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Jane Austen News – Issue 35

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? 

Pride and Prejudice At The Ballet      

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-17-11-13

Stage adaptations of Jane Austen have become increasingly popular in recent years (we look at one such adaptation later on in this week’s Jane Austen News). We’ve had one-woman shows, Jane Austen musicals, Jane Austen improv, but one we personally haven’t come across before is one of Jane Austen’s novels staged as a ballet. However Ballet Fantastique will be doing just that. Their first show of the 2016-17 season is bringing back a 2012 premiere, Pride and Prejudice: A Parisian Jazz Ballet.

“We’re taking the classic Jane Austen novel and remixing it with 1920s Paris,” said their marketing director Katey Finley in a recent interview. “A live band will be wearing snazzy suits and playing live period jazz along with great choreography, like doing The Charleston en pointe.”

How fantastic is that?!


A Book Of One’s Own

mrs-norris-1983-anna-massey

Orion recently bought the novel Perception by Terri Fletcher, which will chronicle the life of Mary Bennet, the third Bennet sister, after Jane, Elizabeth and Lydia leave Longbourne. In the past all of the Bennet sisters have at one time or another seen the spotlight and had new adventures written about them, but a recent blog post by Alicia Kort has got us thinking on the subject of literary women whose stories deserve further exploration. What other strong female characters in literature deserve their own novels but as of yet haven’t been given one?

Alicia suggests; Hermione Granger (The Harry Potter series), Dasiy Buchanan (The Great Gatsby), Teresa Agnes (The Maze Runner), and Sam Dutton (The Perks of Being a Wallflower). These are all great suggestions, but at the Jane Austen News we can think of more than just the Bennet sisters who could fill a book of their own. The tale of Mrs Norris’s first love anyone?


Sense and Sensibility Too Sensible?    
wk-stage0916-3The New York theatre company Bedlam is staging a new adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, but rather than focusing primarily on the romance of the story, director and co-founder Eric Tucker wants to bring out the comedy within the novel that he feels is all too often overlooked.

To do this Tucker is making the play more minimalist and modern. He’s getting rid of detailed backdrops and putting wheels on all of the furniture so it can be easily moved, and used; when a young woman is fleeing social judgment she scoots away on a chair, only to be pursued by the gossips on their own mobile seating. Tucker uses physical theatre and a brisk pace to bring out the wit that he feels can be lost in a lot of adaptations.

A lot of the movie versions of Austen tamp down the comedy and make the stories period-piece melodrama. I didn’t want that. I wanted it to be raw and modern. One of the reviews said our ‘Sense and Sensibility’ was Dickensian. I liked that. Our production in New York was very bawdy, and it surprised people who thought they didn’t like Austen. But she was pretty wicked in her letters — very gossipy, saying the most awful things about people.

Eric Tucker

At the Jane Austen News we wish them the best of luck with their new production. Jane had so much wit and so many comedic moments in her novels and this is not always remembered; we think she’d approve.


What Made Colin Firth Reject Mark Darcy    

bridget-jones-3-trailer2
With the recent UK release of Bridget Jones’s Baby, Colin Firth has been giving quite a few interviews to help promote the film, and, of course, in a fair few of them the subject of Mr Darcy comes up. One that caught our eye was an interview he gave to Eric Eisenberg for CinemaBlend.com. In the interview Firth talks about how, even following such amazing success with the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice where he played a modern traditional Darcy, he originally turned down the role of Mark Darcy who he plays in the Bridget Jones films.

I started off thinking there was no way in with that character. I originally turned it down, because I didn’t think… how do you play this guy who doesn’t do anything really? He just sort of stands around and scowls and looks imperious. And I thought, ‘Well, sure, I can do that, but will anyone give a damn? It’s not appealing!

Happily he kept the role in mind and eventually came round to the idea thinking:

‘Well, maybe there’s something fun in that. You don’t have to be charming. You just have to be incredibly distant and dislikable.’ And I thought, ‘That’s pretty liberating!’ So that was an incentive.

