Parlez-vous Français?

Pride and Prejudice (2005 - Photo: IMDB)

Do you speak French? Or Italian? Perhaps you can even grasp the basics of Latin or Greek?

I can claim to know enough French to be just a wee bit dangerous. I could probably read street signs or order from a café menu in Paris but beyond that, I wouldn’t be the best translator to select for your next trip abroad.  (That’d be enough to get us a meal and a trip to the Louvre, but that’s about it.) College helped some, but I never left class  truly adept at the conversational side of speaking the language that comes from years of dedicated study.

Had you lived in the Regency, you’d not have had the opportunity to partake in any state-run system of education. And depending upon your wealth and station, your access to educational opportunities could differ (and languages studies along with it). Those with less social standing could possibly attend a local charity or church-administered school but for those with means, a boarding school, trained governess (for young ladies), or skilled tutors (for young men) would have administered the education of Regency Era youths.

Though the extent to which you received a Regency education would have largely depended upon your social station and your gender, there was a larger focus on classical language studies than we might see today. In fact, you’d likely have been fluent (or at least educated) in several languages. This was customary, especially with French, as it was the language of diplomacy of the day. To review letters and first-hand accounts of life in the Regency, it is quite clear that the education (and language studies in particular) exceeded many of the expectations of our current system: “Even the letters of Regency-era females who married at seventeen are full of references to the classics, poetry, and the effortless interspersion of French.” (Regency Reader, 2006)

Since we’re talking about education this month, I wondered what it would have been like to study during the Regency Era. How would my knowledge of French stack up against the young English men and women of the day? (Alas… I fear I may have already answered my own question, but we’ll continue anyhow.)

Oxford University (Photo: University Wallpapers)

Les Hommes (Men): Young men could have been taught in the home during their early years, though it was conventional for boys to pursue more formal education once they reached school age. Usually by the age of eight, young men would attend public schools such as those in Eton, Harrow, St. Paul’s or Winchester. Studies of the Classics, Latin, and Greek were standard, as were languages such as French and Italian. (Source: Author Jennifer Kloester’s Georgette Heyer’s Regency World – This book has a wealth of information on education practices for young men and women in the Regency.)

There were university opportunities for gentlemen, though it’s a misnomer that collegiate studies were only available to the wealthy or members of the aristocracy. There were scholarly opportunities for young men of intellect, especially if they could prove worthy of a scholarship. The primary universities for an English gentleman were at Cambridge and Oxford, of which men would first attend at just sixteen or seventeen years of age. And though the educational opportunities at these institutions were virtually limitless, these jaunts at the university were seen as more of a prospect to advance socially than to focus solely on academia.

If a gentleman had neither the inclination nor opportunity to attend the university, he might begin his career in the military. Here the opportunities to expand his knowledge of languages would have been likely (through travel and some ongoing study), though the danger to one’s longevity in this type of career was quite obvious.

Photo: Wiki Commons

Les Filles (Ladies):  In contrast to gentlemen, young ladies of the Regency had more limitations on their educational opportunities than their male counterparts. Though they could be sent to attend an education provided by a boarding school, there were no universities available for females. Young ladies were largely taught in the home and had education in subjects such as French, drawing, dancing, music, poetry and literature, embroidery, and basic instruction in mathematics and the geography of the globe.  As a governess may have deemed appropriate, girls could also be taught the more practical subjects of sewing, darning, the keeping of household ledgers, and in some cases, basic cookery and duties of household management.

Singing? Drawing? Dancing and the modern languages? Perhaps we’ll have to stick to ordering from that Paris café menu or hiring a professional to assist us with a tour of the Louvre? After learning a bit about the extent our Regency Era young men and women went through in their language studies, I’m not feeling so dangerous with my grasp of French any longer. But then again – we have one thing our Regency Era counterparts did not, and that would be access to a snazzy Smart Phone App that would be sure to translate just about anything we need.

What do you remember most about the language studies from your school days? (And could you help me order a pastry at a Paris café, especially if in a true emergency?)

May the light of Christ guide our days, no matter which language we speak as we walk through them.

Au revoir mes amis!

~ Kristy

Charming Quotes from Jane Austen

Hello, my Regency-loving friends. Interesting, isn’t it, that the actual Regency last only from 1811-1820, but the periods before and after can also be considered part of the era?  When trying to explain to the uninitiated, what the Regency is, I’ll often bring up Jane Austen. I find that most, but not all, have heard of the book Pride and Prejudice and they can get a grasp on what kind of fiction genre I am writing.104_2304

So, to bring Jane Austen alive again, in our minds only, I bring you some of her delicious quotes.

