Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I Love Austen Week Giveaway Winners!

Thank you so much again to Hamlette for hosting this perfectly lovely event. It was so much fun and made such a wonderful writing incentive. (Thank you, friend! ;))

~     ~     ~

And... we have our giveaway winners!

Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels ~ Hamlette

Pride & Prejudice Blu-Ray ~ Erudessa Aranduriel

 Sense & Sensibility DVD ~ John Smith

Emma DVD ~ Ruth Lopez

Pride & Prejudice board book ~ Abby P.

Congratulations everyone! I'll be emailing the winners directly. (Also, a technical provision, if I don't hear back within a week I *will* need to draw another winner. ;P) 
Thank you so much to everyone for entering and I hope you're all having a lovely evening! :) 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Strength & Beauty in Austen

Looking at Austen’s six major novels, the differences and yet similarities are stunning. And when we come to her heroines those similarity differences are absolutely fascinating.

First off, Austen often seems reticent when it comes to physical descriptions, but I think, in the end, she actually delineates her heroines perfectly, deftly capturing both their inner and outer beauty. There are really so many snippets it’s astounding, so in the following I shall confine myself to a pointed few.

From Pride and Prejudice: "Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her (Lizzy) to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticize. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness."

And of course there is good, sweet, loving Jane whom everyone considers beautiful inside and out.

From Sense and Sensibility: “(Elinor) had a delicate complexion, regular features and a remarkably pretty figure. Marianne was still handsomer. Her form, though not so correct as her sister’s, in having the advantage of height, was more striking; and her face was so lovely, that when in the common cant of praise she was called a beautiful girl, truth was less violently outraged than usually happens. Her skin was very brown, but from its transparency, her complexion was uncommonly brilliant; her features were all good; her smile was sweet and attractive, and in her eyes, which were very dark, there was a life, a spirit, an eagerness which could hardly be seen without delight.”

Anne in Persuasion has “an elegance of mind and sweetness of character, which must have placed her high with any people of real understanding…” Regarding her love story: “He (Wentworth) was, at that time, a remarkably fine young man, with a great deal of intelligence, spirit and brilliancy; and Anne an extremely pretty girl, with gentleness, modesty, taste, and feeling.” When she arrives in Bath -- just beginning to taste happiness again -- her gracious, gentle spirit shines radiantly through, beautifying her entire being. Even her father notices it; and Wentworth can’t look away.

And we have this glowing description of Emma in an early conversation between Mr. Knightley and Mrs. Weston: “Oh! You would rather talk of her person than her mind, would you? Very well; I shall not attempt to deny Emma’s being pretty.” “Pretty! Say beautiful rather. Can you imagine any thing nearer perfect beauty than Emma altogether—face and figure? …Such an eye!—the true hazel eye—and so brilliant! Regular features, open countenance, with a complexion! Oh! what a bloom of full health, and such a pretty height and size; such a firm and upright figure. There is health, not merely in her bloom, but in her air, her head, her glance. …She is loveliness itself. Mr. Knightley, is not she?” “I have not a fault to find with her person,” he replied. “I think her all you describe. I love to look at her; and I will add this praise, that I do not think her personally vain. Considering how very handsome she is, she appears to be little occupied with it, her vanity lies another way.”

One of Emma’s tremendous struggles is her stopping and starting, her unwillingness to see something through -- her unconquered reading list, her unfinished sketches, her dilatory music practice. Now (looking at these) I don’t think Austen’s making a point that all young ladies need to pass some arbitrary bar of accomplishment (for instance, witness Lady Catherine’s shock over Lizzy’s list of accomplishments in P&P). The trouble in Emma’s case is in a lack of diligence. And that is tremendously important. Important enough that Austen highlights it (or the lack of it) with many of her feminine characters (Lydia, Georgiana, etc.) and with every single one of her heroines from Catherine to Anne.

And so we come to the inner character of our heroines. Now, with some of her quieter heroines, there’s also just the slightest possibility that they might occasionally seem like wall flowers... passively observing everything going on around them. But, while true strong integrity may not seem glamorous at times, ultimately it never goes unnoticed. And when strict adherence to solid principles and gentleness are combined, it’s a red-hot combination. Other characters may or may not like it, but they can't ignore it.