We didn’t know he’d turned the role down at first, but we’re glad he changed his mind! It’s hard to imagine the Bridget Jones films or the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice being such a success without him.


Unleashing Mr Darcy   
90And from one Mr Darcy to another.

Another modern film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice has been made and just released by Hallmark.

In this version of Pride & Prejudice, Elizabeth Scott (Cindy Busby) decides to show her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in a dog show in New York, but she clashes with the arrogant judge Donovan Darcy (Ryan Paevey). In true Jane Austen fashion, Elizabeth learns that Mr. Darcy is far more kind and interesting than she ever imagined.

In this video Ryan Paevey talks about his views on Darcy, and just why his Darcy finds Lizzy so attractive and irritating. Some clips from the film and more details can be found here.


Love and Friendship   

loveetcThere’s less than a week to go before Whit Stillman’s film adaptation of Love and Friendship is released on DVD in the UK, and we can’t wait! It’s due out on Monday 26th September and we have the date marked on our calendar. Though if you’re a U.S. Jane Austen fan you don’t have to wait because the DVD came out in the U.S. on September 6th. We’re a little jealous…


Jane Austen Day with Charlotte

Jane Austen News is our weekly compilation of stories about or related to Jane Austen. Here we will feature a variety of items, including craft tutorials, reviews, news stories, articles and photos from around the world. If you’d like to include your story, please contact us with a press release or summary, along with a link. You can also submit unique articles for publication in our Jane Austen Online Magazine.

Don’t miss our latest news – become a Jane Austen Member and receive a digest of stories, articles and news every week. You will also be able to access our online Magazine with over 1000 articles, test your knowledge with our weekly quiz and get offers on our Online Giftshop. Plus new members get an exclusive 10% off voucher to use in the Online Giftshop.

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Jane Austen News – Issue 23

Regency Bath

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?

Bath One of the Best Literary Breaks in the UK    

england-bath1According to Travel Weekly Bath is one of the top ten UK cities to visit for a literary break. While many authors have lived and visited Bath over the years, including Charles Dickens and Mary Shelley, the focus of Travel Weekly‘s literary break in Bath was, of course, Jane Austen. We were delighted to see that one of their recommended highlights of Jane Austen’s Bath including visiting the Jane Austen Centre, and also staying during September for the Jane Austen Festival.

Other destinations which made the top ten were Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury, Sherlock Holme’s London, Beatrix Potter’s Lake District and Brontë Country (Haworth/Top Withens/Thornton).


Writing Women Onto The Stage Via Jane Austen

ashley_garrett_0623_.jpg.644x432_q100Kate Hamill was fed up with the lack of female roles onstage, so she decided to do something about it. The result was her award-winning adaptation of adaptation of Sense and Sensibility.

“I had been an actor for many years,” Hamill said, “and was frustrated because oftentimes when you’re a woman, you’re competing with 400 other actresses to play someone’s wife… girlfriend… prostitute.” She explained the lack of strong, complicated heroines, such as those created by Austen, on stage: “most adapters are not young women.” As such she became an adapter herself.

This spirit of creating the stories (or in this case creating the roles) which you want to read (or play) is very much in the spirit of Jane Austen. When Jane Austen was writing there was a severe lack of strong female characters so she made her own. It seems only fitting then that her work is still helping to promote the work of other women today.

Kate Hamill and fellow actor Andrus Nichols will be bringing their production, which premiered in 2014, back to the Gym at Judson in New York from June 17th–October 2nd.


Jane Austen – Recommended Reading for the First Lady     

https://twitter.com/GilmoreGirls/status/746495260440723456

Actress Alexis Bledel, while in her character of the iconic bookworm Rory Gilmore, from the hit TV show the Gilmore Girls, payed a visit to America’s First Lady, Michelle Obama so they could talk books. The resulting video sketch was published on the official Gilmore Girls Twitter account.