What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance.

A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

Based on these quotes alone, I do believe I would have enjoyed know Jane Austen.

Which author would you have liked to spend time with? Answer in the comments, please.

Run Elizabeth Bennet! The Zombies are Coming

Vanessa here,

Seems like a long time since we last spoke. I’ve missed you all. Lately I’ve been think about Elizabeth Bennet. Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s second eldest daughter. What if I were to bump in to Elizabeth on the street or if she fancied to sail to Georgia to have tea on my porch. What would that be like?

Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits
Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits

 

 

It could happen. Well, in the mind of an author, anything is possible. My friend, Mary Jane Hathaway did so in Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits. Shelby Roswell (the Elizabeth Character) can’t wait for the visiting professor to her college to leave, but Ransom Fielding (Darcy) is not ready to budge.

 

 

Darcy Chooses
Darcy Chooses

 

Too modern?

Some have kept the 1800’s flavor with their rendition and tweaked the story as did Gianna Thomas and her serialized novels of Pride and Prejudice. Darcy meets Elizabeth saving her from a carriage accident.

 

 

 

 

 

Pride and Popularity
Pride and Popularity

 

What about a younger Elizabeth?

Author Jenni James has put poor Elizabeth into high school with her YA novel, shoving Elizabeth (Chloe Elizabeth) into teenage angst.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bride and Prejudice
Bride and Prejudice

 

Does Elizabeth have to be English?

Others have taken the spirit of Darcy and Elizabeth and spread their love to other shores, like the Bollywood tale, “Bride and Prejudice.”

 

 

 

 

Ever since Jane Austen penned the famous Pride and Prejudice, authors’ imaginations have been sparked and brilliant new renditions of the famous story have been written. Yet, I don’t know how I feel about the zombies.

Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies
Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies

 

Seth Grahame-Smith creates a mashup of Darcy, Elizabeth, and Zombies. The author gives an extra reason for the militia being in Meryton, and it’s not to fight Napoleon. Elizabeth, as a Regency version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is a bit much me, but I suppose the undead need their Pride and Prejudice fix too.

 

 

So what about you. Do these new tales disturb or delight? Does the thought of something new, make you want Elizabeth to flee Meryton straight to your front porch?

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: Why the Classics Live On

Regency Reflections is happy to welcome Marisa Deshaies. Marisa is a lover of Inspirational Regencies and recently obtained her Master’s degree in professional writing. 

Walk into any bookstore or watch previews of upcoming movies, and you’ll surely come across numerous advertisements or displays of classic stories written many years ago. Barnes and Noble consistently presents a few tables of the Classics in its stores.  Every few minutes a trailer for Les Miserables or Anna Karenina shows on television. With each bestseller and Oscar-worthy movie comes a retelling of one of the well-known stories taught in English classes.

Original title page of Pride and PrejudiceWhat is it that endears the public to the Classics? With the advent of three-dimensional directing, popular vampire lore, beloved magical adventures, and modern romance stories that fill the bookshelves and movie theaters, audiences do not lack amusing entertainment. Critics could argue, in fact, that Austen, Dickens, and Tolstoy are authors of the past. Why look back when there are unknown tales waiting to be told?

And yet, retellings of Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and other Classics continue to come to theaters and bookstores in droves. Whether authors create fan fiction of the beloved novels or directors discover new techniques with which to tell the stories, without a doubt some retelling is bound to catch your fancy.

Elizabeth-Bennet-and-Mr-Darcy-played-by-Elizabeth-Garvie-and-David-Rintoul-in-Pride-and-Prejudice-1980Jane Austen’s novels are a particular favorite of authors and directors alike to recreate and maneuver to the readers’ and viewers’ delight. In the two hundred (almost) years since Austen’s novels first hit the market, the fan fiction and movies created for audiences are too numerous to count. Pride and Prejudice, in particular, is an audience favorite. Can you blame the viewers of the 1990s BBC-miniseries version for watching the movie numerous times—after all, who doesn’t enjoy watching Colin Firth walking out of Pemberley’s lake dripping wet? (Try to keep your anger in check, P and P novel enthusiasts. We know this scene doesn’t occur in the book.) Austen, known best for her characters that pursue love in spite of difficult situations, wrote novels that connect with young and old, male and female alike (although females probably enjoy the stories more than their male counterparts). Turning these novels into fan fiction and movies is a sure-fire way to connect with book readers and movie watchers.