“Elinor, this eldest daughter whose advice was so effectual, possessed a strength of understanding, and coolness of judgment, which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be the counselor of her mother… She had an excellent heart;--her disposition was affectionate, and her feelings were strong; but she knew how to govern them…” Sense & Sensibility

“As soon as her eagerness could rest in silence, he was as happy to tell as she could be to listen, and a conversation followed almost as deeply interesting to her as to himself, though he had in fact nothing to dwell on but Fanny’s charms.—Fanny’s beauty of face and figure, Fanny’s graces of manner and goodness of heart were the exhaustless theme. The gentleness, modesty, and sweetness of her character were warmly expatiated on, that sweetness which makes so essential a part of every woman’s worth in the judgment of man, that though he sometimes loves where it is not, he can never believe it absent. Her temper he had good reason to depend on and to praise. He had often seen it tried. Was there one of the family, excepting Edmund, who had not in some way or other continually exercised her patience and forbearance? Her affections were evidently strong. To see her with her brother! What could more delightfully prove that the warmth of her heart was equal to its gentleness?—What could be more encouraging to a man who had her love in view? Then, her understanding was beyond every suspicion, quick and clear; and her manners were the mirror of her own modest and elegant mind. Nor was this all. Henry Crawford had too much sense not to feel the worth of good principles in a wife, though he was too little accustomed to serious reflection to know them by their proper name; but when he talked of her having such a steadiness and regularity of conduct, such a high notion of honour, and such an observance of decorum as might warrant any man in the fullest dependence on her faith and integrity, he expressed what was inspired by the knowledge of her being well principled and religious.” Henry Crawford speaking of Fanny in Mansfield Park

Strong minded and romantically passionate, Austen’s heroines are yet all dutiful to authority. The key and very interesting point being that it’s to the right and proper God-given authorities. Lizzy’s a good example. She defies Lady Catherine: “I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me”; yet, for all his failures as a father, she’s on pins and needles regarding Mr. Bennet’s permission. Anne submits (and does not blame) her father and Lady Russell for their initial hard counsel regarding her engagement, and then later (rather than just running off together or something equally terrible) Captain Wentworth and Anne solicit her father’s blessing once again. It’s very worth noting that it’s only her practically perfect heroines (i.e. Anne and Fanny) who justly and appropriately go up against their immediate authority figures. It’s a weighty and fearsome thing, never to be taken lightly, and it seems long years of genuine obedience generally have to be in place first.

The above actually ties into our next point, being that we, as human beings, tend to very easily get self-centered and self-absorbed -- the quick and bitter fruits of which being deeper blindness, selfishness, and ingratitude. Marianne is a prime example:

“Long before I was enough recovered to talk, I was perfectly able to reflect. I considered the past; I saw in my own behavior since the beginning of our acquaintance with him (Willoughby) last autumn, nothing but a series of imprudence towards myself, and want of kindness to others. I saw that my own feelings had prepared my sufferings, and that my want of fortitude under them had almost led me to the grave, My illness, I well knew, had been entirely brought on by myself, by such negligence of my own health, as I had felt even at the time to be wrong. Had I died,--it would have been self-destruction. I did not know my danger till the danger was removed; but with such feelings as these reflections gave me, I wonder at my recovery,--wonder that the very eagerness of my desire to live, to have time for atonement to my God, and to you all, did not kill me at once. …Whenever I looked towards the past, I saw some duty neglected, or some failing indulged. Every body seemed injured by me. The kindness, the unceasing kindness of Mrs. Jennings, I had repaid with ungrateful contempt. To the Middletons, the Palmers, the Steeles, to every common acquaintance even, I had been insolent and unjust; with an heart hardened against their merits, and a temper irritated by their very attention. ...But you (Elinor),--you above all, above my mother, had been wronged by me. I, and only I, knew your heart and its sorrows; yet, to what did it influence me?—not to any compassion that could benefit you or myself.—Your example was before me: but to what avail?—Was I more considerate of you and your comfort?—No;--not less when I knew you to be unhappy, than when I had believed you at ease, did I turn away from every exertion of duty or friendship; scarcely allowing sorrow to exist but with me, regretting only that heart which had deserted and wronged me, and leaving you, for whom I professed an unbounded affection, to be miserable for my sake.”

