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A treat I just have to share…(and yes, it has been a long time, I do apologise!)..this morning Melvyn Bragg’s long running radio series, In Our Time, devoted the whole of a programme to talking about Emma, Jane Austen’s most brilliant novel ( in my humble opinion) and, of course, it entirely appropriate to do so as it is 200 years since the novel was first published.
The quests were distinguished Jane Austen scholars all: Professor John Mullan, Professor Janet Todd and Professor Emma Clery. The discussion was lively and I think you will all enjoy it even if you don’t necessarily agree with some of the statements made!
I have loved this series for years. The guests are always well informed on the given topicand Lord Bragg always plays a slightly curmudgeonly “Everyman” role: he dismissed talk of Jane Austen’s brothers pretty swiftly today ( bravo!).
Here is the link to the programme…..I think it can be heard outside the UK ( at least I hope so.) And here is a link to the accompanying quiz on Emma again on the BBC Radio 4 page. (Yes, 10/10 was my score but it is my favourite of all her novels!) I hope you enjoy it!
You may care to know that Simon Langton, shown below talking to Lucy Scott the actress who played Charlotte Lucas, and who was
the director of the BBC’s 1995 production of Pride and Pejudice starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, is going to give a talk about that experience at Chawton House on the 18th April at 7p.m.
Here are all the details from the Chawton House press release:
To Celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice acclaimed film and TV director Simon Laongton will discuss directing the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and prejudice starring COlin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, for which he was nominated for a BAFTA, as well as other costume dramas which he has been involved with throughout his prolific career. Simon Langton was nominated for both a BAFTA award in the UK and an Emmy award in the USA for his 1982 dramatisation of the John le Carré novel, Simley’s People. He later won a BAFTA award for the 1989 series, Mother Love, starring Diana Rigg. Other productions include The Scarlet Pimpernel; Upstairs Downstairs; Jeeves and Wooster; the Duchess of Duke Street and Anna Karenina with Christopher Reeve. He continues to direct British drama, most recently with a number of episodes of Rosemary and Thyme, Foyles War and Midsomer Murders. An intimate supper with Simon Langton at Chawton House Library will follow the lecture; tickets are
available for the lecture or lecture with supper.
If you want to book tickets for the lecture, or lecture and supper then please do contact Chawton House at Chawton House Library,
Chawton, Alton, Hampshire, GU34 1SJ; Tel: 01420 541010
On Monday evening BBC 1’s The One Show had a typically different take on the celebrations for the bicentenary of the first publication of Pride and Prejudice. They broadcast a small item, presented by the comedian Arthur Smith, about Martha Lloyd’s Household Book and the type of food eaten by Jane Austen at Chawton Cottage.
Arthur visited what is now the Jane Austen’s House Museum, and was shown the Household Book on display there.
This recipes and remedies in this book were collected by Martha Lloyd, a long-standing friend of the family and who lived with the Austen ladies after her mother’s death. She eventually married one of Jane’s brothers, Francis. She was very close to Jane , and when reading Jane’s letters to her, the evidence is that she was, in my humble opinion, “almost another sister” and worthy of the epithet.
The book is a fascinating document. It is in manuscript, and the entries are written in many different hands. The book is full of recipes, household mixes and medicinal cures, and many Austen family members and friends contributed recipes to it. As a result we have a rather good idea of the type of food that was eaten at the cottage while Jane Austen was alive.
Arthur was given three dishes to eat, which were all prepared at the Pump Room in Bath, which now houses a restaurant, and was accompanied and advised by the food historian, Holly Newton.
Appropriately, he ate White Soup, as supplied by Mr Bingley to his guests at the Netherfield Ball in Pride and Prejudice
Jugged Beef Steaks with potatoes…….
and Gooseberry Tart. It was a good section of the programme, though brief, and was a welcome alternative to the diet of “wet shirt ” admiration that some programmes fed to us! it was quite seriously undertaken, and was not at all frivolous. Replete with details of Jane’s life and how differently food was prepared and eaten during the early 19th century, I confess, I enjoyed it.