Pride and Prejudice 1995So what is it about the Classics that resonates so soundly with audiences? With Austen retellings, I’m convinced that readers and viewers live vicariously through the characters. Yes, every movie-goer and novel-reader places themselves in whatever their escape pleasure is—that’s the point of reading or watching, isn’t it? To be swept away to another world? Google-search the Jane Austen Festival, and you’ll see that while Persuasion doesn’t have witches or goblins and Emma doesn’t take place in a haunted mansion, readers of Austen novels and viewers of the novels’ movie counterparts are just as swept away by the stories as anyone reading Harry Potter or Twilight. Men and women dress in Regency costumes, attend balls, put on theatricals, and host luncheons and dinners, all in the fashion of Jane Austen’s time.

Audiences love Austen because her characters live and love through the same situations people experience today. Are you pining for someone you can’t have? Don’t go running to the freezer for Ben and Jerry’s—Pride and Prejudice will give you hope for that relationship much more than a pint of vanilla ice cream will. Contemplating giving relationship advice to your best friend? Read Emma before setting her up with that lothario from work… your friendship will thank you.

Austenland 2It’s simple, really. Readers and watchers (okay, most likely females) enjoy experiencing life in old-fashioned ways. As much as we say modern behavior gives equality between the sexes, anyone who doesn’t secretly desire a Regency courtship is probably in denial. And what about those ball-gowns and gloves? Gorgeous! In reading Austen’s novels or watching the movie adaptations, audiences are brought back to days of propriety. Days of hand-kissing, ballroom-dancing, letter-writing flirtation. Days of familial responsibility and honor. With a willing suspension of disbelief audiences of Austen novels (in any form) go back to a simpler time when true love took hard work and familial loyal was the most important aspect of a relationship. In today’s society of fast-paced activities, internet dating, and individualism, Austen novels and movies emphasize the importance put into marriage and family that simply doesn’t exist today.

The Long and Longer Versions of Pride and Prejudice and a Chance to Win

This week we’ve been looking at a few of the many film adaptations of Jane Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice. If you are in the mood to spend more than a couple of hours delving in to a cinematic version of this intricate story, I have two more versions for you to consider.

The 1995 Miniseries ~ About 5 Hours

Pride and Prejudice 1995Produced by the BBC in 1995, this adaptation had a great influence on my love for Jane Austen’s story. When I read Pride and Prejudice in high school, we watched the miniseries as we went, bringing life to characters I was already intrigued with. It also started a bit of a fascination with Colin Firth, but I’m not alone in that regard.

Of all the versions I’ve seen, this one stays closest to the actual book. The length alone allows them to go into considerably more detail than a regular length movie. They were able to include all of the characters, scenes, and conversations that other renditions had to leave out.

Colin Firth as DarcyOne of the strengths of this version is Colin Firth’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy. He doesn’t smile until the very last scene of the movie, but that doesn’t hinder the impression of his softening over the course of the movie.

Elizabeth says that she believes Darcy remains unchanged “in essentials”. I think that means he still maintains a severely proper demeanor and overall seriousness. Firth’s portrayal does that. At no point does he lose his composure or rigidity, yet you see him change just the same.

The Bennet SistersJennifer Ehle does a superb job of playing Elizabeth as well. Outwardly, she behaves in all the proper manners. She doesn’t throw off propriety as defined by her society, yet she still finds ways of displaying her displeasure with it through private conversations and pained facial expressions.

One drawback to this version is, of course, the length. You will have to set aside a solid afternoon to watch it if you intend to do it all in one sitting. Originally it aired as five hour-long episodes.

The rigidity and formality of it might make it hard for some people to immerse themselves fully into the movie as well. I also don’t know that Mr. Collins is portrayed correctly. Although I don’t know if any version truly gets Mr. Collins right.

But maybe that version isn’t for you. Maybe you love the story, but just can’t get into the ins and outs of a period piece. Then this next version may be for you…

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries ~ about 10 hours

You read that right. If you want to watch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries in entirety, it will take you at least ten hours. It also just won an Emmy for Interactive Media.

Poster of Lizzie Bennet DiariesThe Lizzie Bennet Diaries, or The LBD for short, is a modern adaptation of Austen’s story. It aired over the course of a year on YouTube. Lizzie Bennet was a vlogger, meaning she made a video blog. At times, other characters also made videos as well. Each episode ranges in length from three to seven minutes, but that really adds up when you consider at least two videos a week for a year.