It was done in an attempt to help promoting Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative, which speak to young girls about the importance of education and staying in school. Some of Gilmore’s recommendations included: Shakespeare – “because you can’t go wrong with the Bard” – Marilyn Robinson, Graham Green, “a little Proust” and Jane Austen. (“I mean, come on, Jane Austen!)

We at the Jane Austen News are sure that this is exactly the kind of initiative that Jane would be keen to get involved with!

 


Five Things That Pride and Prejudice Can Teach Us About Romance    

fairy-tale-pride-and-prejudice-featuredOne article that we came across this week is Five Things That Pride and Prejudice Can Teach Us About Romance. These were:

  • You don’t have to show your “goods” to get a man’s attention
  • It’s OK to not be good at everything
  • Don’t settle for less than the best
  • It’s OK to challenge each other
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover

We’re sure that Pride and Prejudice has far more to teach us about romance than just these five lessons. What other important lessons do you think should have been included in the list?


Did They Make The Right Matches in Sense and Sensibility?  
crime-and-punishment-in-sense-and-sensibility-did-the-characters-make-the-right-choices-1031211What would have happened if Willoughby and Marianne had ended up together? Would Marianne have been happier with him than with Colonel Brandon? What if Edward had married Lucy? Would Elinor have been so unhappy alone?

One thing that many fans of Jane Austen love about her novels is that the bad characters are punished and the good characters are rewarded in the end. But are they always? This article from Janee Heimdal asks if all of the characters really get the endings they deserve based on their actions.

Edward’s impeccable character deserves to be rewarded, but what about Lucy? She isn’t outwardly awful, but when I imagine Lucy as a villain I see her insinuating herself with Edward’s sister, Fanny. So does like cleave to like in this case? Yes.

Do you agree that everyone in Sense and Sensibility got the rewards, or punishments as the case may be, that their actions deserved?


Dancing Like Jane Austen in California     

mrs parks regency rout 1Jane Austen fans living in California had fun on Saturday learning how to dance like Jane Austen. Hosted by Period Entertainments and Recreational Costuming of Fresno, the dance featured live musicians, light refreshments and the chance to experience a little taste of a bygone era. The dances were taught before they were danced, with calling by popular folk musician Evo Bluesmen.

Mrs Parks’ Regency Rout is one of our favourite Regency dance events to have been held in the past week because it was such a nice blend of the modern and traditional.

Things which the dance had which weren’t 18th Century but were very much needed: central air conditioning, indoor plumbing, electricity and no requirement for women to arrive with an escort.

Attendees were also asked to “Please feel free to gender self-identify and dance with whomever your heart desires, regardless of whether they wear a gown or pantaloons.”

The Jane Austen News hopes that more all-inclusive and accepting dance events like this one will be held in the future!


Jane Austen Day with Charlotte

Jane Austen News is our weekly compilation of stories about or related to Jane Austen. Here we will feature a variety of items, including craft tutorials, reviews, news stories, articles and photos from around the world. If you’d like to include your story, please contact us with a press release or summary, along with a link. You can also submit unique articles for publication in our Jane Austen Online Magazine.

Don’t miss our latest news – become a Jane Austen Member and receive a digest of stories, articles and news every week. You will also be able to access our online Magazine with over 1000 articles, test your knowledge with our weekly quiz and get offers on our Online Giftshop. Plus new members get an exclusive 10% off voucher to use in the Online Giftshop.

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Jane Austen News – Issue 22

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?

History Lessons Via Romantic Novels   
premade_historical_romance_Writing for the History News Network, Robert W. Thurston, Professor Emeritus of History at Miami University, has proposed the idea that, rather than teachers and textbooks, a lot of the historical information many people learn nowadays comes from romance novels.

