Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Persuasion, a film location, and a reading

Last Thursday evening I was invited along by Helen Wilkinson of P and P tours to come and do a reading of Willoughby's Return to a group she was leading on their Persuasion/Sense and Sensibility tour. Most exciting was the fact that the house I was to be giving my talk in was the very one they used in the BBC 1995 version of Persuasion which is a favourite film of mine. The house is stunningly beautiful and is also a B&B so you can actually stay in the house where Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds played Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot. Here is a link to a website about the house:Bathwick Gardens
I was invited to supper beforehand which was taken in the dining room. Apparently, the BBC painted the walls especially for the film - the swags of fabric you can see in the photo are painted - a wonderful trompe l'oeil. Everyone had dressed for dinner and all looked so gorgeous - quite a few ladies, and two very brave gentlemen! I also met Hazel Jones, the author of Jane Austen and Marriage - click here for her website which has information on Jane Austen courses that she runs.
We made our way upstairs to the splendid drawing room afterwards passing a large window on the stairs which I recognised (and its view) from the film. The drawing room is beautiful with so many lovely features from the floor length windows to the fireplace. I was made very welcome by everyone and had a really lovely time even though I felt very nervous. I enjoy reading aloud very much and always used to love reading to my children and to the pupils I used to teach. I realised how much I miss it - now my children are grown up and I no longer teach - I really would like to do readings more often.
After a mug of hot chocolate I left them all watching Persuasion in the very room where Captain Wentworth tells Sir Walter that he wishes to marry Anne. I only wished I could be joining them on their further travels!
Thank you so much Helen, I do hope you'll ask me again!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Beechen Cliff Part Three!

Here we are at the top of Beechen Cliff at last!
My own painting of the scene at Beechen Cliff shows Catherine Morland, Henry Tilney and his sister Eleanor admiring the view from the top. Henry is pointing to a view in the distance and probably using terms like 'backgrounds' and 'foregrounds', 'middle distances' and 'picturesque' etc. about which, Catherine doesn't know very much. Picturesque, meaning literally 'fit to be made into a picture' was a popular term and pursuit in Jane Austen's day as her contemporaries roamed the countryside in search of 'beautiful and sublime' scenery. Jane Austen is having her own little bit of fun here when she describes how eagerly Catherine latches onto these new ideas, so much so, that she dismisses the whole of Bath as being unworthy of a decent view. There's more on this further down the post.
Well, here are some of the photos that we took after we got to the top of Jacob's ladder. The views over Bath are spectacular and well worth the climb. In the first photo you can see the Royal Crescent, that elegant curve of houses in front of which the Crescent fields provided a popular promenade in Jane's day. The second photo shows a glimpse down onto the Kennet and Avon canal, the third photo shows Camden Place where Sir Walter Elliot in Persuasion took a house, and photo four shows a view over Bath with the Abbey still prominent but perhaps not looking quite so majestic as in earlier scenes. Click here for an old print showing the view of Bath from Beechen Cliff in times gone by.
Here's a little more of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. Catherine Morland is a little out of her depth when Henry and his sister start talking about the principles of the picturesque and which views would be suitable for drawing. They were viewing the country with the eyes of persons accustomed to drawing, and decided on its capability of being formed into pictures, with all the eagerness of real taste. Here Catherine was quite lost. She knew nothing of drawing — nothing of taste: and she listened to them with an attention which brought her little profit, for they talked in phrases which conveyed scarcely any idea to her. The little which she could understand, however, appeared to contradict the very few notions she had entertained on the matter before. It seemed as if a good view were no longer to be taken from the top of an high hill, and that a clear blue sky was no longer a proof of a fine day. She was heartily ashamed of her ignorance. A misplaced shame. Where people wish to attach, they should always be ignorant. To come with a well–informed mind is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others, which a sensible person would always wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.