The strength of The LBD lies in their determination to stay true to the elements of the story. Today, women don’t have to marry to have a future. It wouldn’t make sense for Charlotte to run off and marry Mr. Collins when no feelings exist there. So the offer of marriage was converted into a job offer. The intent of Austen’s story remains – Charlotte compromising and taking the practical route in order to insure her future – while still being relevant and believable in a modern setting.

Girls of Lizzie Bennet DiariesThe way that The LBD was set up will give you a different perspective on Pride and Prejudice. Because the videos, at first, are filmed in Lizzie’s bedroom, we see a lot more interaction between the female characters. Darcy doesn’t make an on screen appearance until episode 61. I know that after watching it, I view Lydia, Charlotte, and even Mr. Collins in a different way. They do make a few character adjustments. Mary is a cousin and Kitty is actually a cat, but the story essence remains.

You can follow the full LBD story from the website including the multiple You Tube channels and Twitter conversations.

Do you like the longer film versions or prefer the shorter versions that have to leave a bit out but maintain a more traditional movie length?

Comment on any post this week for your chance to win a DVD copy of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries. Winner will be announced Monday, September 2 and must have a US posting address. 

Film Editions of Pride and Prejudice: 2005 Version

Congratulations, Merry! You won last week’s prize. Check your email this week for details on selecting your book. 

Today and Wednesday we’re talking about film editions of Pride and Prejudice. I supposeP and P 2005 having a film (or motion picture) edition comes with being recognized as a classic book. Nearly every classic I can think of has a film adaptation somewhere. My favorite film version of Pride and Prejudice is hands down the 2005 adaptation starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden.

So why is the 2005 adaptation my favorite?

The artistic elements of the film put this one over the top for me. The beautiful music. The scene in the rain where Darcy first proposes to Elizabeth. The scene with Elizabeth swinging all by herself and that beautiful piano music in the background. The gorgeous scenery of Lizzie walking through a field reading a book while the sun shines behind her. Those are all things that give this film an extra layer of life. Is the Hollywood adaptation the same as what I’d imagined in my own mind when first reading Pride and Prejudice? Probably not, but it created a rich and complex images and emotions that related easily to my senses.

P swing

Then there’s the music. Oh the music! It’s my favorite movie soundtrack EVER. I own the CD. I own the advanced piano book. I played one of the pieces for my cousin’s wedding three years ago. And even while writing this blog post, I had to go dig out the book and spend a half hour replaying some of my favorite pieces (like “Dawn” and “Georgianna”). I’ve sat through weddings where the prelude and postlude music was all P&P 2005. If you’re interested in some of the facts about the soundtrack, it was written by the Italian composer Dario Marianelli in a classical style modeled after Beethoven’s early piano sonatas. The movie soundtrack is preformed by the pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the English Chamber Orchestra.

What’s different about the 2005 version compared to other adaptations?

In 1995, BBC produced a television version of P&P (one which many enthusiasts love and adore). The BBC version has a longer run time and follows the plot of the book more strictly. The 2005 motion picture focuses mainly on Elizabeth and Darcy, taking out a lot of the scenes revolving around other characters (like some of Elizabeth’s travels with minor characters and Lydia’s elopement). The 2005 version runs just over two hours, while the longer BBC 1995 version follows the subplots of the book more carefully and runs significantly longer.

Another large difference between the novel and the 2005 film is the setting. The script writer and the director shifted the movie forward by about 20 years, setting it during the 1790s. The director wanted the 2005 version to differ visually from the 1995 version (and apparently he also had a rather large distaste for empire waist gowns). In moving the setting earlier, he was also able to create a bigger distinction between the wealthy and the poor with clothing and the appearance of Longbourn as a working farm.

The more romantic 2005 portrayal of Elizabeth and Darcy’s story still remains bit controversial among Austen enthusiasts. Many Austen lovers prefer the 1995 BBC adaptation because it is indeed more true to the original novel. The 2005 version received rather harsh criticism for the final scene, which portrays Elizabeth and Darcy at Pemberly after they are married, but has little to do with Jane Austen’s original novel. The ending was removed in the UK version of the film for a few months before being put back in.

P kiss

I much prefer the 2005 version over the 1995. I feel that the 2005 version has a lot of romantic and emotional appeal (which I love both in novels and films). I feel that it does a good job of capturing the attention of a more modern audience while still portraying all the important themes of Pride and Prejudice that have made it such a distinguished and time honored novel.