Sales of romance novels climbed to $1.08 billion in 2013 and continues to grow. The Romance Writers of America (RWA) found in a 2014 survey that 64 percent of readers went through at least one book a week. It’s not only women that are reading more historical romances either. Women comprise 78% of readers, but the men’s share has risen to the remaining 22%, up from just 7% in a 2002 survey.

Historical romances give us vital information on the everyday lives, customs, manners and important events of the eras in which they are set. Jane Austen for example teaches us that society was focused on marriage; that money today is not worth what it was back then (£10,000 a year? Peanuts today); and a whole host of other things. Romance novels, Thurston says, are undeserving of their frivolous reputation.

The vast and growing popularity of romances should not be cause for alarm; no one can stand at the ocean’s shore and make the tide retreat. Rather, the academy would do well to consider the influence of these books on the public mind and to see in courses, scholarly work, and public discussions what steps might be taken to critique the values the stories transmit.


Leisure Time – Jane Austen’s Era Vs. Today

helen-and-jake-working-twitterIt’s not uncommon to feel as if you never get any time off. When reading Jane’s novels you can find yourself wondering how on earth Jane’s characters found so much leisure time? Even more than this, how did Jane find the time to write so much? Well, according to Laura Vanderkam, writing for Verily magazine, a lot of the fault lies with our screens, and not in fact with the modern trend for employment!

The American Time Use Survey says that, on any given day, 96% of Americans are engaged in some sort of leisure activity, e.g.  watching TV or socialising. The average man spent 6 hours on leisure activities, and the average woman spent 5.2 hours. Even employed people with kids under age 6 had over 3 hours of leisure time per day.

The problem is that so much of it is spent looking at screens that the time doesn’t feel long and leisurely. This contributes to the false perception that, unlike those Bennet sisters or Bingley and Darcy of Austen’s world, we have no free time at all.

So if you want to write a novel like Jane, or have more time for things like picnicking at Box Hill as they do in Emma, maybe the answer is to take a holiday from technology?


Jane’s “Power Couples”     

52dd893f28f1c3c7cf3df8dbff69062aAt the Jane Austen News we recently came across an article listing some of the greatest power couples in literature. We were intrigued and read on. Some of the couples included were:

  • Penelope and Odysseus – The Odyssey
  • Romeo and Juliet – Romeo and Juliet
  • Ron and Hermione – The Harry Potter Series

What really surprised us was when we came to the Jane Austen power couple. Elizabeth and Mr Darcy got a mention, but it was Emma and Mr Knightly who won the Austen power couple title.

Their love teaches the novel’s main lesson: that a person should not exploit their superiority. The couple are a perfect intellectual match: it is their conversation which fuels their love for each other.

A very good argument! And nice to see Jane’s other heroes and heroines getting recognition. Which couple would you choose?


Jane – Championing Boring Men Since 1811   
images-2This week a round of applause from us at the Jane Austen News goes to a gentleman blogger who has reminded us of one of the reasons why we love Sense and Sensibility (“Jane Austen’s ode to the virtues of staid and boring guys”) so much.

Blogger Noah Berlatsky makes a very good point that there aren’t that many books whose heroes could be described as your everyday sort of man. They tend to have either exceptional wealth, great looks, tons of bravery, or are irresistibly charming etc etc. Colonel Brandon and Edward Ferrars he says, break this stereotype and give him hope.

In Hollywood, guys always have to be heroes. Or at least, in romantic plots, guys are always supposed to want to be the heroic dude, who dazzles with his good looks, and/or wealth, and/or vast personal courage and/or bad boy raffishness. Sense and Sensibility is a welcome respite: a book for all the guys who aren’t, and maybe don’t want to be, romantic heroes. For the dull, the average, and the aging, it’s good to hear that even those who wear flannel waistcoats deserve love.


On Your Marks. Get Set. Dance! 

IMG_2739Brentford Boarding School on Vancouver Island recently went on one of the most brilliant field trips we think we’ve ever heard of!

