Miss Austen Regrets and new edition of S&S95 scheduled for Dutch release


Our Dutch correspondent Aad has sent along news of some new Austen-related DVDs to be released soon in the Netherlands.

Just Entertainment has released Miss Austen Regrets.

Sony Pictures will release a new 2-disc deluxe edition of Sense and Sensibility, but the date is unclear; one says May 7, the other says June 4.

Miss Austen Regrets to be broadcast in New Zealand this Sunday


(We are feeling antipodean tonight…) TV One will broadcast Miss Austen Regrets this Sunday, March 8, at 8:30 p.m.

Miss Austen Regrets DVD available in Australia on October 2


…which means it’s probably going to be shown on television shortly before that, Alert Janeite Lucy tells us. She will keep an eye out and let us know! Lucy found the DVD at ezyDVD.com.au.

"something between a Man & an Angel"


JASNA Wisconsin Region R.C. Elizabeth Philosophos Cooper has followed up her excellent article on Brook Edward Bridges, portrayed by Hugh Bonneville in Miss Austen Regrets, with a piece on Charles Haden, played by the eminently woof-worthy Jack Huston. As in the first essay, Ms. Cooper busts a few myths while showing an appreciation for the film.

Austen’s letters to her sister, Cassandra, written from London in the autumn of 1815 include many references to Haden but provide no support for the screenplay’s invention of a romantic triangle. On the contrary, they suggest that Austen enjoyed both Haden and his flirtation with Fanny.

There also is some information on the real Mr. Haden’s distinguished medical career. We encourage our Gentle Readers most strongly to check it out!

Variety touts Miss Austen Regrets for an Emmy


This makes us happy.


Fast facts: Had to run against the Super Bowl in most of the country.

Variety review: “Beautifully shot and graced with a splendid performance by Olivia Williams, Jane Austen biopic ‘Miss Austen Regrets’ focuses on a relatively narrow window in the author’s life, serving as something of a companion to ‘Becoming Jane,’ the 2007 feature about a young Austen starring Anne Hathaway. It is also, blessedly, less sappy than the Austen adaptations surrounding it within what ‘Masterpiece Theater’ has christened ‘The Complete Jane Austen.'”

Indeed! From Variety’s pages to the Academy’s shortlist!

Finishing up the last leftovers


There still are some bits to finish up from last week’s UK broadcast of Miss Austen Regrets. The Telegraph’s Stephen Pile said:

At the start of the 21st century we are all madly interested in What Jane Austen Was Really Like, but the reports are confusing. In the cinema Becoming Jane showed us an intelligent woman who was nonetheless feminine and romantic, but television is not so easily fooled and has come up with something far more complex.

In Miss Austen Regrets (BBC1, Sun) she had an utterly different set of boyfriends from the film (Rev Bridges, Bigg-Wither and even, controversially, Dr Haden, but no sign of the racy Lefroy). What emerged was Jane Our Contemporary.

The Times’ Roland White seems less than pleased.

Yet the Jane Austen portrayed so brilliantly here by Olivia Williams was hardly a role model for today’s spiky, independent career girls. For all her bravado on the subject, she was obsessed by the one thing that eluded her – Mr Right. It was pretty much all she talked about: partly advising her niece and partly reflecting on her own lack of success.

We feel as though we should paraphrase Edward Austen from the film–“If that’s what you think it is about, perhaps you should watch it again.” 😉

Whereas the Guardian’s Andrew Anthony is in raptures.

Surely not even the most devoted member of the Jane Austen Society would have thought that what British television needed just now was another costume drama of early 19th-century social manners featuring Hugh Bonneville. And yet Miss Austen Regrets was a sublime delight. Olivia Williams as Austen grabbed our sympathy with throwaway epigrams, and such was the spirit of the piece, that every visual cliche seemed almost fresh.

Fan-made Miss Austen Regrets trailer


Alert Janeite Carmen sent us a link to a fan-made trailer for Miss Austen Regrets (complete with Spanish subtitles! Lovely!) since neither PBS nor Auntie Beeb bothered to make one:

Miss Austen Regrets, the day after


Most of the British press, now that the movie is past, seemed to like it well enough. Perhaps if they had said so before it aired, it wouldn’t have lost in the ratings to Midsomer Murders. Or maybe not.

Here’s an article we missed on Sunday, from the Times.

What she calls the “Janeites” – the legions of (mainly female) fans obsessed with Austen and all her works – are already complaining online that Olivia Williams, the actress who plays Austen, is too tall

Where is all this complaining going on? Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?

The Telegraph has a thoughtful look at the film.

Above all, she reflected on her own romantic history, as Fanny’s questions (put, it seemed, on our behalf) constantly raised the issue of why she’d never married.

To its credit, the programme didn’t come with a simple answer to that – or a simple emotional response. Instead, Austen pondered her single state with a mixture of bullishness, puzzlement, satisfaction and sadness. In a touching scene towards the end, one of her old suitors, the Rev Bridges (Hugh Bonneville at his most gently benevolent) asked her if she was at all sorry that she hadn’t married him. “What would be the point?” said Austen.

