Austenacious readers, today’s post is not for you. Today’s post is for your loved ones—those wishing/required to give you a gift this holiday season. Specifically, those hoping not to find themselves in a picked-over Walgreens on Christmas Eve (or, you know, Hanukkah and/or Kwanzaa Eve), weighing the costs and benefits of a pair of LED-lighted Babylon 5 socks. So just hand this on over to them, and you’re welcome.
To the friends and family of the reader at hand, it’s nice to meet you. We’re here to help—we’ve scouted the coolest, funniest, prettiest, and Jane-iest stuff at our beloved Etsy and laid it out here for all your gift-giving needs. We recommend shopping early, as shipping time is of the essence, but we hope you’ll find what you’re looking for and give the Austen fan in your life something a little special to get excited about this season.
Students of modern typography and/or fictional geography, take heart! Brooke and Justin made you a shirt. From Longbourn all the way to Pemberley, this top is stylish and modern, and also offers endless chances to say to yourself, “IN CHEAPSIDE!” (Austenites, you know what I mean. Confused non-Austenites, nothing to see here. Except a really cool shirt that your loved one will wear all the time.)
Are you looking for a way to show your lady friend how much you care? Has it been more than half a decade? Are you handsome, and basically a friendly pirate? This print commemorating the proposal of Captain Frederick Wentworth to his once and future intended, Anne Elliot, should do the trick. Also comes in black on white.
Wrap your favorite Austenite in romantic angst this holiday season. Like, literally. Around the neck. But not like a psychopath! More like a Naval captain who’s been pining for his ex-girlfriend, who has, thankfully, been pining right back. Does that sound good? Then give someone this scarf. Also comes in Darcy’s proposal.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single lady in possession of a sense of adventure (so, not Fanny Price) must be in want of a nine-hundred-year-old anthropomorphic alien to whisk her around time and space in a blue police box and then probably be separated from her in some amazingly poetic and heartbreaking manner. At least, we THINK that’s how the saying goes. Anyway, anybody who loves Elizabeth Bennet AND Doctor Who cannot go wrong with this set of prints commemorating their theoretical meeting.
For all the essentials: pragmatic elder sister, romantic younger sister, handsome tool, guy who regrets promising himself to someone else, older gentleman who doesn’t mind an age difference. Also keys, phone, wallet, lip gloss, mints, emergency earrings, tiny notebook of mostly to-do lists and brunch menus, The New Yorker, half-empty tub of hummus. (Just me, then?) Also comes in Persuasion and, for the heavy packer in your life, Seven Novels.
I gotta tell you guys: I am having a Sense and Sensibility THING.
Do you all do this? A few years ago, I went through a phase where I re-read Pride and Prejudice, watched the Keira Knightley version, watched the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version, re-read Bridget Jones’s Diary, watched THAT movie a hundred million couple of times, sought out Bride and Prejudice…there are just a lot of Pride and Prejudice adaptations out there, and I watched and read a bunch of them, is what I’m saying. (I did not watch the 1980 BBC version, as this was before the days of this site and I didn’t know any better, but I want Mrs. Fitzpatrick to know that I hear her exasperation in my head retroactively.)
That was awhile back. Where this new Sense and Sensibility yen came from, I couldn’t say, but here we are.
Somewhat sacrilegiously, I think, I skipped the actual novel this time; I’ve read it relatively recently, and decided to opt for Netflix and instant gratification instead. And, okay, the pickings for Sense and Sensibility adaptations are slimmer than they are for Pride and Prejudice, but I think what Sense and Sensibility lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality: the modern adaptations of it are both excellent. (The other option here is From Prada to Nada, which I haven’t seen, but which has jumped up the Netflix queue in recent weeks.)