“Here ceased the flow of her self-reproving spirit; and Elinor, impatient to sooth, though too honest to flatter, gave her instantly that praise and support which her frankness and her contrition so well deserved. Marianne pressed her hand and replied,

“You are very good.—The future must be my proof. I have laid down my plan, and if I am capable of adhering to it—my feelings shall be governed and my temper improved. They shall no longer worry others, nor torture myself. I shall now live solely for my family. You, my mother, and Margaret, must henceforth be all the world to me; you will share my affections entirely between you. From you, from my home, I shall never again have the smallest incitement to move; and if I do mix in other society it will be only to shew that my spirit is humbled, my heart amended, and that I can practice the civilities, the lesser duties of life, with gentleness, and forbearance. As for Willoughby—to say that I shall soon or that I shall ever forget him, would be idle. His remembrance can be overcome by no change of circumstances or opinions. But it shall be regulated, it shall be checked by religion, by reason, by constant employment.”

There is the lesson of humility: Marianne learns it, along with Catherine, Lizzy, and Emma. True beauty is inseparably bound together with strength of character and true tenderness of heart -- knowing and acknowledging and facing up to faults and tenderly receptive to correction, which can be raw and stinging and hurt tremendously at times, but yet yields wondrous fruit.

And (even if they seem to have the humility lesson down) all of Austen’s heroines still have struggles. As included at the end of the quote from Marianne above, trying to run from a problem, to flee to different surroundings, is absolutely useless (witness the experience of Elinor, Marianne, Anne, Fanny in Portsmouth, even Jane Fairfax). This isn’t to say moving, or changing situations, can’t be extremely healthy and helpful and broadening at the very least. But when all is said and done, and the dust settles, we’re still the same people. And our problems have to be faced and dealt with head-on. And sometimes it’s a long struggle. And sometimes it comes over and over. It can be discouraging. So here we can see the call to action. To action and diligence (again!) and perseverance.

And here I think Austen highlights something incredibly beautiful. Along this road of ups and downs and twists and turns of life, we have friends. Friends and mentors; both new blossoming friendships and those that are tried-and-true. And each one is precious.

Austen’s heroines don’t isolate themselves. They’re friendly, even when it’s awkward (or simply frightening to take that first step). There are highly important sister friendships (which I’ve written on before here) and sometimes the mentor relationship is all tied in with the sister relationship: Jane/Lizzy/Mrs. Gardiner, Elinor/Marianne, Eleanor Tilney/Catherine, Mrs. Weston/Emma/Harriet, Anne/Lady Russell and Fanny/Susan, even Fanny and Miss Crawford, to a certain degree (not in the mentor sense, but in the ‘pushing yourself to be friendly because it seems to be the right thing to do sense’).

Some of the friendships have serious bumps in the road, but (perhaps with the exception of Miss Crawford) they’re all worth it. The time -- the occasional hurt -- the love that has to be poured out over and over. It’s all worth it.

And true friendship (in the family or otherwise) calls for loyalty -- in which every last one of Austen’s heroines provide stunning examples. ‘Tis true that standing on one’s principles (as discussed above) sometimes necessitates a hard break in a relationship (i.e. Fanny being sent to Portsmouth, Catherine breaking communication with the Thorpes, etc.), but, in the general course of events, fierce loyalty is of prime importance and is an awe-inspiring gift. The kind of loyalty that loves without question and yet would fight any number of battles with you to keep you on the right path.

So there are some of my thoughts on Austen's lovely heroines... 
What think ye? I'd love to hear! :)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Movie Review // Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Along with Anne of Green Gables, this was the film that first deeply introduced me to the entire world of period drama. (In fact, it was a long time before I even realized AoGG was a period drama, it was so deeply ingrained in my subconscious. ;))

Okay, rabbit trail. Let us return to S&S.

