9/22/99 Heather Swallow - [hms@blakes.ca] Various and sundry attempts to catch up

Dear Voices,

I can’t let September go by without offering something, even if it is behind the times - and by the way, welcome to the site Mary, Marian, and Anielka.

John, I quite agree that Austen is not particularly pro-Catholic when she writes the History of England.  I think that along with Goldsmith’s work, we should also consider the other juvenilia, because the same type of humour is at work there.  Austen loves to parody well-known works, exaggerating their flaws for a laugh.  To suggest that Austen was pro-Catholic, based only on her History of England, is to suggest that her parodies of romance novels promulgate whirlwind engagements and unions of dubious legitimacy.  For example, in the following passage from Love and Freindship, Edward Lindsey-Talbot has only just met Laura.  In fact, he has been in her presence only for the length of time it takes to tell his four-paragraph tale of adventure, which, as Laura relates it, ends, Collins-like, with these words:

" '. . . and now, my Adorable Laura' (continued he taking my Hand) 'when may I hope to receive that reward of all the painfull sufferings I have undergone during the course of my Attachment to you, to which I have ever aspired?  Oh!  when will you reward me with Yourself? 'This instant, Dear and Amiable Edward,' (replied I.).  We were immediately united by my Father, who tho’ he had never taken orders had been bred to the Church."  (Letter 6)

Other marriages in the juvenilia prove to be

I cited those examples with a view to underlining my original argument and prove how none of them reflect Austen’s real opinion of marriage, but I am of course, unable to do so.  I can think of examples from all Austen’s later novels that contain toned-down versions of all of the above - except the forgotten marriage.  If there is a forgotten marriage, I have. . . well, forgotten it.  What the above shows is Austen’s real opinion of romance novels.  Similarly, her History of England is less about history or religion than it is about writing and perspective.  I perceive that I may be laughing alone here, carried away by Austen’s youthful over-the-top type of humour and roughly sketched cartoon characters, but really, even in her youthful exuberance, she was nothing short of brilliant.

Meanwhile, I have to re-read Mansfield Park, my absolute least favourite of the novels. I don’t know why I don’t like it, exactly.  It isn’t just because it is so far removed from her juvenilia.  I positively adore Persuasion.  Apparently I’ve missed what everyone else is raving about.  You have made me very interested so I’m going back to dwell with Fanny for a bit, though I never much liked her the first time.  I hesitate because the movie is coming out, and since I remember only splashes of the book here and there - a scene in a cold nursery, a stroll among boisterous company toward a locked gate, a visit "home," the remodelling of a room to accommodate a play that never gets performed - nothing is strung together, and I may be less disappointed in the film version if I just leave it that way.

Since my reading time is limited, I may see the film version after it comes out on video before I ever get finished the novel. I read here of Cheryl with all the leisure time in the world, it seems. Shakespeare in Love not once, but twice in the theatre and once at home! Obviously no toilet-training two-year-old in that house.  Perhaps you can tell me, is it jealousy or envy that is the green-eyed monster?  It must be jealousy.  My eyes are still blue, and I am deeply envious.

9/21/99 Anielka Rice - Dear M.A.D.

Dear M.A.D.,

I just found your excellent posting about Mary Wollstencraft versus Jane Austen and I wondered, am I the only person on earth to get the joke? Do you yourself see it? Or is it just coincidence that you see them as so very different?

I have recently read quite a lot of Jane Austen. All of it, actually. And every biography and every critical essay and every letter. And then suddenly a few things started to occur to me. Persuasion looks a lot like a biography of Anne Kingsmill-Finch. And Mansfield Park? Well it's all about Mary Wollstencraft.

Look at the coincidences, Mary had a drunken and physically abusive father of ordinary means whose grandparents were rich but whose family were downwardly mobile. She fell into the company of the minister Richard Price and other leading figures of the day who helped crystallise her (already strong) ideas. She also had an obsessive relationship with a woman called Fanny Blood which she (apparently) wrote about in a book called Mary: A Fiction where the characters were called Mary and Ann. Now where have we heard that story and those names? I can assure you that Price is not in any of the other genealogical pedigrees that Jane used. (And what about Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine?)

