A Very Literary Christmas – Part I

This week marked the 240th anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth. She was born on December 16 1775, on a snowy day in the southern English county of Hampshire.

Her birthday isn’t the only Austen-related anniversary this month — JA’s novel Emma was published in December 200 years ago. As Christmas is fast approaching, I thought it would be fun to explore how Jane Austen would have celebrated the festive season.

Jane Austen lived during the Georgian era of British history, which I wrote about here during my Between the Pages series. A Georgian Christmas would have some recognizable similarities with popular Christmas traditions today, but equally there were aspects that are different to modern eyes.

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Between the Pages: Quotes from Jane Austen

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Between the Pages is a new, weekly blog series which explores the life, times and creative works of well-known authors. I plan to run the blog series until the end of 2015, focusing on one author per month. New posts every Tuesday, plus occasional bonus posts.

The first post in the series is a brief biography of the author, the second looks at the historical period of the author, and the third post discusses their creative works. Finally, the last post includes selected quotations and short excerpts by the author.


We made it! This post marks the end of the first month of my Between the Pages blog series. We had a whistle-stop tour of Jane Austen’s life, the Georgian era and social customs of the time (with a bonus post about dresses and dancing), and her creative works.

I had fun being creative with this post. The fourth post in this series features a few select quotes from each Between the Pages author that we discuss throughout the month. Rather than simply assembling some quotes, I wanted to include a visual element as well.

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Between the Pages — Jane Austen’s Life

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Between the Pages is a new, weekly blog series which explores the life, times and creative works of well-known authors. I plan to run the blog series until the end of 2015, focusing on one author per month. New posts every Tuesday.

The first post in the series is a brief biography of the author, the second looks at the historical period of the author, the third post discusses their creative works. Finally, the last post includes selected quotations and short excerpts by the author.

We begin the first Between the Pages with my all-time favourite author: Jane Austen. When I planned this blog series, I wrote a list of authors whose life, times and writing I want to explore. The list is quite long and there are more authors on it than I will be able to write about in the months until the end of the year but if the series is successful, then perhaps I will continue it.

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Belsay Hall: an exhibition of Jane Austen costumes

Driving south from Scotland last summer, we stumbled across Belsay Hall in the north-east of England.

Built in the early nineteenth century, Belsay Hall was the home of the Middleton family until the 1960s, when it was discovered that the house had been very badly affected by dry rot. Today, it lies empty.

A view of the Pillar Hall atrium at Belsay

A view of the Pillar Hall atrium at Belsay

Another view of Belsay

Another view of Belsay

 

Although I prefer visiting country houses which are still furnished and lived in, my interest was piqued by Belsay’s advertisement for an exhibition of costumes from movie and television adaptations of Jane Austen novels. People who know me well and regular readers of Cultural Life will know that I take delight in all things Austen, so it was a fun opportunity to be able to see some of the costumes from the adaptations.

Outfits from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: the 1995 BBC version starring Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy

One of the outfits worn by Elizabeth

A coat, shirt and breeches worn by Mr. Darcy, during the infamous scene when he dives into the lake near Pemberley. The script-writer took some artistic licence with that scene; it’s not in the book.

Mr and Mrs Darcy’s wedding clothes

Elizabeth Darcy (nee Bennet): “It is settled between us already that we are to be the happiest couple in the world”

The wedding of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy -- copyright BBC

The wedding of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy — copyright BBC

Outfits from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: the 2005 version starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy

A dress and necklace worn by Mr. Darcy’s fearsome aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh (played by Judi Dench)

A suit worn by Mr. Darcy

Outfits from SENSE AND SENSIBILITY: the 1995 movie version starring Emma Thompson as Elinor Dashwood and Kate Winslet as Marianne

One of Elinor Dashwood’s outfits:

The wedding outfits of Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman) and Marianne Dashwood

Colonel Brandon was now as happy as all those who best loved him believed he deserved to be. In Marianne he was consoled for every past affliction; her regard and her society restored his mind to animation, and his spirits to cheerfulness; and that Marianne found her own happiness in forming his, was equally the persuasion and delight of each observing friend. Marianne could never love by halves and her whole heart became, in time, as much devoted to her husband, as it had once been to Willoughby.

Do you enjoy costume dramas and adaptations of classic novels?

Saturday Shelfie

It has been three weeks since I last blogged. I guess that hiatus has effectively broken my “one post per week” goal! But now I have five weeks of spring break (five whole weeks!) in which I hope to find more time to blog, as well as writing all of the essays and tackling the mountain of coursework I need to catch up on. And of course, more free time equals more time to read! My current read and this week’s Saturday Shelfie is an intriguing re-imagining of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

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Saturday Shelfie is a fortnightly feature and blogging event here at Cultural Life. If you’re a blogger and would like to take part, the guidelines are simple: grab the Saturday Shelfie badge for your post (right click on the badge and “save as…”) and publish a photo of your current read, along with a brief synopsis and/or your thoughts on it. Don’t forget to link back to this post so that your Saturday Shelfie post will appear as a “pingback” link below this post!

Longbourn

Longbourn by Jo Baker is a re-imagining of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from the perspectives of the servants who live and work in the Bennet household. Although I have written before about my objections to the retelling of classic novels in my posts Do Modern Retellings of Classic Novels Actually Work? and Classic Novels, Retold, I was mostly focusing on modern re-imaginings of Jane Austen’s novels. Those irk me because I see no need to update classic novels for contemporary readers.

However, Longbourn is different. It uniquely complements Pride and Prejudice because it provides an insight into the world of the people who worked behind the scenes. Although beloved characters such as Elizabeth and Darcy are, of course, present in the book, they are always viewed through the eyes of the household staff. For example, those of you who have read P&P may remember the scene when Elizabeth enjoys a walk across the fields to visit her sister Jane.

“Elizabeth continued her walk alone, crossing field after field at a quick pace, jumping over stiles and springing over puddles with impatient activity, and finding herself at last within view of the house, with weary ankles, dirty stockings, and a face glowing with the warmth of exercise” (P&P, chapter 7)

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In Longbourn, Jo Baker gives a new perspective to this scene and presents a very different view of P&P: the ‘other side’ of genteel Georgian England:

“If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah thought, she would be more careful not to trudge through muddy fields” (Longbourn, page 11).

What are you reading this weekend?

January 28 1813

200 years ago today, one of the greatest literary classics was published by Thomas Egerton in London, England. It is a novel which is loved by many and still has the power to appeal to readers across the world.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

PRIDE & PREJUDICE

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Photo challenge day 8: Home

Day 8 of the First Thirty-one photo challenge from Fourtuitous!

Definition
Home: a place where you can sit in comfort, absorbed deep in the pages of a good book.

First Thirty-one photo challenge day 8

First Thirty-one photo challenge day 8

This month marks the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It is a literary classic and one that I love to read.