And just in case you were wondering, my favorite scene is the first time Darcy proposes to Elizabeth, with all that rain coming down and the near tears in Elizabeth’s eyes. My favorite musical score is the theme “Dawn,” but I prefer it with just the piano rather than the full orchestra.

So what about you? Which film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice do you prefer? Do you have a favorite musical score or scene from either of the adaptations? Please share it in the comments below.

Photo credits: The 2005 motion picture version of Pride and Prejudice was produced by Working Title Films. It is believed low resolution screenshots used for the purpose of discussing a film and its contents fall under the fair use provision of the U.S. copyright law.

Comment on any post this week for your chance to win a DVD copy of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries. Winner will be announced Monday, September 2 and must have a US posting address. 

Jane Austen Para-literature – Sequels, Retellings, and More by Susan Karsten

Researching this subject taught me a new term and concept: Jane Austen para-literature. Oh my. This is a huge topic. I am only able to skirt around it, since to cover this topic completely would take years. The incredible array of sequels and retellings of the Austen ouvre is astounding. I, dear reader am a veritable babe in the woods when it comes to such reading opportunities. I have read a few spin-offs, no sequels, and no retellings of Jane Austen’s novels.

Is there a name for the phenomenon of the fact that a movie is never/rarely anywhere near as good as the book? Extrapolating that thought further tells me there could never be a sequel book as good as the original Pride and Prejudice.

Creative or knowledgeable people: Please come up with a name for the above phenomenon. Mention it in the comments.

Inveterate Austen sequel/prequel readers: Have you read any great ones? If so, please leave the titles in the comments.

READ ON! Much good information coming your way in this post.

Please check out these websites for listings of sequels: http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/austseql.html

http://webdoc.sub.gwdg.de/edoc/ia/eese/breuer/biblio.html

{The second site lists them alphabetically, but also has a listing of them in chronological order, so you could skip down to the more recent ones.}

There’s also a list on Goodreads of the popular ones: http://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/jane-austen-sequels

And another on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Guide-Jane-Austen-Sequels-Miscellany/lm/R1SHWQ7HPAS300

From the first link listed above, Ted Adams has a wonderful, comprehensive article slicing and dicing the terminology of Austen para-literature. I have used material from this article below. He said it so well.

“The adaptations, completions, sequels, pastiches and other attempts to tap into the Jane Austen industry … devolve from a most noble sentiment: We have read the six published novels and we want more. We want more and different insights into both the novels and into the type of person that Jane Austen was.

Adaptations are transformations into another medium, e.g., stage, screen and television.

Completions are the finishing off of a novel fragment. Jane Austen’s two fragments, The Watsons and Sanditon have been attempted a number of times.

Sequels are a continuation of the action. To my knowledge, nobody has written a “prequel”, which would be a description of what occurred before the action started.

Pastiches are work written in the style of Jane Austen. Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor is a pastiche. Its premise is that it is a notebook that Jane Austen kept concerning events during a period for which we do not have documentation.

Certainly no Jane Austen pastiche will ever be as good as the original, but that is to be expected. Mind you, when the standard is one of the best writers in the English language, to fall short of the mark is no disgrace. To write with wit, economy, great insight and develop complex and interesting characters is no mean feat. After all, we read Jane Austen with great pleasure 200 years later because she compares well not only with her contemporaries but also with ours and everybody who has come in between.

Personally, I enjoy pastiches for much the same reason that I sometimes enjoy Jane Austen criticism. Even when a pastiche fails or fall short, it can be interesting to try understand how or why it comes up short. And in the meantime, I’ve read a story that really has no requirement to be taken seriously.

The questions I would ask of a pastiche are the same that I ask of criticism: Is the work interesting/entertaining in its own right? How faithful it to spirit of Jane Austen’s novels? Does it provide insights into the work in question and/or the character of Jane Austen? ”

So, dear Austen-loving friends, I highly recommend reading the full text of the Ted Adams article — not the least for the titles of para-Austen books he considers excellent! Thanks for visiting Regency Reflections.

Remember to comment on the questions: What to call the phenomenon when the movie or sequel is never as good as the original AND Give the titles of any Austen para-literature books you’ve read that you think were pretty good.