You have five days left to view the item on the BBC iPlayer, here, and the item began at approximately 23 minutes and 30 seconds into the programme.
Most newspapers and news channels here carried an item about the celebrations for Pride and Prejudice 200, and I thought you might appreciate a look at some of them.
The BBC had some great pieces produced by their main news programmes. Will Gompertz did this lovely piece, with interviews with P.D. James and Helen Fielding: go here to see it and there was also this interview with Joanna Trollope on line ( which was filmed at Chawton yesterday for you can see “Jane Austen” (ahem) sitting at her desk in the background) A noted Janeite, I love Joanna Trollope’s passion for Jane Austen and the novels so eloquently expressed here.
Channel 4 News had a couple of entertaining pieces: go here and scroll to the bottom of the page to see them. There is also a discussion…Jane Austen as Chick lit (shudder)
My dear friend Jane Odiwe took part in the BBC Breakfast News’ celebrations: Go here to see an article which concentrates on sequels, and the Darcy “wet shirt” phenomenon.
There are lots more articles out there,as evidenced from the contents of my Twitter feed, but I liked these the best ;)
The articles and interviews have begun to flood the airways in celebration, and the first I heard today, was this interview with Janet Todd and P.D. James, below, on 200 years of Pride and Prejudice.
Go here to listen to it.The interview lasts for just over 7 minutes.
The news that reading Jane Austen is physical good for you – for it exercises areas of the brain not touched by other leisure activities- has been doing the rounds on the internet for some time. Today on BBC Radio 4’s bookshelf programme, Mariella Frostrup, above, discussed just how valuable it truly is to read Jane Austen, and what benefits we can derive from it with Professor Natalie Phillips, who has undertaken all this fascinating research via the use of brain scans by Michigan State University.
This extract from the programme’s blurb explains all:
What exactly is the human brain doing when we are enjoying the magical experience of reading a good book – and what difference does it make if we are reading for pleasure, or for study? Assistant Professor of Literature at Michigan State University Professor Natalie Philips undertook to find out exactly that by asking her students to read Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park in a MRI scanner in a series of experiments at America’s Stanford Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Imaging. We discuss what the latest developments in literary neuroscience could mean for the way in which society as a whole evaluates the study of humanities and the liberal arts
This is a fascinating project, and the results thus far are stunning and very exciting. As someone who took part in developing the first MRI scanners in Cambridge (as a patient not a scientist, I hasten to add!) I find this such an interesting way to use the technology . Go here to listen again to the programme: the article about Jane Austen appears approximately 12 minutes 40 seconds in from the commencement of the programme.This will be repeated on Thursday at 15.30, but is available to “listen again ” to for a year.
This morning, while eating my toast and marmalade, I heard this entertaining Audio Boo clip ,which was part of BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme.
Written by the witty Sue Limb and performed by Timothy West,it is a three-minute long letter, giving us Mr Bennet’s perspective on 200 years of Pride and Prejudice, Austen mania ( and the never-ending related retail opportunities that seem to follow ) plus the effects of being married to Mrs Bennet for two centuries…..Go here to listen.
Tomorrow is the start of the celebrations.I will be posting here and all over the world celebrations will be taking place. A readathon of the novel will be taking place at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath ( though do note that there will also be one at Jane Austen’s House in Chawton on the 17th May, which I will be attending)… the excitement mounts…..here we go…
This week’s edition of BBC2’s The Culture Show, presented by the delicious Andrew Graham-Dixon, has a wonderful, small section( just over 5 minutes long) presented by Professor John. Filmed on location at Chawton House on a very snowy day, he talks about Pride and Prejudice and the different adaptations that have been made of the novel – all nine of them- and it is a thoughtful, sensible essay, pointing out that the adaptations, in the main, reflect the times in which they were made.