It's staring us right in the face. She takes Mary Wollstencraft's own desire to "Persuade" and cleverly works it into her last two books.

Worth noting, by the way that both Mary and Anne Kingsmill sufferred from bouts of depression. Jane writes four rather too bright and sparkling novels "in want of shade", has a massive period of depression, and then comes up with two books which could be read as "nice frocks, nice girls" love stories but in true Austen tradition are full of clever double-meanings and word games that tell a second, very different story.

Or am I the MAD one?


Anielka Rice (my real name!)

9/21/99 Ashton Dennis - Welcome and congratulations

You are most welcome here Ms. Rice. After almost two years, you are only the second person to pick-up on my initials and correctly interpret them. You seem like our kind of guy and I hope you will have more to say to us.

Julie Grassi is also an Australian and is the dominant intellect at this site, but our friend is busy just now because it is spring time in Tasmania and her goats are kidding - but I am not. All of us in America wish your young fighting men well and may they soon be out of harm's way - we know what you are going through.

I don't find your argument at all compelling. I suspect you are the victim of wishful thinking, but maybe you will convince me otherwise. I hope you will read my recent posting at the end of which I prove that Jane Austen was a French spy and assassin. I proved that not because I for a moment believe it, rather because I wanted to show how easy it is to do such a thing. Every part of my story draws upon a true fact from Jane Austen's life and yet the story is ridiculous.

9/23/99 John - Re: Welcome and congratulations

Dear Board Meister,

I say Amen to that, Sir.

9/22/99 Julie Grassi - [banya@bigpond.com.au] Sun down under

I know the sun rises two hours later in Perth, so it can't be that you've been standing out in it too long ..... so you must have been into the Swan Lager!  Seriously, though, are you serious? I think you are 'taking up an idea and making everything bend to it', somewhat.  There is no evidence of any massive, or even minor, bout of depression in Jane Austen's life:  what there is is some substantial editing on Cassandra's part, or else a packet of lost letters.  This has always been the problem with Jane Austen's private correspondence - that we are only seeing what is left.  It is difficult to find an edition of her letters that marks the excisions, but to do so illustrates just how much has been left out.  Biographers assume that where there is a gap, there is something significant hidden - but this can only ever be an assumption.

And by the way, Ashton, I'm not too busy to check the board every day - it's just that, as you know, films are not my thing, and films have been under discussion of late.

Dominant intellect or dominant bully?  Let's see.

P.S.  Be very careful:  They're a weird mob across the Nullabor.

From the Meister: Did I write "dominant intellect"?
Damn that spell-check! - I meant to say "dominatrix".

9/22/99 Julie Grassi - [banya@bigpond.com.au] Addendum: Dominance?

Dominant?  Dominatrix?  Well, possibly, but I'm afraid I'll have to charge you extra.

9/21/99 Mary - [http://www.gg8.com/] interesting site

This is a very interested and informative web site.

9/21/99 Ashton - Welcome

You are most welcome here Mary, and I hope you will find time to post your own thoughts and impressions.

9/21/99 Cheryl - Mansfield Park trailer

To Everyone,

Having seen Shakespeare in Love twice in the theatre, I hadn't rented it on video until last night.  There, among the trailers, was Mansfield Park and I confess, I wouldn't have known it was based on the JA novel if that hadn't been stated at the outset.  "Spirited girl" and "strong willed heroine" not being two phrases I associate with Fanny Price.  I would also appear that we have Edmund really in love with Fanny the whole time but his father insisting on Mary Crawford. Has anyone else seen the trailer? The Jane Austen question aside, I'm guessing this will be a complete dog based on "Cheryl's rule of movie trailers" which states "The longer the trailer, the worse the movie."  This one went well over 3 minutes. And yes, this rule works whether it's something I'm dying to see or something  I'd never see in a million years.

9/20/99 Marian - [Nealarty@aol.com] Culture

Dear Ashton,

I just enjoyed reading your view on Mansfield Park. You caught my imagination where you begin with culture - what culture means. How understanding culture may mean stepping away from it - losing it in a sense.  What it means to lose it. And applying all of that to the character of Fanny Price. This is the best piece on Mansfield Park I've ever read. I'm not gushing.

