We who love Persuasion are wallowing in adaptations these days! Variety reports that Dakota Johnson is set to star in an adaptation of Persuasion currently in development for Netflix. It is unclear if this is meant to be a period-set adaptation or a modern day-set adaptation, and in either event is a bit of overkill as we’ve already had a modern-set Persuasion adaptation earlier this year and there’s a period-set adaptation meant for theaters that, if not in production, appears to be very close to it.
Today’s lesson comes from the book of Pride and Prejudice, Volume III, Chapter XVIII.
Elizabeth’s spirits soon rising to playfulness again, she wanted Mr. Darcy to account for his having ever fallen in love with her. “How could you begin?” said she. “I can comprehend your going on charmingly, when you had once made a beginning; but what could set you off in the first place?”
“I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.”
“My beauty you had early withstood, and as for my manners — my behaviour to you was at least always bordering on the uncivil, and I never spoke to you without rather wishing to give you pain than not. Now be sincere; did you admire me for my impertinence?”
“For the liveliness of your mind, I did.”
“You may as well call it impertinence at once. It was very little less. The fact is, that you were sick of civility, of deference, of officious attention. You were disgusted with the women who were always speaking, and looking, and thinking for your approbation alone. I roused, and interested you, ecause I was so unlike them. Had you not been really amiable, you would have hated me for it; but in spite of the pains you took to disguise yourself, your feelings were always noble and just; and in your heart, you thoroughly despised the persons who so assiduously courted you. There — I have saved you the trouble of accounting for it; and really, all things considered, I begin to think it perfectly reasonable. To be sure, you knew no actual good of me — but nobody thinks of that when they fall in love.”
“Was there no good in your affectionate behaviour to Jane while she was ill at Netherfield?”
“Dearest Jane! who could have done less for her? But make a virtue of it by all means. My good qualities are under your protection, and you are to exaggerate them as much as possible; and, in return, it belongs to me to find occasions for teazing and quarrelling with you as often as may be; and I shall begin directly by asking you what made you so unwilling to come to the point at last. What made you so shy of me, when you first called, and afterwards dined here? Why, especially, when you called, did you look as if you did not care about me?”
“Because you were grave and silent, and gave me no encouragement.”
“But I was embarrassed.”
“And so was I.”
“You might have talked to me more when you came to dinner.”
“A man who had felt less, might.”
“How unlucky that you should have a reasonable answer to give, and that I should be so reasonable as to admit it! But I wonder how long you would have gone on, if you had been left to yourself. I wonder when you would have spoken, if I had not asked you! My resolution of thanking you for your kindness to Lydia had certainly great effect. Too much, I am afraid; for what becomes of the moral, if our comfort springs from a breach of promise? for I ought not to have mentioned the subject. This will never do.”
“You need not distress yourself. The moral will be perfectly fair. Lady Catherine’s unjustifiable endeavours to separate us were the means of removing all my doubts. I am not indebted for my present happiness to your eager desire of expressing your gratitude. I was not in a humour to wait for any opening of your’s. My aunt’s intelligence had given me hope, and I was determined at once to know every thing.”
“Lady Catherine has been of infinite use, which ought to make her happy, for she loves to be of use. But tell me, what did you come down to Netherfield for? Was it merely to ride to Longbourn and be embarrassed? or had you intended any more serious consequence?”
“My real purpose was to see you, and to judge, if I could, whether I might ever hope to make you love me. My avowed one, or what I avowed to myself, was to see whether your sister were still partial to Bingley, and if she were, to make the confession to him which I have since made.”
“Shall you ever have courage to announce to Lady Catherine what is to befall her?”
“I am more likely to want more time than courage, Elizabeth. But it ought to done, and if you will give me a sheet of paper, it shall be done directly.”
“And if I had not a letter to write myself, I might sit by you and admire the evenness of your writing, as another young lady once did. But I have an aunt, too, who must not be longer neglected.”
We’ve seen several tweets and posts and listicles recently asking which Mr. Darcy on film is the best, or making an ordered list of film Darcys. The best Darcy on film is, of course, Wishbone, as any reasonable person would acknowledge. He’s a Jack Russell Terrier, and he’s dancing. Any other opinion is obviously invalid. However, the reasons given tend to do with a wet shirt or a stare over a piano or hands touching while helping a young lady into a carriage, none of which ever happened in the novel itself.