The whole episode of The Culture Show is available to watch via the BBC iPlayer for the next seven days (and sadly this will only be available to this of you in the UK) here, but… hurrah and huzzah… the BBC has provided a clip of the entire essay on Pride and Prejudice from the programme which can be accessed by everyone ( or so I assume) via this link on their website here , Our Love Affair with Pride and Prejudice. I do hope you will watch it and enjoy it.
As part of their celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Pride and Prejudice BBC2 is commissioning a special programme during which a team of experts will recreate a regency ball- indeed, not any old ball but specifically the Netherfield Ball– as authentically as they can.
The programme ( working title, Pride and Prejudice: Having a Ball) will be presented by Amanda Vickery and Alistair Sooke and they will be supported by a team of experts including our old friend, food historian Ivan Day; Professor Jeanice Brooks and Dr Wiebke Thormahlen, who will advise on the music and orchestral elements; and curator and expert on history of dress, Hilary Davidson. Stuart Marsden and Dr Anne Daye will choreograph the dancing and literary expert John Mullan, Professor of English at University College London, will be on hand to ensure the ball’s accuracy and authenticity to Austen’s work.
The programme is due to be of 90 minutes duration and will be filmed at Chawton House, Jane Austen’s brother’s home in Chawton village. More details can be found on the BBC’s website here, and I believe the programme will be broadcast at Easter. I will of course, keep you acquainted with any more information if and when it becomes available.
I thought you all might appreciate knowing that today there is a rare opportunity to hear a service broadcast live from Winchester Cathedral.
BBC Radio 3 regularly broadcasts choral evensong services on Wednesday afternoons, and today the programme is being broadcast from Jane Austen’s final resting place, Winchester Cathedral.
The programme is repeated on Sunday 20th January at 16.00 and lasts for an hour.
Here are details of the psalms, lessons and music that will be heard in today’s programme, which also can be accessed via the BBC’s iPlayer, after its first broadcast this afternoon:
Introit: Benedicamus Domino (Warlock)
Responses: Philip Moore
Psalms: 82, 83, 84, 85 (Crotch, Clark, Bairstow, Lloyd)
First Lesson: Genesis 2 vv4-end
Canticles: Collegium Regale (Wood)
Second Lesson: Matthew 21 vv33-end
Anthem: When Jesus our Lord (Mendelssohn)
Hymn: Songs of thankfulness and praise (St Edmund)
Organ Voluntary: Flourish for an Occasion (Harris)
Choral evensong is one of my favourite services to attend, and I have been lucky enough to experience it at this marvellously atmospheric cathedral quite a few times. I do hope you will be able to listen to this programme.
Yesterday’s edition of Radio 4’s Open Book Programme was devoted to Jane Austen and concentrated, of course, on her most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice, for the bicentenary of its first publication is fast approaching.
Presented by Mariella Frostrup, above, this was a lively, intelligent and affectionate overview of Jane Austen, her works and her influence, recorded at the Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton. The other guests were John Mullan, whose book, What Matters in Jane Austen, was one of my favourite books of last year; Paula Byrne whose biography of Jane Austen, The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things will be published very soon, and Bharat Tandon, editor of Harvard University’s edition of Emma.
The programme, which is 28 minutes long, will be available to listen to via this link here. It will be repeated on Thursday at 15.30, and, or so it seems from the evidence of the programme’s home page, that the episode will be available to listen to for a long time, well over the usual week. And as Adam Q reminded us yesterday, this radio programme will be available to listeners outside the UK. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Last night Jane Austen made an appearance in the first of Ian Hislop’s three-part essay on that interesting phenomenon: The Stiff Upper Lip. This is a series of three programmes chronicling an Emotional History of England, and which was broadcast by BBC 2.