Since first seeing it, I’ve seen the 1981 and 2008 adaptations multiple times (and come to love them both dearly) so I can’t honestly say this is my tippity top favorite in the S&S department, but it is quite simply un-ignorable (that very definitely isn’t a word, but my overactive spellcheck isn’t flagging it, so I’m going to leave it ;)).

Here’s the official, excellent summary: “Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Kate Winslet and Hugh Grant star in this captivating romantic comedy that swept the Ten Best Lists and was named the Best Picture of the Year by the Golden Globes. Based on Jane Austen's classic novel, Sense and Sensibility tells of the Dashwood sisters, sensible Elinor (Thompson) and passionate Marianne (Winslet), whose chances at marriage seem doomed by their family's sudden loss of fortune. Rickman, Grant, and Greg Wise co-star as the well-intentioned suitors who are trapped by the strict rules of society and the conflicting laws of desire.”

(Doesn't this remind you of a mantilla? I love it.)

Off the top of my head, the biggest plot differences here between the book and film are: the omissions of John and Fanny’s son, Mrs. Ferrars, and also the elder Miss Steele; Edward doesn’t visit Barton Cottage, and (largest of all) Willoughby doesn’t come to Cleveland when Marianne is ill. Technically you can get along all right without the young Dashwood heir and also Mrs. Ferrars and Miss Steele, but I do think the decision to omit Willoughby’s visit is unfortunate as it really finishes his character arc and adds depth to his and Marianne’s entire story. The hilltop scene near the end does provide some resolution, and I think all in all it fits with the tenor of the film, but it’s a good discussion point.

As to the content: there’s not a single questionable scene, so that’s pretty amazing.

When it comes to the casting I’m rather conflicted. I honestly have to confess I’m not bonkers about it, particularly in a couple major instances (i.e. Edward, etc), yet still everyone fits together so incredibly well that somehow I’m always reconciled by the end of the film. It all just becomes this beautiful thing.

(Also, the soundtrack is seriously epic in the world of period drama soundtracks.)

Three points that popped out at me recently are: #1 -- *SPOILERS* With Edward's proposal: (besides being romantic and satisfying etc.), I realized afresh just how funny it is when the rest of the family gets all flustered and confused, seeing their steady, staid, self-controlled 'big sister' finally breaking down into happy tears. They don’t know what to do and it’s hilarious. ;)

#2: One thing that had always puzzled me a little at the end was how Edward and Elinor come out after Colonel Brandon and Marianne, and with Elinor in so much simpler of a dress. As I understand it, etiquette decrees the older sister would have precedence in such a situation and (as the bride’s family would be making/providing the wedding dresses) their attire would be similar. And then E&E don’t have a carriage either. As I said, this bothered me until (and thank you to my sister on this!) I realized it was indeed accurate to the book and wasn’t a double wedding as in P&P (which is book accurate). They are, in fact, sticking to the story line in S&S where the Colonel and Marianne get married about a year after E&E. (And this all might seem incredibly obvious, but personally it was a tremendous relief to figure out. ;D)

#3: The moment with Margaret up in the tree house, and Marianne and Mrs. Dashwood in each other’s arms, laughing and crying with the fresh blue and green all round them -- and then the music swelling out with intense joy – may very well be my absolute favorite moment in the entire film. :)

Those ending scenes just sweep you off your feet: the colors, the landscape, the sweetness – it’s breathtaking.

So, in conclusion, I highly recommend this as a beautiful film, an excellent introduction to period dramas in general, and definitely required viewing for all good period drama lovers. ;) Dreamy, sweeping, golden, and epic, it’s lovely and a thorough classic!

Tell me! Have you seen this version of S&S? Do you have a favorite adaptation? 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Tag for I Love Austen Week!

My tag answers for Hamlette's I ❤ Austen Week:

1. Which did you experience first, a Jane Austen book or a movie based on one? ~ Movie/s. When I was about seven my mother started checking out all the available Austen films from our library and (needless to say) they created an indelible impression. ;)

2. What is your favorite Austen book? ~ Well, P&P simply IS P&P (and thus has to be near the top of the list), and Persuasion and Mansfield Park are a pretty close tie, but currently I’d say Emma. (And yes, you will notice I'm very indecisive with some of these answers. It's because they're pretty much all in my Top Twenty Favorite Books of All Time, making this just a little difficult.)