Susan Karsten

The love of Regency romance lives on today. Comment on any post this week for a chance to win a book by one of Regency Reflections’ amazing published authors. The winner will be emailed the list of available books to choose from. The winner will be announced Monday, August 26th. Winner’s mailing address must be within the United States to win. 

The Women of Pride and Prejudice and A Chance to Win

Wednesday, Mary looked at the interactions and connections of the men of Pride and Prejudice. Today we look at the women.

If I were to write a post containing a detailed analysis of all the women in Pride and Prejudice, it would be long enough to have us all still reading it on Monday. Jane Austen built a wonderful world of women in a story that centered around the relationship between a man and a woman. Here is a look at some of the main ones and how they molded Elizabeth Bennet’s character.

The Mother

Ah, Mrs. Bennet, the woman so comically ridiculous and so blindingly obsessed that we can’t help but feel sorry for her family. As a modern reader, it’s difficult to imagine a life where getting your daughters married off is of utmost importance, but that is the existence Mrs. Bennet lives daily.

A mother seeks to make life better for their children. To care for them, prepare them for the future, raise them to care for themselves and their own families. Is the Bennet sisters did not marry, their futures were debatable indeed.

There are many times where we see glimmers of this worry from Mrs. Bennet. One could argue that she goes about her mission in a nonsensical manner, causing her daughters to react to her single-mindedness in various ways, but at the end of the day it cannot be doubted that Mrs. Bennet loved her daughters and wanted the absolute best life possible for them.

Lizzie reacts to her mother’s machinations with disbelief that is sometimes quiet and other times not. She maintains a level of outward respect for her mother that is admirable considering how preposterous she finds Mrs. Bennet’s attitudes and actions.

The Sisters

Elizabeth is the second of five sisters. It is easy to see how that family structure affected Lizzie’s thoughts, demeanor, and behavior.

Her older sister, Jane, is her best friend and her idol. Without being able to truly look up to her mother, Lizzie instead admires the sweet and quiet Jane. At first Jane appears to be a bit weak. Her quiet nature and desire to see good in everyone could be seen as fragile, but as she deals with the family scandals and the departure of Bingley, the reader sees a strength beneath the gentleness.

Mary and Kitty always seemed a bit lost to me, as if they were still searching for their place in the family. It is pure speculation on my part, but I always thought Mary’s bookish seriousness might have been an attempt to gain the attentions of her father, similar to how Lizzie had done naturally. Kitty, in turn, tried to relate to her mother the way the youngest did. Neither seemed very successful, leaving them a bit on the fringes. Kitty is rarely seen doing anything without Lydia and Mary’s social awkwardness is almost painful to read.

Last, but certainly not least in Elizabeth’s life, is Lydia. As the youngest, Lydia has likely been coddled from the day she was born. She has also absorbed their mother’s obsession with men and marriage. Lizzie sees Lydia as little more than a silly flirt and can be seen indulging her sister much like she indulges her mother – with little true respect, but also little outward censure. I think this is part of why Lydia feels that everything will turn out well when she is in London with Wickham. She had never known anything else.

The Friend

Charlotte Lucas is part of Lizzie’s life from the early stages of the book. I believe Charlotte is in place to be the voice of practical society. She views marriage as a necessity for a woman to secure her future. Love is not of great importance to her.

This is a stark contrast to Lizzie’s determination that only the deepest of loves would induce her to matrimony. We need this contrast and this voice of practicality in order to see just how different Lizzie is. Contemporary readers of Jane Austen’s novel were likely to see life through eyes more similar to Charlotte’s than to Lizzie’s.

Yet Charlotte’s closeness to Lizzie and her practical viewpoints are part of what allows Elizabeth to see things differently as well. When visiting her married friend at Rosings, Lizzie begins to see the benefits Charlotte found in making such an arrangement, even if she could never stomach it herself.

The Enemies

What would a great book be without a great villain? And if ever there were two women readers loved to hate, they would be Caroline Bingley and Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

By the time Caroline comes on the scene, we have already attached ourselves to Lizzie. Caroline’s dismissal and beratement of our heroine makes us want to see her fall. While she never truly receives an on page comeuppance, its almost more fun for the reader to imagine her dealing with the family dinners and parties once Jane and Lizzie marry Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy.

As for Lady Catherine, we almost wouldn’t have a story without her. The link she creates between Elizabeth, Mr. Collins, and Mr. Darcy as well as the results of her presumptive call on Elizabeth towards the end of the book, serve to move the story along in ways that it could not do otherwise. She is not a woman to be overlooked, however, and demands the reader’s attention, even when we would rather focus on Lizzie and what she is doing. It makes it all the sweeter when Lizzie gives her the cut direct and walks away from her.