The theme of the programmes is of a chronological history of the British and their emotions. In last night’s episode – Emergence– we were taken on a journey from medieval times(when we were known, both men and women, as ready to kiss each other and strangers at the drop of a hat) to the situation just after Waterloo, when all such soppy displays had ended. Ian Hislop’s argument was that the stereotypically British virtues of reticence and stoicism only began to assert themselves during this period: the stiff upper lip ( an American expression, apparently) had its beginnings as a reaction against the excesses of the French revolution and in our subsequent wars with Napoleon. After Waterloo, the emotional excesses of the 18th century men of sentiment, as personified by the hero of Henry Mackenzie’s novel, The Man of Feeling (1771) were then not quite the thing. Nelson, the Nation’s hero after his death at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805, was a far more openly emotional man than the Duke of Wellington. Between Trafalgar and Waterloo, ten years later, the nation’s emotions had become far more reserved. And of course Jane Austen’s novels, with their emotionally restrained heroes and heroines demonstrates this sea-change in our emotional life rather well…
On a visit to the Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton, Ian Hislop gave us some Austenian examples of British Reserve and that all important attribute, Politeness, at its best:
The meeting of George and John Knightley in Chapter 12 of Emma, was given as one of the prime examples of the new, restrained attitude that was then acceptable in the early years of the 19th century. Here, while the reception the brothers gave to each other may appear outwardly polite and indifferent, inwardly their mutual love and affection is acknowledged . We know that, despite this emotionally cool meeting, they would move heaven and each to help each other.
The discussion continued with Louise West ,who is the Curator of the Jane Austen’s House Museum. They argued that Austen produced a new type of romantic hero: the reserved, upright man, who only confesses his feelings of deepest love after a novel full of incident. This is very true of Darcy, Wentworth George Knightley and Edward Ferrers. It was posited that the most guarded of Jane Austen’s characters often display the deepest, most genuine feelings. Of the heroines, only Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility gives way to excesses of sentiment, but even she is more sedate, reserved and sensible by the end of the novel. She has reformed to the state of emotional restraint thought desirable by late Georgian society.
I think we can all agree that Jane Austen respected rational beings of both sexes, to borrow as she did Mary Wollstonecraft’s phrase, and the argument that her novels are testament to her society’s admiration for certain aspects of The Stiff Upper Lip, and are, moreover, good examples of the era when an excess of sentiment was seen as something to be avoided, is an interesting one.
Two points did annoy me. That old chestnut, that Jane Austen never wrote about politics or incidents in the wider world- the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, the Abolition etc etc- reared its ugly head yet again, in a reference to a letter written by Winston Churchill upon having had Pride and Prejudice read to him while he was convalescing from illness in 1943:
Does this view really still prevail? Really? Not in my opinion or on my website. And to be frank, I really did not see the point of its inclusion here. Perhaps I missed something crucial. And I did not appreciate the scenes in the Museum’s gift shop, where Ian Hislop wonders, rather disapprovingly in my view, what Jane Austen’s reaction to the stock, in particular the “I Heart Darcy bookmarks” might be. I think she might be glad that the shop is contributing funds to the privately run Museum so that it can continue to celebrate her life and works….but then that’s just me being pragmatic, and not a little annoyed.
However, on the whole this was an interesting programme to watch, with plenty for those of us interested in the late 18th/early 19th century to ponder. You can go here to its website to see some clips and here to the BBC iPlayer to view the whole of Episode Number 1
(….and yes,we will get back to the Lefroys in my next posting!)
Today BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour again considered what books you might read on holiday in their Summer Reading series. Today’s topic was Romantic Fiction. Alice Peterson, whose novel has beaten Fifty Shades of Grey from the Kindle Top Ten list, tells us her preferences, as does journalist, Tanya Grey. Classic romantic stories are discussed as well as modern.
Mr. Darcy, and Captain Wentworth appear in the conversation(as does Mr Rochester).
And the erotic nature of Persuasion is discussed…. tempted? Of course you are…Go here to listen to the very short- eight minutes long- feature.
I thought you might appreciate listening to this small section of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour programme which aired today. The programme has been discussing summer reading and today’s topic was feminist classics.
It is not a particularly deep discussion-the time restraints limits that- but the presenter, Jenny Murray and guests Katy Guest, Literary Editor of the Independent on Sunday and novelist Joanna Briscoe discuss whether Jane Austen can be considered as a feminist author.
