The Jane Austen Festival

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Just a quick blog post as the Jane Austen Festival in Bath starts tomorrow! How I only came to know about this last weekend, I have no idea (I imagine most Jane Austen fans have known about this for months!) but suffice to say I’ve been in suspense all week!

The festival lasts 9 days so there’s plenty of time to get down there (or up!) and enjoy everything Austen! There are 68 events in total with highlights being the Grand Regency Promenade on Saturday 15th and An Evening with Mr Wickham on Sunday 16th. Adrian Lukis, aka Mr Wickham from the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice will be there; I wish I could be too!

500 Jane Austen fans are expected to dress up in period costume on Saturday and promenade along the streets of Bath so that’s one not to be missed. There are also plays, talks, walks and more!

To check out what’s happening when, visit: http://www.janeausten.co.uk/festivalhome/ and start getting excited!

The photos I’ve seen from last year look amazing and I’m sure this year will be the same. Fingers crossed for sunshine as we wouldn’t want the girls petticoats to be six inches deep in mud… Either way, I will bring you some photos next week!

I hope you enjoy it if you’re going, and if you meet Adrian Lukis, please tell me what he’s like!

The Jane Austen Handbook

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If you’ve ever wanted to life the life of a Regency lady but weren’t sure how, then this is most definitely the book for you.

Consult the Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England and you won’t put a foot wrong in any social occasion. Divided into short, easily digestible chapters, there is a how-to guide for practically any situation you stand to encounter; from choosing the right company, writing letters and planning a dinner party to how you might spend your leisure time, attending a ball and even carrying on a secret engagement, there are tips and hints aplenty so you can pass yourself off with a very respectable degree of credit.


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Did you believe Mr Wickham?

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Idle, irresponsible, cunning and dissolute are all words that spring to mind when thinking of Mr Wickham. Even at the end of the story, he doesn’t lose that charm which initially won over the whole of Meryton, leaving with many ‘affectionate’ adieus as though his presence will be missed!

But before his true colours are revealed, he seems to have the makings of a romantic hero: a handsome stranger with happy manners, interesting conversation and the esteem of our beloved heroine. Are we not just as engaged by these as Elizabeth? Does he not set our hearts beating just a little faster with the thought of his ‘fine countenance…good figure, and very pleasing address’?

Adrian Lukis as Mr Wickham in 1995. 

We might be taught not to be deceived by appearances but why err on the side of caution when our spirited and intelligent heroine spurs us on? Even if we do not always agree with her view of the world, we tend to lead where she follows; her convictions and opinions are so well, and so playfully, expressed that the reader can’t help but admire her!

So when Mr Wickham appears in Meryton, has that very awkward first meeting with Mr Darcy and proceeds to detail his side of the story to Elizabeth, are we not drawn in? Outraged by Mr Darcy’s disregard for his late father’s will? Saddened that Mr Wickham has been robbed of the livelihood to which he was entitled? And quietly confident that this is the man Elizabeth will eventually marry?

Rupert Friend as Mr Wickham in 2005.

Knowing the story in its entirety, it’s very unsettling to think how Mr Wickham deceives us all! Oh yes, Jane Austen is clever, and outsmarts us all. She allows, actually wants, us to think badly of Mr Darcy for the first half of the story to add weight to everything Mr Wickham says.

When he talks of Mr Darcy’s ‘high and imposing’ manners we recall that gentleman’s haughty reserve at the Meryton Assembly and the Lucas’ party. When Mr Wickham says Mr Darcy ‘hates him’, we remember that gentleman has a ‘resentful’ temper. No, it doesn’t look good for Mr Darcy; his nemesis takes the first blood and appears as his complete, and much more likeable, opposite.

Mr Wickham’s temperament, by his own admission, is ‘warm’; he has no wish to speak ill of Mr Darcy out of respect of his late father’s memory (no resentful temper on display here at least); and everything about Hertfordshire society pleases him – we know Mr Darcy doesn’t share that particular opinion!

So like Elizabeth, do we not pity Mr Wickham’s situation, and warm to him as a result?

There are warnings that all may not be as it seems such as Jane Austen’s reference to his ‘skill as a speaker’. This may allude to his manipulative nature but who would know at this point? All his positive attributes seem to be physical too so does that suggest there’s something darker lurking under the surface? Perhaps, but we’re not likely to notice these suggestions until at least the second read.

