 2013, and has gone on to produce two books, one of which solely focuses on Lydia Bennet telling the story from her perspective.
Priyanka is an English Literature graduate, aspiring to be a writer and work in the film industry.