Students from the school who had been reading Pride and Prejudice in their Literature class got dressed up in their best Regency finery and set off for a tea party and afternoon dance at a picturesque waterfront house. The setting was perfect, the dances traditional, and the aim of the dance echoed the aims of almost all of the dances Jane wrote about…

On the bus on the way there everyone had been given a character to play and the goal of the ladies was, through conversation, to find the richest men to sign their dance card. Whoever was able to accomplish this in the short time available, was crowned the Pride and Prejudice winner.

What an excellent idea for a Jane Austen school trip!


Our Evolving Language – What Is And What Isn’t Ok?     

A close up of the word language from a dictionary

Clive James, Guardian contributor, was on the warpath against language this week. Not all of it. Specifically he was annoyed about the use of expansive phrases from institutions that wish to sound more important (e.g. calling books “cultural externalities” as Australia’s Productivity Commission has decided to do), but also by abbreviations from individuals who wish to sound pressed for time (e.g. IMO – in my opinion).

Other observations included:

those who care passionately about, say, the environment have already infested the blogosphere with scuttling proof of their unawareness that the expression is a tautology: there can be no real caring that is not done from a passion.

and

I floated the idea that people wishing to cut down the time they spend reading below-the-line comments should simply not finish any entry that included the word “methinks”, which is a sure sign of pomposity and idiocy recklessly compounded.

What are your pet language peeves? Or do you think, as some would argue, that these are simply examples of our language evolving as it always has done and always will do? Certainly some interesting points to consider.


Jane Austen Day with Charlotte

Jane Austen News is our weekly compilation of stories about or related to Jane Austen. Here we will feature a variety of items, including craft tutorials, reviews, news stories, articles and photos from around the world. If you’d like to include your story, please contact us with a press release or summary, along with a link. You can also submit unique articles for publication in our Jane Austen Online Magazine.

Don’t miss our latest news – become a Jane Austen Member and receive a digest of stories, articles and news every week. You will also be able to access our online Magazine with over 1000 articles, test your knowledge with our weekly quiz and get offers on our Online Giftshop. Plus new members get an exclusive 10% off voucher to use in the Online Giftshop.

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Bride and Prejudice: 2004

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must have no life without wife.

Obviously, something was lost in translation between the 1813 novel and the 2004 film, but the sentiment in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and in Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice is the same. Society, our audience, has expectations of us all. We can conform, like Charlotte Lucas, and be granted a modicum of respect, however grudging, from the Lady Catherines of the world. Or we can do the unexpected, like Lizzie Bennet, and brave the wrath that is sure to follow. There’s a heavy price to pay either way.

The modern filmmaker is given a similar choice when she dares to adapt Jane Austen. She can attempt a period piece costume drama with bonnets and riding boots, as in the Keira Knightley/Matthew Macfadyen Pride and Prejudice. However, in attempting to meet the purist expectations of the novel’s most ardent admirers, the filmmaker is practically guaranteed to fail. Some history buff or another will note a flower blooming in the background that failed to make its way to England until say 1830. Someone else will take issue with the colour of a dress, that dye not being available before 1860, and another person will be absolutely appalled by the actresses’ makeup. Or, the filmmaker can flaunt convention and blaze a new trail, like Frank Sinatra crooning “I did it my way.” Not only has Bend It Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha taken the road less traveled, Chadha has chosen to boldly go where no man has gone before. She takes Jane Austen to Bollywood, and we should all be grateful that she did.

Like Bridget Jones’s Diary and Clueless, Bride and Prejudice is not a line by line reenactment of the novel. It is an enjoyable romp under the guise of what if Jane Austen’s characters were living in our modern world? The answer seems to be that they would do and say very much the same things. This reaffirmation of the human spirit has to be reassuring to the viewer, and it seems unlikely that dear Aunt Jane would be much surprised to find us so little altered in 200 years, or 2,000 miles. Continue reading Bride and Prejudice: 2004

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Jane Austen Novels Books life and times

Jane Austen Novels Books Life and Times

JANE AUSTEN – A LIFE IN TWO WORLDS?