What we do learn is a good lesson in judging others too quickly; something Elizabeth has to learn too!

The big question I want to ask is: did you believe Mr Wickham on first reading Pride and Prejudice?

You can cast your vote below – and please don’t be afraid to be honest – my answer is ‘Yes’!

A village like Lambton

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Whilst in Derbyshire…visit the setting for Lambton!

Before going to the Peak District last week, I did some research on the locations used in the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. I wanted to visit as many as possible, even the ones that only appear in a couple of scenes, to satisfy my cravings for all things Jane Austen-related. It was very pleasing to discover that several of the locations are in close proximity,  which no doubt helped with filming too, so on the day I visited the Ramshaw Rocks, I also visited Lambton, aka Longnor.

In the picture above, you can see the building that was used as the inn at Lambton, where Elizabeth and her aunt and uncle Gardiner stayed. This is where the servant announced to Elizabeth that Mr Darcy was waiting for her in the parlour 🙂

The ‘inn’, actually an art studio, is situated on Chapel Street but as everything else has remained the same, you can have a real Elizabeth Bennet moment if you feel that way inclined. I did!

This is the view past the ‘inn’, complete with tractor, taking you up to the church. Imagine Mr and Mrs Gardiner walking up here as Elizabeth reads that fateful letter from Jane.

Here’s where the carriage taking Elizabeth and her aunt and uncle back to Hertfordshire would have stopped:

I think these were the only scenes filmed here (please correct me if I’m wrong!) but to visit them felt special for me as Pride and Prejudice fan. I might have let a squeal of delight when I saw this street.

Like so many villages in the Peak District, Longnor is full of pretty, stone-built houses and cobbled streets that have that special untouched feel, and give the village its character. If it wasn’t for the builders working close by and the odd car engine, it would have felt like stepping back in time!

Longnor is situated a few miles south east of Buxton along the B5053 and not far at all from the Ramshaw Rocks so you can see all three places in the same day, which makes visiting this area very worthwhile.

I would definitely recommend all three as part of a day out whether you’re a Jane Austen fan or not!

Have you visited any film or television locations? Which was your favourite?

The Ramshaw Rocks

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Walking in Elizabeth Bennet’s foosteps

I spent last week in the Peak District where I was lucky enough to see some of the locations used in the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. It has been a dream to stand where Elizabeth, played by Jennifer Ehle, did for far too long and I couldn’t contain my excitement on seeing the Ramshaw Rocks! Those who have seen this adaptation or have walked the famous formation I’m sure will instantly recognise this particular one.

There was some debate between me and my family as to what the rock resembles – we settled for a grumpy man – but of course the main attraction for Pride and Prejudice fans is admiring the rock and views like Elizabeth did (and possibly pretending to be her!). The views are, as she describes them, ‘beautiful’.

This is what she would have seen to the right of the view above:

View to the left:

The view ahead (my favourite so there are two):

And the view behind of the path. You might remember seeing Mr and Mrs Gardiner walking along here:

The rocks are very easy to get to: they’re located about 6 miles south west of Buxton, famous for its spas and Pavilion Gardens which are well worth a visit, along the Roman Road, also known as the A53. You’ll see the formation from the road and then a narrow road to the right (if you’re coming from Buxton) which seems to cut through the last part of the formation. If you follow this, you will come to a lay-by at the base of the rocks where you can park and start your ascent!

It’s only a short distance up to the top with well-trodden footpaths to follow, although I wouldn’t attempt the walk without a pair of good walking boots or in particularly bad rain as it could be slippery. You can start a walk here to The Roaches, which I believe were used in the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice, but we didn’t attempt this on the day.

I’ve included this information as I struggled to find any with a Google search so I hope it helps if you go.

Here’s some more inspiration if you need it!

And a final farewell. Can you spot it?

I also visited the setting for Lambton and the interior scenes of Pemberley, which I’ll be blogging about too.

Lessons in being tactful, from Jane Austen

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Finding the right words can be difficult when worked up or incensed – emotion often takes over so you’re left either speechless, incoherent or just wanting to shout! Equally awkward can be situations where you need to say ‘no’ or express concern politely or curiosity gets the better of you – you want more information but don’t know how to get it without seeming nosey! Here’s where Jane Austen might be able to help.