I don’t own a single adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, which now strikes me as completely insane. Why don’t I keep the Emma Thompson version on hand? I love the Emma Thompson version! (Fun fact: I have a clear memory of seeing it in the theater, then promptly and enthusiastically re-creating the entire plot for a friend the next day. This is, of course, why I’m so great at parties.) Being from the mind and the pen of Thompson herself, it understandably does many many things well; despite the 90210-ing of several actors’ ages, she makes it work (mostly). Elinor’s freakout at the end, in particular, never fails to impress.
(Speaking of the aging-up of actors, both modern adaptations cast Colonel Brandon as significantly older than he is in the book—fifty-one for Alan Rickman and forty-four for David Morrissey—which I think makes cultural sense, considering the shift in life expectancies since the good old days. Otherwise, the old dude is, like, Ryan Gosling or something.)
I remember liking the 2008 version very much…and then never tracking it down again. I’m now about halfway through, and enjoying it completely—among other things, it’s from that post-Ruth Wilson Jane Eyre period where the BBC decided to get with the times, visually, and it’s both true to the novel (despite some dialogue modernization magic on Andrew Davies’s part) and modern enough to appeal to a wider audience. I’m particularly loving Janet McTeer as Mrs. Dashwood and the girl who plays Margaret—Lucy Boynton, IMDB tells me, and she is comic gold here—and I have to say that if anybody is going to make a better Edward Ferrars than a young Hugh Grant(!), I think it has to be a young and extremely floppy-haired Dan Stevens, playing to type in the best way possible. (Will Edward and Elinor ever be able to express their sweet selves properly and live happily ever after? Don’t tell me how it ends!) (Poor Marianne. I love her, but I’m such a fan of Elinor that I tend to overlook her a bit. Also, ever since Miss Osborne brought it up, I’ve been a little horrified that she ends up with only a nice, relatively happy marriage to the good Colonel.)
Since I took up this new, uh, interest, I’ve been thinking about what makes Sense and Sensibility such a crowd-pleaser. Why do I recommend it to so many new Austen readers? Why does it lend itself to such good adaptations? But also, why is it similar to Pride and Prejudice but always a little in its shadow? My current theories have to do with the simplicity of the story and the relatively small cast of characters (compared to, say, Pride and Prejudice or Mansfield Park); it’s a pleasant story with something for everybody, regardless of temperament; on the other hand, maybe neither Elinor nor Marianne carries as much sparkle as Elizabeth Bennet. I don’t know. So many thoughts! What do you think, readers?
England is a lovely country. Everyone’s so polite and so friendly. Which I guess is why they need sarcastic outlets like Time Out London‘s Lies to Tell Tourists column. My personal favorite:
When on the tube it’s customary to introduce yourself to the people sitting next to and opposite you. (@magiczebras)
I never need a sarcastic outlet, which is why I immediately started thinking of Lies to Tell Jane Austen Tourists.
When at a party it’s customary to introduce yourself to all those present, particularly superior nephews of your noble patroness.
Respectable, marriageable gentlemen will flock instantly to your side should you fall down a hill. Important: It must be raining at the time.
When conversing with a new acquaintance, you should comment on their father’s ill health and be surprised they were raised by a lady.
Lockets of hair possessed by significant others always represent true love.
The quickest way to a man’s heart is through his ha-ha. OK, the quickest way to a man’s aunt is through her ha-ha.
If you’re a guest in someone’s house, your first duty is to suspect your host of nefarious activities and scour the place to find the truth.
One’s first impressions of people are invariably right.
And, the best way to get a girl to break up with your son/nephew is to insult her.
My efforts just scratch the surface. Come on, readers, show us your stuff! I’m sure you can lie to Jane Austen tourists like anything. Bring it on!
Recently I went to a conversation between William “Bill” Deresiewicz, author of A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught me about Love, Friendship, and the Things that Really Matter, and Karen “Karen” Joy Fowler, author of Jane Austen Book Club. There were about 15 of us there at Books, Inc in Berkeley, and OK, it was almost a month ago (don’t you just love instant reporting on the Internet?), but it was really cool! It was like hanging out with all you dear readers, all of us gabbing about Austen, all of us being surprised at just how differently we see the books. One of those, you know, life metaphors.