Jane AustenIt is truth universally acknowledged that the author of these opening words, which are among the most famous in English literature, is perhaps the greatest writer the English language, indeed any language, has known, bar Shakespeare.

One might find it hard to think of a time when Jane Austen’s novels was not a byword for romantic fiction, and Pride & Prejudice, where the above quote derives, the last word on it. But there was, of course, such a time and this lasted up until the early years of the nineteenth century.

Once her novels began to be published, however, they came at a rate that would make Stephen King proud: Sense & Sensibility (1811); Pride & Prejudice (1813); Mansfield Park (1815); and Emma (1816). Add to this quartet the posthumous publication of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion in 1818, a year after Austen died, and it becomes one of most impressive canons of any writer.

For all the popularity of the novels during her lifetime, however, it was not until after her death that Jane Austen’s name became widely attached to them, having originally published them under the pseudonym A. Lady. And it is not until the last two decades has she achieved the world prominence reserved normally for pop stars and screen idols.

The question still remains though as to what exactly makes Austen so immensely popular in the modern day. The television and film adaptations have gone a long way, of course, but the fact remains that her books were being read, enjoyed and acclaimed more than a century before the first screen outing ever appeared.

Continue reading Jane Austen Novels Books life and times

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Oxford World’s Classics: Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility

By Jane Austen
Introduction by Margaret Anne Doody
Review by Ellen Moody

I was delighted when Laurel of Austenprose asked me to join her in writing reviews of the recent reprint of the Oxford standard editions of Austen’s novels. I’d get to gaze at the different covers, read introductions, notes, appendices, and if any were included, illustrations. As you might have guessed, I’m one of those who partly chooses to buy a book based on its cover. I enjoy introductions (occasionally more than the story they introduce), get a kick out of background maps and illustrations, and especially ironic notes.

Looking into the matter I discovered I’d have to sleuth what if anything was the difference between these new reprints and the earlier reprints of James Kinsley’s 1970-71 edition, from which all the subsequent Oxford texts have been taken. Why after examining the early texts did Kinsley made the choice to reprint R. W. Chapman’s 1923 edition of Austen’s novels with some emendations? Hmm. My curiosity made me unable to resist checking the Oxfords against the other editions of Austen’s novels I own. In the case of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, a novel I first read when I was 13 and the one closest to my heart, I own 14 different editions and reprints, and French and Italian translations.

The more cynical and less devoted reader of Austen may well say, wait a minute here. What would be the point or interest, since probably the differences in the texts themselves would be miniscule, the paratexts just the sort of thing Catherine Morland would have skipped, and this upsurge of proliferating books simply the result of a highly competitive marketplace. But that’s the point. We can ask why provide all this if the goal is to produce an inexpensive handy text and the motive profit? The answer comes back that Austen’s novels are at once high status, beloved, and best-selling texts which keep selling because they’re best-selling books. They have highly diverse and conflicting groups of (let us call them) consumers. So in order not to offend and to persuade as many readers as possible to buy at least once or yet again, publishers are driven to produce books which are informative and pleasing, accurate and accessible—and up-to-date. Since the reprints cover more than a quarter of a century, we may watch different introducers struggling to present their respective agendas, which, like the changes in the covers of the books, reflect the ever-changing climate of a surprizingly stormy Austenland.

We also had more than the famous six books because since 1980 Oxford had chosen to accompany Northanger Abbey with Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon, Austen’s lesser-known novels (the first epistolary, the last two unfinished). Laurel and I had an intriguing journey ahead of us. We agreed we would form sister reviews, each one a counterpart to the other. A reading of Laurel’s review will give a good overview to the book.