When I reread Pride and Prejudice recently, it struck me just how tactful some of the characters are. Of course that shouldn’t be a surprise as the characters were ruled by the conventions of ‘polite’ society but their skill at ignoring critical remarks, laughing them off, countering or expressing a frank opinion without offending made me think I could learn a thing or too.

So here’s a Jane-Austen style guide for such tricky circumstances:

1. Don’t rise to it!

Sparks fly almost every time Lizzy comes into contact with Caroline Bingley. The latter is very helpful in pointing out all of Lizzy’s faults to Mr Darcy, just in case he was too distracted by her ‘fine eyes’ to notice, and isn’t afraid to speak her mind in her rival’s presence.

With only one exception I can think of (the Netherfield Ball when the two women discuss Mr Wickham), Lizzy just lets this wash over her or rejoins without showing much, if any, emotion. Her replies surprise Miss Bingley, who can’t say anything further without overstepping the mark. Job done.

To imitate Lizzy’s style:

  • A brief reply is all that’s needed. In response to Miss Bingley’s veiled criticism of her talents, she simply says “I am not a great reader, and take pleasure in many things.” Simple and to-the-point. No need to get worked up. And now you can get back to your book feeling quite pleased with yourself.
  • Find humour in the situation. Lizzy excels at this!
  • Ignore an intended criticism. See 1st bullet point. Mr Darcy is also master of this in his conversations with Miss Bingley.

2. Take a leaf out of Jane’s book

She doesn’t think badly of anyone without proof and even then she avoids a falling out!

3. Politely refuse to dance

This might still work in the 21st century, or might be stretching it too far…

Lizzy has no intention of dancing with Mr Darcy at Lucas Lodge early on in the book. To escape, she simply says “Mr Darcy is all politeness” and then when pressed, walks off.

So step 1: deflect the question and step 2: walk away! Mr Darcy didn’t take offence to that so hopefully the man who asks you won’t either.

4. Persuade without forcing the point

Mrs Gardiner is a model of tactfulness. She also possesses the power of persuasion: see her warning to Lizzy about getting too involved with Mr Wickham.

5. Be a good Samaritan

Mr Darcy is perhaps the surprise entry here. He doesn’t like the way Caroline Bingley excludes Lizzy from their walk around Netherfield and says they should go into the avenue where the path would permit all four of the party to walk together.

6. Change the subject

Elizabeth does this successfully on many occasions when the conversation, usually started by her mother, makes everyone feel a little awkward.

7. If all else fails, be honest.

Say how you feel with authority but without raising your voice. Case and point, Mr Darcy.

When he’s had just about enough of Miss Bingley criticising Elizabeth, he counters with “it is now many months since I have considered her as one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance”. It also works nicely as a compliment 😉

So there it is, Jane Austen’s unofficial guide to being tactful. Now to give it a try…

I’ll be doing a follow-up post on how to (or how not to) refuse a marriage proposal so do check back for it and see what you think.

17 and counting

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This is something I’ve always been a bit embarrassed to admit to but really feel it’s time to get off my chest: my ever-expanding collection of Pride and Prejudice sequels and variations. To date I have 17, which not many people knew about until now! I’m not sure why I’ve kept this secret, or some of the books hidden, but guess it feels a bit unhealthy to have so many books all on the same subject. I’m worried what friends and family will think if they see so many novels with Mr Darcy in the title; although female friends may be slightly more understanding about that.

I’ve built up the collection over the past 5 years after watching an episode of the Weakest Link; strange connection I know but it was thanks to this show that I’ve been one very happy lady for the past few years 🙂 One of the questions asked was ‘Who wrote “Pemberley”, a sequel to Pride and Prejudice’ and my ears pricked up immediately. A sequel to Pride and Prejudice? I didn’t know such a book existed! So I got straight onto the computer, looked up the book on Amazon and found not just one but a whole host of Jane Austen tributes. I was staggered! I don’t know how many I ordered at the time but it was enough to keep my going for a good few months. Once I’d read those I bought another one, and then another, and yes another. 5 years later and I’m still reading them. Don’t think this obsession is going to end any time soon…

There was an interesting post on travelingwitht a few weeks ago that made me think I should at least try a different genre like T had. I tried with the Time Traveler’s Wife and managed the first five pages before getting fed up and putting it back on the bookshelf never to be opened again! I tried again with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; no luck there either. I might have started in the wrong places but it seems I just can’t be without Mr Darcy and Lizzy. My old English teacher would have something to say about that I’m sure.