If you would like to hear it, then go here. The radio player will begin at the Feminist Summer Reads Section, and I think I am correct in writing that it should be available for you to listen to, wherever you are in the world. I’d be very interested to hear your reactions to it.
Here are the answers to the Mastermind quiz ( in bold type, under their respective questions) for those of you who attempted them, after reading my last post:
1. What was the first of Jane Austen’s novels to be published ? It appeared in 1811 and was described as being “ by a Lady” ?
Answer: Sense and Sensibility
2. In Pride and Prejudice, who married Mr. Collins after Elizabeth Bennet rejects his proposal?
Answer: Charlotte Lucas
3. In Emma, at the ball held by Mr. and Mrs. Weston, who turns down an invitation to dance with Harriet Smith with the excuse that he is ” an old married man and his dancing days are over” ?
Answer: Mr Elton
4.The final chapter of which novel opens with the line:
Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can…?
Answer: Mansfield Park
5. Darcy writes to Elizabeth after she rejects his proposal of marriage. In the letter who does he say Wickham had tried to elope with?
Answer: Georgiana, his sister
6. In Northanger Abbey Catherine Morland spends two years from the age of 15 to 17 reading books that would supply her with useful quotations.What role is she said to have been in training for?
7 .In Mansfield Park , what does Mary Crawford give to Fanny to wear at the ball Sir Thomas holds for her and he brother, William?
Answer: Gold Chain.( Note the official answer given by John Humphreys appeared to be “ gold necklace“. Ms. Winter, the contestant, rightly answered “gold chain” and though her answer was accepted it was “corrected” by John Humphries to “Yes, gold necklace”. That may account, IMVHO, for her answering the next question incorrectly)
8. In whose shop in London,where she is arranging for the sale of some of her mother’s jewels, does Elinor Dashwood unexpectedly meet her brother, John?
Answer: Grey’s ( of Sackville Street)
9. In Persuasion, what is the name of Sir Walter’s home in Somerset that he has to let to Admiral and Mrs Croft because he can no longer afford to live there?
Answer: Kellynch Hall
10. In Emma what position in the village of Highbury did Mrs Bates’ husband hold before his death?
Answer: Vicar. Note that the contestant answered “Rector” to this question,which, technically and for very good reasons, is not correct, but her answer was accepted.
11. The Militia regiment in Pride and Prejudice had their winter headquarters in which town near Longbourn which is also home to Mrs Bennet’s sister?
12. When Sir Walter Elliot notices his daughter Anne’s improved looks he assumes she has been using a particular lotion which he also claims has “carried away Mrs Clay’s freckles”. What is the name of the lotion?
13. To which of his daughters does Mr Bennet say, after she has performed a second song:
“That will do extremely well, child. You have delighted us long enough. Let the other young ladies have time to exhibit” ?
Answer: Mary Bennet
14. In Mansfield Park what is the title of the play the young people are planning to perform until Sir Thomas Bertram arrives home and puts a stop to it?
Answer: “Lover’s Vows”
15. In Northanger Abbey Catherine Morland is first introduced to Henry Tilney in the Lower Rooms in Bath by Mr King. What position did Mr King hold there?
Answer: Master of Ceremonies
16. Emma’s good opinion of Frank Churchill is shaken when she finds out the reason for his sudden trip to London. What was it?
Answer: To get a haircut.
Ms Winter had a total of 15 correct answers (and no passes) at the end of round one. After the second round her total score was 24 points and she ended, sadly, in fourth place. That means, of course, that she will not have the opportunity to go on further into the competition and we will not be able join her in attempting any more questions on this subject during this particular season. But I hope you have enjoyed taking part :)
I thought the questions were fair ( but the answers, or the way they were given, might have been a little confusing; at least I know I would have been disconcerted by the “correction” given to the correct answer to question number 7!) And yes, I did get every one correct. As verified by my son who was very carefully watching my performance on Friday evening: he is a strict adjudicator and would comment here if I misled you, have no doubt! The programme is available to view for another four days on the BBC iPlayer, here if you would like to see it whole .