Here’s a few of the things we talked about. And because I think of you all as my Jane Austen friends, I’d love to hear what you think about any of them.
- The way that the humor of the books is generally lacking in the movies, and if this could be remedied. I and a few others said, yes, it could, but those movies would not be the rather swooshy pink rom-coms lots of people want from their Austen films. (Talk about irony . . . .) How you would do this I’m not sure, being better at watching movies than making them. Any ideas out there?
- Secularism in Jane Austen—how church and religion are hardly ever mentioned in her books, yet she was the daughter of a clergyman, etc, etc. And how the clergymen run the gamut from Edmund Bertram and Edward Ferrars to Mr. Collins and back again. Now my own take is that church and the clergy were such a ubiquitous part of Austen’s life that she hardly ever thought to comment on them, and that she saw the clergy in particular as just a bunch of guys. What do you think?
- Bill said that widowhood and loss are a theme in Persuasion. I’m not so sure. He pointed out that most of the characters are widows or widowers, which is true. Anne’s loss of Captain Wentworth and other losses do play a role, but as Miss Ball argued, the recovery of love and happiness is crucial to the book (and is significantly lacking in widowhood). And the way Austen treats the widows and losers of Persuasion, other than Anne, is not really very sympathetic. Like the clergy, I would venture to say that they were just more common in an age of earlier deaths. But it is an interesting thought.
- So was Karen’s comment that Mrs. Smith is a rather sinister character—she doesn’t tell Anne how wicked Mr. Elliot is until after Anne declares she won’t marry him. This is a common problem in friendship, though, isn’t it? In my own circle I know of two instances of one person on the brink of a disastrous marriage and their friend deciding whether or not to say something. One friend did, the other didn’t (having already made her opinions known). It didn’t make a difference in either case, and both couples are now divorced. Aside from the fact that it had never occurred to me that Mrs. Smith was sinister, this discussion pointed out parallels in Austen’s books to my own life that I hadn’t even thought of!
- One person asked how reading Jane Austen has enlivened your life. Do you think and act differently because of her? Karen said she suffered fools better than she used to, enjoyed them even! And Bill said she’d made him able to admit the possibility of his being wrong. For myself, I think that I started reading Austen young enough (~13) that she helped shape my entire outlook on life, both my morals and my ever-present sense of irony. Though I also simply felt that I had found a friend.
What about you? How has reading Jane Austen enlivened your life? Has she changed you?
Photo credit: ©2000 by Sean Dreilinger. Used under Creative Commons licensing.
Send us your questions! Mrs. Fitzpatrick knows a lot of stuff, useful and useless alike. “Ask Mrs. Fitzpatrick” will answer anything related to the world of the books, the books themselves, P.G. Wodehouse, math, or Star Trek. Jane Austen (deceased) will comment on your personal problems in “What Would Jane Do?” See the contact form on the About page. We’d love to hear from you!
Miss Moore asks: I was just wondering about Sense and Sensibility . . . . Throughout the latter part of the book, does Lucy Steele have any knowledge of Edward’s love for Elinor or vice versa? Because if I’m not mistaken, they mention that Elinor is fond of a man by the name of Ferrars and then Lucy proceeds to tell her of the engagement. Just something I was wondering about.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick answers: Oh yes, Miss Moore, Lucy Steele knew about Edward and Elinor all right! At least, she had suspected Edward was falling for someone else, and when “the elusive Mr. F” is brought up, she deduces that that someone is Elinor. She knew they had been staying in the same house. And Marianne makes such a big deal of it that it’s obvious Elinor is fond of Edward too.