The advantages of natural folly in a beautiful girl have been already set forth by the capital pen of a sister author; and to her treatment of the subject I will only add, in justice to men, that though to the larger and more trifling part of the sex, imbecility in females is a great enhancement of their personal charms, there is a portion of them too reasonable and too well informed themselves to desire anything more in woman than ignorance. But Catherine did not know her own advantages — did not know that a good–looking girl, with an affectionate heart and a very ignorant mind, cannot fail of attracting a clever young man, unless circumstances are particularly untoward. In the present instance, she confessed and lamented her want of knowledge, declared that she would give anything in the world to be able to draw; and a lecture on the picturesque immediately followed, in which his instructions were so clear that she soon began to see beauty in everything admired by him, and her attention was so earnest that he became perfectly satisfied of her having a great deal of natural taste. He talked of foregrounds, distances, and second distances — side–screens and perspectives — lights and shades; and Catherine was so hopeful a scholar that when they gained the top of Beechen Cliff, she voluntarily rejected the whole city of Bath as unworthy to make part of a landscape. Delighted with her progress, and fearful of wearying her with too much wisdom at once, Henry suffered the subject to decline, and by an easy transition from a piece of rocky fragment and the withered oak which he had placed near its summit, to oaks in general, to forests, the enclosure of them, waste lands, crown lands and government, he shortly found himself arrived at politics; and from politics, it was an easy step to silence.

We followed the canal on our way home and so I've included a couple more photos to show you. I love to see the backs of the houses and their beautiful gardens almost tumbling down into the water itself. Halfway along we found a little kiosk serving tea and ice cream, but after a short stop, the clouds were gathering and rain threatened. We just got to the Pulteney Arms in time for a wonderful Sunday lunch as the heavens opened. There cannot be many nicer ways to spend a Sunday in Bath!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Beechen Cliff Part Two!

Well, I've rested long enough and will continue my walk up Beechen cliff, which, if you remember, features so delightfully in Northanger Abbey. I've included photos of the steps known as Jacob's ladder and the wonderful views over Bath as you climb to the top. I had to include some of Jane Austen's wonderful novel where Catherine, Henry, and his sister take a walk up to that noble hill. I thought it quite interesting that Catherine compares it to the scenery of the south of France even if the irony is that she's never been abroad - but, I think these photos show something of the views she would have observed, and it does have an exotic flavour, not to mention the gorgeous scent of wild garlic growing on either side!

The next morning was fair, and Catherine almost expected another attack from the assembled party. With Mr. Allen to support her, she felt no dread of the event: but she would gladly be spared a contest, where victory itself was painful, and was heartily rejoiced therefore at neither seeing nor hearing anything of them. The Tilneys called for her at the appointed time; and no new difficulty arising, no sudden recollection, no unexpected summons, no impertinent intrusion to disconcert their measures, my heroine was most unnaturally able to fulfil her engagement, though it was made with the hero himself. They determined on walking round Beechen Cliff, that noble hill whose beautiful verdure and hanging coppice render it so striking an object from almost every opening in Bath.

“I never look at it,” said Catherine, as they walked along the side of the river, “without thinking of the south of France.”

“You have been abroad then?” said Henry, a little surprised.

“Oh! No, I only mean what I have read about. It always puts me in mind of the country that Emily and her father travelled through, in The Mysteries of Udolpho. But you never read novels, I dare say?”

“Why not?”

“Because they are not clever enough for you — gentlemen read better books.”

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. I have read all Mrs. Radcliffe’s works, and most of them with great pleasure. The Mysteries of Udolpho, when I had once begun it, I could not lay down again; I remember finishing it in two days — my hair standing on end the whole time.”

“Yes,” added Miss Tilney, “and I remember that you undertook to read it aloud to me, and that when I was called away for only five minutes to answer a note, instead of waiting for me, you took the volume into the Hermitage Walk, and I was obliged to stay till you had finished it.”

“Thank you, Eleanor — a most honourable testimony. You see, Miss Morland, the injustice of your suspicions. Here was I, in my eagerness to get on, refusing to wait only five minutes for my sister, breaking the promise I had made of reading it aloud, and keeping her in suspense at a most interesting part, by running away with the volume, which, you are to observe, was her own, particularly her own. I am proud when I reflect on it, and I think it must establish me in your good opinion.”

“I am very glad to hear it indeed, and now I shall never be ashamed of liking Udolpho myself. But I really thought before, young men despised novels amazingly.”

Next time, the views from the very top! Yes, there will be Part Three!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Jane Austen's Regency World Magazine - Review for Willoughby's Return

Isn't this cover beautiful? It's a still from the fabulous film Brightstar about the romance between Keats and Fanny Brawne which is featured in the magazine. The Jane Austen's Regency World magazine has always been a favourite read of mine, but I was absolutely thrilled to bits to find Joceline Bury's review of Willoughby's Return in this month's issue. Thank you, Joceline, you've absolutely made my week!