There are lots of Jane Austen fans who enjoy reliving the story in different ways, and seeing it continued; I think it’s because it’s hard to let go of the endearing and loveable characters Jane created! There is something so captivating about all of them that Jane Austen fans like myself just can’t get enough. We want to know more, understand the characters better and see how they react in different situations which keeps this genre of sequels and variations alive. I think I’ve convinced myself to stick with it for now!

What are your literary tastes? Do you prefer one genre over any other or do you read around?

If you have any summer reading recommendations, Pride and Prejudice-related or not, I’d love to hear them!

Thanks for reading 🙂 Lady J

Pride and Prejudice Trivia

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Some hopefully interesting facts about Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Background

  • Jane Austen began writing the novel in October 1796 under the title First Impressions.
  • First Impressions was finished in summer of the following year but the publisher refused to read it! 
  • Jane reworked the book, shortened it and renamed it Pride and Prejudice
  • Pride and Prejudice was the second of Jane Austen’s works to be published. It followed Sense and Sensibility, published 1811. 
  • Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813

The story

  • Fictional settings in the book include Meryton, Hunsford, and Lambton, but Brighton, Chatsworth and Blenheim do exist!
  • With ten thousand pounds a year, Mr Darcy would have been one of the 400 richest men in England. A very eligible match 😉
  • Jane Austen described her novel as “too light and bright and sparkling“. I don’t think her fans mind that!
  • Lottery tickets aren’t a modern invention; Jane Austen refers to the game ‘lottery tickets’, where participants won prizes, in chapter 15!

Screen adaptations

  • Pride and Prejudice has been adapted for screen 6 times (so far); the first in 1940, the latest in 2005
  • 9 million people in the UK watched the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice in 1995; this would have been the entire population in England and Wales in Jane Austen’s time.

It’s not an exhaustive list but just a few things I’ve come across and wanted to share.

I wish I could say that I knew all of them off by heart but as both my memory and general knowledge leave something to be desired, these books helped me out:

1. Jane Austen’s World by Maggie Lane, Carlton Books, 1996

2. Explanatory notes in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Penguin edition, 1996

Do you have any Pride and Prejudice facts up your sleeve? (figuratively speaking!)

A pair of fine eyes

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For the second instalment of my ‘Scene It’ series, I’ve chosen chapter 6 in volume 1. The story is moving along nicely at this point but we’re still in the early stages of understanding the characters, particularly Mr Darcy, who reticence in company hasn’t disappeared with the passing of time.

This chapter starts with a conversation between Elizabeth and her best friend, Charlotte Lucas, regarding the increasing attraction between Jane, Elizabeth’s eldest sister, and Mr Bingley. This passage is full of prophetic hints and ominous signs for anyone who has read the book more than once. If not, the reader is blissfully unaware of how true some of the comments are, particularly those made by Charlotte. I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read the book; suffice to say that she is a very shrewd observer, and that it’s unfortunate Jane doesn’t overhear their conversation – the story might then have been quite different!

A significant scene in this chapter involves Mr Darcy. He is one of many attending a party hosted by Sir William Lucas and his wife at their home, Lucas Lodge. As at the Meryton Assembly, he shows no interest in anyone gathered and stands in ‘silent indignation at such a mode of passing the evening’. Nice. This sort of behaviour doesn’t go far in repairing the damage inflicted by his  rudeness at the assembly, or his refusal to ask Lizzy to dance! When Sir William, in his usual affable way, attempts conversation with Mr Darcy, he doesn’t do himself any favours either…

To Sir William’s questions, he answers with as few words as possible, as though wishing he were somewhere else. We also become aware of his dislike for dancing as he says: “It is a compliment I never pay to any place if I can avoid it.” So it’s not just in Hertfordshire!