So at this point, Lucy knows her fiancé is tired of her and in love with someone else, who loves him back. I can see why you’re confused. Why should Lucy tell Elinor that she is engaged to Edward, unless she’s dumb or flat-out evil? You would think that she would just break up with Edward, or that he, if he had a spine, would break up with her, end of story. Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. You have to remember that marriage for these women was a job: it was their source of income and social security. Quoting poor Charlotte Lucas: “[marriage] was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want.” Lucy doesn’t especially want the future job of being Edward’s wife, but it’s good enough until something better comes along. I’m sure we’ve all had jobs like that.
Lucy knows that Edward won’t break up with her because he is a Man of Honour. In all the English novels I’ve ever read, Men of Honour cannot ask women to be their wives and then dump them. You might call it job security for wives. Oh, men can get up to anything they want to get the woman to break the engagement, but they can’t break it themselves. If they did, the woman could actually sue them in court for Breach of Promise, so you can see how serious it was.
If Lucy was a heroically nice sort of girl, her reaction to learning that Edward loved someone else would have been to offer to release him from the engagement. But she isn’t. She’s “on the make” as they used to say—scrambling up the socioeconomic ladder by any means possible. So she lets Elinor know that Edward is taken. She says, “Back off, b****! He’s mine!” and she tries to convince Elinor that Edward really loves her and not Elinor. In doing that she’s making sure she keeps her job until she gets a better one; that is, until she marries Edward’s brother.
I hope that made sense. It’s kind of like a soap opera, isn’t it?
Today we lucky ladies at Austenacious have the golden opportunity to bring you an exclusive interview actor/writer/producer/personal heroine Emma Thompson, whose Oscar-winning screenplay for Sense and Sensibility and general sense of brilliance has made her an icon for smart girls everywhere. We sat down at Austenacious Studios for a brief chat:
Emma Thompson: Hello! I’m Emma Thompson.
ET: Hello? I’m Emma Thomp—Hey! What are you doing on the floor?
ET: Are you trying to kiss my feet?
ET: Yes, you are. Stop that.
A: They smell like roses after the rain.
ET: Get up.
A: Right. Let’s see. Ah, yes: In 1995, you wrote an Oscar-winning screenplay of Sense and Sensibility, as well as portraying the sensible Elinor Dashwood in the film. Can you tell us about your relationship with that character?
ET: Oh, yes, well, I’d always felt that as a woman who processes things quite intellectually, that Elinor is still quite capable of having an emotional life, and so—
A: —of course. You bawled your eyes out. It makes so much sense.
ET: Yes, and—
A: —was it you-know-who?
ET: Excuse me?
A: You-know-who. He Who Shall Not Be Named.
ET: I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about.
A: Your ex? Does all the Shakespeare? To work out his pain over losing you?
ET: Ah, Kenneth.
A: Sssh! Beware the Death Eaters!
ET: That’s Ralph Fiennes. You’ve got it all wrong.
A: No, that’s just a coincidence. We called him that before the movies! Honest! What we’re saying is that he’s stupid. Stupidity is the point.
ET: ….okay, though Voldemort is in fact not stupid. I—I thought we were here to talk about Austen?
ET: Jane Austen?
A: Oh. Right. Say, what made you decide to grow your hair out?
ET: [Sighs] Well, I got tired of the idea that a woman of a certain age should have short hair, and I thought I’d challenge the the social norms surrounding middle age and sexuality—
A: That is so brave.
ET: —and also I was starting to be indistinguishable from Hugh Grant, at first glance.
A: Well, yes. But wasn’t it all part of Operation: How Hughie Got His Groove Back?
ET: I’m not familiar with that particular operation.
A: We thought it was philanthropy on your part.
ET: Getting back to the subject, I was so proud to have worked with him on Sense and Sensibility. I’ve always loved Edward Ferrars, and I thought Hugh brought such a believable sensitivity to the role.
A: Sure, whatever, but tell me: when you and Helen Mirren have sleepovers, do you dress up your Oscars?
ET: That is totally not your business.
A: We’re just saying: We would. Of course, neither of you have really braid-able hair, so that‘s out the window…
ET: I have to go now.