One thing that did come up in today’s lesson is Elizabeth teasing Darcy, and he engaging with her and evidently not minding it. Austen mentions in the next chapter that “Georgiana had the highest opinion in the world of Elizabeth; though at first she often listened with an astonishment bordering on alarm at her lively, sportive manner of talking to her brother. He, who had always inspired in herself a respect which almost overcame her affection, she now saw the object of open pleasantry.” So a feature of the Darcys’ marriage is Elizabeth teasing her husband, and he enjoying it (and maybe even eventually learning to give it back). That is something we would wish to see more of in any future adaptations of the novel. It’s not lushly romantic or sexy or Gothic-inspired, but it is very Jane Austen. Here endeth the lesson.
We previously reported on a new adaptation of Persuasion in development, and things seem to be moving along nicely as we now have our Captain Wentworth to go along with our Anne Elliot. The Hollywood Reporter, er, reports that Joel Fry has been cast opposite Sarah Snook as Anne Elliot.
No information about when filming will take place or a release date, but this seems to be a real thing. Shall we celebrate with a sea chantey? (The Editrix was into sea chanteys before they were cool.)
When we first reported the development of this film in 2018, it engendered a bit of discussion about a perplexing problem with modern adaptations of Persuasion: why would a 21st-century woman feel obligated to give up on a relationship as Anne Elliot did in the novel, as a modern woman has more choices than a woman of the early 19th-century gentry? Could an adaptation of the novel succeed when the rather large stakes of marriage and relationships are removed in our more relaxed culture?
Once again, the calendar turns to the end of the year and we gather to celebrate the anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth. Here in Anno Domini Two Thousand and Twenty, well, it’s a little different from usual. To say the least, this year has been deeply weird, and not just because of the pandemic.
Gentle Readers! Remember the tidbit about a modern-set adaptation of Persuasion (creatively called Modern Persuasion) starring Alicia Witt being in pre-production? The idea of it engendered a bit of interesting discussion online, mainly around the question of whether the central theme of Persuasion–that is, giving up love for duty–could be satisfactorily rendered for 21st century audiences. Well, whether we think it can be or not, someone’s tried it. The film actually was, er, filmed, and will be released on digital next month! It’s got a trailer and everything!
Of course we’ll watch it, though to be honest it strikes us as maybe a trifle above the vaguely Austen-themed Hallmark Christmas movies that Deborah Yaffe mocks so amusingly, but we will withhold judgment till we see it. December is the time of year that we crave fluff and feel-good, and maybe even middling JAFF (along with new episodes of The Crown and The Mandalorian) will tide us over till spring training starts.
As the title says, there is a free reading of a new play by Lynn Marie Macy, “Lady Susan or The Captive Heart: A Jane Austen Bodice Ripper,” will be held via Zoom on Saturday, November 14, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time.
From the website:
Manipulative, callous and cruel – the beautiful widow Lady Susan Vernon is on a manhunt. To restore her broken fortunes the greatest coquette in England sets out to snare a rich husband. She will stop at nothing to achieve this goal including forcing her own daughter Frederica into an unwanted marriage. Will Lady Susan’s weakness for pleasure derail her own notorious intrigues? Literature’s greatest villainess is about to take center stage. This hilarious adaptation illuminates Austen’s earliest novella while paying homage to Georgian theatrical traditions.
Long-time AustenBlog readers will remember Lynn Marie as the author of our very favorite stage adaptation of Northanger Abbey. Check it out–it should be a good time!
We ask our Gentle Readers to please temper their excitement as this appears to be very much in development. However, the Hollywood Reporter, er, reports that a new adaptation of Persuasion is in development at Searchlight Pictures.
We say it is “in development” because it appears the script, reportedly by Jessica Swale, is not yet completed. However, we have our Anne Elliot: Australian actress Sarah Snook, best known for playing Shiv Roy in Succession (which we haven’t seen, but hear good things).
This project seems to be relatively far along but we won’t get excited until we see the first grainy paparazzi shots from the set or costumed publicity stills. Until then, let’s not talk about it like it’s a done thing. We can look forward with interest to a big-screen adaptation of many Janeites’ favorite Austen novel, certainly, but keep it under control! Dorothy is serving tea in the conservatory for those who need it.
As we were very much looking forward to going to Cleveland in October for the JASNA Annual General Meeting, we were sad when it was canceled*, though we agree with the decision and feel it was the responsible thing to do. However, we (by which I mean all JASNA members, not using the royal we in this case) will still be able to enjoy an AGM this year, virtually!
The theme remains the same: Jane Austen’s Juvenilia: Reason, Romanticism, and Revolution. There will be plenary sessions, breakout sessions, special events, special interest sessions, even a virtual promenade.
All hands on deck, Gentle Readers. We started receiving messages this morning that Jane Austen’s House Museum is in trouble. You can contribute to help save it.