I agree with Laurel that the 2008 reissue of the Oxford’s 2004 edition of Kinsley’s Sense and Sensibility is a good buy. It avoids extremes, or is a half-way house between series which just reproduce an unannotated text, only sometimes with a brief “Afterword” essay2; and series which may overload readers with an apparatus in the back of contemporary documents, recent critical essays (some the result of this year’s fashions in academia), and contain aggressive overly abstract introductions by writers who seem to take a downright hostile stance to the texts and most of its readers3.

The introductory essay by Margaret Anne Doody is brilliant, eloquent, and comprehensive; since 2004 the Oxford has included two appendices by Vivien Jones who wisely chose to explain two kinds of pivotal concerns and happenings in all Austen’s novels: Appendix One explains the rank and social status of the characters, and Appendix Two, the different dances included in her novels and how they can function. Claire Lamont has mostly improved on and rewritten the explanatory notes from the previous edition: the new ones are fuller, and more contemporary texts are cited. The method is to give the reference by page number and use an asterisk; this makes for a speedy flip back and forth4.

So much for complementarity. Laurel has summarized the topics of Doody’s introduction and interesting items cited in the bibliography, discussed the all- too-short life, and the role of chaperon in a young genteel woman’s life (as suggested by the appendix on dancing), and left to me the not unimportant business about exactly what is presented to us as Jane Austen’s written extant novel. To this I’ll add a little on the covers, and brief information on the 5 available film adaptations of the novel.

To wit, we do not have in whole or part any manuscript version by Austen of Sense and Sensibility so we cannot know for sure what her text of this novel was like. As they do today, printing houses then had styles of their own, and no text was at all sancro-sanct from changes in punctuation, grammar, paragraphing and the like. Of the versions of S&S published in Austen’s lifetime, the first published in 1811 was sold out. Austen rejoiced, and in 1813 there was a second. Austen was actively involved in the production of both; she proof-read the first, but, alas, apparently not the second, and errors of all sorts have been found in the 1813 text. On the other hand, Austen made small revisions of this 1813 text so those are her last emendations in print. Here we have to remember the painful truth that Jane Austen died young and didn’t have much chance to have second thoughts for her book: she was producing the final copies for all 4 she saw into print and writing all six (plus perhaps a seventh, Sanditon). A very busy lady indeed and then mortally ill.

Over the 19th century errors crept into the many reprints of Austen’s books; and in 1923 R.W. Chapman sat down to produce scrupulously accurate scholarly texts which were the equivalent of what were printed for very high status male authors; he followed the standards of his time, which included discreet corrections of grammar, punctuation and paragraphing. For Sense and Sensibility he chose the 1813 edition after correcting it, and it’s Chapman’s text that Kinsley studied, emended somewhat and is the basis for all Oxfords afterwards. Recently though it’s been asserted that Chapman over-corrected and so polished Austen’s text that we lose flavor, tone, and something of the colloquial voice of Austen; and in the 2003 new Penguin edition, Kathryn Sutherland has taken the rare step of using the 1811 text as her basis. Did Chapman really alter the spirit of Austen’s books? Yes and no. Sutherland’s edition gives us a less polished, more sparsely punctuated text.

It should be admitted, as with introductions to texts, this is something of an agenda fight. Kathryn Sutherland, Claudia Johnson (editor of the recent Norton edition), and others feel the perceived picturesqueness & tea-and-crumpets quaint feel of Chapman’s original Oxfords helped sustain a kitsch and elitist view of Austen. It’s also a turf fight: the publishers of these texts need their choices to be respected to gain the full Austen readership.