A: But wait! I haven’t given you my resume yet!
ET: Is that my bodyguard at the door?
A: We could do this every day!
ET: We really couldn’t.
A: Don’t you need a personal pencil sharpener? Award-polisher? Sycophant?
A: Wait! Someone told me the other day that I look just like Hugh Grant, too! I know you can’t resist a good cause!
Note: This interview is entirely a work of fiction, and is in no way meant to reflect on Ms. Thompson. In fact, it would probably be better for everybody if it also did not reflect quite so strongly on the staff of Austenacious.
We Californians do realize how very lucky we are: drive a few hours and voila! Snow! Looking for the ocean? Go the other direction! Craving deep lakes, crazy tall trees, and gun-totin’ locals? Drive north. Ta-da: Oregon!
Despite the arrival of spring, Action Jane has been itching to have one last romp in the snow, and took a recent expedition to Oregon’s Crater Lake to experience the exotic winter landscape. Adventure ensues!
Always the modern girl, Action Jane navigates with the help of the North Star and her handy-dandy topographical maps.
Jane contemplates the glory of Crater Lake and waits for a man in a billowy shirt to dive in and emerge, soaked but ostensibly hypothermia-proof due to his significant personal heat.
Why Action Jane can’t find herself a pair of Action Boots isn’t really clear—but Miss Osborne thoughtfully protects her little green slippers nonetheless.
The residents of Oregon are very into pheasant hunting, it seems.
Jane accompanies Miss Osborne on a snowshoe expedition.
Unfortunately, Miss Osborne managed her worst possible Marianne Dashwood impersonation and fell into a crevasse, injuring her foot. Jane surveys the scene, watching for gallant men on horseback. (If this were an episode of Chuck, it would be titled “Miss Osborne vs. the Crevasse.” Miss Osborne loses.)
Unable to snowshoe or even walk without significant pain, Miss Osborne accompanies Jane to the Rim Cafe overlooking the lake for a day of quiet pleasures, where Action Jane points out that Love Actually isn’t for a lady to watch in public (even on a tiny iPod screen). She makes an exception for a hilarious dance scene featuring a young man greatly resembling one Edward Ferrars, as even our Jane can’t resist Mr. Grant in kidskin trousers.
Action Jane, ever polite, requires rescue from an over-long conversation with a creepy statue of—well. A…logger? Gold miner? The Ayatollah? Speaking of ladies, we’re not sure how she ended up on his knee like that. Men with beards can be very persuasive, it seems.
Good news: in the days since her northern adventures, Action Jane has seen Miss Osborne and her injured foot back to the estate, where Miss Osborne has seen fit to rest and bid adieu to the snow for the time being. From now on, it’s only long walks in the flat, non-slip countryside for her. And if scandalous gentlemen want to take their shot, well, they’ll have to wait until winter.
Photo credits: ©2010 Christine Osborne. All rights reserved.
So, how can I put this? Let’s see. Okay, so. Sometimes, it seems to me that Austen adaptations are…shall we say, remiss in failing to offer a satisfying ending? Failing to seal the deal, if you know what I mean? Sure, Lizzy and Darcy end up in the Carriage of Loooove at the end of the 1995 adaptation, but what’s with the little peck as they’re driving off (frozen for effect, even—what, BBC, do you think we didn’t see what you did there, you dirty cheaters)? And, really, nothing for Jane and Bingley? They’re going to get a complex, people. Even Emma Thompson’s Elinor promptly explodes with emotion when Edward turns out not to be married—but does she sweep him off his feet and carry him away, complete with soaring music and distracting crane-shot camera work? Spoiler alert: she does not. And oh, sure, maybe it’s not in the book, exactly, but then neither is a thirty-six-year-old Elinor, a Jane Bennet that looks vaguely like a Greek statue, or that awesome cake on a pedestal (with ribbons!) at the end of Sense and Sensibility. I stand by what I say: more kissing, please! Jane won’t mind.