Sense and Sensibility is, of all Jane Austen’s novels, the most erotically charged, the most romantic, the most yearning. Its portrayal of the anguish of love unrequited is often physically painful to read; its heroines are at times breathtakingly modern in the risks they take in order to follow their hearts.
Jane Odiwe, whose first novel imagined what really happened to Lydia Bennet, here takes Marianne Dashwood’s story beyond her marriage to Colonel Brandon, in a well-plotted and elegant romance.
The rakish Willoughby is one of Austen’s most attractive leading men – and there can be few readers who don’t feel a pang when he loses Marianne to the undeniably deserving but ever-so slightly dull colonel. Now he’s back on the scene and Marianne finds herself battling with temptation on a grand scale. Odiwe’s feeling for Jane Austen’s characters is undeniable – she writes with wit and an enviable lightness of touch, creating a believable world of new possibilities without ever losing sight of the original narrative.
She also develops the delightfully oddball character of the youngest Dashwood sister, Margaret – placing her centre stage alongside Marianne and giving her an engrossing storyline of her own.
Sense and Sensibility is my favourite Austen, and it is quite a treat to have the story continued in such an accomplished and satisfying sequel.

The May/June (No.45) issue of Jane Austen's Regency World is now published and includes:

* Bright Star (cover story) - Jane Campion's film about John Keats and Fanny Brawne, which was nominated for an Oscar

* British election special - remembering the men and women who died in the Peterloo massacre of 1819

* Woman-to-woman - when the boundary between love and friendship became blurred

* Maggie Lane discusses the art of reading aloud in Jane Austen's time

* Eleanor Coade, the woman who developed artificial stone

* Clapperboard tours - the film buffs guide to the streets of Bath


Book reviews: new publications by Carrie Bebris, Jane Odiwe and Tracey Chevalier

News from JAS and JASNA, and all the latest Jane Austen news and readers' letters

Jane Austen's Regency World is published on May 1 and is available by subscription from Jane Austen Magazine

Thursday, May 6, 2010

News! Oh! yes, I always like news. (Emma)

Whilst I pause on the lower slopes of Beechen Cliff, I bring some most exciting news! On Austenprose this week the announcement was made that a new Jane Austen short story Anthology will be published in 2011 by Random House. I am so very thrilled and honoured to have been chosen to contribute a story. The lovely Laurel Ann Nattress will be our editor and guide on this most exciting journey.
I will be among august company, indeed! Here is the list of contributing authors taken from Laurel Ann's website.

Pamela Aidan (Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman Trilogy)

Elizabeth Aston (Mr. Darcy’s Daughters, & Writing Jane Austen)

Stephanie Barron (A Jane Austen Mystery Series, & The White Garden)

Carrie Bebris (Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries Series)

Diana Birchall (Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, & Mrs. Elton in America)

Frank Delaney (Shannon, Tipperary, & Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show)

Monica Fairview (The Darcy Cousins, & The Other Mr. Darcy)

Karen Joy Fowler (Jane Austen Book Club, & Wits End)

Amanda Grange (Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, & Mr. Darcy’s Diary)

Syrie James (The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, & The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte)

Diane Meier (The Season of Second Chances)

Janet Mullany (Bespelling Jane Austen, & Rules of Gentility)

Jane Odiwe (Lydia Bennet’s Story, & Willoughby’s Return)

Beth Pattillo (Jane Austen Ruined My Life, & Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart)

Alexandra Potter (Me & Mr. Darcy, & The Two Lives of Miss Charlotte Merryweather: A Novel)

Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino Bradway (Lady Vernon & Her Daughter)

Myretta Robens (Pemberley.com , Just Say Yes, & Once Upon a Sofa)

Margaret C. Sullivan (AustenBlog.com, & The Jane Austen Handbook)

Adriana Trigiani (Brava Valentine, Very Valentine, & Lucia, Lucia)

Laurie Viera Rigler (Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, & Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict)

Lauren Willig

And now, as Mr Knightley would say, "I have a piece of news for you. You like news - and I heard an article in my way hither that I think will interest you." For all you budding writers, there is to be a chance to have your short story included in the anthology. A competition to be hosted at The Republic of Pemberley website will be held to fill the slot of one short story. Details will be posted later, so keep watching and the very best of luck to you all!