So you sit at a keyboard with a baseball cap on backwards? (So does my son.) From this combination of gentle speaking and possible sloppy appearance emerges an image of Adam Sandler.

9/20/99 Marian - You are too kind

Dear Marian,

Thank you for you comments. It makes me uneasy to think someone agrees with me; so, I shall prefer to remember that you extorted from me an admission of liking certain unmentionable films and Adam Sandler. Can nothing be done about your son?

9/17/99 John - Reviews of the new version of Mansfield Park

Dear Voices,

This from The Globe and Mail:

Mini-reviews of festival films
Wednesday, September 15, 1999

Mansfield Park

Dir: Patricia Rozema (U.K.)

Initial press reaction to Canadian director Patricia Rozema's adaptation of Jane Austen's novel about social roles and deceptions has been enthusiastic -- this spritely BBC production comes with perfect costumes, elaborate set design and rich performances (charismatic young Australian star Frances O'Connor as Fanny Price, and Harold Pinter as her uncle). But Rozema is not out to make a Masterpiece Theatre adaptation. Instead, she has blended Austen's letters and journals into the story, making it seem autobiographical. As well, she has taken the current scholarly interest in what isn't said in Austen, especially the issue of slavery, to provide the movie with its most shocking moment. New fans will enjoy the epigrammatic snap of Austen's prose and old Austen fans will be dumbfounded: Why on earth would anyone feel the need to tamper with the story in a way that throws Austen's perfect balance so askew? -- L.L.

This from the National Post:

Toronto Intl. Film Festival - Critics' Picks

September 15, 1999

Mansfield Park: With her stunning adaptation of the Jane Austen novel, Ontario writer-director Patricia Rozema (When Night Is Falling, I Heard the Mermaids Singing) joins the front ranks in international film-making. This Regency comedy of marriage, class, manners and repressed passion, set on a British estate in 1804, is part Merchant Ivory, part Jane Campion, and very much the independent Rozema -- with a story to tell and a strong cast to tell it. Australian Frances O'Connor confirms all her promise from Kiss or Kill, and Jonny Lee Miller is a sympathetic foil. A sparkling divertissement.

I think that we have some pretty good idea now of what is in the new MP and can wait until someone sees the film to hear of further outrages or even of praiseworthy representations.


9/15/99 Marian - [Nealarty@aol.com] Amanda Root as Fanny Price

Dear Ashton,

I ordered a radio style taped reading of Mansfield Park from Amazon.uk. Amanda Root who is too old to play Fanny Price for a film (not for me though) is the voice of Fanny.

The BBC version's Fanny never seemed quite right. As I had hoped, Amanda Root portrays Fanny's inward struggles with great range. She also cries so well. She makes me cry with her.

Mansfield Park doesn't make a good movie because all of the real action is in Fanny's head.

9/15/99 Ashton - Amanda Root would be perfect

Dear Marian,

I greatly admire Amanda Root and I suspect she would make a wonderful Fanny Price in a film. After all, as you say, Doran Godwin pulled it off in Emma.

If you read the interview of Patricia Rozema by Peter Howell, you will see that she solved the problem you mention by having Fanny talk to the fourth wall ala a Shakespeare play. THAT sounds intriguing. I think it might very well work. Ms. Rozema says a number of things in that interview to cause anxiety, but she also says some things that make me very much want to see what she has done.

9/15/99 M.S. - [madamson_41] Jane Austen's satiric novels

Dear Board Meister,

I want to recommend Lady Susan.  I'm not sure if the work qualifies as a novel but it is hilarious.  Lady Susan is constantly revealing herself in her letters.  Thank God, she isn't my mother.  She is the opposite of Catherine Moreland.  She is a clever, sophisticated mature woman of her society while Catherine is a naive young girl who believes everything that she is told.

9/15/99 Ashton - Welcome

Dear M.S.,

Welcome to our community.

Lady Susan is too little discussed around here. Don't you think the character is a bit evil? Is Catherine really such a good little girl? I'm not so sure because she begins to wander around that Abbey in an effort to solve a dastardly crime. A good little girl would have stayed in her room, said her prayers, and went to sleep. Shouldn't we think of Catherine, rather, as impressionable?