Sam Wollaston at the Guardian liked it despite his allergy to bonnets. (One longs to quote Edward Knight in the film–“If that’s what you think Aunt Jane’s books are about, perhaps you should read them again.”)

OK, so I’m not a Jane Austen freak, I’ll admit. I have subject-matter issues, plus an irrational hatred of bonnets, carriages, marriages, gravel, ribbons, mazes, and all that. But this dramatisation, by Gwyneth Hughes, of the second half of Austen’s life really was beautifully observed and thrilling to look at, with performances that left me weak with admiration (sorry, I’m getting carried away). The real star was Olivia Williams in the lead, who lifted this from standard Sunday-night BBC1 costume drama to something special. Her complex Austen was witty and brilliant, as you’d expect, but also moody and a bit mean, sometimes bordering on bitter. Suddenly it was clear: of course, that’s exactly what Jane Austen was like. A classy film.

The Times (again) has another reviewer who professes to hate Austen, but praises the film.

The central performance from Williams was a knockout, complimented by harsh unglamorous close-ups of a harried face, pale and careworn, and sad, soulful eyes. But best of all, however, were the silences. Whereas the wearisome Austen brand mistakenly equates prolixity with charm, here the words were cut down to a minimum. Gorgeous scenes, composites of close-ups, of Austen alone, staring, reflecting and aching, all underscored by the pining piano of the composer Jennie Muskett, somehow described Austen’s crushing loss and confusion without a line of dialogue. The closing topper, where Austen revealed that she was pressurised into remaining unmarried by her sister, and was thus a novelist by default, made complete sense.

What? Did anyone else get that from it?

And for all you soundtrack fanatics out there, Music from the Movies reviews the soundtrack, which (as we posted previously) is available for download on iTunes and will be out on CD next week.

Miss Austen is not the only one with Regrets at the moment


Miss Austen Is Not Amused We are pretty sure that Miss Austen Regrets got fairly good reviews after its broadcast here in the U.S., if not absolutely enthusiastic embrace, perhaps. We liked its intelligence and wit, the presentation of Jane Austen as a businesswoman and not so much of a romantic, and Olivia Williams’ magnificent performance that captured Jane Austen’s intelligence and wit and sense of fun as well as a clear-minded view of her life. It is clearly the screenwriter’s interpretation of events, not all of which we agreed with, but overall we were pleased with it. However, the theme of the UK press coverage in anticipation of the Sunday broadcast is the same old “The tar-hearted dried-up spinsters of the Jane Austen Society won’t approve! Tsk Tsk!” We really detest the press sometimes.

ETA: We nearly forgot! Alert Janeite Kate wrote to tell us that the soundtrack for Miss Austen Regrets is available to download on iTunes, and will be available to purchase in shops on May 12.

The Daily Mail (not exactly a bastion of thoughtful journalism, we admit) leads the tsking.

An incorrigible flirt with a crush on a man half her age, a woman who scandalously reneges on the acceptance of a marriage proposal, and a reveller familiar with hangovers because of her penchant for wine.

The above depiction of Jane Austen has already sent shudders down the corsets of her fans worldwide, for this little-known side to the early 19th-century author is the subject of a new BBC costume drama, Miss Austen Regrets.

*rolls eyes*

To make matters worse, when Jane died, aged 41, her sister Cassandra burned many of her letters – probably to spare the feelings of relatives and acquaintances who were the target of Jane’s barbs.

Actually, it’s more likely because they were letters to Cassandra and nobody else’s business. Slight difference. She didn’t burn the one with the dead baby joke, did she? Nope.

“People who think of Jane Austen as a little country mouse who was reserved around men will be shocked,” reveals Gwyneth Hughes, who wrote the script after painstakingly scouring Austen’s letters for revealing new insights into the author’s life.

Does anyone think that?

But Hughes is adamant. “Yes, she liked a drink,” she smiles. “When we showed the film in America, I got e-mails from the Jane Austen Society asking on what evidence we based the fact that Jane Austen had hangovers.

“So I found the quote from a letter which said: ‘I believe I drank too much wine last night; I know not else how to account for the shaking of my hand today.'”

Well, to extrapolate that to a hangover might be pushing it a bit. But no matter. (We are wondering about that “letter from the Jane Austen Society” as well.)

Another acquaintance, Reverend-Brook Bridges (played by Hugh Bonneville), is another potential husband.

“Jane mentions Bridges about half a dozen times in her letters – always affectionately and with a slight tinge of what might have been. There is a real sense of something between them, that he was a real contender, even if he never proposed,” says Hughes.

We’re not so sure about that, but it was okay in the movie.

But the third man in Austen’s life was half her age – and it was more like she had a girly, sexual crush on him. The object of her desire was the 20-year-old Dr Charles Haden (played by up-and-coming actor Jack Huston, who starred in Factory Girl).

Haden treats Jane’s sick brother and gets on very well with Jane until he is diverted by the charms of her niece Fanny.

“There was sex and passion on offer from Jane. She describes him as ‘something between a man and an angel’. We have these letters with incredibly smitten feelings about this young chap. She was like a teenager,” explains Hughes.