Thankfully, there are some recent Austen adaptations that seek to remedy the situation, and I think this sort of thing requires some, uh, research. Or, more specifically, a poll. Here are seven ending scenes from relatively recent Austen adaptations, all of them containing some sort of kissy-kissy true-love moment. Inquiring minds want to know: Austenacious readers, which is your favorite, and why? If there’s one that isn’t listed here, what is it (and why couldn’t we find it)?
Pride and Prejudice 1995
Mansfield Park 1999
Pride and Prejudice 2005
Northanger Abbey 2007
Mansfield Park 2007
One of the things I love about reading a book or watching a movie for the twentieth time is noticing something that didn’t strike me in previous encounters. I’m currently re-reading Sense and Sensibility, and there are two things that keep jumping out at me: Elinor’s emotions and long sentences.
My movie-watching-to-book-reading ratio is decidedly tilted toward the Emma Thompson movie, making my mental image of Elinor Dashwood significantly older, more reserved, and less giddy and/or painfully in love than how I imagine her when I’m reading. Then again, I don’t think the recent portrayal by Hattie Morahan was any less austere, so perhaps not having the benefit of reading Elinor’s inner thoughts makes all the difference. I enjoy hearing those inner thoughts. It makes her outward self that much more thoughtful. Elinor is as emotional as Marianne. She just has the amazing fortitude to contain her innermost feelings and not count her chickens before they hatch. Couldn’t we all use a little more of that? I’m not suggesting that emotions aren’t healthy, wonderful, and enjoyable to behold; I simply find it a relief to know that there are some cautious (while still lovable and loving) people out in the world.
A friend of Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s recently commented that she was like Marianne in her youth, but has become more like Elinor as she’s gotten older. This suggests that there’s hope out there for our confessional culture! Also, it may be another reason why I think of Elinor as being so much older than Marianne—most people learn Elinor’s kind of fortitude as they get older, and don’t have it when they’re 20!
Now for the long sentences. I confess that I can only quote books or films in short bursts. (We’re talking things like, “I greatly esteem . . . I like him” and “No one wants your concertos here!” and not soliloquies.) So it’s no wonder that when Edward Ferrars is talking about his search for a profession, I remember the lines, “I always preferred the church . . . but that was not smart enough for my family. They recommended the army. That was a great deal too smart for me.” Pure, snarky Austen! But Edward continues:
“As for the navy, it had fashion on its side, but I was too old when the subject was first started to enter it, and, at length as there was no necessity for my having any profession at all, as I might be as dashing and expensive without a red coat on my back as with one, idleness was pronounced on the whole to be the most advantageous and honourable, and a young man of eighteen is not in general so earnestly bent on being busy as to resist the solicitations of his friends to do nothing.”
My friends, that is a sentence of epic proportions! And still filled with Austenian goodness. My bold plan was to diagram the sentence, but I failed miserably and am too embarrassed to share my work. (Though if you want to put on your grammar hat and give it a whirl, you will receive a gold star or perhaps a congratulatory haiku from Miss Ball.) Some movies and even audio books distill dialog and exposition to the essence of the situation at hand. Emma Thompson’s Academy Award–winning script certainly did that, and I appreciate it. As much as I love Hugh Grant, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t want to sit through that entire speech. Mostly, I’m amazed at the idea that Austen’s dialog is typical of her own speech patterns and those of her circle. Is it, or was book dialog fancier in the day? Anyway, no executive summary for that gang! They clearly had enough time on their hands to get into the nitty gritty. But I don’t find that Austen’s long sentences make her hard to read. Do you?
On a completely unrelated note, I have to share one annoying thing:
I never write in books. I treat them with respect. (Yes, that’s right. I never highlighted a single page of a textbook in college.) But I was so irked to see this typo that I marked it. Perhaps it’s time to move the colored pencils and Post-It notes away from my nightstand.