3. Favorite heroine? Why do you like her best? ~ I can closely identify with (and would love to be good friends with) Anne Elliott, Fanny, and Elinor. Though, to tip the balance, I also really like Lizzy and Emma.

4. Favorite hero? Why do you like him best? ~ Mr. Knightley. (Need I expound further?) Mr. Darcy and Captain Wentworth are close runner-ups.

5. Do you have a favorite film adaptation of Austen's work? ~ Eeeee... I have to say Emma ’09 or P&P ’95.

(Though as you can see, I love Emma '96 as well.)

6. Have your Austen tastes changed over the years? (Did you start out liking one story best, but now like another better? Did you think she was boring at first, then changed your mind? Etc.) ~ Emma was the first Austen I ever tried to read; and tried… and tried… and tried again. I finally made my way all the way through it, have read it maybe 3(?) times in its entirety to date, and now... (see #2). In other news, I've loved P&P, Persuasion and Mansfield Park since the first time I picked them up.

7. Do you have any cool Austen-themed things (mugs, t-shirts, etc)? (Feel free to share photos if you want.) ~ I own an Austen cookbook and I also recently received a lovely Austen print from a good friend and also a Perfectly Splendiferous seafoam green covered-in-JA-quotes print apron (from the same friend ;)).

8. If you could ask Jane Austen one question, what would you ask her? ~ I’d like to know if she was ever in love. There are all sorts of historic rumors floating about (and I’ve read some of the authentic sources such as published family letters), but I’d like to hear her own story.

9. Imagine someone is making a new film of any Jane Austen story you choose, and you get to cast the leads. What story do you want filmed, and who would you choose to act in it? ~ There are already so many excellent adaptations, it’s hard to picture them improved upon, but I’ll say Mansfield Park. I haven’t seen the newer versions, but I enjoy the 80’s BBC. If there was going to be a newer one I think Lily James would make a perfect Fanny and… oh, I don’t know, let’s just say Richard Madden as Edmund. (Okay, never mind. Someone needs to make this. ;D)

10. Share up to five favorite Jane Austen quotations!

“Oh! how heartily did she grieve over every ungracious sensation she had ever encouraged, every saucy speech she had ever directed towards him. For herself she was humbled, but she was proud of him. Proud that in a cause of compassion and honour, he had been able to get the better of himself. She read over her aunt’s commendation of him again and again. It was hardly enough; but it pleased her.” Pride & Prejudice

“Here had been grievous mismanagement; but, bad as it was, he gradually grew to feel that it had not been the most direful mistake in his plan of education. Something must have been wanting within, or time would have worn away much of its ill effect. He feared that principle, active principle, had been wanting, that they had never been properly taught to govern their inclinations and tempers, by that sense of duty which can alone suffice. They had been instructed theoretically in their religion, but never required to bring it into daily practice.” Mansfield Park

“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own, than when you almost broke it eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone I think and plan.—Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes?—I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice, when they would be lost on others.—Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating in
“F.W.” Persuasion 

“I do not understand what you mean by ‘success;’ ” said Mr. Knightley. “Success supposes endeavor… But if, which I rather imagine, your making the match, as you call it, means only your planning it, your saying to yourself one idle day, ‘I think it would be a very good thing for Miss Taylor if Mr. Weston were to marry her,’ and saying it again to yourself every now and then afterwards,--why do you talk of success? where is your merit?—what are you proud of?—you made a lucky guess; and that is all that can be said.” Emma

“No,” —he calmly replied,—“there is but one married woman in the world whom I can allow to invite what guests she pleases to Donwell, and that one is—”
“—Mrs. Weston, I suppose,” interrupted Mrs. Elton, rather mortified.
“No—Mrs. Knightley;—and, till she is in being, I will manage such matters myself.” Emma

I'd love to hear if we have any answers in common and be sure to visit Hamlette's post here to join in the party!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...