We still are of the opinion that Jane was more likely joking with Cassandra about Fanny’s crush on Mr. Haden–imitating her way of talking, perhaps. While we think that Jane was quite capable of being pleased by an attractive young man who said lovely things about her “darling children,” we also think she would have tempered any attraction with common sense. Though he does come on kind of strong in the film!

Moving on to another article in the Yorkshire Post, which had this interesting tidbit that we think must have been a misapprehension by the reporter.

“Then I remembered that I had read Claire Tomalin’s biography of Jane Austen a few years previously,
and had come across this amazing thing.

“The woman we all think of as the archetypal spinster wasn’t someone who had had no offers of marriage. She’d had an offer from an extremely eligible man who was wealthy and whom she had known all her life. He was a family friend, his sisters were her best friends, and his name was Harris Bigg.

“Had she married him she would have been rich, but she said yes one evening in December 1802, then got up the next morning and said no. Giving back-word was a shameful and appalling thing, so what happened during the intervening night, when she went off to bed, sharing a room with her sister, Cassandra?”

Tomalin had discovered this relatively little-known Austen fact through an account left by Jane’s 10-year-old niece, who witnessed the effects of this scandal on the family.

What? While we think well enough of Claire Tomalin’s biography of Jane Austen (though we usually recommend others), she was hardly the first to “discover” l’affaire Bigg-Withers. It was mentioned in Jane Austen, Her Life and Letters: A Family Record, which was published in 1913. We’re not sure if that is the first mention, but it certainly predates Tomalin. It also is mentioned in the wonderful biography by Elizabeth Jenkins, in our opinion the most readable of all Jane Austen biographies.

But at least Gwyneth Hughes admits she made most of it up–though she backs it up with evidence from the letters. As we already said, we don’t always agree with her interpretation, but Olivia Williams’ intelligently wonderful performance puts the film over the top for us. And we love this part:

“All the men in the story are real and all are mentioned in the letters – some very fully and others not. I took each one and imagined who he was and what kind of relationship they might have had.” To Hughes, the least interesting was Tom Lefroy, with whom Austen shared a teenage flirtation, a puppy love previously examined in the rather slight and unsatisfying feature film Being Jane.

Hee hee heeeeeeeee!

Reuters also has an article that covers most of the same ground, and the Times chats with Greta Scacchi about her portrayal of Cassandra Austen, though oddly they run a photo of Olivia Williams with the article, and they really don’t talk much about Miss Austen Regrets. The journalist seems more interesting in putting a “gotcha” on Ms. Scacchi and getting her to say something unguarded.

So UK Janeites, do stop in and let us know what you think of the film once you’ve seen it!

Losing the thread


This article is probably not unexpected, with the impending broadcast of Miss Austen Regrets on UK television, but we found it a trifle strange nonetheless.

She flirts remorselessly. She wakes up with a hangover. She wisecracks with her women friends about the myriad failings of the pitiful male specimens she surveys. Sex and the City’s Samantha? Carrie? Miranda? No, Jane Austen, of course.

OHDEARJANENOTWITHTHESEXANDTHECITYCOMPARISONSAGAIN!!!!! Elvis wept, people! Something original, please!

“Your only way to get a man like Mr Darcy is to make him up,” says Olivia Williams’ Jane Austen to her niece Fanny (a sentiment echoed by my mother, who once sent me a card bearing the cheery greeting “Searching for Mr Right?” and then inside the helpful solution: “Look in fiction!”). This vehement assertion of no-nonsense realism is underlined by an obsession with money that has this Jane swinging slightly wildly between acerbic social commentator and Regency Heather Mills.

Oh, she has GOT to be kidding us. The “obsession” with money in the film was related to the fact that the Austens, as a family, had suffered several financial setbacks–setbacks, incidentally, that may have contributed to Jane Austen’s death (severe emotional distress exacerbates the symptoms of Addison’s disease). They didn’t even put them all in the film–we can’t remember the expected legacy from Uncle Leigh Perrot not coming through, but that happened around the same time that Henry’s bank failed, if memory serves. Jane was at the time in her career when she was just starting to make some decent money, and get attention in the right places–reviews by Walter Scott, the patronage of the Prince Regent–and then she fell ill, and couldn’t take advantage of it. Are we the only ones who can follow a very logical plot? Sheesh!

Besides, Heather Mills, unlike Jane Austen, can actually go out and get a job. Not that she will, but just saying.

It is, however, somewhat undercut by the drama’s central thesis: that Jane Austen was a passionate romantic, one who withdrew her acceptance of a rich young Londoner’s proposal because she wasn’t in love with him, and who regretted, till her dying day, her decision not to marry the man she loved because he was too poor.

We think she has Miss Austen Regrets confused with Becoming Jane. Surely she didn’t think that Jane regretted Brook Bridges? (In the movie, meaning–it’s doubtful she spared the guy a thought in real life).

Frankly, this whole thing sounds like it was written by Bridget Jones after a bottle of Chardonnay, except that we know Bridget suffers from writers’ block. By the end we were wondering WTFerrars it had to do with Jane Austen.