At last! A very good article in the Independent about Miss Austen Regrets gives a broadcast date for the UK: April 27. We’re sure the Region 2 DVD will quickly follow for all the Europeans waiting on it.
In a break between scenes on set at Hall Barn, an appropriately stately manor house near Beaconsfield, the 39-year-old actress confides that she’s fearful of the consequences if Austen’s legions of passionate fans – the “Janeites” – take against her portrayal of their heroine.
“It’s a terrifying prospect,” Williams shudders. “These diehard Janeites will pelt me with rock cakes if I make a mistake. Already, they’re complaining online – ‘She’s too tall, she doesn’t look right!'”
For once, that’s not us. But this is the sort of thing that gets us tossing cakes, er, swinging the Cluebat:
Jane reflects wistfully on the fact that this episode put her off the very idea of marriage. Consequently, she never settled down with her soulmate, the Reverend Brook Bridges (Hugh Bonneville)
Soulmate? Let’s not get carried away here.
In a feat of serendipitous timing, we also got word yesterday of a lovely essay on JASNA’s website about Brook Edward Bridges and his relationship (such as it was) with Jane Austen. The essay was written by Elizabeth Philosophos Cooper, the regional coordinator of JASNA’s Wisconsin region.
A few years later Austen wrote to Cassandra from Godmersham: “Lady Bridges looked very well, & would have been very agreeable, I am sure, had there been time enough for her to talk to me . . . . Her son Edward was also looking very well, & with manners as un-altered as hers” (30 June 1808). A letter written later that year to Cassandra, who was visiting Godmersham, includes an important emphasis: “I wish you may be able to accept Lady Bridges’s invitation, though I could not her son Edward’s; she is a nice Woman, & honours me by her remembrance” (7 October 1808). Citing this letter, Deirdre Le Faye, in Jane Austen: A Family Record, says, “it seems possible that Edward Bridges proposed or attempted to propose to [Austen during her visit in 1808], . . . a proposal which she had no difficulty in politely rejecting.”
What was that about soulmates again? 😉 Back to the Independent article…
Even if these events saddened Austen as a woman, they enriched her as a writer. Her life bled into her work. In Persuasion, for instance, she writes wryly that “a woman of seven and twenty can never hope to feel or inspire affection again”.
Psst. Not Persuasion. Try Sense and Sensibility. And since it’s coming out of Marianne Dashwood’s mouth, it’s certainly not meant to be taken as Jane Austen’s opinion.
Austen’s bittersweet experiences endowed her novels with a rare astringency. “One’s impressions from screen adaptations of Austen is that it’s all lovely girls running down hills in flowery dresses,” Williams says. “But Austen could be a real bitch as well. She could nail the weaknesses in someone’s appearance or accent. She could deconstruct people accurately and uncharitably, and would rail against their faults and foibles. That’s why I – and the vigilante Janeites – love her.”
Well, one of the reasons, but that’s nicely said!
Williams, who studied English at Cambridge University, says: “I’m in awe of Austen. She is the reason I’ve never written anything. I remember trying to write like her once and coming up with these clearly risible attempts to plot or describe things as brilliantly as she does.”
Oh, honey. That’s no reason to not write. Don’t try to write like Jane Austen. Trust your own voice, and work at it. Remember those lovely encouraging letters from Aunt Jane when asked to read her nieces’ and nephews’ writing. She would never tell you to not at least try.
The actress, who says she never goes anywhere without Austen’s letters