9/16/99 John - Very Welcome

Dear Ashton,

I did not notice before reading this welcome, what with Jane Austen's distracting us with her amusing discussion of the gothic novel and its outlandish characters, that in Catherine Moreland Jane has invented the first fictional female detective, long before Agatha Christie's Miss Marple and Arthur Ransome's Titty (Letitia Walker) in Swallows and Amazons. And so the first detective story! Did Edgar A. Poe admit his debt to Jane?

Yet, it was not Catherine that led me to the keyboard but the missing "You are very welcome" in the welcomes to Marian and M.S. Is there some sort of code in the welcomes?

Though I did look over my shoulder to see whether the Board Meister was speaking to Mr. Collins when he welcomed me, I thought that "You are very welcome" a very charming and appropriate greeting.

And, so, Marian and M.S., "You are very welcome." If I may say so.

From the Meister: No code - only a sloppy inconsistency.
Both Marian and M.S. are very heartily welcomed by us all.

9/14/99 Marian - [Nealarty@aol.com] Enjoyed your POV

Dear Ashton,

I enjoyed reading your POV.  My only disappointment is that I can find nothing from you on the 1970 version of P&P with Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul.  Is it not worth your notice? I enjoy it over and over. The big gaff is the "Bolt-to-Pemberly" after Elizabeth reads Jane's letter regarding Wickham and Lydia.

9/14/99 Ashton - Welcome and some references

Dear Marian,

Welcome to our community.

Unhappily, I have expressed my self on that filmed version. Here are the references:
2/12/98, 2/12/98R
5/15/98, 5/15/98R

9/15/99 Marian - [Nealarty@aol.com] Thank you for the links to your views on P&PBBC

Dear Ashton,

I don't agree with you about the Elizabeth Garvie version of Pride and Prejudice. But overall, you're criticisms sound positive and are enjoyable to read.  Although I like Gwyneth Paltrow's Emma and Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility, I suspect, despite your criticism you can enjoy them more than I can because of your understanding. I agree with you regarding the Doran Godwin version of Emma and think she moves like a she's performing a ballet. I liked Mark Strong's Mr. Knightley even if overdone, and agree with you completely regarding Frank Churchill in this version. His delivery of the line regarding Mr. Elton's home was full of loneliness.

But don't you think Mrs. Bennet in the BBC P&P is perfect?  I can relate to her stupidity, competitiveness, and anxiety, and not at all to the Mrs. Bennet in the Jennifer Ehle version. When I read the book, I think of the Mrs. Bennet in the BBC version or in the 1940's version.

9/15/99 Ashton - Thank you for forgiving me.

Dear Marian,

Yes the BBC P&P Mrs. Bennet is excellent and I like Elizabeth Garvie as well. But, for me, to fail in the Darcy character is to fail perfectly.

You were kind to forgive me a bit for my opinions. I thank you. You were very cruel where forcing me to admit publicly that I liked some parts of Gwyneth Paltrow's Emma and Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility. Yes, I think both productions are very beautiful and I admit to watching both on a dozen or so occasions - but no more than that.

9/16/99 Marian - [Nealarty@aol.com] You invite comment

Dear Ashton,

My first day to your site was a "reverie" rather than a surf.

Today I took a top down approach.

I just finished reading References, First Impressions of Darcy, The Nature of Darcy, and The Nature of Jane Austen.  I've never read anything like it. Since you invite comment - here is mine.

I completely buy your argument.  So - if Jane, Darcy and Elizabeth do not perform well to strangers, then why don't you have a kinder view of David Rintoul's performance of Darcy?  I thought he appeared shy and awkward, and showed great warmth in the final scene as if he had finally let out his breath.

(Ray Mitchell will do a service to the world with his 2x4.)

9/17/99 Ashton - The nature of Elizabeth Bennet

Dear Marian,

It is true that I see some similarities between Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy: they are both proud (though not vain), clever, strong-willed, and share a quick temper. But they differ in important ways as well. Elizabeth makes a good first impression and Darcy is more open-minded. Those differences are important as Jane Austen consciously creates the perfect couple and our Lady allows Elizabeth explicitly to express this fact in Chapter L:

"...[Darcy] was as generous, [Elizabeth] doubted not, as the most generous of his sex. ... She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man, who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her. His understanding and temper, though unlike her own, would have answered all her wishes. It was a union that must have been to the advantage of both; by her ease and liveliness, his mind might have been softened, his manners improved, and from his judgment, information, and knowledge of the world, she must have received benefit of greater importance."