When Sir William talks of finding a home in town, Mr Darcy makes no comment, further convincing the readers of his lack of manners and desire for Sir William to leave him alone! Not quite how you would expect a gentleman to behave. Luckily, a small saving grace comes along in the form of Elizabeth at this moment whom Sir William invites Mr Darcy to dance with. Despite his earlier comment, Mr Darcy actually requests the honour of her hand suggesting he can be polite when he wants to be, even if it may be formality at this point. Elizabeth refuses of course, having determined in the previous chapter never to dance with Mr Darcy. We’ll see how long her resolution lasts…

When Elizabeth leaves the gentlemen shortly after, Miss Bingley approaches him. After the Meryton assembly, she and her sister, Mrs Hurst, are described as ‘proud and conceited’ and as thinking “well of themselves”, which don’t endear either to Elizabeth. She sees through their forced smiles and appearance of politeness very quickly. Miss Bingley is not at all impressed by the people of Meryton and says so to Mr Darcy here. It’s not the last time she will ask for Mr Darcy’s opinion or pretend to know what it is. It seems to be a tactic she uses to show how similar they are, thereby winning his esteem, and hopefully, at least in her mind, his heart. She might need to rethink that strategm if she wants a happier outcome…

Mr Darcy surprises her, and the reader, with his subsequent comment: “I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.” So who do you think those ‘fine eyes’ belong to? Miss Bingley must be aching for him to say her name. This is cruel I know but I can’t help a smile at Miss Bingley’s surprise and embarrassment every time I read this part. It’s not her eyes that inspire such reflections, rather Miss Elizabeth Bennet! Ha!

Since Mr Darcy didn’t think Elizabeth pretty enough to dance with at the assembly, you might wonder where this comes from. Is it a ruse to fend off the attentions of Miss Bingley? A passing comment with no meaning, designed simply to amuse himself? Or something more? We’re told earlier in this chapter that although he first looked at Elizabeth only to criticise, he is beginning to find her features ‘uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes’ and ‘her figure to be light and pleasing’. So he’s not so indifferent to her after all! In a later chapter when he admits to abhorring disguise of all times it seems that he truly means what he says about her fine eyes. The first admission of his attraction to her? I think so!

What do you think?

Coughton Court: A contender for Pemberley

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I booked a day off work yesterday to take advantage of the nice weather (before it disappears again!) and spent a lovely afternoon at Coughton Court in Warwickshire.

 

The estate has been home to the Throckmorton family since 1409 and is looked after by the family and the National Trust so, like all their properties, the house is an impressive tribute to times gone by and and has some beautiful grounds to while away a few hours and soak up the sun. For overseas readers, the National Trust is a British charity dedicated to the preservation of places of historic interest and natural beauty throughout the British Isles. They are definitely worth a visit (or browse on the web!) for a flavour of what life here used to be like and what makes a popular day out for us Brits!

It doesn’t take much for my thoughts to turn to Pride and Prejudice so even though the house was built in Tudor times, the grounds got me thinking of Elizabeth and Mr Darcy. I could just imagine these grounds belonging to Pemberley, as they were beautifully kept, elegant and diverse with lots of colour and interest that I thought would suit them both. Have a look through the photos below and see what you think – could this be the next setting for Pemberley?

 

A secluded, tree-lined path leading to the main part of the grounds: the perfect start for an early morning stroll, and unobserved kiss and cuddle 😉

 

 

 

 

 

A screened area full of flowers to escape the hubbub inside the house and enjoy a spot of reading

 

 

 

 

A spectacular walled garden for Elizabeth to enjoy presiding over.

 

 

 

 

The all important lake should Mr Darcy need to cool down after a long ride home…

 

 

 

 

 

Another secluded path alongside the lake for Lizzy to welcome Mr Darcy home and escape the eyes of the house.

 

 

 

 

 

Plenty of different paths to explore to keep Lizzy happy!

 

 

 

 

 

A riverside walk culminating in a bridge over the river. Maybe the gentlemen could enjoy a spot of fishing here?

 

I would definitely recommend Coughton Court for a day or afternoon trip, and for indulging any Pride and Prejudice fantasies!

More information about the house and grounds can be found here: http://www.coughtoncourt.co.uk/ I hope you enjoy it if you go!