The Others

Other women play significant roles in the story as well, like Georgiana Darcy and Elizabeth’s Aunt Gardiner. Georgiana plays a distinct role in breaking down Elizabeth’s bad impression of the young lady’s stoic older brother. Any man who loves and cares for a younger sister like that cannot be as cold as Elizabeth’s first impressions made him out to be.

Aunt Gardiner is somewhere between friend and mother figure to Lizzie. They take in Jane and Lizzie at separate points in the book, leading the reader to believe that Mrs. Gardiner has tried to step in and alleviate some of the exuberance of Mrs. Bennet.

What do you think of the female dynamic in Pride and Prejudice? Austen’s amazing ability to craft characters that fit nearly every type of woman and mold them together in a single story is one of the things that makes this book so enjoyable.

Public Domain Image

This week we’re giving away a lovely copy of Pride and Prejudice. The book is hard cover with a ribbon book mark. The pages are rough cut to simulate the cut edges an original print would have had after binding. All comments on this week’s posts will be entered in the drawing. Must have a United States mailing address in order to win. Winner will be announced August 19, 2013.

The Men of Pride & Prejudice and A Chance to Win

In my ruminations on the male characters in Pride & Prejudice, I first decided I might discuss them from the least important (in my eyes) to the most important, Mr. Darcy, of course. Or perhaps, I would discuss them from Mr. Darcy to each lesser character. A third option might compare the men from Lizzy’s sphere with the men associated with…Mr. Darcy.

Do you begin to see my dilemma? Jane Austen wrote a book about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy and amazingly ties each male character to the leading man in an intricate way while creating, at the same time, very individualized, stand-alone men in their own right.

So it seems I must discuss each character’s wonderful foibles and personalities (in no particular order) and how they re-make Mr. Darcy into who he becomes, the hero in one of the greatest love stories ever written (opinion mine).

Mr. Bennet

Let us first examine Mr. Bennet. Considered a gentleman, he allows his children, especially Elizabeth, to be who they want to be not who they should be. Lizzy, with her love of books and wonderful sense of the ridiculous, becomes his obvious favorite as the one most like him. And he plays a significant part in Darcy’s preference for Elizabeth.

In describing the really “accomplished” women of the day, Darcy adds, “…and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.” Darcy is already interested in that quality in Elizabeth, one fostered by Mr. Bennett.

She and her father also have their share of fun at Mr. Darcy’s expense until Mr. Bennett discovers what he believed about Darcy to be untrue. Darcy’s intervention in the case of Lydia and Wickham was the eye-opener and he was finally pleased to say to Elizabeth, “I could not have parted with you, my Lizzy, to any one less worthy.” Mr. Darcy began the process of putting himself out for others out of his love for Elizabeth.

Mr. Bingley

Next is the sweet, loveable Mr. Bingley.

I wished to start out with him because he establishes the connection with the Bennetts that allow us to be introduced to Mr. Darcy’s harsher side. We cannot learn of it any other way because the evil of Mr. Wickham cannot begin this early in the story.

But it is through this amiable relationship that we also see a wonderful change in Mr. Darcy. He convinces Mr. Bingley that Jane Bennett does not care for him, but we know it is her low birth that Darcy disdains. He will stick to his story even in the writing of his letter to Elizabeth at Rosings, “…I shall not scruple to assert that the serenity of your sister’s countenance . . . gave me the conviction that . . . her heart was not likely to be easily touched.”

He becomes forced to rethink his actions and in the end must apologize to his adoring friend. The character development of Mr. Darcy through Mr. Bingley is wonderful, compliments of Jane Austen!

Mr. Collins

Shall we move on to Mr. Collins? Who but Ms. Austen could create such a character?

He is a buffoon, a name dropper, a sniveling little man (no matter which actor of choice portrayed him) with a self-righteous piety that lasts only until his benefactress is conjured up by himself or another.

We start out believing Jane created him solely for our enjoy enjoyment, comic relief if you will. But his connection to Darcy is ingeniously interwoven through Lizzy’s best friend, married to Mr. Collins, at Rosings where Darcy has easy access. Elizabeth needed the connection of Mr. Collins at Rosings to allow us to see Darcy in a different light. Well done, Jane!