But there’s something more here too. Austen did change some actual wording in the 1813 edition. Now it’s sometimes true the author’s first text was the superior one; sometimes the last corrected one is. It’s a matter of judgement and taste. What’s important is the text be not bowdlerized. In 1813 Austen cut a second sentence that appears in the 1811 text: in 1811 at the Delaford Abbey picnic, the narrator repeats the rumor that Colonel Brandon has a “natural daughter” that Mrs Jennings’s brief mention made public. We are told Mrs Jenning’s statement so

“shocked the delicacy of Lady Middleton that in order to banish so improper a subject as the mention of a natural daughter, she actually took the trouble of saying something herself about the weather” (I:3).

Strangely, for all Sutherland complaints about Chapman, he did include the 1811 sentence in his reprint of the 1813 text. He simply intelligently made a judgement call and put it back. Alas, somewhere along the line this offending sentence was omitted from all editions strictly based on the 1813 text, and now appears only in the footnotes to all, including this latest 2008 Oxford! What bothers me is in the notes most scholars repeatedly refuse to recognize the obvious, that Austen deleted the sentence because it was too frank. Instead we get supersubtle interpretations that Austen removed the passage because she didn’t want the situation to be tactfully covered up. But how could it be, since Mrs Jennings has let the cat out of the bag, and this is one of those many secrets Austen’s Mr Knightley tells us is just the sort of thing everyone knows.

On to the covers. There is a long custom of picking pictures of two upper class women (often sisters) standing or sitting close together for the cover of S&S. This began in the first popular editions of the 19th century, Bentley’s 1833 volume where we see Lucy and Elinor walking together. It’s seen in James Kinsley’s choice of a Hugh Thomson illustration of the very moment Marianne sees Willoughby at Lady Middleton’s assembly. Entirely typical of just every choice I’ve seen is how Thomson’s psychological depiction is wholly inadequate. Pair after pair of women are chosen whose faces are expressionless, but whose credentials, as visibly upper class, fleshly (this once having been a sign of high rank), white, elegant dressers, are unassailable.

For example, Sara Coleridge with Edith May Warner by Edward Nash [1820], the 1980 Oxford cover; Ellen & Mary McIlvane by Thomas Sully [1834], the 2003 New Penguin cover. These latest Oxfords differ only in preferring to focus on an enlarged detail of the two women, something Laurel tells me is fashionable in covers. An earlier version may be found in a 1983 Bantam, Charlotte and Sarah Hardy by Thomas Lawrence (1801)

No one disputes the centrality of a pair of sisters as central to the novel (and primal to Austen as in all her novels we find them), but I am heterodox enough to declare that as a reader of Austen, I’m of the party who feels if we are to have two women, let us have either genuinely effective images, or one of the many effective stills from the recent movies, as in covers of the 1995 Signet and 1996 Everyman.

Even a landscape redolent of picturesqueness or some pivotal point in the story of the Dashwoods would suffice. This latter choice is uncommon, although the 2002 Norton appropriatetly chose Devonshire Landscape by William Payne (c. 1780).

What I particularly liked about Margaret Doody’s essay in this new Oxford is she demonstrates the plot-design, climaxes, and much of the text of the novel is as much about social life, women’s relationship with other women, economic injustice, and aesthetic hypocrisies and affectation as it is a love story.

Paperback: 384 pages

Publisher: OUP Oxford; Rev. Ed. / edition (17 April 2008)

Language:  English

ISBN-10: 0199535574

ISBN-13: 978-0199535576

RRP: £4.99

Ellen Moody, a Lecturer in English at George Mason University, has compiled the most accurate calendars for Jane Austen’s work, to date. She has created timelines for each of the six novels and the three unfinished novel fragments. She is currently working on a book, The Austen Movies. Visit her website for further Austen related articles.

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Country Dances used in the Films

Whether it’s Henry Tilney’s observations about country dances and marriage or a Mr. Darcy or Mr. Elton giving offense at not being willing to dance, Austen’s wittiest or most crushing revelations often come on the dance floor. Because these scenes are so crucial, film makers have endeavored to “get them right”, time and again. But where can you find copies of the music that is so evocative of such a pleasant period or scene? Continue reading Country Dances used in the Films