To me, David Rintoul's interpretation of Darcy is stiff, awkward, and supercilious. In some parts, the performance even seemed a bit campy and I couldn't help but laugh. I want a stronger, raging, passionate, and ultimately graceful Darcy in order to meet my expectation of Jane Austen's creation.

Marian, you do understand that I am just some guy sitting in front of a keyboard and under a reversed baseball cap - do you not?

9/14/99 Julie Grassi - [banya@onaustralia.com.au] Being There

Dear Ray,

I believe I understand what you mean.  I read Gone With The Wind for the first time when I was thirteen - in three days, under the desk, right through all my maths and science classes, which might explain some gaps in my knowledge - and I was utterly IN the book.  I haven't read the other books you mention, but I have certainly had the experience with favourites of my own.

I didn't expect that you would find Jane Austen - but, have you not found Highbury, and Mansfield Park?  I can see the Crown Inn, and the puddle of water in the main street, and the gingerbread in the shop window, as clearly as I can see this morning.  I can see Mary Crawford learning to ride, and the housemaid laying the fire in the East room, and Pug barking as the carriage rolls away.  This is not the same, however, as being part of the momentum of a romantic, dramatic, sweeping novel.  I wonder who is the greater writer, though? (Pointless question, really).  I was completely enthralled by Mitchner's The Source when I was young, but I'm afraid the style of writing irritates me now.  Jane Austen's, on the other hand, never does (well, apart from some youthful indiscretions in Sense and Sensibility).

And, of course, Jane Austen was a very private person, and her family continued to be so on her behalf, after her death.  She was not one to 'pour out her heart' - she remains at one remove from her characters.

Perhaps I should read Look Homeward, AngelTo Kill A Mockingbird transported me, but not the more dramatic pieces - rather the exquisite way that the world of the story was described, from the height of a small child.

9/15/99 John - Ray Mitchell: The Elusive Jane Austen

Dear Ray,

How can it be blameworthy to take delight in reading the novels but not getting beyond the reading to feel great emotional involvement with the author? It is the great virtue of the Janeite, I think, that he gains so much untiring pleasure in reading and re-reading the novels. What greater virtue can any reader have than the ability of enjoying the greatest of novelists? Anything beyond this pleasure can only be "an extra production value" (like, do I dare say, having Darcy plunge into the cold lake to help dampen his passion for Elizabeth or having Elizabeth run the five miles to Pemberley in despair to find her uncle and aunt?)

When I was a child, one of my burning desires was to visit Fountains Abbey, a desire which arose from reading the Robin Hood stories. Many years later when I did come to Fountains Abbey on a cold December 1st, heavy with dew, I found it to be greatly better than my imagination had pictured it  but I did not much remember Robin Hood. I could happily pilgrimage to Fountains Abbey many times without feeling the slightest fault in thinking of sitting above the stream and picturing life there centuries before without remembering Robin Hood or the maid (i.e., young unmarried female)

The strongest emotion that I ever have had concerning Jane Austen was the despair in knowing that she had written no other novels.  This feeling came after laying down the last of the six great novels.

One day, I shall have to go down to the docks of Lt. Price (R.M.) to see where Fanny was as she began to think of Mr. Crawford with kind, even complaisant feelings. I may feel the presence of Fanny's brutal father and of Fanny, Susan, and Mr. Crawford, but not much, I think, of Jane Austen, except to wonder when she came there herself, and why.

9/16/99 John - Addendum

Dear Ray,

Herewith, the missing final paragraph:

In the meanwhile, I look forward to reading all of the additional postings by you on whatever you remember from your journey into the heartland of Jane Austen.  It may be that we could agree  only upon the funereal five minutes between Jane's final home and Winchester, but I should like to have all of your comments, just the same. It would help us all to get through the time until your next visit to Janeland and the ensuing reports. You might even take notes as aide-memoires.


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