I know…an embarrassment of riches this week from good old Auntie Beeb.
Episode One of Jane Austen’s novel, Emma, my favourite of all her works, was broadcast today, and Episode Two will be broadcast tomorrow. They will both be available to listen again to, to you all, wherever you are in the world, so do check the programme’s main page, here, for all the details.
This is an interesting adaptation starring Eve Best,
Robert Bathurst and David Bamber, and it was first broadcast in 2001 IIRC.
Last week, Persuasion…this week, Mansfield Park.
BBC Radio 4 Extra are broadcasting a really lovely adaptation of Jane Austen’s most controversial novel, Mansfield Park this week.
Episode One has already been broadcast and is available to Listen Again to ,here, for the next seven days: Episode 2 is just finishing as I write and is available here, again for seven days. The third episode will be accessible via the adaptations main page, tomorrow.
As in last weeks case, this can be listened to wherever you are in the world and access is not limited to those of us who live in the UK. If you want to keep it, it can be downloaded for £7.49 here. It was first broadcast on Radio 4 in 2007.
It has a fabulous cast: Hannah Gordon is Jane Austen, the late and very lamented Michael Williams is Sir Thomas and Robert Glennister ( sigh) is Edmund. Fanny is played by Amanda Root ( who was the best Anne Elliot ever!)
All three episodes of BBC Radio’s adaptation of Persuasion have been broadcast this week on Radio 4 Extra. It was originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in February 2009.
It has been a treat to listen to them. Juliet Stevenson is a fabulous Anne, and Soracha Cusack -who plays the narrator, Jane Austen- has always been a favourite of mine since I saw her play Jane Eyre in 1974. this adaptation was written by Micheline Wandor and directed by Vanessa Whitburn.
If you have missed the broadcasts of any of the three episodes, you can Listen Again: Episode One is available for another 5 days, here; Episode 2 is available for 6 days, here, and finally, Episode 3 is available for another week, here.
A real treat, it even includes one of my favourite incidents, which is normally excluded from adaptations of this beautiful novel; Anne worrying Lady Russell has spotted Captain Wentworth walking in Bath when in reality she is only studying the designs of window treatments. I often think radio adaptations are my favourites: they can convey the internal workings of characters’ minds much better than films in many instances. And, while I might want to alter the editing a little, at least there are no visual anachronisms to make me grind my poor teeth (Oh, think of my poor teeth and their suffering over the years!) Do enjoy it!-and I understand this is currently available to all be you in the UK or not ;)
Professor Amanda Vickery’s BBC 2 TV programme which was first screened at Christmas in the UK, has now been released on DVD and is available from all the usual outlets.
This was an enjoyable documentary, which I reviewed on its airing, here. Some commentators have since criticised its approach to the JASNA AGM at Fort Worth, especially as the programme did not show much of the serious presentations held at the meeting. However, if you want to see an interesting history of Jane’s Fame, then this is an interesting and enjoyable hour, in the company of a very engaging presenter. I enjoyed it, and I’m sure most of you will do so too, especially as I understand it has not yet been screened other than in the UK.
Well, to the interiors of Pemberley as seen in the BBC’s 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice ;)
My dear Twitter friend Adrian Tinniswood tells me that Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire, which is owned by the National Trust, is today giving a tour of the house with emphasis on its Pride and Prejudice theme. They will be holding another group tour on this theme on the 30th June. Places are strictly limited, so if you want to book then do telephone the Hall on 01283 585337.
I’ve written about the interiors of Sudbury before, here, here and here…and so I know that on the tour you will see the elegant white and gold Salon where Darcy and Elizabeth had their rapprochement …
The Stair Case Hall where Mrs Gardiner began to understand that Wickham was not quite the thing
The Long Gallery where Elizabeth pondered the portrait of Darcy
and Mr Darcy’s bedroom itself!