Mr. Wickham

Ah! The infamous Mr. Wickham… When he appears, we are pulled into his ruse and we can now abhor Mr. Darcy as Elizabeth does. And Ms. Austen adds the twist that Lizzy may have found her match and we sit on the edge of our seats to see.

But Wickham is nothing without his connection to Mr. Darcy. We had to see Darcy’s egotism and snobbery before we could believe the terrible accusations. And it is Wickham’s character development into total degradation with Lydia that allows us to begin to see Darcy in a new light.

New characteristics he declares are only for Elizabeth’s sake, but allow us to begin a love affair with him after chapters and chapters of disliking him heartily.

I’ll declare that Jane Austen never got a note from her editor that her manuscript needed more conflict! She is the queen of conflict in P & P.

Mr. Darcy

We shall end with our hero, Mr. Darcy. I sometimes think technology has ruined literature more than enhanced it. I have opinions on each of the actors who have portrayed this hero but I must be sure to base my thoughts on Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy and not an actor.

Mr  Darcy - all five for Regency Reflections small
Picture courtesy of Jane Austen World Magazine

So when I sit down with the book, all faces disappear and I read and re-read the story always culminating with the picture perfect hero (my own imagination inspires the way he looks) in an amazing love story.

The changes that occur through the pages are all linked to the other male characters enough that we see Mr. Darcy become a new man, not only for the love of Elizabeth, but because he has seen his own shortcomings through the men with whom he interacts.

I look forward to hearing other readers’ perspectives on their favorite characters. I fancy there are as many opinions out there as there are readers!
pandPbookThis week we’re giving away a lovely copy of Pride and Prejudice. The book is hard cover with a ribbon book mark. The pages are rough cut to simulate the cut edges an original print would have had after binding. All comments on this week’s posts will be entered in the drawing. Must have a United States mailing address in order to win. Winner will be announced August 19, 2013.

The Publishing of Pride and Prejudice and a Chance to Win

The below article contains information and excerpts pulled from Kathryn Kane’s article on the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice from her blog, The Regency Redingote.

Wendnesday, Laurie Alice shared about Jane’s long and laborious road to publishing and her subsequent career. Today we look at the publishing of Pride and Prejudice.

Original title page of Pride and PrejudiceOriginally titled First Impressions, the story of Elizabeth, Darcy, and their families and friends was originally written as a collection of letters. This epistolary style of novel was familiar to Jane as she had already written one as a teenager and one of her favorite authors wrote in that style as well. Obviously, she adjusted the format as well as the title prior to publication.

Pride and Prejudice was Austen’s second novel and it was instantly popular. The first print run of 1500 copies sold out even before the first run of Sense and Sensibility, which was half the size. Demand was so high that in October of 1813, her publisher, Thomas Egerton, released a second print run of Pride and Prejudice. A third printing was done shortly after her death.

Despite the popularity of the novel, Jane made only £110. Far less than the more than £450 her publisher made. Due to the slow sales of Sense and Sensibility at the time, she sold the rights to Pride and Prejudice for a lump sum.

Even though Pride and Prejudice was well loved by the public, Jane felt a little differently. Shortly after Pride and Prejudice was published, Jane wrote to her sister, Cassandra:

Upon the whole … I am well satisfied enough. The work is rather too light, and bright, and sparkling; it wants shade; it wants to be stretched out here and there with a long chapter of sense, if it could be had; if not, of solemn specious nonsense, about something unconnected with the story:   an essay on writing, a critique on Walter Scott, or the history of Buonaparté, or anything that would form a contrast and bring the reader with increased delight to the playfulness and general epigrammatism of the general style.

It may very well be the fact that it was ” … light, and bright, and sparkling … ” which made it so popular.

In 1813, England was involved in wars on two fronts, for both the Peninsular War and the War of 1812 were ongoing. People were weary of war and the privations which it brought. Pride and Prejudice gave them an amusing respite in the peaceful and traditional English countryside, which many valued highly as the epitome of the English way of life. A countryside and way of life which many realized was already under threat from the relentless progress of the Industrial Revolution.

Jane’s fictional village of Meryton was populated by a host of amusing characters involved in the activities of everyday life and her witty tale included a pair of love stories that ended happily ever after.

To read more about the writing and publication of Pride and Prejudice, see Kathryn Kane’s original article 

notecardsThis week we’re giving away a lovely set of Jane Austen notecards. For a chance to win, please leave a comment on any of the posts this week. winner will be drawn Monday, August 12. Winner must have a mailing address within the United States.